Accomplishments of the 50th Legislature, Second Regular Session
Accomplishments of the 50th Legislature Second Regular Session Prepared by Senate Majority Staff 5-17-12
The Majority in the Arizona State Senate gathered in January with a goal of building upon the successes of the First Regular Session, enacting another truly balanced budget and creating an economic environment that will continue to grow us out of this sluggish economy. The Republican caucus delivered with a responsible budget that is balanced through 2014 and sets aside reserves to improve Arizona’s credit rating and plan for future needs. Legislators also made reforms to improve Arizona’s business climate and expand our nationally-recognized lead in school choice. Some of the key proposals are outlined as follows:
As a direct result of the responsible fiscal management of the state’s finances in FY 2012, the Legislature was not only able to avoid making cuts to the state budget in FY 2013, but it also balanced the FY 2014 budget, even with the temporary 1% sales tax increase expiring. The state economy is showing slow but consistent growth, and jobs are continuing to be created. In February and March, 47,000 jobs were created in Arizona. With the knowledge that the economy could slow at any time, the Legislature insisted on continuing a cautious fiscal policy. In addition to a balanced budget, Senate Republicans insisted on no fund sweeps, no gimmicks, no cuts to Education, Public Safety, Transportation, or Health Care, and a “rainy day fund” for unplanned contingencies.
The Legislature has always held the fiduciary responsibility of the “power of the purse”. This ensures that necessary money management decisions are best made by legislators, elected to respond to the will of the voters. However, a large number of federal funds do not go through the Legislature; thereby, limiting the amount of impact Arizonans have over financial decisions. In an effort to address this issue the Senate passed SB 1488. The bill is designed to allow the Legislature, rather than the Executive, to appropriate non-custodial federal grants, placing all budgeting authority back with the constitutionally-authorized Legislature. Unfortunately, despite easily passing the Senate, SB 1488 was never assigned to a committee in the House and perished without the opportunity for a hearing.
Balancing a budget becomes increasingly difficult with the imposition of unfunded or General Fund mandates. Instead of providing funding to address areas of critical need, money may be forced to a low priority area. To mitigate this problem, the Senate passed SCR 1031 and SCR 1037. If it had been enacted, SCR 1031 would have required a review cycle whereby all ballot measures with a fiscal impact would have to be reauthorized via a general election every 8 years. SCR 1037 dictated that an initiative that fails to identify a sufficient non-General Fund revenue source and thus requires general fund revenues, the General Fund revenues are subject to legislative appropriation. Both resolutions died in the House Appropriations Committee.
The current presidential administration’s failure to address runaway expenditures and the associated level of debt spells trouble for states and citizens alike. To avoid similar destructive fiscal practices at the state level, SCR 1030 would have allowed voters to amend the state’s Constitution to limit the expenditure of revenues to the prior year’s expenditure plus population and inflation increases. The state cannot afford another round of deficit spending. Resolutions such as this allow for the steady and responsible expenditure of state revenues. SCR 1030 failed in the House Appropriations Committee.
Pre-recessionary spending devastated Arizona’s economy and led to record deficits. Following the lessons learned from the late 2000s, the necessity for constructing balanced state budgets became a key Republican tenet. This is reflected in several measures to limit overspending during times of high revenues. SB 1275 called for a joint legislative hearing if appropriations exceed estimates. This would give legislators and the public a chance to voice their opinions when decisions are being made to increase spending beyond estimated revenues. SB 1275 was vetoed by the Governor. Through responsible fiscal spending and a willingness to prepare for the future, Arizona was able to start its recovery. HB 2567 statutorily requires the General Appropriations Act to include a three year estimate of revenues and expenses. Future budgets will be constructed through this process of incorporating long term revenue and expenditure estimates.
Parental choice is vital when it comes to education. Parents should have the choice to send their children where they feel they will receive the best education. They should also be empowered to participate in open discussions with the school board in developing plans to help schools succeed. HB 2598 requires school districts to develop a parent involvement strategy if the district has received a letter grade of “D” or “F” for two consecutive years.
SB 1256 would allow charter schools to offer preschool programs for children with disabilities. The Governor vetoed SB 1256.
SB 1255 requires the State Board of Education to adopt rules that establish competency-based educational pathways. The rules must include a mechanism to allow students in grades seven through twelve who have demonstrated competency in a subject matter to immediately obtain credit for the mastery of that subject. The bill also establishes options for students pursuing a competency-based diploma. Current law states an employer cannot hire, promote, deny employment or prevent promotion based on an individual’s religious beliefs. Unfortunately, there have been instances in which individuals were not hired because of holding a certain religious belief. The Legislature remedied this by passing HB 2770, prohibiting a post-secondary institution from making employment decisions based on religious beliefs.
