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What issues could Arizona Legislature tackle in 2021? Experts share their thoughts

arizona state capitol AP
Posted at 4:42 PM, Dec 09, 2020

PHOENIX — The Arizona Legislature will begin its next session in January. While Republicans hold the majority in both chambers, the dynamics have changed.

When Gov. Doug Ducey certified Arizona’s vote, which he was legally bound to do, it signaled the defeat of President Donald Trump in November. That sparked a public war within the state’s Republican party, which was largely waged on social media by Trump loyalists, such as GOP Chairwoman Kelli Ward, and became nastier by the day.

“So far it seems to fit into the category of the heat of the moment. That’s something most of the real world believes will subside." At least, that is what Stan Barnes, president of Copper State Consulting, hopes will happen.

His firm lobbies the Legislature, often promoting conservative interests.

"The only thing they must do is a budget,” Barnes said of the Legislature. “Everyone suspects they’ll cobble one together, but a lot of other stuff may just die on the floor.”

There may not be much time to shake hands and makeup, but there is plenty of time for representatives to forge new alliances.

“I think what we’re seeing with this dangerous rhetoric, [is] there is more of an opportunity to actually get folks to the table and work together," said Geoff Espisito, a lobbyist who works for Creoste Partners, a firm that advocates for progressive causes at the Legislature.

He believes that a COVID-19 relief package and criminal justice reform are two areas where Republicans and Democrats can come together and pass legislation that Gov. Ducey would sign.

“When we talk to them, it is how we can get folks to work together to get things done," he said, referring to his clients. "What is the way we can build coalitions with different members of different parties?"

Because Republicans have long dominated the legislature, coalitions are usually not needed.

“What everyone is watching is the budget and whether or not Republicans can do it all together,” Barnes said. "If they fracture, what will the Democrats demand?”

State Democrats are still working on their 2021 legislative agenda.