The Week (At the Arizona Capitol) April 14-18

On Monday, the Senate met at 1:30 p.m., only to recess for caucus until 4, when they adjourned until Tuesday morning, despite a long Committee of the Whole calendar. The House was a little more active, when they heard a few bills in the Committee of the Whole, including a strike-everything bill that would call for an Article V Convention (a convention of the states to add an amendment to the Constitution),  which failed. There was little discussion through most of the bills and the House too, left early for Passover.

On Tuesday, the House roll-call voted 54 bills. Things were slow during the first six when Rep. David Livingston (R-Peoria) decided to talk about his life-changing trip to the Bundy Ranch in Clark County Nevada, in his allotted five minutes to explain his vote for each bill.

Livingston, among other conservative members of the Legislature, took a trip to the ranch over the weekend because the federal government had started collecting the cattle of a rancher named Cliven Bundy (hence the name Bundy Ranch), because Bundy hasn’t paid his grazing fees for his cattle for over 20 years, asserting that his family lived on the land before it became federal property.Sen. Judy Burgess (R-Sun City West) went as far as to say that what happened at the ranch could have ended in civil war.

Livingston, Burgess and other supporters of Bundy are calling for the federal government to give control of the land to the states. Regardless of political affiliation, after the first few times most members of the House seemed annoyed with Livingston’s discourse. On Twitter, House Majority Whip Rick Gray (R-Sun City) said if Livingston continued talking about the Bundy Ranch for every bill, he would have taken more than 4 hours to speak.

Rep. Chad Campbell (D-Phoenix) finally said in exasperation, “This is crazy,” alluding to the threat by armed protestors at the ranch planned to put the women and children in front of them in case the federal government decided to take action. “These are not patriots, these are cowards,” he said. Eventually, Livingston stopped and the House was able to get down to Arizona business.

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The House failed SB1030, a bill that would remove a provision in the existing law that says a parent with custody of a child must notify the other parent of a move of more than 100 miles. In scrapping that provision, the bill makes it more difficult for a parent with custody to move, including a provision that would force courts to take the best interest of the child into account when determining whether the parent could move, rather than the best interest of the parent. The bill was brought up for reconsideration on Thursday and failed 29-29.

Another bill, SB1061, failed in the House that day as well. The bill would make it so that a father filing a paternity petition must do so within 30 days or else lose parental rights. The bill was reconsidered on Thursday as well, but with a commitment from the bill’s sponsor Sen. Nancy Barto (R-Phoenix) that the language would be adjusted; the bill passed the second time around.

…A bill that would prohibit the planting of high-water-usage trees on riverbeds passed through the House. Some Democrats opposed the bill because it prohibits the planting of mesquite trees, which are native to the desert and riparian habitats.

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While the House was regaled with stories of the Bundy Ranch, the Senate had a calendar that had more than 108 bills going through the Committee of the Whole or being third-read. Among those was HB2281, a bill that would give a tax break to businesses that host small churches.

Democrat Ed Absleser (D-Tempe) saw it as a tax increase for all of the other properties that would have to shoulder the new burden. “What this is doing is raising taxes for other properties in the surrounding districts,” Ableser said. “Once again this is another tax increase that the majority members are voting yes on.” The Democrats would have had enough votes to kill the bill, had Sen. Steve Farley (D-Tucson) not supported the measure. “It seems to me to be a simple issue of social justice,” Farley said. “Why should the rich churches get a tax break and the poor churches don’t no matter what they believe in?”The bill passed and was sent to the Housebefore it can be sent to the Governor.

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A floor amendment that would provide a tax break for for-profit private universities in the state was stuck down in the Senate on Thursday. The original bill had failed to pass through the House Rules Committee because it was considered special legislation for Grand Canyon University. The sponsor, Sen. Steve Yarbrough (R-Chandler) didn’t give up and tried to adjust the language so that it applied to more schools. It didn’t work. “Passing the tax burden off of the universities onto the taxpayers is just one step in giving more tax breaks to businesses and putting the burden on individuals,” Sen. Lynne Pancrazi (D-Yuma) said, before the amendment was voted down in division.

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Both Tuesday and Wednesday were gun days for the Senate. On Tuesday, the bills were heard in the Committee of the Whole with very little discussion.

