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Beth Lewis, executive director of Save Our Schools Arizona, says Republicans too the horse trading process too far this year. «That’s just not the way the legislative process should work,» she says.
Horse trading may be a part of politics, but Republicans this year took it too far, according to Beth Lewis, a mother, teacher and executive director of Save Our Schools Arizona.
«At the end of the day, these lawmakers and the special interests that are driving these, you know, sort of pet projects or pet positions, were forced in to get other people to vote on the budget,» she says. «And that’s just not the way the legislative process should work.»
Republican Senate President Karen Fann spoke publicly about the budget last month, blaming her party’s dwindling numbers at the Capitol for a budget packed with significant new policy.
Republicans, who’ve held legislative majorities in both chambers for nearly three decades, don’t give Democrats a seat at the table when it comes to the budget. This year, the Republican majority was so slim that to pass a budget on party lines, all 31 Republicans in the House and all 16 in the Senate had to vote for it.
«Everyone knew that they were either number 16, or number 31, which created a challenge … We ended up having to put policy in the budget that not necessarily everybody was on board with. But to get that budget moving, that’s what we had to do,» Fann said. «That was not fun,» she added.
Lewis says lawmakers can, and should, do better.
«That’s definitely politics,» Lewis says. «But with the single-subject rule with budget bills, we should really be talking about appropriations, and I think this is what the courts are going to decide, right? Is it unconstitutional to push in all of this other legislation when lawmakers are supposed to be talking about how to fund our state budget?»
There are a number of laws at stake in the two complaints filed against Arizona. Those laws are scheduled to take effect on Sept. 29. In the separate lawsuits, Desai and attorneys for the city of Phoenix have asked the court to block the state from enforcing laws they shouldn’t have passed as part of the budget.
A ruling in their favor could also send a message to Republicans that politics as usual, when it comes to budget negotiations, must change.
The budget, Desai says, should stick to the budget.
«It’s in our Constitution,» she says. «We’ve gone astray from that process, we need the courts to set those boundaries. And then hopefully, moving forward, if we’re successful in this case, the legislature won’t engage in these kinds of shenanigans.»