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The Start of the 2016 Legislative Session

|January 19, 2016|

Over the past couple of days, many people have asked me how I think this legislative session will go. I say, “short and sweet.”

If you thought last session went fast, buckle up!

Maybe we can’t call it a honeymoon anymore, but there’s still plenty of bliss in this marriage. The governor has continued to build and strengthen his personal relationships with legislators during the interim. That, coupled with close relationships virtually all the governor’s staff members maintain with lawmakers, will keep cooperation strong and the work moving forward at the Legislature.

Look for the budget to be concluded in weeks, not months. The governor wants to wrap things up quickly in order to focus on the passage of Proposition 123—the ballot measure that would add $3.5 billion to K-12 education over the next 10 years by utilizing money from the state land trust fund.

While many lawmakers expressed concern over the fast pace of last session, they will go along with the governor’s tempo several of reasons:

  1. Any major discussions on K-12 spending are on hold pending Prop. 123.
  2. The other major funding issues that could possibly derail the Republican Caucus—restoration of Joint Technical Education spending, University spending, and more resources for DCS—the governor signaled during his State of the State that he’s willing to address this session.
  3. This is an election year. Members want to get back to their districts and campaign. As much as members want to pass their bills, Governor Ducey already gave the Republicans their ultimate take-home bill: Prop. 123.

Further, there won’t be lot of new spending. Governor Ducey and Senate President Biggs have said as much. They’ll need the surplus in the off chance voters reject Prop. 123. Any new spending will be modest and be focused on the three major issues that I discussed above.

The one wildcard out there is the perennial fight between cities and the state over “local control.” In the past, these struggles have been limited to relatively minor issues, such as local election dates, sign ordinances and—most recently—plastic bags. But with some cities considering ordinances mandating employers to provide a $15 minimum wage and paid sick leave, things could boil over.

The governor was clear that he will do whatever he can to prevent what he sees as job-killing ordinances from going into effect. But with many legislators on both sides of the aisle having previously served on city or town councils, these fights can have unpredictable outcomes. Ultimately, the legislature will be out of town long before any municipality gets serious about considering these ordinances. But stay tuned! Perhaps we could see another special session.

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