This Week in Arizona Politics: 5 Things to Know

January 30,2018 | Triadvocates

This afternoon, House Speaker J.D. Mesnard announced that Rep. Don Shooter – a powerful Republican from Yuma – has been permanently and immediately removed from all committee assignments. Less than an hour ago, Mesnard released the 82-page investigative report on Shooter, which verifies allegations of inappropriate behavior made against him—and includes new accusations that have been corroborated by investigators. The three-month investigation included interviews with roughly 40 insiders at the Capitol, including lawmakers, lobbyists and staffers. Despite the findings, Shooter has made no indication that he intends to resign, however, House leadership will introduce a resolution to censure Shooter on the floor. Mesnard has committed to formalizing the creation of a Human Resources Department in his chamber and will also prohibit the consumption of alcohol on House premises, which formally closes the door on what has been a practice by some legislators of keeping liquor or beer in their offices.

1. On Friday, Gov. Doug Ducey signed the Arizona Opioid Epidemic Act, the first bill to become law in 2018, following a four-day Special Session. The legislation, which limits initial pain-pill fills to five days for “opioid naïve” patients and imposes a maximum dosage limit for many others seeking new prescriptions, received bipartisan support and passed the Legislature by unanimous vote.

Specific policy initiatives include:

  • Identifying gaps in and improving access to treatment, including for uninsured or underinsured Arizonans, with a new $10 million investment; 

  • Expanding access to the overdose reversal drug Naloxone for law enforcement or corrections officers currently not authorized to administer it;

  • Holding bad actors accountable by ending pill mills, increasing oversight mechanisms, and enacting criminal penalties for manufacturers who defraud the public about their products;

  • Enhancing continuing medical education for all professions that prescribe or dispense opioids; 

  • Enacting a Good Samaritan law to allow people to call 911 for a potential opioid overdose;

  • Cracking down on forged prescriptions by requiring e-prescribing;

  • Requiring all pharmacists to check the Controlled Substances Prescription Monitoring Program prior to dispensing an opioid or benzodiazepine; and

  • Limiting the first-fill of an opioid prescription to five days for all opioid naïve patients and limiting dosage levels to align with federal prescribing guidelines. These proposals contain important exemptions to protect chronic pain sufferers, cancer, trauma or burn patients, hospice or end-of-life patients, and those receiving medication assisted treatment for substance use disorder.

The law will take effect in 90 days. For an overview of the full plan, click here.

If – and “if” is the keyword here – all goes as planned, as of today, the Legislature should be about one fourth of the way through the 2018 session. So far, 1,023 bills have been introduced, but there’s still time for more to drop. While yesterday was the last day to introduce bills in the Senate, the House has until next Monday to finish filing. By now, most of the big issue bills have been introduced—including the much-anticipated water legislation that has been the focus of many hours and workgroups throughout the interim (Sen. Gail Griffin introduced a package of 10 bills addressing various elements of water policy: SB1507 through SB1516). After this week, bills only have two more weeks to be heard in committee in the chamber of origin—failure to receive a hearing before the deadline means it’s the end of the road for that bill (unless it’s resurrected as a striker, but we’ll spare you the details of Arizona’s unique process). As such, members are pushing chairmen to get their respective bills heard. Translation: pack some snacks because committee agendas will start to get long.

3. Opponents of photo speed and red light enforcement in Arizona are back at it, pushing for a ban in cities statewide. In recent years, there have been multiple attempts to ban the devices. Nearly all have failed, with the exception of 2016, when the Legislature banned them on state highways. Voters in Tucson banned photo radar by a wide margin in 2015 and other cities have also stopped using photo enforcement amid a strong public outcry. The photo enforcement issue typically splits Republicans, pitting members backing cities’ efforts to reduce speeding against those who view the devices as a Constitutional violation. HB2208, sponsored by Republican Rep. Travis Grantham of Gilbert, passed the House Judiciary & Public Safety Committee along party lines and now goes to the full House for consideration. 

4. Arizona's 8th Congressional District will be holding a special election to replace Republican U.S. Rep. Trent Franks, who resigned in December after acknowledging that he had discussed possible surrogacy arrangements with female staffers (Franks was one of six members of Congress who either resigned or announced their retirement due to sexual misconduct allegations in 2017). The primary election will be held on Feb. 27, with early voting beginning tomorrow. CD8, which backed the Republican presidential nominee by 20 points or more in the past three election cycles, is considered a safe Republican seat. Given that the GOP nominee is expected to easily win the general election in April, the political ads we all know and love are starting to hit the airwaves. Among the Republican candidates are three former and current members of the state Legislature: state Sens. Debbie Lesko and Steve Montenegro, and former state Rep. Phil Lovas.​

5. This afternoon, Gov. Doug Ducey announced that hydrogen-electric semi-truck startup Nikola Motor Co. plans to build a $1 billion factory in the West Valley. In a joint press conference with the governor, the company detailed the economic development initiative, which includes building a 500-acre, 1 million square foot facility west of Phoenix in Buckeye. The plant will create an estimated 2,000 jobs and bring more than $1 billion in capital investment to the region by 2024. The company settled on Buckeye following a 12-month site selection process that considered nine states and 30 different locations. The city’s economic environment, engineering schools, educated workforce and geographic location, which provides direct access to major markets, were factors in the decision. Arizona is expected to provide an economic development package, but details have not yet been released. Nikola will relocate its headquarters and research and development team from Salt Lake City to Arizona by October.

In the House Commerce Committee, during testimony on a bill sponsored by the chairman, Rep. Jeff Weninger:

Lobbyist for the League of Arizona Cities & Towns: “We’d love to meet for a stakeholder meeting to further discuss our concerns.”

Rep. Jeff Weninger: "It’s not my first rodeo. That’s code for ‘let’s try to kill this bill and put it off until next year.’" 

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