The Week at the Arizona Capitol: Feb. 16-19

This story appeared on Arizona Sonora News on Feb. 19, 2015.

PHOENIX — The Legislature didn’t take Monday off for Presidents’ Day and worked through Arizona’s post-birthday week and the drama continued this week regarding the “firing” of two top Board of Education officials.

The two officials — Christine Thompson, executive director of the Board, and Sabrina Vazquez, assistant executive director — who Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas attempted to fire, returned to work Tuesday. Douglas stipulated conditions with their return, which the Board of Education rejected.

Anti-Common Core bill

Douglas’ anti-Common Core crusade was taken up by some Republican lawmakers on Wednesday.

HB 2190 would repeal and replace Common Core standards in the state, which the Board of Education adopted and refers to as the Arizona College and Career Ready Standards. The bill would also take away the board’s ability to set new standards, instead giving it to a committee of teachers, parents and members of the community.

The bill inspired hours of debate and testimony with teachers coming out for and against the standards, which have already been adopted by most states.

The committee approved the bill 5-2, down party lines.

Elections changes

The House Committee on Elections voted to approve several bills that would change election procedures in Arizona. Lawmakers heard HB 2138 that would move up the state’s primary date up from its current date in late August by three months to May

Rep. T.J. Shope, R-Coolidge, said that by moving it up to May, it would allow interparty wounds to heal from an election and make the general election less of the sprint that it is now.

The committee instead opted to move the primary date up three weeks to early August. Active lawmakers are not able to fundraise from lobbyists while the Legislature is in session, which may have helped to dissuade lawmakers from that earlier May date.

That early August date is not set in stone, however, as the bill may be amended as it treks through the Legislature.

Another bill that would allow campaign signs to go up earlier before an election cleared the committee as well.

Dog fight in the House

A bill that would have allowed restaurants to ban service dogs died in the House Committee on Government and Higher Education with a room full of service dogs to watch its demise.

HB 2179, sponsored by Rep. Bob Thorpe, R-Flagstaff, would have also required service animals to be registered with the state. Several people with disabilities and dogs in tow came in sharp opposition to the bill. When it was clear that the dogs had won, Thorpe voted against his own bill.

“There wasn’t any intention on my part to craft a bill that would cause concerns on the part of the disabled community,” Thorpe said.

No dogs testified before the committee.

Raising speed limit

Soon, you could be able to drive 10 mph over the speed limit on public highways with much less consequence should you get pulled over.

The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure approved HB 2662, sponsored by Rep. David Stevens, R-Sierra Vista, on Tuesday that would set the fine for driving up to 10 mph over the speed limit at just $15. It would also not be reported to a driver’s insurance company, so speeders would not face any changes in their rates.

Two Democratic representatives voted against the measure, but it goes to full House consideration next.

Underage drinking bill

More than 100 college students packed a Senate hearing room Thursday to show support for a bill that would grant underage drinkers who call for help immunity from prosecution.

SB 1190, sponsored by Sen. Kelli Ward, R-Lake Havasu City, cleared its first hurdle when the Senate Judiciary Committee gave the bill approval. Ward said that by having this measure, underage drinkers would no longer have that “barrier of fear” for calling for help.

“We have had cases where people who are underage who are afraid of getting an underage drinking ticket left their friends in the emergency room with just a post-it note on them in the waiting room and we’ve had dire consequences and death when that happens,” Ward said.

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