It is important that our youth have a choice in learning about the contribution the Bible has had on Western civilization and the founding of our nation. The Legislature passed HB 2563 to allow school districts and charter schools to offer a high school elective course on how the Bible has influenced Western culture.
Schools continue to look for ways to fund student programs. SB 1373 expanded the extracurricular tax credit to allow contributions made to a public school for educational activities to be claimed under the public school tax credit. Parents would be able to support their school activities while lessening their tax burden. The bill was held in the House.
Last session, the Legislature established the Arizona Empowerment Scholarship Accounts program. This year the legislature attempted to increase the qualifications for eligible students. HB 2626 expanded eligibility for the Arizona Empowerment Scholarship Accounts program to include students who attended schools with a letter grade of “D” or “F”, previously received an Arizona Scholarship for Pupils with Disabilities, are a member of the United States Armed Forces, have been identified as a gifted pupil, and/or they previously attended a public school and were deemed eligible to receive a scholarship from an Student Tuition Organization (STO). It also added educational therapy and extracurricular activities to the list of qualifying expenses. HB 2626 was vetoed by the Governor, but many of its provisions were added to HB 2622. In addition to containing the provisions of HB 2626, HB 2622 prohibits schools from displaying a classification or ranking that is no longer current unless they indicate the year the ranking was received.
The Legislature has taken great steps to encourage the use of technology throughout the education system. This session the legislature passed SB 1259, allowing students in grades seven through twelve to enroll in up to two online courses per academic semester. Increasing the educational options students can utilize has consistently led to a higher-quality education. SB 1259 was vetoed by the Governor.
HB 2161 creates a specialized teaching certificate for classroom teachers with expertise in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) fields. The bill outlines a list of requirements a teacher must satisfy to be eligible for the program and charges the State Board of Education to administer the program.
HB 2712 is a protective measure to keep minors from accessing inappropriate materials on public computers. The bill mandates that public access computers deploy and enforce technology protection measures to prevent minors from gaining access to information and visual depictions that are pornography, harmful to minors, or obscene. It also grants the Board or Superintendent the option to direct the Department of Education to withhold up to 10% of the monthly apportionment of state aid if it is determined that the school district or charter school has failed to comply with this Act within 60 days after a notice has been issued.
Current law mandates that the Arizona Department of Education compile an achievement profile annually. ADE currently has two achievement profile grading systems; one is a letter grade (A through F) and the other is based on performance levels (Highly Performing through Failing to Meet Academic Standards). For the 2013 academic year, SB 1458 requires that ADE transition entirely to letter grades for school achievement profiles.
The Senate has consistently sought for teacher accountability in the classroom. HB 2823 makes numerous changes to principal and teacher evaluation statutes. A model teacher and principal evaluation framework must be adopted by ADE by December 1, 2012. This evaluation shall be conducted annually. HB 2500 requires schools assigned a letter grade of “D” or “F” for 2 consecutive years to implement a STEM intervention strategy under the supervision of the State Board of Education. HB 2501 prohibits charter schools from employing a teacher whose certificate has been surrendered, unless the SBE has reinstated the certificate.
HB 2663 downgrades a “D” school to an “F” school in less than three years if the SBE determines that the school is not reasonably likely to achieve an average level of performance. The bill’s intent is to help underperforming schools get back on track.
Republicans have consistently fought to reduce regulatory requirements imposed by the State and Federal government. This year the successful passage of several bills will lighten the burdens of schools and give incentives to highly performing schools and their students. If a school district has received an “A” rating for three consecutive years, HB 2599 allows the school district to be exempted from certain regulatory requirements.
SB 1253 makes it easier for an elementary school district to withdraw from a Joint Technological Education District (JTED). SB 1199 no longer requires charter schools to change auditors at least every six years. HB 2697 exempts persons applying for a secondary education certificate from the subject knowledge portion of the proficiency examination if the state board determines that the person has work experience in STEM areas and can demonstrate adequate knowledge of a particular subject through a postsecondary education degree or twenty-four credit hours of relevant coursework.
HB 2641 removes the following requirements for community colleges: to report the number of students under 18 who have not completed high school and who are enrolled in community college programs; to conduct tracking studies of subsequent academic or occupational achievement of former students who took a dual enrollment course; to comply with solar design regulations for college buildings; and to submit bonding information to JCCR.
Designed to allow community college districts to create classroom space, HB 2333 removes the cap on the amount of revenue bonds community colleges can use for classroom construction and limits total bonded indebtedness for community colleges to 8% of current expenditures.
Funding for K-12 education continues to be a priority of the state and this Legislature. Through HCR 2056 the voters of Arizona will have an opportunity to ensure that the state’s land trust earnings for K-12 education, in both prosperous and stagnant economic times, will be a steady source of revenue for the K-12 system. The resolution states that the annual distribution from the Permanent Fund shall be a guaranteed 2.5 percent.
