Controversial bills took center stage this legislative session

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The legislative session got off to a rocky start as the public learned of more than 6,500 Child Protective Services cases that weren't investigated. But several gun bills, SB 1062, and other controversial proposals took center stage this year.

Experts said the public can, and should, learn from the controversy.

First, no surprise here - some bills this session focused on the Second Amendment.

Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed HB 2339, a bill allowing guns in public buildings.

Another proposal, HB 2356, giving officers authority to seize guns from someone deemed mentally ill or severely disabled, didn't even make it to a committee.

But who could forget the infamous SB1062. Backed by conservatives and opposed by civil rights organizations, it would've allowed people to declare their religious beliefs as a defense against discrimination claims, but it was vetoed by Brewer.

"[It] received national attention and changed, in a fundamental way, the course of the session," said lobbyist and political consultant Kevin DeMenna. He said the pace of the session was too quick, and lawmakers need to focus on thoroughly vetting these bills.

"Slow the process down and as a result, learn more about it," DeMenna said.

Then there's the budget. The agency known as Child Protective Services was a top priority. So did the lawmakers come through?

"They definitely fall short," said Dana Wolfe Naimark with the Children's Action Alliance.

She said she wasn't happy when Rep. John Kavanagh proposed a nearly $1 million bonus to private prison company the Geo Group in a time of crisis - a measure that was struck down.

"It doesn't make a lot of sense to say we have no money for kids but we have money for companies," Wolfe Naimark said.

The Children's Action Alliance said they'll be heavily involved with the special session in May, which will focus on funding for the new child safety division

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