PHOENIX — Some international news crept into the Legislature this week with the death of Kayla Mueller, the Prescott woman who was killed after being kidnapped at the hands of Islamic State militants.
Gov. Doug Ducey ordered state flags to be flown at half-staff and moments of silence were held throughout the Capitol during the week.
Official state metal
Copper is one of the five Cs of Arizona’s economy and now legislators want to make the state’s relationship with the metal official. On Monday, the Senate Committee on Natural Resources heard SB 1441, which would designate copper as the state metal.
Arizona already has a state fossil (petrified wood), a state bird (the cactus wren) and state neckwear (the bola tie) so the people who brought this bill forward feel that copper’s designation is long overdue. Those who brought the bill forward, though, were fourth-grade students from the aptly-named Copper Creek Elementary School in Oro Valley and they testified before the committee.
“Copper is an integral part of our state’s economy and pride,” said Jennifer Royer, the students’ teacher at Copper Creek.
The students listed out their reasons for supporting the bill, focusing on the symbolism of copper to the state – the copper star at the center of the Arizona flag and the copper dome of the Capitol.
The committee voted unanimously to move the bill forward, which has 35 sponsors.
No. 2 for Arizona
The House Committee on Elections moved forward a pair of bills that would create a new No. 2 position in Arizona government. HB 2265 and HCR 2024 would create a lieutenant governor position for the state, subject to voter approval, and lists the details of the position.
The bills’ sponsor, Rep. J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, said the position would reflect the federal system with the president and vice president. A candidate for governor would run on a joint ticket with a lieutenant governor candidate.
Though, beyond succeeding the governor should he or she leave office for some reason, Mesnard found other work for a potential lieutenant governor to do — heading the Arizona Department of Administration.
Currently, the Secretary of State is first in line to succession to the governor, which is how Gov. Jan Brewer initially ascended to the position in 2009.
New child safety director
At a press conference on Tuesday, Ducey announced that he fired the director of the Department of Child Safety, Charles Flanagan, and replaced him with Greg McKay, the investigator who uncovered that the agency had left more than 6,500 cases of abuse uninvestigated.
“When it comes to Arizona’s record of safeguarding children — our most vulnerable — our state government has come up woefully short,” Ducey said.
He said the state’s child welfare agency needed a new direction just about eight months after DCS was created under Gov. Jan Brewer with Flanagan, who had been in charge of the agency’s predecessor, at its helm.
McKay said he was dedicated to the issue of child safety. “Whatever has taken precedent over this mission is to be discarded immediately,” he said.
Center for Arizona Policy Day
Following up on that announcement, Ducey addressed the influential Center for Arizona Policy on Wednesday and called on them to help the child safety situation in the state. The group was behind last year’s controversial SB 1062, which critics derided as discriminatory against members of the LGBTQ community.
Ducey told hundreds of conservative and antiabortion activists that they should reengage in the child welfare, helping children who are now outside the womb.
“These are the most vulnerable in our society and are, in many situations, not being cared for properly,” he said.
Cathi Herrod, president of CAP, then proceeded to interview Ducey at the podium, asking him about his time so far as governor and prayer.
Herrod later went to the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services to testify in favor of a bill that would provide for tighter regulations on abortion in the state.
SB 1318 would prohibit abortion coverage under the federal healthcare exchange and require doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges to local hospitals. The committee approved the bill down party lines to the applause of those in the audience, which is prohibited during committee meetings.
Ducey, Douglas spar
On Wednesday, Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas announced the firing of two top Board of Education officials, but Ducey responded saying she had no authority to do so.
Douglas fired back on Thursday with a statement to the media where she said Ducey now views himself as both governor and superintendent of schools.
“Governor Ducey has refused to take calls or meetings with me personally since his swearing in,” Douglas said in her statement. “Clearly he has established a shadow faction of charter school operators and former state Superintendents who support Common Core and moving funds from traditional public schools to charter schools.”
Ducey responded that he was “disappointed” with Douglas.
Beer, beer, beer
Beer dominated the conversation at the Capitol Monday afternoon when microbrewery supporters descended on the Capitol to rally for SB 1030. The bill from Sen. Kelli Ward, R-Lake Havasu City, would raise production caps for microbreweries to allow them to continue operating restaurants.
“Beer puts people to work and we should be ensuring craft brewers have a path for responsible growth,” Ward told supporters holding green signs supporting SB 1030 on the Senate lawn.
The microbrewery supporters weren’t just there to back SB 1030. They also came to oppose competing legislation that would keep in place the system where producers, distributors and retailers are separate. That bill, SB 1437, sponsored by Sen. Steve Smith, R-Maricopa, also has supporters in the alcohol industry and was heard in the Senate Committee on Commerce and Workforce Development along with SB 1030.
After hours of debate and testimony, the committee approved SB 1030 and Smith held his bill in hopes of finding compromise later.
No samples were made available.
Monday was the filing deadline for bills to be introduced to the House and the total came out to 670 bills along with 47 memorials and resolutions. In the Senate where the filing deadline was last week, 468 bills and 36 memorials and resolutions were introduced. This marks a slight decrease from last year’s session in the total number of bills introduced. About a quarter of bills introduced were passed in the last session.
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 email@example.com