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Bill would dock lawmakers a day’s pay for failing to vote

PHOENIX — A state representative wants to dock lawmakers a day’s pay if an unexcused absence causes them to miss a vote on legislation that reaches the floor of the House or Senate.

“I think it’s just a matter of right and wrong,” Rep. Jerry Weiers, R-Glendale, said Tuesday before the House Government Committee. “If you’re working, you should get paid, and if you’re not working, you shouldn’t get paid.”

Saying he’s tired of seeing colleagues miss votes they consider unimportant, Weiers calls in HB 2127 for lawmakers to lose an amount not less than $175 for each day they miss a floor vote. Those lawmakers also would be listed on the Legislature’s Web site as failing to vote.

“Unless someone can show me another way that can get people’s attention, money is the only way to get people’s attention,” Weiers said.

The committee endorsed the bill on a 4-3 vote, sending it to the House floor by way of the Rules Committee, but only Weiers heard sharp comments from opponents.

“I think we have a built-in performance review of every member down here: It’s called the election,” said Rep. Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix.

“I don’t necessarily agree with this insinuation that I vote for a paycheck,” said Rep. Adam Driggs, R-Phoenix. “I’m here because I want to be in involved in public service, help my constituents and help my state.”

Rep. Warde V. Nichols, R-Gilbert, joined Campbell and Driggs in voting against the bill. However, opponents said their objections were to the financial penalty and not to the idea of publicizing the names of those who miss votes.

Voting in favor were Rep. Sam Crump, R-Anthem, the committee’s chairman and a co-sponsor, Rep. David Gowan, R-Sierra Vista, Rep. Frank Antenori, R-Tucson, and Rep. Steve B. Montengro, R-Litchfield Park. Rep. Tom Chabin, D-Flagstaff, was absent.

Asked by Driggs if it’s common for lawmakers to miss votes due to unexcused absences, Weiers said emphatically that it is.

“Anybody that’s been down here four years or longer has seen that,” Weiers said. “I think every bill down here is critically important. Whether I hate the bill or like the bill, fact is they’re members’ bills, they’re constituents’ bills whether I agree with them or not.”

HB 2127 deals with a bill’s third reading, which sends legislation to the other chamber, and final reading, which sends it to the governor.

It defines one day’s pay as the higher of $175 or a formula that averages the length of legislative sessions and lawmaker pay over five years, and it would draw that amount from the $35 daily subsistence pay lawmakers receive during the session.

Weiers said the bill doesn’t apply to committee votes because legislation that dies in committee often resurfaces later in other committees.

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HB 2127

Main Sponsor: Rep. Jerry Weiers, R-Glendale.

Effect: Would penalize lawmakers at least $175, considered one day’s pay, on days when an unexcused absence causes them to miss a floor vote. Also would publicize the names of these lawmakers on the Legislature’s Web site.

Status: Passed the House Government Committee on Tuesday by a 4-3 vote. Headed to the House floor by way of the Rules Committee.

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