Arizona State Senate Announces Committees, Chairs

Senate President Andy Biggs today announced Senate committees and the chairs overseeing them for the 52nd Legislature.

Senator Don Shooter will continue to chair the Senate Committee on Appropriations. The Health & Human Services Committee will remain chaired by Senator Nancy Barto and Senator Steve Pierce continues to chair the Committee on Natural Resources.

Senator Gail Griffin chairs the Committee on Energy. Senator Kelli Ward will now chair the Committee on Education. Senator Kimberly Yee will now run the Committee on Commerce & Workforce Development.

Senator Adam Driggs moves into the chair for the Judiciary Committee. The Transportation Committee will now be chaired by Senator Bob Worsley. Senator Judy Burges now chairs the Committee on Federalism, Mandates & Fiscal Responsibility, and Senator David Farnsworth heads the Committee on Financial Institutions.

The four Senators-elect moving over from the House of Representatives will chair committees: Sen.-elect John Kavanagh/Government Committee, Sen.-elect Debbie Lesko/Finance Committee, Sen.-elect Steve Smith/Public Safety, Military & Technology and Sen.-elect Jeff Dial/State Debt & Budget Reform. Sen.-elect Sylvia Allen returns to the Senate to chair the Committee on Rural Affairs & Environment. President Biggs will serve as Rules Committee Chair.

Appropriations Sen. Don Shooter
Health & Human Services Sen. Nancy Barto
Natural Resources Sen. Steve Pierce
Energy Sen. Gail Griffin
Education Sen. Kelli Ward
Commerce & Workforce Development Sen. Kimberly Yee
Judiciary Sen. Adam Driggs
Transportation Sen. Bob Worsley
Federalism, Mandates & Fiscal Responsibility Sen. Judy Burges
Financial Institutions Sen. David Farnsworth
Government Sen.-elect John Kavanagh
Finance Sen.-elect Debbie Lesko
Public Safety, Military & Technology Sen.-elect Steve Smith
State Debt & Budget Reform Sen.-elect Jeff Dial
Rural Affairs & Environment Sen.-elect Sylvia Allen
Rules Pres. Andy Biggs

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State Senate announces leadership team

President Biggs

President Biggs

Senator Yarbrough

Senator Yarbrough

Senator Griffin

Senator Griffin

Senator Andy Biggs of Gilbert will remain as President of the Arizona State Senate, after a post-election organizational meeting by the Republican Majority.

This will be Biggs’ second term as President, after being elected to the post in January 2013. He will be joined on the leadership team by Majority Leader Steve Yarbrough and Majority Whip Gail Griffin.

President Biggs entered the State Legislature in 2003. Before serving as Senate President, he was Senate Majority Leader and Appropriations Chair.

Majority Leader Yarbrough also entered the Legislature in 2003. He is currently the Chair of the Senate Finance Committee and Chair of the Ethics Committee. He lives in Chandler.

Majority Whip Griffin was sworn into the Senate in 2011, after serving in the House of Representatives. She is currently President Pro Tempore of the Senate. Senator Griffin is Chair of the Government and Environment Committee. She lives in Hereford.

New leadership will be effective at the start of the next term in January, the 52nd Legislature, First Regular Session.

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Statement from Senate President Andy Biggs on the passing of Senator Chester Crandell

“This evening we learned of the sudden passing of our colleague and friend Senator Chester Crandell. The Navajo County Sheriff’s Office says Senator Crandell died while he was horseback riding near his home in Heber.

Chester was a wonderful man who was kind to all and had a deep passion for improving life in Arizona. As Vice-Chair of the Senate Education Committee, he was able to use his previous experience in the schools to make positive reforms. He was also one of the strongest voices for rural Arizona.

Senator Crandell

Senator Crandell

 No one worked harder at the Senate than Chester. He was here early every morning, responding to the concerns of his constituents. He was a man of integrity and high character.

 This is a devastating loss to our community. We all will miss his smile and his love for the job he did. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife Alice and their family.”

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Wildfire blame lies with feds, not Arizona lawmakers

Sen. Steve Pierce: Should we have done more to protect state land from wildfire? Yes. But we did what we could.

