This Week in Arizona Politics: 5 Things to Know

February 13,2018 | Triadvocates

1. Earlier today, the Yuma County Board of Supervisors appointed Tim Dunn to replace former state Rep. Don Shooter in LD13. Dunn, a farmer and businessman who is president of Dunn Grain Co. Inc., was one of three nominees named by LD13 precinct committeemen last week. He edged out Paul Brierley, director of the University of Arizona Yuma Center of Excellence for Desert Agriculture, and Cora Lee Schingnitz, secretary of the Colorado River Tea Party. Dunn will be sworn in tomorrow morning, and intends to launch a campaign for the House seat.

2. Throughout the interim, Gov. Doug Ducey spent months working on major changes to water policy in Arizona. Last week, House and Senate committees started their debate on several of these ideas, with testimony ranging from strong support to fierce opposition. The Legislature has included a handful of the governor’s ideas into its proposed package, but also included one or two of its own initiatives—which Ducey has vetoed in the past. Arguably the greatest point of contention is that the Legislature wants to give some rural counties more say over their water programs, while the governor wants more protection for Lake Mead. Members will continue the debate this week and are expected to pass their version of water reform, while continuing to negotiate with the Governor’s Office. Water policy debates are typically very dry (pun intended), but this year it’s turning into interesting political theater.

3. L
ast week, the Senate Committee on Transportation & Technology unanimously approved a bill that would establish a statewide texting ban. SB1261 creates a fine of no more than $99 for a first offense and $200 for repeat violations—only if the person using the cell phone or similar device is involved in a mishap that causes death or serious injury would the offense rise to the level of a misdemeanor. Even then, the maximum penalty would be four months in county jail and a $4,000 fine. If passed, Arizona will join the 47 other states that have made texting while driving illegal.​

4. For the first time ever, a bill to protect LGBT people from discrimination in Arizona has been introduced with bipartisan sponsorship. After more than a decade of only Democratic support, the bill this year, sponsored by Democratic Rep. Daniel Hernandez, is co-sponsored by Republican Sen. Kate Brophy McGee. HB2586 would amend Arizona’s anti-discrimination laws to make it illegal to fire someone from a job, deny them housing or refuse them service because they are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. The bill has one more chance to get a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee, which meets on Wednesday, before it fails to clear the deadline to hear proposals, but Republican Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, who chairs the committee, said he would "probably not" grant it because he disagreed with the proposal. Phoenix, Tempe, Flagstaff, Sedona, Chandler and Tucson have such protections, but there is no state-wide law.

5. HB2166 would do away with the current VLT formula (one percent of the manufacturer’s base retail price of the vehicle) and instead give the director of the state Department of Transportation the power to determine the fee. The bill is an attempt to address a problem stemming from the fact that the state’s 18-cent-a-gallon gas tax has not been raised since 1991, when the average price of a gallon of fuel was $1.14. Further complicating the issue is that while the number of vehicles on the roads has risen, they are more fuel efficient, thus decreasing gas tax revenues. Despite significant funding needs for road repairs throughout the state, each year, up to $120 million from the gas tax and vehicle registration fees are swept from the Arizona Highway User Revenue Fund (HURF) and instead used to fund Highway Patrol. Theoretically, the new fee would, when applied to all vehicles, raise enough money to fund the Highway Patrol and therefore protect HURF dollars without hiking the state gas tax—a concept adamantly opposed by Gov. Doug Ducey. According to the sponsor, the fee would shake out to somewhere between $17 and $19 a year. HB2166 passed the House Transportation Committee by a vote of 7-1, and will likely be considered on the House floor this week.​


After a contentious, partisan debate about a bill in the House Judiciary & Public Safety Committee:


Rep. Anthony Kern: “For everyone videoing us on their cell phones right now, I just want you to know that these hearings are recorded. So feel free to delete those videos and save yourself some gig space.”


Rep. Mark Finchem: “And it’s in HD, too.”

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