Republicans held their first caucus meeting in a newly-renovated room on the first floor of the Senate building on Jan. 12.
Walls have been knocked down, a sound system has been installed, and the room can now accommodate more people than the former caucus room on the second floor.
The renovation cost about $46,000. Most of the money was spent to tear down walls, install a sound system and buy new furniture.
The second-floor caucus room is now Sen. Russell Pearce’s office. The Rules office, adjacent to it, has been expanded. The Yellow Sheet Report has submitted a public records request for the costs of that remodel, but the information has yet to be released.
Senate President Burns said the primary reason for moving the caucus room to the first floor is to improve security in the Senate building. The first floor is considered the “public floor,” and access is more restricted on the second and third floors, where the lawmakers and staff offices are located.
“Based on the financial situation of the state and some of the decisions that we are going to have to make this year, there is probably going to be some people who are not real happy about what we do,” Burns said. “There are people who disagree with what we do, and when you have an economy in the situation that it’s in, you know what, all that becomes a little high profile, a little more elevated.”
The cost of renovating the room was offset by keeping two positions in the Senate unfilled, Burns said.
Sen. Thayer Verschoor, a Republican from Gilbert, said he likes the technology installed in the new caucus room. In addition to the microphone system, the room has a projector and a big screen.
But some lawmakers disagreed with the decision to remodel the rooms during a budget crisis.
“I would have waited until we were in better times,” said Sen. Pamela Gorman, a Republican from Anthem. “It just doesn’t seem to make sense when you are on one hand saying, ‘We are not going to print the bills for the legislators anymore, but we are going to go make a pretty room.’”
Sen. Ron Gould, a Lake Havasu Republican, said Senate leadership had set a bad example.
“In this time of falling revenue and budget cuts, staff cuts, pay reductions, telling schools and teachers to get by with what they have, we have decided that we are going to build ourselves a new caucus room for $46,000,” Gould said. “That model is called, do as I say, not as I do.”
Here’s a breakdown of the renovation costs:
*$14,266 to tear down walls, paint and add new lighting and carpet
*$5,600 to remove asbestos
*$2,585 to install new network wiring
*$8,546 to install audio press feeds and an amplified sound system
*$2,063 to refurbish the caucus table
*$9,000 to buy new furniture, including nearly $6,000 for new chairs
*$3,500 to buy new artwork
*$850 to buy and install a state seal