By all rights, the Arizona Legislature should adjourn this coming week as it hits the 100-day mark when it is supposed to go home. It may well adjourn, but then turn around for one or more special sessions.
Sure, there’s a lot of business undone. Big issues regarding the budget. Regarding education, especially shaking the money tree for teacher pay. (Even as the agreement between the state and educators to fund the last state raise was thrown out in the courts.) Then there’s school safety/gun restrictions. And how about the transaction privilege (sales) tax for online purchases?
Let’s just say there’s a lot. The good news about waiting so late in a session to deal with substantive issues like the budget is that there is more clarity. For example, the state now appears to have a lot more money coming in from tax collections than it thought a few months ago. Ducey wants to use a lot of that apparently windfall of some $250 million for teacher pay.
The bad news about waiting is that it’s becoming a trend. Yep, the governor has signed off on longer expiration dates for eggs. And a new marriage age. And in fact, some meaningful measures as well. The total might reach 100 bill signed by session’s end. Last year, the same thing happened with the budget negotiated among a small number of lawmakers and the governor before all the legislators got to see it.
Last year’s budget was unveiled almost as senators and representatives were packing for home. This year, with elections looming, there might be even more distraction and urgency to get it done. Will elected officials even know what they’re passing?
As we humbly suggested at the beginning of the session, the Arizona Legislature would do well to hold high-profile budget hearings early and pin down about 90 percent of the spending plan. The budget, along with limited numbers of serious matters, is the main purpose of the House and Senate.
The rest — egg dates and jaywalking panhandlers and gay cake buyers and all the other foo-foo — isn’t important, though each one apparently scratches someone’s itch.
Though teachers deserve higher pay (and many other workers do, too), raises for all employees shouldn’t have to rely on a last-minute check of the state’s piggy bank to see whether they will happen.
It’s a 100-day session that will probably have another 15 in special sessions but that should be completed in 30.
— Today’s News-Herald