Weekly Legislative Reports
To track AzTA’s involvement in the most recent legislative session, view our reports below.
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.
Though the House and Senate advanced dozens of bills this week, policy debates were overshadowed by a dramatic – and unprecedented – vote to censure Senator Wendy Rogers (R-Flagstaff) for her recent comments on social media and at a controversial political action conference last weekend. Though an early draft of the censure criticized Rogers’ comments related to race and authoritarian governments, the final version only referenced her threats to her colleagues and those who disagree with her. Senator Rogers said the censure was a violation of her free speech, but only two members of the Senate joined her in opposition to the censure. All Democrats and most Republicans supported it.
Staff and legislators at the Arizona Legislature call this “Crossover Week,” the point at which the House and Senate rush to vote on bills so they can move to committee hearings in the second legislative chamber. Every legislative session, Crossover Week always includes long days of floor debates and votes and a rushed, unpredictable approach to bills. Last-minute amendments can pass before they’re even available for review to Capitol observers, and tempers run hot as lawmakers try to process hundreds of votes in just a few days.
The legislature can move very quickly and very slowly when considering legislation, and this week it did both. On Monday, leaders of the Republican and Democratic parties in the House and Senate introduced measures to raise the cap on school spending – thus avoiding cuts to school budgets later this spring. The language is carefully crafted to avoid any connection to the ongoing litigation about how the spending cap relates to Proposition 208 education funding. The House passed its version of the proposal within 24 hours, exceeding the necessary two-thirds majority with a bipartisan coalition of 45 votes.