The Farley Report from Phoenix #132: 4-12-11

Howdy,  Friends O'Farley,

I'm sorry for the late hour of this Farley Report this week. We worked into the evening in our second caucus of the day pushing through our bill review as we head toward the end of this disastrous legislative session. 

The latest word from Republican leadership is that we will adjourn Sine Die (to end the session) sometime between next Tuesday and next Thursday. Unfortunately, that sense of urgency has spurred hundreds of bills to move in many nefarious ways -- many of which we hoped were stalled somewhere in the system.

Let me review for you some of the many ways bills can pass during the dramatic last couple of weeks of our session. All of these methods can happen all at once, creating a dizzying array of dangerous bills coming at us from all angles at blazing speed with virtually no public input. We may not be fully aware of what happened during this crazy time until weeks later. Here's just four bill enactment strategies being used right now:

1) The "simple" old fashioned way -- a bill is introduced in the House by a House member, heard in committee, passed through Rules and Committee of the Whole (COW) on the floor, and voted on in Third Read. Then that process starts over in the Senate. If it gets through the Senate unamended, it travels to the Governor for her signature or veto.

2) As a striker in committee -- The bill in example #1 can be replaced by an entirely different bill in a committee hearing -- often one that had stalled somewhere else in the process. This can be a shortcut to get around a certain legislator who may stand in the way. These can sneak up on you with little warning.

3) As an amendment to a germane bill on the floor in COW -- If a bill with an appropriate subject can be found in COW, a member can amend a bill of a similar topic to that bill so they both travel along their journey together. This happens with much greater frequency in the last couple of weeks as legislators frantically try to save bills that are otherwise on life support. Floor amendments are sometimes not available until a half hour before they are debated in floor, and can get lost in the competing noise of other amendments, so they can slip by nearly unnoticed.

4) As a conference committee amendment -- If that bill in example #1 gets amended in the Senate, it has to come back over to the House for the sponsor to either concur or refuse the amendments. If the sponsor concurs, the bill goes to Final Read and is sent to the Governor. If the sponsor refuses, however, the bill goes to a Conference Committee wherein much mischief can happen. Conference Committees have no notice requirements, and are made up of four Republicans and two Democrats. The deal is already done by the four Republicans before the gavel comes down, and the voting happens with little discussion and less testimony.

Sometimes this is where really sneaky things happen that surprise everyone. Last year, Russell Pearce took his infamous SB1070 into conference committee in order to, in his words, "fix the bill." Instead, he inserted entirely new language that forced city code enforcement officials to also check anyone they encounter for legal residency -- for example, if your weeds grow too tall during monsoon, a city inspector must ask for your papers.

This year, John Kavanagh has been telling the media that he is trying to resurrect the contents of Senator Pearce's SB1611 -- the son of 1070 that was rejected by a strong bipartisan vote in the Senate a few weeks ago. Tonight we noticed that Rep. Kavanagh will refuse a Senate amendment on an immigration-related bill (HB2102) even though the amendments he is refusing are purely technical. We suspect that this bill may be his vehicle for conference committee shenanigans related to 1611.

Other bills that threaten our state in different ways are lurking in the hallways around the Capitol and could zoom forth at any time. Two of them are particularly threatening to Arizona cities and taxpayers.

SB1322 from Sen. Frank Antenori (R-Tucson) aims to privatize every function carried out by a city (except public safety) that costs more than $50,000. The bill would demand that all these functions go out to bid all at once as soon as the bill becomes law (late July), and all the city employees doing this work would be fired. There would be no guarantees that the cities would save any money or that the private companies taking over all these services wouldn't outsource them to another country in some cases. There would no longer be any accountability for work not done properly and no recourse for citizens hurt by shoddy or nonexistent city services.

SB1525 from Sen. Russell Pearce (R-Mesa) would eliminate development impact fees, effective immediately. Impact fees are negotiated between developers and cities for years in advance, so that residential developments can pay for the infrastructure like roads and parks that are built by cities and which the developers need in order to sell their product to future homeowners -- a win-win scenario. This bill would stop current infrastructure projects dead in their tracks, killing jobs and striking a blow against our quality of life.

SB1593 from Sen. Nancy Barto (R-Phoenix) is being heard in COW tomorrow, and would allow Arizonans to buy health insurance from companies from other states that may not be authorized to sell insurance in Arizona. There are a couple of disturbing problems with this approach.

First, if you have a problem with an insurer based in -- say North Carolina -- there will be nothing that the Arizona Department of Insurance can do to help, and the North Carolina Department of Insurance will not help you because you are not a citizen of its state.

Second, Arizona mandates that health insurance sold in Arizona by Arizona companies cover certain benefits such as mammograms, newborn care, and autism, to name a few. Arizona insurance companies complained that the bill would put them at a competitive disadvantage over companies based in states that do not have such mandates.

So how does the sponsor propose to solve that problem? By eliminating all benefit guarantees for every customer of every insurance company in and out of Arizona. Yes, in the form of an amendment in COW tomorrow, Sen. Barto seeks to eliminate breast cancer screening, newborn care, autism coverage, and maternity services from health insurance in Arizona. I suppose that represents the brave new world of no regulations -- we all get access to buying insurance that covers nothing we actually need. Comforting indeed.

These and many other terrible bills are the reason why I continue to try to move to adjourn Sine Die at every opportunity. The best hope of stopping this flood of bad bills from all directions is to end this session as soon as possible. I am optimistic that by this time next week, I will be writing you to let you know of our success.

Thanks for your continuing faith in me as your Representative.

Steve

Steve Farley
Arizona State Representative, District 28
Assistant Minority Leader
Ranking Member, Transportation Committee
Ways & Means Committee
Ethics Committee
Legislative Council
Capitol office: 602-926-3022
Tucson office: 520-398-6000
Official email: sfarley at azleg.gov 

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