Arizona Legislature

Brief History of the Arizona Legislature

AZ Old Capitol Building

The Arizona Legislature is established in the Arizona Constitution in Article 4 of the Arizona Constitution establishes the two chambers and their authority. Uncommonly, however, that Constitution also reflects the fierce Wild West independence that has distinguished Arizona since its beginning by providing a mechanism for citizens to overrule the Legislature when they feel it necessary, via initiative or referendum:

“The legislative authority of the state shall be vested in the legislature, consisting of a senate and a house of representatives, but the people reserve the power to propose laws and amendments to the constitution and to enact or reject such laws and amendments at the polls, independently of the legislature; and they also reserve, for use at their own option, the power to approve or reject at the polls any act, or item, section, or part of any act, of the legislature.”

The Arizona Legislature first convened in March 1912, a little more than a month after Arizona attained statehood. Initially the Legislature only met once every other year until 1950. Now the Legislature meets every year. The Legislature is the main body for proposing and passing bills into law, although Arizona’s constitution maintains strong avenues for citizen involvement in the legislative process through initiatives and referrals. 

As of today, the Republican Party has maintained control of the Arizona Legislature for over 50 years. In the House of Representatives, Republicans have held a majority since 1967, and in two instances a supermajority, allowing them even more powers such as the ability to override a governor’s veto. The Senate has also been majority Republican since 1967, except for a brief window from 1990 to 1992 where Democrats held control, and an evenly-divided Senate from 2000-2002 where the parties formed a power-sharing agreement with a Republican as Senate president and Democrats controlling key committees.

Arizona Legislature

Brief History of the Arizona Legislature

AZ Old Capitol Building

Arizona’s Legislature has been in place since the state’s founding. Article 4 of the Arizona Constitution establishes the two chambers and their authority. Uncommonly, however, that Constitution also reflects the fierce Wild West independence that has distinguished Arizona since its beginning by providing a mechanism for citizens to overrule the Legislature when they feel it necessary, via initiative or referendum:

“The legislative authority of the state shall be vested in the legislature, consisting of a senate and a house of representatives, but the people reserve the power to propose laws and amendments to the constitution and to enact or reject such laws and amendments at the polls, independently of the legislature; and they also reserve, for use at their own option, the power to approve or reject at the polls any act, or item, section, or part of any act, of the legislature.”

The Arizona Legislature first convened in March 1912, a little more than a month after Arizona attained statehood. Initially, the Legislature met once every other year but, beginning in 1950, switched to meeting yearly. All legislators, whether in the House or Senate, must stand for election once every two years. 

As of today, the Republican Party has maintained control of the Arizona Legislature for over 50 years. In the House of Representatives, Republicans have held a majority since 1967, and in two instances a supermajority, allowing them even more powers such as the ability to override a governor’s veto. The Senate has also been majority Republican since 1967, except for a brief window from 1990 to 1992 where Democrats held control, and an evenly-divided Senate from 2000-2002 where the parties formed a power-sharing agreement with a Republican as Senate president and Democrats controlling key committees.

Current Legislative Makeup

Arizona currently has 30 legislative districts, each represented by one senator and two representatives. The majority party elects the leadership for each chamber, including the Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives. The majority party also creates committee assignments, which translates to the ability to control legislative committees and thus decide which bills are heard. The minority party also elects its own leadership, but as it lacks the ability to make decisions on committee structure or bill assignments, this leadership holds less power.

Based on 2020 representation

Current Legislative Makeup

Arizona currently has 30 legislative districts, each represented by one senator and two representatives. The majority party elects the leadership for each chamber, including the Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives. The majority party also creates committee assignments, which translates to the ability to control legislative committees and thus decide which bills are heard. The minority party also elects its own leadership, but as it lacks the ability to make decisions on committee structure or bill assignments, this leadership holds less power.