Senator Pierce

Senator Pierce

As chairman of the Senate Natural Resources Committee, I was disappointed by The Arizona Republic’s characterization of the Legislature’s efforts to combat wildfire in the June 18 front-page story, “State opts to keep playing with fire.”

The Republic claims the Legislature should have done more than appropriate $1.4 million to the state forester for removal of vegetation on state trust land. It proceeds to make the same tired arguments about requiring property owners to clear brush from their property.

To read the rest of the piece, click here:

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Arizona Schools Getting 118 School Safety Resource Officers

Legislative Committee approves District applications, shows continued commitment to school safety

Senator Yee

Senator Yee

A joint committee at the State Legislature today approved funding for 118 school safety resource officers on campuses across Arizona. The School Safety Program Oversight Committee, co-chaired by Senate Education Committee Chair Kimberly Yee, agreed to spend nearly $12 million on the school safety program for the upcoming school year. School safety resource officers will be added on campuses from Yuma to Nogales, from Show Low to Bullhead City.

In addition to providing school safety resource officers, the School Safety Program requires law related education to equip students with knowledge and skills pertaining to law, school safety and effective citizenship.

Arizona voters approved Proposition 301 in 2000, which provides the bulk of funding for the School Safety Program. In 2013, the Legislature committed to additional funding for the program, including $3.6 million in the upcoming fiscal year.

“Today’s action is another sign of this Legislature’s focus on the importance of school safety. We must do all we can to make sure our students feel safe when they are being educated in our public schools,” said Co-chair Yee.

“The importance of law related education should not be ignored. School safety is more than just adding a safety officer on campus. Law related education reinforces to students the significance of a safe environment at their school. It also teaches students the basics of the law and prevention,” said Senator Yee.

Thirty two districts were awarded today, at 137 school sites. In addition to the 118 school safety resource officers, three juvenile probation officers were also added.

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Senator Griffin joins Congressmen in opposing new EPA water rule

Senator Griffin

Senator Griffin

Calling it a “wholesale attack on rural Arizona,” State Senator Gail Griffin (R-Hereford) joined four Arizona Congressmen and a host of ranching, agriculture, and water experts in condemning the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) recently-announced expansion of the agency’s regulatory authority under the Clean Water Act at a Congressional field hearing at the State Capitol on Monday.

In prepared remarks, Senator Griffin strongly condemned the EPA’s proposed rule as “nothing less than an unlawful expansion of federal regulation over routine farming and ranching practices, as well as other common private land uses, such as home building.”

“For the first time in history, this rule would give federal regulators authority over irrigation ditches, storm water systems, roadside ditches, waters located within riparian and floodplain areas, and dry washes. All of these so-called ‘waters’—even if they don’t have water in them—could be subject to EPA regulations under this proposed rule.

“Under this rule, if approved, everyday activities like grazing cattle, plowing a field, applying fertilizer, managing weeds, building a home, or even simply planting a tree, could now require a permit from the federal government. What this means is that a regulator sitting behind a desk in San Francisco or Washington, D.C. could decide whether a farmer tilling his field in rural Arizona is a threat to the water quality of a dry river.

“It takes a special kind of arrogance to assert that a wash or irrigation ditch with no water flowing in it should be subject to the Clean Water Act; yet that is exactly what the EPA is proposing.”

Senator Griffin was not alone in condemning the EPA proposal. Arizona Congressmen Trent Franks, Paul Gosar, David Schweikert and Matt Salmon each expressed their strong opposition to what they called a massive expansion of federal regulatory authority that would have a devastating impact on Arizona’s economy.

“This rule is one of the largest expansions of federal power in our nation’s history,” Congressman Gosar explained. “The EPA’s shoddy economic analysis [of the rule] contains so many errors, omissions, and flawed assumptions that experts like [University of California, Berkeley Professor] David Sunding are calling it ‘virtually meaningless.’ In its rush to implement the President’s radical agenda, the EPA published this new rule without waiting for expert advice.”

