GOP senators take revenge on Boyer

Julia Shumway//February 16, 2021

GOP senators take revenge on Boyer

Julia Shumway//February 16, 2021

From left are Michelle Ugenti-Rita and Paul Boyer
From left are Michelle Ugenti-Rita and Paul Boyer

A small group of Senate Republicans on Tuesday sought to punish one of their GOP colleagues for killing their legislation by voting to claw back one of his bills from the House.

Sen. Paul Boyer, R-Glendale, joined with Democrats Tuesday afternoon to kill a bill that could remove about 200,000 inactive voters from the state’s Permanent Early Voting List. 

Over the past week, Boyer and Senate Democrats have also killed Republican-sponsored measures to hold Maricopa County’s supervisors in contempt, ban photo radar and strip the Secretary of State of her authority over the Arizona Capitol Museum. His “no” vote on Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita’s mail voting SB1069 was the last straw, prompting Ugenti-Rita to call for a vote on getting the House to return a Boyer voucher expansion bill that passed yesterday.

Senate Democrats, initially torn between supporting Boyer in voting with them on election legislation and jumping at any chance to kill a school voucher bill they revile, ultimately voted with Ugenti-Rita and five other Republicans to support the motion.

The House will now receive a message asking that the voucher bill be returned to the Senate, and the full House must vote on that motion. If House members decide against returning the bill, it will proceed through committees as normal. 

House Speaker Rusty Bowers told the Arizona Capitol Times he plans to wait a day or two before holding the vote to see if the Senate will reconsider its reconsideration motion.

Republican Sen. Kelly Townsend, who was confused by the floor events because she was voting by video call in her office, asked for an explanation of the Ugenti-Rita motion after she realized it could be retaliatory.

“I certainly hope we don’t set the practice of retaliation,” she said. “I came here to vote for bills on their merit.” 

At least three of the six Republicans who voted to bring the voucher bill back to the Senate were irritated at Boyer for recent votes against their bills. A single Republican vote against a partisan bill can doom it because of the Senate’s 16-14 margin, and more often than not, Boyer has been that single vote. 

During a Senate transportation and technology committee hearing Monday evening, his “no” vote killed a bill from Sen. Wendy Rogers, R-Flagstaff, to ban photo radar and red light cameras in the four remaining Arizona cities that use them. Boyer said he despises red light cameras, but he couldn’t justify removing that tool from cities who don’t have the resources to replace them with law enforcement officers.

Earlier on Tuesday afternoon, he voted with Democrats on the floor to kill a bill from Sen. David Gowan, R-Sierra Vista, that would give control of the Arizona Capitol Museum to the Legislature, not the Secretary of State. Legislative Republicans have wanted to seize power over the museum from Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs since she hung LGBTQ pride flags over the old capitol’s balcony in 2019. Boyer said that control should remain with the secretary, regardless of who it is. 

And in a move that infuriated legislative Republicans, prompted an ongoing recall effort and pushed Boyer to relocate his family over death threats, he voted last week to prevent the Senate from potentially arresting Maricopa County’s board of supervisors over a spat about legislative subpoenas and post-election audits.

Boyer said he asked Ugenti-Rita to wait to vote on the election bill because he had questions he wanted answered before he could vote for it, but she moved ahead with the scheduled vote anyway. He said he still doesn’t know why Ugenti-Rita tried to reconsider his voucher bill, but that it’s clear she’s unhappy with him.

“I asked Michelle directly if it was retaliation,” he said. “She swears up and down that it’s not, but she won’t tell me the reason.”

Sen. Juan Mendez, D-Tempe, said the move surprised him, and he’s waiting to see what the House does.

“I’ve never seen one party use the rules that way to punish another person of their party,” he said. “If it was pretty apparent for Townsend to understand what was going on, then I have to assume everybody knows what’s going on. I don’t know how vindictive the House is to Boyer.”

Two years ago, it was the House — and Townsend herself — who sought to punish Boyer and then-Sen. Heather Carter, R-Cave Creek, for their refusal to vote for the Republican budget until they secured a vote on a bill to expand legal protections for survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Townsend and other House committee chairs were caught on a hot mic during a closed caucus meeting discussing punishing the two by refusing to hear their bills the following year.

Townsend appeared to allude to that incident in her comments to the rest of the Senate on Tuesday, saying she has learned from her mistakes and she wants other senators to learn from them as well. 

“I think we should be ashamed of ourselves,” Townsend said. “I want the record in the journal to show that I have learned from my own past mistakes that as tempting as it might be to do that to each other, this isn’t high school. This is the Arizona state Senate.”

  • Staff writer Nate Brown contributed reporting 

Editor’s note: This story has been revised to include comments from Sen. Paul Boyer.