Report from the Capitol: 14 February 2018

Report from the Capitol: 14 February 2018

The opening of the session…

On January 8th, the Second Session of the 53rd Term of the Arizona Legislature opened with a State of the State address where the Governor detailed what he wanted to see addressed. Within short order, the Legislature adjourned and went into special session to address the opioid crisis that has plagued America and Arizona for several years. Once that legislation was passed, it was off to the Governor for signing, on January 26th, https://azgovernor.gov/governor/news/2018/01/arizona-joins-together-pass-opioid-legislation.  Unfortunately, that activity suspended the normal business of The House and we were not able to get anything moved.

With no extension of the scheduled days, the Legislature has focused on packing as much work as possible into the same calendar, minus the 18 days for the Opioid Legislation. This equates to longer than usual days at the Capitol, which begin with topical issue briefings at 6:00 am and generally don’t end until after 7:00 pm. From time-to-time, the days go well beyond 11:00 pm, later than most constituents want to watch the activities real time on television at home. The link for those who would like to watch, the link is http://azleg.granicus.com/Mediaplayer.php?publish_id=13 .

Constituent Briefing:

Power supply and cost, land, water, and air…

Since December 2016 I have been working to identify a new operator for the Navajo Generating Station (NGS). Salt River Project (SRP) has decided to step away from this baseload, 2250 Megawatt power generation station and move to other sources of electric generation. This move decommissions NGS 26-years ahead of prescriptive decommissioning, a fact diving consequences that many people do not understand. Tucson Electric Power (TEP) and Arizona Public Service (APS) are junior partners in the plant and push power to southern Arizona. This move, according to the 2012 W.P. Carey (ASU) Economic Impact Study reveals that the Arizona General Fund will suffer a $1 Billion per year negative economic impact for the next 10-years. This touches everything from teacher pay to the cost of living.

The impact ranges from unemployment to the movement of water on the Central Arizona Project (CAP). Finding solutions to such a massive impact is not easy and takes the involvement of many stakeholders, many meetings and much time. One action that I have taken is HB-2003 that helps to protect Navajo County from the loss of tax revenue while making Kayenta Mine operations attractive to an operator to continue the extraction of coal for all manner of uses, Including electric generation.

For as long as I have represented the Constituents in Legislative District 11, I have worked on growing the capacity to pay high-priority public servants more. Teachers, Law Enforcement Officers, and Pire Fighter. We have two means to pay for these professionals under the current tax generation structure. We can either grow taxation vertically by raising individual taxation, or we can grow the tax base horizontally by expanding the taxable base that falls under the authority of the State of Arizona. HB-2210 directs the State Attorney General to evaluate the case the State of Utah intends to bring against the Federal government related to “equal footing.” This is an important case as it moves Arizona closer to parity with other states and the ability to pay our professional service providers a competitive wage.

Many constituents have asked about the wildfires in California and if Arizona is prepared for such a series of calamities, and with good reason since Arizona has suffered through a number of major wildland and forest fires since 2009. In an effort to empower the State Forester to protect State Forests and State Trust Land, and the related watershed, I have introduced HB-2203 that empowers the State Forester to take action on catastrophic fuel loads.

Veterans care…

After two years of fact-finding and negotiations I introduced HB-2513 that establishes a revolving fund in the Arizona Office of Veterans Affairs that will serve to facilitate hyperbaric oxygen therapy for veterans who have suffered traumatic brain injuries. Many veterans who have been deployed have been exposed to explosive events that have caused concussions and more serious injuries. With two chambers in Arizona that are not fully utilized, this effort is designed to encourage philanthropy to help with the care that the Veterans Administration is slow to pay for.

Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR) restructuring…

The expression of outrage by a broad cross-section of constituents about the lack of administrative oversight by ABOR over the Arizona University System has been stunning. I have introduced HB-2110 restructure ABOR to a more responsive organization lead by elected officials as opposed to appointed bureaucrats. The bill seeks to install a greater focus on oversight on economic operations and academic performance of each university. The Presidents and their staffs will engage with the local governing boards in a Six Sigma program to justify their decisions and operations, and to make sure that the university education is as close as free as possible, and offers the greatest value possible.

Congressional Term Limits…

The last of the bills in this update is HCR-2022. This House Continuing Resolution deals with a referral to the ballot that would in effect end incumbency for U.S. Senators. The original construction of the United State Constitution placed the Senate as a check and balance to the House of Representatives. With the passage of the 17th Amendment, we lost this valuable check absent runaway spending. Arizona voters will have the opportunity to decide on whether to end incumbency by forcing U.S. Senators to account for their behaviors in front of the State Legislature and apply to be placed on a future ballot. This is very close to what the original intent of the Constitution detailed. The bill has not yet been heard in the Rules Committee.

Rio Nuevo exit strategy…

In 1999 a Tax Increment Financing District (TIF) known as Rio Nuevo was established for the City of Tucson to redevelop the blighted downtown. After 10-years and $250,000,000 of wasted TPT fund on plans, consultants and drawings, and with not one building built, the State of Arizona stepped in and took over The District. I have introduced HB-2456 to extend The District for 10-years to give the Board time to finish building projects, complete negotiation on projects that are in their pipeline, and to engage in the process of sales of properties that ultimately will revert to private ownership. There are three keys factors to consider;

First, the Rio Nuevo District will end on or before December 31, 2035.

Second, land and improvements will be sold at appraised value to the tenants who can qualify for private capital financing. The proceeds of sales will go to pay down unfunded pension liabilities.

Third, land and improvements not sold will escheat to the State Land Trust, and proceeds of sale or continued operations will be paid out to the K-12 education beneficiary.

Stay tuned on this matter as there are many moving parts.

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