CBS 5's promise to you is to hold the powerful accountable. Your state lawmakers are back at work and we asked viewers what they want them to focus on this session. Many of you said focus on education, health care and jobs. But CBS 5 didn't hear from anyone who asked that lawmakers come up with a bill that could pay back an ousted senator for his recall expenses.
"I know some people look at it as a way to try to pay Russell Pearce," said Rep. Steve Smith.
Smith has talked about House Bill 2290 enough to anticipate what CBS 5 wanted to know. Why did a bill designed to use taxpayer dollars to repay a legislator for expenses during a recall election just happen to pop up after Pearce was recalled in 2011. Smith said Arizona's constitution tells us we have to.
"Arizona's constitution doesn't suggest things, they don't write, 'maybe it's a good idea if you do this.' It tells us to do this," he said.
But our constitution has been in place for more than a hundred years. Why start this process now?
"I can only speak about why I did it and that had directly to do with while I was in office last session somebody got recalled," Smith said.
"This bill has never come up before. This issue has never come up before until the Russell Pearce recall, and if Rep. Smith wants to try to give taxpayers' money to Russell Pearce to pay for his campaign that's his choice, but we're definitely not going to support," said House Minority Leader Rep. Chad Campbell.
"People say, 'Does this write him a blank check?' No. Does it allocate a cent to him? No, it just starts a process as we're told to," Smith said.
Smith said the bill would allow ousted lawmakers to ask the legislature to pay them back, but that both chambers and the governor would have to give the green light before anybody gets any cash. Speaking of that cash, Smith's bill says the money comes from the state's general fund.
"Any dollar we spend on something other than schools, other than school safety, other than law enforcement and infrastructure, health care - any dollar we spend on other things is an unwise use of our money," Campbell said.
If this bill sounds familiar it's because then-Sen. Smith tried to get it through last year. He was told it didn't have enough support then, so he's giving it another shot from the House.
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