A mid-week legislative update with a reporter from the Arizona Capitol Times.
Ted Simons: State lawmakers continue to work on the budget, but other bills are popping up as well. Here to bring us up to date is Jim Small of the Arizona "Capitol Times." Jim, good to have you here. This other bill popping up includes kind of an all encompassing sweeping sanctuaries bill.
Jim Small: It's an anti-illegal immigration bill. It went to the house committee about party line vote. It's identical to a bill that went through the Senate a few weeks ago to author Senator Russell Pearce who has been of course one of the main opponents of illegal immigration and the main advocates for tougher laws, you know, dealing with illegal immigration. This bill would deal with the so-called sanctuary city policies that some cities and municipalities have on enforcing federal immigration law. It would illegal immigrants guilty of trespassing and it would work to curb roadside day labor solicitation.
Ted Simons: The idea, at the heart of the sanctuary bill, correct me if I'm wrong, law enforcement cannot be kept from checking on identity and legal status. I guess there's still a lot of gray area there, but the city, the municipal can't stop them from doing so.
Jim Small: Right. They can't enact an ordinance or department policy that keeps officers from if they have a reasonable suspicion that someone that they're dealing with might be an illegal immigrant, that they can't stop them from checking that status.
Ted Simons: When this first came down the pike, there was a lot of scene that every government worker would be responsible for everyone they came into contact with. is that still a concern?
Jim Small: That's still in the bill. It says that any government employee who has a legitimate contact with a person, a citizen, but a resident or someone living in the community and if they have a reasonable suspicion that this person might not be here legally, they are required to do what they can to try to verify that person's immigration status.
Ted Simons: And if they don't do what they're required, they get in trouble?
Jim Small: Yeah. In fact, there could be lawsuits, citizens could file lawsuits against the city, County, town, state, what have you, table them to court and say, you're not fully enforcing federal immigration laws.
Ted Simons: Another immigration bill, a house panel okays this bill to track illegal immigrant students. What is this all about?
Jim Small: This is a bill that would basically require school districts to report to the state Department of Education information about students that are enrolled and those who can't prove that they are here legally. And the Department of Education then will be required to every year compile a report and submit it to the legislature and to the governor and state treasurer. It would have to list things like the total number of students who couldn't prove that they were American citizens, how much it cost to educate them, how many teachers it cost, it required to accommodate the extra students. I mean, a whole variety of things designed obviously to highlight a problem. Critics have said for years that it cost upwards of a billion dollars to educate illegal immigrant children.
Ted Simons: Both of these bills, are these the kinds of things that could sail, could have problems? How easily could these things get through?
Jim Small: I think both of them are going to be issues where there's obviously a lot of opposition. I think that there's going to be some pretty robust discussions certainly behind the scenes I think about both of these bills. We'll see whether they move through and if they do, what kind of forum they'll be in. I suspect the sanctuary cities bill, because it encompasses so much more and it's not just a narrow topic like the education one, I think that one is probably destined to undergo some kind of changes. It remains to be seen what it will be changed to. Senator pierce is always very strident in keeping his bills the way he wants them. It could be a challenge moving forward.
Ted Simons: Speaking of robust discussion, will we start hearing that regarding the budget next week? Sounds like next week is go time?
Jim Small: That's what we're hearing from legislative leadership. Next week committees won't be meeting in order to let lawmakers focus on the budget. I think the idea is try to hear it in committee at least Tuesday and Wednesday, and we'll see how far they progress and whether they're able to push it forward and actually take it to the floor and debate it. Obviously it will be very similar to the governor's budget plan she released in January, but it does have some differences. It remains unclear and I suspect it's because there isn't a final agreement between the legislature and the governor, otherwise this thing would be moving out already. So I think that, you know, whatever comes out of committee at least is going to undergo a little bit of change and it probably will be a couple more weeks.
Ted Simons: Surprising change are you hearing or just change?
Jim Small: we'll have to see. I think one of the big components and one of the things that isn't in agreement is how to deal with voter protection. I think both the governor and Republican in the house and Senate want to deal with it, but there's a number of ideas floating around on how best to do it. I think that's one area that definitely needs to be more discussion.