Arizona Republic
January 7, 2007

Author: Mary Jo Pitzl, The Arizona Republic Estimated printed pages: 2

Expect the Republicans who control the Legislature to have a game plan for what they want to do in this year's session. But don't expect to see it Monday, when the 48th Legislature is sworn in and gets down to work.
Republican leaders have been working away at an agenda, a process slowed by tougher-than-expected battles for re-election and a somewhat fractured caucus. And Democrats, with bigger numbers in the House than they have had in years, are eager to get to work. Framing the debate is the state's budget
picture: There will not be as much money to play around with as last year.
Still, the top issues for lawmakers are clear:

Transportation funding

Sen. Bob Burns, R-Peoria, already has introduced legislation to take $450 million from the state's "rainy day fund" and use it to speed up construction of freeway projects. It's one approach to what most agree is a pressing need: Get more lanes built on the state's highways. It's also likely to spark a debate over whether it's prudent to tap into this fund so soon after the state dug its way out of a budget hole.

Taxes and budget

Republican leaders are intent on continuing the tax-reduction trajectory they started last year. A key target is to abolish the county education tax.
The Legislature last year put the tax on hold for three years, using money from the general fund to not affect school funding. Now lawmakers want to make it permanent. There also will be bids to build on the 10 percent cut in the state income tax that was approved last year and to accelerate the cut in the ratio used to assess business property.

Education funding

The amount of money needed to teach English-language learners in the state's schools is still an open question and is the subject of an upcoming federal court hearing. Republicans are expected to continue to seek tuition tax credits to benefit private schools. Expect teacher pay and university funding to be other hot topics.


Last year's hotly debated issue will be back, but whether anything significant passes is unclear. Expect bills on employer sanctions, more attention to border enforcement, efforts to curb day laborers, and clarification on a smuggling law that has been used to prosecute undocumented immigrants. The backdrop to this debate is Congress, where the new Democratic majority is vowing to press ahead with a guest-worker program, which could either inflame or placate Arizona lawmakers.

Election reform

Secretary of State Jan Brewer is seeking legislation to move the state's primary election a week earlier, as well as trim back the starting date for early voting by a week. This would buy elections officials more time to deal with ballot challenges and to get the general-election ballot printed in time. There might be a bill to address the unintended consequences of the minimum-wage law on developmentally disabled workers, though lawmakers are split as to whether there is anything they can do.
Edition: Final Chaser
Section: Front
Page: A19

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Record Number: pho161735898