SB 1257 establishes a tax credit for voluntary contributions made to an “A” or “B” ranked charter school for capital projects. The tax credit is limited to a maximum $500 for an individual, $1000 for a married couple filing jointly, and $1000 for a corporation. SB 1257 was held in the House.
SB 1047 establishes a tax credit for excess contributions to certified school tuition organizations, and provides administrative and qualifying changes to school tuition organization statutes relating to the corporate and individual programs.
With the passage of the Medical Marijuana Act in 2010, implementation of the measure has highlighted the deficiencies and unintended consequences of voter approved initiatives. For instance, the measure did not create proper oversight of physician prescribing authority and distribution of marijuana. As a result, when Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) monitored the activity of a group of physicians and found the group did not adhere to prescribing protocol, no investigative or enforcement capabilities were in place. HB 2035 makes it an act of unprofessional conduct for a healthcare professional to recommend medical marijuana for a nondebilitating medical condition and grants ADHS the authority to report the physicians to their professional boards for disciplinary action. In addition, the Legislature enacted HB 2349, which prohibits a medical marijuana cardholder from possessing medical marijuana on a college and post secondary campus, at any grade level school and in day care settings.
Community Health Centers (CHCs) have served a vital role in the state’s healthcare delivery system by making health care accessible and affordable to low income and uninsured individuals. Upon meeting the certification requirements by the Department of Health Services, they provide a comprehensive level of services to patients. HB 2063 enables CHCs to expand services to include urgent care services for walk-in patients. This will help alleviate the problems that Arizona hospitals are currently facing with prolonged wait times in emergency rooms and the costs associated with uncompensated care.
The state of Arizona has continued to support research efforts in finding a cure for and early detection of cancer. As such, ADHS administers a Well Woman Healthcheck Program (WWHP). However, if a woman is diagnosed with breast or cervical cancer outside of the WWHP program, they cannot qualify for treatment through the Arizona Heath Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS), regardless of their eligibility status. This year the Legislature addressed this restriction by allowing providers that are recognized by the WWHP program (not through the agency) to make a diagnosis so that women can receive the much needed treatment to battle their conditions. This was originally contained in HB 2472 and was included in the budget.
Significantly impacted by budget reductions over the past few years due to the economic downturn, nursing home facilities proactively pursued a funding mechanism outside of the General Fund to avoid closure and negative operating balances of care homes throughout the state. HB 2526 allows nursing home facilities to charge an assessment on health care services to obtain enhanced federal dollars to supplement Medicaid payments to facilities, not to exceed upper payment limits.
Health care facilities also impacted during the economic downturn that are challenged by uncompensated care will find relief through enhanced federal match money enacted in the budget. The Indian Gaming initiative which passed in 2002 allocates a portion of the tribal revenue for trauma and emergency services throughout the state. By federalizing the trauma dollars, the state will draw down additional money for hospitals. The formula for distribution gives greater preference to rural hospitals, with approximately $6 million to be directed to those facilities.
Through enactment of HB 2625, religious employers will not be mandated to provide coverage for contraceptive, abortifacient, abortion or sterilization prescriptions if they object based upon religious beliefs. It was a priority to ensure that organizations which had a moral objection to providing birth control to their employees could practice their beliefs without undue harm to their workers. This was achieved by making this objection only applicable to an entity whose articles of incorporation clearly state that it is a religiously motivated organization and whose religious beliefs are central to the organization’s operating principles. The Senate ensured that the bill would in no way discriminate against employees for use of contraception and applied the exemption prospectively for future health policies.
Economic Development/Tax Reform
In an effort to improve Arizona’s business climate, the Legislature adopted several regulatory reform measures designed to improve the state’s responsiveness to Arizona businesses and industries. These measures included HB2744, which makes a number of substantive changes to the rule-making process used by state agencies, with the goal of making the process more transparent and efficient. The Legislature also adopted SB1287 and SB1289, which remove costly and duplicative requirements for companies such as developers and mining operations that are required to obtain specific environmental permits. Finally, the Legislature passed HB2199, which allows companies in Arizona to proactively conduct internal audits to determine their compliance with environmental laws and regulations without being required to disclose the results of those audits to regulators. Based on laws already on the books in other states, the measure is designed to promote a more business-friendly climate by encouraging companies to correct their own mistakes rather than be penalized by state and federal regulators.
Arizona’s Unemployment Insurance Program (UI) is an important program for employers, employees and communities. The vitality and role of the UI system has been highlighted in the recent economic downturn and slow recovery, particularly with the extension of benefits imposed by the failed Obama administration’s stimulus package. It presented an opportunity to reform the program so that UI is truly serving individuals appropriately and not exposing employers to higher costs through increased taxes to maintain a solvent trust account. This year the Legislature enacted a number of measures to improve the UI system. (HB 2519; HB 2150; HB 2628) require individuals to actively seek employment during at least four days of the week and demonstrate at least three work search contacts, and disqualifies individuals who do not actively seek work or refuse or fail a drug test required as a condition of employment. Statutes were updated to reflect current wage levels that will benefit recipients, modify the administrative appeals process and provide a potential decrease in UI taxes for employers also providing job training. Finally, restrictions were put in place so that forprofit charter school employees are not eligible for UI benefits for any week of employment that begins during a period between two successive academic years or terms, or any holiday or vacation period if there is reasonable assurance that the individual will perform the same services in the second of the academic years or terms.
