If Senate President Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, was wondering whether or not Gov. Jan Brewer was bluffing about her bill moratorium he got his answer.
Brewer vetoed five bills the Senate sent to her desk Thursday.
Two weeks ago she said didn’t want to see any more bills until the Legislature resolved the budget and the plan for Medicaid.
“It is disappointing that I must demonstrate that the moratorium was not an idle threat,” Brewer wrote.
It’s on the House now to make a move with the Senate’s budget.
"The Arizona Legislature has now been in session 130 days. We have just five weeks until the end of the fiscal year, by which time it is necessary that the State of Arizona have a new budget in place in order to assure there is no suspension of critical services or programs," Brewer wrote in the veto letters.
Emotions are running high at the Arizona Legislature now that the Medicaid expansion debate has become the House of Representatives’ problem.
A caller left State Rep. Kate Brophy McGee, R- Phoenix, a threatening voicemail and House security is investigating. She said she wants to know who the caller is and what inspired his seemingly inebriated menacing.
“I’m not sure what kind of grassroots work is going on here,” she said. “I don’t know if this is an unintended consequence from someone who heard something and took it as ‘Go do something to her.’ But it is irresponsible of whoever is organizing this initiative to not craft their message in such a way that people can focus on the issue and not the legislator. It’s wrong,” she said.
The voicemail came after Rep. Bob Thorpe, R-Flagstaff, sent out an email urging people to, “especially put the pressure” on six representatives, including Brophy McGee, to oppose Medicaid expansion. Thorpe asked people to be polite and steadfast and urged recipients of the email to forward it to “every Arizonian” they knew.
Thorpe sent out an apology for the email after House Speaker Andy Tobin suggested that the email wasn’t the best idea. Thorpe wrote in his apology email that upon reflection he “screwed up,” and that he wasn’t trying to be unkind.
“I was very disheartened when I watched our 6 Republican Senators repeatedly vote against our caucus while I stood on the Senate floor last Thursday, something that I truly do not want to see repeated in the House,” Thorpe wrote.
Brophy McGee brought up the issue to the House as a reminder that everyone needs to keep their rhetoric in check and take caution when firing people up about politics, particularly if those people aren’t usually politically engaged, she said.
She said she isn’t singling out Thorpe’s email as the cause for the vitriolic voicemail, but that his email was a dumb move.
“I’m so tired of the ‘Oh Gee I’m Sorry,’” she said. “Think it through.”
The caller, who sounded male, indicated that he had voted for Brewer a couple of times and the gist was that he demanded she vote against Brewer’s push for the Medicaid expansion or else, Brophy McGee said.
“The things that he called me were horrible,” she said.
She said since former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot she’s more aware of the dangers of things getting out of hand.
“Think about that. What did she ever do to anybody? People are just crazy,” she said.
The calls increased after the Senate passed the budget and really ramped up Wednesday, she said.
“We are being singled out. I understand that there are concerns and disagreements but this is making it very personal and I shouldn’t feel afraid to come to work,” she said.
Tobin said he doesn’t have to work to keep members civil because lawmakers are adults that have been in public service and lived "exemplary lives."
“This is a pressure filled place. I don’t think that surprises anyone. None of the members here are going out of their way to harm anybody,” Tobin said. “People are passionate on both sides. I think they’re all professionals. Occasionally the passions get a little out of hand but we’re also human beings and they’re acting professionally in my view and I try to stay very close to them.”
Although not a lot of actual business happened in the House this week those passions were palpable.
Between the outrage over the secular prayer to budget bickering on the House floor lawmakers were emotional.
On Wednesday, several members railed against the budget — despite the speaker pointing out that members would get a chance to officially debate the budget.
It kicked off with Rep. David Livingston, R-Peoria, saying that he needed to sound the alarm because the budget is out of control.
Majority Leader David Gowan, R-Sierra Vista, joined in saying that the budget had been high jacked.
For Rep. Lupe Contreras, D-Avondale, it became an opportunity to ask the GOP what it feels like to have a taste of their own medicine.
