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House suspends floor votes until Republicans at full strength

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The House worked through a record-setting agenda on the floor today – not.

Instead, the chamber adjourned until 1 p.m. on Wednesday, meaning members will not return to the floor Tuesday even for points of personal privilege or other business not requiring a vote.

Both the Republican and Democratic caucuses will still meet tomorrow at 10 a.m.

There was no floor action today or on Thursday either. Multiple voice and roll-call votes were canceled the day after former Rep. David Stringer resigned.

His resignation leaves the partisan split in the House at 30-29. That’s still in Republicans’ favor but leaves them one vote shy of the 31 votes bills need to pass out of the chamber.

The Yavapai County Board of Supervisors is meeting Wednesday morning to appoint someone to Stringer’s now vacant House seat. The Yavapai County Republican Committee selected former Senate President Steve Pierce, former Secretary of State Ken Bennett and potential Capitol newcomer Steven Sensmeier for the board’s consideration. Pierce is favored to win.

House Speaker Rusty Bowers, R-Mesa, and Majority Leader Warren Petersen, R-Gilbert, did not immediately return calls for comment. House spokesman Matt Specht said the decision was made to delay floor activity until the body is back to full membership.

But Senate President Karen Fann said members were afraid Democrats would take the opportunity to kill any bills that came up for a vote while the Republican margin was weakened.

“I heard from a couple of members over there that they were sorry, but they just couldn’t trust the Democrat caucus to not kill more COW bills,” she said.

She wasn’t in on the decision, though. Had she been notified, she said she might have adjusted the Senate’s schedule accordingly. There was no action on the Senate floor today, and it is unlikely that chamber will get much work done tomorrow as the House takes the day off.

House Minority Leader Charlene Fernandez wasn’t consulted either. Petersen only told her about the decision when members came to the floor this afternoon, she said.

And she denied that her caucus would have banded together to kill bills in a show of force.

“They don’t do the same thing? That’s just ridiculous. That just because they operate as one, they think that we would do the same thing,” she said.

Democrats have used that tactic before.

Rep. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, launched a silent protest in February in response to at least one of her bills being held in the House Rules Committee. She voted “no” on every bill that came to the floor on February 27, giving Democrats an advantage over anything they opposed.

The House recessed in the middle of floor action, presumably to put a stop to the demonstration, but Townsend had disappeared when members returned to continue their work.

That allowed Democrats to strike down several Republican bills. House Bills 2469, 2495 and 2453 were later revived, though, and passed out of the House unanimously.

In any case, Fernandez said her members would have come together with Republicans to vote on the merits of any bills brought to the floor while Stringer’s seat was vacant.

She said it was Bowers’ choice not to trust them.

“We’re at the 78th day today, and we’re taking a day off,” Fernandez said. “It’s really irresponsible and unprofessional.”

Ben Giles contributed to this report.

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