by Karen Winfield, LD25
I watched most of the Floor proceedings at the legislature on Cox cable the last two days. The battle was over the state budget, considered the most important job a legislator does. The budget was actually already in process. It had passed the Senate and moved over to the House where it had a hearing on Tuesday. Then things started to go crazy. Here are the main points. Feel free to share this with the other PCs if you wish.
At 5 p.m on Tuesday (June 11, 2013), the governor issued a call for a "Special Session."
It’s not unusual to call for a Special Session to consider the budget or other bills. When that happens, all other work is set aside and the bills for the Special Session are taken up. What was unusual about this particular call for a Special Session, however, is that it came out of the blue. Normally the governor, the Senate President, and the Speaker of the House would be having conversations and negotiating. They would come to agreement together on when to schedule the Special Session. In this case, there was no notice. The governor arbitrarily called the Special Session at 5 p.m. — without any advance notice to the President or Speaker and AFTER the House and Senate had finished for the day and staff was leaving. The call forced everyone to drop everything and turn around and drive back to the capitol. At the very least it was rude and arbitrary. At worst, it was a planned maneuver to subvert the legislative process. (Making a call for a Special Session at 5 p.m. might result in some legislators not being located, which could work to the advantage of one side or the other. That sort of gamesmanship is not unheard of, but it generally doesn’t happen in Arizona.)
Once the Special Session was convened, a group of five Republicans joined forces with the Democrats to suspend the rules.
Among the participants in the renegade faction was Senator Worsley (LD25). The normal bill process includes:
a. A committee hearing (in the case of the budget — the Appropriations Committee — discussion and analysis of the bills)
b. Review by the Rules Attorney and a Rules Committee meeting.
c. Caucus (where the bills are discussed separately by the Dems in one room and the Republicans in another).
d. Committee of the Whole (COW) — the debate stage on the Floor.
e. Third Read — the vote on the bill.
After suspending the Rules, the renegade Republicans caused the normal process to be subverted.
They skipped the Appropriations Committee, the Rules Committee, and the Caucus stage and went straight to the Floor for Committee of the Whole (debate). Since the legislators had not had the opportunity to ask questions or analyze the bills AT ALL up to that point, they were more than eager to ask questions on the Floor. But the renegade Republicans refused to answer questions at all. This is also not the usual practice. A spirit of decorum usually prevails, and legislators ask and answer questions through a parliamentary process on the Floor.
In this case, no questions were answered at any stage in the legislative process. The conservatives did TRY to get answers, but their requests were met with a "no." In both the House and Senate, the Democrats and renegade Republicans clammed up and remained silent. Even though one of their group was a sponsor of every bill that went through, they steadfastly refused to discuss the bills or respond to questions. The bills were rammed through the process, by-passing important steps along the way that are designed to give a bill thorough public scrutiny before they are voted on. In this case, there was no public scrutiny. Just subversion of the process and silence.
Many amendments were offered by both sides.
Only the Democrat/renegade Republican amendments were successfully passed, even though many of the failed amendments would have reduced taxes, trimmed welfare, or protected the Right to Life. Among the amendments and bills that passed (and which Senator Worsley voted for) were bills that expanded taxpayer funding for abortion, expanded eligibility for welfare benefits, increased welfare, raised taxes, increased property taxes, implemented government healthcare, created a structural debt of $400 million, and removed government oversight for special interests. Overall, it was a travesty of the democratic process and a real blow to Republican principles.
Meanwhile the same sort of thuggery seems to be playing out in Washington. The House Speaker (Boehner) is threatening Republican Congressmen if they don’t vote for the immigration/amnesty bill. He is saying they will suspend the rules and take away their chairmanships if the Congressmen don’t do what they’re told. It appears that the Democrats are so emboldened, that they are throwing caution to the wind and forcing their agenda on us. Anyone who stands in their way will be knocked aside, the Democratic process be damned.