The bill moratorium that rankled lawmakers as Gov. Jan Brewer started applying pressure to pass her Medicaid expansion plan helped push her to a near-record number of vetoes in 2013.
Brewer vetoed 26 bills this year, the second highest total of her career, behind the 29 she rejected in 2011. Five were collateral damage, struck down after Senate President Andy Biggs tested Brewer’s request that lawmakers stop sending legislation to her desk until they made significant progress on the budget and her Medicaid plan.
The veto letters for those five bills contained the same message. Brewer wrote that she had warned lawmakers not to send her more bills, and vetoed them to demonstrate that the moratorium was not an idle threat.
On the rest of her vetoes, Brewer’s objections related solely to the policies in the bills.
Brewer ended the session with vetoes of HB2432, House Speaker Andy Tobin’s proposed increase of Arizona’s research and development tax credits, and HB2439, Rep. Justin Olson’s bill to adjust the state’s income tax brackets annually for inflation. On both, Brewer expressed concerns over the impacts the bills would have on the state’s budget.
The governor wrote that Rep. Warren Petersen’s HB2578, which would have penalized government employees who overstep regulatory guidelines, was “punitive and unnecessary,” and that the Gilbert Republican’s HB2591, which would have expanded requirements that the state post budget information online, was duplicative and poorly defined.
Brewer vetoed other bills on the grounds that parts of them were vague or poorly defined. Such was the reasoning for her veto of Sen. Kelli Ward’s SB1437, which would have established qualifications and Department of Health Services regulation for music therapists.
Many of the vetoed bills received near-unanimous support in the Legislature. HB2271, Rep. Tom Forese’s bill to allow funeral homes to hire “intern trainees,” had only one vote against it. Olson’s HB2439 passed unanimously in both chambers, as did Rep. David Gowan’s HB2553, which dealt with the regulation of bail bond agents.
On some bills, such as Rep. Doris Goodale’s measure allowing charter schools to provide pre-schooling for disabled children, which passed unanimously, Brewer said she did not want to sign legislation with a fiscal impact until the budget was finished. Brewer has a history of vetoing bills with a cost attached to them prior to the completion of the budget.
Though she’s long been an ally to social conservatives, Brewer vetoed two bills pushed by the Center for Arizona Policy. One, which would have allowed people facing lawsuits to use the free exercise of religion as a defense, got caught up in Brewer’s moratorium. The other, HB2446, would have exempted vacant property being held for future religious use from property taxes, as long as it was not being used for profit.
Brewer vetoed some controversial bills. She struck down Sen. Chester Crandell’s SB1439, which would have defined gold and silver specie as legal tender under Arizona law, a proposal gaining popularity nationwide among Tea Party conservatives. She vetoed Rep. Carl Seel’s HB2433, which would have eliminated the 45-year age limit for service in the Arizona State Guard even though it has not actually been established or funded.
Some see motivations besides the merits of bills in Brewer’s vetoes. Twenty-six of the 29 vetoed bills were sponsored by lawmakers who voted against her Medicaid expansion plan.
Olson, R-Mesa, who was the Legislature’s veto leader in 2013 with three bills struck down, said it’s a trend that’s hard to ignore.
“I don’t know if that weighed into her decision on some of my bills or not. But it’s hard to ignore the elephant in the room that sucked up most of the oxygen in the room. Very likely that did come into play,” Olson said. “I think that’s hard to deny that that definitely appears to be a factor in some of the vetoes. But only the governor would know for sure.”
Others disagreed. Petersen, a vocal expansion opponent who organized several rallies against Brewer’s Medicaid plan, said he doesn’t believe the governor based any of her vetoes on anything except the merits of the bills. Petersen, R-Gilbert, said he didn’t think Brewer’s vetoes of two of his bills were in any way related to his opposition to Medicaid expansion.
“I always like to think more of people. I really don’t think Medicaid had anything to do with the vetoes,” Petersen said.
Tobin also said he doesn’t believe Brewer vetoed his research-and-development tax credit bill, a top priority of his this year, as a result of their clashes over Medicaid during the session.
The Governor’s Office has repeatedly said throughout the session that Brewer’s vetoed were not based on the sponsors’ positions on Medicaid expansion.
Back from the dead
Some vetoed bills found a new life later in the session.
Sen. Nancy Barto’s SB1115, which mandated that hospitals make available the prices of their most common services, was vetoed in April. But Brewer later signed Rep. Heather Carter’s HB2045 after language similar to SB1115 was amended onto the bill.
And two of Sen. Kimberly Yee’s education bills that were vetoed as part of Brewer’s moratorium were added on to another one of the Phoenix Republican’s bills, which the governor signed. One provision from the vetoed bills requires the Department of Education to publish criteria for changes when school districts move up from an ‘F’ letter grade, and the other requires districts to report annual mileage and odometer readings for school buses.
“I had been given indication that it was not the substance of the bills. It was just that period of time where she was just not signing. They assured me that once they would come back at a different time that they would be fine. So we just put that onto another Department of Ed bill,” Yee said.