Freshmen stand out on issues ranging from Medicaid to sales tax reform

Gary Grado//July 5, 2013

Freshmen stand out on issues ranging from Medicaid to sales tax reform

Gary Grado//July 5, 2013

Doug Cole, a longtime lobbyist and veteran of the Capitol, said freshmen used to simply fall in line with leadership and sit on the back bench to learn during a session or two.

Freshmen lost that luxury with the arrival of term limits in 1992, however, and they have to move more quickly in their early years if they ever want to become part of leadership or have a front-row seat in the making of public policy, Cole said.

“The more successful freshman kind of split the baby,” Cole said. “Listen intently, figure out who are good mentors and then insert themselves strategically and thoughtfully.’’

There were 26 true freshmen, only two of them in the Senate, who took their seats on the floor of the respective chambers in January.

This year had its share of freshmen who shined, said veteran colleagues and lobbyists. In some cases, that was based on their stance on Medicaid expansion, the legislation that joined Democrats and some Republicans and ripped the GOP caucus in two.

Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, singled out Rep. Warren Petersen, R-Gilbert, and Adam Kwasman, R-Oro Valley, as two newcomers with bright futures.

“They really stepped up on a host of conservative issues, particularly opposing the Medicaid expansion,” Kavanagh said.

The two lawmakers were always well prepared in promoting their bills and were articulate, he said.

“In January 2015, this Legislature will take a strong turn to the right in reaction to the Medicaid expansion and the hijacking of the budget, and outspoken, articulate conservatives will play a dominate role in the future,” Kavanagh said.

House Minority Leader Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix, wouldn’t single out any freshman Democrats with bright futures, but he said the entire group of newcomers, 13 of them, were impressive.

He said all of the freshmen Democrats stuck together as some Republicans allegedly tried to sway them from voting for the Medicaid expansion by offering them a state House version of pork.

“They were thrown into the fire in their first session,” Campbell said.

Since there were no true freshmen Democrats in the Senate, Minority Leader Leah Landrum Taylor looked across the mall to single out Rep. Andrew Sherwood,

D-Mesa, as an up-and-comer.

Landrum Taylor said Sherwood seems to grasp strategy and makes wise decisions.

“When we could have had an opportunity for some mad chaos and perhaps even some divisiveness, he stepped in to really show a level head as it related to the importance of why we should work together in a bipartisan fashion to help out with the budget, to help out making sure we got the Medicaid expansion. He was pretty vocal with that,” Landrum Taylor said.

Rep. Bob Robson, R-Chandler, who has served in the Legislature 11 years, said he is more partial to workmanlike freshmen than those who seek attention on the floor.

He singled out Reps. T.J. Shope,

R-Coolidge; Ethan Orr, R-Tucson; and Doug Coleman, R-Apache Junction.

“I didn’t make any major floor speeches my first year,” Robson said. “I sat back, got involved in the process and wanted to do some substantive stuff, and that’s what these guys were able to do.”

He said he was also impressed with how they stood up on the budget.

Shope, Orr and Coleman voted with Robson and five other House Republicans in passing Medicaid expansion.

Cole also was impressed with Shope, saying he took on tough issues and stood tall. Cole pointed out how he voted with Democrats in the House Energy Environment and Natural Resources Committee against SB1321, effectively killing a bill that had strong Republican support and the backing of some of the most influential groups at the Capitol, including Arizona Public Service, Arizona Homebuilders Association and Arizona Multihousing Association.

The measure would have mandated that Arizona cities and towns allow homes to be built in compliance with the Home Energy Rating System Index, which supporters said would provide an alternative to the more stringent standards adopted in city and county codes for residential energy efficiency.

“For a freshman early on in the committee process, that was a pretty big deal,” Cole said.

Other true freshmen who, in Cole’s opinion, made their mark were Sen. Bob Worsley, R-Mesa, and Orr.

Cole, who as a lobbyist represents Tucson, said Orr is thoughtful and makes sure to meet with elected officials in the swing district.

“He may not always do what they desire, but he gives them an audience and understands the process,” Cole said.

Cole said Worsley established himself as a deal-closer on various contentious issues, including Gov. Jan Brewer’s sales tax overhaul proposal, which passed after getting buy-in from Arizona cities and towns in the final hours of the session.

“He distinguished himself as a mediator, kind of an ambassador go-to guy,” Cole said.