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Lawmakers’ attendance, voting records vary

Legislature, attendance, Capitol

Attendance was generally high from lawmakers in the Arizona House and Senate during this past regular session, with some exceptions. (Photo by Deposit Photos).

Despite going 166 days, the second regular session of Arizona’s 55th Legislature saw generally good attendance from lawmakers in both the House and Senate. Beyond the standouts, however, there were also some exceptions.

In the state House of Representatives, all members were on time for 90.4% of their roll calls and on the floor for 94.8% of votes on average. Republican members showed better timeliness and participation than Democrats, attending 94.4% of roll calls and 98% of votes. Democrats attended 86.1% of roll calls and 91.5% of votes.

Democratic Rep. Athena Salman avoided the Legislature for almost the entire session. Salman showed up for the roll call just 5% of the time and only 4% of the votes. Her husband, Democratic Sen. Juan Mendez, also missed most of the session. He attended just 8% of roll calls and was on the floor for 7% of votes.

Both of their absences were intentional as the two had cited the risk of exposing their newborn daughter to Covid. In January, legislative leaders removed almost all Covid protocols in the Capitol. They allowed an option for virtual attendance, but only if a lawmaker came to the Capitol and participated from their office.

Legislative leaders said they could not recall any instances where a lawmaker was gone the entire session. Republican House Speaker Rusty Bowers had noted that Democratic Rep. Jasmine Blackwater-Nygren had a baby around the same time as Salman but still chose to participate in committee hearings and floor votes. Nonetheless, leaders such as Bowers and Republican Senate President Karen Fann excused the absences of the two lawmakers.

Beyond that, there were other instances of Democratic House members missing time. Rep. Robert Meza was on time for just 63% of roll calls but was absent to care for his ailing father, Robert Meza Sr., who passed away at the end of April. Meza was still on the floor for 91% of the votes, however.

Representatives Andres Cano, Domingo DeGrazia, Alma Hernandez, Daniel Hernandez and Mark Finchem were among a group who did not make 80% of roll calls. Most of their absences occurred in June, however, perhaps because there was no indication of a budget deal being reached or the session drawing to a close at the time.

For Republicans, Representatives Jack Hoffman and Jacqueline Parker attended 76% and 75% of their roll calls, respectively. The two members, both among the most conservative in the chamber, had advocated for a more conservative budget than what was being negotiated in June. They intentionally missed several days in a political protest against the Republican leadership, which ended up agreeing to a bipartisan budget deal with the Democrats.

One representative who missed time, though it’s not clear why, is Democrat Victoria Steele, who was on the floor to vote just 74% of the time.

House members who were on time and on the floor to vote 100% included Republican Gail Griffin, as well as Democrats Jennifer Longdon, Jennifer Pawlik, Judy Schwiebert and Christian Solorio.

On the Senate side of things, members were on time for 90.7% of roll calls while being on the floor for 91.6% of votes. Republicans once again got the upper hand, attending 93.6% of roll calls and participating in 95.6% of floor votes. Democrats achieved an 87.3% roll call mark and a nearly identical 87.1% tally for floor votes.

Republican Senators Paul Boyer and Michelle Ugenti-Rita were the party’s only two noticeable exceptions. Boyer made roll calls 86% of the time and was on the floor to vote 87% of the time, while Ugenti-Rita made 87% of roll calls and just 78% of floor votes.

The most likely explanation for Boyer missing a small, but noticeable amount of time could be the lawmaker’s part-time job teaching senior humane letters and Junior High Latin at Glendale Preparatory Academy – gigs that he began after he was first elected in 2019. The reasons why Ugenti-Rita missed almost a fourth of her floor votes are more uncertain. The lawmaker, who is running for secretary of state, has been spotted spending much time on the campaign trail. Although the same is true for House Minority Leader Reginald Bolding Jr., he showed up for 90% of floor votes.

Among Senate Democrats, Victoria Steele had the second lowest mark of attending roll call and floor votes after Juan Mendez at 74% and 85%, though it’s not clear why. Sen. Lela Alston had missed time after falling and injuring herself earlier in the session but otherwise had an almost perfect attendance record, clocking in at 87% and 87% despite that.

Senators who achieved a 100% roll call and floor vote tally include Democrat Sean Bowie, as well as Republicans Sonny Borreli, Rick Gray and Vince Leach.

In both chambers, the primary reason for Republicans showing up to work on time more often than Democrats was clear. The GOP holds a bare majority in both bodies – 16-14 in the Senate and 31-29 in the House – and often needed all 31 representatives or all 16 senators present to pass partisan pieces of legislation along party lines. Beyond that, there are case studies on both sides that are excusable and some, perhaps, that are not.

 

 

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