SUNSITES — If people who draw water from the Willcox Basin choose to form a water district to preserve the aquifer, they will have to come together and sell their objective to the state legislators for approval.
It is not an easy process, said Board of Supervisors member Peggy Judd at the final Willcox Water Project workshop July 8. To help her constituents understand how a bill moves through committees to the House and the Senate, she asked state Rep. Becky Nutt (R-District 14) and lobbyist James Candland to give an overview of the procedure.
Nutt, the House majority whip, explained each district has two representatives and one senator. A bill starts there, and after determining the bill has a true purpose and is supported, the legislators draft the language of the bill and send it to an attorney to craft it. Then it goes into a “hopper” along with hundreds of others.
Nutt said about 1,100 were processed last year. Only 200 were signed into law.
“It helps if your party is in the majority,” she said.
Candland noted, “If you’re not in the majority, you have a 1 percent chance to get bills passed.”
Candland suggested getting requests for legislation to representatives and senators after they return to session in November.
“Then they are assigned to the various committees for review,” Nutt said. “If the committee chairperson decides a bill isn’t something he or she wants to have heard by the committee, the bill is dead.”
Should the bill pass muster, it then goes to the Rules Committee, whose members declare it constitutional and put it on the calendar. The Speaker of the House determines when the bill will be heard.
The House membership reviews the selected bills, debates them, amends them or makes recommendations. Then a vote is taken and each member votes on it. If it passes, it goes to the Senate where the bill is read on the floor and then the same steps are taken prior to a vote.
If no changes are made in the Senate, the bill proceeds to the governor for signing into law.
Should any changes be made, it goes back to House for approval. If the House approves the Senate changes, the bill goes to the governor for signing.
If there are objections to the changes, the bill goes to the Conference Committee, made up of senators and representatives. They may approve the original language, amend the version or delete language to compromise disagreements. Then it goes back to the House for adoption and then on to the governor.
The governor can either sign or reject the bill. If he signs it, the bill becomes law. The Governor can also let the bill sit for five days without signing it and it becomes law.
The Governor can veto the bill, but the House and Senate can override his veto with two-thirds of the vote.
Though it has been suggested that rural counties in non-management areas regulate their own groundwater, Candland said, “There is no interest in turning over water interests to the county supervisors.”
However, Nutt said, “There is some support depending on where you are.”
According to Candland, Maricopa County wants no part of local water management.
Alan Seitz, a former farmer in Sunsites, was in favor of local underground water management and still is.
Several years ago, some in the community wanted a water district to manage groundwater withdrawals due to the number of wells going dry in many areas where industrial farming has grown, particularly in the Kansas Settlement area.
Candland said, “The rural counties need to band together to get their voices heard. Advocacy groups are good to have, but you should also talk with your legislators.”
And, it does not hurt to have someone lobbying for the legislation, he added.
Nutt told the gathering, “Call me if you have a problem. I would rather hear from the people specifically to get a good perspective and get all the different views.”
Judd added, “It takes a show of community force in Phoenix.”
The move forward will depend on the desires of the people who live in the Willcox Basin, Judd said in an interview.
The stakeholder committee will go over the facts learned in the four workshops that started in January and provided residents with the facts of the basin, which is in decline and is more severe in some areas.
They will present their options to the public again to determine the inclination of the majority of the residents.