NEWS

Legislators still battle budget cuts

PHOENIX — In a reminder that the biggest fights in the Legislature lay ahead, hundreds descended on the Capitol on Wednesday to protest against Gov. Doug Ducey’s proposed budget for K-12 schools.

Some legislators emerged to observe or address the stream of teachers, students and other education supporters, many of whom shouted chants of “No more cuts” and “Save our schools.”

Solution to Douglas, Ducey spat

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Lawmakers attempted to solve another education issue in the state on Thursday.

An amendment to a bill from Sen. Kelli Ward, R-Lake Havasu City, offered a solution to the ongoing constitutional fight between Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas and Ducey regarding the firing of two top Board of Education officials.

House Bill 2184 amends language to state that the members of the Board of Education answer to the board as a whole and not the Superintendent. Douglas would therefore not have the power to fire them. The Senate Education Committee unanimously approved the bill.

Douglas said in a statement before the bill was heard that she supported the action taken by the Legislature, since it would spare taxpayer dollars from being spent on “prolonged litigation.”

“Our resources are best spent supporting our children, teachers and classroom instruction, not on interagency disputes,” she said in her statement.

Ducey goes to Washington

Ducey, in the meantime, travelled to Washington for a meeting of the National Governors Association, which began late last week. The governor’s social media feeds kept his followers apprised of his travels in the nation’s capital.

Secretary of State Michele Reagan signed bills passed by the Legislature while Ducey was away.

When Ducey returned to the Grand Canyon State on Tuesday, he held a ceremonial signing for the civics test requirement where he was joined by Douglas.

Virtual border fence

The Senate Committee on Appropriations voted to move forward Senate Bill 1271, which would redefine language on the state’s “virtual fence” along its southern border for it to be “as close as practicable” with Mexico, rather than within one mile. The Legislature approved the construction of a virtual border fence last year that allows the state to place equipment, cameras and sensors along the Arizona-Mexico border.

Sen. Bob Worsley, R-Mesa, the bill’s sponsor, said the bill is meant keep Arizona’s equipment from interfering with federal operations on the border, so it would serve to help fill in gaps along the Mexican border that the federal government does not cover.

Update on bills

Some bills don’t make the arduous journey through the Legislature and die along the way (see: Arizona Bill). Here are updates on bills previously covered in the Weekly Roundup that didn’t make it or have been held up:

— On Monday, the Senate Rules Committee held SB 1030, the “Beer Bill,” due to constitutional concerns regarding interstate commerce. The bill from Ward, which drew intense support from microbrewery advocates, would raise production limits for microbreweries to allow them to keep their restaurants.

— A bill banning photo radar enforcement, also sponsored by Ward, failed on the Senate floor Monday in a close 13-15 vote. Ward calls photo radar — which includes red light cameras and speed cameras — unconstitutional, but many law enforcement organizations came out against the bill.

— As SB 1102, the texting while driving ban, didn’t make it through committees before the deadline, Sen. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, continued his texting prohibition effort by proposing it as an amendment to an Arizona Department of Transportation omnibus bill on the floor.


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