May 28, 2004
It was 2 a.m. at the state Capitol, and the deep divide among Republican lawmakers had taken another nasty turn in public.
Speaker after speaker on the House floor lashed out at a smaller group of mostly moderates whose rebellion against GOP leadership was leading to a late-night budget victory for Gov. Janet Napolitano.
"I sat in these meetings and heard people make promises," said Rep. John Allen, R-Scottsdale, during the budget vote last week. "I heard them give their word. I heard them say it straight to our faces. There will be other budgets. We’ll have other problems in this state. But to tell you the truth, you pay greatly when you give your word and you go back on it."
For the second straight year, the size of the state budget dominated debate at the Arizona Legislature, which ended a 136-day regular session at 10 p.m. Wednesday.
But a strong undertone to this year’s debate was a ripping split in the Republican majority on philosophical and political grounds, while the Democratic minority continued to unite behind Napolitano on nearly every issue.
As a result, Napolitano again won passage for most of her agenda with the launch of state support for full-day kindergarten and full funding for education, health care and general welfare programs.
The final adopted General Fund budget of $7.4 billion closely mirrored her earlier proposals.
"With her type of ability and leadership skill, it was easy for many to us to agree with the issues and the platforms and stands that she took," said Sen. Pete Rios, DDudleyville, who has served in the Legislature under six different governors. "We could stand behind her and with her because we knew what she was talking about. We knew that she knew what she was talking about."
GOP legislative leaders arranged for votes on several hot-button issues that might damage some moderate Republicans in the fall elections.
But most of those measures were thwarted when moderates sided with Democrats.
"This Legislature is changing," said Sen. Toni Hellon, a moderate Tucson Republican, as she helped to defeat a resolution Wednesday that called
for a federal constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage.
"This Legislature is beginning to reflect the voters of this state of Arizona. Not quite there yet, but it’s beginning to reflect that."
The most significant victory for GOP leaders was a bill that called for a 24-hour waiting period before performing an abortion.
The measure was Napolitano’s first veto of the year, and supporters didn’t have enough votes to override.
House Speaker Pro Tem Bob Robson, R-Chandler, said the division among Republicans spurred open, healthy debate on critical issues.
But the quest to gather enough votes on individual bills often came down to bending far enough to please Napolitano, he said.
"The middle, because of inflexibility of people in their argument, had no choice but to move to the left," Robson said.