The Legislature remains committed to developing a framework for a workers’ compensation benefits program that provides for an equitable distribution of the compensation dollar that reduces litigation and is dedicated to eliminating abuses within the current system. HB 2155 allows the Arizona State Board of Pharmacy to release data that is collected from the controlled substances computerized central database tracking system to a physician who is authorized to perform an Independent Medical Exam (IME) on an employee entitled to workers’ compensation. This ensures that employees are not doctor shopping and are receiving appropriate care.
Codifying this access to information helps prevent IME doctors from facing undue lawsuits filed by plaintiff’s attorneys. In addition, HB 2368 updates the current calculation of wages by referencing a national index. This broader reference creates a more stable and predictable wage payment that does not ebb and flow with a local economy. The Senate modified this measure to require that evidence based medicine be used for the treatment of injured workers. This has been a long-sought-after reform to ensure that workers received proper medical care that is cost effective and returns the employee to work more quickly. Finally, the workers compensation system was modernized to allow employees to receive electronic payment for their benefits.
In addition to the numerous business development efforts pursued this session, the Senate passed a measure that would attract motion picture projects to the state by providing corporate and individual income tax credits for qualified productions (SB 1170/HB 2127). The proposal contained a 20% tax credit for multimedia productions that spend at least $250,000 in Arizona (capped at $15 million per project and $70 million annually). Companies that use private facilities in the state would gain an additional 5%. In an effort to encourage studio and sound stage construction, the bill provided a 25% tax credit for companies that film half of the production at a facility that costs at least $50 million to build in Arizona. Not only would the legislation serve as a stimulus to the economy through complimentary industries, including hospitality, but it would give Arizona a competitive edge in landing film projects that are currently bypassing the state. The legislation was twice approved by the Senate but stalled in the House.
SCR 1012 raises the level of business personal property exemption from $68,000 to $2.4 million. If approved by the voters, the higher exemptions will incentivize the creation of new businesses, the expansion and/or refitting of existing businesses, and the manufacturing of new machinery and equipment. While SCR 1012 benefits small businesses, SB 1442 is designed to assist major manufacturing companies. SB 1442 provides state funding for 80% of public infrastructure improvements costs related to a qualifying project ($500 million urban / $50 million rural). HB 2815 phases in a 25% reduction to personal income based capital gains and extends the net operating loss carry forward period from five to 20 tax years. SB 1084 creates a 10% bonus depreciation deduction and increases the business personal property tax exemption from $68,000 to $125,000. SB 1367 expands an existing tax credit for companies locating a headquarters in Arizona. The Republican Majority has ensured that through these business-friendly measures, private entities will continue to invest and re-invest in Arizona. By supporting business expansion, Arizona economic growth will continue and make us a national leader among business-friendly states.
Arizona has the unfavorable distinction of having one of the most complicated property tax systems in the county. If approved by the voters, SCR 1025 will simplify Arizona's property tax system. SCR 1025 will limit the taxation of property to one value (primary), which will be limited to 5% annual growth. This measure will not only increase the stability of Arizona's property tax system but also provide greater predictability for both government and taxpayers.
One of the best ways to attract businesses with a national and international presence is through competitive taxes. Last year, the Legislature authorized the phase-in of a 100% sales factor for manufactured goods. Now, as a result of SB 1046, multi-state service providers will be able to elect to use a 100% sales factor to decrease their Arizona corporate tax liability on out-of-state services. Tax policies like SB 1046 create a more favorable environment for businesses and helps to stimulate economic activity.
The Legislature has made it easier for taxpayers to be able to pay their municipal TPT and excise taxes by passing HB 2466. The bill authorizes the establishment of an online portal for the payment of municipal TPT and excise taxes. It allows taxpayers in cities and towns where the Department of Revenue has not entered into contracts for tax services to pay those taxes through the online portal.
SB 1229 exempts the electricity transferred to utility distributors by residential photovoltaic generating systems from the transaction privilege tax.
SB 1279 exempts non-system operating computer software from business personal property taxation.
SB 1214 repeals the requirement for a specific statement of a taxpayer’s use tax liability to be declared on that taxpayer’s income tax return.
SB 1190 extends the expiration of the individual income tax credit for donations made to the Military Family Relief Fund to December 31, 2018.
