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Barnes’ comments take a turn for the weird

While the Senate barely said a word about the budget bills, the House spent more than an hour debating their merits when they came up for a vote Nov. 23.

It was a strikingly partisan debate on spending cuts to education and social services. At times it was adversarial. At other times it was just strange.

The whole episode took a turn for the weird when Rep. Ray Barnes, a Phoenix Republican, started telling his colleagues why he supports the cuts.

While explaining his vote, Barnes listed a number of non-existent jobs to illustrate waste in schools.

“There’s the principal, the assistant principal, the assistant to the assistant principal, the principal of recess, the principal of discipline,” Barnes declared, raising his voice. “And I’m sure, unless we’ve got a bisexual teacher somewhere, there’s probably a principal of the girls’ restrooms and a principal of the boys’ restrooms. And that bothers me because, I’m telling you, that’s nothing but padding the books.”

The remark caused an immediate objection from House Assistant Minority Leader Kyrsten Sinema, a bisexual. She asked that Barnes keep his comments to the legislation at hand.

When instructed to do so by House Speaker Kirk Adams, Barnes turned to Sinema and bellowed: “I think this is the comments to the bill! Is there not anything in there about education cuts? What’s the matter, don’t you read the bills before you start voting on them? It is a part of the bill!”

Republicans and Democrats took turns pointing the finger at the other, each one blaming the other for a lack of bipartisanship in the budget process.

“It’s as if there are two parties in this body, and we’re both at the edge of the cliff. We’re going to have to hold hands and jump together. We Democrats are tired of jumping alone,” said Rep. Steve Farley, a Tucson Democrat.

But Republicans responded by saying Democrats, for all their talk this year about needing a bipartisan solution, hadn’t voted for any piece of the budget this year.

“I have not seen any proof yet that the Democratic legislators…want to (work together),” said Rep. Debbie Lesko, a Republican from Peoria.

And Phoenix Republican Jim Weiers chided his Democratic colleagues, saying their intentions are overshadowed by their actions.

“People are judged by what they do, not by what they said they wanted to do,” he said.

As for Barnes, he apologized the next day, saying his comment about bisexual school principals was inappropriate.

“I maybe got a little bit too vocal on that. … One of the comments I made was perhaps not appropriate, but I didn’t even think about it. I was just getting emotionally involved,” Barnes said.

To see a video clip of Rep. Barnes’ comments, go to: http://www.youtube.com/ArizonaCapitolTimes

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