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New Senate committees have narrower partisan split

Reflecting the new political reality at the Capitol, incoming Republican leaders have created a dozen Senate committees with a narrower partisan split.

Most of the new Senate panels will have four Republicans and three Democrats, a committee makeup that many say likely will encourage more collaboration between the parties.

Rep. Steve Farley, a Democrat from Tucson who won his election to the Senate, said it’s a sign that incoming Senate President Andy Biggs is reaching out to the Democrats’ side of the aisle.

“That’s a generous move on his part,” Farley said.

The Senate completed its reorganization, shrinking its panels to 12 from 15.

And following his predecessors’ footsteps, Biggs appointed himself as chairman of the powerful Rules Committee.

This consolidation of power means Biggs has another avenue to check the advance of bills.

All measures must get the nod of the Rules Committee before they can be debated and voted on by the full Senate.

As anticipated, members of leadership were assigned to fewer committees.

Sen. John McComish, the incoming majority leader, will serve as vice-chairman of Rules and serve on the Commerce, Energy and Military panel.

Biggs will only serve on one committee — Rules, which he will chair.

Except for two members, the rest of the rank-and-file will serve on either three or four panels.

Sen. Steve Yarbrough, R-Chandler, will have the lightest schedule. He will serve on only two committees: Rules and Finance, which he will chair.

Sen. Gail Griffin, R-Hereford, will take on the heaviest workload. In addition to chairing Government and Environment, she will serve on four other panels: Rules, Natural Resources and Rural Affairs, Appropriations and Public Safety.

Meanwhile, the Senate’s first-term legislators, businessman Bob Worsley and physician Kelli Ward, will serve as vice-chairpersons of Finance and Health and Human Services, respectively.

In many instances, members were appointed to committees they’re most familiar with.

For example, many members of the Education Committee have either taught, served as an executive, advised on or have been involved in  education.

Meanwhile, Griffin and outgoing Senate President Pierce, two strong advocates for the state’s rural communities, were both assigned to Natural Resources and Rural Affairs.

Sens. Michele Reagan of Scottsdale and Steve Gallardo of Phoenix were appointed to the elections panel.

Gallardo has been vocal about overhauling the state’s rules governing the interaction of lobbyists and lawmakers following the Fiesta Bowl scandal, where current and former legislators took free trips and received other freebies but failed to properly disclose them. Meanwhile, Reagan is expected to push for elections-related measures next year.

Bob Worsley, the founder of the inflight catalog SkyMall, was assigned to Finance as well as Commerce, Energy and Military, which are expected to deal with business and tax issues.

Finally, many incoming members of the Rules Committee are members of leadership in both parties.

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