PHOENIX — Tired of waiting for action, Gov. Jan Brewer forced lawmakers back to the Capitol late Tuesday to start approving her budget and Medicaid expansion.
Brewer used her constitutional right at 5 p.m. to call a special session to deal solely with those issues. It will run concurrently with the regular session which continues.
But what it does is starts a clock running: With the measures getting their first constitutionally required reading late Tuesday, they can gain final approval — and be on Brewer's desk — by Thursday.
The governor's maneuver, coordinated with Democrats and a handful of Republicans who support her Medicaid plan, blind-sided House Speaker Andy Tobin. He had been prepared to bring Brewer's Medicaid plan to the floor on Thursday.
But gubernatorial press aide Matthew Benson said that wasn't good enough.
What appears to have been the breaking point is that Tobin on Tuesday shut the House down until Thursday.
And even if the House approved Medicaid on Thursday, the measure, tacked on to another bill, would have to go back to the Senate for final approval. And with the Senate planning to take off the long weekend until Monday, that would have caused further delay.
Beyond that, Benson pointed out that the House has yet to even have a single hearing on the rest of the governor's $8.9 billion spending plan.
Benson said his boss has been "extremely patient" with lawmakers, noting she unveiled her budget and the Medicaid expansion plan in January.
"But it's time to move forward,'' he said late Tuesday. And Benson said it has been known "for many weeks'' that there were the votes in both the Senate and House for approval of Medicaid.
"That bipartisan coalition is anxious to get things finished," he said. "No game playing. No more stall tactics. No more gimmicks. It's time to get the people's business done.''
Tobin conceded he is at least partly to blame for the delay — and Brewer's special session call.
The speaker had crafted his own alternative to Brewer's plan to add 300,000 or more to the rolls of the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System. More to the point, he refused to allow consideration of the governor's plan while he was trying to sell that — unsuccessfully — to fellow Republicans.
Tobin did not throw in the towel until two weeks ago, weeks after the Senate gave its blessing. But even then, with at least seven House Republicans lined up to support Brewer's plan, there were no hearings scheduled on Medicaid expansion until Monday.
And the House Appropriations Committee then voted to kill the bill, forcing supporters to work to find an alternative method of getting it to the floor.
While a special session means starting from scratch, with an entirely new bill, it still could expedite the process.