Gov. Jan Brewer wasn’t kidding around when she told the Legislature to stop sending her bills.
Brewer on Thursday vetoed five bills, saying the Legislature ignored the “bill moratorium” requested several weeks ago. The governor told legislative leadership to stop sending her bills until they finished the fiscal year 2014 budget and her Medicaid expansion plan.
“I regret being forced to write this letter. The transmission of these bills has left me little choice but to exercise the clear terms of a bill moratorium I enacted more than two weeks ago. At that time, I warned that I would not sign additional measures into law until we see resolution of the two most pressing issues facing us,” Brewer wrote in the veto letters for all five bills. “It is disappointing I must demonstrate the moratorium was not an idle threat.”
The governor noted that the Legislature has now been in session for 130 days, and that it only has about five weeks to pass a budget before the end of the fiscal year on June 30. She also reminded lawmakers in her veto letters that about 63,000 childless adults will likely lose Medicaid coverage at the start of 2014 if the Legislature doesn’t act.
“I respectfully ask that legislators join me to resolve our budgetary and health care challenges. Once these priority issues are behind us, I am happy to once again consider unrelated legislation,” Brewer wrote.
Two of the bills Brewer vetoed were passed by the Senate in recent days. SB1178 would have expanded the definition of the exercise of religion and given people new rights to sue if they felt their religious beliefs were being infringed upon. SB1323 would have eliminated a requirement that school districts reporting annual odometer readings and other information about school buses.
Brewer also vetoed three bills that were passed weeks ago, several days before Brewer imposed her moratorium on May 7. She vetoed SB1088, which would have prohibited constables from working as private process servers; SB1236, which would have amended the membership of the state’s Domestic Relations Committee; and SB1445, which would have required the Department of Education to publish criteria needed for schools to change the letter grades used to evaluate them.
Earlier in the day, Senate President Andy Biggs said he sent the bills to the governor to comply with the Arizona Supreme Court’s 2009 ruling in Brewer v. Burns, in which the court ruled that the Legislature could not decline to send bills to the governor’s desk. Brewer won the ruling after suing the Legislature over its refusal to send her a package of budget bills.
Biggs, R-Gilbert, also indicated that there was room for flexibility in interpreting Brewer’s moratorium request.
The Senate on May 16 passed a budget that included Brewer’s controversial Medicaid expansion plan, but the House has not yet taken up the budget. Brewer spokesman Matthew Benson said earlier this week that the moratorium was still in effect until the House acted as well.
The Legislature is sitting on nearly a dozen other bills that have passed but have not yet been transmitted to the governor.
Biggs could not be reached for comment.