PHOENIX — Because of bills signed Monday by Gov. Doug Ducey, some of Arizona’s needy will be able to get an additional year of help.
Big corporations and investors will get increased tax credits.
And cities will get to ask voters to hike taxes only once every two years.
But farmers can forget about growing industrial hemp. And student journalists are not going to get new First Amendment protections from administrative oversight.
Ducey penned his approval to 27 new laws on Monday, the last of what the Legislature approved in its 122-day session. He found six others unacceptable, bringing his veto record this session to 11.
Proponents of industrial hemp said it would provide Arizona farmers with a new cash crop. The plant is a type of marijuana, but with a concentration of tetrahydrocannibinol, the psycholactivbe element of the drug, of not more than 0.3 percent.
Technically, hemp production, like marijuana, remains illegal. But this measure was built on a 2014 federal law allowing state agriculture departments to begin cultivating industrial hemp in certain circumstances, including for research. Ducey said his only reason for the veto was the failure of the legislation to provide funding for the state Agriculture Department to administer the program.
The governor had a more specific reason for his veto of legislation designed to guarantee college and high school journalists some First Amendment protections .
The legislation was the culmination of efforts Sen. Kimberly Yee, R-Phoenix, started when she was a student at Greenway High School and a staffer on the Demon Dispatch. After having some of her cartoons quashed by school administration, she lobbied Stan Furman, then her state senator, to provide some shielding for student journalists.
It was only last year, Yee said, that she realized that while the measure had cleared the Senate it died in the House. So now, a senator herself, Yee championed the measure.
In his veto, Ducey said student journalists “play an important role because they are the next generation of journalists who will hold our government and leaders accountable.”
“I worry, however, that this bill could create unintended consequences, especially on high school campuses where adult supervision and mentoring is most important,” he wrote.
On the enactment side of the agenda, the governor agreed to restore coverage for a full two years for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.
In 2015, Ducey and lawmakers imposed a one-year lifetime limit on the emergency cash, the stingiest limit in the nation. Ducey in January asked lawmakers to reverse course, but with restrictions and conditions that could disqualify some recipients for violations such as children not being in school at least 90 percent of the time.
The measure also will allow drug offenders who have completed prison terms to get food stamps to help them get back on their feet, but with a requirement for random drug testing.
Another provision waives state licensing fees for people below 200 percent of the federal poverty level — about $40,000 for a family of three — to help them start their own businesses.
Also in the business arena, the governor signed three separate measures that proponents say will help economic development.
One extends and expands an existing state corporate income tax credit for research and development activities, designed mainly to benefit large corporations, with proponents specifically mentioning Intel.
Ducey also agreed to expand an existing “angel investors” program that gives investors a 30 percent income tax credit — 35 percent for certain targeted industries — for money they invest, mainly in small companies. That provoked controversy over why the state should essentially give away another $10 million — the old cap was $20 million — to people who reap the benefits of their investments but do not share the profits with the state.
There also is an expansion of the Arizona Competes Fund that provides grants to eligible companies, with new language designed to designate some of the dollars to “micro enterprises.”
One measure Ducey signed is likely to provoke a lawsuit. It says that cities can seek voter approval of sales tax hikes only in even-numbered years —and only at the November election.
Current law allows local elections on four specific dates every year. But proponents of the change say that allows city officials to “game” the system, calling election when turnout is likely to be low to give the advantage to supporters who can get out their members.
State lawmakers enacted a similar measure in 2012, telling cities on what dates they could hold candidate elections. But that was voided three years later by the state Court of Appeals, which ruled that, at least for the state’s 18 charter cities including Tucson, the Legislature had no right to intercede in a strictly local matter.
Other bills signed Monday by Ducey include:
- Giving lawmakers nine cents more a mile in reimbursement for the use of their vehicles than other state employees. House Speaker J.D. Mesnard said the extensive use of personal vehicles by legislators going to and from the Capitol and other official events justifies the difference;
- Requiring school districts and charter schools to report the number of suspensions and expulsions that involve illegal drugs.