Get to know: Speaker of the House-elect Rusty Bowers

The legislative session will start this month, and with a new group of legislators comes new leadership in both the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Speaker of the House-elect Rusty Bowers (LD-25) will be representing the House Republicans in the 54th legislature.

Question: How does it feel to be chosen as the Speaker of the House?
Answer: It’s a great honor. I’ve been around for a long time, I’ve worked with ten speakers and five governors and to think I’m one of those speakers now, it’s humbling. There’s a lot to learn and a responsibility associated with it that I feel.

Q: What do you see being the biggest issues this year? How do plan on addressing them?
A: Water, of course, is a continuing issue that rises above the critical stage at times in discussion, so that’s a big deal. There’s justice reform that’s big for me, personally, and for many other members. Education funding will be a big thing, to assure the shaky [legislators] that we met it when we passed the 20 by 20 [education plan]. There are transportation issues that need to be addressed. Rural transportation issues, very demanding, but also, improving, because of the growth in Maricopa County, especially but also in Pima County. They have consistent transportation challenges. So, those are some that are big.

We have talked about them informally, they will become more formal through time. The water issue, I try to use the pulpit of whatever I can, for the time I have, and it’s at times frustrating for everybody. Frustrating for them [fellow legislators] about me and frustrating to me about them. We’ll work through those until we have some consensus and then take that consensus into legislation.

Q: What is your biggest goal for this legislative session?
A: Well there are legislative priorities, of course, as we’ve just mentioned, that need to be addressed and those can fluctuate. Things happen, rise above others in importance throughout a session. But a big goal that I have, and that I would hope others would have, is to restore a level of civility and decorum in how we do our business. I think, almost purposely, some have taken that, hijacked that, to disrupt the process and I denounce that. I want the people’s representatives to act with decorum and represent their people with facts and policy and be passionate but not to the point of aggravating…this institution that I am currently asked to protect. That’s part of my job.

Q: How do you plan to work across the aisle to get bipartisan bills passed?
A: Bipartisanship is always something we talk about and many times, most of our bills, if you look at the votes, most bills are bipartisan. Many of the big bills are not. The 20 by 20 was brought to us by the other side, and the Republican majority passed it, in this house, without a single Democratic vote in support. That was certainly that we could spin, and spin is part of the -I don’t want to call it a game- but a part of this process which I would like to diminish. With all things being equal, I would like us to be able to speak honestly and say ‘I did this because of X’ rather than spinning it in a different way to make it look better, but that’s as old as rhetoric, which has been around since the second century A.D. or even before that. There are many members of the opposite party that I respect, and all of them I must respect because they were voted in by the people. It’s a different level of respect. There are different respect-abilities in all of us. If I can work with people, I will, I try to and I encourage it in our members.

Q: How do you think having a smaller margin in the House will affect this session?
A: Well, it makes everyone’s vote a veto. So, it may reduce the amount of legislation we are even able to address. If we foresee that…a piece of legislation is going to fail because we know we’ll lose a vote, then it may not come to the floor. It has a strong windowing capability, that margin. We also hope that there were will be more bills that we can encourage the, as you mentioned, bipartisan support and as those come, they will develop and as we work together on them, we’ll see which ones they will be. Water, I certainly hope is bipartisan. I’ve seen a little partisanship starting to develop recently, which concerns me, but be it as it may, we will work along.

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?
A: I’m just grateful that there is an institution where laws are not made with speed. This institution was developed in order to grind a concept to powder and then reconstruct it. It is meant to pull every nuance out of things, when we rush, we get things very, very wrong. So, I respect that process, I respect this building and what happens here and I look forward to it continuing through my tenure and hopefully [become] stronger than when I began.

Emily Richardson

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