This Week in Arizona Politics: 5 Things to Know

October 04,2017 | Triadvocates

1. The Digital Goods Study Committee recently met for the second time to continue the discussion about the proper taxation of digital items. The Arizona Tax Research Association (ATRA) told the committee that Arizona is one of just a few states that use the term “Tangible Personal Property” to determine the tax status of digital products. This, they claim, is without a legal mandate, agency rule or case law. Rather, the taxation of digital goods and services is based on Arizona Department of Revenue (ADOR) interpretation. Copies of that presentation as well as documents from DOR and the Arizona League of Cities & Towns can be found here. Many in the business community would like to define and exempt “digital goods” from sales tax. However, there is concern about the cost of such an approach. The only consensus coming out of the meeting is that the Legislature needs to establish bright lines in the tax code to clarify what is taxable.

2. Last week, Gov. Doug Ducey, along with the state’s three public universities and community colleges, launched the Arizona Teacher Academy to help address the current statewide teacher shortage. This scholarship program aims to expand the teacher pipeline by offering 236 new students free tuition if they commit to teach in Arizona public schools. ASU, U of A and NAU using existing scholarship funds and Pell grants will pay $1 million to cover the full cost of the scholarship program. Each university will implement a unique program approach. This announcement follows a recent survey published by The Arizona School Personnel Administrators Association which revealed that 526 teachers left the classroom within the first month of this school year. Per the survey of 135 school districts and charter schools, the state currently has 1,328 teacher vacancies. During his announcement, Gov. Ducey was also joined by Fred DuVal, his 2014 Democratic opponent for governor. Gov. Ducey gave credit to Duval for introducing the idea during the campaign.

3. 2018 is shaping up to be a big year for water policy, which can be complex and overwhelming to the average citizen. This year’s water package will likely contain a whole set of policy issues that will make even the most seasoned policymaker’s eyes glaze over. To summarize, the three big themes will center around three issues: 1) Who is in charge of water policy in the Arizona—ADWR or CAP? 2) When is it appropriate to sell water outside of the state or region? 3) Should water levels in rural Arizona be monitored, even on private land? As they say, whiskey is for drinking and water is for fighting. Better stock up on your Jack Daniels.

By September 1 of each year, the state agencies send budget requests to the Office of Strategic Planning and Budgeting—the branch of the Governor’s Office tasked with overseeing the state budget. A handful of those requests may end up in the executive budget Gov. Doug Ducey rolls out in January, which then gets negotiated with the Legislature. Highlights from the agency requests include:

  • $1 million to pay for eight staffers in a newly established unit of the Arizona Attorney General’s Office aimed at government accountability and investigations of cities. This request stems from legislation passed in 2015 that tasked the office with investigating complaints from lawmakers about cities or towns that they claim aren’t following state laws, including election law complaints from citizens, open meetings law violations and misuse of public funds.
  • With the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War approaching next year, the Arizona Department of Administration expects an influx of visitors next November and wants to use roughly $25,000 to maintain and repair the monuments and mechanical equipment located at Wesley Bolin Plaza.
  • The Department of Child Safety is seeking $21 million to cover the growth in its adoption subsidy program. The subsidy would largely provide ongoing money to help families cover expenses surrounding the adoption process and certain ongoing costs if they adopt children with special needs.
  • The Arizona Department of Transportation is asking for $25.6 million to help address crumbling highways throughout the state. Those dollars would be in addition to the roughly $15 million appropriated each year to repair cracks, seal roadways and smooth out rough patches. The total need is upwards of $128 million which will likely go unmet, given the current budget constraints.
  • The Arizona Department of Education is seeking $1.65 million to purchase injectable epinephrine for each of the roughly 2,000 district and charter schools in Arizona.

5. Our temperatures here in Arizona have finally cooled but the political scene is heating up with the announcement last week by U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ09) that she will run against incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake. Her announcement creates an opening in CD 9 and we expect Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, a Democrat, to announce his campaign for that seat any day. Former McCain staffer Paul Hickman, a Republican, who leads the Arizona Bankers Association is also expected to announce shortly. Stanton’s entrance into the CD 9 race is anticipated to create an opening on the Phoenix City Council and there are at least two current councilmembers who are likely to run to fill the remainder of his term, so we anticipate a vigorous game of “musical chairs” over the next several months.

Abrazo Community Health Network’s Abrazo West Campus has earned the highest national grade in patient safety, demonstrating its commitment to high-quality patient care. Abrazo West was awarded an “A” rating in the Leapfrog Group’s Spring 2017 Safety Score. The Leapfrog Group Hospital Safety Score is a rating system designed to give consumers information they can use to make healthcare decisions for themselves or a loved one. The Leapfrog Group assigns A, B, C, D and F grades to more than 2,600 U.S. hospitals based on their ability to prevent errors, injuries, accidents and infections. Abrazo West is one of only 34 adult level 1 trauma centers across the country to receive an “A” grade for safety.


Science Foundation Arizona (SFAz), in partnership with Grand Canyon University (GCU) and, recently announced it has received a $100,000 grant from the Verizon Foundation. Through the grant, SFAz and GCU, as part of the Computer Science Regional Partnership program, will provide computer science training to 30 high school teachers in Advanced Placement (AP) Computer Science Principles, and support 36 teachers in Computer Science Discoveries for Grades 7-9 and 240 K-6 teachers in’s Computer Science Fundamentals program. With training accessible throughout the state, more than 8,000 students in urban, rural and reservation settings will ultimately be impacted by this initiative. The training began in July and will continue over four quarterly workshops. A third cohort of teachers will be supported in June 2018.

Earlier this month, Lyft announced that the popular ridesharing app is now available throughout Arizona, with the addition of drivers in Payson, Show Low, Kingman, Bisbee, Nogales and elsewhere. The announcement includes 31 other states that now have statewide access, including hard-to-reach rural areas. The move boosts the number of states with full Lyft coverage to 40. New local users can use the promo code ARIZONA for $5 off the first four rides.

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