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"Dozens of other issues already are vying for legislative attention this session."

Dozens of other issues already are vying for legislative attention this session.

Social issues

At or near the top of the list here is the question of sex education: who should get it and what should students be taught.

Current law makes sex education optional, with parents having to specifically opt-in for their children to be enrolled. But Rep. Pamela Powers Hannley, D-Tucson, proposes to reverse it with a presumption children get sex-ed unless the parents opt-out.

She wants  to require programs provide “medically accurate and comprehensive’’ education, including that beginning in middle or junior high school students get “age-appropriate’’ information on everything from disease prevention to contraception.

Look for stiff opposition from some Republicans including House Speaker Rusty Bowers, R-Mesa, who said materials he believes are being used in sex-ed courses in Arizona schools “are grooming children to be sexualized.’’

Sen. Sylvia Allen, R-Snowflake, already has crafted legislation to prohibit sex education before the seventh grade. 

Allen’s SB 1082, already set for a Tuesday hearing in the Senate Education Committee she chairs, also requires programs not just promote abstinence -- already in law -- but it encourages sexually active students to “return to abstinence.’’ And it says sex-ed must “emphasize sexual risk avoidance rather than sexual risk reduction.’’

New fights may also be brewing over abortion.

The next round is likely to be over the question of how late into pregnancy an abortion can be performed, with other states -- anticipating a changed attitude at the U.S. Supreme Court -- enacting laws banning the procedure at the point of fetal heartbeat, about six or seven weeks into pregnancy. 

Health and welfare

The debate here starts with whether Arizona will prohibit insurance companies from refusing to provide health coverage for those with preexisting conditions.

That’s a key requirement of the federal Affordable Care Act. But Republican officials from several states, including Arizona, are asking judges to void the remaining provisions of the law.

There is a political risk to Republicans if the popular mandate goes away and there is nothing to replace it. So even Attorney General Mark Brnovich and Sen. J.D. Mesnard, both Republicans, are crafting language they say would kick in should the federal law be voided.

Also look for renewed debate over vaping.

Some of what was at the center of last year’s pitched battles may no longer be  an issue now the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has set the minimum age for tobacco use to 21 and banned most flavored products. 

It remains to be seen, however, whether the federal law is, in fact, enforceable in Arizona.

In any case. Sen. Heather Carter, R-Cave Creek, still wants to put vaping under the same laws governing tobacco use and sales. It means not just the penalties for selling to those under age but also the same restrictions as cigarettes on where people can smoke.

Rep. John Allen, R-Scottsdale, backed by vaping retailers, wants sales and use regulated separately. More significant, he does not want local governments to impose their own stricter regulations.

There will be a push by some lawmakers to have the Legislature enact laws allowing the recreational use of marijuana.

One argument is anything approved by lawmakers is preferable than something enacted at the ballot box. And then there’s the fact voter-approved measures cannot be altered by the Legislature.

Finally, look for debate over the issue of vaccination of children and how broad should be the exceptions parents cite in refusing to immunizing youngsters against certain diseases.

Law and order

The big fight here is over who should be behind bars and for how long.

There are currently more than 42,000 people in the custody of the Department of Corrections, with the agency eating up close to 10 percent of the state’s $11.8 billion budget. 

That has some legislators from both parties reviewing everything from mandatory sentencing laws to whether to allow early release of inmates who complete counseling and drug treatment.

Less clear is whether Gov. Doug Ducey will have any better luck this year in getting lawmakers to approve his Safe Arizona Schools plan.

This plan, called Severe Threat Order of Protection, would allow not just police but also family members and others to seek a court order to have law enforcement take an individual’s weapons while he or she is locked up for up to 21 days for a mental evaluation. 

Ducey called it “the one tool that could have eliminated the mass shootings that have happened in other places in the country.’’

But the plan has stalled amid opposition from those who say it infringes on constitutional rights and lacks due-process protections.

Trade and commerce

The big fight here is likely to be 

over vacation rentals, specifically how much authority local governments can exercise.

A 2016 law stripped cities of any oversight based on the premise these regulations interfered with the property rights of homeowners to rent out a spare room. 

But what has developed has been quite different, with investors buying up homes and condos solely for the purpose of creating what some lawmakers say are unregulated hotels.

Aside from noise complaints is the issue of whether the practice is drying up the supply of affordable housing. But Gov. Doug Ducey has indicated he would agree to only minor changes in the law.

Lawmakers also are being asked to consider whether companies that lend money secured by a vehicle title should remain exempt from state usury laws which generally limit allowable interest charges to 36 percent a year. Rates on title loans can exceed 200 percent.

There also have been companies using the title loan interest cap exception to lend money at the higher interest rates even though there is no title actually being held.

Rep. David Cook, R-Globe, – and a rancher – is leading the fight to say that the only thing that can be labeled “meat” -- or beef, chicken, pork or lamb -- has to have come from an animal that was at one time living and breathing.

Those 20-year compact that gave Native American tribes exclusive rights to operate casinos in exchange for sharing profits with the state are starting to expire. Look for them to seek permission to take wagers on sporting events, something now legal under federal law.

At the same time, others, including horse track owners, want any new compacts to include the right to accept wagers on sporting events at off-track betting sites.

And Arizona lawmakers may weigh following the lead of California in allowing athletes at state universities to be compensated in the form of contracts for endorsements and sponsorships of products.

Miscellaneous

A bid by lawmakers to raise their own daily allowances, a move that comes after voters have repeatedly refused to raise their $24,000 a year salaries.

Expanding the time limits for childhood victims of sexual assault and abuse to sue their assailants.

Making it easier for county supervisors to fire other elected county officials, an issue that arose until Maricopa County Assessor Paul Pedersen agreed to quit following his arrest on baby trafficking charges.

Imposing new restrictions on the ability of groups to propose their own laws and constitutional amendments through the initiative process.

Allowing or prohibiting individuals to list the gender with which they identify on driver’s licenses and other state-issued ID cards.

Barring schools from telling students they cannot wear “cultural regalia’’ while participating in graduation ceremonies.

Requiring those seeking public records to provide name, address, telephone number and any email address.

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