Legislative Update

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An Arizona Capitol Times reporter provides a mid-week update on news from the Arizona State Legislature.

Richard Ruelas: Good evening. Welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Richard Ruelas filling in for Ted Simons. A federal judge today struck down a part of Arizona's controversial immigration law, Senate bill 10-70. Judge Susan Bolton ruled the part of the law that bans day workers from blocking traffic would likely be overturned on grounds it violates the workers' First Amendment rights. That part of the law was allowed to go into effect by Bolton in July of 2010 after she blocked other parts of the law. Bolton's latest ruling comes after a ninth circuit Court of Appeals decision last year has found a California law banning day workers from standing on sidewalks to solicit work was unconstitutional. Well an anti-union bill thought to be dead is back. It caught the attention of unions which will hold a big rally tomorrow at the state capitol, and here with our weekly legislative update is Jim Small of the Arizona Capitol Times. Thanks for joining us. Let's start with unions. What do you expect to see tomorrow with the rally and how did these bills have a second life?

Jim Small: With the rally I think there's probably going to be several hundred union representatives and Arizonans to support unions at the capitol. A number of the unions, the ones organizing this have tried to organize their members, get them to show up to demonstrate and let the Republican majority at the legislature know that these workers don't like what they are doing, they're paying attention. We're not going to see anything certainly not right now along the scale that we saw in Wisconsin or any of the other -- even Ohio where they had some union legislation. I know these bills are being touted as tougher than Wisconsin but the fact is that bills that really are tougher than what Wisconsin did are for all intents and purposes dead for the time being.

Richard Ruelas: They may have the same effect as those bills but it doesn't seem the unions have the power or the numbers that they do in other states.

Jim Small: It goes back to Arizona in general is not pro union. You look at Wisconsin and unions have a long history, and they are entrenched. They have some political power. Out in Arizona, you don't have to be a member of a union to work. Unions generally don't have collective bargaining rights in the private sector. Occasionally they do in the public sector but it's usually only for police and fire. Your general, municipal or state government workers don't have the ability to join a union that can negotiate on their behalf.

Richard Ruelas: You said the strongest bills are dead. What's back and how did it get back in?

Jim Small: One of the bills approved yesterday basically there's relief time where you have union members generally with police departments and fire departments who they get paid a government salary but they get paid that salary to do union work essentially, to either represent members who are going through personnel -- say they are taking disciplinary action, so they represent those people or they recruit people for the union. This was one of the things the Goldwater Institute who drafted these bills keyed in on and said this is a waste of government money and this bill would essentially outlaw that completely. It was an idea that looked like it might have been dead a week ago frankly. It had been scheduled for debate two or three times in the Senate and each time it got held and there was no explanation for it.

Richard Ruelas: Did it come back in the striker, or did the bill just get scheduled for a hearing?

Jim Small: The bill got scheduled for a hearing and had the momentum to get through the Senate. Narrowly passed along party lines with a couple Republicans switching and voting with the Democrats. Now it moves to the house. We'll see how it fares there.

Richard Ruelas: the ruling we mentioned at the top of the show just came down a bit ago. There probably hasn't been much reaction from lawmakers yet as another part of SB 1070 dies. Has there been much appetite for immigration bills this session?

Jim Small: Certainly the rank and file members especially in the Senate you've seen some of the bills that died last year have been resurrected, at least a couple of them, but you certainly haven't seen the breadth of bills and the ones introduced have been assigned to committees that were never going to hear them. That comes down to change in leadership in the state Senate from Russell Pearce who was Mr. Illegal Immigration to Steve Pierce, who is clearly focused more on business and tax reform and things like that.

Richard Ruelas: To the business of government, how is the budget negotiations going?

Jim Small: Well, they seem to be at a standstill. Maybe the nice way to say it. So far it looks like the governor's office last week said we're not going to -- the governor said I'm not going to let my staff meet with legislative staff until the legislature brings its budget more in line with mine. They addressed some of the spending problems and some of the revenue issues she sees.

Richard Ruelas: Is usually staff discussion a way to bridge that gap?

Jim Small: Absolutely. At this point in the process typically staffs are the ones that get together to hammer out 90% of the stuff amongst themselves, get their bosses to sign off on it. At the very end you'll see the president of the Senate and House Speaker and governor will get together and come to an accord on the final bit of the budget. We'll find out tomorrow. I know that Senate President Pierce and House Speaker Tobin and Governor Brewer are supposed to meet tomorrow afternoon. I think after that meeting we'll have a clearer indication as to how this budget process is going to move forward.

Richard Ruelas: Is there an example of something she wants that Republicans don't that you conditioning of that's a big gap?

Jim Small: I think one of the clear areas is education funding. The governor is proposing a couple hundred million dollars for classroom supplies and for building maintenance. The schools haven't had any money dedicated for maintenance and repairs for a number of years, one of the first things that was cut when the financial crisis hit. So she wants that in her budget. She says not only this is something that's needed for these buildings that in some cases falling apart but it's also good for the economy because it's going to create construction jobs. It's going to be money that gets turned around and given back to contractors.

Richard Ruelas: We haven't talked redistricting for a few shows. What's happening with the redistricting commission?

Jim Small: The redistricting commission this week sent is legislative maps to the Department of Justice for approval. It's one of the things that's required under the voting rights act. Arizona is one of the handful of states that needs to have D.O.J. pre-clearance. They need to sign off on the maps and say that, okay, this doesn't harm minority voting interests. The congressional maps were sent off. Legislative maps were sent off this week. The other thing, the bigger thing going on with the I.R.C., they are almost out of money. In the next couple of weeks they will be in debt. There have spent all of the money they were given for the entire year. Most of it spent fighting or not most but a large portion of it has been spent fighting lawsuits that stem from Republican actions, whether it's removing the commission chairman or an investigation by Attorney General Tom Horne.

Richard Ruelas: And lastly, are we any closer to having a rise in guests to be able to bring their guns to the university state campus?

Jim Small: Well, that bill hasn't gone to the Senate floor yet. It's gotten out of committee. Senator Ron Gould, the sponsor, sponsored a similar bill last year. He says he think he has 13 or 14 votes on the bill, needs 16 to get it passed. Time is running short. In two weeks the legislative committees stop hearing bills. If he's going to get it later in the House it needs to happen quickly.

Richard Ruelas: Jim Small of the Arizona Capitol Times, thanks as always for enlightening "Arizona Horizon" viewers on what's going on at the capitol.

Jim Small: Welcome.

Jim Small:Arizona Capitol Times

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