"You guys are now in our shoes. How does it feel? How does it feel to go, to put your vote, to cast your vote everyday but fail? Regardless of how we feel we keep failing. Why? Cause we're the minority. Well welcome to our world. That's what we've been going through everyday."
The House has adjourned until next week and it’s clear the House is going to play things a little differently when it comes to the budget that sped through the Senate.
Gov. Jan Brewer's statement on tonight's Senate vote to expand Medicaid:
I thank the Arizona State Senate for acting in bipartisan, courageous and collegial fashion today to approve the single most critical policy issue that has faced our State in years: the restoration of our Medicaid program in accordance with the wishes of Arizona voters.
Now, I look forward to a similarly lively and productive debate in the Arizona House of Representatives.
When I announced my health care plan in January, I knew this would be a long and difficult road. But I also knew that as the information was presented to Arizonans, they would reach the same conclusion I had. Public polling bears that out, with strong support for my Medicaid Restoration Plan across party lines and among residents from every corner of our State. Even better, public support grows as people learn more.
With Medicaid Restoration, we can keep Arizona tax dollars in Arizona. We can use these resources to provide cost-effective health care to Arizona’s working poor. We can protect our critical rural and safety-net hospitals. We can create thousands of jobs and improve Arizona’s economic competitiveness.
These are all important reasons to support this Medicaid Restoration Plan, but there is also one more: Arizonans have voted twice to expand Medicaid to the working poor. With my plan, House legislators have an opportunity to make good on that promise with a vote of their own.
It appears that Sen. Al Melvin left his fireworks in his other pants. The Arizona Senate passed the budget bills tonight in a relatively quiet third-read session and has adjourned until next week.
Melvin made a brief speech commending Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives for voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but otherwise was content to just vote on the losing end of the budget battle this evening.
In other budget news, the Children's Action Alliance celebrates the spending plan in an emailed bulletin to supporters:
During the Committee of the Who'e this afternoon, the Arizona Senate voted to restore and expand Medicaid coverage for adults as Governor Brewer and dozens of community groups have been supporting.
In addition, they also voted to increase critical funding for abused and neglected children. These increases include:
$4 million for Children Support Services. The original legislation did not include any increase for Children Support Services. (CAA called for $10 million.)
$4 million for Child Care. The original legislation provided an increase of $5 million; the amendment brings the increase to $9 million. (CAA supported the Governor’s plan which included $9 million.)
$1 million for Grandparents Stipend. This provides the funding needed to support a monthly $75 stipend for qualified grandparents raising their grandchildren. (CAA called for $1 million.)
Other changes increased parity funding for the universities and added $4.5 million to the Department of Education's budget for adult education.
Once the Committee of the Whole finishes its work, the legislation goes to final vote by the Senate before moving to the House. Stay tuned…
Sen. Al Melvin is promising GOP fireworks when the Arizona Senate goes to a third read vote on the budget, which was amended—against Senate President Andy Biggs' wishes—to include Medicaid expansion.
A GOP-led roll call vote on all of the Medicaid bills that would have put senators on the record for supporting or opposing the amendments was thwarted and followed by a hasty recess. Melvin said he was upset because he wanted senators' family names to be tied to their votes.
Senate President Andy Biggs left in a huff and was visibly agitated when he called recess.
Melvin does agree with Sen. Steve Farley on one thing: Both said they haven’t felt this way about the budget since former Gov. Janet Napolitano left the state.
For Farley that’s a win. For Melvin it’s a step back.
“It’s just like when we inherited this train wreck of Napolitano in '09 and it took us four years to whack $3 billion out of it,” Melvin said. “You shouldn’t have to do that every couple of years. You should keep it steady, but they’re caving.”
The SaddleBrooke Republican is at a loss as to why Gov. Jan Brewer wants the expand Medicaid when 27 states are fighting Medicaid expansion.
“I can’t figure it out to save my life,” Melvin said. She’s going against her own party."
He’s not pleased with the five Republicans (Sen. John McComish, Sen. Rich Crandall, Sen. Bob Worsley, Sen. Steve Pierce and Sen. Adam Driggs) that he says rolled on their party either. He promises there will be a “reckoning.”
“I hope they pay and I hope they pay with their seats,” Melvin said.
