When Arizona lawmakers return to work Monday, they do so in a world and state dramatically changed since they adjourned last spring.
Coronavirus is a big item, not just state policies but also the safety precautions in the Legislature itself. Elections and voting also loom large, we hope with every elected official determined to restore faith in a democratic system that’s shown big cracks in the past months.
To succeed, lawmakers will have to believe in that system because the political reality – slimmer Republican majorities in both houses – hardly suggests Kumbaya as the session theme song. Throw in the notion that the GOP lawmakers have moved farther right even as Democratic growth came on a far left agenda and the challenges mount.
There was much unfinished business in the last session but the press of new business may keep the old business at bay.
In our view, budget matters should be addressed right out of the gate. Who knows how long the session will actually last with some Republicans disavowing the use of masks while in session?
State revenues bounced back during the pandemic, though they still took a hit. Lawmakers will need to address a depleted uonemployment fund, an education system in upheaval and health care in a system that can barely meet demand.
Distractions that typically fill the early parts of sessions – unisex bathrooms, expiration dates of eggs and so forth – should be put aside.
Second to the budget is the need for election security and trust. Given a pretty even party split, any voting changes or changes to the way votes are counted would be a trust-inspiring bipartisan effort.
To those distractions we’d add some of the thunder aimed at Gov. Doug Ducey’s emergency orders. He still has veto power. Specific laws relating to length of emergencies would be helpful, though.
These large statewide issues could make it more difficult to move bills of local interest. Of those, we put Colorado River water transfer limits and stronger rural groundwater monitoring high on the list.
Fortunately, the majority whips in both Houses are from Lake Havasu City. Sen. Sonny Borrelli and Rep. Leo Biasiucci can wield considerable influence on bills, though water transfer limits face big opposition from Phoenix and Tucson area lawmakers.
Arizonans should be fairly happy with a Legislative session that is professional and focused and recognizes that the numbers dictate a need for bipartisanship. The public has seen what it looks like when the nation’s Capitol looks like a scene from the French Revolution or a Bolivian coup.
Everyone’s convinced Legislators can put up strong fights. The test will be whether they can effectively govern and do so as it’s done in America, not the third world.
— Today’s News-Herald