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House agrees to JTED deal, but demands credit for it

Emergency Medical Technician students at the East Valley Institute of Techology, a Joint Technical and Education District, learn triage during a trauma simulation.

Emergency Medical Technician students at the East Valley Institute of Techology, a Joint Technical and Education District, learn triage during a trauma simulation.

Members of the state House agreed Tuesday to let the Senate version of a fix to career and technical education be the one signed by the governor — but only if they get credit for acting first.

From a money and policy perspective, the House-passed version of SB 1525 is virtually identical to the bill approved by the Senate last week. So JTEDs will lose only $1 million in funding this coming school year, not $30 million as had been previously approved.

But rather than simply approve that Senate bill, the House first insisted on adding language which says that restoring funds to Joint Technical Education Districts was “an important priority” to House members. To underline that point, the House added the names of 56 of its members who signed on to its own version.

And just to make sure that message is not lost on voters, the now-amended bill spells out that the House passed its version on Feb. 9 while the Senate did not get around to adopting its own language until two days later.

Senate President Andy Biggs, who got his first look at the House-added language Tuesday afternoon after getting it from a reporter, said the maneuver is nothing short of “bizarro.”

But Biggs said he’s unlikely to block the desire of House members to get their claim to fame.

“This bill we’ve always considered too important to be messing around with,” he said, even if the new verbiage is “extremely out of the ordinary.” But Biggs said the House, in making this maneuver, brings the whole legislative process into disrepute in the eyes of the public.

“This is the type of thing that makes politics so bizarro to the real world,” he said. Biggs said his message now to the House is, “OK, if you felt it was that important to you, fine, now you’ve done it, now can we get on with business?”

That paves the way for a final Senate vote, potentially as early as Wednesday to send the bill to the governor.

Stephanie Grisham, spokeswoman for the House Republican majority, acknowledged this was about getting some credit in black and white.

“It was important to the House members that their input on the bill and support of JTEDs be recognized,” Grisham said. “House attorneys determined that this was a legal and effective way to accomplish that goal.”

Grisham, though, could cite no other legislation, ever, where the names of lawmakers was actually put into a measure.

The final version restores all but $1 million of the $30 million lawmakers had voted last year to cut from JTEDs for the coming school year. That was when Gov. Doug Ducey warned the state was looking at a $1 billion deficit.

As it turned out, the state ended the fiscal year with more than $325 million in the bank. And revenues so far this budget year are running at least $200 million above projections.

Despite that, Ducey had proposed restoring only $10 million, and only for three years.

Sen. Don Shooter, R-Yuma, led the charge to undermine the governor’s budget, getting more than 70 lawmakers to cosponsor legislation to restore the entire $30 million. And it was Shooter who sponsored the deal worked out with Ducey for the $28 million restoration and pushed it through the Senate with a last-minute amendment designed to ensure that adult students in the middle of their program got a chance to finish out the current year.

The version passed by the House on Tuesday takes that a step beyond, giving existing students even more time to complete the program. That adds another $1 million to the price tag.

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