Well, folks. We’re on day 85 of the legislative session and we’ve officially passed the deadline for bills to be heard in committee. Any bills that failed to clear assigned committees are now considered effectively dead. The hearing deadline also closes the window for legislative ideas to be introduced or resurrected as strike-everything amendments (also known as “strikers”). As of today, just over 400 bills remain in play—as a refresher, we started with 1,764.
The focus now shifts to budget negotiations and remaining floorwork. There are talks of a June adjournment, but there’s really no saying how quickly – or slowly – a deal may come together once pieces start falling in place during budget talks. In the spirit of Spring Training, you could say we’re getting ready for the seventh-inning stretch. Sine Die is so close, yet so far.
While hearings may have concluded, there’s been no shortage of activity down at the Capitol. Here are a few key happenings to know about:
- Last week, Gov. Doug Ducey signed a handful of highly controversial bills, including those that preclude transgender girls from participating in women’s sports, make it illegal for doctors to perform “irreversible gender reassignment surgery” on minors, and outlaw virtually all abortions after 15 weeks with no exception even in cases of rape or incest. In addition to making national headlines, a couple of those bills are now at the center of several lawsuits while others are legally unenforceable as they run afoul of long-standing U.S. Supreme Court precedents.
- The governor also signed a bill last week requiring all residents of Arizona to provide proof of citizenship and residency in order to register to vote in federal elections. Previously, Arizona law mandated citizens provide citizenship and residency proof for state elections only. Critics say the legislation will harm voters who lack a valid state driver’s license or identification card or do not have the documentation readily available, such as students, elderly residents and Native Americans. The newly signed law is expected to be challenged due to a 2013 Supreme Court ruling that said Arizona cannot require voters who register on federal forms to provide proof of citizenship. The Legislature is still considering 26 election-related measures – down from more than 100 that were submitted by Republicans at the start of the session – including a bill that would ban most mail and early voting, counting machines and voting centers. It remains unclear whether Gov. Ducey will sign those bills if they make it to his desk.
- Last Wednesday, the governor officially ended the emergency declaration that allowed him to take extraordinary measures during the COVID-19 pandemic. While his administration has been insinuating for months that an ending was near, the governor waited until legislation was signed into law granting an extension of temporary licenses to more than 2,000 public health workers. As soon as that was signed, he announced an ending to the public health emergency—just over two years since it was initially issued in March of 2020.
In other news, the field of candidates is starting to take shape for the upcoming primary in August. Today is the official deadline for candidates to file nominating petitions to qualify for the ballot. According to those filings, more than a dozen former politicians are seeking a return to public office at the state Legislature, most of whom are conservative Republicans. Now the real fun begins, as fellow candidates will take full advantage of the challenge period in an attempt to disqualify enough signatures to knock opponents off the ballot. Once that challenge period ends, we’ll know the full field of candidates so keep an eye out for a special edition of The Navigator in the coming months.