PHOENIX — Arizona State Representative Michelle Udall, who has emerged as the unofficial leader of an effort to corral votes for a lame-duck special session, doubled down Thursday on her assertion there are enough legislators willing to vote exclusively on a measure to lift a school spending cap.
“We have not had any legislators tell us they need other things in order to do it. They have said they would like to see other things addressed in a special session. But no one on our list has said they need to see those other issues addressed in order to override the AEL,” Udall told 12 News Thursday evening.
As 12News first reported Monday, Udall and a veteran lobbyist worked together to poll legislators in early October. They concluded 43 Representatives and 20 Senators are willing to support a special session to override the Aggregate Expenditure Limit (AEL). They provided the list to Governor Ducey.
Those totals would clear the two-thirds threshold needed in each chamber. There are now indications 21 Senators are willing to vote for lifting the AEL, Udall said.
However, a spokesperson for the governor suggested in a statement Thursday some legislators are not unconditional “yes” votes. A senior staff member for Ducey told at least two legislators in June the governor would call a special session only if he could be assured there was enough support in advance.
“We appreciate those attempting to whip the votes on this initiative,” said CJ Karamargin, Director of Communications in a written statement. “As you mentioned, there are members that would consider waiving the AEL if other items are addressed. These are the types of conversations we are having with legislative leadership.”
But there are questions regarding what legislative leadership and the governor’s office are actually doing to determine interest among legislators.
Three Republican Senators who support lifting the AEL tell 12News neither the governor’s office nor Republican leaders have even contacted them to learn their positions. Additionally, none of the three say their votes are contingent on the legislature addressing another issue.
Senator Paul Boyer (R) is one of them. Boyer said Thursday that the governor has proven in the past a willingness to call a special session without knowing he had enough support in advance.
“The governor didn’t have the votes on the Opioid crisis, and he still called a special session. The governor just called it and assumed everyone would support it. I think right now they are making us jump through hoops. We’ve jumped through them. We have the numbers,” Boyer said.
Senate President Karen Fann and House Majority Leader Ben Toma have not responded to requests for comment. Senate President Rusty Bowers tells 12News he believes he has enough votes in the House to hold a special session.
Standing on the Capitol lawn Thursday with other legislators and three superintendents, Udall said she and the lobbyist communicated again with legislators on their list after the election. She has spoken to some as recently as this week. Nothing has changed, Udall said.
“For the AEL, we do have the votes,” Udall said. During a brief speech Thursday, Udall commended Governor Ducey for making and keeping many promises during his tenure.
“Under his leadership, we have invested in education, cut taxes and reduced business regulation. The state is in an infinitely better position than when he took office,” Udall said. “It’s now time for him to keep one more promise.”
Udall said she made promises to other educators because she believed Ducey would fulfill his end of the deal. Udall, a teacher at Mountain View high school, said she plans to personally visit Ducey.
“I will probably try that in the next couple of days. But again, I’m also teaching, so it makes it a little tricky,” Udall said.
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