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Updated Feb 4, 2014 - 4:10 pm

Arizona lawmakers want length limits on sessions

PHOENIX — Some Arizona lawmakers say shorter would be better as far as
legislative sessions are concerned.

Proposals either formally introduced or being prepared for consideration would
set firm limits on the length of regular sessions, which begin in January.

A bill introduced by Senate Majority Leader John McComish, R-Phoenix, would
limit sessions to 100 days, while Rep. J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, wants to end
sessions by May 1 and Rep. Jeff Dial, R-Chandler, wants them to begin in
February and be limited to 45 days.

Multiple regular sessions in several recent decades have run well past
lawmakers’ self-imposed 100-day targets for adjournment.

The 2013 session went 151 days, thanks to the contentious Medicaid-expansion
issue, while the 2009 session lasted 170 days because of an extended budget
fight.

The 1988, 1900 and 1992 sessions went longer at 173, 172 and 171 days,
respectively, the Arizona Capitol Times (http://bit.ly/1bZDKd8 ) reported.

Supporters of the idea of new session limits say shorter, more predictable
lengths would help citizen-lawmakers fit legislative service in with their other
jobs and force legislators to be more focused on proposals they consider.

McComish said employers want to know when they can expect their l employees to
return to work, and the unstructured nature of Arizona’s sessions makes that an
impossible question to answer.

“It’s pretty hard for your employer to go along with that,” McComish said.
“And I think it would help to broaden the pool of candidates for the
Legislature.”

Glenn Hamer, president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry,
said enactment of session limits could result in more business-friendly
lawmakers.

“We want the best possible, most representative legislature that we can
possibly have,” Hamer said. “And when you have people who are working for
businesses that would make terrific legislators but are unable to do so because
of the . lack of predictability of the session, it’s a problem. It’s a citizen
legislature.”

McComish and Dial both envision structured periods between sessions when
lawmakers would meet periodically. McComish’s proposal would create monthly
committee hearings to study issues and hold hearings on proposed legislation.
Dial suggests allowing the Legislature to meet for three days a month during the
interim.

At least one legislative leader expressed misgivings about proposed new limits,
saying they could cause legislation to be rushed even more than is done now.

Better to consider limiting the number of bills that individual lawmakers can
introduce and to consider switching to a full-time legislature, said House
Minority Leader Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix.

“I don’t think an artificial cap on our timeline is going to solve any
problems,” Campbell said.

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