State Capitol News
Wed April 20, 2011
State Legislature Wraps up Session
Phoenix, AZ – In the end there really was not a lot left to fight over. The big battles over the budget, abortion and gun rights all had been fought earlier. And the major proposals for new laws aimed at illegal immigrants had died. That's not to say there were no last minute political maneuvers. One follows the veto earlier this month by Gov. Jan Brewer of a major expansion of laws which now give taxpayers a dollar-for-dollar state tax credit for donations to help students attend private and parochial schools. She feared it would undermine the budget. Early this morning supporters of the credit pushed through a new version. Sen. Steve Yarbrough said everything the governor did not like in the original plan is now gone.
(What is proposed in the amendment is the creation of a quasi new credit that would allow folks individuals to give up to $250 for an individual, $500 for a married couple. But the money would go into the corporate pool of money.)
That would be on top of the current credits of $500 for individuals and $1,000 for couples. But Yarbrough said putting the new cash into the corporate pool makes all the difference in the world, as scholarships from that fund can aid only children who move from a public school. Yarbrough figures each migration saves the state about $5,200 a year in aid. He argued that makes the new proposal a net gain for the state even though it will reduce tax collections by $9 million. But gubernatorial press aide Matthew Benson said that does not mean his boss is necessarily going to be more disposed to signing this new version.
(Well, we certainly can't be doing anything that blows giant holes in the budget. So while the governor supports school choice and some of the general aims of the legislation, it's got to be something that doesn't create a significant budget problem.)
Another proposal that generated a bit of last-day debate involved changes to drunk driving laws. One of the ways legislators have stiffened the penalties is to require those convicted to install an ignition interlock for one year on any vehicle they drive. Only if a clean breath sample is delivered will the car or truck start. This change says anyone who is a first-time offender, did not cause an accident and whose blood-alcohol content was below a certain level would need the interlock for only six months. Sen. Linda Gray said the problem is only about one out of three convicted drunk drivers actually installs the devices. She said one key is the cost, about $80 a month. Gray thinks making the financial burden smaller will create more compliance.
(Those who truly feel and are remorseful for driving while impaired, I don't think they will be doing it again. You have those who are willing to say I made a huge choice. It was a wrong choice. And having to below into this device for a period of six months, every day, going to and from work, the embarrassment as others have said, they're not going to do it again.)
But Senate Minority Leader David Schapira said he doesn't buy that argument. He said the current law is working.
(It's a deterrent as it is right now. It's keeping people from getting a DUI in the first place. Regardless of the compliance level, it's the first penalty we've ever had in the history of the state that's actually, truly served as a deterrent. It's actually preventing people from doing it in the first place.)
Schapira was on the losing edge of that battle as lawmakers approved the change. Lawmakers also took final action on a flurry of other bills this morning. One spells out that photo radar violations mailed to vehicle owners must inform them they do not need to identify who is actually behind the wheel if someone else was driving their car. Another will make it easier for new cities to incorporate. And there was even a vote to create more specialized license plates to benefit everything from the Tea Party to public television, multiple sclerosis awareness, hunger relief, and litter prevention and cleanup. For Arizona Public Radio this is Howard Fischer.