State budget passed, Legislature rushing to pass bills and adjourn
PHOENIX — With a state budget passed, the Arizona Legislature is rushing to complete its yearly work by the end of the week, considering hundreds of bills that still need votes.
Lawmakers worked into the early morning hours Wednesday before passing the $9 .6 billion spending plan, which now awaits Gov. Doug Ducey’s signature.
They returned at mid-day Wednesday with the goal of tackling a series of dozens of votes in each chamber. Up for votes include bills on new high-interest rate loans, a series of tax cuts, allowing guns in public buildings and regulations on drones, among others.
The Senate hopes to adjourn for the year by today, May 5, but House Majority Leader Steve Montenegro says that’s an ambitious schedule and he’s not inclined to rush for rushing’s sake.
Following are Capitol Media Services reports on some of the actions taken Wednesday:
CONCEALED CARRY OF WEAPONS
A bid to allow some gun owners to bring their weapons into public buildings has suffered a setback, perhaps a fatal one.
On a tie vote, the Senate killed legislation that would have allowed those who have a state permit to carry a concealed weapon to ignore the “no guns” signs on many government buildings. The defeat came even after Sen. Debbie Lesko, R-Peoria, said the signs are useless and that criminals already ignore them.
Backers of the measure, led by the Arizona Citizens Defense League, were making a last-minute push to convince at least two foes to change their minds to provide the required 16 votes to send the measure to the governor.
Current law allows the operators of government buildings to declare their facilities to be weapons-free zones by posting signs at entrances and providing lockers for those with guns.
SB 1257 would overrule that, saying that government agencies would have to buy and install metal detectors and have security guards at all public entrances. The failure to do that would mean that those who have concealed-carry permits could ignore the signs.
Permits require a background check as well as attending a class on weapons training and safety. At last count, the DPS has issued more than 265,000 of these permits.
Lawmakers refused to make probation and other sentencing alternatives off limits to people in the country illegally who commit crimes.
Current law already allows judges to consider various factors in determining how long a sentence to impose. One of those is the immigration status of the offender.
SB 1377 sought to spell out if that is the case, a judge must impose at least the “presumptive” sentence for the crime. That would deny the person any chance to argue there are reasons for the court to be more lenient. It also would have meant no option for a sentence of probation or other alternative.
The 32-28 vote to kill the bill came over the objections of Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert, who blamed the defeat on various - but unnamed - local chambers of commerce.
Local communities will lose the right to ban the sale of commercially bred animals under the terms of legislation sent to Gov. Doug Ducey.
SB 1248 is specifically designed to overrule existing ordinances in Phoenix and Tempe that allow pet shops to sell only rescue and shelter animals. It also would short-circuit similar regulations being considered in Tucson and elsewhere.
Proponents said it’s a good deal because it requires pet stores to ensure that their suppliers abide by U.S. Department of Agriculture regulations for breeding of dogs and cats. And that, they argued, helps ensure that animals are not being mistreated.
That contention drew derision from Sen. Steve Farley, D-Tucson.
He acknowledged being approached by a lobbyist who bought his dog from a local pet store, which gets its puppies from commercial operators. And Farley said the lobbyist is happy.
But he said that lobbyist never saw the conditions under which the puppy’s mother is held.
“The USDA regulations allows his dog’s mother to be kept in a wire cage that is six inches longer than her body and six inches taller than her body, and they can be stacked three or four high on top of each other,” Farley told Senate colleagues.
“They can be in that cage their entire life and the cages don’t have to be cleaned except for once every two weeks,” he continued. “That’s what USDA regulations say is ‘humane’ for an animal breeder.”
But Farley found himself on the losing end of an 18-9 Senate vote.
Gov. Doug Ducey is going to have to decide whether he wants to dilute provisions of state water laws. On a 16-12 vote, the Senate gave final approval to SB 1400, which requires counties that have their own water-requirements for developers to review them every five years. But it would take a unanimous vote of the board of supervisors to rescind the ordinance.
The potentially more far-reaching measure, SB 1268, would allow any city to unilaterally exempt itself from the requirements. It was approved on a 17-12 vote.
Both measures now await action by Ducey, who has said in speeches that ensuring Arizona has adequate water is important.
The fight has its roots in the historic 1980 Groundwater Code.
It led to establishment of five “active management areas” around the state in the Phoenix, Pinal, Prescott, Tucson and Santa Cruz areas that have regulations designed to reduce groundwater pumping. And a key tool is a requirement for a showing of a 100-year “assured water supply.”
An amendment to that law allows counties to have similar mandates, with Cochise and Yuma having opted in.
Castle & Cooke, which hopes to put in a 7,000-home development in Sierra Vista, got such certification of assured water supply from the state Department of Water Resources. But a trial judge ruled that DWR acted improperly and did not consider the competing claims to the water, notably from the Bureau of Land Management, which is concerned about the water supply for the San Pedro River.
The Court of Appeals is considering the ruling.
But it will not matter what that court decides if SB 1268 becomes law, as it would permit the Sierra Vista council to simply declare that development within its borders is not subject to the assured water supply requirement.
Sen. Gail Griffin, R-Hereford, the sponsor of both measures, read letters detailing all the city and county have done to conserve water. And SB 1268 lists specific conditions a city would have to meet to exempt itself from the county ordinance, ranging from having a plan for reuse of reclaimed water to requiring low-water use plants in public rights of way.
One of those letters came from Tom Finnegan, past president of the Fort Huachuca 50, a military support group.
“It is vital to the city to be able to make planning decisions that will ensure Sierra Vista can meet the needs of Fort Huachuca for the coming years,” Griffin said he wrote.
But Sen. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, said anything that increases water pumping in the area actually endangers the future of the fort, making it a target the next time the Department of Defense goes through a base realignment and closure process.
“And if there’s concern about having a lack of affordable housing, I think there’ll be plenty of affordable housing in Cochise County if this goes through because I think Fort Huachuca will be at grave risk of reducing its presence or leaving entirely,” he said. Farley also noted the current drought conditions.
“To choose this time to say that you don’t have to show an adequate water supply to put in a new subdivision is exactly the wrong timing,” he continued. “We could putting our economy in Southern Arizona at risk if we put this bill through.”