At the Legislature ...

Resign to run

PHOENIX -- Arizona politicians will be able to announce their intent to see another office whenever they want under the terms of legislation approved Monday by the state House of Representatives.

A 1980 voter-approved law says that any official who formally start to run for a new office more than one year before the end of his or her term must step down. But Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, said the law already is full of loopholes.

"You can currently form an exploratory committee, form an actual (campaign) committee, collect signatures, raise money,' he said. That leaves only two things that cannot happen: a formal declaration of candidacy and actually filing the nominating papers with the Secretary of State.

HB 2157 would permit that formal declaration.

"It lets you be truthful to the people and tell them what you're doing,' he said.

The 40-19 vote sends the bill to the Senate.

Recall laws

PHOENIX -- The Senate voted 16-12 on Monday to impose new restrictions on spending on recall elections.

SB 1262 would apply certain limits on contributions to recall campaigns. Potentially more significant, those limits would kick in the moment any group actually decided to start circulating petitions, not when the petition drive was successful and an election is called.

"It would make it almost impossible for any recall to be successful,' said Sen. Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix. "It is a process that allows the people to hold us accountable.'

Supporter of the measure, which now goes to the House, say it is important for the public to know who is financing recall efforts.

There has been only one successful recall of a state official: the 2011 ouster of Senate President Russell Pearce, R-Mesa.

Initiatives

PHOENIX -- Individuals or groups that want to propose their own laws or constitutional amendments would face an additional hurdle under the terms of a measure approved Monday by the Senate.

Current law allows those pushing initiatives to get their signatures from registered voters wherever they want. SCR 1019 would require that signatures come from at least five of the state's 15 counties and that at least 25 percent of the signature be from residents outside Maricopa and Pima counties.

The 16-12 vote sends the measure to the House. But even if it is approved there, it would have to be ratified by the voters in 2014.

Environmental audits

PHOENIX -- On a 39-17 vote the House approved a measure allowing businesses to shield certain information about their violations of health and environmental laws from those who might seek to sue them.

HB 2485 creates a special "privilege' for health and safety reports and audits that companies do of their own products and practices. That means these reports can be kept confidential not only from those who file suit but also from government regulators.

Rep. Justin Pierce, R-Mesa, said the move actually will protect safety.

"Companies simply aren't going to engage in these sorts of audits,' he said. "They're not going to do the right thing for fear of being punished for the good deed.'

But Rep. Victoria Steele, D-Tucson, said her constituents fear allowing firms to hide this kind of information.

"It is going to affect children, workers, business owners,' she said. "It allows people to keep things secret.'

But Rep. Heather Carter, R-Cave Creek, said the legislation, which now goes to the Senate, provides the privilege only if a company actually cleans up what it finds.

Tax credits

The House voted 44-15 to let insurance companies take up to $50 million in credits against taxes they owe the state in the next three years if they invest that much in new high-tech firms.

HB 2646 would have the funding go to the state's quasi-public Commerce Authority which would identify companies headquartered in Arizona and provide some money for them to grow. That gets around constitutional prohibitions which bar the state from using its own funds to aid private companies.

House Speaker Andy Tobin, R-Paulden, said the legislation would help fill a need of firms that need capital to grow.

As crafted, if the investments are successful the first $50 million would repay the state treasury for lost revenues. The carrot for the insurance companies is that they would share in any profits above that amount.

The measure now goes to the Senate. A vote on a separate and more expansive tax break for businesses which had been scheduled for Monday was postponed.

-- Capitol Media Services

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