In keeping with the caucus position to support the rights of crime victims, HB 2373 ensures that a sentence of life in prison truly means life in prison. Under the current law, a person who commits first degree murder may be sentenced to serve "life" in prison, but may be eligible for parole after serving 25 years. With HB 2373, if a person is sentenced to prison for "life" on a first-degree murder conviction, the person will spend the rest of his or her natural life in prison, except in specific situations. This provides certainty and peace of mind to the victim's survivors and ensures justice is served.
Several pieces of legislation were proposed this session to protect the constitutional rights of gun owners in Arizona. Ensuring that Arizona citizens have the ability to defend themselves has been an ongoing priority of the caucus. Law abiding gun owners should not be forced to disarm just because they have to enter a public building to conduct business. SB 1474 allowed a person with a concealed weapons permit to possess a firearm on a university or community college campus, with specific exceptions. HB 2729 placed strict requirements on any government entity that seeks to restrict possession of firearms in public buildings or at public events. Although neither bill ultimately became law, this is an area that the caucus will continue to work on in the future.
Arizona has a large hunting community and many hunters have need for more than one firearm for protection. This is especially true when hunters are near the border and find themselves in situations that can quickly become hostile and dangerous. A trio of bills introduced this year focused on rescinding many outdated restrictions on the possession of firearms while hunting. HB 2457 allows a person to possess any kind of legal weapon while hunting, as long as it is not used to take wildlife. HB 2728 allows the possession or use of a firearm silencer while hunting. HB 2640 removes limits or restrictions on the magazine capacity of any authorized firearm for the use of taking wildlife.
In the fall of 2011, the Federal Drug Enforcement Administration designated synthetic stimulants known as “bath salts” to the Controlled Substances Act, listing the chemicals as Schedule 1 substances. Schedule 1 substances are classified as having a high potential for abuse. These synthetic drugs are known to cause heart attacks, strokes, seizures, paranoia, violent hallucinations, and panic attacks. Quick action by the Legislature, along with the support of various stakeholder groups led to SB 1043/HB 2356, an emergency measure banning a list of compounds that have been found in emerging synthetic drugs like “bath salts”.
SB 1073 and HB 2388 would have permitted the Board of Pharmacy to react quickly to protect communities from emerging synthetic drugs like “bath salts” by allowing the Board to include variations of the existing chemical compounds in the list of controlled substances. The Board of Pharmacy would have to consider a list of factors and consult with the Department of Public Safety prior to adopting these rules, and would report any additions to the Legislature for purposes of annual statutory updates. Unfortunately, both bills died in the House this session, leaving a gap for law enforcement to address emerging synthetic drugs in our communities.
To further combat drug manufacturing in our communities, HB 2263 requires retailers to use an electronic sales tracking system to submit information about the purchase of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine based products beginning on January 1, 2013. These precursor chemicals are used in the manufacturing process for meth. Home cooking of meth is extremely dangerous and can result in serious injury or death, while also leaving poisonous residue in the structure used and on its contents. The National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators provides the National Precursor Log Exchange at no cost to states with legislation requiring the electronic monitoring of these purchases. Through the online database, the Board of Pharmacy and Arizona law enforcement can track individuals who are exceeding the specified legal limits of over-the-counter drugs to make dangerous drugs and can prevent drug trafficking.
As a response to concerns from the Attorney General about the lack of police standards and accountability in Colorado City, SB 1433 would have allowed the county board of supervisors to assume control of a municipality's law enforcement functions if more than 50% of the municipality's officers have been stripped of state certification. The county would be entitled to reimbursement for reasonable costs, and if the municipality refuses to pay the county, sales tax distributions could be withheld from the municipality. This bill died twice in the House, first as SB 1433 and then later as HB 2018.
Last summer saw the tragedy of little Caylee Anthony unfold in a Florida courtroom; Caylee was a toddler when she disappeared, yet she wasn’t reported missing for over a month. SB 1072 was a collaborative effort between law enforcement and prosecutors to create a safety net for children like Caylee. It prescribes felony punishments for a person who has care, custody or control of a child who is under 13 years old and either fails to report the child missing within 24 hours or makes a false statement to a law enforcement agency about the missing child.
Unfortunately, the House killed this bill twice, once as SB 1072 and later in session as HB 2018.
SB 1438 protects neighborhoods by increasing the penalties associated with failure to remediate property that has been used for drug laboratories. This includes criminal prosecution for property owners who do not comply with statute relating to the sale of remediated property.
Child Protective Services Reform
In an effort to strengthen and streamline Child Protective Services processes, HB 2794, along with language added from SB 1187, implements several key recommendations from community leaders who participated in the 2011 Child Safety Task Force. The bill requires a peace officer to assess a child’s safety and determine whether the child might be a victim of domestic violence or abuse when responding to an alleged domestic violence call. The bill modifies the definition of criminal conduct allegation to include an offense that constitutes domestic violence if it involves a minor, and clarifies the definition of near fatality. The bill also deletes from statute references to Removal Review Teams and the Family Advocacy Office (which ended in 2005).
