Senate President Bob Burns shook up his leadership team - at least to the extent he can - in a bid to ease the way to adopting a revised state budget. Burns ousted Sen. Thayer Verschoor, R-Gilbert, from the position of president pro-tem. That person, who presides over the Senate in the absence of the president, is considered part of the leadership team.
Senate President Bob Burns shook up his leadership team - at least to the extent he can - in a bid to ease the way to adopting a revised state budget.
Burns ousted Sen. Thayer Verschoor, R-Gilbert, from the position of president pro-tem. That person, who presides over the Senate in the absence of the president, is considered part of the leadership team.
But Burns said that Verschoor has not always acted like part of the team. So he decided to replace Verschoor with freshman Sen. Steve Pierce, R-Prescott.
"This is a team effort," Burns said. "I think we can improve that teamwork by making that change."
Verschoor has not been supportive of some of what Burns has tried to push in negotiating a budget, notably his opposition to even putting a measure on the November ballot to ask voters whether they're willing to hike state sales taxes temporarily to raise $1 billion a year. The final straw, from Burns' perspective, came when Verschoor, a member of the Senate Rules Committee, refused to support Burns' motion to send that question to the full Senate.
Verschoor, however, wasn't alone in that: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Gray, R-Mesa, and Majority Whip Pamela Gorman, R-Anthem, also would not vote for that bill. But Burns is powerless to oust them, as they were chosen by the full 18-member Republican caucus.
He did, however, remove Gorman from the Rules Committee, through which all bills must pass. Burns said he agreed to let Gray remain after having a conversation with him.
Verschoor said he understands the need to be part of a team. But he said Burns never actually communicated what he wants.
"You're assuming we sat down in a leadership meeting and said, 'Here's what we're going to do,'" said Verschoor. He said that's the way it ran in 2007 and 2008 when he was the majority leader under then-Senate President Tim Bee.
"Quite frankly, toward the end here, we saw basically nothing but a unilateral decision-making process," Verschoor said.
Burns anticipated the criticism.
"I'm sure there will be some accusation of less-than-sufficient communication," he said. But Burns said that "things happen pretty fast sometimes," making it "very difficult to keep all the members up to speed on all of the things that are happening."
Burns acknowledged that Pierce has been a senator now for only slightly more than six months. But he said Pierce brings other skills to the leadership team.
"He has indicated that he can communicate well with members," Burns said. "He communicates well with me. And he is certainly ambitious, and he wants to, I believe, be engaged in the process."
More to the point, Burns said he needs someone who he can depend on to be part of the team.
Burns said that, with the regular session gone and the special session that started Monday in recess, it was "a good time to make the transition."
"I feel bad about having to do it," he said. "I wish we could have made it work better."