This Week in Arizona Politics: 5 Things to Know

April 09,2018 | Triadvocates

1. Of the more than 40 ballot initiatives introduced this session, 12 are still alive and legislative leadership will soon decide which ones will be referred to the voters. It’s unlikely that all will end up on the 2018 ballot, but some of the potential measures include:

  • Four-year terms for members of the Arizona State Legislature
  • Changes to the pension systems for corrections officers, elected officials and judges
  • The size of the Arizona State Legislature
  • A new independent redistricting system
  • Property tax cuts for senior citizens 
  • Clean energy standards for Arizona utility companies

Interestingly, the Arizona Legislature did not refer any ballot questions in 2016—looks like they’re making up for it this year. 

2. Several weeks ago, Gov. Doug Ducey unveiled the Safe Arizona Schools Plan—a high-level proposal in response to the gun violence epidemic facing the nation. Last week, the Governor’s Office intensified its efforts and held small group meetings with GOP legislators to brief them on leaked bill language. Some Republicans remain skeptical due to proposed spending amounts, while Democrats, who have not yet been briefed on the legislation, have serious policy concerns and have strongly criticized the proposal for lacking comprehensive background checks and a ban on bump stocks.

Here’s an overview of the leaked bill language:

  • The key aspect of the plan is the Severe Threat Order of Protection, or STOP orders. It outlines a process for family members, teachers, social workers, mental health professional or law enforcement to file a petition with a court for a STOP order to require an evaluation to determine if the person is a potential danger to himself or others—if so, the judge may order a temporary removal of the person’s firearm(s)
  • $2M for additional School Resource Officers (SROs); expected to increase to $11M
  • Requires DPS to spend up to $392,000 from the peace officers' training fund to obtain virtual training equipment to provide training for SROs
  • Allows members of the Department of Public Safety Reserve who are sworn peace officers to be assigned to assist with the safety and security of school districts and charter schools
  • $450,000 for mental health first aid training in schools
  • $2M for behavioral health services in schools; expected to generate additional $6M in federal match funds
  • $125,000 to DPS to expand current tips and leads portal to include campus-specific portal for schools
  • $597,800 to DPS to establish, staff and manage the Center for School Safety
  • $600,000 to update AZ Computerized Criminal History Database to require 24-hour turn-around on updates


This is one of the last big hold-ups of the session, and remains a top priority for the governor. Once he secures the votes he needs, we expect things to move very quickly.

3. Last week, on a party-line vote, the Senate approved legislation that would make it illegal for someone to falsely pose their pet as a legitimate service animal. The effort is being spearheaded by Republican Sen. John Kavanagh, who says it’s necessary to prevent people from “bringing pets where they don’t belong.” The bill is strongly opposed by Ability 360, a nonprofit run by and for people with disabilities, on the premise that the proposal perpetuates negative stigmas, calls people out who have legitimate disabilities and service animals, and that it is unnecessary, given that business owners in Arizona are already legally allowed to ask a patron to leave if their animal is unruly, whether or not the animal is trained as a service animal. The bill now heads to the House for final approval. If it becomes law, it would create a $250 fine against people who misrepresent pets as service animals.

4. Another session, another failed effort in the state Legislature to ban photo radar. For the second consecutive year, Republican Rep. Travis Grantham introduced the legislation—adding to the annual attempts to nix the use of red light and speed enforcement cameras throughout the state. This session, Grantham’s bill narrowly passed the House and, despite a last-ditch effort for revival, failed to receive a hearing in the Senate. Until next year…

5. Earlier this session, Gov. Doug Ducey proposed a sweeping overhaul of water policy, including a controversial provision that would give the Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) the authority to “forebear” the use of water from the Colorado River. Despite pushback from some legislators, the governor maintains that the statewide forbearance program is “absolutely necessary” to prevent levels in Lake Mead from falling below thresholds that would trigger catastrophic reductions in Arizona’s water allocation. However, Colorado River water is controlled by the Central Arizona Water Conservation District (CAWCD) through a contractual relationship with the U.S. Department of Interior, and under that contract, CAWCD is allowed to determine what to do with excess water. Thus, the Arizona Legislative Council – the state Legislature's nonpartisan legal counsel – advised members that interfering with that right is “almost certainly” not permissible. ADWR Director Tom Buschatzke fired back, saying the department has been granted forbearance authority three times in the last eleven years, so clearly it is permissible. Legislators do not necessarily have to follow the guidance of Legislative Council – in fact, the Legislature routinely ignores legal advice from its lawyers – and could choose to support the governor’s proposal, but it’s unclear what path they’ll choose. As we say in Arizona, whiskey is for drinkin’ and water is for fightin’.


During an intense floor debate on HB2588, which would make it illegal for someone to falsely pose their pet as a legitimate service animal:


Senator John Kavanagh: “Since when is the number and percentage of people who testify in our committees a reliable pulse of what the actual feelings are in the general population? I don’t think so at all. The day that our list of who testifies accurately depicts what the people of the state actually feel will be the day that pigs fly across the stage wearing phony service animal vests.”


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