Arizona Legislature debates bills as it works to wrap up session

On the heels of a 16-hour marathon to pass a $9.6 billion state budget, Arizona lawmakers Wednesday started to plow through hundreds of bills with the aim of ending their session this week.

Patience was wearing thin as controversial bills advanced in the House. Majority Leader Steve Montenegro, R-Litchfield Park, blamed Democratic lawmakers, saying they were taking too long with questions, speeches and calling for individual votes.

Rep. Stefanie Mach, D-Tucson, said Democratic lawmakers were trying to assure quality legislation was advancing and prevent problems similar to what happened on the final night of last year’s session when lawmakers passed a severe cut to public-school technical programs that had to be remedied this session.

“It’s about the fight for what’s right,” she said.

Here are some of the bills the Legislature tackled Wednesday.

Guns in public buildings

The Senate voted down one gun bill, once again sparing Gov. Doug Ducey from having to decide whether to sign or veto gun legislation.

  • Senate Bill 1257 would have allowed people who have concealed-carry gun permits to bring their firearm into a public building regardless of any signs that might bar such use. Sponsor Sen. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, cited numerous exemptions written into the bill, from courthouses and jails to public hospitals, and urged his Senate colleagues to pass it. 

Water policies

A pair of water bills affecting two rural counties is on its way to Ducey’s desk, after passing the Senate on party-line votes. Both measures are sponsored by Sen. Gail Griffin, R-Sierra Vista, who waved off concerns from Democrats that the bills could undermine the state’s groundwater law and threaten future water supplies in rural Arizona.

  • Senate Bill 1400 would allow the boards of supervisors in Cochise and Yuma counties to repeal policies that require proof of an adequate water supply before approving development.
  • Senate Bill 1268 would allow the same repeal process for cities, with more stringent limits for cities with populations in excess of 25,000.

Immigration sentences

The House voted down Senate Bill 1377, which would have required individuals found to be in the country illegally and convicted of a felony to serve their full sentence instead of the current policy of being turned over to federal officials for deportation after serving half of their sentence.

Ducey already signed into law a bill that requires such individuals to serve two-thirds of their term, the length of time that U.S. citizens convicted in Arizona must serve. This bill may come back up for a revote Thursday.

“It’s a subject we need to look at carefully,” Montenegro said. “We’re talking about the safety of our communities. The bad guys have figured out they can come in as many times as they want to, and if they’re not authorized to be in the country, they don’t have to serve out their penalty.” 

Student information

The House rejected House Bill 2088, which would have required schools to get written permission from a parent before giving their student a survey that asks for details about financial information, religious information, sexual behavior and voting history. However, there is the possibility a House member may bring it back for a revote.

For-profit university taxes

The House Committee of the Whole passed Senate Bill 1402, which gives a tax break to for-profit universities like Grand Canyon University. Rep. Debbie McCune Davis, D-Phoenix, unsuccessfully tried to include an amendment to only apply the tax break to universities with at least a 40 percent graduation rate, something GCU isn’t reported to have.


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