The Capitol Roundup

The Arc of Arizona's regular recap of State & Federal legislative happenings

March 30, 2018

ABCs, 123 and Away They Go
At the Statehouse...

Another week at the state Capitol closed without any sign of a state budget. Several Senate committees met to consider Governor Ducey’s nominations to state leadership positions, and House and Senate Appropriations Committees held their final regularly scheduled meeting of the year. The State Treasurer announced he’ll resign next week to take his new job at NASA, and the President of the Arizona Board of Regents said she is moving on from the entity that oversees the state universities. Teachers continued their call for higher salaries while Republican leaders urged educators to look at the investments the state has made in education funding.​


Governor Ducey started the week with a signing ceremony to enact legislation to extend the state’s education sales tax; the legislature approved the bill last week. The Governor also signed legislation to strengthen penalties against wrong-way drivers, require school districts to follow a new process when selling or leasing vacant and unused buildings, and allow – rather than require – schools to stock EpiPens.

​On Thursday, the Governor issued his first vetoes for the year, rejecting bills to allow police officers to use the HOV lane and allow groundwater (water withdrawn from aquifers) to be used for greenhousesGovernor Ducey said the change to water regulations “fails to address our most pressing needs for the management of the state’s Colorado River resources and groundwater resources.” The veto is a part of a months-
long dispute between the Governor and key legislators on Governor Ducey’s plan for Arizona’s long-term water management. The disagreements, which have occurred mostly behind the scenes at the Capitol, are escalating into a statewide debate.

Legislators dedicated long hours to floor debates on a wide range of issues. They advanced proposals to allow pain medications to be prescribed through telemedicine, enhance reporting on outcomes of school dropout recovery programs, and extend the amount of time a juvenile delinquent can remain in a juvenile court.

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved new access to PTSD counseling for public safety employees and revived an effort to prohibit the misrepresentation of a pet as a service animal.

In the House, the Appropriations Committee agreed to ask voters to add an expiration date to voter-approved spending priorities and add more electoral districts – and therefore more legislators – for Arizona.

The Senate passed a bill to legalize delivery robots in Arizona, though the bill’s sponsor may seek more restrictions in light of the accident that led Governor Ducey to suspend the use of self-driving cars in Arizona. A bill to require universities and community colleges to adopt policies on free expression on campus passed the Senate, but the sponsor moved the bill to conference committee where the House and Senate can consider additional changes.

The House gave final approval to new standards for recess in grades K-5, prohibited consumer reporting agencies from charging a fee for credit security freezes and new customer passwords, and required the Department of Child Safety to provide more frequent reports on important statistics like the number of home placements for children in their care.

The legislature did not introduce or consider Governor Ducey’s school safety plan, but work on the details of the plan continued behind the scenes. The bill could move to committee hearings next week.

As the session moves into its 13th week, legislators will focus on floor debates and votes needed to move more bills toward the Governor’s desk. More than 100 bills have already become law this year, and more than 260 are still eligible to advance in the House and Senate.

Priority Bills
  • SB 1162 (silver alert notification; developmental disability) expands the state’s Silver Alert notification system to include missing individuals of any age who have a developmental disability. Governor Ducey signed the bill into law (Chapter 39).
  • SB 1218 (developmental homes; licensure; investigations) provides statutory protections for vulnerable children and adults who receive services through the Department of Economic Security’s Division of Developmental Disabilities in developmental home residential settings. The bill passed the House Rules Committee and awaits a final vote in the House.
  • HB 2087 (family caregiver income tax credit) creates an individual income tax credit for up to $1,000 and up to 50% of the costs incurred caring for a qualifying family member. The bill was discussed in the Senate Appropriations Committee but did not receive a vote. The issue was moved to budget discussions.
Budget Update

With every vote on bills, legislators move closer to the end of the legislative session – but there is still no sign of a state budget agreement. Senate leaders say they understand their Republican caucus members’ priorities and are ready to negotiate; the House has begun meetings to better understand the specific financial priorities of their Republican caucus. Because discussions are entirely behind the scenes, it is difficult to gauge how many details are still to be negotiated between legislators and the Governor.

