Q&A with House Speaker Andy Tobin
House Speaker Andy Tobin is entering his final year in the House, and it will be a busy year. Tobin must bring together the two factions of the Republican Caucus and maintain control of the House, while simultaneously hitting the campaign trail for Arizona’s massive 1st Congressional District. In a phone interview, Tobin talked about what’s coming up in the legislative session and the lingering effects of last year’s big battle over Medicaid expansion. He also looked back on his time in the House.
What does it mean for the upcoming legislative session that neither you nor (Senate President Andy) Biggs were even alerted to Governor Brewer’s big plan to split CPS from DES?
This is just the governor’s style, I’m not surprised at all. There’s not been a year in the past where we were formally involved in her budget-making process. That’s her position as the executive, and I don’t have a problem with it. I had no expectation that it would be different.
You’ve said relations in the House are pretty good among Republicans. But (Rep. David) Gowan is still calling for you to remove (Rep. Bob) Robson as Rules Committee chair, which to me is a clear signal that the wounds aren’t totally healed.
I don’t know if that’s relative to the Medicaid issue or not, but those decisions are clearly mine. I understand where Mr. Gowan is coming from. He’s well thought of and he’s trying to do what’s right for the caucus. We don’t always agree and it’s a long session, so changes are always a possibility to make things run smoother.
And you know I have to ask, are you going to remove Robson?
I don’t make any comments about staff or caucus issues in the press.
I’ve gotten that answer before. So, are you going to revive your water legislation this year?
No. No. I’m not going to revive that water bill. We had a committee that traveled the state to come up with some options. I think you’re going to see some of those come out. I think you’ll see some things on infrastructure. I think you’ll see some WIFA (Water Infrastructure Finance Authority) and conservation pieces. I think you’ll see some education on desalinization. It was never my intention to create a problem bill, it was my intention to draw attention to Arizona’s water crisis. We clearly did that, and you’re never going to run a water bill that people aren’t upset or worried about it. I would just like to see Arizonans stop suing each other and come to a statewide water solution…
Senate leadership is talking about repealing HB2305, the big elections bill from last year, before it goes up for a referendum vote.
Who’s talking about that?
Senate leadership, and Sen. Michele Reagan has given her OK. Would you be open to letting a repeal come to the floor of the House?
I think you have folks who are trying to make the election system viable, that it will prevent fraud and abuse in the system…. (But) I think clearly there was a lot that was put into that Christmas tree omnibus bill. Maybe it went too far, and clearly the voters were concerned about it. So yeah, I think there’s always a possibility.
You have a lot of responsibilities both in the House, and out on the campaign trail. Are you going to have enough time to do both?
I think you can look at my attendance record. Certainly during the crisis that Arizona has been though for six years, I’ve been at the table for six years. It’s been very busy, it’s been very chaotic, and I’ve traveled the state all during that time and I maybe missed a day or two in the seven years… Before I got in this race I was very clear that I was going to be here to do my job and if it cost me my race for Congress, so be it. My first priority is to represent my district and support the House.
You’re hitting term limits this year. What do you think of term limits at this point?
I think term limits are more than appropriate. I wish Congress would implement term limits. It doesn’t (bother) me at all because if there were no term limits, it would be unlikely that someone like me would ever have been speaker. Somebody had to leave for me to come in… I think it’s healthy for new people to come in. We have Mr. (J.D.) Mesnard and Mr. (Rick) Gray, they are the young blood. They’re sophomores and they’re in leadership roles. Mr. Gowan is a junior. And clearly they’ve done a good job and they’re prepared now.
What is your greatest accomplishment here in seven years?
Arizona went from not being sure we can make payroll, to now having a surplus, to now having the best state in the country for Second Amendment rights, the best state in the country for pro-life agenda, the best state in the country for balancing the budget, the best state in the country for competitiveness and job growth. And it wasn’t just Andy Tobin, it was a lot of lawmakers who had to make some very tough choices…
Your biggest regret?
Boy, there’s always a lot of regrets, I suppose. I wish we could have done more on tort reform, maybe there’s still some time to do that. I would have liked to have seen Arizona solve some of its water issues. I would have liked to have seen as the economy started coming back, that rural Arizona would have been part of that process. I don’t believe that rural communities are recovering as well (as the rest of the state), and I don’t believe Arizona can come back until all of us come back.