Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer is likely to veto the state’s controversial measure that could allow businesses to refuse service to gay and lesbians due to religious beliefs, according to three people close to the governor and familiar with her thinking.
One of those is longtime Brewer political adviser Chuck Coughlin, who told NBC News: “It’s been her proclivity in the past to focus on the priorities she wants them [the legislature] to accomplish, and this was clearly not part of her agenda.”
“She doesn’t want to take any actions that could jeopardize the economic momentum we’ve seen here in Arizona,” said another person close to the governor.
The Republican governor is flying back to Phoenix on Tuesday after attending National Governors Association meetings this last week. Coughlin said she will meet with stakeholders on both sides on Wednesday and likely make her decision on Thursday or Friday. She has until Saturday morning to sign or veto the bill.
Brewer is receiving pressure from the state’s GOP-dominated legislature, which widely approved the legislation. But there’s fear -- expressed in letters from the state’s top business interests -- that Arizona would face an economic backlash if the measure is approved, similar to what happened after the governor’s approval of the state’s controversial immigration law in 2010.
The state economy lost an estimated $140 million in tourism and business revenue in the wake of that law.
Pressure from businesses -- including Apple, which recently announced intentions to build a new manufacturing facility in the state -- have ramped up since the state legislature passed the measure last Thursday.
U.S. Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake, both Republicans, also have urged the governor to veto the bill. The state’s leading GOP candidates for governor in 2014 have done the same. And three state senators have backed away from their “yes” votes.
On Monday, the Arizona Super Bowl Committee -- the state is hosting next year’s Super Bowl -- also urged the governor to veto the controversial legislation. Earlier in the day, the NFL released its own statement, saying: “Our policies emphasize tolerance and inclusiveness, and prohibit discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other improper standard. We are following the issue in Arizona and will continue to do so should the bill be signed into law, but will decline further comment at this time.”
The NFL pulled the Super Bowl out of Arizona in 1993 after the state’s governor rescinded Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a state holiday.
Other factors in Brewer’s decision could be in play as well.
The Center for Arizona Policy, the influential social-conservative organization that led the push for the legislation, has long backed Brewer. And the governor returned that support by approving a list of laws advocated for by the center. Over the years, she signed bills into law that stripped Planned Parenthood of Medicaid funding, denied health benefits for the domestic partners of state employees, and gave preference to married heterosexual couples in the adoption process.
But her relationship with the center’s president, Cathi Herrod, changed when Brewer toured the state last spring in an all-out campaign to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Brewer vowed to not sign any legislation in 2013 until the legislature expanded Medicaid funding. But Herrod opposed the expansion unless restrictions were added. Brewer told the AP at the time that the center tried to “manipulate the system.”
Sources confirm to NBC News the pair’s relationship frayed as a result of the Medicaid-expansion fight.
History also indicates a willingness by the governor to controversially break from party lines.
Brewer championed a voter-approved sales tax increase in 2010 that brought in an additional $1 billion in state revenue for education funding. She also vetoed the state’s version of the “birther bill,” which would have required presidential candidates to prove their citizenship to get on to the state’s ballot.
These same sources also tell NBC News that Brewer reads much into her public image. In her early years, the sources say she took offense to news articles and columns that suggested she was “puppet” to the legislature and her political advisers.
First published February 25 2014, 7:50 AM