Arizona lawmakers end session with flurry of measures

2014-04-24T07:22:00Z 2014-04-24T09:13:23Z Arizona lawmakers end session with flurry of measuresBy Howard Fischer Capitol Media Services Arizona Daily Star

PHOENIX — State lawmakers finally wrapped up the 2014 legislative session early this morning, pushing through a host of last-minute measures.

Among the more controversial given final approval was SB 1344. It strips the Citizens Clean Elections Commission of the power to police the spending of candidates who do not accept public funding for their campaigns.

But the measure also could pave the way for some electoral mischief.

Current law allows groups to spend money independently to elect or defeat candidates. But the law says those involved in making the decisions then cannot turn around and make direct donations to the candidate.

SB 1344 carves out an exception for those on the boards of groups that make these independent expenditures. That caused concern by some who feared it will lead to improper coordination.

Lawmakers also gave final approval to allowing rideshare services like Uber and Lyft to operate without complying with the same rules that apply to taxis.

Supporters of HB 2262 said the state should not impose what they said is needless regulation on a new kind of industry. And Rep. Ethan Orr, R-Tucson, said it will help create jobs, not only for those who want to drive for these companies but also provide new ways for people who lack their own cars to get to work.

But foes said the lack of protections could leave passengers and even those who are injured by drivers without sufficient insurance protection. Rep. Bruce Wheeler, D-Tucson, said there are too many unanswered questions.

Wednesday's vote may not end the debate. A top aide to Gov. Jan Brewer said she has some concerns about the lack of insurance coverage and what she believes are gaps in drug testing requirements.

Lawmakers also sent a measure to Brewer to require her emergency services agency to prepare recommendations for Arizonans to prepare for a high-altitude nuclear explosion causes an electromagnetic pulse that wipes out computers. That includes how much food, water and medical supplies to stash.

SB 1476 says it isn't just nuclear blasts for which Arizonans need to be prepared. The legislation says the same problems could occur from solar flares or even some kind of man-made electromechanical device.

Also going to the governor is HB 2380. It expands the list of drugs and other regulated substances that can be prescribed by optometrists.

The move drew fire from some legislators who said these specialists in eye care do not have the same training as ophthalmologists who are medical doctors. They said the move will result in danger to patients.

But the measure gained final approval from supporters who said these same drugs can be used by optometrists in 39 other states.

And lawmakers voted for SB 1221 to allow the state Attorney General's Office to represent former legislators whose records are being sought as part of the ongoing lawsuit over a 2010 immigration law.

A key remaining provision of what was SB 1070 that year requires police to question those they have stopped if there is reason to believe they are in this country illegally. Challengers contend it is unconstitutional, at least in part based on claims the measure was approved because of racial bias and have subpoenaed years-old emails to try to make their case.

Other of the dozens of bills gaining final legislative approval Wednesday and sent to Brewer include:

• Setting up rules for a "silver alert'' system, similar to Amber alerts, to alert the public through radio announcements, electronic billboards and other methods when someone who is 65 is missing and there is evidence the person may be in  danger;

• Spelling out that insurers who provide coverage for cancer treatment medications cannot require a higher copayment or deductible for medicines that patients take themselves than those administered by a doctor;

• Outlawing the posting of naked images of someone else on the Internet without that person's permission, a practice known as "revenge porn'' because it sometimes involves former spouses or lovers getting even;

• Making it a state crime to point a laser at an occupied aircraft, including charging someone with assault if a pilot or passenger is injured;

• Imposing new regulations to govern trampoline centers in the wake of injuries to some customers;

• Expanding the definition of manslaughter to include providing someone the physical means to commit suicide with the knowledge the person intends to kill himself or herself;

• Enacting language allowing the state to spend up to $500,000 to acquire the land where 19 firefighters were killed at Yarnell Hill for a memorial.

Brewer also took the opportunity of the last day of the session to sign 54 measures.

Two of the bills make more students eligible for vouchers entitling them to state funds to attend private or parochial schools.

Current laws generally confine eligibility to those who switch from public schools. One of the bills says siblings of youngsters already getting a voucher also can get the funding.

A second one provides vouchers, known as education scholarship accounts, to the children of those in the military who were killed in the line of duty.

Other measures signed Wednesday by Brewer include:

• Allowing space flight customers to waive liability for death or injury;

• Permitting construction of a "virtual'' fence along the border if the funds can be found and not just a physical barrier;

• Allowing law enforcement officers to enforce prohibitions against trespassing for hunting, finshing and trapping on the request of a private landowner;

Brewer has so far signed 216 bills this session and vetoed 14. She now has through May 6 days to sign or veto whatever is now left on her desk.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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