He was especially perturbed with Senate Majority Leader John McComish, R-Phoenix, who sponsored the Medicaid expansion amendment.
“What’s really sad and pathetic is they’re in our so-called leadership and there will be an accounting on that too—if not immediately, eventually,” Melvin said.
Because those five felt so emboldened, the GOP has had to “rely on parliamentary procedures and other things to stop this from happening,” Melvin said.
Melvin commended Senate President Andy Biggs’ on his quasi-filibuster earlier today.
Biggs read from a bag of papers for more than 30 minutes regaling members with different analogies and vignettes about why Medicaid expansion was a bad movie and the federal government is a “dubious partner.”
“I thought it was historic and I gave him my full attention,” Melvin said.
The Senate heads back to the floor in moments and it will be a show, Melvin said.
“We ought to charge admission,” Melvin said. "It’s going to be good. It’s going to real good. We’re not going to roll over and play dead on this.”
The 10 budget bills barreled through the Senate Appropriations Committee Wednesday, paving the way for a lengthy Senate floor debate on Thursday. Many of the bills saw a 3-6 party line vote, with Democrats complaining about the scant amount of time they had to review the GOP's $8.8 billion plan.
Anna Tovar, D-Tolleson, said she thinks the budget falls short in terms of Child Protective Services and K-12 funding. Tovar remarked that it would have been easy to resolve these issues had the budget process not been done behind closed doors.
While Gov. Jan Brewer's Medicaid expansion isn't in any of the budget bills it will likely get tacked on during Thursday's floor session.
Senate President Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, who has been a staunch opponent of Medicaid, is only sponsoring eight of the 10 bills. Sen. John McComish, R-Phoenix, is sponsoring the other two, so it's likely he'll be the source of the Medicaid expansion amendment.
It appears that senators will be spared having to debate the budget and election reform on the same day.
The elections omnibus that moved through Appropriations today didn't go on to the Rules Committee with the rest of the bills. Democrats were agitated about the timing of the omnibus and the budget, with Sen. Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix going as far to tweet, "Sen. President Biggs is trying to kill Medicaid Expansion with election bills."
Sen. Steve Farley wrote on his blog that he doesn't think the omnibus will ever see the Senate floor.
The omnibus includes ideas from several stalled bills by Scottsdale Republicans Sen. Michele Reagan and Rep. Michelle Ugenti.
The two are rumored to be embroiled in a feud over Reagan endorsing Ugenti's opponent and it's unclear if that is a factor in the general weirdness surrounding the elections bills.
On the day the elections omnibus went through Appropriations, the House canceled a Committee of the Whole that included three Reagan-supported election bills.
House Minority Leader Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix, said Democrats had several amendments at the ready and were surprised by the switch in plans.
As far as whether or not the move had anything to do with the Scottsdale spat, Campbell said he doesn't know, but it could be as simple as that.
The elections omnibus that bizarrely emerged along with 10 budget bills passed out of the Senate Appropriations on a 3-6 party line vote.
"There's a shocker, people." Sen. Don Shooter, R-Yuma, joked about the divide. Democrats said releasing the elections bill with the budget bills was inappropriate.
SB1493 is a roundup of most of the session's controversial elections bills, which have stalled in the House since passing the Rules Committee in early April. Most notably, the bill would limit who can pick up early ballots and kick people off the Permanent Early Voting List if they don't vote by mail in the two most recent primary and general elections or reaffirm their desire to remain on the list.
Anna Tovar, D-Tolleson, said she thinks the elections problems could easily be revisited later when everyone has cooler heads. Tovar said the bill doesn't solve early ballot problems or people not knowing where to vote.
"I was under the assumption that Permanent Early Voter List meant permanent," Tovar said. "If they did it once they should be voters for life."
Sen. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, posted on his blog The Farley Report that he isn't worried about the bill.
"Thankfully for democracy, I have reason to believe that this package will not make it to the Senate floor. I will, as always, watch carefully just in case I am surprised," Farley wrote. "This is, after all, the season of surprises in the Legislature."
A basket marketplace and basket-weaving demonstrations, traditional cook and chef demonstrations, traditional singing and dancing, basketry presentations… More