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Talk of special session for Arizona Legislature

Gov. Jan Brewer has completed action on bills passed by the Legislature during its 2011 regular session. But now she and others are talking about the possibility of a special session, most likely in the fall.

Potential topics include unfinished business, namely Brewer’s proposal to change state government personnel rules to make it easier to fire workers.

Others include retooled versions of bills vetoed by the Republican governor.

There’s also the possibility that lawmakers may have to revisit the state budget if projected big savings from scaling back eligibility for enrollment in the state Medicaid program gets hung up in court and don’t materialize.

“There probably will be one in the fall,” Brewer said Monday when asked about the possibility of a special session. “I would assume that between now and then there might be a lot of different issues that we could come together on and resolve.”

An upending of the Medicaid cutback before the 2012 regular session starts in January would virtually force a special session.

That’s because lawmakers relied on scaling back the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System’s enrollment to produce more than $500 million of savings to help close a project $1.1 billion shortfall in the budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

“Clearly we have a health care issue with our AHCCCS program …. so I’m looking forward to seeing where that process is going to lead itself,” new House Speaker Andy Tobin, R-Paulden, said last week when asked about the possibility of a special session.

Brewer has repeatedly raised the possibility of a special session to consider her personnel package, which would make sweeping changes in state government’s system.

Under her proposal, more state employees would get at-will status, meaning they would lose and never receive merit-system protections and therefore be easier to fire.

Though some majority Republicans have voiced support for Brewer’s proposal, whether lawmakers would support returning to the Capitol a special session for Brewer’s state government personnel changes isn’t clear.

She floated it to Republican legislative leaders during the final month of the regular session at a time when lawmakers were focused on approving the new budget. Once that was done, they quickly turned their attention toward wrapping up the session by acting on other business already their plate.

In an interview aired Friday on Arizona Public Media’s “Arizona Week” program, Brewer said Thursday the Legislature’s failure to consider the personnel changes was her biggest disappointment of the regular session.

The proposal is “a prime candidate for consideration in a legislation special session, she said Friday in a veto letter for a bill that would have made similar changes to county government personnel systems. That legislation could be considered anew as part of a special session on her state government proposal, she added.

Possible add-on topics for a special session include the original provisions of a tax corrections bill that started with housekeeping changes for the state tax agency and tweaks to business tax breaks approved in February as part of an economic development package.

Brewer vetoed the tax collections bill because of the last-minute addition of new sections that would have resurrected legislation to expand tax breaks for donations for private school tuition grants. Brewer had already vetoed a separate bill on that topic.

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