PHOENIX — The Legislature’s optimistic sine die (last day) target of April 17th has come and gone, with only a couple dozen bills left on the calendar. Last week’s announcement of Gov. Doug Ducey’s new teacher salary pay increase has continued to make waves, as his supporters cheer and teachers hold the line on what they say are vague promises.
Teachers across the state voted to strike on Thursday night, in an effort to secure victories for support staff and per-student funding. Seventy-eight percent of the 57,000 votes were in favor of the walkout, which will take place next Thursday.
On top of that, the Don Shooter expulsion saga started a new chapter on Monday. Former Yuma Rep. Shooter filed a Notice of Claim through his attorney, announcing his intent to sue Speaker J.D. Mesnard (R-Chandler) and the state of Arizona for his expulsion. Shooter was expelled from the House with a vote of 57-3, following the release of a report from an independent investigation into allegations of sexual harassment. The Notice of Claim alleges a conspiracy between Mesnard and the Office of the Governor to force Shooter out because of his investigation into misappropriation of funds.
Otherwise, here’s what happened around the Legislature:
The Senate Commerce and Public Safety Committee voted 4-3 on Thursday to advance Ducey’s school safety legislation. The bill, SB 1519, was introduced by Sen. Steve Smith (R-Maricopa) and would create a new type of court order of protection that would target those who pose a credible danger to the public. These Severe Threat Orders of Protection (STOP) can be requested by significant others, family members, and other close relations of a person who may be dangerous.
“This is on a clear and convincing evidence basis,” Smith said. “Which is significant, credible evidence that somebody is going to really harm or really kill people.”
Once the report is filed and a credible threat is established, the respondent will be picked up by local law enforcement and transported “to an evaluation agency as soon as practicable.” The person will be served the order and is guaranteed a hearing within 24 hours of being served. If the judge determines the threat to still exist, then the respondent would be brought to an evaluation agency to be evaluated within 72 hours of arrival. After the evaluation, another hearing will be set within 24 hours — here, if the evaluation supports the finding of danger, the respondent will become a prohibited possessor of a firearm for 21 days and could be ordered to undergo treatment.
“We believe these are steps that will ensure our kids and teachers will be safer at school,” Smith said.
That’s because this process is only one part of the bill — there are additional provisions for a laundry list of school security solutions that truly run the gamut. Things like the establishment of suicide prevention programs to educate teachers on identifying suicidal behavior, printing the safe schools hotline on student IDs, training school staff as gun-carrying reserve peace officers, mandatory reporting of violent offenses on campus as well as increased funding for the deployment of School Resource Officers.
All of these disparate programs will be managed through the center for school safety in the Arizona counter terrorism information center. This Center is run by the Department of Public Safety — according to Colonel Frank Milstead, the Director of DPS, this centralization is vital to ensuring safety across the state.
“The School Resource Officers are paramount to the interaction between the schools, the students and law enforcement and the funding is much needed,” Milstead said.
School resource officers were a second-fiddle debate in a nearly four hours-long hearing that mainly focused on how appropriate it was to preemptively take away a person’s guns through the STOP orders. The Arizona Citizens Defense League, a grassroots gun lobbying group, was originally opposed to the legislation because of this — but switched to neutral during the amendment process that led to the bill’s current form.
“It’s supposed to be school safety bill and a lot of the problem that we see is that it doesn’t address the problem adequately,” AZCDL lobbyist Dave Kopp said.
However, a majority of the committee’s members found it adequate. The next step for SB 1519 is the Senate Rules Committee, where it must be determined to be constitutional and in proper form.
Offering a break from the bluster of the Legislature, the Arizona Jazz Festival set up shop on Wednesday to bring music to the Capitol for the second year in a row. Vendors selling arts and crafts were joined by a food truck, turning the street-side festival into a jazz-themed farmer’s market. The concert featured performers such as jazz saxophonists Neamen Lyles and William “Doc” Jones as well as poet Truth Be Told.
The Festival is the Capitol Mall celebration of Jazz Day, which the Arizona Jazz Festival has now spent seven years celebrating. The event on Wednesday was free, but concerts held elsewhere in the Phoenix area required tickets. According to the event’s website, proceeds from those sales go to support NextStudent Academy for the Arts, which “works with local schools to make jazz music education and instruments available and accessible to students from kindergarten through college.”
Working From Home
The House voted 32-25 on Monday in support of a bill that would ease restrictions on running a home-based business. SB 1387 was first introduced by Sen. Gail Griffin (R-Hereford) as a bill requiring the disclosure of leftover paint and batteries during a home sale — but was changed with a “Strike Everything” amendment in the House to the current form. The bill passed in the House would allow a person looking to run a home-based business to do so without having to buy a special license, install fire sprinklers or rezone their home.
As long as the business is “no-impact” and employs less than three non-family members as employees, the business owner can operate in their own home. Rep. Jeff Weninger (R- Chandler) claimed that this bill would make starting home businesses easier for the poor — Rep. Kirsten Engel (D-Tucson) disagreed.
“We are giving them sort of a false promise,” Engel said. “They could easily fall out of this category.”
That category was the “no-impact” label — if a business grows to the point where it affects the neighborhood it is in, then the business would have to move to a traditional place of business.
“I doubt people who are poor are falling over themselves that we are protecting them from being too successful for running their own business,” Weninger said. “But as you grow, you’re going to want to expand.”
The bill now goes back to the Senate. If it passes there, it will go to Ducey to be signed into law.
Erik Kolsrud is the Don 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.