Two Arizona west valley lawmakers are eyeing a return to the Arizona Legislature in 2025.
On Friday, State Senator Anthony Kern and Representative Kevin Payne announced that they had filed paperwork to run for re-election in the 2024 election cycle. Their news release revealed that the two would be switching spots in the Legislature due to Payne’s term limits in the House. Kern will now be running for the Arizona House of Representatives, and Payne for the state senate.
Senator Kern shared his thoughts about the swap, highlighting that the idea to take this course of action originated with him: “Kevin Payne is a solid conservative who is doing great and important work on a number of issues, especially those related to public safety and Arizona’s military and veterans. With him reaching his term limits in the State House I asked if he would consider switching places with me so that he could keep fighting for those issues.”
Payne also issued a statement on the news, saying, “First off, let me just say that Anthony Kern hasn’t just been one of the hardest working State Senators in Arizona, he’s a selfless guy who wants what is best for Arizona.” responded Payne, “So I appreciate his offer and I’ll be glad to work hard for both my own election as well as his. We need his solid conservative presence in the State House!”
The two legislators quickly received one high-profile endorsement for the re-election bids, coming from House Speaker Ben Toma, who also serves in the same district. Toma said, “This is great news for the district and the state. Kevin and Anthony are hard-working, solid conservatives, who focus on getting the work done. I look forward to voting for both of them!”
Kern and Payne’s district is extremely crucial for Arizona Republicans in November General Elections as they enjoy a solid-red electoral advantage. Both lawmakers have been instrumental in helping legislative Republicans hold the line against the new Democrat state officials: Governor Katie Hobbs, Attorney General Kris Mayes, and Secretary of State Adrian Fontes. Legislative Republicans hope that these two are at the core of an expanded majority in 2025.
Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.
A bill that was widely supported by Arizona law enforcement and passed out of committee with broad bipartisan approval met a partisan crowd when it arrived for a vote in the full State House of Representatives.
HB 2485, sponsored by Representative Kevin Payne, would enhance sentencing for convicted criminals who ambush police officers in the line of duty. According to the overview of the legislation provided by the Arizona House, this bill “increases the penalties for aggravated assault on a peace officer if the defendant is found to have lain in wait for or ambushed the peace officer while committing the assault.” The bill requires that “a person who is convicted of aggravated assault on a peace officer, and found to have lain in wait for or ambushed the peace officer in committing the assault, be sentenced to two years more than what would otherwise be imposed for the assault.”
This piece of legislation seemed like a slam dunk for passage out of the Arizona Legislature, but the final clearance from the House of Representatives was anything but. All but one Democrat voted against HB 2485, with Representative Amish Shah not voting. All Republicans voted to send the bill to the Senate.
Freshman lawmaker Cory McGarr noted the shocking vote against a bill designed to protect members of Arizona’s law enforcement community, writing, “All of the Dems voted against protecting police from AMBUSH. Might want to call your Democrat representative and ask why only Republicans voted to protect police.”
The result of the vote on the House floor was unlike the actions out of House committees earlier in the legislative process. When the bill was heard before the Committee on Military Affairs and Public Safety (MAPS) – chaired by the sponsor, Representative Kevin Payne, it passed with an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote; 13 members voted yes, one Democrat voted no, and another Democrat was recorded as present. Representative Sun, who voted no on the bill in committee explained that she had pause on supporting the bill because the “definition of ambush is very vague,” and she was concerned about “further criminalizing our constituents and adding to our privatized prison system.” HB 2485 cleared the House Rules Committee with a unanimous 8-0 vote.
Several representatives of the Arizona law enforcement community testified in support of the bill before the MAPS Committee. Don Isaacson, on behalf of the Arizona Fraternal Order of Police (Arizona State Lodge), relayed the endorsement of HB 2485 from the 10,000 police officers who comprise his organization. The key for Mr. Isaacson and his police officers was the change from “optional” enhancement for convictions of ambushing a police officer to “mandatory.” Rebecca Baker, the Legislative Liaison for the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office also testified in favor of the bill; as did Joe Clure, the Director of the Arizona Police Association, who made clear that it’s important to send a clear message to those who ambush police officers will be dealt with “harshly and firmly.”
But the most convincing testimony in front of the House MAPS Committee came from the President of the Arizona Fraternal Order of Police, Paul Sheldon, who has served for more than 23 years as a police officer. He expressed regret that this legislation was even necessary – especially since there was a time in his career, where these types of crimes against police officers were extremely rare. However, he noted that last year was the deadliest year for law enforcement in more than twenty years. He told the committee that 21 Arizona police officers were shot in the line of duty in 2022, and 16 of those were ambush attacks. Two of those ambushed officers died in the line of duty.
HB 2485 now heads to the Arizona Senate for its consideration.
Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.
The House Transportation Committee approved SB1356, legislation to give Maricopa County residents a vote for or against a transportation tax and excise tax plan. The committee passed with bipartisan support, with the exception of three: State Representatives Neal Carter (R-Queen Creek), Kevin Payne (R-Peoria), and Leo Biasucci (R-Lake Havasu City).Two didn’t vote either way: State Representatives Brenda Barton (R-Payson) and David Cook (R-Globe).
Arizona Free Enterprise Club Vice President Aimee Yentes expressed opposition to the bill, noting that 40 percent of the money was allocated for public transit. Yentes explained that the 1985 transportation tax plan was successful because it built freeways, but that over the decades the plan shifted from essential infrastructure like roads and freeways to “transit,” despite a steep, increasing decline in its use. That number sits at half a percent currently.
“As we’ve seen post-COVID, that ridership number has fallen off a cliff. There are actually more people who don’t own a vehicle that take a car to work than actually use public transit. That’s kind of astonishing,” said Yentes.
Yentes also noted that the bill sets aside funding for something already covered by statute: “regional programs.” She said the definition of that term was problematic because it doesn’t distinguish street intersection improvements but, rather, “arterial roads and regional programs.”
“It really is a catch-all that can be used to siphon off local city slush funds for whatever: complete streets, air quality,” said Yentes.
The bill sponsor, State Senator Tyler Pace (R-Mesa) said that the bill’s rejection, either by the legislature or by Maricopa County voters, would necessitate the Arizona legislature to find the funds for transportation projects themselves. Pace insisted that the committee members shouldn’t nitpick at the provisions of the bill because the greater good concerned Arizona’s legacy of quiet, fast roads superior to those of other states.
State Representative Richard Andrade (D-Glendale) compared SB1356 to previous efforts to expand and extend the state’s two major highways: Loop 101 and the I-17. Andrade argued that creating more public transit like light rails would increase their use.
Those in opposition explained that they weren’t confident this bill would actually meet transportation needs. Carter said that he supported infrastructure, but said that the legislation had room for improvement. Carter said his reservations included provisions for expenditures related to air quality, and the expansion beyond a 20-year authorization.
Payne expressed displeasure that legislators impacted by the bill weren’t included in stakeholder meetings. He explained that his constituents were requesting another bus route down Bell Road, for example, and that he couldn’t vote for the bill in good conscience because of that.
Echoing Carter and Payne’s statements in his “no” vote was Biasucci. Biasucci argued that the legislature should utilize its $4 billion in surplus instead of passing the costs on to taxpayers.
“I think this is, really, how it needs to be done: the money should come from the general fund to be spent on major projects, I’m talking billions of dollars’ worth, in my opinion. For me, when we’re sitting on this huge surplus, it’s hard for me to say, ‘Yes, I agree with a tax increase or an extension,’” said Biasucci.