PHOENIX - Refusing to blink, Gov. Jan Brewer late Thursday vetoed five bills sent to her this week by Senate President Andy Biggs, who sent them to her despite her threat she would do just that.
In separate veto messages to lawmakers, Brewer did not comment on the merits of the proposals, several of which were approved bipartisan support.
The content of the bills is not the issue, Brewer said, pointing to the moratorium she announced more than two weeks ago, that no bills would be signed until there is resolution of a new state budget that includes her Medicaid expansion plan.
"It is disappointing I must demonstrate the moratorium was not an idle threat," Brewer wrote to Biggs, and the sponsor of each bill.
Biggs insisted the Senate did exactly what Brewer had initially requested, noting that in her moratorium announcement she said she wanted "progress" on the issues, and the Senate did approve the budget last week, including Medicaid expansion, and sent it to the House.
"The Senate made substantial progress," Biggs said, and now he contends Brewer has moved the goal posts.
"I'm really frustrated by what I see as extortion or blackmail," Biggs said.
Brewer press aide Matthew Benson, however, said nothing has changed since Brewer's original pronouncement not to send her anything more bills - she has already signed more than 200 - until there was real progress on the issues. He said Senate budget approval does not meet that definition.
"It takes more than one chamber to pass a budget and to pass Medicaid," he said.
The Senate president said the governor got what she wanted out of his chamber. Now, he said, she's just being obstinate.
Biggs said there is no way to know whether the House will agree on the budget. House Speaker Andy Tobin has his own alternative, one that would require a public vote on Medicaid expansion that the governor does not want.
Biggs acknowledged he was aware of the governor's position on further bill signings.
But he said no one told him Senate approval was not enough to unplug the legislative roadblock. Anyway, Biggs said he could no longer hold on to the measures, at least in part because the delay may be unconstitutional.
He pointed out that the governor herself sued the Legislature in 2009 when lawmakers would not send her budget bills that had been given final approval. Chief Justice Ruth McGregor said lawmakers cannot approve legislation and then sit on it, whether for political or other purposes.
The package of vetoes included one substantial change in existing law, to expand individuals' right to sue if they believe a law, rule or regulation interferes with their religious views.
The other four were largely technical bills to:
• Prohibit constables from acting as private process servers outside their legal duties, or from owning an interest in any firm in the business of private process serving. Sen. Judy Burges, R-Sun City West, the sponsor, said she consented to having her measure sent to Brewer.
• Remove certain reporting requirements for school districts about their buses and another requiring the Department of Education to prescribe the criteria for a school graded F to improve its score. Sen. Kimberly Yee, R-Phoenix, who sponsored both, said she allowed Biggs to send her two bills to Brewer, presuming Senate approval of the budget and Medicaid plan unfroze the moratorium.
• Make changes to the membership of the Domestic Relations Committee. Sen. Adam Driggs, R-Phoenix, the sponsor, could not be reached.
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