One area of potential disagreement is tax conformity – an issue that could have a large fiscal impact on the state. Federal tax cuts and policy changes will lead to increases in Arizonans’ income taxes if legislators do not act to prevent it. Experts disagree on the amount, but estimate that without raising any income tax rates in Arizona, the state could see at least $133.5 million in new revenues. Some legislators want to use that money for priorities like education; others, including House Speaker J.D. Mesnard (R-Chandler), want to adjust Arizona’s tax rates to prevent any increase in taxes.

Ruling Ignites Political, Legal Debates on School Funding Mechanism

This week, a judge created another potential budget challenge for state leaders when he ruled that the voter-approved Proposition 123, which will generate an estimated $3.5 billion for education programs over ten years, required Congressional approval. Congress recently gave that approval, two years after voters approved the proposition that draws more funding from the State Land Trust. The ruling means that the state could have to pay those two years of funding, a total of $344 million, to the Trust.

Governor Ducey’s office says he is not worried about it because he is confident the judge is wrong and the Proposition 123 change never required Congressional approval. State Treasurer Jeff DeWit says the entire plan is “a burning, heaping pile of trash.” The man who sued the Governor to stop the funding mechanism says he never intended to take money away from schools and maybe there is a way to find a settlement.

The judge ordered both sides to provide briefings on how the Congressional ruling impact the case, so the discussion will continue.

House Introduces Expiration Date for Voter-Approved Spending Priorities

In the last week of policy committee hearings for the 2018 legislative session, legislators introduced a measure that could have a big impact on voters’ budget priorities. SCR 1005 would ask voters to approve an automatic expiration date ten years after the start of any ballot measure that increases state spending. Senator Warren Petersen (R-Gilbert) believes the change would allow for adjustments in spending priorities, pointing to the fact that state legislators have limited discretionary spending because 60% of the state budget is directed by voter-approved initiatives. Opponents said the change would not respect the priorities voters had already established and would not address an expiration date for tax cuts that also impact state revenues.

The measure was opposed by a variety of organizations that support existing voter-approved spending for education and the state’s AHCCCS programs, but Senator Petersen said he did not intend for the measure to impact spending that voters have already approved. Representative Heather Carter (R-Cave Creek), who voted against the proposal this week, said she would pursue an amendment to clarify the protection for current voter-approved programs and priorities.

SCR 1005 now awaits consideration from the full House.
On the Bright Side…

Dogs are helping kids improve their ability to read.

On the Federal Front...

Major Recent Events
FY 2018 Omnibus Spending Bill Enacted with Many Increases for Disability Programs

On March 22, the House passed a $1.3 trillion spending bill that covers the remainder of Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 that ends on September 30. The following day it was passed by the Senate and signed by the President. A number of disability-related programs saw significant increases, including the Developmental Disabilities Act's Projects of National Significance (20%), the Lifespan Respite Care Act program (22%), the National Family Caregiver Support Program (20%), and State Grants to Remove Barriers to Voting (40%). Housing programs saw the largest gains with $402 million in new Section 811 mainstream vouchers in addition to $107 million for renewals, and $82.6 million for new Section 811 Project Rental Assistance. Most programs, however, saw modest increases, ranging from 2% to 5%, or level funding. Only one program was cut - the Supported Employment State Grant program sustained a cut of 18%.

Additionally, the bill included two policy provisions that The Arc supports. The first is Kevin and Avonte's Law (S. 2070), which includes grants to law enforcement agencies and other entities for education, training, and technology to help prevent and reduce the harm from wandering by children with Autism and other developmental disabilities. The second is a requirement that the Government Accountability Office conduct a study on the use of restraint and seclusion in schools to improve reporting and the use of alternatives to these practices.

For a list of The Arc's funding priorities and amounts appropriated, click here. The Arc is continuing to review the full bill.

Senate Approves Bill to Strengthen Representative Payee Program

Last week, the Senate approved by unanimous consent the Strengthening Protections for Social Security Beneficiaries Act of 2018 (H.R. 4547). Introduced by Rep. Sam Johnson (R-TX) and Rep. John Larson (D-CT), the bill makes numerous changes to Social Security's representative payee program designed to enhance oversight and operations of the program. The House approved the bill in February; following last week's Senate approval, the bill will next be transmitted to the President for his signature. Visit the Committee on Ways and Means web site to view summaries and related materials about the bill. The Arc strongly supports this bipartisan legislation to strengthen Social Security's representative payee program and applauds the House and Senate votes.


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​​Prepared by:
Peters, Cannata & Moody, PLC

The Arc of Arizona


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