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Panel: Toss one-year wait for lawmakers to become Capitol lobbyists

A state House committee Tuesday narrowly endorsed scrapping a state law the prevents legislators from serving as paid lobbyists at the Capitol for a year after leaving office.

Its author, Rep. Jack W. Harper, R-Surprise, said the moratorium is intended to keep lawmakers from influencing legislation but fails to recognize that staff members are even better positioned to become lobbyists. He said it’s unfair to deny former lawmakers the same opportunities allowed for staff members.

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Cortes case, somehow, grows cold

The investigation into the Olivia Cortes candidacy quietly evaporated last week when Gila County Attorney Daisy Flores informed Bennett that she was unable to determine who pulled the strings to collect Cortes’ nominating petition signatures so she could qualify for the recall ballot.

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Q&A with Gov. Jan Brewer (access required)

Gov. Jan Brewer has never had a legislative session like this.

After three years of fiscal crises and emergency budget fixes, Brewer went into the 2012 legislative session with a projected surplus. The biggest budget problem Brewer faces now is what to do with as much as $1.5 billion in extra revenue.

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Q&A with Senate Minority Leader David Schapira (access required)

A year ago, first-term Sen. David Schapira surprisingly cinched the position of Democratic leader.

Now in his second year as minority leader, Schapira is considering another challenge — running for Congress. In this interview, Schapira reiterated he won’t resign from the Legislature should he join that race and assured his constituents he can ably multitask.

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Q&A with House Speaker Andy Tobin (access required)

The timing for Andy Tobin’s ascension to speaker of the House was pretty favorable. The state is beginning to see an uptick in revenues due to a recovering economy, so the battle over the budget is likely to be less adversarial this session than it was in previous years.

But Tobin cautions against anyone getting the impression that the state has money to burn. As long as the state has debt to pay off, he said he doesn’t think that the unexpected revenue should be seen as a surplus.

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Q&A with House Minority Leader Chad Campbell (access required)

It hasn’t been a banner past couple years for the Democrats. Faced with a Republican supermajority, their power at the Legislature has been limited.

Assessing this year’s session, House Minority Leader Chad Campbell has a similarly dim outlook. Democrats are still outnumbered two-to-one, and a looming election may mean lawmakers focus on more ideological issues. But there are some promising signs: new leadership in the House and Senate, plus some unexpected money for the state.

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Brewer budget plans for slow growth, cautious spending (access required)

Gov. Jan Brewer is treading carefully and offering a multiyear budget that plans that includes hundreds of millions in one-time expenditures, but gives the state a financial cushion for the coming fiscal cliff in 2014.

The Governor’s Office today unveiled budget plan for fiscal year 2013 and the remainder of 2012 that is projected to leave the state in the black by about $329 million when the Proposition 100 sales tax increase expires and federal health care mandates are expected to take a major toll on the state budget in fiscal year 2014.

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