Triadvocates Navigator: April 23, 2021

April 23,2021 | TRIADVOCATES

April 23, 2021


Day 100, but who's counting?

On Tuesday, we officially hit the 100-day mark of the legislative session. Technically, that should signal that the end is near, as House and Senate rules say the Legislature must finish its work by the Saturday following the 100th day of the session. But what’s a good deadline if it can’t be extended…then extended again…and again…and maybe again. Rules also allow the Senate President and Speaker of the House to extend the session for an additional seven days (which they did on Tuesday). From here on, the session can only be extended by a majority vote of both chambers, but there’s no limit on the number of extensions the body can approve. After the 120th day, legislative per diem gets cut in half, although the decrease in pay has never really seemed to motivate members to move quicker. So what’s the hold-up? Money, of course. Lawmakers won’t close up shop until they’ve reached consensus on a budget. Those negotiations are still ongoing behind closed doors, as leadership in both chambers attempts to craft a deal that will get 31 votes in the House, 16 in the Senate and a signature from the governor. At this point, it’s anyone’s guess as to how long that might take.



More money, more problems

At the height of the pandemic, no one could’ve predicted that Arizona would be flush with cash by the time legislators started crafting a budget for the next fiscal year. Between the $16 billion from the latest federal relief package ($12.2 billion of which is allocated to the state government), the $38 billion from previous federal relief payouts from the CARES Act, and an increase in tax revenue during the pandemic from “Wayfair” (legislation enacted in 2019 requiring online sellers and marketplace facilitators to file and pay transaction privilege tax), Arizona is looking at a $1 billion surplus. And that’s in addition to the $1 billion that’s already in the state’s “rainy day” fund. With all those dollars at play, budget negotiations are more complex than years past. While Republicans have agreed that a major tax cut is a top priority, they have yet to agree on specifics. Based on what has been publicly shared, preliminary proposals could result anywhere from $450 million to more than $1 billion in tax cuts when fully implemented. Leadership in the House is pushing for a flat income tax of 2.5% over the next three years while Sen. J.D. Mesnard is lobbying for an alternate income tax intended to lessen the potential impact of recently passed Prop. 208 (education funding) on small businesses that file taxes under the individual tax code. A third proposal under consideration is a reduction to commercial property tax.



"Wanna bet?"

That’s a phrase you might find yourself saying more often now that Gov. Doug Ducey has signed legislation legalizing sports betting in Arizona. The measure will also allow gambling on fantasy sports and new Keno games at horse race tracks and fraternal organizations (yep, the Elks Lodge can finally fire up that Bingo Blitz machine). Passage of the legislation, co-sponsored by Sen. T.J. Shope and Rep. Jeff Weninger, was tied to the updated gaming compact Ducey struck with tribes following years of complicated negotiations, marking the most significant amendments to the compact in nearly two decades. In exchange for their support, tribes will be allowed to offer new games such as baccarat, craps and roulette (they currently only offer card games such as blackjack and poker), will be authorized to expand, including an unspecified number of new casinos in metro Phoenix. The new law means placing bets on anything sporting—tennis, golf, water polo, cheese-rolling, Quidditch, you name it. If the “bookie” is offering the event, you can bet on it. Wagering will even be permitted on college games of all types across the country, although prop bets – placing wagers on the final outcome – will be off limits in collegiate sports (think more along the lines of yardage per game or whether a particularly passionate coach will get ejected before the second half). Essentially all provisions are still subject to a final stamp of approval from the feds via the Office of Indian Gaming within the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which now has until the end of May to act. From there, it must be published in the Federal Register within 90 day of submission, which brings us into early August. Just in time for Cardinals preseason. What a coincidence.

You can find a detailed overview of the modernized compact HERE




Save the best for last

And by best, we mean worst. And by worst, we mean most contentious. Many of the remaining bills before the Legislature are ones that have been the subject of extremely heated debates throughout the session. Tensions have heightened over the past several weeks, and the open display of raw tensions during floor debates has been remarkable—even by the standards of a state Legislature.

Yesterday, the Legislature passed a proposal to impose a new restriction on a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy by making it a crime to abort a child because of a fetal genetic defect. Strongly opposed by Democrats in both chambers, SB1457 (abortion; unborn child; genetic abnormality), which now goes to Gov. Doug Ducey, says any medical professional who performs or aids an abortion in those cases can be sentenced to up to a year in state prison. Ducey has not said whether he will sign or veto the measure sponsored by Republican Sen. Nancy Barto.

Also the subject of intense debate this week was SB1485 (early voting list; eligibility), sponsored by Republican Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, which would purge infrequent voters from Arizona’s early voting list. The measure unexpectedly failed when GOP Sen. Kelly Townsend flipped to a “no” vote, vowing to vote against any and all election bills until the audit of 2020 election results is complete. It remains unclear what that could mean for a handful of other partisan election bills, as Republicans hold a razor-thin margin in both chambers. Adding an interesting layer to all of this is the court ruling issued this afternoon ordering the Senate and its audit team to comply with all laws governing the right to a secret ballot and the confidentiality of voter registration data, and to provide copies of all relevant policies and procedures to the court (the audit team has not yet made those documents public).

Safe to say we’ve reached the point in session when “no” votes are used for personal vendetta.




It's officially official

On the local front, Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego was sworn in Monday to begin serving her first full term as mayor of the fifth-largest city in the nation. Gallego has been serving since March 2019, when she was elected to complete the term of former Mayor Greg Stanton when he resigned to run for Congress. Last November, she was re-elected by a strong majority of voters and her swearing-in ceremony this week makes it official. In her remarks, Gallego talked about her vision for the city, including a proposed $21 million investment in public safety reform as well as the city’s innovative approach to climate change by way of a first-in-the-nation Office of Heat Response and Mitigation.

Two new members were also sworn in: Ann O’Brien in District 1 and Yassamin Ansari in District 7. The other two sworn in were re-elected: Debra Stark in District 3 and Betty Guardado in District 5.


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