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Are Pierce, Tobin Under Attack? Part 2

24 August 2012  

Tobin faces battles from within his own party.

Editor's note: This is Part 2 of a series questioning whether Senate President Steve Pierce and Speaker of the House Andy Tobin's leadership positions are under attack by other legislators. Last time we looked at Pierce. Today we look at Tobin. Are Pierce, Tobin Under Attack? Part 1

Meet Constantin Querard

Querard, (also called CQ) is a conservative political consultant, and is considered by the Arizona Capitol Times to be "one of Arizona's top movers and shakers," which credits him for helping Klein unseat incumbent Senator David Braswell in her 2010 race for the Arizona Senate.

Querard is also the founder of the Arizona Family Project, is on the Board of the Arizona Conservative Club (along with Sydney Hay and Russell Pearce, to name a couple of familiar people), owns Dicessio, LLC, and High Noon Campaign Products.

Conservative, yes, almost to the point of being considered a hard-core conservative. As a conservative, he is credentialled with the proper enemies: Democratic Diva calls him a "right wing uber-consultant Constantin Querard." The Phoenix New Times describes him this way, "Pearce and his slithery aide-de-camp Constantin Querard..."

He's known for pushing 'moderate' Republicans out if possible to replace with a more 'conservative' candidate. In another Phoenix New Times article, "The Dirty Truth About 'Clean Elections'", writer Sarah Fenske explains, "[Querard's] strategy is simple. Arizona has a surplus of "safe" districts, which are either heavily Republican or heavily Democrat. That means the primary can be more important than the general election. A Democrat could never topple a moderate Republican incumbent in most districts — but a social conservative running in the primary could."

This year, Speaker Andy Tobin has been labelled a 'moderate' by CQ's client Lori Klein.

Is Andy Tobin a Moderate?

It used to be that a Republican was considered to be a 'moderate' if they supported abortion. In his time in leadership, Tobin has been fiercely pro-life, shepherding through several bills to protect the rights of the unborn. He is the only LD 1 House candidate endorsed by Arizona Right to Life. He received the 2011 Friend of the Family Award from CQ's Arizona Family Project organization.

Gun control? Not from Tobin. He's been given an A+ rating from the NRA, "A legislator with not only an excellent voting record on all critical NRA issues, but who has also made a vigorous effort to promote and defend the Second Amendment." That's the highest rating in LD1.

Pro-business? Yep. Tobin is endorsed by the Chamber of Commerce, the Arizona Small Business Association, Arizona Economic Development Practitioners. Raise taxes? No, he cut them. Immigration? He was in full support of SB 1070 as well as several other immigration measures.

Wikipedia describes it like this: "Moderates within the GOP tend to be, to varying degrees, fiscally conservative and socially liberal, though there are others who are socially conservative and fiscally centrist. While they often share the economic views of other Republicans - e.g., balanced budgets, lower taxes, free trade, deregulation, welfare reform - moderate Republicans differ in that some are for same-sex marriage and gay adoption, legal access to and even federal funding for abortion, gun control laws, more environmental regulation and anti-climate change measures, more federal spending on public education, fewer restrictions on legal immigration, and for some, more relaxed enforcement of illegal immigration and support for 'sanctuary cities,' abolition of the death penalty, civil rights laws, legalization of drugs, embryonic stem cell research, anti-war policies, or any of the above. Deficit spending is a highly contentious issue, within this faction as well as outside of it."

None of that describes Speaker Tobin.

So, why is he being labelled a moderate? Well, besides the fact that the word 'moderate' is like a red flag to the charging bull of conservative Republicans, and it's a great campaign tactic for trying to take out your opponent if you're running in rural LD1; the main excuse for calling him a moderate apparently comes down to two pieces of legislation having to do with unions.

That Union-Breaking Legislation

Floyd Brown, who is largely credited with the 'Willy Horton' ad, is a friend of Lori Klein. When Brown complained to Klein about the language teachers used in his daughters' classroom, Klein introduced legislation that would ban swear words. (See: 'No cussing in class for teachers, Arizona lawmaker says") Brown has started an Independent Expenditure (IE) organization supporting Klein called, "Arizonans for an Honest Government." All expenditures made on behalf of a candidate, must be made completely independently, without any coordination between the campaign and the IE. Any sort of coordination between candidates or campaigns and an IE are a violation of federal law.

Arizonans for an Honest Government recently sent out a letter to some voters in the state from Brown, which also included a three and a half page letter from State Senator Rick Murphy accusing Speaker Tobin of "standing up for the unions and against you." Yes, the same Murphy who signed the letter to Senate President Steve Pierce.

You can read the full letter from Murphy here. Senator Murphy is a Klein supporter. 

The letter details the progress of four pieces of legislation Murphy tried to get passed into law. However, the letter is written in a way which might be comprehensible to a legislator, but is confusing for a normal person. Let's boil it down.

First, the two easy ones that Murphy mentions:

SB1485, authored by Murphy, would have banned collective bargaining by public employee unions. It failed to make it out of the Senate.

SB1487, also authored by Senator Murphy, would have banned any payroll deduction for dues by public employee unions. This bill also failed to pass the full Senate.

