Well, we finally adjourned for the session this past week – no, really! The 2017 legislative session is officially in the books.
As we started the week, we heard that one of our Republican colleagues was out of town, and would not be returning. We had some important bills left to finish before adjourning, so with his absence, that meant the majority caucus only had 16 members present and accounted for. This meant they would need every member of their caucus to vote yes to make sure bills passed through the chamber.
One of these bills was a proposal to extend TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) benefits from a 12-month lifetime cap on benefits to 24 months. This was a priority for the governor at the start of the session, and it was a priority of ours as well. Unfortunately, before the bill passed the House, an amendment was added that put a strike system in place where families could lose benefits far more easily than under current law. We thought these provisions went too far, and we opposed the bill as a caucus as a result.
One of my conservative colleagues opposed any extension of TANF at all, which meant there were only 15 Republicans supportive of the bill. In the Senate, a bill needs 16 yes votes to pass, regardless of how many members are present and voting. Dems were united in opposition without some kind of amendment added to roll back the strike provisions. Like the budget the previous week, we were at a standstill.
But wait! Our missing colleague was rumored to be returning late Thursday evening, put on a plane in order to secure the 16th vote necessary for the bill’s passage. Since we knew this bill would pass eventually anyway, and since so many people at the legislature wanted to adjourn sooner rather than later…
There were rumors going around the capitol all week that bills were coming back, or amendments would be added, or more trouble would arise. As a general rule, the longer the legislature is in session, the more potential there is for mischief. We knew legislative leadership wanted to adjourn, and rather than wait until Thursday evening, we made a deal to adjourn Wednesday afternoon instead. We would limit the number of bills that would be voted on, cut off debate on some controversial pieces of legislation, and revive a good bill that had stalled earlier this session, HB 2091, that would make some positive changes to the TANF program around fingerprinting requirements.
The TANF bill passed, and we adjourned Wednesday evening around 7pm. It was apparently the first time the legislature has adjourned during day light hours since 2003 (!). No 4am votes, no sleeping in our offices, no groggy floor speeches. We finished around dinner time, and adjourned my first legislative session in the senate.
We could always come back for a special session of course (no rumors at the time say we will), and there is always work to be done at the capitol through meetings, answering emails, school visits, working with colleagues, and so on. I’m also still knocking on doors every weekend talking to my constituents, so there really is no off season, so to speak.
I get asked all the time if I’m enjoying the senate, even if it seems like we lose a lot of battles and we don’t win every policy discussion. My answer is always yes – I enjoy “being in the arena,” so to speak, and advocating for our values and the priorities that we think are important.
I still plan to be at the capitol multiple days per week, whether it’s for meetings or keeping up on emails and phone calls. I have some bill ideas for next session, particularly around higher education, that I want to start working on.
The campaign side of things will keep me busy, too. Expect to hear much more from me soon on house parties, canvasses, and other ways you can help.
I expect to travel a little bit as well, both for the campaign and for official legislative trips. I was recently selected to be a part of the National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL) Early Fellows program, which will take me to Omaha next month and Denver and Las Vegas later this year.
This may be my final “capitol update” of the year, but expect to hear from me as the year goes on about bills I’m working on, campaign events, and other interesting news. There really is no off-season, even if it is a little less busy and we have some time to breathe.
I might even be able to fit a vacation in here somewhere for the first time in years. Who knew?
Finally, for those that missed the profile piece on me in the Arizona Republic, it was printed in yesterday’s paper. You can find the online version of the article here.
As always, you can follow me on Facebook and on Twitter for more up to the minute updates. I appreciate all of your help and support – if you can, please consider showing your support today so I can keep fighting for our values and priorities at the state capitol. It is an honor to represent you in the state senate!
Yours in the fight,