Bombshell Bills Have Yet To Be
Detonated At AZ Legislature
(Left) Arizona State Capitol State Senate Building (Right) Arizona State Capitol House of Representatives. Original image by Adavyd and used under the terms of Creative Commons License. Images modified by Modern Times Magazine.
By Chris G. Braswell
Modern Times Magazine
Jan. 2, 2014 — With less than two weeks remaining before the Arizona legislature will begin yet another session at the statehouse, the bills that have already been filed have not yet set the world afire with controversy and national criticism.
A new year, a new tradition, it seems.
It is still very early in the process, and most of these pre-filed bills won’t ever see the floor of either chamber. Action on such hot-button issues such as the Child Protective Services scandal, for example, have not yet been addressed. Nevertheless, so far in this session, the public servants who have pre-filed are earnestly endeavoring to perform an important task of their office: writing bills in order to fix a perceived problem. Whether they ever actually achieve a proper result is in the eye of the beholder, though.
At this time, there are 35 Senate Bills and 16 House Bills pending review for potential enactment.
Of the early-posted Senate bills, all but one were put forth by democratic lawmakers. Of the House bills, 15 were put forth by republicans with the other one being a bi-partisan effort. Other legislative proposals typically crop up with less notice, once the session warms up, perhaps in seeking less exposure to political adversity. The up-to-date list of proposed legislation can be viewed at www.azleg.gov. The state lawmakers can be sorted out at www.ballotpedia.org.
SB 1304 — Lobbying, Public Officials, and Disclosure
Senate Bill 1034 proposes amendments to the Arizona Revised Statute regarding public officers and lobbying, and its presence alone on the docket begs questions about what was occurring that compelled the author to pen specific rules restricting unethical behavior in public office where in good faith, minimum thresholds of quality, level-headed lawmaking should be demanded and expected.
In addition to other statements and reports already required by law, SB 1034 proposes that, as a matter of public record, every public officer shall annually file a verified financial disclosure statement with specific dollar amounts covering the preceding calendar year with the Secretary of State. Such disclosure would cover any benefit received by the public officer or her household members or relatives to the second degree of consanguinity, if the benefit is in the form of travel, lodging, or registration fees related to a conference, meeting, or other event, regardless of whether it is denominated as a scholarship, a reduced rate, or full or partial reimbursement. The required descriptions would separately itemize the benefit received in the form of travel, lodging, and registration, and disclose the name and address of the donor or payor of each benefit, with no minimum amounts.
SB 1034 is proposed by Sen. Steve Farley, democrat, district 9, of the Senate Ethics, Finance, government and Environment, and Transportation Committees.
New language regarding exceptions to the registration rules of lobbyists is also included, and notwithstanding those, the bill puts forth that a person who engages in lobbying as defined in the Arizona Revised Statutes must comply with the registration and reporting requirements.
SB 1026: Ethical Marketplace Operations of Residential Mortgage Brokers
Another follow-the-money-related bill is SB 1026, which puts forth amendments to rules for residential mortgage brokers with stipulations that such brokers shall not make, provide or arrange a residential mortgage loan without verifying the borrower’s reasonable ability to successfully budget it. It would also forbid “churning” (knowingly facilitating a residential mortgage loan if it does not provide a reasonable, tangible net benefit to the borrower under the circumstances at hand), and would forbid facilitation of a mortgage loan with the intent for it not to be repaid and for the broker to obtain the title through foreclosure. SB 1026 also would forbid facilitation of a residential mortgage loan that is of a lower investment grade than allowed by the borrower’s credit score without first informing and getting written consent from the borrower.
There is more: the bill would also preclude direct and indirect coercion or intimidation of an appraiser for the purpose of influencing the independent judgment about real estate value involved in a residential mortgage or that is being offered as a security on a mortgage application.
SB 1026 is put forth by Sen Ed Ableser, democrat, district 26, of the Senate Commerce, Energy, Military, Public Safety, and Transportation Committees.
SB 1016 & 1029 — Suicide Awareness Training and Funding Adult Programs
Education-related proposals and amendments have also been pre-filed. Ableser’s SB 1016 proposes that all public school personnel must receive at least two hours of suicide awareness and prevention training beginning with the 2015-2016 school year. Going forth, such training would need to occur within 12 months after the initial hire date, and subsequently renewed at least every five years.
