- Associated Press - Sunday, December 25, 2016

PHOENIX (AP) - Arizona lawmakers have been gathering for annual retreats to discuss their priorities for the upcoming legislative session, and the price tag for the Democrat and Republican events varied dramatically.

House Republicans paid $20,000 for their two-day event - some of it funded by lobbyists - that included meetings at a bar, restaurant and University of Phoenix Stadium, while Democrats held a retreat at the Arizona Education Association for $1,400, The Arizona Capitol Times reported (https://bit.ly/2i5Bex2 ).

The two-day Republican event focused on team building at the Brew Haus bar and restaurant at Westgate, followed by exercises on the stadium’s lawn. Attendees were provided dinner at Bar Loui, then returned to the Glendale Renaissance Hotel for a movie.

House Speaker-elect J.D. Mesnard said the Republican retreat was meant to create a sense of unity in the Republican caucus and stayed away from party-dividing policy.

In contrast, Democrats heard from staff and lobbyists about “policy issues that will be prominent during the 2017 session, as well as caucus messaging and other legislative and media strategies,” according to their email invite.

The meeting included presentations from the Arizona Education Association, the Joint Legislative Budget Committee, the Arizona School Boards Association, Children’s Action Alliance, Arizona Board of Regents, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The public didn’t pay for either party’s event. The Republican retreat was paid for from the House Victory Fund, the GOP leadership’s independent expenditure arm, and the House Promotional Fund, which is supported by lobbyist contributions. House Republican spokesman Matt Specht said in the promotional fund, Veridus gave $5,000, Policy Development Group provided $2,500, and Willetta Partners and the Chamber Jobs PAC paid out $1,000 each. The other $10,000 was paid for by the House Victory Fund.

Democrats say their event was paid for by Willetta Partners and GovGroup, which paid vendors directly. Lawmakers were responsible for their own hotel accommodations.

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


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