Student fees

The state House voted Monday to make it illegal for universities to collect fees from students on behalf of any outside group.

HB 2169 is aimed at the Arizona Students Association, which until recently got $2 a semester from each student. The assessment could be refunded on a written request.

The Board of Regents last month voted to require students to opt in to have the funds collected, prompting an association lawsuit claiming the move was in retaliation for its financial support of the unsuccessful ballot measure last year for a permanent 1-cent hike in the state sales tax.

Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, said his legislation would statutorily block the universities from collecting these fees regardless of the outcome of the lawsuit. He said universities should not be in the business of helping any organization that uses some of its funds for political purposes.

A proposal to permit the association to get its fees through the universities if it reimbursed the schools for any costs was rejected.

The bill, approved 35-24, now goes to the Senate.

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Text messages

The House unanimously approved legislation Monday to make it illegal for anyone to send an unsolicited text message to try to get someone to buy something.

Existing law already bars use of automated dialers to make voice calls for solicitations. HB 2312 extends that language to texts.

Lawmakers did agree to create exceptions when the intended recipient has given "prior express invitation or permission" or where that person has a prior existing business relationship with the sender.

The measure now moves to the Senate.

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Parks fees

On a 50-8 margin the House approved legislation to allow individuals to make voluntary donations to operate state parks when they renew their vehicle registrations. The bill, HB 2621, would help offset Parks Department losses resulting from legislative raids on parks funds to balance the state budget.

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City elections

A bill approved Monday by the House could radically revamp how cities and towns conduct their elections.

Under current law, the first vote, or primary election, usually narrows the field to the top two vote-getters, who advance to a runoff.

Rep. Justin Olson, R-Mesa, said problems arise when there are perhaps eight candidates with a conservative point of view and just two who are considered liberals. With voters entitled to cast ballots for only one, Olson said that creates a "spoiler effect," where the conservatives split the vote and the runoff in what might be a conservative community deciding between the two liberals.

HB 2518 would permit cities to alter their system so individuals could vote for as many - or as few - candidates as they want. Olson argued that would create a better chance for candidates whose views more realistically reflect that of the community.

He said the system would not work in Tucson, which has partisan primaries.

Monday's 31-26 vote sends the measure to the Senate.

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