Republican lawmakers pushed through a $542 million tax cut, the largest in state history. The amount is more than twice of what the GOP-led Legislature asked for at the beginning of the session when they were pushing for a $250 million reduction.
Schoolteachers were big winners this year as the Legislature pumped more money into education pay raises. Gov. Janet Napolitano was able to get $100 million for an acrossthe-board pay hike that also will boost the average starting salary for teachers to $30,000 per year. Additionally, the governor also got $160 million to expand voluntary full-day kindergarten during the next two years. The two issues were cornerstones of the governor’s legislative agenda.
Funding for the state’s universities was a major sticking point among GOP lawmakers as they worked toward a budget agreement. But after several proposals, they agreed to set aside $20 million to divide between Arizona State University, University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University. ASU will get the lion’s share of the money, which it intends to use for expanding the Polytechnic campus in Mesa.
Early in the session, several bills were introduced to heavily regulate or curb the use of photo speed enforcement programs on state highways, such as the one on Loop 101 in Scottsdale. But they were killed off one by one, including the most ambitious measure outlawing the practice. After sailing out of the Senate, the bill was never voted on by the House.
Border security and illegal immigration were the most ambitious issues on the GOP’s legislative agenda this year — and maybe its biggest failure. After promising to crack down on illegal immigration, the Legislature approved a comprehensive illegal immigration package sponsored by Rep. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa. It was later vetoed by Gov. Janet Napolitano. Then, after pledging to take most of the provisions of the bill to voters in the fall, lawmakers were only able to muster enough votes to get three of the measures on the ballot.
One of the first laws enacted by the Legislature was intended to allow residents of unincorporated islands in Gilbert to create a fire district that would require the town to provide fire and emergency service for a fee rather than be annexed. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, who lives in a county island.
But the law was overturned by Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Colin Campbell after the town filed a lawsuit that it unconstitutionally affected only Gilbert and no other communities. County officials and islanders have filed an appeal to Campbell’s decision.
Lawmakers tackled a host of other issues this year, such as requiring colored paper when writing reports critical of state programs and agencies and mandating that all school classrooms display the American flag — as long as it’s made in the U.S. Lawmakers also attempted to give college students the choice to opt out of course work that goes against their philosophical or religious views. They also acted on an issue that wasn’t on the radar screen when the session opened in January — making it illegal for people to have sex with animals.