Based on 2020 representation

Legislative Calendars

The Arizona Legislature convenes according to rules laid out in the Arizona Constitution in Article 4, Part 2, Section 3:

“The sessions of the legislature shall be held annually at the capitol of the state, and shall commence on the second Monday of January of each year. The governor may call a special session, whenever in his judgment it is advisable. In calling a special session, the governor shall specify the subjects to be considered, and at such special session no laws shall be enacted except such as relate to the subjects mentioned in the call.”

Sample Legislative Deadlines (2020 Legislative Session)

Much of Arizona’s legislative process is set by rules authored by the majority party. Though rules may vary slightly from chamber to chamber or session to session, the rules that govern bill deadline dates are fairly constant. This sample calendar taken from the 2020 Legislative session illustrates how many deadlines impact a bill:

Much of Arizona’s legislative process is set by rules authored by the majority party. Though rules may vary slightly from chamber to chamber or session to session, the rules that govern bill deadline dates are fairly constant. This sample calendar taken from the 2020 Legislative session illustrates how many deadlines impact a bill:

Legislative Calendars

The Arizona Legislature convenes according to rules laid out in the Arizona Constitution in Article 4, Part 2, Section 3:

“The sessions of the legislature shall be held annually at the capitol of the state, and shall commence on the second Monday of January of each year. The governor may call a special session, whenever in his judgment it is advisable. In calling a special session, the governor shall specify the subjects to be considered, and at such special session no laws shall be enacted except such as relate to the subjects mentioned in the call.”

Legislative sessions are set to end at 100 days, but are often extended by a vote to continue with the lawmaking process.

Sample Legislative Deadlines

Much of Arizona’s legislative process is set by rules authored by the majority party. Though rules may vary slightly from chamber to chamber or session to session, the rules that govern bill deadline dates are fairly constant. This sample calendar taken from the 2020 Legislative session illustrates how many deadlines impact a bill:

Jan. 13

Jan. 16

Jan. 21

Feb. 3

Feb. 7

Last Day to
Prefile
House Bills
Last Day to Sponsor House Bills
Before 7 Bill Limit
Last Day for
Senate Member Requests to Leg Council
Last Day to
Introduce
Senate Bills
Last Day for
House Member Requests to Leg Council

Feb. 10

Feb. 21

Mar. 27

Apr. 18

Apr. 21


Last Day to
Introduce
House Bills

Last Day for House to Consider (Pass Committee) House Bills &
Senate to Consider
Senate Bills
Last Day for House to
Consider (Pass Committee)
Senate Bills &
Senate to Consider
House Bills
Last Day
for Bill
Consideration in
Conference
Committees
Last Day
for
Sine Die
Without
Overriding Vote

If a bill fails to meet any of these deadlines, it cannot pass into law. However, lawmakers can also use parliamentary methods to resurrect bill contents, such as “strike everything” amendments which replace the contents of a bill with entirely new language. This is why no bill is ever truly dead until the Legislature adjourns for the session, also known as “sine die.”

Arizona’s legislature was envisioned as a “citizen legislature.” Many lawmakers hold other jobs, and sessions span only a portion of the year. But in reality, serving in the Legislature is a year-round job. Legislative sessions are meant to end after 100 days, but are frequently extended, and today, lawmakers meet with constituents and work on legislation year-round.

Jan. 13

Last Day to
Prefile
House Bills

Jan. 16

Last Day to Sponsor
House Bills
Before 7 Bill Limit

Jan. 21

Last Day for
Senate Member
Requests to Leg Council

Feb. 3

Last Day to
Introduce
Senate Bills

Feb. 7

Last Day for
House Member
Requests to Leg Council

Feb. 10

Last Day to Introduce
House Bills

Feb. 21

Last Day for House to Consider
(Pass Committee) House Bills &
Senate to Consider
Senate Bills

Mar. 27

Last Day for House to
Consider (Pass Committee)
Senate Bills &
Senate to Consider
House Bills

Apr. 18

Last Day for
Bill Consideration in
Conference
Committees

Apr. 21

Last Day for
Sine Die Without
Overriding Vote

If a bill fails to meet any of these deadlines, it cannot pass into law. However, lawmakers can also use parliamentary methods to resurrect bill contents, such as “strike everything” amendments which replace the contents of a bill with entirely new language. This is why no bill is ever truly dead until the Legislature adjourns for the session, also known as “sine die.”

