A funny thing happened on the way to the Forum (the Forum in this case being sine die at the AZ lege).
A group of Republican Representatives, six to be exact, were holding out on the budget in order to get Kids Care reinstated. (Remember this costs the state nothing - NOTHING!) Here is reporting from David Safier at the Tucson Weekly/The Range.
Here's an Arizona civics question: Who are the six most powerful political people in Phoenix? A clue. The answer isn't Ducey, Biggs, Gowan, Cathi Herrod and the two Koch Brothers.
The most powerful people in Phoenix are any six House Republicans who band together and refuse to vote for a bill being pushed by Ducey, Biggs, Gowan, Cathi Herrod and the Koch Brothers. The Arizona House has 60 members, so it takes 31 votes to pass a bill. Republicans have 36 seats. That means if six Republicans decide to join with 24 Democrats to oppose a bill, the result is a 30-30 tie, and the bill goes down.
That's what happened to the Ducey-Biggs-Gowan budget proposal to cut $21 million from K-12 education. A group of Republicans joined together and said they wouldn't vote for it. Just like that, the money was restored. That should have been the beginning. Instead, it was the end. The Mighty 6 decided it was enough to bring the education budget back to zero, no increases, no decreases. They folded their tent, voted for the budget and went home.
Here's what they left behind.
Apparently, funding health insurance for Arizona children wasn't important enough for six Republicans—any six Republicans, it didn't have to be the same group—to join hands and say, "No KidsCare, no budget." All the arguments were on their side. Every other state accepted the federal children's insurance plan, every one of them, majority Republican and majority Democrat, hardcore conservative and hardcore liberal. The insurance program wouldn't add a penny to the state budget since the Feds pick up the tab. It would boost the state economy to the tune of almost $80 million in federal money. And it would mean 30,000 kids could see a doctor and have their medical needs attended to. And yet, there weren't six House Republicans who would stand up and say, "Our children's health is too important to end the legislative session without guaranteeing them access to health insurance. No KidsCare, no budget."
But there is more and here's the latest story, as I know it, from the Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required).
Thwarted in earlier attempts, Republican supporters of a program to provide health insurance to the children of the working poor outmaneuvered their own leadership Thursday night to have the measure approved by the House.
Rep. Regina Cobb, R-Kingman, attached language to restore the program in Arizona to legislation dealing with vouchers that allow parents to use public dollars to send their children to private and parochial schools.
There was a political component to that choice: The change in SB 1457 is wanted by Republican legislative leadership — the same leadership that blocked efforts to put the restoration of KidsCare into the just-approved budget.
That gambit succeeded as the House attached the amendment and approved the bill with 38 votes, as 14 Republicans joined with all 24 Democrats to override the GOP leaders.
Tell me that I'm missing something here. Did our legislators tack Kids Care onto a school voucher bill? And did Dems vote for it? OMG.
But hurdles remain.
Senate President Andy Biggs has refused to give a hearing to a previously approved stand-alone version of the measure which could make up to 30,000 children eligible for health insurance. It remains to be seen what Biggs will do with the now-amended version of SB 1457.
And even if it survives the Senate, Gov. Doug Ducey has refused to say whether he supports the program.
So there is still time to make sure that 30,710 Arizona kids go without proper health care.
And the GOPlins have many flag waving arguments to use against Kids Care.
With no cost — at least not now — the opponents were stuck with philosophical arguments.
House Majority Whip David Livingston, R-Peoria, decried the fact that the program covers those up to twice the federal poverty level.
“One thing I am fearful that is getting lost on our culture is personal responsibility,” said Rep. Warren Petersen, R-Gilbert. He said putting families into a situation where they get such help teaches children “a path to dependency.”
“This particular piece of legislation, in my opinion, takes away the concept of America,” complained Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert. “It doesn’t matter how many times we say, ‘It’s for the kids,’ A government that can take from people and give to other people through the force of the police force can take everything from us.”
Rep. John Allen, R-Scottsdale, said he sees a downside of providing health care to children of families at those income levels. “We’re giving them a benefit that will lead them not to want to get out of the income bracket in which this is provided,” he said.
Livingston, Petersen, Farnsworth, Allen. Remember those names in November.