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Antenori absent; Senate postpones voting on final two budget bills

The Senate gaveled in and out of special session March 15 without any action on two budget measures that senators skipped voting on last week.

It was the second time the vote was postponed. The two bills were held up last week when the Senate was unable to muster the votes needed to pass them. Sen. Carolyn Allen, a Scottsdale Republican, was not in attendance during the March 11 vote.

This time, Sen. Frank Antenori, a Republican from Tucson, was absent, and Senate leadership needed his support to pass the rest of the budget plan.

Senate President Bob Burns said the plan is to tackle the ballot measure March 16, assuming everyone is present.

“We want to make sure we got all our people here,” Burns said.

Antenori’s vote is needed specifically to pass a measure that would eliminate First Things First, a program that was created by voters in 2006 to expand education and health services for children. Republican Sens. John Huppenthal and Jay Tibshraeny are expected to vote no on the measure, making Antenori the 16th vote in the Senate.

HCR2001, if passed, would allow voters to decide in November whether to end First Things First and give the state control over the $325 million that the program had collected from a tax on tobacco.

The other bill, H2013, which has yet to pass, would repeal a tax credit for businesses for sales tax accounting and reporting. HB2013 is subject to the requirements of Proposition 108, which requires a two-thirds vote for any act that results in a “net increase” in state revenues. It was expected to increase state revenue by $20 million in fiscal 2011.

Meanwhile, the Senate is back to normal – sort of. After suspending committee hearings last week to focus on the budget, Senate panels resumed meetings this week to tackle House

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