Mon, Oct. 21

Lawmakers take care of themselves on final day of budget year

PHOENIX -- State lawmakers took the time on the last day of the budget year to ensure sufficient money will be there for them to run for re-election or for other office.

But they refused to approve another measure that would dock their pay on days they missed votes.

On a 34-20 margin, the House rejected a proposal by Rep. Jerry Weiers, R-Glendale, designed to ensure that when lawmakers are at the Capitol they don't duck out of the chamber to avoid voting on controversial issues. HB 2127 said missing even a single final roll-call vote on a bill would strip the legislator of any pay for that day, even if he or she votes on everything else on the calendar.

That's about $175 a day.

Tuesday's vote came despite a last-minute plea by Weiers to salvage the measure.

"Look inside yourself, look at your district and understand that your constituency ... that expects you to show up and do your job,' he said. And Weiers said lawmakers would not lose their pay if they had an excused absence.

But with only one dissenting vote, the House approved boosting the money available to run for office next year.

HB 2603 is designed to deal with a federal court ruling last year which voided part of the system of publicly financed elections.

That law provides cash to candidates who refuse to take private donations and live within the limits set by law. But the law also increases the funding if their privately financed foes - or others supporting those people -- spend more than their allocations.

In a preliminary ruling last year, U.S. District Court Judge Roslyn Silver called the matching funds provision unconstitutional.

To make up for the loss of those extra funds, HB 2603 boosts the money automatically available to publicly funded candidates for the 2010 election to make up for the fact that is all they will get.

So gubernatorial hopefuls would get ore than $1.4 million, versus less than $640,000 now for a primary. Winners get 150 percent of that figure for a general election.

Candidates for secretary of state and attorney general now will be guaranteed almost $460,000, versus the approximately $165,000 now for their primary bids.

And legislators who agree to public financing would get a check for $21,478 in the primary -- and $32,217 for the general election, versus $12,921 and $19,382 respectively now.

But the legislation doesn't stop there. It also increases the amount candidates who want private funds can take from any one source.

Those running for statewide office could accept nearly $1,700 from individuals, compared with slightly more than $1,000 now.

And legislative candidates would find the maximum they can accept from individuals boosted to $615 from $480.

The changes come even as lawmakers are moving to ask voters to cripple the whole Citizens Clean Elections Act. A measure already approved by the Senate and awaiting House action would put a measure on the ballot in 2010 to ban any public funds from being used to finance campaigns.

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