Tension among Republicans in the Senate this morning nearly boiled over during a caucus meeting regarding legislation to create new tax credits for the film industry.
Some oppose the proposal, and at least one Republican tried to keep the bill from advancing to the floor by invoking an informal rule to block the bill’s progress.
But the bill’s chief proponent, Sen. John Nelson, R-Litchfield Park, was ready and countered the move by showing the proposal is supported by at least half of Senate Republicans.
Under the majority’s rules, any Republican senator can block a measure by publicly asking for it to be held – unless the sponsor can show the bill has the support of at least half of the caucus, or 11 Republican senators.
Tension was palpable in the Senate Republican caucus when Sen. Ron Gould, R-Lake Havasu City, a fierce critic of the measure, said he wanted a copy of Nelson’s list of supporters for HB2127 so that he could cross-check it against those who actually would vote for the bill when it goes to the floor.
When Nelson stood up to retrieve the list from Gould, Gould instead held the piece of paper over Nelson’s head for a few seconds before giving it back.
“We have the right to know,” Gould protested.
Senate President Steve Pierce clearly didn’t like what happened.
“We’ve been doing this wrong,” he said, referring to the majority’s informal rules. “We can talk about it if you guys can be patient.”
After discussing a few more bills, Senate Republicans met behind closed doors to discuss what procedures should govern contentious legislation.
After the meeting, however, senators said the issue remained unresolved.
Nelson’s bill would allow filmmakers to get a 20 percent tax credit for at least $250,000 in production expenses. The tax credit is increased by 5 percent if they use an Arizona studio for at least half of the production.
Critics argue that targeted tax incentives pick winners and losers, and lawmakers should instead be looking at broad-based tax cuts to spur the economy.
Supporters, however, say the incentives would help Arizona compete with other states, which also offer tax credits to filmmakers.
The next stop for HB2127 is the Senate floor for debate and vote.