House Republicans elected Andy Tobin on Thursday to be the new speaker.
The vote, which came with the consent of minority Democrats, puts the Paulden Republican in charge of the chamber through the end of 2012. He replaces Kirk Adams of Mesa, who quit to make a bid for Congress.
Tobin told reporters he did not expect any major changes in either policy or how the 60-member chamber is operated.
“Speaker Adams and I have a very similar voting record,’’ he said. “We have a similar style.’’
The two have worked closely, with Tobin serving as Adams’ majority leader this year, and as the majority whip for two years before that.
But he did promise to work with lawmakers and the public over the next few months, while the Legislature is not meeting, to have an agenda ready to go when lawmakers reconvene in January.
One thing that remains to be seen is whether the Republicans will take more of their discussions behind closed doors.
That possibility first arose as Rep. Steve Court, R-Mesa, chosen by his colleagues to replace Tobin as majority leader, said there is some sentiment among Republicans to have more closed caucuses. With just a few exceptions, mainly to choose leaders, all the caucuses have been open.
Court said there are times, though, where going out of public view might be appropriate, like “maybe we’re discussing the budget, trying to get the consensus of the caucus.’’
“It would be very rare,’’ he said.
Tobin said closed caucuses may occasionally make sense.
“We do have members who would like the opportunity to close the doors for a little while and talk amongst themselves without the media,’’ he said.
“I’m not opposed to that right now,’’ Tobin continued. “I think we’re going to see how that works.’’
And Tobin pointed out that Senate Republicans had several closed-door meetings this year and last.
Tobin denied, however, that the state budget is essentially put together behind closed doors and unveiled to the public only when all the votes are lined up.
He said the Legislature used the governor’s publicly released budget proposal as a starting point. Then the Senate came up with its plan before the final package was crafted.
Tobin acknowledged, though, that final version was printed, debated and approved within less than 24 hours.
The new House speaker gained some publicity several years ago with a plan to allow horse and dog tracks to also have casino gaming. That right is now limited by compact to tribal reservations.
That plan never gained traction, and Tobin said he has no plans as speaker to push that now.
Tobin is the first House speaker from outside Maricopa County since Jake Flake of Snowflake, who held the post in 2003 and 2004.
Adams, who became a member of the state House in 2006, hopes to fill the seat being vacated by current Congressman Jeff Flake, also a Republican. Flake, in turn, is trying to succeed retiring U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl.
Former congressman Matt Salmon and former state Sen. Chuck Gray have also said they want the GOP nomination for the congressional seat. Adams picked up Kyl’s endorsement.
Whether they end up running against each other, however, remains to be seen: The state’s congressional districts are going to be redrawn after the latest census numbers said Arizona is entitled to a ninth seat in the House.