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Ethics panel sets groundrules for Harper hearing

A Republican accused of breaking Senate rules on the last day of session and the Democrat who filed an ethics complaint against him will have the opportunity to address the Senate Ethics Committee uninterrupted under rules adopted by the panel Aug. 5. 

The rules will govern the upcoming hearing into the complaint that Sen. Ken Cheuvront, a Phoenix Democrat, filed against Sen. Jack Harper, a Surprise Republican. The hearing is set for Aug. 12.

Whether the committee will ask others to testify after Harper and Cheuvront make their cases remains the subject of discussion.

Senate Minority Leader Marsha Arzberger, a member of the committee, said she would like to hear from Senate Majority Thayer Verschoor, who was identified in the complaint as Harper's co-conspirator but was not charged with any ethics violation.

But Sen. Robert Blendu of Litchfield Park said there was no need for others to give their testimony.

"I don't need anyone to explain to me what I saw," Blendu said. "I think it will only add to the confusion."

Sen. Richard Miranda, a Democrat from Tolleson, said other people's testimony would allow him to better understand what happened on the night of June 27, when Harper interrupted the debate between Cheuvront and Sen. Paula Aboud, a Democrat from Tucson, on excise taxes. Miranda was not present on the floor that night.

The debate's interruption preceded the vote on a ballot measure seeking to ban same-sex marriage in the state Constitution. The two Democrats were trying to delay or possibly defeat the proposal.

Sen. Jay Tibshraeny, the committee chairman, said he is reluctant to ask others to testify without first hearing from Cheuvront and Harper because of its "very sensitive nature."

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