Republicans and Democrats, after a weekend of suspense and last-minute deal-making by Speaker Russell Bowers and Democratic Leader Charlene Fernandez, banded together and on a 59 to 1 vote passed the Senate version of the Fiscal Year 2021 budget with an additional $50 million for people needing assistance to get through the Coronavirus Crisis.
According to the March 23 issue of the Yellow Sheet Report (please see link below at the end of the article,) the legislation included language that:
“….includes relaxing eligibility requirements and time limits for TANF (Food Stamp) assistance and creates leeway for Dept of Economic Security to pay developmental disability care providers who are providing services in alternative ways.”
Governor Ducey complemented all the state’s leaders, saying:
“I’m proud of what’s happening here. I’ll applaud the bipartisan leadership that we’ve had – Charlene Fernandez, David Bradley, Rusty Bowers, and Karen Fann. You’ve seen what Kathy Hoffman has done regarding schools and what Katie Hobbs has done so we can allow democracy to function. That’s how we’ll continue to operate in Arizona.”
Senate President Karen Fann commented that:
“This is such a unique and unfortunate situation the whole world is in. But I am pleased to see that legislators set aside their wants and needs in order to protect the lives of each person in our state and worldwide. ”
Speaker Bowers issued a statement on behalf of the House Republicans which read in part:
“This pandemic is potentially the worst public health and economic threat that our state and nation has faced. The House Republican Caucus stands united in supporting individual Arizonans, families, and small businesses, and our votes today send a strong and clear message that we will act for the good of all Arizonans.”
“During this period, we will continue to closely monitor COVID-19 developments and maintain continual communication with the Governor Ducey’s office, the Arizona Department of Health Services, and others. Should an urgent need arise necessitating further legislative action prior to the conclusion of our planned period of self-isolation, the House stands ready to return. ”
House Democratic Leader Fernandez put forth a statement which said in part:
“This budget will help and that’ s why we support it. But it will not be enough. We know we will have to do more, that’ s the point we made with our amendments to increase unemployment benefits, food aid, stop evictions and foreclosures and prevent price gouging. We were ready to pass this negotiated plan on Thursday. It’s good for Arizona that Republicans and Democrats came together today, but there was no reason for it to take this long. Our caucus has gone from being accused of over-reacting, mocked for calling this a crisis, to being accused of dragging things out by standing up for our community needs and not moving fast enough.”
“The fact is this pandemic will likely not subside in a few weeks or even months. The fact is our economy will continue to constrict. And the fact is the lifeline we are trying to throw to Arizona residents will still be needed, likely sooner rather than later.”
The State Legislative session is now suspended until at least April 13, 2020. Depending on the severity of the Coronavirus Crisis, that day may be moved to a later time.
Leader Fernandez is correct when she wrote that more will need to be done for the state’s residents and economy.
Hopefully, when the State Legislature does return, they can work together and pass legislation with margins like in the bills to combat the Coronavirus and move the State and its people on the path forward.