Arizona House Moves More Bills Pushed by the Force Behind SB 1062
On Wednesday evening, Governor Jan Brewer vetoed Senate Bill 1062, pointing out that it had nothing to do with her legislative priorities, like passing a budget and fixing Child Protective Services.
By Thursday afternoon, members of the Arizona House of Representatives were back to discussing and advancing bills pushed by the same lobbying group that was behind SB 1062 -- bills that don't fit into the description of legislative priorities reiterated by Brewer less than 24 hours prior.
Despite Brewer's statement, and calls from protesters demanding that lawmakers cut their ties with the group behind SB 1062, the Center for Arizona Policy, the House had floor votes scheduled yesterday for several of CAP's other bills.
Two of them, related to expanding Empowerment Scholarship Accounts -- which direct public funds to private schools -- were held.
However, the House gave preliminary approval to HB 2284, which creates several more regulations for abortion clinics. Among other things, the bill would allow the state health department to do unannounced inspections of abortion clinics without a warrant.
The Center for Arizona Policy lobbied for a similar bill that was passed more than a decade ago, but was overturned in court (one of four anti-abortion bills pushed by the Center for Arizona Policy that were defended using taxpayer money, and were overturned in court).
Instead of creating an additional burden to the taxpayers for what's likely to be another lawsuit if this bill passes, Democratic Representative Mark Cardenas proposed an amendment to make lawsuit costs come out of the House speaker's and Senate president's budgets.
Republican Representative Debbie Lesko, a sponsor of the bill, responded that Cardenas and other Democrats should tell their "friends" at Planned Parenthood not to sue if it becomes a law.
Cardenas and Democratic Representative Eric Meyer opined that it's not Planned Parenthood's fault if the bill is unconstitutional.
That bill passed a voice vote, but a final vote on the bill wasn't held yesterday.
The House did have a final vote on another CAP-pushed bill, expanding tax exemptions for religious organizations.
According to a document prepared by legislative budget staff, "Any property leased by any other entity to a religious institution primarily for religious worship would have their property tax assessment ratio lowered from 18.5% to 1%."
Since local property taxes help pay for the public-education system, and the state has to cover the cost when property taxes aren't enough, the budget staff estimates this cost the state about $2.1 million, starting in 2016.
In a previous hearing, Tory Anderson, a lobbyist for the Secular Coalition for Arizona, argued that a "tax exemption for property leased for purposes of religious worship only showcases a bias toward religious privilege and is unconstitutional." The organization also argues that for-profit companies can get this tax benefit, inviting misuse of the privilege.
That bill now heads to the Senate, as will the abortion bill, if it passes on that final vote.
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