PHOENIX — Democrats won crucial victories in the closing hours of the legislative session Friday morning as two changes to election laws failed.
A proposal to ask voters to scrap the voluntary system of public financing faltered when it came up two votes short of a majority in the House. Several Republicans crossed party lines to prevent a new vote on the measure first approved by voters in 1998.
The Republican majority in the House was having better luck with legislation to make it a felony for volunteer groups and organizations to collect early ballots from voters.
But that all came to naught about 1 a.m. when Senate President Andy Biggs, frustrated with what he said was the slow pace of action in the House, decided to shut his chamber down. That killed the measure because it needed a final Senate vote before going to the governor.
Also dying in the waning hours of the session was a proposal to ensure that charter schools sponsored by school districts did not lose half of their funds. Rep. Heather Carter, R-Cave Creek, said it was unfair to undermine some of the best charter schools in the state.
But House leadership blocked her effort to put the funding onto unrelated education legislation.
Lawmakers did give final approval to an unusual proposal to essentially put an asterisk on speed limit signs on state highways, one saying, in essence, that it's OK to drive 10 miles an hour faster than posted.
An amendment tacked on to a transportation bill forbids police from citing anyone doing only 10 miles per hour over the posted limit for speeding. Instead, they would be cited for "wasting a finite resource.''
One big difference is that the fine for wasting a resource is just $15. By contrast, conviction of speeding carries a $250 fine.
Potentially more significant, the state will not inform insurance companies of citations for wasting resources, meaning no boost in premiums.
That 10 mph allowance does not apply in school zones, residential and business areas, nor in construction zones.
But a separate traffic-related measure did not do so well as the House defeated a bid by Rep. Randall Friese, D-Tucson, to mandate that motorcycle and ATV riders wear helmets. That requirement now exists only for those younger than 18.
Friese acknowledged the measure would be an infringement on individual rights.
"The reason that I think that's OK is because we do that in other situations," he told colleagues. But he said there is precedent.
"Another situation where we ask someone to please refrain from doing something that might harm yourself or someone else using the roadways is we ask people to not drink and drive," Friese said.
In a bid to get votes, Friese crafted his plan with a loophole: Adults could opt out of wearing a helmet by paying a fee that would be set by the director of the Motor Vehicle Division. That did not impress Rep. Sonny Borrelli, R-Lake Havasu City, who said he already has that right.
"And to impose a fee on top of that is actually taxing that option," he said.
"Right now I have the freedom to choose or not to choose," Borrelli continued. "And to tax that freedom is fundamentally wrong."
The measure got no more support from R John Allen, R-Scottsdale, who rides a motorcycle and said he uses his helmet all the time.
"Whether or not I wear my helmet is none of your business," he said.
Earlier in the night lawmakers did vote to require the Department of Transportation to create an optional new type of driver's license that complies with the federal Real ID Act. That would allow those who purchase the new license to use them to board commercial aircraft when the Department of Homeland Security no longer recognizes non-compliant licenses — like the regular Arizona license — as early as January.
And lawmakers gave final approval to set minimum insurance requirements for rideshare services like Uber and Lyft, removing legal clouds from the service.