A Marathon at the Legislature: This Arizona Legislative Session is Now the Longest Session in History

For those who have spent time at the Arizona legislature, you’re probably aware that “sine die”, the official close of the legislative session, is a day that is highly looked forward to by most legislators and staffers. It’s the day that they can go back home, return back to their side jobs, or just generally not have to deal with the stress of what are often grueling budget negotiations.

This year was a bit of an anomaly: the budget actually got done in a reasonable time frame, but the session went on and on and on, and as of July 1st it is now officially the longest legislative session in the state’s history. So what gives? What is different this year?

It certainly seems to begin and end with Governor Katie Hobbs. The Republicans have long had control of both chambers of the legislature, but they have been used to having a fellow Republican as governor for the last 16 years. That means that priorities are hammered out early, legislation can get sorted out quicker with internal communication, and everyone can call it a day earlier.

Meanwhile, Hobbs set the record for vetoes in a single session…in April. In her first session as governor. That means that in order to pass their priorities, the GOP will have to figure a lot of things out on their own end. Additionally, there is the issue of the myriad department nominees from Hobbs that still need confirmation (or not), so while it would be best for the state for those spots to be resolved lest there be departments without leadership, the political desires of a party don’t always align with the best interests of the constituency.

So how will this be resolved? Since we can be confident that the ink on Hobbs’s veto pen won’t dry up anytime soon, it will likely involve capitulating to some of her desires if the GOP wants to get any of their pet projects passed. That might mean allowing some of her nominees through or meeting halfway on some bills. GOP lobbyist Kevin DeMenna touted a full year legislative session with higher salaries as a way to avoid the annual chaos of the push to sine die. But as one of only two states that necessitate a public vote in order to increase legislator salaries (and giving raises to politicians is hardly popular), that seems as though it will be a tough sell.

As their $24,000 a year job covers over half the year with no end in sight however, legislators will want to figure out how to fix this for next year. So while this year may end in mostly a stalemate, expect some significant changes to the process next year, or on the 2024 ballot.