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Arizona Bill Would Undo Voucher Plan

By Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services
PHOENIX -- In what appears to be a bit of political payback, a Republican senator on Tuesday led a successful bid to try to undo the massive expansion of the voucher program in Arizona just a day after it was approved.

Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale, convinced 19 of her colleagues to support her motion to reconsider SB 1452. That included not only all 14 Democrats who have opposed the bill all along but six Republicans, including herself, who voted for the plan.

Her action came immediately after the Senate, on a tie vote, killed her proposal to make it easier to remove people from the "permanent early voting list.''

More to the point, Sen. Paul Boyer, R-Glendale, sided with the Democrats to kill SB 1069. And Boyer was the prime sponsor of the voucher bill.

Ugenti-Rita did not respond to a request by Capitol Media Services for an explanation of what on the surface would appear to be a change of heart. But Sen. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, who opposed the maneuver, said it was abundantly clear in her mind what was occurring: retaliation.
"Sometimes I feel like I have returned back to high school,'' she said.

"I came her to vote on the merit of the bills,'' Townsend continued. "And I'm horrified by what I saw this afternoon.''
Tuesday's vote does not necessarily mean that Arizona will not go ahead with Boyer's plan to make 600,000 or more students eligible for vouchers of state tax dollars to attend private or parochial schools.

The Senate, when it reconsiders the vote at a yet-to-be-set date for a future debate, still could once again gather the necessary 16 votes for approval.

But that presumes that Ugenti-Rita and the other Republicans who sided with her on Tuesday have second -- or third -- thoughts on the issue. That's because none of the Senate Democrats support the plan.

There is no comparable bill in the House.

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