- Associated Press - Thursday, February 11, 2016

PHOENIX (AP) - The Arizona Senate on Thursday unanimously passed legislation restoring most cuts made to high school career and technical education programs last year, but the legislation still isn’t headed to Gov. Doug Ducey’s desk despite earlier House approval.

That’s because the Senate not only took up their own version of the bill, but made a small change to the versions unanimously approved by the House on Tuesday. That triggered the need for a second House vote before the bill heads to Ducey, but the House didn’t plan to act Thursday evening.

Sen. Don Shooter said fellow Republicans who lead the House were threatening not to take up the revised legislation because they wanted their version adopted. He called on them to act immediately to fix the funding problem.

House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham called Shooter’s contention “absolutely false.”

Senate Bill 1525 passed with little debate, and little was expected since a large majority of the Senate co-sponsored an earlier version.

The $28 million package restores all but $2 million cut from technical education programs in last year’s budget.

Despite the urgency of the bill, it fell victim to Statehouse politics as the week wore on. Shooter led the charge to negotiate the fix, but House members also wanted credit.

Ducey also got in the mix, with a call from him to Senate President Andy Biggs on Wednesday afternoon delaying action. Ducey called Biggs and House speaker David Gowan to his office to consult on the bill just as the Senate was poised to begin debate.

Ducey wanted assurances that the legislature remained on track for a balanced budget despite the $28 million in additional spending.

A supermajority of 72 of 90 House lawmakers signed onto a bill last month to completely restore the cash. Shooter, R-Yuma, then negotiated the deal that restored nearly all the money.

Technical education saw a $30 million cut in the current budget, nearly half the $70 million a year appropriated to the 14 Joint Technical Education Districts each year. It was made in the last hours before a budget emerged last March.

Democrats in both chambers tried to amend the budget to restore the cuts, but were rebuffed.

House Minority Leader Eric Meyer, D-Paradise Valley, said Republicans were trying to take credit for restoring cuts they made.

“They set the school house on fire and now they’re showing up a year later with a bucket to put out the fire and it’s a problem they caused,” Meyer said Tuesday.

Biggs said Republicans rightly can crow about restoring the cash.

“I didn’t even see a Democrat bill dropped with this issue in it,” Biggs said. “What I saw was Republican-led bills, Republicans doing this. I think that Republicans can take credit for it.”

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