Arizona House speaker says Liz Harris expulsion won’t disrupt budget process

Apr 13, 2023, 2:41 PM | Updated: 2:47 pm

(AP Photo/Jonathan J. Cooper)...

(AP Photo/Jonathan J. Cooper)

(AP Photo/Jonathan J. Cooper)

PHOENIX – Republican Liz Harris’ expulsion from the Arizona House won’t have a significant impact on the budget process, Speaker Ben Toma said Thursday.

“As it turns out, we’re at a place in the schedule anyway where there’s a little bit of a lull as we’re trying to negotiate a budget,” Toma, a Republican, told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s The Mike Broomhead Show on Thursday, a day after the Harris was booted from the House.

“So this actually, in many ways, doesn’t really impact our schedule all that much.”

Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs said Wednesday “we’re very close to a bipartisan agreement” on a budget.

The House ousted Harris, who had only been in office since January, for letting a witness make wide-ranging accusations of bribery during a February hearing about election reforms.

During her Feb. 23 presentation at a hearing organized by Harris, Jaqueline Breger accused a swath of politicians from both parties, judges and public officials of taking bribes from a Mexican drug cartel.

After Democratic Rep. Stephanie Stahl Hamilton filed an ethics complaint, a House Ethics Committee investigation found that Harris knew in advance Breger was going to make the criminal allegations and failed to provide the information for review beforehand, in violation of House regulations.

“We cannot have members choosing which rules and laws are acceptable to overlook, as it degrades the integrity of the House,” Toma said. “What really happened here is that it was her privileged use of her authority as a legislator to make false allegations that … we cannot have happen.”

The resolution to expel Harris was approved by a 46-13 vote, with Toma among the 18 Republicans in favor of the move. Toma said Thursday he gave Harris the chance to resign before the vote, but she turned it down.

“Fundamentally, as members, we have to hold ourselves to a pretty high standard of behavior,” Toma said. “I think people expect that. We have to be ethical, and clearly that did not happen in this case.”

Without Harris, Republicans hold a 30-29 advantage in the House. By law, her successor must be from the same party.

The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors will choose from a list of three candidates nominated by the GOP precinct committeemen in her district. Toma said the board has 10 days, by law, to make the appointment.

“By the time that process finishes out, we should have another member and we should be able to be back on the floor in full numbers and be able to finish out this budget, hopefully, in the next few weeks,” Toma said.

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Arizona House speaker says Liz Harris expulsion won’t disrupt budget process