PHOENIX (AP) - The Arizona Legislature adjourned its 2016 session after a marathon 18-hour day that ended at dawn Saturday and saw more than 100 bills being sent to the governor in the final push.
The session finished much like last year’s - with hours of waiting amid calls of poor leadership and anger at gamesmanship. But unlike the 2015 session, election bills that were a top priority of Republican leadership were sent to the governor.
The Legislature passed bills early Saturday that relax rules on anonymous political spending in time for the August primary election. Another measure restored some criminal penalties that were left out of a sweeping campaign finance bill passed earlier this year.
The Republican-controlled Senate also voted to ask voters to revamp the Citizens Clean Elections Commission by taking nearly away all the cash it uses for public campaign financing and giving it to schools. But the measure died because it never got a House vote.
The measure emerged early Saturday and set off a firestorm of criticism from Senate Democrats.
Sen. Martin Quezada, D-Phoenix, said it was unfair for Republicans to amend the legislation in the middle of the night on the final day of the Legislature.
“This is the absolute worst time to try and kill clean elections and that’s exactly what this bill does,” he said.
Sen. Jeff Dial, R-Chandler, said that the commission has led to a more polarized Legislature and that’s why he was pushing the bill.
“I love education and the more money we can get sounds great to me,” he said.
Republicans who control both chambers sent Republican Gov. Doug Ducey a $9.6 billion state budget package earlier in the week. The spending plan for the budget year that starts July 1 awaits his expected signature.
The Arizona House alone set Friday votes on more than 130 bills that had stacked up during the weeks that a signing moratorium issued by Ducey was in place.
A highlight of the final days of the session was a battle to restore KidsCare insurance for about 30,000 low-income children. The fight left some Republicans who opposed the measure with hard feelings. That’s because a coalition of Republicans and Democrats voted to suspend the rules to move the legislation after Senate President Andy Biggs, a Republican, refused to put it up for a vote.
“What we are faced with now is frankly great harm to the institution, to the process,” said Senate Majority Leader Steve Yarbrough, a Republican. “To the way the Legislature works. That’s what is being harmed here.”
Backers said they did what was needed to get needy children insured. Ducey signed the measure into law hours after it passed.
The Legislature also sent Ducey a bill repealing two measures he signed that target abortion or abortion providers. Both were considered indefensible in court.
Corporation Commissioner Andy Tobin also was freed from a conflict of interest that stems from his son-in-law’s job for a solar company. Solar firms and utilities have been feuding, and the conflict has kept him from voting on some electric utility matters.
Other bills of note that went to the governor included a measure prohibiting cities and towns from requiring employers to provide sick, vacation and severance pay and legislation barring cities and towns from banning short-term rentals on lodging websites such as Airbnb. Ducey also will be asked to sign into law bills that boost criminal penalties for protesters who block roadways and end greyhound racing in the state.
The Department of Child Safety is being authorized to cut the number of child abuse hotline calls that require full investigations so workers can focus on cases that actually involve abuse and neglect.
Falling by the wayside in the final days was a proposal that could cut off nearly 80,000 people from the state’s food stamp program despite assurances from the sponsor two months ago that he would remove the provision.
Republican Rep. Justin Olson’s bill was mainly aimed at cutting fraud and includes lifetime bans for some violations of food stamp rules. Senate Bill 1161 also would have barred anyone behind in their child support payments from getting food stamps.
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