The referendum to reroute Clean Elections funding to education passed through the Senate Elections Committee (4-3) despite a slightly new tactic from the opposition.
In addition to saying HCR 2026 is sneaky in its roundabout way of asking voters if they want to keep publicly financing campaigns, those against it say it flouts a bargain brokered in the Senate last year.
Todd Lang, executive director of the Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission said having to fight the referendum is frustrating since Clean Elections, the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Sen. John McComish, R-Phoenix, struck a deal last session that the Legislature would lay off Clean Elections — at least this session.
“If we want to make deals and we want to make agreements and want to resolve conflicts —and I know that’s what legislature is all about — it seems to me that this bill shouldn’t go forward because we did have an agreement that there would be no repeal this session.” Lang said.
While there was an agreement, it wasn’t in writing. It was a handshake deal that went down in the Senate, Lang said, which is why the promise of not touching Clean Elections didn’t come up when the bill went through the House.
Sen. Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix, said he believes senators need to honor their word and not let the bill go forward.
The bill's sponsor, Paul Boyer, R-Phoenix, said he wasn’t aware of last session’s bargain and doesn’t think this Legislature should have its hands tied by a previous Legislature.
Everyone who voted for the bill was in the Senate last session except for Kimberly Yee, R-Phoenix, who was a member of the House at the time.
While the Elections Committee did vote down party lines, the bill saw bipartisan opposition when it passed out of the House with a 31-27 vote.
Boyer said he is anticipating that he will need to put in a lot of elbow grease to get the bill out of the Senate.
Bethany Barnes is Arizona-Sonora News Service's Don Bolles Fellow