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Republicans begrudgingly cast enough votes to pass IRC funding

Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission executive director Raymond Bladine. (Photo by Ryan Cook/RJ Cook Photography)

There was no shortage of complaining about giving the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission additional money to pay its legal obligations, but Republican senators ultimately opted to provide the funding.

By doing so, lawmakers avoid a potentially drawn-out legal battle, which would have cost both sides more money.

The measure, HB2862, gives the redistricting commission $700,000. It also requires an audit of the IRC’s finances to be completed within 90 days. The bill is now awaiting action from Gov. Jan Brewer.

The final vote in the Senate today was 18-9.

Republican lawmakers have been feuding with the commission and even removed its chairwoman, Colleen Mathis, last year. But the Arizona Supreme Court reinstated the commissioner.

It’s clear that many Republicans were strongly against providing the funding, but they were ultimately persuaded by the argument that lawmakers have a constitutional duty to fund the commission.

Sen. Steve Yarbrough, a Republican from Chandler, said he would have liked to vote no in protest.

“(But) I understand the constitution requires us to fund them. I care more about the constitution than the IRC or the Supreme Court,” Yarbrough said.

Senate Majority Leader Andy Biggs echoed that sentiment. He said he believes the commission’s actions have been unreasonable and unconstitutional at times, but it doesn’t mean lawmakers should shirk their constitutional obligations.

Sen. Don Shooter, the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, earlier offered a floor amendment to provide $700,000 in additional money to the IRC. The bill originally would have given the commission a single dollar.

Shooter said it makes him sick to do it, but he’s going to try to be a “good boy.”

“And with that, I guess I’ll support this,” Shooter said.

Other Republicans also expressed their dislike for the proposal.

Interestingly, some Democrats actually agreed that measure should not advance — but for completely different reasons. They said the legislation doesn’t provide enough funding for the commission.

Sen. Steve Gallardo, a Democrat from Phoenix, unsuccessfully offered a counter-amendment to give the IRC $1.13 million – the amount the commission asked for. He said that much extra money would allow the commission to cover future legal costs, something he said is especially important since House Speaker Andy Tobin is already threatening a lawsuit.

The amendment was defeated.

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