PHOENIX — The hours dragged on Thursday into the evening and then into the early morning Friday as lawmakers moved bill after bill to reach a historic — and chaotic — early finish to the legislative session.
Sine die, Latin for “without day,” marks the end of the session for the Arizona Legislature, which is supposed to finish its work in 100 days. This year it finished in just 81 days — the shortest in decades.
Following the early passage of the budget last month, major bills remained on the calendar for the final week.
Legislators attempted to speed bills through during the hectic final day. While the Senate began its day early and moved quickly, things got bogged down in the House with more members speaking on bills.
The Senate adjourned sine die Friday morning around 1 a.m. while their colleagues in the House still debated bills needing the other chamber’s approval.
The controversial SB 1339, aimed at stopping “ballot harvesting,” died on the House floor because it could not go back to the Senate for a final read. Attempts by House Democrats to adjourn sine die after debating SB 1339 were rebuffed by Republicans and the chamber continued passing bills until 3:30 a.m. when the Legislature officially finished.
Lawmakers still passed a bill dissolving the Department of Weights and Measures backed by Gov. Doug Ducey. HB 2480, introduced late in the session, spreads the responsibilities of the department around to other state agencies.
Democrats questioned why the process was being rushed since the proposed dissolution of the department would not go into effect until next year. The Senate approved the bill 17-8 and the House sent it to the governor on a 36-22 vote.
Several other major pieces of legislation passed, or failed, on the final day of the session:
— The Legislature voted to ban municipalities from banning plastic bags, as well as Styrofoam boxes. The House and Senate approved SB 1241 mostly down party lines as the cities of Flagstaff and Tempe consider bans on plastic bags.
— Lawmakers also passed HB 2135, which provides regulations for ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft. A previous attempt to regulate the transportation networks last year was vetoed by then-Gov. Jan Brewer.
— The House and Senate approved legislation to bring Arizona IDs into compliance with federal Real ID standards. The standards will go into effect next year and concerns were raised that Arizonans would not be able to use their IDs at airports and to get into federal buildings.
— Ducey’s proposal to create a badge-carrying inspector general failed. Changes were promised to address concerns regarding accountability and transparency in the initial legislation for the proposed office.
Ducey broke out his veto pen for the first time on Monday to strike down a bill that would have sealed the names of law enforcement officers involved in shootings for 60 days.
Supporters said it would provide for a “cooling off” period to protect officers and their families, while critics said it would only deepen community distrust of police. SB 1445 received bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate with nearly all Republicans and 11 House Democrats and five Senate Democrats voting in favor.
In a lengthy veto letter, Ducey said SB 1445 didn’t achieve the objectives it sought in officer safety and instead could create even more problems. Ducey cited concerns from the Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police, which called on him to veto the legislation.
“Under current law and in practice, chiefs have the authority to make decisions in the best interests of their officers and departments,” Ducey wrote. “Their concern, and mine, is that setting an arbitrary 60-day benchmark for release of names would limit their ability to best manage these often tenuous situations and result in unintended consequences.”
Ducey vetoed other bills this week including: HB 2150, which would have changed animal cruelty law related to livestock and poultry, and HB 2410, which would have prohibited law enforcement departments from maintaining quotas for traffic citations.
On Monday, Ducey also signed into law the abortion regulation bill SB 1318, which includes a controversial provision requiring doctors to inform women seeking medication abortions that the process can be “reversed.”
Senate kills bills
The Senate kept some of the more controversial bills this week off the governor’s desk when some moderate Republicans joined Democrats in voting them down.
The Senate killed HB 2190, which would have repealed Common Core standards, known as Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards by the Arizona Department of Education, when Democrats and Republican Sens. Jeff Dial of Chandler, Adam Driggs of Phoenix, Steve Pierce of Prescott and Bob Worsley of Mesa voted against the bill that cleared the House and the Senate Education Committee earlier.
Another bipartisan coalition of senators voted down a bill that would have allowed parents to opt their children out of statewide standardized tests.
Driggs, Pierce and Worsley also voted against HB 2320, which would have allowed concealed carry permit-holders to bring guns into public buildings and events. The bill previously cleared the House and the Senate Government Committee.
Compromise bill dies
The faction that voted down HB 2184 didn’t have to hide in the shadows. The bill, designed to settle a constitutional dispute between Ducey and Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas, died in the House when the bill did not come back up for reconsideration.
House members voted down the measure last week on a 38-17 vote to clarify that the governor has authority over the state Board of Education after Douglas tried to fire two top board officials in February. Ducey responded that she did not have the power to do so at which point Douglas shot off a fiery statement saying the governor was being influenced by a “shadow faction” of Common Core supporters, among other claims.
By the numbers
This session was historic for being the shortest for the Arizona Legislature in decades. Here are some other numbers to sum up the session (as of early Friday morning):
Bills, memorials and resolutions introduced: 1,251
Bills signed and filed: 131
Vetoes (so far): 6
Number of days for session: 81
Sine die: April 3
Ethan McSweeney is the Bolles Fellow covering the Legislature for Arizona Sonora News, a service provided by the School of Journalism at the University of Arizona. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org