/ Modified dec 14, 2012 5:59 p.m.

AZ Week: New Lawmakers Bring Optimism, Agendas

Smaller GOP majority seen as challenge; education, fiscal issues top list

Newly elected Arizona legislators started becoming acquainted in the last two weeks with what will be their new surroundings come January.

Arizona voters elected 90 legislators in 30 districts last month, including 37 newcomers, the second largest freshman class in 46 years. The new lawmakers have completed orientation at the state Capitol, House members the week of Dec. 3 and senators this week.

Nine newcomers – six representatives and three senators – discussed their impressions and the issues that brought them to the Capitol in interviews for Friday’s Arizona Week.

The state budget topped the list for nearly all those interviewed. Some want to find ways to better fund education, health care and services for children. Others said they want to curb the federal Affordable Care Act's influence on the state and take steps to improve the economy and grow the state’s workforce.

They discussed the shift in numbers at the Legislature, with Republicans maintaining control of both houses but losing their super majorities. Some said it will make it more difficult for Republicans but the new scenario could lead to more compromise.

“I think there is the possibility of having things be more difficult,” Sen.-elect Bob Worsley, R-Mesa, said of the smaller GOP majority. “But I think that leads to the opportunity to be more civil and have more discussion.

“I think sometimes when you have too large a majority, you kind of take the approach of governing without paying much attention to the other side,” Worsley said. “And I think to the extent we’re listening to all constituencies, that is good government.”

Sen.-elect David Bradley, D-Tucson, said it comes down to the personal level.

“I have been here when the numbers were very, very bad as well, at least as far as Democrats were concerned,” said Bradley, who served in the state House from 2003 to 2011. “But you know, politics is many things to many people. But in essence, it’s all about relationships."

Rep.-elect Lupe Contreras, D-Avondale, said his ethnicity may give him a leg up when learning how to work as part of the minority.

“You come over here to orientation, and you figure out exactly how everything goes and what’s going on and how it works with being part of the minority, which I guess I’m used to, being Hispanic,” Contreras said.

In the House, the totals went from 40-20 Republican to Democrat in 2011 and 2012 to 36-24 beginning in January. In the Senate, Republicans have a 17-13 edge over Democrats, compared with 21-9 in 2011 and 2012.

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