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Non-budget bills also at Brewer’s mercy

With the passage of four budget bills late July 6, lawmakers and Governor Jan Brewer seem to be moving toward a deal on the state budget, however, the futures of more than 180 other pieces of legislation remain uncertain.

Earlier in the year, Brewer and the state’s Republican leadership passed about dozen bills, including one measure that reset the application period for people receiving state health care benefits and another that resurrected scholarship programs for disabled and foster children. As of the beginning of June, fewer than two-dozen bills had passed both chambers of the Legislature.

But that was then, and this is now.

Lawmakers, forced by the swipe of Brewer’s veto pen, have returned to the Capitol to continue budget negotiations. And a special petition to the Arizona Supreme Court has pitted the Legislature’s Republican majority against an appointed governor from the same party.

And some of the harsh words haven’t helped smooth things over. A Web site posting by Bob Burns, president of the Senate, states Brewer is “having problems managing the level of responsibility to which she has been elevated.”

The governor, on the other hand, has been equally forthright, accusing the Legislature of forwarding a budget filled with “destructive” cuts to education, public safety and care for vulnerable populations.

By law, Brewer has 10 days to either sign, veto, or simply allow into law the 185 bills that have been sent to her. And judging by the statements coming from her office, she intends to use every second of the time available to make up her mind.

Despite the feuding that has become characteristic of the uneasy and, at times, downright hostile relationship between lawmakers and the governor, Brewer spokesman Paul Senseman said the bills will not be used to force the hands of lawmakers’ in budget negotiations.

“There’s no hostages,” Senseman said, referring to the bills. “The governor will look at each bill based on its propriety and its policy for the state. That was her approach as a legislator and will be her approach as a governor.”

The deluge of bills during the waning moments of the legislative session included measures that have been near and dear to lawmakers, such as further abortion restrictions, expanded gun rights, and illegal immigration enforcement. Others represented nothing more than mundane corrections to existing laws.

In any event, Senseman said the governor will need the full 10 days to review the bills, simply due to the sheer volume of bills transmitted in a short period.

Lawmakers hope bills won’t be cast aside by the governor for political reasons, or as retribution for lawmakers voting against her budget proposals.

Fountain Hills Republican John Kavanagh served as the prime sponsor of a bill he casually calls “guns in parking lots.” The measure prevents property owners from prohibiting the storage of concealed weapons in cars parked on their lots.

“I trust the governor will judge them (the bills) on their merits,” Kavanagh said. “I don’t believe she’d be so Machiavellian to veto good bills for political purposes.”

Likewise, Rep. Jerry Weiers, a Glendale Republican, said he’s concerned Brewer will veto measures sponsored by lawmakers who she doesn’t see as allies, even though most of the bills were authored by Republicans. He said anything is possible after watching the governor veto most of the GOP’s budget package.

The fate of Weiers’ H2465 is in the hands of Brewer. The legislation makes it easier to charge metal thieves with felonies and creates new legal avenues to deter metal theft.

“It’s dangerous for her to veto just for the sake of vetoing,” he said. “I find myself voting for members’ bill even when I have a problem with a member. To vote against good measures is stupid.”

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