Weekly Legislative Reports
To track AzTA’s involvement in the most recent legislative session, view our reports below.
There were discussions about tax cuts, water policies, and budget priorities at the Capitol this week, but none of them happened in public. Meetings between legislative leaders happened behind closed doors and did not lead to action on top priorities. The House and Senate spent little time in floor sessions. When they did convene, legislators’ absences prevented votes on controversial bills. Both chambers adjourned early for the holiday weekend.
The legislative session crept along at a snail’s pace this week, slowed by legislators’ absences and the closed-door quest for agreement on a state budget or tax cuts. House and Senate Republicans are still trying to broker a deal that will reenact an income tax cut and add new funding for education. They’re also hoping to find a compromise on Governor Ducey’s proposed new water agency. If legislative leaders find enough votes for either effort, the Governor could call a special session to advance the legislation.
The legislature wrapped up the last of its regularly scheduled committee hearings this week and has reached a lull in the pace of the legislative session. There is still work to do – more than 400 bills await final floor debates and votes – but there’s little reason to act quickly when closed-door negotiations show no sign of leading to a state budget anytime soon. The legislature’s one constitutionally required duty – a financial plan for the state – is usually among the last things to get done during the legislative session.
Lawmakers rarely welcome court rulings that say they violated the Arizona Constitution. This week, however, a Yavapai County Superior Court’s ruling against legislative changes to precinct committee elections brought House and Senate Republicans a reason to celebrate. The court ruling overturned a controversial provision enacted when the legislature rushed through a change to the signature-gathering process for political candidates. The unintended change to precinct elections infuriated Republican party leaders and sparked conflict between political parties at the Capitol when Democrats refused to immediately overturn that part of the new law. By ruling that the new law violated the Constitution’s limits on special legislation, the court removed the provision, reset the precinct elections, and eliminated the need for the legislature to act on the issue.
The legislature’s unintentional change to precinct elections continued to cast a shadow over the Capitol this week, as the pursuit of a solution drove a wedge between Republicans and Democrats. Republicans want to respond to the demands of their party’s local leaders, but they need strong bipartisan support to enact their fix to the precinct election laws in time for a deadline next month. Most House and Senate Democrats want to discuss other policy changes before they’ll support the corrections the Republicans are in a hurry to approve. Both legislative chambers are at an impasse, and frustration is growing. The courts could get involved in the discussion, as well: This week, the Arizona Republican Party asked a Yavapai County court to determine whether the legislature’s original change to precinct elections is unconstitutional.
This week was dominated by finger-pointing and regret over a highly controversial change to the selection of precinct committee leaders around the state. Precinct committeemen (a statutory label for anyone holding the office) are political party officials within each legislative district, responsible for various administrative and political duties. A bill fast-tracked through the legislative process last week removed the elections of those officials, immediately changing state law to temporarily require political party leaders to appoint them instead of voters electing them. A perfect storm of unintended consequences and unusual circumstances created the situation; concerns about the changes were not identified before it became law, because the legislature skipped committee hearings and public discussion on the proposal.