- Associated Press - Friday, December 26, 2014

PHOENIX (AP) - Renovations to the Arizona House chamber are coming along at a price that doesn’t sit well with some lawmakers.

House Speaker-elect David Gowan spent and accepted more than $335,000 in bids for remodeling the building where legislators are in session, the Arizona Capitol Times (http://bit.ly/13wj3HO) reported this week.

The face-lift includes new paint throughout the building, asbestos testing and $53,000 worth of new carpeting on the House floor and in a lounge. At least $193,000 of those funds were earmarked to build three new offices and accommodate more lawmakers on the second floor. Republican leadership and their staff primarily occupy that floor.

House Democratic Leader Eric Meyer said lawmakers shouldn’t be spending money on renovations when there are schools that can’t afford repairs.

“Every meeting I’m in, I’m told that we don’t have any money. And yet when it comes to moving some walls and making new offices for people, we come up with it,” Meyer said.

Majority Leader Steve Montenegro called the comparison unfair. Montenegro says the renovations were paid for by an internal operating budget, not the state general fund. Some of the construction has been done for safety purposes, Montenegro added.

“When engineers come into your building and say we have serious concerns, you have to do something . We can’t have the building falling apart,” he said.

Republican offices have not been the only ones getting revamped. Democratic House leaders, who are located on the third floor, had $39,000 worth of work done to their office area. Meyer said no Democratic leaders requested the renovations.

Other scheduled renovations include a $1,500 handrail for the House gallery stairs. According to lawmakers, a pregnant lobbyist tripped down the third floor gallery center aisle stairs during one of the last session’s final nights. Neither she nor her baby was injured. Lawmakers, however, immediately lobbied for a handrail.

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Information from: Arizona Capitol Times, http://www.arizonacapitoltimes.com

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