2012 50th Legislature, 2nd Regular Session
IntroductionThe Second Regular Session of the Centennial Legislature adjourned sine die on Thursday, May 3rd at 8:25 p.m., the 116th day of the session. Under the provisions of the Arizona Constitution, acts of the Legislature (with some exceptions) are effective 90 days after the adjournment of the session, making Thursday, August 2nd the general effective date of those bills.
During the course of the session, legislators introduced 1,395 bills and 149 memorials and resolutions. 387 bills were ultimately passed by the Legislature and 26 of those bills were vetoed by the Governor, leaving 362 total bills that are enacted. Of the 149 memorials and resolutions introduced, 49 were passed by the Legislature and sent to the Secretary of State.
The Arizona Municipal Water Users Association had a successful legislative session this year, ensuring that key legislation we supported was enacted and that legislation harmful to our members was stopped. These victories were not accomplished alone. AMWUA staff worked closely with our colleagues in the water community, especially the legislative teams from the Salt River Project, the Central Arizona Project (CAP), the Department of Water Resources, the City of Phoenix, the Town of Gilbert, the City of Tucson and the Southern Arizona Water Users Association. However, we reserve our deepest appreciation to the many legislators who were so responsive to our collective concerns.
Our 2012 Legislative Summary provides an insight into the key bills, both enacted and failed, that were the major focus of our time during the course of the session.
Enacted BillsSB 1236 - harvested water; recharge (NOW: surface water management; pilot project) - Requires the Department of Water Resources to develop a pilot program to demonstrate water harvesting techniques, practices and technology by December 1, 2012, subject to available agency funding. Also adds additional requirements to persons or entities submitting an in-stream flow application to the Department of Water Resources. Laws 2012, Chapter 282.
This bill initially provided a legal mechanism for the collection, storage and recovery of "harvested rainwater" in the state. AMWUA worked with the sponsor, Sen. Gail Griffin (R-Hereford), to address our concerns regarding the feasibility of capturing large amounts of rainfall and storing it without impeding others' water rights. We were joined in our concerns by CAP and SRP. Ultimately Sen. Griffin agreed to amend the bill to establish a pilot project under the authority of the Department of Water Resources, subject to their available funding. We agreed with that plan and changed our position to neutral.
SB 1417 - mining operations; long-term storage credits - Allows certain mining companies to obtain long-term credits for storing water underground while pumping groundwater. Laws 2012, Chapter 312.
Underground storage of water is an effective water management tool that has been used extensively in Arizona for the last two decades. One of the general tenants of the laws governing this practice is that a person should be able to store water underground and obtain "credits" to pump that water in later years only to the extent that the water stored could not reasonably have been used directly. In most cases, this means that the person may receive credits only to the extent that the amount of water it stores exceeds the amount of groundwater it pumps. Because the bill would allow the mining company to earn credits for all of the water it stored underground even though it would continue to pump groundwater, AMWUA initially had concerns regarding this bill. Additionally, the need for the bill was not clearly articulated. Since the Arizona Department of Water Resources was not opposed to the bill and the bill was supported by other water users that could be impacted by the mining company's activities, AMWUA was neutral on the bill.
SB 1523 - general appropriations; 2012-2013. & SB 1532 - environment; budget reconciliation; 2012-2013. - Appropriates $12,363,800 to the Department of Water Resources from the state's general fund and repeals the Department's authority to levy a fee on cities and towns to partially fund the Department's activities. Also appropriates $2 million to the Department of Administration to comply with the state's settlement obligations relating to the White Mountain Apache Tribe's Water Rights Claim. Laws 2012, Chapter 294. Laws 2012, Chapter 303.
Without question, this was one of the biggest issues facing AMWUA members during the legislative session. Imposing a fee on cities and towns to help fund the Department of Water Resources that no other water users were required to pay created an inequity that was patently unfair. AMWAU staff worked extensively with Sen. Andy Biggs (R-Gilbert), Sen. Gail Griffin (R-Hereford) and Rep. Russ Jones (R-Yuma) to address this inequity. However, AMWUA members also took the position that funding for the Department was equally as important as addressing the inequitable fee. Due to efforts of the legislators mentioned above and particularly Sen. Biggs, full funding for the Department was accomplished in the budget for the fiscal year and the municipal fee was repealed, saving the AMWUA members more than $4 million dollars in next fiscal year alone.
