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Stopping time: In the AZ Senate, anything is possible

As the last day of the 2009 fiscal year was winding down without a budget in place, political onlookers who have spent a few years at the Capitol started to wonder: Will the Senate stop the clock before midnight of June 30 to hide the fact that the new fiscal year has started?

After all, it’s happened before.

But the whole premise of stopping the clock in order to meet a constitutionally imposed fiscal deadline raised another question: How do you stop a digital clock from ticking past midnight?

As it turns out, the 30-member chamber found a solution; the Senate just turned off the digital clock so no time was displayed on the electronic screen.

But for those who had been keenly following the time to see if the Legislature would be able to pass the budget before July 1, the missing time on the screen was conspicuous.

“You got your answer,” said Senate Minority Leader Jorge Garcia said. “They just turned off the digital clock.”

Clock or no clock, senators soon began saying “good morning” since it was obviously past midnight.

One lawmaker joked that the Senate was now using “Hawaiian time.”

Hawaii is three hours behind Arizona.

Republican leaders said the way they understand it, the Senate is in the same legislative day as long as it hasn’t adjourned.

“Once we start session, it is still June 30,” said Sen. Russell Pearce, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “The day doesn’t end until you adjourned. So it is still June 30 technically.”

Legislative staff echoed Pearce’s statement.

But by 12:01 a.m., July 1, the lawmakers of Arizona still did not have a fiscal 2010 budget in place.

The budget “trailer” bills were finally approved about 3 a.m., and were transmitted a few hours later to the governor.

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