State lawmaker won't give up free tickets without a payraise

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

PHOENIX -- A state lawmaker said Tuesday he's going to keep taking free tickets from lobbyists unless he gets a raise.

Four years after the Fiesta Bowl scandal left a black mark on  the state legislature, Sen. Don Shooter says freebies like football tickets help supplement his pay.

“$24,000 a year,” Shooter said referring to his legislative salary, “Give us a raise, we’ll buy our own tickets.”

At first it appeared Shooter was playing off his comments as light-hearted, but then he said, “It costs a lot of money to do this job, there’s an opportunity cost.”

The Yuma Republican’s remarks come after several lawmakers introduced legislation this week seeking to ban legislators from taking sports and entertainment tickets from lobbyists.

Sen. Michele Reagan, a Scottsdale Republican, is the main sponsor of the bill and says the public is fed up with politicians taking gifts from people who want to influence their votes.

“People like going to these events and I like going to these events,” Reagan said. “Nothing says you can’t go. You can go to an event, just pay for your ticket. That’s what the public has to do.”

In 2010, Reagan was one more than 30 lawmakers caught up in the Fiesta Bowl scandal where lobbyists for the bowl game lavished free meals, sporting tickets, and trips to football games across the country on lawmakers.

A subsequent investigation by Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery cleared all the lawmakers embroiled in the scandal of any wrongdoing.

At the time Montgomery said state’s laws weren’t tough enough for him to press charges. He also left it up to the same legislators to change the laws.

Several attempts to impose a gift ban have failed at the Legislature over the past several years. Reagan’s current proposal does have bipartisan support, but is still expected to run into tough opposition.