Brewer bill signing halt stays after vote

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

PHOENIX (AP) -- Gov. Jan Brewer is refusing to begin signing bills passed by the Legislature again even though the Arizona Senate has passed a budget that includes the Medicaid expansion she's demanding in return for her signature, her spokesman said.

The state House of Representatives still needs to act and until that happens, the veto threat the governor put in place two weeks ago stays in place, Brewer spokesman Matthew Benson said Monday.

"It takes more than one chamber to get a bill or budget passed, so we are awaiting action by the House," Benson said.

Medicaid expansion is Brewer's No. 1 priority this session and she's grown frustrated with deadlock in the Legislature caused by conservative opposition to her embrace of a signature part of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul law. Just days after she issued the veto threat, Senate President Andy Biggs released a package of budget bills and they moved swiftly to passage last Thursday.

Now, House Speaker Andy Tobin must move the bills. But he says he won't be rushed, so the session likely won't end this week.

He's presented a competing proposal to send Medicaid expansion to voters for their OK, but it appears to have little support in the House and Brewer opposes it.

"It's my intention to produce a good budget with good foresight and not an expedited one so everyone can go home," Tobin said Friday. "We have a job to do."

That likely means another week of marking time for House members who have been working three-day weeks and taking up just a handful of bills a day for a month.

"I think we will sit around this week and do nothing," Democratic Minority Leader Chad Campbell said Monday. "I know that the speaker is still trying to pursue his referral on Medicaid, and the votes are just not there for that package. And the sooner we put the referral aside and table that conversation, the sooner we can get to a conversation about the real Medicaid package and a real budget."

Campbell, Brewer, and many in the Senate and House believe there are votes to pass the Senate budget with Medicaid attached. The question is how long it takes Tobin to realize his plan isn't going to move, Campbell said.

House Republican spokesman Rey Torres said Monday he doesn't expect the Senate budget to move this week. There are six weeks left in the budget year, meaning there's added pressure on lawmakers to get a spending plan to fund schools, highways and other state programs soon.

Medicaid expansion, which would add at least 300,000 poor Arizonans to the 1.3 million already in the program, has split the Republicans who control the Legislature. Last week's vote saw five Republicans join with 13 Democrats to add Medicaid to a spending bill, and another GOP member joined to pass the budget.

Senate President Andy Biggs and 10 other conservative Republicans were left to try to pick up the pieces of a splintered GOP majority.

Tobin could face similar divisions unless he is able to engineer a way forward for the budget and Medicaid. Campbell said he hopes Tobin finds an answer.

"This is a package and a proposal that is supported by a very diverse group of individuals and organizations and business leaders and everything across the state," Campbell said. "So if Andy Tobin wants to be the bottleneck that stops us from moving forward at this point, more power to him. But I would like to see a vote on this package."


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