In line with another recommendation from the Child Safety Task Force, HB 2721 requires the Director of the Department of Economic Security (DES) to establish and oversee the operation of a separate Office of Child Welfare Investigations. The new division calls for 28 additional investigators that meet certain requirements and training to determine whether a child is in need of protective services. The investigators must promptly investigate the nature, extent and cause of any report related to criminal conduct allegations or criminal child abuse or neglect and notify the appropriate personnel within DES.
With an unprecedented majority, the Legislature sought to enact measures that reformed the State’s tort system to create a better business climate. As such, SB1336/HB2503 created a punitive damages exemption for a manufacturer that maintains compliance with all state and federal laws from a cause of action. By allowing for certain exemptions, Arizona can become a leader in protecting businesses from exposure to litigation where they are not truly the negligent party. Furthermore, HB 2544 modified the standard of review for court award of attorneys fees by eliminating the requirement that reasonable fees be paid in civil actions upon clear and convincing evidence that a claim or defense is groundless and not in good faith. Such a standard created a perverse incentive for attorneys to file frivolous lawsuits with the possibility of some compensation.
In response to egregious claims filed in other states, SB 1359 protects medical professionals from predatory lawsuits brought by plaintiffs for wrongful birth or wrongful life based on a claim that a child should not or would not have been born, except for the health professional’s action or omission. The legislation is applicable for claims regardless of whether a child was born healthy or with a birth defect or adverse medical condition. Not only does the measure enhance the state’s tort system, it holds equal the value of all children, healthy or disabled.
In a pre-emptive measure to protect homeowners against liability from trespassers, SB 1410, also known as the Trespasser Responsibility Act, codifies that a land possessor does not owe a duty of care to a trespasser, except in very narrow circumstances. This has been the common law for decades, but the American Law Institute’s latest Restatement of Torts created concerns that a broad new duty could be imposed on homeowners to exercise reasonable care for unwanted trespassers. SB 1410 protects homeowners by maintaining the current principles.
The Republican majority has made reforming government one of its highest priorities. To this end, the Legislature modernized the State Parks Department last year by allowing it to cooperate with the private sector and local governments. This made it possible for the state to end taxpayer expenditures to the State Parks and increase economic activity throughout the state. HB 2362 continues this responsible fiscal plan by creating the State Parks Revenue Fund. Through this fund, State Parks will be able to continue their partnership with the private sector and utilize gate fees to fund capital improvements, minimizing the Department’s burden on state taxpayers. Although the bill was originally vetoed, its provisions were included in the state budget through negotiations with the Governor’s office.
Government employee unions have for years enjoyed certain privileges, often at the expense of Arizona taxpayers. SB 1484, SB 1485, SB 1486 and HB 2103 sought to address many of these concerns by putting reasonable limits on perks afforded to government unions. The package would have required annual consent for the - 12 - deduction of union dues from an employee’s paycheck, prohibited a long-standing practice of using taxpayer money to compensate employees for union activities and prohibited collective bargaining. It is time to examine how taxpayer monies are spent subsidizing union activities. These bills would have been a step in the right direction for ensuring a proper balance between government employee unions and Arizona citizens. Unfortunately, the House failed act on the “paycheck protection” bill not once, but twice and both SB 1484 and HB 2103 died. The House also failed to pass SB 1486, which would have put the brakes on taxpayer funded “union release time.”
To bring public sector employment more in line with the private sector, HB 2571 makes sweeping changes to state personnel statutes. The bill begins the process of uncovering thousands of state positions, consolidates eight personnel systems into one and provides new grievance processes for employees who do remain covered. HB 2571 will create efficiency throughout state government and reward our employees for the top-notch service they provide to Arizona taxpayers.
In the wake of concerns over the Independent Redistricting Commission's lack of adherence to the Arizona Open Meeting Laws, HB 2807 provides much-needed clarification that the IRC should provide transparency to the public just like any other governmental entity. The bill specifically includes all commissions and public entities established by the Constitution or ballot initiative in the definition of a "public body" for purposes of open meeting requirements.
One of the most difficult decisions of last year's budget was to increase the share of retirement costs paid by state and local employees in the Arizona State Retirement System (ASRS). Prior to last year, the cost of the retirement plan was split evenly between employers and employees in ASRS. Senate leadership committed prior to session that with revenues exceeding projections, this change was no longer necessary and a restoration of the 50/50 split between employers and employees was appropriate. HB 2264 restores the 50/50 split, and appropriates the monies necessary to refund employees for the increase over the past fiscal year.
Representing a significant reform to the Arizona Clean Elections Act, HB 2779 prohibits the use of monies in the Clean Elections fund for the self-promotion of Clean Elections and removes the $5 tax check off option that funds a portion of Clean Elections. Threshold reports that are no longer necessary in light of recent court decisions are removed, and any candidate who has been removed from office or owes past-due fines to the Clean Elections Commission is prohibited from being certified as a Clean Elections candidate.
