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Jan 12, 2014 11:36 PM by Sam Salzwedel

What to expect from Arizona Legislature in 2014

TUCSON - The 2014 Arizona legislative session starts Monday with Gov. Jan Brewer delivering the State of the State Address.

Lawmakers in Tucson's Legislative District 9 agree Child Protective Services will be a top priority. The agency was widely criticized for not investigating more than 6,000 cases.

LD 9 is one of the most competitive districts in the state, split with 2 Democrats and 1 Republican. Democrat Steve Farley holds the Senate seat. Republican Ethan Orr and Democrat Victoria Steele split the House of Representatives seats.

"I've made CPS calls as a counselor," Steele said, "and now I have no confidence that those were taken care of in a correct way."

The Governor will outline her hopes for 2014 in her State of the State Address.

"Sometimes there are some very interesting things that could come out of that," Farley said. "She's laying out her budget priorities. And the budget is one of the biggest things we are going to fight over."

In 2013, she surprised lawmakers by supporting Medicaid expansion. It narrowly passed with Democrats voting in favor with a few Republicans crossing party lines. Orr was one of those Republicans.

Farley thinks Orr might have conflicts with some of his colleagues because of his vote.

"If he's taken down as a Rules Chair, then a lot of the pro-Medicaid coalition are going to go ballistic, and rightfully so," Farley said. "You shouldn't be taking somebody's chairmanship away because they voted their conscience. Whether that happens or not is one of those things we're going to have to wait and see. There's actually a lot of really interesting sub-stories up at the legislature this session."

Orr said he has been talking to others who disagreed with his vote.

"They're going to be mad until they need your vote," he said. "The reality is, they need my votes to get their things passed, and I need their votes to get things passed."

Steele wants to create a Senior Caucus to focus on issues for elderly people. She said in 7 years, 25 percent of Arizonans will be over 60 years old.

She also wants expand on the "mental health first aid program" she helped fund in 2013. She hopes to make it available in classrooms for teachers who wish to learn how to deal with mental health issues.

Farley and Steele believe a texting-and-driving law has a chance this session after a DPS officer was killed by a distracted driver.

Farley is the ranking Democrat on the Transportation Committee. He wants to restore funding for Tucson roads and make border trade a priority. He said his stepfather runs a midtown sporting goods store that gets 40 percent of its income from Mexican shoppers.

"The future of our economy in Arizona depends on the future of the cross-border trade," Farley said.

Orr wants to restore JTED funding to 9th graders, which could give them practical job-training.

Orr is also working to get a veterinary school at the University of Arizona. The only vet program in the state is a private school in Phoenix. With the importance of ranching, he believes it will help the rural areas of Southern Arizona.

All the lawmakers think this legislative session will be shorter than last year's.

"Because it's an election year, I think it's going to get out pretty quickly," Orr said. "Everyone is telling me that we're going to be done by the end of April. I think that's pretty true."

Farley, Steele and Orr are all running for re-election.


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