Farley’s Senate Bill 1029 would provide for the department of education to fund adult education and adult literacy programs from state tax revenue. Specifically, the revenue would comprise all state transaction privilege tax and all use tax from retail sales of various oil and gas transport and storage hardware, as well as, the gross proceeds of sales or gross income derived from any contract with real property owners for the maintenance, repair, and replacement of existing property excluding modification activities. The system would be implemented at the end of December 2014.
SB 1018 & 1019 — Gnoshing and Cooking
Ableser’s Senate Bill 1018 would require, by July 2015, the department of education to develop nutrition standards for high schools that are separate from the ones set forth for elementary, middle, and junior high schools.
“The nutrition standards for high schools shall meet at least federal guidelines and regulations for foods and beverages sold on school grounds of schools that offer instruction in grades nine through twelve during the normal school day. These nutrition standards may include guidelines regarding portion sizes appropriate for high school pupils, minimum nutrient values and a listing of contents. This subsection does not prohibit the department from developing minimum nutrition standards that are more stringent than the federal guidelines and regulations for foods and beverages sold or served on school grounds during the normal school day.”
The bill goes even further. It would demand no more than 50 percent of available bevergaes be, “diet and unsweetened teas, zero-calorie carbonated drinks, sports drinks or juice drinks that contain less than 50 percent fruit or vegetable juice.”
On another nutrition note, Ableser’s SB 1019 proposes that chain restaurants or food establishment must properly analyze food and beverages for nutritional content, and clearly and conspicuously list the total number of calories, trans fat, saturated fat, carbohydrates, and sodium for each food or beverage item on the menu. It also would provide for compliance inspectors and penalties for non-compliance.
It might be appropriate to add one more sentence to SB 1019, something like, “nobody should eat fast food in the first place, because it is of questionable origins and means, and is bad for you, moreover, it is far less costly to the consumer and to the marketplace at large (and much healthier) to prepare one’s own meals.”
SB 1030 — Solar School Program Fund
Farley’s SB 1030 would prescribe and enforce policies and procedures to install solar technology in public schools and establish a fund for net metering at each school using solar technology.
Solar School Fund Program revenues would be transferred to the maintenance and operation section of the budget, and the governing board would distribute money received to the school districts for the installation of solar technology in new and existing school facilities with priority given to smaller schools.
The bill also establishes a new tax that would begin at the end of 2014, comprising 0.05 of one cent per kilowatt hour of electricity delivered to residential customers, 0.07 of one cent per kilowatt hour of electricity delivered to commercial customers, and 0.07 of one cent per kilowatt hour delivered to industrial customers (excluding to any kilowatt hour that is generated from renewable sources).
SB 1025, 1028, 1027 — Exploratory Committees
Ableser’s SB 1025 would establish an individualized education program study committee, comprising four certified teachers who are members of a statewide teacher’s labor union, four charter school teachers, two public school administrators, and one member who is involved with a statewide partnership devoted to education reform and innovation.
The proposed committee would select a chairperson and design a system through which an individualized education program is developed for every pupil who is enrolled in a public school in the state. The proposed committee is given purview to request information, data and reports from any state agency or political subdivision of this state; hold hearings, conduct fact-finding tours and take testimony from witnesses including participants in the educational system; on the request of the study committee, an agency of this state and a school district or a charter school shall provide to the committee its services, equipment, documents, personnel and facilities to the extent possible without cost to the committee.
The Department of Education and the State Board for Charter Schools would provide staff and support services to the committee, which would be required to submit a report of its findings and recommendations to the Governor, House, Senate, and Secretary of State by the end of December 2014.
Ableser’s SB 1028 would appropriate $40 million from the state general fund for fiscal year 2014-2015 to the Department of Education for distribution to schools that have been assigned a performance letter grade of D or F, for the purpose of rehabilitating the performance of these schools.
Ableser’s SB 1027 would establish a Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport Study Committee, for which membership would comprise two members of the Senate who are members of different political parties, two members of the house from different parties, and three members of the public.
The committee would elect a chairperson and study the future of the airport to include its ability to expand and service a larger metropolitan area, as well as, the feasibility off having additional airports to relieve air and road traffic at Sky Harbor, and the economic impact of expanding the airport and regional hubs with respect to such issues as access, efficiency, and availability to commercial interests and the flying public. The committee would submit a report of its findings and recommendations to the Governor, the Senate, and the Huse by November 2016.
Chris G. Braswell is the managing editor of Modern Times Magazine. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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