With only one lawmaker dissenting, a Senate panel voted Wednesday to give themselves and their colleagues a big increase in their allowance — and do it as soon as possible.
HB 2053 would entitle legislators living in Maricopa County to collect $56 a day for every day the legislature is in session. That means seven days a week, not just the four days a week lawmakers actually are at the Capitol.
They currently get $25 a day.
The bigger increase is for legislators who live in the other 14 counties and presumably have to find lodging during the session.
They now get $60 a day. The legislation ties that to the rate set by the General Services Administration sets for travel by federal employees for food and travel, currently $207 a day.
Potentially more significant, the measure would tie future changes to adjustments made by the GSA. That would eliminate forever the politically unpalatable requirement for lawmakers to approve their own expense allowance.
But there’s something else in HB2053 as crafted by Sen. David Gowan, R-Sierra Vista.
He put in language declaring the legislation to be an emergency “that is necessary to preserve the public peace, health or safety.” That means if the bill gets the necessary two-thirds vote it would take effect immediately on the signature of the governor, something that could occur even before legislators wind up the current session.
An emergency clause also does something else: It precludes voters unhappy with legislation from gathering enough signatures to refer it to the ballot.
Gowan was unapologetic about the immediate effective date.
He acknowledged that a similar measure reached the desk of Gov. Doug Ducey two years ago only to be vetoed.
The governor said at the time he was particularly concerned that it was crafted in a way to let the people voting on the raise be the ones that benefit. Ducey said that is wrong and that any change in allowance should apply only to a future legislature.
“This is that legislature,” Gowan said in justifying the immediate increase. Anyway, he said, the last time the figure was adjusted was in 1984.
Sen. Sean Bowie, D-Phoenix, cast the lone dissenting vote. Bowie said while he understands the concerns of costs, particularly for out-county lawmakers, he does not think his constituents support any increase in benefits to legislators.
The measure now goes to the full Senate and, if approved there, must go to the House for review.