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This week at the Arizona Capitol: Budget, abortion, water bills on docket before session wraps up

The issue of abortion — specifically the fate of Arizona’s 1864 near-total ban on the procedure — will once again be front and center at the state Capitol on Wednesday; lawmakers are continuing their one-day-a-week schedule, coming in on Wednesdays. The state House last week voted to repeal the law, and this week, all eyes will be on the Senate to see if it follows suit.

Howard Fischer of Capitol Media Services joined The Show to talk more about the legislative session this week.

Full conversation

HOWARD FISCHER: Well, I don't expect the Legislature to adjourn anytime soon if that counts.

MARK BRODIE: Right. Well, so let's talk about, I mean, and we'll, we'll get to why that is, is relevant to the abortion conversation in a moment. But the expectation is that the Senate will vote to repeal the 1864 law this week as the House did last week. Is that a reasonable expectation?

FISCHER: I think it is because the Senate passed Ana Hernandez's motion, which is to allow her to do a late introduction of a bill to repeal the 1864 law, every bill needs three readings. So on the first two weeks ago, she got the first reading of the bill. Last week, she got the second reading. The third reading, which would be the roll call vote, should be Wednesday. Assuming that the Republicans who have sided with her, T.J. Shope and Shawnna Bolick, still stay with all 14 Democrats, she has the votes to do that. That sends the measure over to the House, depending on how quickly the House acts on its thing.

What the House, what the Senate can do is since the House did in fact adopt the bill, they can do a procedure called substitute motion to substitute the House language, which is identical for what the Senate is going to do. That would mean it's just procedural to send it to the governor.

BRODIE: So in that case, the Senate then, and this is pretty far into the procedural weeds, rulebook weeds here. But that would mean the Senate would vote on the House bill, meaning that assuming the Senate passes it, it goes back to the House, the House would then send it to the governor.

FISCHER: Well, theoretically speaking. Because if you remember there was also a motion by Matt Gress to ensure that when the bill got sent back to the House, it would be sent directly to the governor. That seemed to be rubbing salt into the wound of a lot of Republicans who already didn't like being rolled on the issue of having to vote on it in the first place.

Could the speaker play a game with it and put it in this bottom drawer? Theoretically, I'm not sure I see that happening, but that gets to the other part of it. Even if they send it to the governor, even if she signs it, it can't take effect until the 91st day following the end of this never-ending session. So it won't take effect till August, September. We think that all the stays that are in the court case to allow the 1864 case to be, law to be enforced again, will have expired by then, which means potentially a blackout period where once again, abortions will not be available for some period of time in Arizona.

BRODIE: Right. Well, Howie, is there any sense at the Capitol about when adjournment might come? Like, is anybody even talking about it at this point?

FISCHER: Well, I think it's one of those wishes and, what's the old saying? If wishes were horses and, and you know, beggars would ride. There, we still have a few minor things to do. Mostly they have to do the budget. But one constitutional thing the Legislature has to do is adopt a budget. And what's complicating that is that not only adopting a budget for the new fiscal year that begins July 1, they have to balance the one that ends this June 30. And the longer they take, the deeper the cuts they have to make into state agencies.

Now, they could play some games, they could move, I think we've talked about moving the June bills into July which balances the budget. The closer we get to July 1, I think that becomes more important in terms of any sort of solution. But right at the moment we have nothing. I know there are talks going on, but I don't see any major progress in terms of somebody saying, oh, here's a puff of white smoke. We, we have a deal, ta da.

BRODIE: That, that would be interesting. So, Howie, there are also some bills awaiting action by the governor, including a couple of, of water bills. Is that right?

FISCHER: There are. One of them is a technical bill, deals with if you have a "exempt" well, that you can pump up to 35 gallons per minute without getting any further approval. This is something I think the governor will veto. If for no other reason than she wants a unified solution to all of the groundwater issues.

The more complicated one is [Attorney General] Kris Mayes has said, I've looked at the farms in western Arizona. The big corporate farms are draining the wells of their neighbors. So she's looking at using nuisance laws, which allow you to go to court, either her as the attorney general or the neighbor, to say, you're creating a nuisance to my property. In other words, if I were to set up, let's say a manure recycling facility next to your house, that could be considered a nuisance. Is draining someone's well a nuisance? That's the legal question. What's happened is the Republicans in the House and Senate have passed a bill to say the attorney general cannot use nuisance laws on water issues. I'd be really, really, really shocked if the governor were to somehow say, oh, yeah, I'm just OK with that.

BRODIE: Yeah, Howie, I know that that agendas are generally not posted necessarily this far out. But you mentioned that, you know, there are still some issues, big issues that the Legislature has to deal with in addition to the budget before they can adjourn. Any sense of where we stand on some of those things or if there might be agreement or if the Legislature might say, yeah, maybe not?

FISCHER: Well, one of the big issues is, are we gonna do anything more on immigration? The House Speaker Ben Toma had put out a bill from his chamber to tighten up what they call the E-Verify laws, to make additional penalties for employers who fail to use them and also require that they be used in situations of somebody receiving a certain public benefits. That's gone nowhere in the Senate. There are other immigration bills that, I think folks would want to put on the ballot, which they can't get by the governor. About, for example, a model after Texas' SB 4, which allows local police to enforce federal immigration laws ... and allows them to bring them in and tell people either you go to jail or you self-deport.

There, there is no real consensus on this. And what's complicating, of course, all of that is, how many things do you want to put on the ballot in the first place? They've already put a bunch of things on the ballot now, including a measure dealing with getting rid of part of the retain-reject system for, for, for state judges. And you get into something called ballot fatigue. That by the time you get to the bottom of the ballot, which is where these measures are, folks who were at the top may be voting for the president, say, oh, I'm not interested in this. And that becomes a problem for the things you do want. If you put too much on there, people will just say, oh, the heck with it. I'm gonna vote no.

KJZZ’s The Show transcripts are created on deadline. This text may not be in its final form. The authoritative record of KJZZ’s programming is the audio record.

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Mark Brodie is a co-host of The Show, KJZZ’s locally produced news magazine. Since starting at KJZZ in 2002, Brodie has been a host, reporter and producer, including several years covering the Arizona Legislature, based at the Capitol.