We’re not expecting much from the second session of the 55th Legislature, slated to get underway a little more than a month from today.
A narrow Republican majority in both chambers, political in-fighting among GOP members and lots of turnover all contribute to an expectation that unlike this year, the Legislature won’t accomplish much and will conclude its business quickly.
There’s also the fact that 2022 is an election year. We expect lawmakers who are candidates for re-election will be anxious to get out on the campaign trail earlier rather than later. That’s especially the case for the first election after redistricting. The redrawing of legislative district boundaries will undoubtedly put some incumbents into areas where voters may not be as familiar with a candidate’s record, or experience in the Legislature.
The first session ended in June and incorporated several controversial measures into the budget bill, effectively forcing Republicans to stand together in passing the legislation.
When the Arizona Supreme Court rejected these reconciliation bills, most of the initiatives that the majority of Republicans could not agree on were killed.
Resurrecting these measures isn’t likely. Objections by Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita and Sen. Paul Boyer to changes in state election laws will erase the Republican majority in the Senate. Imposing mask mandates or facilitating the role of parents in the education of their children are opposed by State Representatives Joanne Osborne and Michelle Udall, which effectively eliminates the GOP edge in the House and kills any thoughts of the Legislature imposing more laws governing local schools.
What lawmakers will be able to agree on is the need to get on the campaign trail. Several incumbents are likely to face primary challenges due to the split among conservative and moderate Republicans. Arizona Democrats are not experiencing the “liberal vs. moderate” split that is happening in other states, but even these candidates will be anxious to canvas new areas in the redrawn legislative district boundaries.
Campaigns for state offices — governor, secretary of state, attorney general, superintendent of schools and other offices — are already well underway. This can make it more difficult for candidates seeking seats in the Senate and the House to raise campaign funds, another reason lawmakers will need more time to campaign next year.
A shorter session for the Legislature won’t be a bad thing. If the first session was any indication, we won’t miss the in-party bickering, the radical initiatives seeking to overturn the 2020 election or the nonsense bills that captured headlines, consumed precious legislative time, but ultimately didn’t make it out of the respective committee where it was first presented.
Voters can expect a long and noisy campaign season, that has already started for several of the state’s top offices.
Ironically, a shorter session is better and less being accomplished by the Legislature is also a positive consequence, during this time of divisive politics.
We’re already looking forward to 2023 and the first session of the 56th Legislature.