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Posted: Thursday, March 4, 2010 10:37 am | Updated: 3:33 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Church zoning: Churches would get some special protections against local regulations under the terms of legislation approved Wednesday by the House.

Church zoning

Churches would get some special protections against local regulations under the terms of legislation approved Wednesday by the House.

HB2596 is designed to stop cities from blocking churches from locating in certain neighborhoods. That's what happened in Yuma when officials denied a permit for a church that wanted to locate in an area the city wants to develop into an entertainment district.

A church would automatically preclude any restaurants or bars within 300 feet. Other cities looking at downtown redevelopment are facing similar issues.

Rep. Steve Yarbrough, R-Chandler, said all the bill does is ensure that churches get the same treatment as any other landowner. But Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Phoenix, said the wording of the measure actually would give churches more power over where they want to be located than anyone else, regardless of the legitimate government interests involved.

Both Yuma legislators, Republican Russ Jones and Democrat Lynne Pancrazi, voted against the bill. Jones said the language of the legislation, which now goes to the Senate, is "vague and overreaching.''

Waste tires

The House voted 34-26 Wednesday for a three-year experiment to fill three abandoned mine shafts with waste tires.

Rep. Nancy McLain, R-Bullhead City, said it makes sense to use scrap tires to make the thousands of unmarked mine shafts safe. She said there is no shortage of tires.

But Rep. Nancy Young Wright, D-Tucson, said using tires is a bad idea, as they decay over time and the chemicals can leach into the ground water. She also said there is a danger of the tires catching fire.

Rep. Bill Konopnicki, R-Safford, countered that limiting this experiment to three sites will give lawmakers a chance to see if the idea makes sense. And Rep. Ray Barnes, R-Phoenix, said the tires will be no more hazardous than they are now piled up at some sites where they can catch fire.

HB2290 now goes to the Senate.

Abortion coverage

Local governments would be precluded from including coverage for elective abortions in the insurance they provide their workers under the terms of legislation approved by the Senate on Wednesday on at 16-12 vote.

Backers of SB1305 said it is simply an extension of existing laws which preclude public funds from being used to pay for a procedure that some people find objectionable. Sen. Linda Gray, R-Glendale, said nothing in the measure precludes a woman from terminating a pregnancy if she uses her own money.

Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Tucson, called the legislation an "unnecessary intrusion into local government's autonomy to determine the kind of insurance coverage they should offer their employees.'' The bill now goes to the House.

Human egg donations

The Senate voted 16-12 Wednesday to ban the sale of human eggs for anything other than in vitro fertilization.

SB1306 also would require that doctors spell out certain risks associated with the drugs used to stimulate a woman's egg production as well as the surgical procedure to harvest them. Women also would need to be told there may be other, unknown risks because of the lack of study of the long-term effects on donors.

Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Tucson, said the new requirements in the bill, which now needs House approval, are unnecessary and will reduce the availability of eggs to help infertile couples.

Lawmakers as lobbyists

A measure to let lawmakers become instant lobbyists on leaving the Legislature suffered at least a temporary setback on Wednesday.

On a 16-12 vote the Senate rejected the proposal by Sen. Jack Harper, R-Surprise, to repeal a nearly two decade old law which forbids legislators from lobbying their former colleagues for at least a year after leaving office. Harper said it was a matter of "economic liberty.''

But Sen. Paula Aboud, D-Tucson, said it's "really important that this Legislature be able to show integrity in making decisions without the potential of going to work for anybody that's coming to ask for our vote.'' Harper said he may use a procedural move to resurrect the measure.

State parks

Without dissent the Senate voted Wednesday to let the state Parks Department seek offers to operate some facilities without going through the normal bidding process.

SB 1349 is designed to expedite the process of seeing if some private group or local or tribal government would be willing to use its own funds to keep the parks open. Cuts in funding made by legislators already have resulted in the closure of two parks, with five more set to close March 29 and six others set to be shut June 3.

The bill now needs House approval.

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