When lawmakers return to the capitol on Monday, they will be faced with a bucket of red ink, estimated around $1.4 billion for this year and $3 billion for next.And while the budget will suck most of the oxygen out of the room, lawmakers have found time to focus on some other issues, filing bills now in the hope that their pet ideas will become law by June.Some early bills include:Taxpayer donations: House Bill 2001 would set up an “I didn’t pay enough fund” where taxpayers could check a box on their tax returns to donate money to help the state out of its budget mess. It sidesteps the governor’s request to temporarily increase the state sales tax to raise money to deal with the deficit. The bill has been signed onto by 46 GOP lawmakers, including Rep. John McComish (R-Ahwatukee Foothills) Firearms and professors: Senate Bill 1011 has nothing to do with the budget, but would allow a faculty member at any community college or state university to carry a gun on campus if they already have a concealed weapon permit.No vote, no pay: HB 2019 would strip lawmakers of a day’s pay if they missed a vote without an excuse. An ASU Cronkite News Service report showed that in 2009 13 House and 8 Senate members missed 20 percent or more of the roll call votes, which if this bill were to become law, would equate to between a $7,000 to $10,000 hit on their $24,000 a year salary. New license plates: SB 1008 would create three new license plates: Multiple sclerosis awareness; Masonic fraternity and Hunger relief. The catch is that each carries a $32,000 price tag to pay for set-up costs, which means that someone has to write a check before the state will begin to make one of the new vanity plates. The up side is that for each specialty license plate sold, the sponsor organization will get $17.Senate wants last word on all judges: Senate Concurrent Resolution 1002 would axe the current Commission on Trial Court Appointments, which weeds through judicial applicants and gives the governor three top choices to pick from when a vacancy occurs. Instead, if voters OK this constitutional amendment, the governor would pick a replacement, but the nominee have to be approved by the Senate, which every four years would reconfirm judges.Limits on liability: If approved by voters, SCR 1003 would allow lawmakers to limit jury awards in wrongful death or injury lawsuits by dumping Article II, Section 31 of the state constitution, which says “No law shall be enacted in this state limiting the amount of damages to be recovered for causing the death or injury of any person.” To follow these, or any other legislation, visit www.azleg.gov.
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