PHOENIX - Arizona legislators learned politically painful and personally embarrassing lessons about legislating in haste in 2000, having to retreat on an alternative-fuel subsidy program that proved wildly more costly than anticipated.
A decade later, the lessons may be slipping away. Turnover within the 90-member Legislature is nearly complete, with only seven lawmakers who served in 2000 remaining in the 90-member Legislature. Four of those leave office when their current terms end in January.
And it's not entirely clear the lessons sunk in all that deeply anyway.
Lawmakers were told during their spring regular session in 2000 that making an existing program providing subsidies for alternative-fuel vehicles more generous would cost the state up to $10 million, but months later state officials realized that the actual cost could reach $685 million based on bulging demand and the state's loosened rules for the subsidies.
The Legislature returned to the Capitol for two special sessions that fall to initially suspend and then scale back the program. After the mop-up, $120 million ended up being diverted from the state's rainy day fund to cover the cost.
Lawmakers didn't take the time to study the bill carefully as it was considered and amended, and some ignored warnings from the few who did. Legislative staff got mixed reviews on whether they adequately clued in lawmakers.
Then-Gov. Jane Hull signed the bill without her or her staff realizing the cost implications. Months later, Hull helped trigger a final rush for subsidy applications by announcing her intent to seek a moratorium.
Nothing on the scale of "alt fuel" has been seen since, but the Arizona Legislature has a record of continuing to legislate in haste.
Earlier this year, majority House Republicans eager to act on a high-priority bill to provide tax cuts and breaks for businesses scheduled a committee hearing on it without waiting for a cost analysis by the Legislature's nonpartisan budget staff. The projected annual cost for lost revenue after phased-in implementation was later projected at $942 million. The bill eventually died because of cost concerns.
And Sen. Ron Gould, a Lake Havasu City Republican who entered the Legislature in 2005, said lawmakers often don't get enough time to study budget bills before votes are scheduled by leaders anxious to win approval by majorities of each chamber.
It can be months before all the provisions are clearly understood, Gould said. "It's a bad process all around."