Crossover Week in the Arizona Legislature is always hectic, but Crossover Week 2019 was also full of drama.
Besides rousing debates on the sub-minimum wage, wineries as agritourism, water, license plates and fake meat, there was a Republican tiff brewing between two conservatives– Reps. Kelly Townsend and Anthony Kern– last week.
On Wednesday, Townsend started voting NO on every Republican bill because Kern wouldn’t let one of her Elections Committee bills out of his Rules Committee. It is rare to see any Republican defy their leadership so publicly and effectively. Speaker Rusty Bowers depends on all 31 Republicans voting in lock step to pass their ideological bills — like the $7.25/hour minimum wage, tax cuts for the rich, deregulation of occupations, and risky water deals.
After Townsend voted NO on several Republican bills, the House recessed. Republicans went into closed caucus to figure out what to do, and Democrats went to our conference room to strategize.
When we went back into session about an hour later, Townsend was gone for the day. This left the House Republicans without vote #31. The 29 Dems killed the bills we didn’t like— thanks to Townsend’s absence— before the leadership stopped all voting. The rest of the day was spent in COW debate. (The Republicans will likely try to bring these dead bills back as zombie bills. In the photo above, you’ll note that GOP Whip Rep. Becky Nutt voted no. Since she voted on the prevailing side, she can bring it back as a zombie bill.)
Townsend’s protest shows the Republicans’ vulnerability. If one of their members doesn’t get what they want or decides to take a stand on a bad bill, that one person can easily throw a wrench into the Republican machine.
The House has moved at a snail’s pace this session because Bowers won’t bring bills for a final vote without all 31 of his members present. In the 53rd Legislature, members floated in and out, took vacation days, and missed votes. Not so in the 54th Legislature. Attendance is everything– for both parties.
As of Wednesday during Crossover Week, we had passed only 100 bills out of the House. There are easily another 100 House bills waiting for us on Monday. Since many of the bills that the Legislature passes are unnecessary or just benefit one corporation, passing way fewer bills is not a bad thing.
Thanks, Kelly, for showing us the power of 1.