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This week at the Arizona Capitol: Affordable housing bill is hung up on short-term rentals

The Arizona Senate will be back to work this week — and at the top of its agenda is a proposal asking voters to approve border security measures similar to Texas’ SB4. That law is currently on hold and the subject of litigation. Among other provisions, HCR2060, otherwise known as the Secure the Border Act, would make it a crime for undocumented immigrants to enter — or try to enter — Arizona anywhere other than at a port of entry.

Supporters of the measure say it’s an attempt to get a handle on the situation at the border; critics say it would take the state back to the days of SB 1070. The Senate is set to vote on the proposal Tuesday. If it's approved there and also passes the House, it will go on the November ballot.

Howard Fischer of Capitol Media Services breaks down that and more about the legislative session with The Show.

Full conversation

MARK BRODIE: So, what is, what is the sense in the Senate? Are there the, are there the votes to pass this and move it on to the House?

HOWARD FISCHER: Well, here's the yes, but. Every Republican who was on the floor last week voted for it, there were two Republicans missing, but they're presumed to be in favor. It comes back for what they call a third reading, and you need 16 votes. What's interesting is Sen. Ken Bennett from Prescott said while he voted for it, he wanted to see what they call the engrossed bill, the whole thing put together, and then he'll make a decision, which suggests that maybe he might have some second thoughts on there or may want some, some changes to secure his vote. And again, only 16 Republicans in the Senate, you need 16 to pass it since the Democrats aren't going to provide any help So it'll be interesting to see if there's some changes that he needs, whether it's about sanctions against people looking for work or something else to get this past the finish line.

BRODIE: Has he given any kind of indication as to what his reluctance might potentially be or what changes he might like to see?

FISCHER: Well, he already got one change in the bill. As originally crafted, it's made it a Class 6 felony for someone to put, put, use false papers to apply for a job. Now, Class 6 felony is state prison and he said, wait a second, if crossing the border at other than port of entry is only a misdemeanor, why would it be a felony to go ahead and apply for work? So we did get that reduced already to a misdemeanor. What else is in there? Hard to know. You know, I think people have had a chance now to look at the thing over the weekend and say, OK, what does this do? How will this work?

I think one of the big concerns is that while everyone is saying this is just a border bill, there's fears of racial profiling that if you did see somebody cross the border and you're saying, well, I question them and I think they crossed the border at other than the port of entry, you end up mainly stopping brown people.

BRODIE: Right. So Howie, how about the house then? Because the House of course, approved the original version of this measure, which was basically just about going, having businesses use the E-Verify program to make sure that people who are applying to work were, were legally eligible and, and cities using it for public benefits and things like that. Is there a sense of whether or not all the Republicans in the House will, will be in favor of this as well?

FISCHER: Well, I certainly think there were some Republicans who wanted the, the, the, the goosed up bill. The one that said that there would be $10,000 fines for employers that didn't use the E-Verify, that wasn't gonna sell in the Senate. I think they'll have to settle for what they can get. Now do they want something else in exchange? You know, hard to know. You know, hopefully getting near the end of the session and I think some reality has to set in and say, what can you do in the time that remains?

Now, I say that knowing that there is still no state budget for the new fiscal year that begins July 1. So who knows. You know, how many more Monday mornings we will be saying, you'll be calling me up and saying, so when are they going home?

BRODIE: Let the record show, I will not ask you about the, the status of budget negotiations or a proposal. At least not today. We'll maybe maybe do that in coming weeks.

I do want to ask you though about another big issue that's been a big issue throughout the session that lawmakers seem to be trying to get a handle on as we maybe, in theory, wrap things up, which is housing. There are a couple of bills out there that seem to be maybe getting some support?

FISCHER: One of the big issues is what they call middle housing. I mean, if you look at, you know, go ahead and price a home now it's $400,00; $450,000; $500,000. And there are a lot of folks saying, I'd like to own a home at some point. What this legislation says is that in the inner city of towns over 75,000, you will be able to take single family lots and you'll be able to put duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes and town homes on them, and you'll be able to do that elsewhere in the city if you have at least 10 acres. So you're not putting it up against someone else's home. I think the cities have bought on that. They're saying, look with, with those restrictions, we can live with that because it won't be busting zoning everywhere in the city

The more interesting question comes down to what they call casitas, or the accessory dwelling units. I think the cities are willing to say, OK, we'll allow you to put one or two of those in your backyard. But what will be the restrictions on those? The cities say if we're trying to solve a housing problem, then we shouldn't be able to use those for vacation rentals, shouldn't be able to turn into an Airbnb because that does not solve the housing problem that we're trying to solve.

On the other side, you've got some Republicans saying, well, it's private property rights. And if they wanted to go ahead and, and have this is a vacation home rental, they should be able to do that. So, right now, that is stalled, and we'll have to see who's got the votes to send it up to the governor, assuming it gets that far.

BRODIE: Right one, assuming it does get that far, we'd have to see if the governor signs it or vetoes it. She did veto an earlier housing bill dubbed the Arizona Starter Homes Act over concerns from cities and towns.

FISCHER: Exactly. And so I think that she listens and says, look, there are 92 cities and towns. They have some idea of what they need in each of these communities. And so who are we to say, not only we're gonna force you to have these things in the backyards and, but we're gonna say, these are gonna end up as hotels. I mean, if you've got it, I realize it doesn't affect some small communities, for example, Sedona is below the 75,000 threshold, but Sedona, 15% of all housing is being used for vacation rentals. So God help you if you have to work in Sedona, you've got to go live down the road, you know, in, in Cottonwood or somewhere else. And they say this is not a good situation. Or you're sleeping in your car.

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.