The state of Arizona is currently under a Republican-controlled Legislature that holds only a slim one-vote majority in both the Senate and the House. However, the Governor of the state is a Democrat. Despite the challenges that come with having divided government, it can also result in unique and cooperative efforts specifically on issues relating to land and water budgeting.
As we move into the later part of the legislative session in Arizona, the focus is shifting towards developing a state budget. Unfortunately, the Local Groundwater Stewardship Areas bill, which would provide communities with options to manage their local groundwater resources, has not been given a chance to be reviewed by the House or Senate Committees on Natural Resources, Energy, and Water. This means that the bill has not progressed in the legislative process. However, Audubon and our partners are committed to advocating for rural groundwater management and will continue working with local communities and leaders to demand action on this important issue for our state.
As we wait for progress on achieving our policy goals, we look towards the budget process. The Arizona Legislature cannot conclude its annual session until it approves a budget for the upcoming fiscal year that commences on July 1. Recent years have witnessed legislative sessions extending into June as one-seat Republican majorities in both chambers of the legislature have given Republican legislators the power to veto items in the budget that they either approve or disapprove of. However, this de facto veto authority has inadvertently paved the way for a bipartisan budget. Republican leadership must now collaborate with Democratic lawmakers to form a budget coalition, resulting in last year’s budget, which was the first truly bipartisan budget in over a decade.
Lawmakers will require collaboration from both sides of the political spectrum to approve a state budget by July 1 that satisfies Governor Hobbs (D). The Audubon organization is currently engaging with members of both the Republican and Democratic parties, discussing the necessary inclusions in the upcoming budget that will safeguard our natural resources for both humans and birds. This collaborative effort brings optimism to the current budget process.