“The vague terms used in this rule promise to subject everyday Americans to invasive, burdensome regulations that could very well crush them through lengthy court proceedings and exorbitant litigation costs,” Congressman Salmon said. “[T]he proposed rule could also prohibit ranchers and farmers from lawfully making necessary, on-the-spot decisions that are essential to the success of their herd or crops. For the first time ever, the EPA is defining ditches as tributaries, which would subject private land owners to a whole slew of complicated regulatory penalties.”

The Congressmen and Senator Griffin heard testimony from two panels of experts, including representatives of Arizona’s agriculture, home building, irrigation, and water industries.

Stefanie Smallhouse, a Cochise County rancher and First Vice President of the Arizona Farm Bureau, told the hearing that the rule would be devastating to Arizona’s agriculture industry. “The newly proposed EPA rule for the Waters of the U.S. would be devastating to my family’s farming operation, as well as hundreds of others in agriculture in Arizona…This proposed rule is an economic disaster, and a dream killer for my kids. There is no way a family farm such as ours would be able to withstand the hefty fines which would be enforced as a result of this rule.”

Robert Lynch, an attorney for Arizona irrigation and electrical districts, testified that the rule would have real impacts on everyday activities on private property. “The EPA and the Corps have driven a truck through Justice Kennedy’s opinion in Rapanos. According to them, everything is relevant, everything affects everything, and everything is jurisdictional… How many permits will the Central Arizona Project need? Will it have to treat the water before it stores it in Lake Pleasant? Before it releases it back into its system to deliver to cities, towns, industries and agriculture? And who will be able to afford it? Certainly not agriculture…

Mr. Lynch concluded, “This may be the biggest jurisdictional overreach that I have witnessed in 50 years of law practice. I hate to say it but the only people who come out ahead on this proposed rule are lawyers.”

Representatives from Arizona’s housing and real estate industries agreed that the rule would have a detrimental impact on the state’s housing market.

“This rule is a thinly veiled attempt to assert the federal government’s reach to any property with water,” said Nicole LaSlavic of the Arizona Association of Realtors.

Similarly, Spencer Kamps of the Central Arizona Homebuilders Association warned that the rule would slow Arizona’s housing recovery. “This is a blanket rule that would extend federal jurisdiction to ephemeral streams and dry washes. It would have a significant adverse impact on our industry and on the economy of the state.”

Senator Griffin concluded her remarks by calling on Congress to act. “It’s time for Congress to reign in the EPA and other federal agencies before it’s too late. Federal environmental regulations are killing rural America. Arizona’s economy—especially its natural resources industries—can only absorb so much.”

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Highlights of the 2014 Legislative Session

Arizona State Senate
Highlights of the 51st Legislature
Second Regular Session

(Unless otherwise noted, all bills were signed into law)


The Republican Legislative Majority continued its conservative, pragmatic approach to enacting a balanced FY 15 budget. By finalizing a budget that utilizes three-year revenue and spending forecasts, the Legislature and Governor have attempted to minimize the prospect of the feast or famine swings from prior years. An essential component of the FY 15 final budget package is the incorporation of the Financial Advisory Committee’s (FAC) revenue estimates and the Joint Legislative Budget Committee’s (JLBC) caseload/baseline estimates.

The State budget has General Fund spending $422 million above FY 14, for a total of $9.23 billion. The Republican Legislature continues to focus on the education and safety of Arizona’s children, with 72% of the new money going to K-12, higher education, and Child Protective Services.

 K-12 – Total K-12 spending increased by $187.6 million

o Formula/Inflation $132.1 million
o District Charter Schools $ 24.5 million
o Student Success Funding $ 20.0 million
o JTEDs $ 2.0 million
o Testing Costs $ 8.0 million
o Student IT Certifications $ 1.0 million

 Child Protective Services – Total CPS spending increased by $59.7 million

o 242 CPS Case Workers $ 15.3 million
o OCWI/Attorneys/Staff $ 3.3 million
o Family Services $ 16.1 million
o Transition/Automation $ 25.0 million

To see the complete document, click here

2014 Accomplishments of the Majority Caucus

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