- Associated Press - Monday, March 23, 2015

PHOENIX (AP) - The Arizona Legislature’s annual session is drawing to a close and leaders of the Senate and House of Representatives are aiming to adjourn before Easter.

That means the coming two weeks will see furious action as lawmakers work to enact their top priorities. They already finished their main yearly task, passing a tight $9.1 billion budget on March 7 that Ducey promptly signed.

Among the hot topics still before the Legislature:

COMMON CORE:

House Bill 2190

The Senate is expected to take up a House-passed bill that would ditch standards and set up a process to adopt new ones. The bill by Republican Rep. Mark Finchem of Oro Valley drops the standards adopted by more than 40 states and prevents Arizona from adopting standards that are substantially similar to other states. The Senate last month rejected a similar bill and rejected an effort to kill Common Core last year. Gov. Doug Ducey weighed in on Common Core Monday during an appearance before the Board of Education, saying he wanted the board to review and modify the standards but saying legislation isn’t needed.

ABORTION:

Senate Bill 1318

After a week of delays, the House debated and passed a bill banning insurance companies from offering optional abortion coverage on individual plans sold on the federal marketplace Monday. The bill also contains a provision requiring that patients be told medication to cause an abortion might be reversible. And it requires new disclosures of physician hospital admitting privileges, although the House stripped a provision opponents say will reveal addresses of doctors performing abortions. The Senate has already passed a version of the bill.

INSPECTOR GENERAL:

HB2420

Gov. Doug Ducey’s plan to create a new badge-carrying inspector general with the ability to investigate all state agencies emerged as full-fledged legislation last week. It awaits Senate and House action. The last-minute proposal would create an independent IG reporting to Ducey to act as a watchdog for taxpayers and investigate government waste, fraud and abuse. Amendments designed to lessen secrecy in the original bill are expected.

ELECTIONS:

SB1340, HB2608, 2407, 2415

Several bills that substantially rewrite elections laws are making their way through the Republican-controlled Legislature. Democrats say they are part of an effort to enact piecemeal a sweeping election overhaul lawmakers had to repeal last year after it was put on hold pending an election. Among the proposals are one that will make it harder for voter referendums and recalls to get on the ballot, limit the ability of third-party candidates to run for office and increase campaign contribution limits. An effort to criminalize early ballot collection by voter outreach groups failed last week but could be revived. Proponents call the practice ripe for voter fraud, but opponents say the practice helps increase voter participation.

BUSINESS:

SB1030, HB2135, HB2211

Two proposals designed to modernize state regulation of new business models are moving forward while a third appears dead for the session. Large microbreweries that were bumping up against limits that would force them to become producers and abandon retail restaurants will get more breathing room. Ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft would get new rules to allow them to operate legally, and taxi companies would also reap benefits. An amendment to an unrelated bill allowing electric car manufacturer Tesla to sell directly to consumers, bypassing the traditional auto dealers, appears dead.


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