Unfortunately, the process of passing bills in Arizona isn't as easy as the Schoolhouse Rock explainer, "I'm Just a Bill."
Remember House Bill 2305, the package of election-law changes passed last year by the Republican majority, which was then referred to the ballot thanks to Democrats and third-party supporters, before being repealed by that same Republican majority? Well, some Dems aren't convinced that some of the provisions from that now-repealed law won't make a comeback this legislative session, which is likely to end in the near future.
Recall that the new election laws required minor-party candidates to get the same number of signatures as Democrats or Republicans to get on the ballot, created a way for elections officials to remove people from the "permanent" early-voting list, and made it a crime to deliver someone's ballot to the polls -- a tactic that just so happened to be used in the successful recall of Republican Senate President Russell Pearce -- among other things.
Local lefty Robbie Sherwood, of Progress Now Arizona and the Protect Your Right To Vote Committee, sent out an e-mail blast forwarding an e-mail Republican Representative J.D. Mesnard sent around the House, which Sherwood believes is evidence the provisions could come back.
Mesnard was trying to get support for an election-related bill he's sponsoring, which would clear up some confusion over whether political candidates need to have two committees, one for the primary, and one for the general election. The Attorney General has opined that candidates do need two committees, which would have some implications on this year's elections, so Mesnard's looking to get an "emergency clause" passed with the bill, which would make it effective immediately, but also requires more votes.
Here's the part of Mesnard's plea that has some lefties riled up:
. . . The bill is good policy; it should not be controversial. It is about one issue and one issue only: one committee or two. The emergency clause is about whether we all want to continue dealing with the two-committee headache for months longer or to end it now. I prefer the latter. But it's up to you.
I am sending this email because there have been a variety of rumors floating around about what is or isn't happening with my bill. Some even seem to think I have some sort of "nefarious" motives. I find this perplexing given my openness and best efforts to be as fair as possible with what should be a non-controversial bill that we all want to see pass. In addition, some outside entities have encouraged some of you to try to leverage the bill for something else. As I have said from the beginning that I want this bill to be clean, and have tried to keep partisan issues out of it, I will, likewise, not allow it to be leveraged for something else. HB 2665 will stand on its own merits. I simply want to resolve the two-committee issue as quickly as possible, as I know you all do.
So it comes down to this: If the emergency clause gets on in the Senate, and I have enough commitments on the House side to preserve it, you have my word that I will not allow anything else to be included/attached to the bill. This has been my promise from the beginning and has not changed but I am reiterating it now so that it is crystal clear. If, however, the bill moves forward as a "partisan" bill, with insufficient support in the Senate/House to preserve the emergency, then I will, regrettably, be forced to treat it as a partisan bill. As such, I will no longer be concerned about keeping it clean of other partisan policies that some may be interested in adding to the bill. The choice is yours.
Sherwood says several Dem lawmakers said they think Mesnard's talking about having elements of HB 2305 tacked on to this bill.
We asked Mesnard if that's the case, and he pretty much said it's not.
"Anything is possible at that point, though not anything is likely," he says. "HB 2305 was repealed. It seems unlikely to me that parts of it end up on my bill. But, again, anything is possible. My email was meant to convey that I will open it up to other possibilities under the partisan scenario. That is not a threat, it is an appeal to my colleagues on an issue I know they agree with."
Like we said, it's unfortunate that the whole process doesn't work as described by Schoolhouse Rock.
Interestingly, had HB 2305 not been overturned by lawmakers, there's a good chance voters would have done it come November. Had that happened, some people believe it would have been against the state constitution for lawmakers to pass the provisions again.
Until this legislative session is over, though, parts of that dead law could be passed again, and it wouldn't have to happen with this specific bill.
Got a tip? Send it to: Matthew Hendley.
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