HB2339 is a bill that would allow people with concealed carry permits to carry their guns into public buildings if the buildings do not have a metal detector or armed security. The bill went through a roll-call vote on Wednesday and the Democrats almost had enough votes to kill it, but Sen. Barbara McGuire (D-Kearny) voted with the Republicans to give it the 16 votes needed to pass. “I’m an NRA member and I am a believer in Second Amendment rights, and I took an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States as well as the state of Arizona, and that is a constitutional issue, therefore I supported it,” she said. … The bill will be sent to Gov. Brewer to sign, but Brewer vetoed a similar bill in 2012.

The other controversial gun bill was one that would supersede town ordinances to allow people to use firearms on their private land. It also limits ordinances that would prohibit the discharge of a firearm within a quarter mile of an occupied structure. “I got less emails opposing this than I got contacts regarding supporting it and ultimately I’m going to come down on the side of personal property rights in this case and with that I’m going to vote aye,” said Sen. Kelli Ward (R-Lake Havasu City).Sen. Leah Landrum Taylor (D-Phoenix) and McGuire supported the bill and gave it enough votes to pass through the Senate.

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On Wednesday the House passed a bill that would allow ranchers to kill the endangered Mexican gray wolf if wolves are threatening their cattle. The bill raised a lot of debate in committee when ranchers and environmentalists argued about which needs to be protected more, the cattle or the endangered wolf.

“I believe with all living things had a spirit and we must treat each other with respect because we are all related,” Rep. Victoria Steele said on the House floor, saying that according to her Seneca background all living things are related. She opposed the bill, saying that removing the wolves would be a “tragic mistake.”

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The House also heard a bill that would allow for people to raise fowl in their backyards. The bill was amended to define fowl as “chicken, turkeys ducks, geese, guineas and squabs” before it was voted down on a roll-call vote. … Throughout the discussion of the bill, Rep. John Kavanagh (R-Fountain Hills) played rooster noises on his computer and representatives cracked chicken puns and talked about their love lives. “

Merriness ensued. “I don’t know if you know me but not a lot of girls really want to go out with me, let’s be honest with ourselves,” Rep. Adam Kwasman (R-Oro Valley) said. “The young lady that I’m currently dating really wants this bill to pass. Guys come on, come on, come on.” Not all of the comments were lighthearted though. Rep Karen Fann (R-Prescott) explained why she opposed the bill. “If all of a sudden we are going to start, as a state, stepping in and exerting over the local zoning laws, we end up with a problem where we end up having none. Where do we draw the line now?” she said. Rep. Warren Peterson (R-Gilbert) did not agree. “This is an important property rights bill. In case you were not aware, this does not require people to have chickens at their homes,” he said.

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On Thursday, empowerment scholarships (school vouchers) were addressed in both the House and the Senate. The House failed HB2291 on reconsideration. The bill would expand the voucher program to areas where the median income is under $44,122.

The estimate of the number of new children that would have been eligible under the expansion was around 112,000 students. “All I am trying to do is give low income students an opportunity to improve their education.” Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Peoria) said, after reading from a sheet with research from the Goldwater Institute.

However, the Democrats resisted, saying that the scholarships would drain funds from the public schools “Being number one in choice is not something we should be proud of,” Rep. Martin Quezada (D-Phoenix) said. “The parents wouldn’t need choice if we were doing our jobs, taking care of the schools.”

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The Senate passed two smaller voucher bills on Thursday morning, HB2139 and HB2150 without discussion. HB 2139 would expand the current voucher program to cover students with disabilities and HB2150 would expand the program to cover children of active military members, veterans or those that died in action. However after voting yes on HB2139 in roll-call vote, Sen. Steve Pierce called for the bill to be sent back to the Senate after he decided to change his vote, only to have the motion fail 14-14.

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A bill to ban lobbyists from lying failed in the Senate. HB2093 would make it a Class 2 misdemeanor if a lobbyist were to knowingly give a lawmaker false information and would prohibit a lobbyist from providing any information without the approval of their political subdivision’s first. The bill failed 12-16.

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The revenge porn bill passed through the Senate Committee of the Whole on Thursday. Without debate, an amendment was added that would classify the disclosure of another person in a state of nudity without the person’s consent as domestic violence. The bill makes it illegal to share private images of someone without their permission.

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A bill that would regulate ridesharing organizations passed through the Committee of the Whole. Supported by ridesharing applications like Uber and Lyft, the bill would regulate the ridesharing organizations, while ensuring that they did not have the same standards as taxi services.

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