Legislature Briefs

2013-03-08T00:00:00Z Legislature BriefsHoward Fischer Capitol Media Services Arizona Daily Star
March 08, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Clean Elections

The state House voted Thursday to ask voters whether they still want the Clean Elections system they approved in 1998 - but in a way that some lawmakers say is sneaky and misleading.

That 1998 law allows candidates for statewide and legislative office to get public financing if they agree not to take private money. It is funded largely by a surcharge on civil, criminal and traffic fines.

HCR 2026 would put a measure on the 2014 ballot asking voters to instead give that money to education.

"All I'm asking is for the voters to decide if they prefer public money for politicians or if they prefer education funding," said Rep. Paul Boyer, R-Phoenix.

But Rep. Doris Goodale, R-Kingman, said that if lawmakers want to scrap the system they should ask voters that exact question, and not force them to choose. She called the wording of the measure a page "out of the dirty playbook of sleazy political tricks."

The 31-27 vote sends the measure to the Senate.

Recall elections

Future recall elections would include both a primary and a general election under a bill approved Thursday by the House.

Current recalls provide a single election for all candidates, without regard for their party, and are open to all voters. Supporters of Senate President Russell Pearce, who was ousted in a 2011 recall, said that was unfair in his heavily Republican Mesa district because he was pitted against another Republican but Democrats and independents could vote.

Under HB 2282, recall elections would mimic the dual system, primary followed by a general election, that now exists for other elections.

The measure was tweaked at the last minute to make it retroactive to the beginning of the year, which would benefit Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, currently the target of a recall.

Early ballots

The House Judiciary Committee voted Thursday to make it a crime for volunteer workers to pick up early ballots from voters.

Maricopa County Elections Director Karen Osborne said she has received reports some people are going door to door and offering to pick up early ballots - but only if the person voted a certain way. She also said there are people "masquerading" as county election workers.

But Tucsonan Sami Hamed testified he is legally blind, gets an early ballot and depends on others to drop it off at a polling place. He said his ability to put it in the mail is insufficient.

"I want to make sure it gets there in somebody's hands," he told lawmakers.

And Barbara Klein, president of the League of Women Voters of Arizona, said SB 1003 would have a "chilling effect" on efforts by volunteer groups like her own and Latino organizations to get more people to vote.

The measure, which already has been approved by the Senate, now goes to the full House.

Police and polygamy

State lawmakers voted Thursday to allow a county Board of Supervisors appoint a special administrator to oversee police departments that have been found by a state agency to have "systemic misconduct or mismanagement."

The original version of HB 2648 would have dissolved police departments where half of employees lost their state police officer certification. It was aimed largely at the polygamous community of Colorado City, where officers have been decertified for misconduct with minors or putting their religious beliefs ahead of their oath to uphold state law.

The 52-7 vote sends the measure to the Senate.

Drones

Police in Arizona remain free to use drones - assuming they have them - to keep tabs on people.

A measure that would have required police to get a warrant before using unmanned aircraft to gather evidence was voluntarily scaled back by its sponsor, Rep. Tom Forese, R-Chandler, to simply do a study of the issue, in the face of police concerns.

The new version of HB 2269, which creates a committee to study the issue for the balance of the year and report back in December, was approved 54-5 by the House on Thursday.

Forese said the issues involved are far more complex than simply limiting police use of the drones.

He pointed to concerns expressed during hearings by Lyle Mann, director of the Peace Officers Standards and Training Board, who said there are many valid reasons for police to be able to use drones without first having to go to court.

Beyond that, Mann said many police departments already use helicopters. He said the only difference with a drone is that it has a camera on board that indiscriminately records everything.

On the other side of the equation, Forese said that if lawmakers are going to restrict the use of drones, they need to look beyond police.

"What about the toy you can buy now for a couple of hundred bucks that's in essence a small drone?" he asked. "I can fly it and look at all my neighbors with a camera."

Forese also faced opposition from some lawmakers who feared this kind of legislation could undermine the bid by Arizona to become one of the six Federal Aviation Administration sites to test unmanned drones for civilian and military use.

Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services

On StarNet: Go to azstarnet.com/politics to read more about local and state government and political news.

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