PHOENIX — Arizona House Democrats scurried from the room Monday when a camera was turned on them as they huddled in the Speaker of the House’s conference room.
Rep. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, entered the room while on Facebook Live, transmitting to anyone who cared to watch her live video.
Minority Leader Rep. Charlene Fernandez, D-Yuma, Assistant Minority Leader Dr. Randy Friese, D-Tucson, Rep. Raquel Teran, D-Phoenix, Rep. Kelli Butler, D-Paradise Valley, and others were in the conference room as a form of protest.
According to a Facebook post by Rep. Pamela Powers Hannley, D-Tucson, the Democrats were angry because “Republicans left the floor during voting.”
The move by the Democrats was seen as retaliatory in response to the decision by Rep. John Allen, to force an embarrassing vote on Teran’s infanticide bill.
Democrats had hoped to kill the bill after it became clear that public was opposed to killing a child born alive.
The resentment has sparked the insistence on following the rules as evidenced by Powers Hannley’s post:
According to the rules, members have to stay on the floor during voting. This was enforced during the 53rd Legislature. Today, Speaker Bowers and other GOP members wandered in and out of the house and into the Speaker’s Office and the Member’s Lounge.
Rep. Salman called them out for breaking the rules. Rep. Shope said it was OK to break the rules because it is “custom and practice” that the Speaker’s office is part of the House Floor (even when the door is closed and even though the rules are clear). Dems voted to overturn Shope’s waiver of the rules. Now the Republicans are voting to change the rules to suit themselves. Bending the rules is a mockery.
Historically there is no such limitation on the movement of the Speaker because he is captain of the entire ship; not just the floor activity. Because the Speaker is responsible for the entire building (staff, service, security, etc), they may have to deal with important business at any time. As a result, the Speaker’s office (and his alone) connects directly to the House floor.
Bowers’ backroom was offered to Rep. Noel Campbell (R-1) to host a stakeholder’s meeting. Stakeholders meetings are held to build consensus between diverse interests in order to pass legislation. In the past, there was no objection to the practice of allowing members to pass back and forth between the Speaker’s room and the House floor in order to ensure that members have the opportunity to vote on bills.
During the protest, Republican lawmakers questioned the growing lack of decorum. From impugning colleagues’ motives to prolonging debate by asking the same questions repeatedly, the Democrats have increasingly attacked the Republicans.
RULE 18 DECORUM AND DEBATE
A. When a member desires to speak in debate or deliver any matter to the House, or make a motion, he shall rise and address himself to the Chair, and on being recognized may address the House. He shall confine himself to the question and avoid personalities. No member shall impeach or impugn motives of any other member’s argument or vote.
RULE 19 IMPERMISSIBLE DEBATE
A. No member shall be permitted to indulge in personalities, use language personally offensive, arraign motives of members, charge deliberate misrepresentation or use language tending to hold a member of the House or Senate up to contempt.