Despite what they say, Republican lawmakers are concerned about losing a majority in the Legislature, which is the real reason they are anxious to “get back to work.”
Evidence of that fact became apparent Wednesday when legislative leaders abruptly changed plans to adjourn the current session on May 1. Earlier in the week, House Speaker Rusty Bowers and Senate President Karen Fann agreed to convene the Legislature the day after Gov. Ducey’s stay-at-home order expires, and shortly thereafter adjourn the session “sine die.”
Doing so would have killed hundreds of initiatives, including several resolutions seeking to change Arizona’s Constitution to revise the Voter Protection Act and a proposal sponsored by local State Rep. Becky Nutt to create the office of Lieutenant Governor.
After adjourning, Rep. Bowers and Sen. Fann were expecting Gov. Ducey would call for a special session of the Legislature in June to deal with the state budget. Two weeks ago legislators got word that analysts predict a $1.1 billion shortfall — plus or minus $500 million — by June 2021. More information on the size of the shortfall is expected just before the fiscal year ends June 30. Lawmakers would have a better idea of how to adjust the budget by reconvening at a later date.
That plan changed when Bowers and Fann were confronted by a “substantial majority” of fellow Republicans who objected to adjourning sine die.
The political reasons offered by several of the members focused on “doing the people’s work” and the desire of Arizona people for the Legislature to “…get back to life prior to COVID-19.”
We don’t think so.
Had the Legislature adjourned May 1, it’s doubtful there would have been time during a special session in June to consider much other than dealing with the projected deficit. That would have left the “dormant” proposals killed by the adjournment on the shelf until the the next time the Legislature convenes, in January 2021 for the 55th gathering of this august body.
By then, we could be looking at a much different membership.
Several Republican incumbents in the Legislature face stiff challenges at the ballot box this fall. Democrats picked up four seats in the Arizona House in 2018, and are one seat short of ending the GOP majority for the first time since 1966. Complicating matters is the possibility that one incumbent Republican, Rep. Shawnna Bolick (R-Phoenix) may be disqualified from seeking re-election due to a violation of the residency rule.
Republicans need to get back to work, and quickly, if they hope to ram through bills and initiatives they have promised to lobbyists and to accomplish their ongoing objective of taking legislative authority away from citizens and giving it to the Legislature.