Arizona Legislature

The Arizona State Legislature is the body that makes the laws for the State. It is divided into the House of Representatives and the Senate. Representation in the State is split up into districts. There are 30 legislative districts, and districts 25-30 represent Pima County. Elections take place every two years, and 2008 is an election year. Primaries will be held Septmeber 2, and the general election will be held November 4. The Legislative session starts the second Monday of January each year and is supposed to last for 100 days. Now, the session continues on longer than that. Republicans have a majority in both the House and the Senate. The public can participate in a variety of ways, and if you want to watch what is going on, there is a live feed of committee hearings.

The House of Reprsentatives

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The House of Representatives has 60 members; two representatives from each of the Arizona’s 30 districts. Its leadership includes the Speaker of the House, Jim Weiers (Republican); Speaker pro tempore, Bob Robson (Republican); Majority Leader, Tom Boone (Republican); and Minority Leader, Phil Lopes (Democrat, from Tucson). The salary for each member is $2400. Each serves a two-year term and is limited to four consecutive terms. Contact: Barrett Marson, Director of Communications, (602) 926-3233

The Senate

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The Senate has 30 members, one from each of Arizona’s 30 districts. The leadership includes the President of the Senate, Tim Bee (Republican, from Tucson); President Pro Tempore, Robert Blendu (Rpublican); Majority Leader, Thayer Verschoor (Republican); and Minority Leader Marsha Arzberger (Democrat). The salary for a senator is $2400, the same as a representative. Each serves a two-year term and is limited to four consecutive terms.

How Does a Bill Become a Law?

The Legislature introduces around 1500 bills each session. In order for these bills to become laws, they go through a lengthy process. First, a Bill is introduced in either the House of Representatives or the Senate. It is then assigned to one or more committees. The Bill is heard in committee, then voted on. If it passes it goes before the entire body, or the Commitee of the Whole (COW). If it is passed it moves to the other body (i.e. House bills go to the Senate, and Senate bills go to the House). There, it goes through the whole process again. If it passes both bodies, the Bill is sent to the Governor, who then either signs or vetoes it.

Committees

The House has 21 standing committees, and the Senate has 16. Each committee is designated to a specific area of law and is used to filter the bills. For a bill to become a law, it must first be passed through a committee. It is easier for the Legislature to have committees review and vote on bills than having all bills go to the entire body. It is a time-saving mechanism.

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Current Issues:

The Legislature is also responsible for creating the State’s budget each year, and this year has presented many setbacks. The Legislature is currently tied up in a major budget deficit. The Joint Legislative Budget Committee has been crunching the numbers, and the lastest projections show a $1.2 billion shortfall in fiscal year 2008. Fiscal year 2009 projections show a $1.9 billion shortfall. These deficits have consumed the Legislature for the current session. Another issue the Legislature has addressed in the past couple of years is immigration. Bills pertaining to border issues are causing controversy, such as the employer sanctions law from last session.

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