Five senators signing off after this year

Luige del Puerto//May 21, 2010

Five senators signing off after this year

Luige del Puerto//May 21, 2010

Half of the Senate won’t be coming back to the 30-person chamber in 2011.

A majority of them face term limits and therefore cannot seek re-election. But some have decided to retire, for now at least.

Here’s a brief look at those who are not running for another legislative office or statewide position.

Chuck Gray, R-Mesa

Sen. Chuck Gray has developed a reputation for being a dogged inquisitor in committee hearings, reflecting his long career as a police officer.

His background in law enforcement also is evident in the bills he introduced — many of them seek tougher laws and stiffer penalties for offenders.

But in his eight years as a lawmaker, Gray worked on a host of other issues, including the protection of private property rights.

In his last year of office, Gray introduced a trio of measures to bolster individual property rights and secure state control of water within its borders. One of them was signed into law. That bill, S1366, says Arizona governments must provide relocation assistance at the same level as the federal government in eminent domain cases.

Gray helped write Proposition 207, which limited Arizona government’s ability to take private property through eminent domain. After the proposition passed in 2006, government was restricted to using eminent domain only when necessary for public use, a definition that no longer includes the benefits of economic development.

“I’ve always been a big property-rights guy,” Gray said.

Even though Gray could seek another term, he is planning to step down from the Legislature to concentrate on running his Internet business.

Jay Tibshraeny, R-Chandler

Sen. Jay Tibshraeny is leaving the Legislature, but not politics.

Like many of his colleagues, Tibshraeny cannot seek re-election to the Senate because of term-limits. He is now running for mayor of Chandler, a post he held prior to joining the Legislature.

Tibshraeny, chairman of the Government Institutions Committee, is regarded as a moderate voice in a diverse Republican caucus. During the past few years, he has battled mortgage fraud by introducing bills to penalize dishonest lenders and to require loan originators to be licensed by the state.

This year, he also helped pass a bill that outlines the requirements and regulations for appraisal management companies and independent appraisers. The bill, S1351, adds a set of regulations to the property appraisal industry to reduce fraud and ensure that appraisers adhere to state laws.

“I think they help. I can’t say we’ll never have another meltdown, but mortgage fraud is a huge issue and we can now deal with folks who do that,” he said.

Tibshraeny also helped pass a bill that requires condominium associations to allow residents to post “for sale” signs on their property. He also shepherded a bill prohibiting the state from seizing citizens’ weapons during a state of emergency.

Meg Burton Cahill, D-Tempe

Sen. Meg Burton Cahill is known as a passionate, emotional lawmaker who gets personally attached to issues and who fights for her beliefs despite all odds.

For instance, when the Senate worked through the night to pass a set of budget bills in special session last year, Burton Cahill was the only Democratic senator who stuck around to debate and vote on the bills. Her vote ultimately made no difference in the outcome, but she made it clear that she wasn’t going to back down.

Burton Cahill, who left the House to join the Senate in 2007, could have run for another term, but she decided to step down due to health problems. After several ankle surgeries in recent years, Burton Cahill often was seen limping on the Senate floor.

Burton-Cahill often championed workers’ rights, though many of the bills she sponsored were rejected.

Burton Cahill said the Legislature is “out of whack” with the majority of people in Arizona. Unfortunately, most of the races are decided in the primary because Arizona doesn’t have competitive districts, she said.

“I’m not disillusioned about politics, but I am disillusioned by our redistricting that does not seem to take competitiveness into the process,” she said.

Bob Burns, R-Peoria

Sen. Bob Burns, the outgoing Senate president, is a fiscal conservative who has railed against the state’s structural deficit and its growing debt load. Under his leadership, government has shrunk considerably as lawmakers have been forced to cut services and programs to balance the state’s budget.

But when asked about his most meaningful accomplishment after two decades in the Legislature, Burns cited something that affects people at a more personal level — telemedicine.

Burns, who first joined the Legislature as a House member in 1989, was instrumental in creating the Arizona Telemedicine Program and has served as co-chair of its council.

Burns is a fiscal hawk, but he is also a pragmatist. His pragmatic side was evident in his decision to support a ballot referral seeking a sales tax increase, even though he had opposed it initially. He changed his mind on the issue, he said, when it became clear that the Legislature didn’t have the will to cut its way out of a multibillion-dollar budget deficit.

As one of the Legislature’s longest-serving members, he has this advice to new lawmakers: “You have to have a very high tolerance for frustration, and if you’re going to work on the so-called logical, unpopular, non-sexy issues, you better be persistent. You better be able to come back year after year and keeping plugging away because some of those things take a long time to pass.”

Carolyn Allen, R-Scottsdale

Sen. Carolyn Allen is probably the feistiest Republican senator the Legislature has seen in many years.

She speaks her mind, votes her conscience, and frequently breaks ranks with her caucus. She even went so far as to call Senate President Bob Burns a “dictator.”

When Burns had trouble getting the sales tax referral passed last year, Allen said Burns had brought the troubles upon himself by the way he had assembled his leadership team and chairmanship posts.

“Now his chickens have come home to roost,” she said.

Allen, who is considered a moderate Republican, was criticized often for refusing to toe the party line. The fact that she was House majority leader a decade ago is evidence that either the Republican Party has moved a little bit to the right or Allen has moved a tad to the left on the political spectrum.

Her influence, however, waned in recent years as her caucus gained more conservative members.

Allen, who is term-limited this year, first joined the House in 1995 and the Senate in 2003. She has said she’d rather stand in front of a moving train than come back to the Legislature.