February 06,2018 | Triadvocates
1. The sexual harassment investigation against Republican Rep. Don Shooter came to a head last week with the House taking the extraordinary move to expel him. Since LD13 covers more than one county, the precinct committeemen from Yuma County – Shooter’s county of residence – will nominate three replacement candidates to the Yuma County Board of Supervisors. The board will then choose one of these individuals to fulfill the remaining 10 months of Shooter’s term. There is still additional fallout from the scandal, as some members are calling for an investigation of a former staffer, now lobbyist, who was named in the final investigative report. The individual was accused of sending unsolicited, sexually explicit communications. It might be some time before we are truly back to business as usual at the Capitol.
2. As voters begin to cast ballots in the CD8 special election, polling shows that we can expect a two-candidate race. According to a poll from OH Predictive Insights, former state legislators Debbie Lesko and Steve Montenegro are tied with 21 percent support in the Republican primary to fill the seat vacated by Trent Franks. Phil Lovas, a former state lawmaker and Arizona chairman of President Trump's 2016 campaign, follows in third with roughly 12 percent support. Former Arizona Corporation Commission Chairman Bob Stump, trails in fourth with 10 percent. The primary will be held on Feb. 27 with the general special election following on April 24.
3. Last week, a Maricopa County Superior Court judge threw out a legal challenge to prevent a citizens' referendum on Arizona's expanded school-voucher-style law from going to voters. The legal battle involved a referendum on the controversial expansion of the Empowerment Scholarship Account program approved last year by the Legislature. Back in August, a grass-roots group called Save Our Schools gathered more than 111,000 signatures to temporarily block SB 1431, which significantly expands who is eligible to get a voucher of state funds to attend private and parochial schools, from going into effect. The program currently limits eligibility to include those special-needs students and those from poor-performing schools. Barring a successful appeal, the most recent decision means the referendum known as Proposition 305 will appear on the ballot this November.
4. As the Legislature enters its fifth week of work, attention turns to the state budget. The first issue to be resolved is the revenue estimate for the next fiscal year. Estimates for FY19 are taking shape and the outlook is for enough revenue to keep pace with the FY18 budget or a slight deficit. Early estimates are usually conservative as it is easier to revise revenue upward than it is to propose cuts to anticipated spending. As more income tax revenue comes in, the trend for the FY19 budget will become clearer. If legislative leadership hopes to hit the goal of an end to session in April, we should see more budget discussions in the weeks ahead.
5. With last week’s expulsion of Rep. Don Shooter from the House, Republican Rep. David Livingston is now officially the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. Livingston has been working double duty as interim Appropriations chairman and Banking & Insurance chairman. Now that he is the permanent Appropriations chair, his time will be consumed by budget negotiations. He is expected to focus on appropriations-related issues, thus his Banking & Insurance Committee will not meet for the time being. Once the House starts hearing Senate bills, B&I may reconvene to hear some of the key bills impacting banking, insurance and pensions. Given the significant time commitment and heavy workload involved in chairing Appropriations, it is uncommon that the chairman also chairs another committee.
After Republican Rep. Vince Leach gave an articulate, but lengthy, explanation about one of his bills in response to a question asked by Democratic Rep. Mark Cardenas:
*Leach pauses to wait for Cardenas to respond.*
Cardenas: “Sorry, I quit listening several minutes ago.”