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PSN on July 21, 2008 - 4:28pm
Arizona, it was a session marked by papering over a large fiscal
deficit, the approval of a ballot measure to ban gay marriage, and a
number of nasty initiatives that were thankfully vetoed by the
Budget: Lawmakers sought to close shortfalls of $1.2
billion for fiscal 2008 and $2 billion for 2009. Schools mostly
escaped funding cuts, although construction and building maintenance
funds were decreased. The state mostly bridged the deficit numbers by
draining the rainy day fund and other financial borrowing tools. A
special session may be called to deal with other parts of the deficit.
Universities were granted approval to sell $1 billion in bonds -
which it is hoped will help the state's sagging construction industry
through contracts for much-needed facilities for higher education. The
legislature sought to permanently repeal a statewide property tax that
was suspended three years ago, but the measure, HB 2220, was vetoed by the governor.
Transportation: While the legislature debated creating
tolls roads to fund anti-congestion investments, the bills didn't
pass. There will be an initiative on the ballot in the fall to use a
one-cent sales tax increase for transit, including light rail, commuter
trains and pedestrian paths.
Immigration: Revisiting last year's anti-immigrant legislation, the legislature approved HB 2745
which restricts penalties to businesses that "knowingly" hired illegal
workers after the law went into effect, not retroactively for anyone
hired before the law was implemented. Unfortunately, the bill also
made it a state crime to use any fake ID to obtain employment and
cracked down on day laborers.
The Governor vetoed HB 2807,
which would have preempted local policies regarding undocumented
immigrants and required sheriffs and police to implement a program to
address violations of federal immigration laws.
Child Protective Services: Following the deaths of three
Arizona children last year, the state increased the transparency of CPS
foster care records and court proceedings and tightened agency rules (HB 2453).
Another bill streamlined the process of adopting a child in the state.
And another expanded the circumstances when parental rights can be
terminated. SB 1442 mandates informing parents and guardians of their
right to be heard in any hearing.
Health Care: The legislature tweaked the state's
high-risk insurance pool, restricting access to one-person employer
firms but also reducing to 90 days the time someone must go without
insurance to qualify. Health-care-for-all plans were not even given
hearings in committee.
Abortion: The governor vetoed HB 2263,
which would have required a pregnant minor to provide "clear and
convincing evidence" to a judge of her "maturity" to get an abortion
without consulting her parent or guardian. The governor also vetoed HB 2769, which would have further restricted access to late-term abortions.
Gay rights: An anti-same sex marriage initiative will be
on the ballot this fall, following ugly legislative maneuvering by
supporters that even some who voted for the measure, including the
Republican Senate President Tim Bee, described as "coercive."
Energy: On energy policy, the legislature failed to even
pass the modest objective of standards for renewable energy use by
government buildings and schools.