Government Goings-On

The Legislature appears determined to adjourn by April 30. Last-minute shenanigans are thus in order. Of 1,163 bills introduced, 300 are still alive, and must be handled. Striker bills — in which the original language is totally deleted and an entirely new proposal inserted — are showing up. Fortunately, few affect water. Some highlights:

HB2523: Striker that would allow Member Lands in zombie subdivisions that will never be built to de-enroll from the Central Arizona Groundwater Replenishment District. This would lower CAGRD’s replenishment obligation. The language was actually worked out with stakeholders last year, but this session didn’t look favorable in January and CAWCD decided not to run the bill. Then they saw their chance. The striker bill awaits consideration in the Senate.

SB1147: Strike-everything bill that allows $237,386 of stranded Nevada money to be used to buy water for Indian firming by the Arizona Water Banking Authority. (“Firming” is storage of water underground to cover future curtailments in CAP canal deliveries). With a shortage declaration on the Colorado River looming in 2016 or 2017, any firming is a good thing. Thank you, Las Vegas.

HB2661: Extends the authority for the CAWCD to levy a four cent ad valorem property tax for water storage and other purposes through 2030; although after 2024 the tax could not exceed three cents. The authority exists now, but expires in 2017, and CAWCD doesn’t want to lose it, as expensive emissions control technology must be installed at Navajo Generating Station by 2030. The bill awaits action in the Senate.

HB2570: Advertised as a property rights bill, its true intent was to restrict the planning authority of cities, which would not be allowed to require a developer to leave protected desert vegetation in place if the Agriculture Department has already issued a permit for removal. Cities would also not be allowed to specify density of landscaping or require specific types of vegetation, potentially including low water usage plants. Recognizing the threat to municipal ability to pursue water conservation through xeriscaping, the Arizona Municipal Water Users Association and Arizona Forward came out in opposition, and the Arizona Republic wrote editorials opposing the bill. The bill’s sponsor has requested that the bill be held, so opposition appears to have been effective.

And there still remain a number of loony-tune bills out there, such as one forbidding Arizona entities like CAWCD, which must operate the CAP canal according to Federal regulations, from enforcing Federal regulations concerning firearms. Or the one forbidding agencies from engaging in any rule-making that might impact property rights or businesses (note that Governor Ducey has already had a rules moratorium in place since inauguration). Or the one that demands the Federal government turn over all Federal lands to the state. Rumor has it that the Legislature may pass some of the loonier bills just to see if the new Governor will sign them. Let’s hope the Governor is politically astute enough to sidestep the landmines the Legislature could send his way.

— Alan Dulaney

 

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