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Wednesday November 22, 2000

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Local senators take control of state legislative committees

By Shana Heiser

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Tucsonan heads appropriations committee for first time in nearly 10 years

Two senators from Tucson will head the appropriations and the judiciary committees of the state legislature when it meets in January.

Ruth Solomon, D-Dist.14, will head the appropriations committee and Elaine Richardson, D-Dist. 11, will head the judiciary committee.

This is the first time in a nearly a decade a Tucsonan has been in control of the appropriations committee.

The last time a Tucsonan headed the judiciary committee was nearly 20 years ago.

The University of Arizona has felt "pre-judged" because some decisions made in these committees in recent years have favored Maricopa County, UA President Peter Likins said.

"We're not viewed favorably going into the process," he said. "It doesn't matter what we say or propose."

The appropriations committee is in charge of Arizona's budget, so it is very important to UA's funding, said Greg Fahey, associate vice president for government relations.

"Appropriations is the key committee for university funding," he said.

The judiciary committee deals with issues surrounding crime and justice policy laws, issues that do not usually directly affect the UA, Fahey said.

"I'm very happy that Elaine Richardson was appointed," he said. "But the judiciary committee is not a committee that we have a lot to deal with."

Likins said he was happy to see local senators as committee heads, but more importantly, both individuals are capable and balanced.

"We have, in southern Arizona, people who are familiar with our circumstances, so I have to celebrate that," Likins said.

From the 1960s to the 1980s, Pima County's influence in the legislature was significant, but in the past decade the county's size has gone downhill, Fahey said.

"We haven't been represented as well in leadership on the appropriations committee," he said. "There has been a better balance of power going through Maricopa County in the last decade."

Solomon has a passion for education, Fahey said, and she brings "ability, intellect, care and interest" to serve the entire state of Arizona.

"She's good for the UA, Southern Arizona and the state as a whole," Fahey said.