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Some ‘dead’ bills get a 2nd chance, but tactic doesn’t always work

More than a dozen bills have been reconsidered on the floors of the Arizona Senate and House of Representatives after their earlier demise, and while most have passed when given a second thought, a few have stalled or met another death by vote.

The useful process gives lawmakers a second chance to swing votes in their favor and overcome the pitfalls of the political process: poor attendance, a legislative misunderstanding or a scheduling error that left a bill for dead when sponsors were sure they had the votes.

After legislation is defeated, senators have until the end of the following legislative day to vote to reconsider the failure of a bill. If senators vote to reconsider, the bill can be voted on at any time, providing a freedom unknown to the House, where a specific date must be set at the moment a vote for reconsideration is successful.

Two bills are left with a chance for reconsideration in the Senate: HB2082, Rep. John Kavanagh’s measure to keep lottery winners’ names confidential, and HB2282, a controversial measure sponsored by Rep. Steve Smith that would establish separate primary and general elections in the event an elected official is recalled.

Their bills could be scheduled for a vote at anytime — and with no end in sight to this legislative session, Kavanagh and Smith have plenty of time to lobby for support in the Senate.

But both representatives may want to pay attention to the fate of another bill that passed the Senate on reconsideration, and what drove its fate.

No crazy stuff

In late February, a small coalition of Republican senators chose to send a message by killing a bill just to prove they could, and in doing so, set a tone for the session that no “crazy stuff” would pass.

Mesa Republican Sens. Rich Crandall and Bob Worsley, as well as Sen. Steve Pierce, R-Prescott, joined all but one Democrat to vote against SB1108, which would allow parents to adopt children even if their own natural children haven’t had an immunization shot.

Sen. Nancy Barto, R-Phoenix, called it an “unusual circumstance” — she watched on Feb. 20 as her bill was defeated 14-15, only to have Crandall, one of the no votes, motion to reconsider the bill.

It passed the Senate the very next day by 27-2 vote.

Sen. Steve Gallardo, who joined Republicans Crandall, Worsley and Pierce to vote no on the initial vote, called the maneuver “a show of force.”

Lawmakers didn’t have a problem with Barto’s bill, but simply chose it to set an example.

“It sent a strong message to Senate leadership that even with a couple of Democrats peeled off, there were still enough votes there to drive the discussion in the Senate should leadership not adhere to the majority,” said Gallardo, D-Phoenix.

“It was the first sign that certain divisive measures were not going to be received well on the floor of the Senate,” Gallardo said, a message for the House that some controversial, conservative measures would not find their way through the Senate.

A handful of Republicans have since joined with Democrats to defeat other bills deemed unfit for consideration, including a vote in Committee of the Whole on Feb. 21, when senators voted three times to defeat an anti-union bill that would have required annual authorization for public employees to allow automatic paycheck deductions.

Other attempts to revive similar bills this year have fallen short of the Senate floor after it became clear a majority of the Senate had no appetite for the measure.

A strange twist

Crandall, Pierce and Worsley were later part of a bloc of seven GOP senators who joined with Democrats to defeat Smith’s recall primary bill.  The measure lost 10-18 on the Senate floor on April 18.

Smith has introduced the bill two years in a row following the successful recall of former Senate President Russell Pearce. The measure passed the Senate 17-11 in 2012, with strong support from Republicans, but ultimately died in conference committee.

Only Crandall, Sen. Adam Driggs, R-Phoenix, and then-Sen. Jerry Lewis, who defeated Pearce in the recall election, voted against the bill among the GOP caucus.

This year, five more Republicans joined Crandall and Driggs to vote against the bill, which would have required a primary election when an official is recalled, as opposed to the current non-partisan, winner-take-all election.

In a strange twist, Sen. Steve Yarbrough, R-Chandler, added a clarifying amendment to Smith’s bill that drew fire from Democrats and concerns from enough Republican senators.  The amendment clarified that an incumbent official is essentially immune to defeat in the primary election.

Even if an incumbent loses the primary, the official’s name would still be placed on ballots for the general election alongside the Republican and Democratic winners of their respective primary races.

“Because the Constitution is so clear that the winner of the election gets immediately seated, it causes a very bizarre situation for the incumbent to lose a primary and still move on the general election,” Crandall said. “It’s a goofy thing.”

Smith said he was surprised at the turn of events, as four senators changed their yes votes from 2012 into votes against the measure: Sens. Rick Murphy, Pierce, Michele Reagan and Don Shooter all flipped, though Smith suspects Murphy and Shooter changed votes so they could reconsider the bill.

Senators voted to reconsider the bill on April 22, but a date for a second vote has not been set.

“My problem is, what changed from last year?” Smith said. “It’s the exact same bill. That’s what I’m at least trying to figure out.”

Yarbrough’s amendment doesn’t actually change the bill, it just clarified how the new recall election process would work. If the amendment was of such concern to people, “we’ll strip it off in conference committee here,” Smith said.

Smith said he was uncertain of the bill’s chances on a second vote.

Thankful for a second chance

Kavanagh is far more confident that his bill to keep the names of lottery winners confidential will be a success, even after its 11-16 defeat on the Senate floor on April 11. A motion to reconsider the bill was made that same day, though a second vote has yet to be scheduled.

“All the arguments against it have excellent counter arguments, and that’s why it passed out of the House 51-9,” said Kavanagh, who credited a scheduling error with the defeat of his bill.

“I didn’t know it was going up that day, and I didn’t have a chance to inform Senate members that the reasons why these arguments against it were fallacious,” he said. “I’m confident that when I get the word out that I’ll have overwhelming bipartisan support in the Senate.”

Crandall, Worsley and Pierce were again the common thread among the GOP lawmakers who voted against the bill, as was Driggs.

“I didn’t feel a lot of sympathy for multi-million dollar lottery winners,” Crandall said. And “one guy had a problem. If there were five million dollar winners coming to us from Arizona, maybe that’d be different.”

Democrats solidly voted against the measure, 12-0, so Kavanagh needed to convince five more Republican senators to vote in favor of the measure.

Barto and Senate Majority Leader John McComish, R-Phoenix, missed the first vote.

Kavanaugh said he’s grateful for the second chance.

“Sometimes it’s an accident, sometimes there’s a minor change that can be made to the bill that can make it acceptable, and it’s nice to get that second bite at the apple,” Kavanagh. “It seems reasonable to have an easier reconsideration… to have it die for a lack of preparation or lack of a small tweak doesn’t make much sense.”

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