Another quiet week at the capitol last week, with only a few dozen bills debated and voted on from the floor. Know what this means? It’s budget time!
The budget is around the corner, which means many of my Republican colleagues are meeting with the governor’s office and their leadership. Still no word on what they are discussing, but speculation is all sides are still far apart on the details. As a member of the minority, they don’t consult with us much, but if it continues to drag on, I would expect them to start talking to moderate members like myself to see what we think.
In those conversations, I will reiterate what my priorities have always been at the capitol: to restore education funding and give our teachers a pay raise. All will depend on the details of course, but if a budget comes forward that does those two things, I can see myself supporting it and voting for a bipartisan budget.
Some good news to report – I honestly feel good about where we stand on the Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) bills, otherwise known as vouchers. We currently have fifteen no votes on the bill as currently written, which is the result of a LOT of hard work from many, many stakeholders. Your phone calls, emails, and visits to the capitol are paying off. No bill is ever truly dead until we adjourn, of course, but I feel more confident than I have all session that we have the votes to stop this reckless expansion of vouchers statewide.
An update on my bill on surprise medical billing, SB 1321 – I testified in the House Banking and Insurance on Monday in support of the bill, and the good news is that it passed the committee unanimously! It’s now headed to the full House floor, where I remain confident that we have the votes to pass it and send it over to the governor. Stay tuned!
This week is also the last week for committee hearings on bills. Today is my last Commerce and Public Safety Committee hearing, and Wednesday is my last Finance Committee hearing. We have a few bills left to consider, and then we will be voting solely on the Senate floor on bills and then on the budget.
Other than my time at the capitol last week, I kept busy attending events and meeting with constituents. A personal highlight was attending the ASU Founders’ Day dinner on Thursday night, along with the Kyrene School Board meeting on Tuesday night. On Friday, I met with the superintendents from Kyrene, Tempe Elementary, and Tempe Union for our monthly meeting on bills before the legislature.
I am very, very excited about some visits we have scheduled for this Friday, including stops at my old elementary and middle schools! Stay tuned next week for recaps!
I received a lot of positive feedback on last week’s breakdown of my “day in the life” of a legislator, so I thought I would continue that tradition and walk through another facet of my day to day, which involves how I decide to vote on bills before the senate.
First, some background: usually in the late afternoon, we receive what’s called the “Third Read Calendar” for the following day. Sometimes it comes later, or even the day of, but most of the time we receive it around 3 or 4pm.
The third read calendar shows a list of the bills we will be voting on the following day (or for Monday, we receive it the week before). The bill number is included, along with the short title, which displays the general categories of what the bill pertains to.
Once we receive the calendar, my assistant will print the list out and put it in my binder that I take to the floor with me every day. I take that print out and sit down to look at the bills, once I am done with meetings or have some time to think.
(As an example so you can follow along, here is the bill page for one of the bills we are voting on in Third Read today, HB 2047).
With the list, I use my legislative computer to look up each individual bill on the legislature’s website. Each bill has a page with six separate tabs of information. Once I type in the bill number, I look at the Overview tab, which shows how the bill has progressed to this point. If it’s a House bill, I can see what the vote was in committee and on the full House floor, along with the vote total from the Senate committee stage. If the bill passed unanimously, or close to it, that tells me the bill will likely pass. If the bill is contentious, and the vote was primarily on party lines, it tells me I need to do a little more research.
Once I examine at the vote totals, I will look at the “RTS Current Bill Positions” tab, which shows who is signed in for, against, and neutral on the bill. This is important because I want to understand where constituents, stakeholders, and interest groups feel about a bill. If it’s an education bill, for example, I want to know where teachers and school districts stand. I also look for where the four cities I represent stand, along with the professional industries impacted by the bill (for example, doctors, police officers, firefighters, etc.)
After looking at that, I examine the “Documents” tab, where I will read the text of the bill and the summary prepared by senate staff. This tells me what is actually in the bill, and addresses any concerns or questions I might have.
If I still have questions, I look at the “Videos” tab, which shows committee testimony, floor debates, and vote explanations. I particularly do this for House bills, which I may have less first-hand knowledge about.
At this point, I usually have a good sense of how I stand on the bill. I will then mark the printed out list with either a checkmark (a yes vote), or an X (a no vote). If I’m undecided, I’ll mark a question mark, and continue to think about it leading up to the vote the following day.
I hope that gives you a sense of how I vote on bills! I love the job, and feel blessed every day for the opportunity.
Capitol Snapshot – Taking you behind the scenes of what I’m working on! Here are some of the photos that we took at the capitol last week:
We celebrated the arts on Tuesday, and the impact it has on our state. I was very fortunate to meet with several students from the Kyrene School District and their families. I am a strong supporter of the arts, and will continue to advocate for their support in the budget!
I also had the pleasure of welcoming Boy Scouts from Mesa, who visited me as a part of their badge process. Was a real treat to tour them around the senate!
It was an honor to have Justice Sandra Day O’Connor with us on the Senate floor last week. It was great to see her interacting with my Senate colleagues, and to have her back to her old stomping grounds!
Finally, a treat for you all: I visited two of my dear friends yesterday in Tempe, and got to play with their new 12-week old puppy, Sammy! As a good legislator would do, I enjoy visiting my constituents. :)
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,