5 KEY ISSUES FOR THE 2007 LEGISLATURE
January 7, 2007
Author: Mary Jo Pitzl, The Arizona Republic Estimated printed pages: 2
Expect the Republicans who control the Legislature to have a game plan for what
they want to do in this year's session. But don't expect to see it Monday, when
the 48th Legislature is sworn in and gets down to work.
Republican leaders have been working away at an agenda, a process slowed by
tougher-than-expected battles for re-election and a somewhat fractured caucus.
And Democrats, with bigger numbers in the House than they have had in years, are
eager to get to work. Framing the debate is the state's budget
picture: There will not be as much money to play around with as last year.
Still, the top issues for lawmakers are clear:
Sen. Bob Burns, R-Peoria, already has introduced legislation to take $450
million from the state's "rainy day fund" and use it to speed up construction of
freeway projects. It's one approach to what most agree is a pressing need: Get
more lanes built on the state's highways. It's also likely to spark a debate
over whether it's prudent to tap into this fund so soon after the state dug its
way out of a budget hole.
Taxes and budget
Republican leaders are intent on continuing the tax-reduction trajectory they
started last year. A key target is to abolish the county education tax.
The Legislature last year put the tax on hold for three years, using money from
the general fund to not affect school funding. Now lawmakers want to make it
permanent. There also will be bids to build on the 10 percent cut in the state
income tax that was approved last year and to accelerate the cut in the ratio
used to assess business property.
The amount of money needed to teach English-language learners in the state's
schools is still an open question and is the subject of an upcoming federal
court hearing. Republicans are expected to continue to seek tuition tax credits
to benefit private schools. Expect teacher pay and university funding to be
other hot topics.
Last year's hotly debated issue will be back, but whether anything significant
passes is unclear. Expect bills on employer sanctions, more attention to border
enforcement, efforts to curb day laborers, and clarification on a smuggling law
that has been used to prosecute undocumented immigrants. The backdrop to this
debate is Congress, where the new Democratic majority is vowing to press ahead
with a guest-worker program, which could either inflame or placate Arizona
Secretary of State Jan Brewer is seeking legislation to move the state's primary
election a week earlier, as well as trim back the starting date for early voting
by a week. This would buy elections officials more time to deal with ballot
challenges and to get the general-election ballot printed in time. There might
be a bill to address the unintended consequences of the minimum-wage law on
developmentally disabled workers, though lawmakers are split as to whether there
is anything they can do.
Edition: Final Chaser
Copyright (c) The Arizona Republic. All rights reserved. Reproduced with the
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Record Number: pho161735898