“Strike All” Amendments: A Normal Part of Creating Law at the Arizona Legislature

Charlie Parke March 4, 2013 3

By Charlie Parke
Arizona Community Press | www.azcommunitypress.org

“Strike All” Amendments, also called “strike everything” or “striker”, propose to delete the entire text of an existing bill and substitute new language, essentially making it a completely different bill. According to the Arizona State Legislature these amendments “are sometimes used to allow legislators to circumvent the deadlines on introduction of new legislation, deal with an issue that arises after the deadline or revive a bill that has previously been defeated.”  Often new legislation comes up through “strike all” amendments at the last minute of the bill cycle.

“Strike All” Amendments have many purposes and it is not required that the new bill is related to the existing bill. One reason such amendments are presented is due to a short deadline for legislators to introduce of new legislation. This year the first day the legislature was Januay 14th and the last day to introduce new legislation was February 11th – only about 4 weeks into the session. Sometimes an issue with the bill may arise after the deadline – such as missing legal language or adjustments due to new information – has passed and a change to the bill language is required to avoid technical problems. Another reason strike all amendments are proposed is to revive a bill that has previously been defeated in committee. Many bills are revived that were never heard in committee.

To introduce a “strike all” to a bill, a legislator must have the permission of the bill sponsor. Some legislators introduce bills they have little expectation of getting a committee hearing, but can later be used for “strike all” purposes.  Often a chairman of a committee who disagrees with a bill will decide not to schedule a bill for a public hearing thus preventing public comment and a vote on the subject. Conversely some bills seem to be created with “strike all” amendments where the bill sponsor is seeking to avoid a public comment process.

Often controversial bills go through the strike all process. For instance, in 2012 HB 2838 would have ended all abortions at 20 weeks, regardless of health complications. Opponents held a rally at the Capitol to ask legislators to vote “no” and conducted a mass email campaign. As a result this bill died in committee. However, it was later reintroduced as a strike all amendment to HB 2036.  The new bill passed and became Arizona law.

“Strike all” amendments are fairly common in the Arizona Legislature. During the week of February 25th to March 1st about 40 such amendments appeared before committee. Most of those that came before a committee passed and will go forward to be voted on by the legislature. Several amendments change bills completely, such as HB 2263 which was originally introduced as a bill about dental boards, but after a strike all amendment the topic of the bill became about the boxing commission and mixed martial arts. Perhaps the most controversial bill of the week – HCM 2003 – would allow the Resolution Cooper Project to proceed.  An amendment was proposed to change the bill to create opposition to tax provisions of the Affordable Care Act often called “Obamacare”.

The Arizona Education Network has noted that Strike Everything” amendments “basically “gut” existing bills, regardless of topic, and insert new language on often unrelated topics or areas of state government.  These amendments make the legislative process far less transparent, as original bill titles often stay affixed to the new legislation, making searches on the Arizona Legislative website difficult and less productive.”