Arizona’s legislature was envisioned as a “citizen legislature.” Many lawmakers hold other jobs, and sessions span only a portion of the year. But in reality, serving in the Legislature is a year-round job. Legislative sessions are meant to end after 100 days, but are frequently extended, and today, lawmakers meet with constituents and work on legislation year-round.

Lobbyists

Lobbyists

Lobbyists are people who petition lawmakers to advance or defeat various policies, agendas, and bills. Lobbyists can be compensated or volunteers. They can work for government agencies, private businesses, nonprofits, or they can represent themselves and other individuals. 

Lobbyists in Arizona are minimally regulated by the Arizona Secretary of State and must comply with various laws and rules regarding their relationships with and contributions or gifts to sitting lawmakers. Generally, lobbyists are supposed to register, but some organizations have found ways to skirt these regulations, such as by having their lobbyists engage in “education” efforts. Arizona’s lobbying restrictions are some of the weakest in the nation, and further attempts to weaken them are introduced every year, often by the lawmakers with the closest ties to powerful and well-monied lobbying organizations. 

Numerous organizations within and outside of Arizona employ both registered and unregistered lobbyists to meet with lawmakers, shape policy, and drive toward the privatization of our public education system. Just a few such organizations include the Goldwater Institute, Center for Arizona Policy, American Federation for Children, Americans for Prosperity, State Policy Network, various Koch network affiliated organizations, American Legislative Exchange Council, and others. These well funded groups have large networks of wealthy donors, generally from out of state, who work to advance an extreme agenda of dismantling popular and effective public institutions in order to undermine the credibility of government.

It is important to know that lobbyists represent every degree on the political spectrum, and almost every side of every issue. But many groups have deep enough pockets and significant enough access to lawmakers to make advancing pro-public education policies difficult, and stopping anti-public education policies almost impossible. This is why it’s important to understand the relationships our lawmakers have with lobbying groups — so we can elect leaders who truly oppose privatization and support public education. 

Lobbyists are people who petition lawmakers to enact or defeat various policies, agendas, and bills. Lobbyists can be compensated or volunteer. They can work for government agencies, private businesses or nonprofits, or they can represent themselves and other individuals. 

Lobbyists in Arizona are minimally regulated by the Arizona Secretary of State and must comply with various laws and rules regarding their relationships with and contributions or gifts to sitting lawmakers. Generally, lobbyists are supposed to register, but some organizations have found ways to skirt these regulations, such as by having their lobbyists engage in “education” efforts. Arizona’s lobbying restrictions are some of the weakest in the nation, and further attempts to weaken them are introduced every year, often by the lawmakers with the closest ties to powerful and well-monied lobbying organizations. 

Numerous organizations within and outside of Arizona employ both registered and unregistered lobbyists to meet with lawmakers, shape policy, and drive toward the privatization of our public education system. Just a few such organizations include the Goldwater Institute, Center for Arizona Policy, American Federation for Children, Americans for Prosperity, State Policy Network, various Koch network affiliated organizations, American Legislative Exchange Council, and others. These well funded groups have large networks of wealthy donors, generally from out of state, who work to advance an extreme agenda of dismantling popular and effective public institutions in order to undermine the credibility of government.

It is important to know that lobbyists represent every degree on the political spectrum, and almost every side of every issue. But many groups have deep enough pockets and significant enough access to lawmakers to make advancing pro-public education policies difficult, and stopping anti-public education policies almost impossible. This is why it’s important to understand the relationships our lawmakers have with lobbying groups — so we can elect leaders who truly oppose privatization and support public education.

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