Legislative Update

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Get an update on the latest news from the state legislature in our weekly legislative update with Jim Small from the Arizona Capitol Times.

Ted Simons: Coming up next on "Arizona Horizon," we'll have the latest on what could be the final days of the legislative session. And artist and author Bob Boze Bell talks about his new book full of stories and illustrations of the old west. That's all next on "Arizona Horizon."

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Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. We could be nearing the end of the legislative session. Here with the latest on the rush to sine die is Jim Small: of the "Arizona Capitol Times." Jim, good to see you again. Is this the last week you will be joining us for this?

Jim Small: Maybe. I think potentially. Certainly legislative leadership wants to get done tomorrow. That's their goal is to, you know, do work tonight into the evening, and then come back tomorrow and hopefully finish things up and they're on that sprint to the finish line.

Ted Simons: Why are they sprinting to the finish line? I understand it is a nice thing to say you wrapped it up quickly. Do they have to wrap it up quickly?

Jim Small: No, they certainly don't have to wrap it up this quickly, but they are. When they got the budget done about 55 days in the session. Legislative sessions, basically they shoot for 100 days. Required to go no more than 100 days and they can extend it. Budget done in 55 days usually done near the end of the session. 100 day session, budget usually done on day 80, 85. When you get it done on day 55, you really remove the biggest obstacle to going home. One thing they have to do is pass the state budget. They have already done that, they did that a month ago. They have been finishing up committee work, and a few hundred bills that were alive at some point in the process and they have moved through. As of this morning, they had about 100, technically about 160 bills that were still alive, although I think realistically much closer to 100 that are actually viable at this point and leadership decided we can get through that kind of a workload and vote bills on the floor, vote them, pass them back and forth and do the administerial stuff that needs to happen and we can go home.

Ted Simons: What about public hearing, public input, hearings in general. It seems like that is a forgotten concept at times down there.

Jim Small: Argument we have heard a lot of this year. It crops up especially during the budget process and things like that. Committee, deadline for committees to hear bills ended I think two, three weeks ago. So, all of the committees except for two stopped hearing bills at that point, and, so, there were a couple of appropriations committees met a couple of more times and heard some bills, and there was opportunity for committee testimony, although that's always at the prerogative after the chairman how much of that they want to hear. And, so, really we're kind of at that stage where the public has had that chance to weigh in on the legislation in committee form and now they're on the floor and that's essentially where, you know, you get the speeches and the amendments on the floor and the drawn-out debates, of which there was one today and I'm sure there is going to be a couple more before they go home.

Ted Simons: What was the big debate today?

Jim Small: Over a bill that would outlaw the practice of collecting early ballots.

Ted Simons: Ballot harvesting.

Jim Small: Yeah, that essentially would make it a crime for groups, volunteers to go out and pick up ballots from people who have already voted them but maybe it is too late to drop them in the mailbox to get them to the elections department on time to be counted.

Ted Simons: And that is being discussed. Let's talk about things that have already happened here. Governor signs this abortion bill that includes the idea of doctors having to inform of a quote, unquote, abortion reversal possibility. Talk to us about this.

Jim Small: The general point of this bill was to say that on the exchange, health insurance exchange required by the Affordable Care Act, Arizona passed a law couple of years ago, if the state has an exchange, it can't offer abortion coverage as an elective coverage. Well, the way it was written, only if the state runs an exchange. Arizona didn't run an exchange. Federal Government is running the exchange in Arizona. The underlying point of the law is to clarify that, to change that part to say not just if the state runs one, but any exchange that operates in Arizona. It was essentially legislature expressed its will about a policy a couple of years ago. The law was written poorly. Now they have to go back and fix it in order to make it do what the legislature said they wanted. Amendment tacked on in the house that did what you are talking about, where it needs medication abortions, where a woman can take a series of pills, regiment of medications that will induce an abortion that now the doctors have to provide information, tell the patient that there is it is possible to reverse it and that time is of the essence and have to provide them with information to basically let them know where they can go to have that procedure done.

Ted Simons: And that aspect of the bill is getting national attention. Because a lot of folks out there are saying there is no medical evidence for this.

Jim Small: It is. Certainly not any widespread medical evidence for it. Colleague spoke with the head of a group that represents OBGYNs in the state, saying this is basically telling us to commit malpractice. Not scientifically proven, no evidence that the procedure discussed in the house committee works or that it does anything. A local doctor who is an antiabortion activist, who said, you know, that he has treated women with progesterone, after they have taken the first part of the pill, the abortion pill regiment, treated them with progesterone and has been able to save the fetus and the woman has gone on to have a baby. The woman that we talk with, head of the OBGYN group, that is not the way it works at all. Progesterone is not what does it. It is the fact that they stopped taking the medication that they were told to to complete the procedure. In that case, stop the medication, about half of the time, the abortion is not going to be completed and the woman will end up carrying the baby to term. Essentially what they are saying, we have to tell people there is a procedure that can undo this and that is really not what is happening and no studies that say this is the case. They fear it could potentially jeopardize medical licenses as well as maybe give false hope or, you know, even make the decision that these women are making even more difficult than it already is.

Ted Simons: Governor signed it. A picture that was tweeted out by Kathy, who was behind the bill. I don't know who else was there but she was certainly there. Signed a craft brew bill, veto of the police I.D. The one involving animal abuse I think is interesting politically.

Jim Small: This is a bill that essentially it would have changed some of the animal abuse statutes as it relates to agriculture, ranching, farming, things like that. Made some of the laws, essentially the ranchers feel some of the laws as applied to the ranching industry and practice of ranching aren't fair. And so they wanted essentially to loosen some of the animal abuse statutes with regard to what they do, and, you know, with live stock. And this is an issue that has been around for a number of years at the capitol. Always a big fight. And understandably when it comes to animal abuse issues. But this is one where the humane society, after the bill got passed, local Arizona humane society and national humane society really stepped up and took on a role, I don't think we have really seen them take on in the past and were very strong advocates for it. They did something interesting that has a lot of people wondering if this is what led to the veto, they found when Governor Ducey was still candidate Ducey, he got endorsed by Joe Arpaio, he had a statement on the web site where he said this is I pledge that I am going to protect animals and I'm not going to support any kind of weakening of our animal abuse statutes or carving out any exemptions for specific industries. They kind of highlighted that, and dug that quote up from the web site and said, hey, governor, you know, you made this campaign promise and we would like it if you kept it. It was something that caught a lot of people got a lot of attention, and, you know, I think you can't help but wonder if it also got a lot of attention on the ninth floor.

Ted Simons: Humane society really came out strong on that. I don't think we have seen anything like that before as you mentioned. I think they played a big factor on there

Jim Small: It was definitely one of the stronger messages that a lot of people heard.

Ted Simons: We will have much more on the "Journalists' Roundtable" Friday. Good to have you on the legislative update and perhaps we will see you again next week or perhaps not.

Jim Small: Perhaps not.

Ted Simons: All right.

Jim Small:Journalist, Arizona Capitol Times;

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