A Brief Arizona Legislative Report
This has been, and continues to be the most dysfunctional legislative session in Arizona in memory. Republicans control both houses by the slimmest of majorities; 31 – 29 in the House; 16 – 14 in the Senate. Wednesday, April 12th, was the 94th day of the session. The Arizona Constitution calls for a 100 day session. Next Tuesday, April 18th, is the 100th day called for. It is not possible to meet that target date.
1,630 Bills have been introduced. Thus far, only 28 Bills have been signed and 38 Bills have been vetoed. There is a hard operating schedule for the legislature. Most deadlines to hear Bills have passed, including all regular committee approvals. Friday is the last day for Conference Committee activity. If a Bill does not receive a hearing in a timely fashion, by the rules, it is dead for the remainder of the session.
Therefore, hundreds of those Bills are, or soon will be, dead issues. No more than 200 to 300 are expected to survive into next week, primarily only those that tie directly into the budget. And they have just barely begun to have any discussions at all on passing the budget, the one thing they must do before they can adjourn, or the entire state must shut down. I’ll keep you posted.
Representative Liz Harris
The above was written for the Consortium’s Quarterly meeting yesterday. As if things weren’t slow enough, the Arizona House of Representatives voted to expel Representative Liz Harris from their ranks yesterday by a vote of 46 – 13. At least the Democrats and Republicans finally found something they could agree on! She is a total whack job, so that wasn’t too hard. She ran in 2020 and was defeated. She then ran in 2022 in a re-gerrymandered district and won. She promptly announced that she would not vote for any Bills until Arizona re-ran the election. (Bear in mind, she had just won.)
There have been a series of incidents (none particularly pleasant) since she took office, but the final straw was her arranging for a speaker at a public hearing falsely accusing both Democrats and Republicans of taking bribes from a drug cartel. (I wonder how the vote might have gone if they had limited the false claims solely to Democrats . . . ) The rules in the Arizona House call for 31 votes to pass a Bill. Therefore, the Republicans (who for the most part were not even including the Democrats in their discussions) can no longer pass anything on their own. The solution? Both the House and Senate have called a recess from April 14 – 25 to allow her to be replaced and (hopefully) to allow some of the tension to subside.
During the break, they have indicated that they intend to finally start discussions focusing solely on the budget. Regarding the replacement process: as her Chandler-Gilbert district is in Maricopa County, the Republican Party will send three nominations to the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, and they will choose her successor. It’s remotely possible that this entire event will have a positive effect on the balance of the session – albeit a little late. (Remember what I said in the first sentence above.) But then, I’ve always been an optimist. (It helps sometimes.) Although, I now think of myself as a cynical optimist!
In the Meantime
The Annual Liquor Bill proposed to the state legislature by members of the alcoholic beverage trade each year (what used to be known as the Omnibus Liquor Bill) has passed and was signed into law by Governor Hobbs on Thursday, April 6th. This year’s bill is designated HB2223.
As expected, it has little of interest this year to the wine industry and has passed because of its lack of controversy. It requires wading through 31 pages of statutes to find the few changes of interest other than the usual minor language clean-ups. For one, what had been known as a “Farm Winery” (though the license retains the name) has been changed to be referred to as a “Licensed Craft Producer” henceforth to be included in an overall “Craft Producer” category with a “Licensed Craft Brewery,” and a “Licensed Craft Distiller.”
Another change has to do with a change in record keeping requirements for off-premises delivery. There are a few Microbrewery changes, but wine tends to be treated as an afterthought. A valid unexpired Consular Identification Card issued by a foreign government, with certain restrictions, can now be used for personal identification in Arizona. Farm Winery sampling is now referred to as “Craft Producer” sampling. One item of interest you may want to have your accountant check out – the monthly state tax reports and payments are being switched to annual reports and payments.
There’s plenty to be concerned about because of the lack of results, but not much activity requiring a response to date.
On a different front, I’ll be conducting a Southeastern Arizona AAED Rural Regional Economic Development Roundtable on May 24th in Thatcher, with a focus on Graham, Greenlee, and Cochise Counties. This will be the third Roundtable I’ve done in the region. (The prior two were in Willcox and in Pearce at the Keeling Schaefer Winery.) I mention it here because I invite legislators and state agency representatives, as well as key stakeholders from the region to participate and, among other things,
I have used these sessions to educate the attendees about the growing importance of our Arizona wine industry. This led directly to the $100,000 budget line item we got in Arizona’s State Budget in 2020 for AOT to promote the wine industry. (Both Bill sponsors attended these sessions.) The budget was renewed in 2021, providing an additional $100,000 to promote the wine industry and it ballooned to a $1,000,000 line item during last year’s legislative session. The budget money can’t be used for anything but to promote the Arizona wine industry and it is structured in such a way that AOT has as long as it takes to spend it, they are not limited to the fiscal year. Also, there is no deadline at which time the money must be returned.