Things are strangely calm, but busy -- March seems to be coming in like a lamb at the Legislature, so I guess we can all look forward to that lion at the end of the month. Interestingly, that's around the same time that the budget may be rearing its head, so we'll see in a few weeks if that old adage has truth to it.
Since I last wrote to you Republicans and Democrats, gentle as lambs, came together to pass my first two Senate bills and send them over to the House.
Last Wednesday, my SB1206 passed with a wild bipartisan mix of votes 21-8. I love when a policy does not break down along party lines. This is my effort to standardize the designs of special license plates with clear, readable numbers so that we can end the proliferation of elaborate special plate designs that are increasingly endangering public safety.
A plate must be clearly legible and identifiable as originating in Arizona. This will provide a 3" square area to be customized by future special plate programs, but does not affect current plates or those that will go into effect this year. The future path for this bill looks bright, since it has been single-assigned to the House Transportation Committee, and the chair has told me she will hear it, possibly as early as next week.
My other bill, SB1162, passed Third Read yesterday unanimously, and is waiting for committee assignment in the House. That is the bill that would allow small businesses that collect sales taxes to fill out paperwork less often and use the taxes they collect for short-term cash flow, without costing the state a dime. Small businesses could certainly use some extra cash flow options right now, as well as a reduction in their accounting burden so they can focus on selling stuff and creating jobs.
I was particularly pleased that the not-usually-Democratic-friendly National Federation of Independent Business sent around an email to all Senators declaring that my bill is an "NFIB Key Vote", meaning that legislators will be scored this session based in part on whether they supported my bill. You may recall that they endorsed my opponent in the last election, so I am grateful that they are on board a good bill regardless of the source.
While SB1162 is not yet assigned to a committee in the House, I have reason to believe that it will also have a bright future given the NFIB support and the fact that I have 13 House and Senate Republican co-sponsors on the bill, including both Appropriations chairs and other chairs of key committees.
Just because the partisan wrangling is taking a break doesn't mean we aren't busy. For those of you who wonder what we do all day up here, I thought I would share with you a brief rundown of some of the issues I dealt with yesterday, in chronological order:
--> Chiropractic equity regarding co-pays
--> Opthamologists versus optometrists
--> Performance funding proposals for public schools
--> Posting pricing for medical procedures at hospitals
--> School bus regulations -- when and where do drivers turn on the flashing lights?
--> Tribal community colleges
--> JTED (Joint Technology Education Districts) lease agreements
--> Colorado City law enforcement and their possible takeover by the county
--> Fireworks regulation
--> Lunch meeting with the Green Chamber of Commerce
--> New Solar Tower power plant in La Paz County
--> New advances in the recycling industry (including selling expired meats from Wal-Mart to zoos for feeding lions!)
--> Student achievement testing
--> Driving while texting ban
--> Automobile lien language
--> Medicaid expansion
--> Debating four bills in Committee of the Whole
--> Voting on 24 bills in Third Read
--> Briefing on 6 bills for the Transportation Committee
--> Hearing and voting on 6 bills in the Government and Environment Committee
--> Dinner meeting with Wildcat alums and administrators
--> Do a little work for my public art business
--> Respond to Legislative, business, and personal emails
--> Return phone calls
--> Read a great biography of Neil Young ("Shakey")
--> Sleep (Whew!)
As I've been telling my colleagues who are experiencing all this for the first time, this job isn't like drinking from a water hose, it's like drinking from a different fire hose every ten minutes. That's part of why we do this job -- it is never boring, and you barely have time to breathe. I also love that most of these issues are not partisan in any way, and the rest shouldn't be. It's a true privilege to be here as part of a citizen legislature, doing the work on your behalf.
I'll end with a funny story -- It's a tradition in the House to bring treats to your caucus if you pass a bill, so I brought some very tasty and attractive sugar cookies for my colleagues today. A member of the Republican caucus saw me carrying this colorful display and asked if I could bring them by his caucus if we had any left over, so I gladly did.
They were still meeting, so I brought them in and left them to be passed around to the Republican senators as a gesture of collegiality. I got some interesting looks and giggles that seemed a bit strange, but I waved and left so as not to disturb the group.
I later found out that they had just been discussing controlling the sale of marijuana-laced items. A senator had just finished saying that many of these goods are in the form of brightly colored foodstuffs, when I walked in with a package of brightly colored cookies. Consequently, only a few of the senators decided to partake, and the pages ended up with the lion's share of the goodies. Can't be too careful with those Democrats, I guess…
Thanks for your faith in me as your Senator.
Senator, District 9, Tucson
Paid for by Friends O'Farley