April 16,2019 | TRIADVOCATES
1. Bill Signings: Last week was an eventful one for the Governor’s Office as the state garnered some national attention. With the governor’s signature of HB 2569, Arizona became the first state in the nation to provide universal recognition for occupational licenses. Effectively, this will give reciprocity for occupational and professional licensures to any out-of-state individuals who relocate here and hold a similar license for at least a year in another state. This will impact hundreds of professions, including nurses, plumbers, electricians, barbers, cosmetologists and morticians. Another bill that has created some national buzz is SB 1394 – the “No Promo Homo” legislation – which repealed an antiquated statute that has been on the books for nearly 30 years. Gov. Doug Ducey signed the bill within hours after it reached his desk, effectively repealing a law that banned HIV/AIDS instruction and prevented LGBTQ students from receiving medically accurate information in health education classes at school. The bill also included critical provisions that likely saved the state millions of dollars in federal funding, as it puts the state on a path of compliance with federal requirements regarding the implementation of a statewide assessment and menu of assessments. Two other impactful measures signed into law but that didn’t receive as much media attention are SB 1256, repealing a law from last year that required only “low-bid” procurements by schools, regardless of experience, qualifications or methods, and HB 2109, allowing Pima County to levy an additional transportation excise tax of 0.5% if approved by voters in a countywide election.
The governor has about 25 other proposals currently on his desk awaiting action, including SB 1401, which would remove the licensure requirements for individuals who style (“blow dry”) hair. If he signs the bill, Arizona will be the second state to eliminate such licensure requirements, following Virginia. Another controversial bill pending action is SB 1090, which changes procedures regarding emergency voting and gives each county’s board of supervisors, instead of the county recorder, the authority to establish emergency voting centers. The bill, largely seen as an intent to hamstring Maricopa County’s Democratic county recorder, is strongly opposed by the County Supervisors Association of Arizona, as well as all county recorders throughout the state.
2. Legislative Progress: Don’t let that flurry of action on the floor fool you—we’ve got a lot of session left to go, especially if budget negotiations keep moving at this glacial pace. That said, the clock is ticking for GOP lawmakers to strike a deal with the governor. At the end of May, the number of Republicans in each chamber will dwindle due to international travel plans. With razor-thin margins between Republicans and Democrats already too close for comfort, particularly in the House, the GOP could potentially lose control if they don’t wrap up legislative work and get a budget passed before Republican members leave the country. While some lawmakers could be peer pressured into postponing their vacations, we know for certain that House Republicans will lose Republican Rep. Travis Grantham – a pilot and officer in the Arizona Air National Guard – on June 15 when he is deployed to Afghanistan. Given the realities of party ratios, many are now expecting the Legislature to adjourn by Memorial Day.
3. Fiscal Forecast: The Finance Advisory Committee, comprised of JLBC and corporate economists, meets quarterly to review the state’s fiscal picture. Last week, the FAC released its new financial forecast for this fiscal year, revealing much smaller numbers than previously expected. In January, the group estimated the state would have roughly $200 million in new ongoing and $900 million in new one-time money. Now, the estimate is closer to $150 million in new ongoing and $840 million in one-time money available for spending in this budget cycle. In addition, the FAC’s three-year forecast shows substantially less revenue than predicted just three months ago. Also buried deep in the report is a reference to a recent Wall Street Journal survey of more than 60 economists, over half of whom believe we will be in a recession by the end of 2020. Why does this matter, you ask? Well, this forecast will greatly influence the ongoing budget negotiations currently taking place at the Capitol. While this will help the governor in his quest to add more money to the Rainy Day Fund (the state’s savings account), there is still spending pressure to pay down debt and increase salaries for some state workers.
4. State Broadband Director: In a long-awaited announcement, the Arizona Commerce Authority last week named Jeff Sobotka as its Vice President & State Broadband Director. While urban dwellers enjoy “giga” speed internet, Arizona’s rural areas are desperate just for “mega” capability. As the state continues to push e-government solutions, online education and workforce training, and even telemedicine, investment in broadband telecom infrastructure will become more and more critical. Last year, the administration issued its Broadband Strategic Plan, which will serve as a guidepost for Sobotka as he hits the ground running. His prior experience working with private sector telecom providers – both wired and wireless – will be an asset as he conducts outreach activities to key stakeholders and works to build collaborations that can help deliver enhanced capacity to all four corners of the state.
5. Light Rail: The group determined to halt light rail in Phoenix had much to celebrate over the weekend. On Friday, a Superior Court judge ruled that the “anti-light rail” initiative will go to the ballot in August—this, after being hit with a number of challenges, including whether a state ban against paying petition circulators by the signature applies to the city initiatives (according to the judge, it doesn’t). While the “Building a Better Phoenix” initiative itself is light on details, the group behind it has made its intent clear—to prevent any future light rail spending in the City of Phoenix and, instead, direct all earmarked funds to other transportation projects. What started as opposition to the extension in south Phoenix over the narrowing of traffic lanes has since expanded and now puts all light-rail expansion on the chopping block. In addition to the light rail initiative, there will also be a pension reform issue on the ballot in August—all of this on top of the runoff election for councilmembers in Districts 5 and 8 that will take place next month. That Greek philosopher said it best: the only constant is change.
Republican Rep. John Kavanagh during a heated floor debate on a bill that would eliminate the licensing requirements for styling hair:
“Let’s talk about occupations that expose customers to even greater risk than the infamous shampooists—the serial shampooists.”
“BRB” & "Feed Bill"
It's that time of the session when the focus shifts entirely to the budget. So, if you're tracking any state funding issues, or if you just want to drop a few buzz words next time a candidate hits you up for a campaign contribution, you'll want to add these to your vocabulary.
The "feed bill" is the main budget bill that actually appropriates a specific dollar amount to each agency. Whereas, a budget reconciliation bill – or a "BRB" (commonly pronounced “burb”) – sets the spending policy for how those line items should technically be allocated. Essentially, the feed bill tells you how much and the BRB tells you how by making changes to statute in order to make the budget work. There are generally a handful of BRBs by subject area (i.e., an education BRB, a health care BRB, etc.) but there's only one feed bill.
For example, when the governor and the Legislature adopted the teacher pay increase last year, the overall total K-12 budget increase was specified in the feed bill, while the legislative intent to increase individual teacher salaries by 20% was outlined in the education BRB.
Recognizing a gap in recognition for non-elected public servants, in 2011, Triadvocates approached Dr. Lattie Coor at the Center for the Future of Arizona and the parents of Gabe Zimmerman. The result: three annual awards – Community Builder, Emerging Leader, and Civic Leader – highlighting exceptional public achievers. Honorees exemplify the impact that dedicated and talented people have connecting communities and engaging citizens, just as Gabe Zimmerman did in his role as Director of Community Outreach for Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
This year’s nominations are due April 30. To nominate a deserving public official, click here.