New Arizona governor avoids major GOP political fights

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In this Jan. 12, 2015, Arizona Republican Gov. Doug Ducey gives his State of the State address as Arizona House Speaker David Gowan, left rear, and Arizona Senate President Andy Biggs listen at the Capitol in Phoenix. (Source: AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) In this Jan. 12, 2015, Arizona Republican Gov. Doug Ducey gives his State of the State address as Arizona House Speaker David Gowan, left rear, and Arizona Senate President Andy Biggs listen at the Capitol in Phoenix. (Source: AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
PHOENIX (AP) - Less than three months into the job, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey largely has managed to avoid making tough political decisions that could have alienated him from both wings of the Republican Party.

Arizona lawmakers have not been shy about sending hard-line bills to the governor's desk, most notably on gay rights, guns and abortion. For the most part, the 2015 Legislature has given Ducey a pass.

Lawmakers axed a bill Monday that would have allowed residents to bring guns into libraries, courthouses and other public buildings. Former Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed that proposal three times in the last four years. They also killed a bill that would have ditched the state's Common Core school standards.

Both issues are crucial to the state's conservative base but make moderate, pro-business Republicans skittish. Ducey has tried to appease both voting blocs.

But the governor couldn't avoid two other bills - an anti-abortion measure he signed and a bill requiring law enforcement agencies to keep the names of officers involved in shootings secret for 60 days, which was opposed by police chiefs. Ducey vetoed that bill, one of four he axed Monday.

The abortion law requires doctors in Arizona to tell women they can reverse the effects of a drug-induced abortion, which has been denounced by many in the medical community and critics who say there's no science to show they can be reversed.

Its primary provision bars women from buying a health care plan through the federal marketplace that includes abortion coverage.

Ducey has been a staunch abortion opponent and a close ally of the conservative group that wrote the legislation, the Center for Arizona Policy.

Ducey didn't comment on the requirement that women be told drug-induced abortions can be reversed. He said in a statement that he signed the bill to prevent taxpayer subsidies from being used to fund abortions - a near echo of comments made last week by the group's president.

"The American people overwhelmingly oppose taxpayer funding of abortions, and it's no different in Arizona, where we have long-standing policy against subsidizing them with public dollars," Ducey said. "This legislation provides clarity to state law."

The Center for Arizona Policy also wrote legislation last year that would have given protections to businesses that refuse service to gays based on religious objections. Lawmakers passed the bill and put Brewer in the middle of a firestorm over gay rights, like what Indiana is experiencing with a similar measure. She vetoed it.

On Common Core, Ducey last week sidestepped a decision on killing the standards by asking the Board of Education to initiate a review, allowing him to fulfill a campaign promise to conservatives who oppose the standards while not alienating the business and education community, which generally backs them.

The Senate helped Monday by narrowly rejecting a bill to abandon the standards. It was not the result many conservatives wanted.

"I think the state is pretty clear in what they feel about this thing called Common Core," said Sen. Steve Smith, R-Maricopa. "The people of this state do not like Common Core."

Ducey also nixed three other measures in his first vetoes, including a bill barring police from requiring officers to meet ticket quotas, one changing animal cruelty laws that activists said weakened protections for farm animals, and another exempting counties from having to pay mental health treatment costs for felons too ill to legally be sentenced.

With Monday's action, Ducey has gotten through the majority of his first legislative session without angering special-interest groups. The major exception was the state budget.

Ducey refused to cancel scheduled business tax cuts, making it necessary for him for slash more than $200 million from the budget. Universities took the biggest hit - nearly $100 million. School funding, social-service budgets and public assistance for the neediest residents also got cut.

Follow Bob Christie at http://twitter.com/APChristie.

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