GOP lawmakers can skirt Brewer

Education, health cuts may be back on table; Tucson Dems fearful
2010-11-16T00:00:00Z GOP lawmakers can skirt BrewerRhonda Bodfield Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
November 16, 2010 12:00 am  • 

This month's election results will give Republicans in Arizona - always a GOP-leaning state anyway - an even tighter grip on how the state operates.

Could that mean Tucson, the state's most significant Demo-cratic island, finds itself even more on the outside looking in?

Here are five ways the Legislature will change as a result of this month's election results:

1. The lay of the land

Republicans, many running on the tea party dynamic of smaller government, will have a supermajority in both legislative houses.

They held 35 of the 60 House seats in 2010, and will jump to 40 next January. Their current 18-12 majority in the Senate will be extended to a 21-9 advantage next year.

That means they can override the governor if she decides to veto any legislation. They also can pass emergency enactments, meaning changes could go directly into law instead of waiting the usual 90 days.

In her first term, Gov. Jan Brewer rejected what she considered excessive health and education cuts. This time around, if they can hold their caucus together, Republican lawmakers are in a much stronger position.

2. Changes in Tucson districts

The Northwest's District 26 went solid Republican, with Dem-ocratic Rep. Nancy Young Wright losing her seat. The same thing happened in Legislative District 25, where Democratic Rep. Pat Fleming lost a seat.

3. Leadership changes

The House Speaker, Kirk Adams of Mesa, will be the same, but controversial Sen. Russell Pearce will lead the upper chamber.

A few Tucson Democrats will serve in leadership roles - Paula Aboud will be Senate whip, while Steve Farley will be assistant House minority leader and Matt Heinz will serve as House whip. But last year the Democratic minority was generally frozen out of the process, and it figures to have even less clout this year with shrinking numbers.

4. Setting the stage

Republican Sen. Frank Antenori of Tucson had hoped Pearce, an immigration lightning rod, would put aside his push for a reinterpretation of the 14th Amendment, which grants birthright citizenship, to focus on stimulating the economy and reforming the tax code.

Antenori said he feared a loss of focus if national TV cameras and protesters swoop down on the state Capitol to talk about volatile immigration measures.

"You don't want to lose focus when you're trying to explain the reason we're doing certain things is to create a pro-growth, pro-jobs economy," he said.

But in the end, Pearce agreed only to not do a final reading of any such bill until after the economic measures are off the table - which means those volatile early hearings could be waged simultaneously with complex financial discussions.

Pearce, meanwhile, boasted on television on election night that Brewer "would have to admit that if it wasn't for 1070, she wouldn't be elected."

That kind of talk leads Tucson's Farley to predict Pearce is going to prove too controversial to fill a centrist leadership role, saying he's "exactly the wedge we need to crack apart the Republican majorities in the House and Senate."

5. A new approach to cutting government

As incoming Senate Appropriations Chairman Andy Biggs, a Republican from Gilbert, sees it: "When we start looking at it, is government in every aspect of everybody's life?

"Yeah, it is.

"Does it need to be there to that degree? No. We need to determine what the core responsibility of government is, and work from there. Everything beyond that is a luxury we can't afford."

On StarNet: Read the Star's local politics blog, "Pueblo Politics," at go.azstarnet.com/pueblo politics

Contact reporter Rhonda Bodfield at rbodfield@azstarnet.com or at 573-4243.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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