PHOENIX — The controversial ballot proposal tied to Democratic mega-donor Tom Steyer suffered another defeat this week as Arizona lawmakers moved forward on House Bill 2005.
The Arizona State Senate voted Wednesday to approve the legislation, which seeks to establish specific penalties that can be assessed to public service corporations in response to alleged or actual violations.
A political group tied to Steyer, the Democratic donor, frantically lobbied state legislators in the run up to the vote. The group ran paid advertisements on social media throughout the week and published at least 14 tweets during Wednesday’s debate urging lawmakers to vote “no” on the bill.
The group also advocated a “yes” vote on an amendment proposed by Democratic State Senator Juan Mendez, which would have dramatically increased government-reporting requirements on energy companies involved in the public policy process.
Republican State Senator Sonny Borrelli — who introduced the House Bill 2005 striker last week during a contentious hearing before the Senate Government Committee — slammed Mendez’s proposal as a “hostile amendment” intended to derail the legislative process. Democratic State Senator Martin Quezada claimed, “Yes, it may be hostile,” but said that he would support it.
The “hostile” amendment failed on a 12-15 vote. (Republican State Senator Bob Worsley recused himself from the votes under Rule 30.)
Members of the legislature then debated House Bill 2005 more broadly, often invoking the controversial ballot proposal connected to Steyer.
Republican State Senator Sylvia Allen told lawmakers that the ballot proposal would devastate her district’s economy and reminded her colleagues that the legislature would not be able to tweak the proposal if adopted, even if it resulted in harmful or unexpected consequences, because of the Voter Protection Act.
“If we ever get in a situation which we wish we could go back, we won’t,” Allen said. “We’ll be stuck with the higher costs of our utilities. And we’ll be stuck with higher taxes.”
Republican State Senator Steve Smith, who supported the legislation, stated that “whatever language may or may not come up by way of a ballot initiative will directly cause a constitutional conflict” in Arizona.
The Arizona State Senate approved the legislation on a 16-12 vote. It now heads to the Arizona State House.