This Week in Arizona Politics: 5 Things to Know

February 12,2019 | TRIADVOCATES

Breaking News: Just hours ago, retired astronaut Mark Kelly announced that he is running for U.S. Senate to finish the late Sen. John McCain's last term representing Arizona, which ends in 2022. Kelly is the husband of former Rep. Gabby Giffords, who survived a gunshot wound to the head in a 2011 mass shooting that left six dead in Tuscon. He is the first Democrat to enter the field ahead of 2020 and is widely seen as a formidable candidate to take on the GOP's established candidate, Sen. Martha McSally. McSally, who formerly served in the House, was appointed to the seat by Gov. Doug Ducey after she narrowly lost her campaign to Democrat Kyrsten Sinema. She is considered one of the most vulnerable Republican senators heading into the 2020 election.

1. Last week, the Senate Transportation Committee unanimously passed HB2536 which, if passed, will significantly increase all vehicle fuel taxes, including natural gas and propane. In addition, it adds a new tax on electric vehicles and hybrids. Arizona, like most states, taxes gas to pay for roads, freeways and other infrastructure. However, as cars continue to become more fuel efficient, less revenue is collected by the state—as a result, needs are outpacing revenue. The sponsor, Republican Rep. Noel Campbell, describes this bill as an “absolute necessity” to address the needs of our transportation infrastructure, as it would generate an estimated  $1 billion in new revenue for the state. During his fall campaign for re-election, Gov. Doug Ducey pledged not to increase taxes, so there could be an interesting showdown ahead if this bill makes its way to his desk.

2. Early ballots drop tomorrow for the upcoming City of Phoenix runoff election. This is an especially crucial election, as former council members Kate Gallego and Daniel Valenzuela are in a hotly contested race for mayor. Because neither candidate reached the majority threshold in the November election, they’ll face off in the special election on March 12. Also on the ballot will be a special election for city council members in Districts 5 and 8 in Phoenix. District 5 will feature four candidates certified to the ballot—all women, including Audrey Bell-Jenkins, Betty Guardado, Lydia Hernandez and Vania Guevara, who currently holds the position as the appointee. There are seven candidates certified to the ballot in District 8, including Gilbert Arvizu, Carlos Garcia, Michael Johnson, Lawrence Robinson, Camaron Stevenson, Warren Stewart Jr. and Onesimus A. Stachan.

3. As of 5 p.m. yesterday, we’ve officially passed the deadline for members of the Legislature to introduce legislation for consideration in the current regular session. While members can – and will – introduce strikers throughout the remainder of session, we won’t see any new bills dropped in either chamber.

4. Last week, a contentious election bill passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on a 4-3 vote along party lines. SB1188, introduced by Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, would effectively purge the list of Arizona voters signed up to receive ballots by mail—a system known as the Permanent Early Voting List (PEVL). Under the proposed measure, voters who don’t participate in at least one of the primary or general elections in two consecutive election cycles would be purged from the list. They’d still be eligible to vote, but would either have to cast a ballot in person or re-register for PEVL to again receive a ballot by mail. Republicans argue that the bill is a necessary fix to clean up the mailing list and prevent ballots from being sent to voters who’ve moved and haven’t updated their address. The issue of convenience was the subject of fierce debate, primarily between Sen. Eddie Farnsworth, the chair of the Judiciary Committee, and citizens who testified against the bill.

5. The Commission on Appellate Court Appointments, chaired by Chief Justice Scott Bales, met last week to begin vetting applicants vying for the open spot on the Arizona Supreme Court. Among the 11 applicants currently being considered is Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery. After March 1, the commission has 60 days to submit a shortlist of at least three candidates to Gov. Doug Ducey, who then has 60 days to appoint a new justice. If he fails to meet that deadline, the chief justice would get to appoint the newest member, although that has never happened. The seat is currently held by Justice John Pelander, who will retire March 1.

House Speaker Rusty Bowers, after former state legislator Cloves Campbell’s mic-drop moment on the House floor during African American Legislative Day:



"Now that was a closing statement."



Campbell was referencing racist remarks made by GOP Rep. David Stringer—specifically that African-Americans "don't blend in.”

"Ninth Floor"



The governor and his senior staff are located on the ninth floor of the Executive Tower at the Capitol, thus, the governor and his senior staffers are often simply referred to as the "Ninth Floor."


“We are waiting for feedback from the Ninth Floor before moving forward with the amendment language.”


“Republican lawmakers are at odds with the Ninth Floor over tax conformity.”

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