Capitol roundup: Elections, protests, arrests, DCS and bill updates
Senate President Andy Biggs met with legislators behind closed doors this week to discuss the budget. No details were made public and it is still unclear when the budget will reappear for approval by lawmakers.
Only three weeks remain before the Legislature is scheduled to adjourn April 23, which will not happen until a budget is passed.
Here are some highlights from this week at the Capitol.
Full house for Election Committee
District 23 Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale, led a House of Representatives Election Committee on Monday to get answers about what went wrong with the March 22 presidential preference election.
The committee hearing was easily the most exciting and rowdy of the year so far, with constant waves of boos, cheers and outbursts from the audience.
More than 100 people attended, sharing voting horror stories and pointing fingers at legislators and election officials, blaming them for the voting snafus.
The House opened three additional hearing rooms to seat the overflow of attendees who watched the live stream of the hearing on TVs. Those who couldn’t find a seat or place to stand filled the halls also monitoring the action on TVs in the House.
Others waited outside the building with a small group of protesters where a megaphone broadcasted the hearing.
Three-plus hours of public testimony described long lines, lack of polling places, ballot shortages and technical problems with voter registration.
Five people were arrested on Wednesday during protests at the State Capitol Executive Tower where Ducey’s office is located.
Protesters were demanding Ducey veto HB 2451, which was sent to his desk on Tuesday.
The bill prohibits the release or deportation of undocumented immigrants before serving at least 85 percent of sentence for crimes whereas now those persons can be turned over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement after serving half of their sentence.
The Puente Movement, which has led other protests at the Capitol this year for a series of bills considered to be anti-immigration, helped organize Wednesday’s rally.
Four women and one man were arrested for chaining themselves to the buildings doors, which protesters called the “Trump Tower of Hate.” Ducey signed HB 2451 in the late afternoon on Thursday.
DCS seeking help with backlog cases
The Senate passed a bill on Wednesday that would allow the Department of Child Safety to hire private contractors to help with the backlog of cases.
DCS reported 14,392 backlog cases as of last December.
HB 2270 defines backlog cases as any investigation not receiving documentation or action in at least 60 days.
The bill gives DCS the ability to hire one or more private contractors to work with the department to clear cases. The bill needs to pass a final vote by the House before being sent to the governor.
The legislature approved a bill earlier this session placing the Salt River wild horse herd under the protection of the state. On Monday, the Senate approved a different bill that establishes the Salt River horse study committee to investigate the herd’s impact on the environment and public safety. HB 2572 now needs final approval from the House.
HB 2031 allows people with an out-of-state driver’s license to purchase alcohol with a vertical ID for as long as it is valid. Current Arizona law only allows purchase of alcohol with a vertical ID as long as it is within 30 days of the purchaser’s 21st birthday. After that grace period the state requires horizontal ID for the purchase of alcohol. The bill passed the Senate on Monday and moves to the governor’s desk.
HB 2383 prohibits law enforcement from releasing personal identifying information of witnesses to crimes in public records requests. Current law only exempts victims of a crime from public records. The bill passed a House vote on Tuesday and needs final vote by Senate.
SB 1219 allows students to wear religious or cultural accessories during extracurricular and athletic activities as long as it doesn’t pose a safety risk. The bill passed the House on Wednesday.
David McGlothlin is the Bolles Fellow from the University of Arizona covering the legislature for Arizona Sonora News. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.