The Arizona Legislature wrapped up this year on Wednesday with a nearly record-long session, reaching 171 days. Lawmakers came to an agreement on most of the budget last Friday that contained historic tax cuts. Governor Doug Ducey signed that bill, HB 2900, also on Wednesday.

During the last few hours, the legislature approved the education budget bill, HB 2898, which included an expansion of the school voucher program. It reduces the length of time children must attend a public school before they are eligible for vouchers to use at a private school. Low-income children who live near poorly-rated schools will be eligible immediately, and others will only have to spend 45 days in the school, down from 100 days.

Another budget bill, HB 2893, approved at the last minute, significantly limits public access to body cameras worn by police officers. Ducey signed a bill earlier in the day funding body cameras for Arizona Department of Safety officers.

A sentencing reform bill that passed the House with overwhelming support failed to make it into the Senate, since President Karen Fann (R-Prescott) declined to bring it up for a vote. Rep. Walt Blackman (R-Snowflake), the sponsor of the bill who has successfully pushed through other criminal justice legislation, expressed his disappointment in a tweet, thanking people for their support, “I will continue to fight for Criminal Justice Reform in Arizona as I have for the past four years.”

Another bill that passed the legislature on Wednesday, HB 2053, more than triples the cost-of-living allowance for legislators who live outside of Maricopa County. Under current law, which hasn’t changed since 1984, those legislators receive $60 per day during the legislative session. The new law would increase it to $203 to match the rate the General Services Administration allows for federal employees. Legislators within Maricopa County receive $35 per day. The new law would not change a provision which cuts the per diem in half 120 days into the session, as an incentive to keep legislative sessions short. Legislators make $24,000 annually, since the legislature is part-time.

In addition to the budget, several more bills were signed into law on Wednesday, including SB 1838, sponsored by Sen. Kelly Townsend (R-Mesa), which replaces references in law for “product of human conception” to “unborn child.”

The 171-day session tied for the third longest session since 1965, according to the Arizona Capitol Times almanac.

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Rachel Alexander is the State House reporter at The Arizona Sun Times and The Star News Network. Follow Rachel on Twitter. Email tips to rachel.r.alexander@gmail.com.
Photo “Arizona Capitol” by Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0.