Saturday, May 18, 2013

Arizona Legislature: The coming week

What started out as a quiet week last week became colorful in a hurry when the Arizona Senate passed a package of budget bills, including provisions for Medicaid expansion.

Now the whole package is scheduled to go over to the House for consideration.

As of this writing, there isn't anything in terms of committee agendas or floor calendars posted for the coming week for either chamber, so all that's left to do is speculate a little.

1.  The bills face a murky path in the House, but speculation is that they are likely to pass.  There just may be a little drama first.

2.  On Friday's Horizon on KAET (PBS channel 8 in Phoenix), the journalists who were part of their weekly "Journalists Roundtable" speculated that the bills won't be heard (and voted on) until after Memorial Day.  According to them, this coming week may see House Speaker Andy Tobin try to push, or at least go through the motions of pushing, his proposal to put the Medicaid restoration before the voters.

However, while there do seem to be enough votes in the House to pass Medicaid restoration, it doesn't seem likely that there is any real support for putting the question before the voters - mostly because they think it will be approved by the voters anyway, and by a wide margin, making the legislature look worse for passing the buck on an easy decision.

Note: As of now, KAET has not posted Friday's episode of Horizon on its website, but will likely do so on Monday.

3.  There may yet be a little more drama over this in the Senate.  Standard procedure is that once a bill is passed by one chamber, that bill is sent, or "transmitted" to the other chamber after 24 legislative hours.  Unless one of the senators on the prevailing side of the vote on the bill moves to reconsider, or bring back, the measure within that time.

No motion to reconsider has been made yet, so far as I know, but the possibility remains open for such a motion to be made on Tuesday.

There have been a few whispers of such a move, but it seems unlikely.  While one of them might want to walk back their vote (Michele Reagan looks like that she it trying to be on both sides of this issue), to actually overturn the measure, five of the six Rs who voted for Medicaid restoration would have to change their votes.

While I expect that there is a lot of arm-twisting going on in R-land this weekend, the Republicans who voted for this knew what was coming when they cast their votes, so they're prepared.  I don't expect any changes in the outcome.

Though a few members may show up Tuesday with an arm in a sling. :)

4.  No matter how this turns out, expect a change in the GOP leadership in the AZ Senate.  The Senate Majority Leader (John McComish) and Majority Whip (Adam Driggs) voted for Medicaid restoration and worked to get it passed over the objections of the Senate President (Andy Biggs).  Something's got to give.

Speculation is that by the end of the week, there will either be a new Senate President or a new Majority Leader and Whip.

Predictions for the week; take with a grain of salt - these are more the product of reading tea leaves and making some wild-ass guesses (WAGS) than the product of facts and talks with the players (for some reason, the members of the R leadership in both chambers don't have me on their speed dial lists.  Shocking, I know :) ):

1.  No motion to reconsider in the Senate.  The bills go to the House and are introduced and assigned to House Appropriations.

2.  The chair of that committee, Rep. John Kavanagh, may try to play games with the package, but at most, he'll strip out the Medicaid language in a committee amendment.  If that happens, the change will probably be rejected in the Committee of the Whole, or COW, session consideration of the bill (all committee amendments have to be approved by the COW; normally, that process is pro forma, but this week it could mean something).

3.  The entire package will be approved by the full House by, say, a 34 - 26 margin, on Thursday.

4.  After that, it will depend on what other work gets done during the week.  There are still a few things that have strong support for passage (i.e. - Governor Brewer's sales tax "reform" scheme proposal).  If those are completed, they may just do a marathon session on Thursday and adjourn sine die this week to get the hell out of Dodge...errr...Phoenix...before the Memorial Day holiday.  Otherwise, they'll be back next week, with an eye toward finishing up.  If they are unable to finish their work before the end of next week, they may just sine die anyway,  planning on a quick special session later to finish up the work.

Regardless of how it ultimately turns out (and how accurate my fearless predictions turn out to be :) ), keep your popcorn handy this week.  It's going to be more entertaining than any of formula-based sequel/prequels special effects fests playing at the local multiplex this week.

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