Legislative Roundup: Juveniles, militias, dark money

Erik Kolsrud/Arizona Sonora News

PHOENIX — The Legislature’s leisurely winding-down was interrupted this week with an upset on the Monday House floor by Rep. Todd Clodfelter (R-Tucson).

Clodfelter managed to single-handedly shut down the House with a motion to release all of the evidence related to the sexual harassment investigation that led to Don Shooter being expelled from the House. Speaker J.D. Mesnard (R-Gilbert) declared the motion out of order and recessed the House which did not meet until the following day.

Protesters march in support of the #RedforEd campaign to bring awareness to low teacher salaries in Arizona. (Photo by: Erik Kolsrud/Arizona Sonora News)

Other than that, there were a few big pieces of news this week.  Gov. Doug Ducey suspended Uber’s autonomous vehicle testing in Tempe, following the death of a jaywalker in a collision with one of the testing vehicles. Teachers gathered on the Capitol for a “Teach-In” and to protest as part of their #RedforEd campaign to raise awareness about school budget issues.

The Legislature closed up shop early on Thursday, with the Senate blazing through the Committee of the Whole while the House got tangled up in arguments over rules of order during debate.

With only a few weeks left, there wasn’t much in the way of legislation happening, but here are some of the more interesting pieces remaining:

19-Year-Old Juveniles

HB 2356, first introduced by Rep. Russell Bowers (R-Mesa), could stretch the definition of a “juvenile delinquent” a bit beyond what it means now — by at most, a year. The bill allows a juvenile court to make a determination of jurisdiction that could keep delinquents under the purview of the court until their 19th birthday. Currently, that ends at the 18th birthday, where a minor becomes a legal adult.

The bill is set to clear one of the last hurdles before going to Ducey’s desk to be signed into law, in that it was heard by the Senate Committee of the Whole and passed . The next step is the third reading of the bill, but since it has essentially received unanimous yes votes every step of the way, odds are it will pass.

Unrestricted Age for Militias

Part of Rep. Dave Stringer’s (R-Prescott) militia legislation passed through the Senate Committee of the Whole without a single shot being fired. HCR 2002 would (if signed by the governor and passed by the voters) change the State Constitution regarding a state militia by changing the age range of those who could serve if needed. Instead of the original cap at 45 years, the new legislation reads “who are capable of acting in concert for the common defense.”

As reported earlier in the session, this does a lot more than just open up a hypothetical militia to senior citizens. It is, in fact, a sort of preemptive gun legislation that would ensure the continued ownership of firearms that are used by military or police units in the state of Arizona. If everyone above the age of 18 is potentially part of an Arizona militia, and the militia is allowed to buy, sell and own a certain subset of firearms, then the thinking goes that the federal government cannot legislate away the use of firearms by a state militia.

Local Dark Money

With a 17-13 vote in favor on the floor, the Senate has moved a “dark money” bill to the last step needed prior to going before Ducey to be signed into law. HB 2153, introduced by Vince Leach (R-Oro Valley) eases restrictions on political action committees being “in good standing” with the Corporate Commission and other requirements to give money to candidates, shielding where the funds are coming from.

“The confidence in us as a legislature is at an all time low, for a good reason,” Sen. Martin Quezada (D-Glendale) said. “I have had dark money spent against me, and dark money spent for me, and I don’t like either of them.”

The bill would prohibit local governments from requiring tax-exempt organizations to register as PACs, as well as having to disclose contribution information. Additionally, these tax-exempt (but not PAC-status) organizations would not have to submit to audits, subpoenas, or produce evidence related to campaign finance violations.

“If someone takes part in the political process, it should be done in public,” Sen. Steve Farley (D-Tucson) said.

The bill will now go before 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 ekolsrud@email.arizona.edu.

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