Wednesday, December 03, 2014

AZ Lege 2015: the first one out of the gate is...

Well, you can tell the start of a new legislative session is nigh when legislators start "pre-filing" bills.

Generally speaking, such early bills are no more successful than bills that are filed once the session starts (for various reasons, most bill proposals don't go anywhere).

However, they serve as good discussion fodder during the political equivalent of baseball's "hot stove" season.

This year, the first legislator to have bills posted on the lege's website is Representative, and soon-to-be State Senator, John Kavanagh (R-Fountain Hills).

He has filed SB1001, "nuclear emergency appropriations; assessments" and SB1002, "prisoners; compensation for labor performed".

SB1001 is a relatively non-controversial measure to fund nuclear emergency planning for two fiscal years, with the funds coming from an assessment (aka - tax) on the operators of the state's nuclear power generating station.  Versions of this have passed before; this one will probably see smooth sailing and pass in 2015.

SB1002, however, could see some major headwinds.

It would triple the maximum compensation that a prisoner in a state, or privately-operated, prison could receive for their labor, with certain exceptions.

Don't get too excited - the current limit is 50 cents per hour; tripling that still leaves the compensation at barely above "slave wage" levels.

Even that, though, may be too rich for legislators who like to score political points by beating up on appearing tough toward those that they consider to be weaker than them.

More importantly, given Kavanagh's close relationship with the private prison industry and the fact that this bill would cost the industry money, the bill probably won't pass as is.

Caveat: there could be some backroom finagling going on here, some nuance to this that I do not see right now where the ultimate beneficiaries of this are the private prisons, or the companies that contract for the use of prison labor.

It could just die a quiet death (not get taken up by a committee, or not see floor action if it does pass committee).

It could be watered down (increase the compensation limit, but by a smaller amount).

Finally, it could be utilized as a "vehicle" bill (have the guts of the bill stripped out and replaced the text of another, via a "strike everything amendment", aka - a "striker").

Whatever the ultimate fates of these two bills, they are just the first of 1000?  1200?  more? proposals that the lege will consider.

Can't say that I think it will be a "fun" ride, but it should be an interesting one...

1 comment:

John said...

Before the rumor mill gets into high gear on the prison wage bill, let me explain.

The Arizona Department of Corrections asked me to run this bill for two reasons. First, to update the wage rate with inflationary increases because the current low rate was set many years ago. Second, to end an unexpected negative consequence of the rate staying so low.

The unexpected negative consequence was the difficulty of getting prisoners to sign up for more difficult and skilled jobs because they paid the same as easier less demanding ones. In fact, a company that wants to pay prisoners more money to do more demanding work asked for permission to pay prisoners more.

I do not believe conservatives will oppose this because it brings more free market tools into the prison workplace, will not cost the taxpayer more money and will enable prisoners to send more funds to their dependents who may be on government assistance programs.

State Rep. John Kavanagh
Bill sponsor