‘A session full of fireworks’: What to expect when the Arizona Legislature reconvenes

Arizona Capitol grounds

By Ray Stern | Arizona Republic

Will Arizona lawmakers come together to address water shortages, education funding and other urgent issues? Or will they bog down in a fractious year of political distractions and surprises?

The legislative session that starts Monday — in the third year of a pandemic that killed far more Arizonans in 2021 than in 2020 — comes at a particularly divisive moment in the state’s history.

It also will include a remarkably high number of new members in the Legislature, and follows perhaps the most bitter year of state politics in modern history.

The end of 2020 saw support from some Republican members of Arizona’s congressional delegation and Legislature to overturn a fair election, which was followed by a deeply controversial — and partisan — review of Maricopa County election results led by the Senate.

Democrats now trust Republicans even less, and vice versa. But Republicans will still dominate legislatively in 2022 with their trifecta of power in the Senate, House and Governor’s Office.

They likely will address education, the water shortage and a treasury swollen with surplus money and federal relief dollars. Other GOP interests, such as thwarting sex education or putting cameras in classrooms, could take center stage. Several “election integrity” bills by Republicans, which Democrats perceive as vehicles for voter suppression, are already filed. 

On top of everything, the polarized environment and newly drawn legislative districts for 2022 and beyond are sure to amplify the political noise. The new legislative maps will shake up the election cycle, pitting friends in primaries and challenging some incumbents with more competition.

House Majority Leader Ben Toma, R-Peoria, is among those expecting a particularly wild legislative session in 2022.

“I think it probably will be lively,” Toma said. “I don’t know who’s going to be more lively or what the exact issue will be. I do think, though, it could end up being a session full of fireworks.”

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