Arizona legislators, eager to go home after a longer than anticipated regular session, are speedily pushing numerous bills through committees and floor votes this week, including the big state budget bill.
The stack of bills awaiting action by Gov. Jan Brewer is growing as both houses take final votes on a number of pieces of favored legislation. Legislators are flogging their pet projects, and lobbyists are hard at work to get their own issues taken care of.
The two biggest bills remaining are the $8.5 billion state budget, on which the governor and Republican legislative leaders announced late last week that they had reached agreement, and Brewer's top project, state personnel system reform. The two are expected to come to votes side by side.
The budget bill passed the rules committees of the House and the Senate with little debate on Monday, clearing the way for floor votes on Tuesday.
Tuesday will be the 114th day of the regular session, and that is two weeks longer than Republican leaders had targeted for adjournment. The main holdup has been the budget, with Brewer and GOP leaders disagreeing on whether to spend more or save more of what is the state's first surplus in several years.
In the end, based on their announced agreement, the two sides are splitting the difference. Brewer conceded the rainy day savings, agreeing to $450 million. GOP legislative leaders in turn gave her more than $200 million toward the added spending she sought for a wide range of programs.
Included in that are $40 million for an elementary school reading program, $42 million for child and senior care, $50 million for maximum security prison beds, $37 million for programs for the severely mentally ill and $12 million for school building repair.
Legislative leaders have been saying for weeks that they wanted to wrap up the session quickly so House and Senate members can go home to prepare for this fall's elections. All 90 legislators face newly redrawn district boundaries that, to hear Republicans tell it, will make things easier for Democrats and more difficult for incumbent members of the GOP.
The Legislature's only constitutionally required duty is to pass a state budget. Yet, as of Monday, more than 200 bills having little or nothing to do with the budget had been passed and sent to the governor.