Recognizing the importance of integrity in public office, SB 1137 prohibits a person who has over $1,000 in outstanding fines for campaign finance violations from filing as a candidate for elected office.
Military and Veterans Affairs
With the Obama Administration threatening to close military bases throughout the United States, the Legislature responded by passing SB1001 and SCR1001, which asks voters to approve an amendment to the state Constitution allowing the state to exchange parcels of state trust land for other public land in an effort to protect and preserve Arizona’s military facilities. The amendment also has the potential to increase funding to Arizona’s public schools and universities by enabling the State Land Department to combine parcels of land, making them more valuable when they are sold at auction.
The Legislature also demonstrated its support for Arizona’s veterans by passing a number of bills that strengthen the efficiency and accountability of the Arizona Department of Veterans Services. SB1291 and SB1293 make a number of reforms to the management of the Department to ensure that Arizona veterans receive the services they deserve and expect.
The Legislature’s commitment to veterans was also demonstrated by SCM1007, which encourages Congress to recognize the Veterans Remembered Flag, which would be flown at veterans cemeteries throughout the country. SB1405 and HB2602 also ensure that veterans have access to benefits such as in-state tuition and veteran-supportive college campuses.
Finally, the Legislature supported the Secretary of State’s efforts to honor and recognize the sacrifice of Arizona’s World War II veterans by adopting SB1129, which allows for the creation of a WWII Memorial near the State Capitol featuring guns from the USS Arizona and USS Missouri.
In an effort to promote commerce and economic development, the Legislature passed SB1232, which requires the State to share revenue from overweight truck permits with cities and counties near the Arizona – Mexico border, allowing those communities to make necessary road improvements to speed the efficient delivery of goods into the state.
The Legislature also worked to protect public safety by passing SB1480, requiring that taxi and limousine companies maintain records of routine brake and tire inspections to ensure that such inspections and repairs are being performed.
Responding to the transportation needs of Arizona's rapidly-growing population has been one of the state's top priorities for decades. This year, the Legislature provided Arizona's cities, towns, and counties with a dynamic new tool to accelerate the development of key transportation projects by passing SB1131, which establishes transportation project advancement notes (TPAN), and allows counties and municipalities to enter into agreements to advance monies for the accelerated construction of certain transportation projects. The bill will allow local governments to shift funding to high-priority transportation projects, providing relief to road-weary commuters and residents.
Determined to protect Arizona’s right to Colorado River water, the Legislature adopted HJR2002, which allows the director of the Department of Water Resources to enter into an agreement that would reduce the allocation of River water to Mexico in the event of a water shortage affecting the seven lower basin states. As a result of several Arizona communities lacking sustainable water supplies, the Legislature passed SB1236, which requires the Department of Water Resources to conduct a pilot project examining rainwater harvesting and its potential as a source of water for communities that currently rely on limited groundwater supplies.
As a result of the state budget crisis, the Governor’s office last year asked the Legislature to fund the Department of Water Resources (DWR) by levying a populationbased fee on Arizona’s 93 cities and towns. The fee required Arizona’s cities and towns to contribute more than $6 million in funding to the state for DWR. This year, with state revenues improving the Legislature reversed that policy by including the provisions of SB1288 in the state budget. That bill eliminated the municipal fees and restored $6.3 million in state funding to the agency, removing a costly burden from Arizona’s cities and towns and ensuring that DWR has the resources necessary to serve its customers.
Concerned by the federal government’s ongoing mismanagement of Arizona’s national forests, the Legislature adopted SB1231, authorizing the state to provide funding to Apache County for litigation against the United States Forest Service for the destruction of endangered species habitats due to the lack of forest thinning and forage fuel removal activities. Along with Greenlee and Navajo Counties, Apache County was the site of the 2011 Wallow Fire, which charred more than 500,000 acres and destroyed nearly 50 homes. Many policymakers and forest health experts agree that the Wallow and other large fires are the direct result of overgrowth in the forest due to the lack of forest thinning.
Anxious to capitalize on emerging opportunities for forest restoration, the Legislature approved HB2332, which expands several tax credits and incentives for companies that perform forest restoration work, including forest thinning designed to reduce the risk of wildfire.
The Legislature also sought to improve its ability to fight forest fires by adopting SB1075, which requires the state forester to develop and implement a comprehensive wildfire deployment plan of statewide resources for wildfire suppression activities and to ensure training and certification for wildland firefighters and equipment.
In addition to these measures, the Legislature also passed a Memorial, SCM1003, calling on Congress to adequately fund the U.S. Forest Service, and prohibit the Forest Service from acquiring additional land until it demonstrates an ability to adequately manage its existing forests.
