We expect the Legislature will agree on a budget before Memorial Day, despite the politics now being played by lawmakers. Remembering that Republicans hold a narrow majority in the House and Senate is the primary reason for our confident prediction.

The 54th session is in “overtime,” and lawmakers are receiving less per diem money than they did before the Legislature reached its 120th day. Legislators representing districts outside of Maricopa County are receiving $20 per day, compared to the $60 per diem they were paid prior to May 14, the day the session was supposed to end, according to the Arizona Constitution.

There’s more than money driving lawmakers to make a deal on the budget.

Several legislators have obligations that will take them away from Phoenix.

One member is scheduled to serve time in the Arizona National Guard beginning at the end of the month.

Recognizing that the GOP won’t get the budget it wants unless it can maintain its majority, Republican leadership will force a deal this week, and we expect lawmakers will approve it before Memorial Day, May 27.

Beyond the budget, there is an issue we expect legislators will reconsider when they return to Phoenix next January. It revolves around the question of representation for citizen initiatives.

This newspaper has been an outspoken proponent to protect the direct democracy process. Republicans have spent the past several sessions adopting new laws — all signed by Gov. Ducey — that make it more difficult for citizens to petition for ballot initiatives to make or change laws in Arizona.

One measure that appears to have merit calls for more representation from rural areas for citizen initiatives.

Currently organizations seeking to put a referendum on a statewide ballot need to collect a percentage of signatures from registered voters anywhere in the state. The bill proposed this session — but not adopted — requires petitioners to gather signatures from every legislative district in Arizona.

This would be a good idea to assure that voters outside of Phoenix support putting a question on a statewide ballot.

The measure didn’t make it out of committee this session, but, like the budget, we anticipate this proposal will gain traction the next time lawmakers gather in Phoenix.

Reprinted from Sierra Vista Herald/Review

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