New GOP lead­ers look ahead to chal­lenges at Leg­is­la­ture

Yuma Sun - - OPINION - BY HOWARD FIS­CHER

PHOENIX — Newly elected House Speaker Rusty Bow­ers in­her­its a cham­ber where he can’t af­ford to alien­ate a sin­gle Repub­li­can.

Bow­ers, cho­sen Wed­nes­day by fel­low Repub­li­cans to run the House for the next two years, finds the edge of the ma­jor­ity party clipped from 35-25 for the last two years to just 31-29 after Tues­day’s elec­tion as Democrats ap­par­ently have picked up four seats. And what makes that sig­nif­i­cant is it takes 31 votes for fi­nal ap­proval of any mea­sure.

What that does, Bow­ers ac­knowl­edged, is em­power any in­di­vid­ual Repub­li­can with the abil­ity to hold out their vote on pri­or­i­ties of the GOP lead­er­ship un­til the mea­sure is al­tered to ad­dress his or her con­cerns.

But Bow­ers, a Mesa res­i­dent, said the re­verse holds true for the Democrats who could find some­one de­fect­ing to sup­port a Repub­li­can bill if he or she gets some­thing in re­turn.

“Ev­ery mem­ber of ei­ther cau­cus has a great amount of author­ity and power,’’ said Bow­ers, who has 10 years of leg­isla­tive ex­pe­ri­ence, in­clud­ing two as Se­nate ma­jor­ity leader.

“It makes lead­er­ship more sen­si­tive to each mem­ber’s needs and wants,’’ he said. “And those we’ll just have to work through.’’

And that presents chal­lenges for House GOP lead­ers who also in­clude War­ren Petersen of Gil­bert as ma­jor­ity leader and Becky Nutt of Clifton as ma­jor­ity whip.

“It’s go­ing to be a wild ride just keep­ing the herd go­ing,’’ Bow­ers said.

Across the court­yard, Karen Fann of Prescott who was cho­sen Wed­nes­day by her Repub­li­can col­leagues as Se­nate pres­i­dent, doesn’t have quite the same prob­lem. If the vote tal­lies hold, she will have 17 Repub­li­cans in the 30-mem­ber cham­ber when the new ses­sion con­venes in Jan­uary, the same as last year.

But Fann, first elected to the House in 2010 be­fore mov­ing to the Se­nate in 2016, said that lit­tle bit of ex­tra GOP edge does not mean Repub­li­cans can get through any­thing they want — or that Democrats can or should be ig­nored.

“The bot­tom line is we need to have re­spect for each other,’’ she said.

“Re­mem­ber: We were all elected equally by our con­stituents,’’ Fann said. And she said many of the dis­tricts, while rep­re­sented by a law­maker from one party, in­clude a sub­stan­tial num­ber of vot­ers from the other side of the po­lit­i­cal aisle whose views and needs also need to be taken into con­sid­er­a­tion. Her lead­er­ship team in­cludes Rick Gray of Sun City as ma­jor­ity leader and Sonny Bor­relli of Lake Havasu City as ma­jor­ity whip.

One area that could get more at­ten­tion is trans­porta­tion fund­ing. Rep. Noel Camp­bell, R-Prescott, has been push­ing for new sources of rev­enues to both fix ex­ist­ing roads and bridges as well as build new ones.

The sit­u­a­tion is com­pli­cated by the fact that Ari­zona’s 18-cent-a-gal­lon gaso­line tax has not been hiked since 1991, when 18 cents was worth more than now. And then there’s the fact that new ve­hi­cles are more fuel ef­fi­cient, mean­ing that gas tax rev­enues are not in­creas­ing as fast as the miles driven.

With Camp­bell now a four-year vet­eran and the need for the GOP to hang on to ev­ery vote, the law­mak­ers who want new dol­lars — par­tic­u­larly those from ru­ral ar­eas — have ad­di­tional po­lit­i­cal mus­cle.

“I know that more money is needed for trans­porta­tion be­cause I drive on it and you drive on it,’’ said Bow­ers. And he said that this can’t sim­ply be seen as a ru­ral prob­lem.

Fann agreed. “We all use our high­ways,’’ she said. “And I-17 and I-10, they’re night­mares right now.’’

That, how­ever, still leaves the ques­tion of how to pay for all that.

“No­body wants to see their taxes raised,’’ Fann said.

“But, also, the re­al­ity is there are cer­tain fun­da­men­tal things that govern­ment is sup­posed to take care of,’’ she said. And Fann said trans­porta­tion — along with ed­u­ca­tion and pub­lic safety — are those fun­da­men­tals that must be ad­e­quately funded.

“We need to have the con­ver­sa­tion about how do we fund,’’ she said.

One other big pri­or­ity is wa­ter sup­ply — and ef­forts to come up with a drought con­tin­gency plan in the like­li­hood that Ari­zona will lose some of its al­lo­ca­tion of Colorado River wa­ter.

“There have been some wrin­kles of late,’’ Bow­ers said. “We’re go­ing to keep talk­ing and keep lis­ten­ing and con­sid­er­ing all the op­tions on the ta­ble.’’

That also in­cludes mak­ing sure that all sources of wa­ter are part of any deal.

Fann said one thing work­ing to help craft a so­lu­tion is that, un­til re­cently, ques­tions of wa­ter sup­ply were con­sid­ered sim­ply a ru­ral prob­lem. But now, she said, the threat of a short­age makes it a statewide is­sue.

“So that’s great that we’re able to come to­gether on those kind of con­ver­sa­tions,’’ she said.

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