January 14, 2019 / Modified jan 15, 2019 11:05 a.m.

Ducey Aims for Bipartisan Tone in State of State

The governor led his speech with water and the Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan.

The November election brought new faces and ideas to the Arizona Capitol. In his State of the State address Monday, Gov. Doug Ducey was quick to acknowledge that.

"Let's work together in the months ahead to transform our promises into progress for the state we all love," Ducey said.

In the Arizona House of Representatives, Democrats are two seats shy of a majority. Ducey, a Republican, is well aware of what that means politically.

Throughout his nearly 40-minute address, he took time to recognize current and former Democratic members of the Legislature for work they accomplished.

As a mark of bipartisanship, he invited Fred DuVal, his Democratic rival in the 2014 campaign. Ducey recent appointed DuVal to the Arizona Board of Regents.

Again and again, Ducey used his speech to try and set a bipartisan tone for this legislative session.

"Let me be clear on the approach I intend to take. I'm not here just to work with Republicans on Republican ideas. And bipartisanship doesn't simply mean working with Democrats on Democratic ideas. I'm here as Governor of all the people to work with all of you on good ideas," said Ducey.

In addition to DuVal, the governor also invited former Sen. Jon Kyl and former Gov. and U.S. Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt.

The invitation was twofold. The two men come from opposite parties and both are considered some of the top water experts in Arizona.

Getting state lawmakers to ratify the Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan in the next two weeks is Ducey's top priority. He hoped that bringing Babbitt and Kyl would spur the Legislature to act.

"Here's the bottom line. We're in a 19-year drought. It's going to get worse before it gets better. Arizona and its neighboring states draw more water from the Colorado River than Mother Nature puts back," Ducey said.

The seven Colorado River basin states must approve a plan before Jan. 31. If not, the federal Bureau of Reclamation will step in. To date, only Arizona and some California water authorities have not signed on.

Water was not the only topic Ducey wants state lawmakers to tackle during the session. He wants the members to look inward, and repeal legislative immunity.

"Let's show the people of Arizona that their elected leaders will live under the same laws as every man and woman in this state," he said.

Voters will have the final say on any legislative immunity repeal proposal because it will come in the form of a constitutional amendment.

Ducey also wants the Legislature to pass a school safety plan similar to the one he proposed but failed to pass last year.

His plan would include more police officers on campus and so-called STOP orders that allow the courts to temporarily take weapons from people deemed to be a danger.

"This is simply too important an issue to let partisan politics and special interests get in the way. We've got a responsibility to do something for our kids and we've got to do it this session," Ducey explained.

The 2018 legislative session was marked by the #RedforEd teacher's strike. Ducey and state lawmakers came up with a plan to give teachers a 20 percent raise over time, following a week of teacher walkouts.

Ducey praised state lawmakers for their work last year but he said more needs to be done.

Specifically, he is worried about the on-going teacher shortage. He wants to see an expansion of the Arizona Teacher Academy at the state's three public universities.

"More dollars, more support. We are going to create a pipeline of talent and the next generation of Arizona teachers," he said.

On Friday, Ducey will release his budget for the upcoming fiscal year. It is expected to contain more details on many of his proposals.

MORE: News, Politics, Water
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