PHOENIX — The Arizona Senate has adjourned for the night without acting on a state budget as it remains short of Republican votes to pass the plan without Democratic support.
The House remained in session as Senate President Karen Fann told members late Friday to return at 10 a.m. Saturday and that “maybe we can start voting on some budget bills if at all possible.”
That remains unlikely unless a deal is struck with holdouts including Republican Sens. Paul Boyer and J.D. Mesnard. Boyer said no deal on the budget is in sight.
Boyer and Sen. Heather Carter want to see more time for child sex assault victims to sue. Mesnard wants changes to a tax overhaul package.
The House is voting on some parts of the $11.8 billion budget package negotiated between Fann, House Speaker Rusty Bowers and Gov. Doug Ducey.
“We’re trying to find good legislation,” Fann said. “We’re working on everything – nothing’s done until it’s done, right? You know how that goes.”
House lawmakers worked into the early morning hours Friday to pass several bills that are part of the state budget package before calling it a night. The Senate, meanwhile, took Thursday night off because it lacked the votes to enact budget legislation.
Lawmakers returned late Friday morning to continue working on the budget that has solid majority Republican support in the House but falls far short of enough GOP backing for the Senate to act. Minority Democrats do not support the GOP plan.
Republican holdouts who forced Thursday’s Senate delay sparked anger among GOP House members that was caught on an open microphone during a closed evening caucus meeting. Reps. Ben Toma and Kelly Townsend threatened to retaliate against two GOP senators who do not support the budget, with Toma saying he would not hear bills by Sens. Boyer or Carter in the next session. They also discussed an ethics inquiry.
Carter and Boyer are demanding changes to laws that limit lawsuits by child sex assault victims. Carter also objects to the lack of funding for several of her key priorities that received broad support earlier but are not included in the final budget deal.
Boyer has vowed not to vote for the budget until his child sex assault bill passes. He pushed back on the idea of an ethics inquiry pegged to his move to block the budget until his demands are met.
“I think they need to re-read the code of ethics,” Boyer said Friday. “If we’re going to say there’s something unethical about holding up a budget vote because of children who have been sexually assaulted and trying to expose child predators, then I have a different code of ethics than some of my colleagues over in the House.”
The House worked until about 2 a.m. Friday, passing budget legislation on criminal justice, environment and health and human services but leaving many more pieces of budget legislation undone.
Republican Rep. T.J. Shope told reporters the House decided to adjourn until Friday morning just after 2 a.m. because the GOP caucus had shown it was solidly united on the budget plan negotiated between Senate and House leaders and Republican Gov. Doug Ducey. Republicans control the House by a 31-29 margin, and all three budget bills passed without Democratic support.
All eyes remained on the Senate, where Carter and Boyer and Mesnard remain solid holdouts among Republicans who have a 17-13 majority. Mesnard wants a different tax cut plan than the one that spreads about $325 million in cuts among all tax brackets and says others back his plan.
Lawmakers have a handful of hot-button topics on tap besides the budget and hope to adjourn for the year before this weekend. They include dueling bills on how to tax car-sharing apps, changes to initiative petition rules, and a proposal designed to prevent teachers from espousing their political beliefs in class.
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