The inability to pass these bills has nothing at all to do with Tobin, since they didn't even make it out of the Senate.

The Two Contentious Union Bills

SB1484 (also known as the paycheck deductions bill) was authored by Senator Andy Biggs, assigned to Murphy's Government Reform Committee (GRC), where it passed. It was then voted on and passed out of the Senate, and was transmitted to the House on February 16. It was assigned to the Employment and Regulatory Affairs (ERA) committee on May 5.

SB1486 was another one that Murphy authored. This bill was a "release time" bill, which would have significantly reduced public employees from being paid by their employer while doing work for the unions. This bill was heard by the Senate GRC, passed, and was sent to the full Senate, where it received 18 votes - enough to transmit it to the House on 2/28. It was also assigned to the House ERA committee on 3/5.

The next ERA committee meeting was on March 6, which did not allow enough time for the two union bills to be placed on the agenda. And, not only was that the next ERA meeting, it was the last ERA meeting of the session. So, the bills did not get heard or pass out of the ERA committee, and died.

This is where Murphy starts making accusations against Speaker Tobin. Noting that Tobin's brother is a fireman, and at one time was the president of the Phoenix Firefighters' union, Murphy claims that Tobin purposely prevented the bills from being heard in order to make the Phoenix Firefighters' union happy.

Yet, Murphy himself, in his letter writes, "I hoped that this would not influence Tobin's handling of the bills, as my previous experience with him had not made me question his integrity. I had also anticipated that the union bills would probably be assigned to Robson's committee and that he might choose not to hear them."

It is the Committee Chair's perogative to hear or not to hear a bill. Murphy anticipated that Robson might not hear them. So, why then, does he write, "Once Robson killed the bills for Tobin..."

When Representative Bob Robson was asked about why he didn't hold any additional hearings, Robson replied, "I had already said we would not have any more meetings -- March 6th was the last.

Did Tobin threaten any sort of retaliation or exert any pressure on Robson? "There was no retaliation or pressure," Robson responded.

So, Murphy tried another route, in which he attempted to replace two bills that had already passed with his two union bills. These sorts of bills are called 'striker' bills, as Murphy explains, "'Strikers' are bills that are amended in committee to replace the entire original bill with a different, often unrelated bill."

Murphy met with Representative Michelle Ugenti in the presence of Representative Dave Stevens to see if she would hear the striker bills in her committee, which he claims she agreed to do. "Unfortunately, Ugenti managed to let a House staffer find out about the strikers far enough before the deadline for Tobin to go ballistic on her. He basically threatened to make her look bad about an issue on an unrelated bill if she heard the strikers, so she relented and broke her word to me."

When asked about this, Ugenti simply replied, "Tobin did not threaten me in any way. It's not in his chararacter to do so."

In speaking with Representative Stevens, he agreed with Ugenti. "That's not the Andy Tobin I've worked with for the last four years. He's pretty even-keeled. I've never seen him go ballistic, that's not his character."

Murphy then tried some other ways to get it voted on through the Senate, "It was ready to be passed and sent over to the House, but we held onto it in case a last-minute opportunity arose (it didn't.)"

His conclusion, "So, the summary is that Tobin used his position as Speaker to single-handedly kill all of the union bills..." is simply not supported by the facts.

Wait, There's More

Murphy continues, "...apparently Speaker Tobin has a penchang for being vindictive. Out of pure spite that I had been persistent about the union bills and had forced him to continue to defend his actions to his caucus, he killed 4 of my other bills."

Two of the bills Murphy claims Tobin killed, regarding fire districts, were added to a bill by Senator Driggs, and passed.

The other two bills had to do with issues within the CPS system. They were both ready for a House floor vote by 3/29, but were not heard.

Tobin said that there were other CPS bills passed with Bill Montgomery's recommendations and the House funded them. When Tobin was asked if he deliberately withheld bills as retaliation, he replied, "Of course not."

The Bigger Picture

Much of the session in 2012 was focused on the budget. And in April, Governor Brewer said she would not sign any more bills until the budget issues were resolved, and even threatened to "veto all bills until a budget deal is reached," as reported by the Arizona Capitol Times on April 30, in the article, "Bills stacking up after Brewer threatens mass vetoes."

All in all, nearly 1600 bills were proposed last spring, and less than 350 ended up being signed into law. Three of the bills that Murphy was a prime sponsor of passed, and two that he was a "Prime prime sponsor" passed. And several that he co-sponsored also passed.

It's Almost Over

Voters have been casting their ballots for nearly a month now. On Tuesday, August 28, the ballots will be counted, and the results will be in.

Today, Tobin called for civility in the campaigns, writing,

"I received a flyer yesterday in the mail attacking my opponent and mentioning her family. I didn't like it when letters involved my family were sent last weekend and I don't like it when it happens to others.

"I call for all parties to stay to the issues and records and staying away from family and blatant personal attacks". Tobin continues that, "When I was attacked by falsehoods in 2010 election coming from Phoenix, the voters of Yavapai County overwhelmingly rejected the attack ads and made clear their disdain with their votes. I agree.

"I call for a more civil discourse and a commitment to the issues of the campaign instead of "hit pieces" meant to disparage the person over the issues."