A quick recap of top Capitol news this week - Ahwatukee Foothills News: City News

A quick recap of top Capitol news this week

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Posted: Thursday, March 14, 2013 2:53 pm

City elections

A bill approved Monday by the state House could radically revamp how cities and towns conduct their elections.

Under current law, the first vote among all candidates is designed to winnow down the field. The top two vote-getters then advance to what amounts to a runoff.

Rep. Justin Olson, R-Mesa, said problems arise when there are perhaps eight candidates with a conservative point of view and just two who are considered liberals.

With voters entitled to cast ballots for only one, Olson said that creates a “spoiler effect,’’ where the conservatives split the vote and the runoff in what might be a conservative community ending up between the two liberals.

HB 2518 would permit cities to alter their system so individuals could vote for as many — or as few — candidates as they want. Olson argued that would create a better chance for candidates whose views more realistically reflect that of the community.

Olson said that system would not work in Tucson which has partisan primaries.

Monday’s 31-26 vote sends the measure to the Senate.

Veteran hiring

Businesses could get state tax credits for hiring unemployed veterans under the terms of legislation approved Monday by the House.

HB 2484 would give companies an income tax credit equal to 10 percent of the worker’s annual salary or $2,000 per employee — $4,000 for someone who has a service-connected disability — whichever is less.

The veteran has to be honorably discharged for the employer to get the credit. And the salary would have to be equal to at least the median wage in the state.

The credit would be available to employers for hires made until the end of 2015.

Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, complained the legislation is too broad, saying it should instead focus only on those veterans who are disabled or recently separated.

He said the state has only a limited amount of money it can forego to an employer who hires someone who may have been out of the service for decades.

The measure sponsored by Rep. Mark Cardenas, D-Phoenix, passed anyway on a 47-11 vote and now goes to the Senate.

University student fees

The state House voted Monday to make it illegal for universities to collect fees from students on behalf of any outside group.

HB 2169 is specifically aimed at the Arizona Students Association. The group, until recently, got $2 a semester from each student, an assessment that could be refunded on a written request.

The Board of Regents last month voted to require students to specifically opt in to have the funds collected. The association has since filed suit claiming that move was in retaliation for its financial support of the unsuccessful ballot measure last year for a permanent one-cent hike in state sales taxes.

Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, said his legislation would statutorily block the universities from collecting these fees regardless of the outcome of the lawsuit.

Kavanagh said universities should not be in the business of helping any organization which uses some of its funds for political purposes.

Lawmakers rejected a proposal by House Minority Leader Chad Campbell, D-Tucson, to permit the association to get its fees through the university if it reimbursed the schools for any costs.

The measure, approved on a 35-24 margin, now goes to the Senate.

Text messages

The House on Monday unanimously approved legislation to make it illegal for anyone to send an unsolicited text message if the purpose is to try to get someone to buy something.

Existing law already bars the use of automated dialers to make voice calls for solicitations. HB 2312 extends that language to texts.

Lawmakers did agree to create exceptions when the intended recipient has given “prior express invitation or permission’’ or where that person has a prior existing business relationship with the sender.

The measure now moves to the Senate.

Parks fees

On a 50-8 margin the House approved legislation to allow individuals to make voluntary donations to operate state parks when they renew their vehicle registrations.

The parks system has been looking for a steady source of cash after state lawmakers, looking for cash in prior years to balance the budget, raided the Parks Department funding.

As originally crafted, HB 2621 would have given those who paid the voluntary fee — no amount was specified in the legislation — free daytime access to the parks. That was scrapped in favor of simply allowing the Parks Department to offer an unspecified “promotional gift.’’

The measure, which now requires Senate approval, spells out that 85 percent of anything donated would go to the Parks Department, with the balance kept by the Department of Transportation to cover its administrative costs.

• Briefs compiled by Capitol Media Services.

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