by Mary Jo Pitzl - Jun. 13, 2009 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic .
The legislative equivalent of a dam burst in the state Senate on Friday, as lawmakers approved bills that will allow people to carry guns in restaurants that serve liquor, require local enforcement of federal immigration laws and put further restrictions on abortion.
The bills were among the 40 considered and approved by senators as they finally got down to non-budget-related business.
Senate President Bob Burns, R-Peoria, had held up work on the bills until the Legislature produced a budget, which happened last week. However, the budget bills have not yet gone to Gov. Jan Brewer as legislative leaders continue negotiations on a spending plan for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
Meanwhile, legislation is racing through the Senate. Among Friday's action:
• Guns in restaurants. Lawmakers have been trying for several years to allow gun owners to bring their weapons into restaurants that serve liquor. This year's version, Senate Bill 1113, would be limited to people who have concealed-weapon permits. It presumes the restaurant allows such activity; if a restaurant owner objects, he would have to post a sign saying so.
That requirement prompted Sen. Ken Cheuvront, D-Phoenix, and owner of a central-Phoenix restaurant and wine bar, to propose flipping the posting requirement in the name of property rights.
"Those people who want to allow guns in restaurants, they are the ones who should be posting," Cheuvront said.
His amendment was defeated.
He also unsuccessfully pushed an amendment that would increase the penalty for anyone who brought a gun into a restaurant that did not welcome them. Cheuvront noted that the Legislature has a history of imposing tough punishment on people who mix drinking with other activities, such as driving. But the bill goes the other direction, he said, making the penalty at most a $300 fine.
Sen. Jack Harper, R-Surprise and the bill's sponsor, said the bill has reasonable penalties, and the people who hold concealed-weapon permits are well trained in gun safety and are among the more responsible citizens.
• Abortion. With no debate, the Senate approved a pair of bills that would stiffen Arizona's abortion requirements. SB 1138 establishes a maximum two-year prison term for anyone who performs a partial-birth abortion and modifies the definition of the procedure.
SB 1206 sets guidelines for judges to determine whether an underage girl who is still living with her parents is mature enough to give informed consent to an abortion; requires informed consent from the woman seeking an abortion; and exempts doctors and other medical personnel from participating in an abortion if they sign a statement saying they have religious and/or moral objections.
• Immigration. SB 1175 would require local police agencies to enforce federal immigration laws. The bill's sponsor, Sen. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, said the bill "takes the handcuffs off" local law enforcement.
The Senate approved a trio of bills introduced by Sen. Jonathan Paton, R-Tucson, that increase the penalties for various aspects of illegal immigration.
SB 1280 creates criminal penalties for those who sponsor the drophouses where illegal immigrants are kept. SB 1281 expands the definition of sex trafficking to include human trafficking. Paton said there are cases where illegal immigrants have been forced into the sex trade.
And SB 1282 hikes the punishment for any violent crime committed during immigrant smuggling.
All of Friday's bills passed on voice votes; a formal vote is expected early next week, then the bills move the House of Representatives.