In perhaps the most significant reform to domestic relations laws in years, SB 1127 updates the code to reflect modern parenting and the importance of having both parents as ongoing decision-makers in their children's lives if possible. The bill strikes all references to "custody" and "visitation" in favor of "decision-making" and "parenting time." Factors for determining what arrangement is in the child's best interests are modified and parents who present false claims to the court may be subject to financial sanctions. SB 1127 is on the Governor’s desk.
SB 1176 would have required any person who supervises parenting time for compensation to have a valid fingerprint clearance card and expanded the list of mandatory reporters for purposes of child abuse to include parenting time supervisors. Unfortunately, SB 1176 bill was vetoed for an unrelated amendment that was added in the House.
The Legislature has also made it a priority this session to ensure that no public monies are expended on abortions or in support of entities that perform non-federally qualified abortions. As such, HB 2800 prohibits Arizona or any political subdivision of the state from contracting with or giving grants to facilities that perform abortions for the purposes of family planning services. The bill establishes funding priority for family planning services to be awarded to hospitals, federally qualified health centers, rural health clinics and primary care providers in that order.
The Senate initiated a measure which strengthens the protections for pre-born life. HB 2036 was a strike-everything amendment in the Senate Judiciary Committee that enhanced the informed consent statutes to allow for a civil action to be brought against a person performing an abortion on a pregnant minor without complying with the proper notification requirements. Medical risks related to abortions must be disclosed. Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) will establish the content of the consent forms. In addition, patients who elect to have an abortion after 12 weeks gestation are required to have an ultrasound evaluation. For patient safety, ADHS must adopt rules relating to minimum recovery room standards, which must include immediate post procedure care for a surgical abortion, and for care provided after inducing a medical abortion. Postabortion visits for proper patient assessment are also required. A state website that promotes alternatives to abortion and provides lists of agencies throughout the state where prenatal, neonatal, child care and adoption services will be available. Finally, no abortions may be induced or performed prior to determining the gestational age of the unborn child.
SB 1083 puts “boots on the ground” with a volunteer force gathering information on cross-border activity. It creates the Arizona Special Missions Unit Members of the unit would supplement state and local law enforcement agencies. Members would be vetted and well-trained, to ensure the best possible mission-ready unit. Funding of more than $1 million each year would come from the border security subaccount of the Gang and Immigration Intelligence Team Enforcement Mission. House leadership blocked it from going to Floor, and the bill died.
More people will be working on the border if SCR 1014 is acted upon. The resolution calls for support of an increase in personnel along the border between the United States and Mexico. Half of all drugs seized and illegal immigrants apprehended happen in Arizona. Our ports of entry are some of the busiest in the country, handling millions of pedestrian and vehicle inspections. Each year these ports process $19 billion in trade. SCR 1014 supports an increase in Border Patrol personnel and Customs Field Office personnel.
Last year, the Legislature established the Joint Border Security Advisory Committee to take testimony, analyze border statistics, recommend methods to increase border security and manage the construction of a border fence.
SB 1104 transfers monies gathered in the border fence fund to the committee to allow the building of the fence to move forward and help improve border security.
It is important that information about federal border enforcement efforts is given to the ones who know the area best: local law enforcement HB 2434 requires federal law enforcement officers to notify the county sheriff before taking any official law enforcement action. The bill, however, was vetoed by the Governor.
The lack of action by the Federal government to provide for the safety of its citizens has led states to become emboldened about their rights. Arizona is a leader in the nation in this effort.
SB 1332 demanded the United States extinguish title to all public lands in Arizona and transfer title of those lands to the state. If Arizona sold the lands, the state would have to deposit five per cent of the net proceeds of the sale in the permanent state school fund; and pay ninety-five per cent of the net proceeds of the sale to the United States. The bill was vetoed by the Governor.
Voters would have a say reinforcing the rights of Arizonans with HCR 2004. It asserts the rights of sovereignty over the land and resources of the state of Arizona by amending the Arizona Constitution.
States can work together in the fight for sovereignty. HB 2494 establishes an interstate compact on forests. Arizona would join one or more states to coordinate management of their forests. It is these states that know the land best, and the proper way to manage its forests and resources.
In an effort to protect Arizona homeowners, several pieces of legislation were proposed this session to curb overreaching by homeowners’ associations (HOAs). SB 1476 protects homeowners seeking to build in an HOA by setting clear guidelines for HOAs that require security deposits during construction and providing a specific timeframe for the approval process. The bill also requires the Chair of the Architectural Review Committee to be an elected member of the HOA board, providing accountability. HB 2484 holds HOAs more accountable and financially liable if legal action is necessary when settling disputes. HB 2764 requires HOAs to register with the Secretary of State (SOS) so that the SOS can make the HOA registration information available to the public SB 1476 and HB 2764 await approval by the Governor, HB 2484 failed to pass.