HB 2363 - harvested water; committee - Establishes the Joint Committee on Macro-Harvested Water composed of 29 members, including AMWUA, to study the concept of "macro-harvested water". Laws 2012, Chapter 95.
This issue was carried forward from an earlier legislative session. Like SB 1236 (above), this bill initially began as a legal framework to allow the collection and storage of rainfall on a large scale, but became a study committee due to many water users' concerns that collecting rainwater could impair others' water rights. AMWUA supported the legislation to form a study committee this session.
HJR 2002 - surplus water forbearance agreements (NOW: forbearance agreements; surplus water) - Allows Arizona, through the Director of the Department of Water Resources, to forbear its rights to the use of certain quantities of Intentionally Created Surplus water from the Colorado River if the International Boundary and Water Commission executes a minute in which Mexico agrees to reduce its deliveries of Colorado River water in the same years that deliveries of Colorado River water to Arizona are reduced due to shortage. Any agreement reached by the Director must be approved by the Legislature. Signed by the Governor on May 14, 2012 and transmitted to the Secretary of State. Click here for final version.
AMWUA actively supported this proposal, which was sought by the Director of the Department of Water Resources to carry out her responsibility of consulting, advising and cooperating with the Secretary of the Interior on Colorado River issues.
Failed BillsSB 1055 - exempt wells; emergency use - Allows the use of an exempt well on agricultural land during an emergency temporary system outage, as determined by the municipal service provider, for the sole purpose of livestock watering.
AMWUA was neutral on this bill in the beginning of the session, but remained leery of the origins of the issue that brought forth the measure. In time, other special interests sought to amend the bill to broaden the use of exempt wells on agricultural land, a concept AMWUA strongly opposed. Aside from certain drilling and registration requirements, exempt wells are largely unregulated. An exempt well can pump 56 acre-feet per year and the proliferation of exempt wells poses groundwater management problems. Eventually, the initial proponents and the relevant municipal service provider agreed to work out an arrangement without legislation and the bill did not go forward in the legislative process.
HB 2416 - technical correction; lottery; minors; prohibition (NOW: water and wastewater; denial prohibited) - A strike-everything amendment, prohibits a city or town that provides domestic water or wastewater services outside its municipal boundaries from denying those services to land owners outside its boundaries, subject to certain restrictions. In effect, the bill would have required the City of Tucson to serve an area known as "Painted Hills".
AMWUA strongly opposed this misguided policy of compelling a municipal water provider to serve water to land outside its municipal boundaries. Despite the testimony of many water providers and the skepticism of many lawmakers, the bill still narrowly advanced after failing an initial vote in the full House.
As the bill was taken up in the Senate, AMWUA staff noticed that individuals and entities not connected with the issue in Tucson supported the bill, confirming our suspicions that future efforts would be made to broaden the concepts of this measure to apply in other situations. Fortunately, the City of Tucson and the representatives of Painted Hills agreed to pursue a land swap with the condition that the bill be stopped in the legislative process. The condition was agreed to and the bill did not move forward.
HB 2493 - water resources department; funding - Repeals the Department of Water Resources' authority to levy a fee on cities and towns by 2015 and establishes a study committee to examine alternative funding sources.
AMWUA was one of the few entities that supported this measure because we recognized that this may have been the only vehicle remaining during the legislative session to address the inequitable municipal fee issue. We worked closely with the bill's sponsor, Rep. Russ Jones (R-Yuma) and testified in favor of it regularly throughout the session. In the end, because the fee was eliminated in the FY 2012-13 budget, there was no need for the bill to go forward in its current form, though AMWUA and Rep. Jones remain committed to increased funding for the Department of Water Resources.
HCR 2018 - agriculture and natural resources; secretary - A proposed amendment to the Constitution of Arizona to eliminate the office of Mine Inspector and create a state-wide elected office of Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
This measure was opposed by groups as disparate as the Arizona Cattlegrowers' Association and the Sierra Club, as well as AMWUA. However, AMWUA was the only entity to actually testify against the bill in the House Agriculture & Water committee, where it was discussed and withdrawn from further consideration. Our concerns stemmed from the wide range of authority the office would have over water management and environmental quality and the effect a conflicting office would have on the Governor's existing authority. Apparently the impetus for the bill stemmed from a frustration to get certain permits from the Department of Water Resources in a timely fashion.