What a difference a year makes! The legislative general session for 2009 seemed to go on forever, lasting until July 1; and the fifth special session did not adjourn until Dec. 19, 2009. By contrast, this general session adjourned April 29 - two months earlier than last year.
Why was one year interminable and the next the model of efficiency? In the first place, we had a new governor and many new legislators in 2009; and, unfortunately these two branches of government had trouble getting along (remember the governor at the Supreme Court suing the Legislature?). Also, revenue declines continued to accelerate making budget decisions an almost impossible moving target. Finally, regarding Gov. Jan Brewer's temporary 1-cent sales tax referral, politics and ideology collided with no Democrat support and not enough Republican legislators.
The Legislature and the governor were one year wiser and worked more closely in 2010. This being an election year, many were eager to hit the campaign trail early. Probably the biggest reason for the surprising 109-day session this year was that we took a two week hiatus from hearing bills in mid-March and concentrated on a budget proposal. Enough Democrats moved over so that the 1-cent sales tax proposal was included as part of the final budget.
A budget decision I insisted upon was to build in numbers to show what would happen both if the 1-cent sales tax passed and if it failed. The voters will be making in essence a $1-billion-per-year decision, and I wanted them to be informed of the consequences of their choice.
On a personal note, I am most proud of three successful bills that I sponsored. The first, House Bill 2298, relaxes the rules for alternate teacher certification, allowing mid-career professionals easier access to the teaching field. It was an honor to work with Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and the O'Connor Project to sponsor two bills that improve the transparency and efficiency of the Initiative process - HB 2647 and House Concurrent Resolution 2018.
Rep. John McComish (R-Ahwatukee Foothills) is the GOP Majority Leader in the House and former president of the Ahwatukee Foothills Chamber of Commerce. He was first elected in 2004 and is running for the state Senate this fall. He can be contacted at JMcComish@azleg.gov.