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Budget doc reveals money stashed for ‘rainy days’ ahead

Lawmakers and the governor plan to set aside $450 million to offset anticipated deficits in the state budget in two years.

That’s money that won’t be available for critical needs now, but depositing it in the state’s “rainy day” fund reaffirms a fiscally conservative outlook that has dominated the Capitol following the fiscal crisis that led to several years of incessant budget slashing.

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Contraception bill now ready for governor

The Senate today gave final approval to a scaled-back proposal to allow religiously motivated employers to deny contraception coverage to their workers. The measure, which now only needs the governor’s signature to become law, sailed through after a passionate debate on the floor.

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3 new appointees on clemency board; long-time chief out (access required)

Duane Belcher, chairman and executive director of the Arizona Board of Clemency, is on his way out after 20 years, as three new appointees take their places on the panel now made up entirely of Gov. Jan Brewer’s picks. Belcher’s departure, some observers say, creates a vacuum of experience and leadership. Belcher is also one of the last members left from a board that unanimously recommended in 2009 to reduce a life sentence for a man many believe is innocent of a double murder.

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Republican budget talks moving again (access required)

Gov. Jan Brewer and legislative leaders resumed talks on the budget Thursday, three days after the governor told them to stop sending her bills until they get the state’s spending plan completed.

The meeting seemed to reaffirm the two sides’ commitment to negotiate the state budget within the Republican Party. The meeting came as some GOP lawmakers considered the possibility of joining with Democrats to pass a veto-proof budget.

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