Special Session 2022 Dénouement?

As executive power slips from the hands of Arizona Republicans, talk of conducting a special session in the last weeks of the Ducey Administration has increase among Republican leadership. Governor Ducey even made an appearance on KTAR’s Mike Broomhead show this morning taunting Republican leadership with “show me the votes.”

This comes as education advocates are in an all out panic over the Aggregate Expenditure Limit forcing public schools to make hard choices over a hardwired denial of access to money already banked for education.

Outgoing Republican State Representative Michelle Udall, who chairs the House Education Committee, assured the Governor that “the votes are there” to remove the AEL limit in a special session.

But opening both chambers to lawmaking poses a more chaotic and unproductive problem of allowing a last ditch effort for extremists to run rampant and hijack the agenda in avoidance of a Democrat Governor’s veto pen.

Election deniers may attempt to codify superfluous “election integrity” measures based on last month’s General Election outcome.

Other ideas are being floated as possible session add-ons.

An extension on Maricopa County’s Prop 400 sales tax is being pushed by outgoing State Senator Tyler Pace. The bill would have allowed Maricopa County to ask voters to extend a half-cent sales tax for transportation projects over the next 25 years but Governor Ducey vetoed the bill earlier this year stating that now was not the time to ask voters to tax themselves. Revisiting the bill with changes may be a way to assuage Ducey’s concerns. However, reviving the bill under the next legislature may be a more difficult for Republican lawmakers than an eager Hobbs Administration.

Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer is also pushing changes to early voting deadlines and tabulations including a hard deadline on dropping off “late earlies.”

The current cadre of election deniers would like to remove a key election administration process from the Arizona Secretary of State before incoming Adrian Fontes is seated. That function, promulgation of the Arizona Elections Procedures Manual, would be stripped from the Secretary of State and handed over to the haggling of lawmakers. Keep in mind, the EPM has been crafted and revised by CERA-certified professionals for years and adding election deniers to the process would worsen Arizona’s ability to conduct free and fair elections.

Another possible end-run effort may transferring oversight of Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Accounts from the Attorney General to the Superintendent of Public Instruction. In January, Kris Mayes will begin her term as AG and Tom Horne will begin his term as SPI. Mayes as a Democrat has shown opposition to the expansion of ESA’s while Horne, a Republican has expressed support.

If a Special Session is called before the end of 2023, it will likely happen next week. House and Senate leadership is scrambling to get commitments from their members before time runs out. And there is no doubt lawmakers are cutting deals and exchanging gifts in the rush of the holidays.

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