November 29, 2004

Rep. Russell Pearce, RMesa, will have to share his power to shape legislative budget issues as the state House of Representatives will have two appropriations committees next year.

That was one of several wrinkles in the list of new committees and their leaders to be appointed by Jim Weiers, who is expected to be elected House speaker when the new Legislature convenes in January. Pearce fought to protect his role in one of the House’s most prominent posts after some Republicans privately lobbied Weiers to pick a less controversial lawmaker.

Pearce hasn’t voted for a budget package that became law since he joined the Legislature in 2001. During Pearce’s two years as head of the Appropriations Committee, Gov. Janet Napolitano and other Democrats scored political points by attacking Pearce’s proposals to limit government spending, including basic aid to school districts.

But Pearce is a champion of the most conservative wing of the Republican Party, which made significant gains in both legislative chambers in this year’s elections.

Weiers decided to create two committees that will split responsibility for state budge tissues. The second committee will be led by Rep. Tom Boone, R-Sun City West.

"I wanted to create an open and inclusive process for members," said We i e r s , a Phoenix Republican, in a written statement. "This provides a rare opportunity to involve lawmakers in the most important duty of the Legislature."

In another twist, all transportation bills next year will travel through Gilbert. Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, will be the next chairman of the House Transportation Committee, while his counterpart in the state Senate will be Thayer Verschoor, another Gilbert Republican.

Both lawmakers were among the most outspoken opponents of light-rail funding in Maricopa County’s Proposition 400, the half-cent sales tax extension approved by voters Nov. 2. That funding depends on the first 20-mile segment complying with yetto-be determined accountability standards.

"Now that Prop. 400 has passed, I want to make sure that it’s properly implemented and our taxpayers that are going into various forms of transportation are getting the most effective use," Biggs said.

In all, the House will have 18 standing committees next year compared with the current 16. Lawmakers representing East Valley districts will continue to control half of them. Other highlights include:

• Rep. Bob Robson, RChandler, will continue to be House speaker pro tem and also will lead the powerful Rules Committee.

• Current Republican floor leader Eddie Farnsworth, RGilbert, will take over as chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and his counterpart in the Senate will be John Huppenthal, R-Chandler.

• Universities and community colleges can expect more scrutiny as their issues will be heard in a separate committee led by Rep.-elect Laura Knaperek, R-Tempe.

• Rep. Michele Reagan, RScottsdale, will focus on business issues as chairwoman of the Commerce Committee.

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