Gowan’s per diem
As the chamber was winding down toward sine die, House Speaker David Gowan, R-Sierra Vista, thanked lawmakers for hanging in there and noted that “we almost made it to 120 days, which is…” before trailing off. The 120-day mark is significant: It’s when lawmakers start losing their full per diem pay. State statute limits full per diem pay to lawmakers to the first 120 days of the legislative session, after which in-county lawmakers only receive $10 per day, and out-of-county lawmakers only receive $20 per day, as opposed to the respective $35 and $60 per day that they make before the 120-day mark.
While explaining his opposition to a bill restoring a government health insurance program for children of the working poor, Senate Majority Leader Steve Yarbrough took several swipes at Sen. David Bradley, the sponsor of the bill used at the 11th hour to roll GOP leadership in both chambers and get the insurance measure to the governor’s desk. Yarbrough, R-Chandler, suggested that the Tucson Democrat had been dishonest in his quest to get the bill, SB1457, to a floor vote in the House. The underlying bill allows students with disabilities to continue receiving state dollars through Empowerment Scholarships up to the age of 22. Yarbrough claimed Bradley sought assurances that the bill would not be amended in the House by either party. Bradley told him no, Yarbrough said. But when the bill became the vehicle for restoring KidsCare, he likened Bradley’s actions to leaving the keys in the car while it’s running and essentially accusing him of setting the stage for a KidsCare amendment in the House.
Bradley didn’t comment on Yarbrough’s accusations during the final vote on SB1457 in the Senate. But later, in the early morning hours on May 7, Bradley took umbrage with the accusation that his actions had, as Yarbrough said, “wounded the institution.”
“This is my 12th year of service in the state Legislature. It would be impossible for anyone including any current or former member to assert with any veracity whatsoever that I ever deceived them about my actions or how I vote on a particular bill,” Bradley said. “I have never under any circumstance traded my vote for anything, including someone else’s vote, including a bill that made me the only Democrat to vote for legislation of particular interest to the majority leader,” he added, referring to his vote for a Grand Canyon University tax break, a measure Yarbrough has been pushing at the Capitol for years.
Bradley went on to explain that when he first heard about an amendment to SB1457 in the House, he was livid. He had expressly asked members of both parties in the House to not amend the bill for fear that it might blow up in a fight over ESAs and destroy the chances of the underlying bill. But as the day went on, Bradley realized that the bill would pass the House and the Senate, and the governor was planning to sign it. So he used Yarbrough’s own car-stealing metaphor to explain himself.
“Sticking with the metaphor, the way I saw it, my car was there locked and secure. It was stolen. I was angry. Then I found out that the car was stolen to save someone’s life. That changed the nature and the purpose of the act,” Bradley said. “To assert that the most important issue was that I had directed that my car not be stolen became in my mind secondary. In this case, some 30,000 lives were secondary. I decided then and there not to press charges. Given the same choice a thousand times, I would make the same choice a thousand times.”
Sen. Steve Pierce, R-Prescott, tried in vain to adjourn sine die far earlier than GOP leadership was ready for, and if not for a few words that went unspoken, he may have succeeded. Shortly before midnight, Pierce rose and made a motion to adjourn sine die, but he was swiftly ruled out of order by Senate President Andy Biggs, who made the ruling even before Sen. Catherine Miranda, D-Phoenix, could rise to second the motion. Pierce was puzzled by the ruling, which Biggs stated was incomplete and therefore invalid.
Biggs later explained that Pierce had forgotten a crucial part of the motion to sine die – motioning to form a sine die committee to send to the House. Without those words, the Senate stuck around for nearly six more hours of voting and waiting on the House. Pierce was given a second chance to adjourn sine die when Biggs saw fit, and properly made the motion that ended the session at 4:23 a.m.
Shortly before sine die, a few senators pleaded with Biggs to allow a vote on just one more bill: pawnbrokers. Two bills sponsored by House Speaker David Gowan had been left for dead in the Senate, each dealing with pawn shops. One, HB2566, would have prohibited municipalities from collecting a transaction fee on sales at pawn shops that is used by local law enforcement to ensure stolen goods are being sold at pawn shops. The other, HB2690, would have shifted the enforcement of pawn shop licenses from local law enforcement to the Department of Public Safety. Neither bill got a vote on the Senate floor, presumably because they lacked the votes to pass. But some lawmakers, including Sen. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, gleefully requested a last-minute vote on the measures, just so they could end the session by killing the speaker’s bills. Biggs politely refused and moved forward with sine die.