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“Question time” passes first test

A Senate panel has approved legislation to adopt a British tradition of having the head of government take questions from lawmakers on a regular basis.

Under SCR1012, Arizona’s governor would be required to answer questions by lawmakers for 30 minutes to an hour every two weeks during the regular legislative session. The “question time,” as it’s called in the United Kingdom, would be open to the public.

“I don’t think that there is really the dynamic conversation that we should be having taking place, in which the executive interacts with the Legislature,” said Sen. Jonathan Paton, the measure’s sponsor.

The governor wouldn’t be the only one on public display, Paton said.

“We’ll also get a window into how the Legislature works,” he said. “And if the questions that we ask are stupid, the voters will know about it as well.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the measure by a vote of 4-to-3 on Feb. 22.

Paton tried to get Sen. Ken Cheuvront to vote for the bill by reminding Cheuvront that he had publicly criticized former Gov. Janet Napolitano after she decided to take a job in the Obama administration. Paton said it was unfortunate that Cheuvront did not have a chance to pose his questions to Napolitano in an open forum.

“I thought you made good points, and I felt that those are the kind of questions that I would like to see made to a chief executive,” Paton said.

Cheuvront, though, voted against the measure, saying the question-and-answer session could turn into a contest by the opposition party to see who could most embarrass the governor.

“My concern is I have been down here for 16 years,” he said. “And I know that there would be members who would make a farce of this endeavor.”

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