Report from the Capitol: 7 March 2018

Report from the Capitol: 7 March 2018

HB-2003, the bill to eliminate transaction privilege tax (TPT) on coal used to generate electricity to our growing population passed out of the House on a party-line vote. While we see a move to on-demand electric generation, we also see that a 100% renewable electric generation world is not attainable. This bill contributes to the effort to keep Navajo Generating Station (NGS) operating, and baseload power flowing to our homes and businesses. NGS was commissioned by Congress to replace hydro-power dams and has a planned lifecycle of 2044. Shutting the plant down prematurely is not only irresponsible, costly. With all of the hype about how coal plants contribute to climate change, there is little credit given to the modifications made to the plant that allow it to run as one of the cleanest power generation sources in the desert southwest. NGS and the Kayena Mine drive over 800 jobs and provide a significant income base for two counties, a number of small towns and the Hopi Tribe and the Navajo nation.

HB-2203, a bill to empower the State Forester to care for our watersheds as well as our forests has been retasked as a strike-everything amendment -aka “striker”- and will be the vehicle to move what is currently HB-2110, a bill to restructure the Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR). The bill is designed to break up regulatory capture that has occurred by the Board and to bring greater accountability to the Universities leadership teams. The bill was held in the House and not given a hearing by the Education Chairman.

HB-2469, will require individuals lobbying Arizona government agencies, elected officials and universities on behalf of foreign governments to register with the Arizona Secretary of State. For some reason, the bill was held in the Rules Committee, but is expected to move next week. The language in the bill is crafted to align with language from Federal statues.

HB-2456, the move to extend the Rio Nuevo TIF for 10-years will be heard in the Senate Commerce Committee Monday, 12 March. The bill as amended passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 36 ayes to 17 nays, with 5 members absent and not voting. The vote was bi-partisan and came with some strings. This move is intended to give the Rio Nuevo Board, which works for the State of Arizona not the City of Tucson, time to conclude negotiations on pending transactions, provide tenants time to buy the places they are building as their business home and to distribute the assets of the sales as well as the land that does not sell.

As parcels are sold they will be sold at appraised value, and the business owner will have the first right of refusal. Proceeds from the sale will go to pay down unfunded pension obligations that the State of Arizona taxpayers will eventually be forced to pay through new tax dollars.

If business buyers can’t come up with the private capital financing to purchase Rio Nuevo properties, then they will be sold to any other buyer for appraised value. Finally, when properties do not sell, they will escheat to the Arizona State Land Trust. Proceeds from these sales and/or continued operations will go to K-12 education funding. As an example, Rio Nuevo generates about $800,000 per month today. Once the remaining debt load from City of Tucson mismanagement is paid off, the amount will go to Arizona’s General Fund.

HB-2210, the request for Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich to review Arizona’s potential standing as a co-plaintiff was stopped shot in the House Rule Committee not because it is unconstitutional but because the Rules Chairman does not want to pursue the matter. It will likely come up in the Senate in the coming weeks. All the bill does is have the AG review the Utah legal analysis to see if it is in proper form and winnable in court.

For too long our taxpayers have been tapped for more and more revenue. At the same time we need to pay our teachers, police officers and firefighters more than we do today. e can’t do that because we have been shortchanged by the Federal government on payment in lieu of taxes, also known as PILT. Those of us who have studied how PILT works, we refer to it as Pennies in lieu of Trillions. To get an idea of what is at stake, the article below explains a lot. For an update on the Utah case and what it means to Arizona, read on…

Utah Legislature Urges Full Compensation on Rural $ for Federal Lands

HB-2012, known simply as “The Proxy Bill” has also been held in the Rules Committee, much to the chagrin, or better described as outrage, of grass roots activists. HB-2012 would end the dirty business of “proxy for hire” by prohibiting precinct committeemen (and women) from voting more than two proxies at the political parties’ state, county and legislative district level meetings. Both the Republican and Democrat Party establishment folks want this bill dead because they lose control of the voting process to nominate candidates and change bylaws. I support this bill because it is one of those areas in the electoral process where incumbency should be challenged, especially if the grass roots are not pleased. The bill passed out of the Government Committee 5-2.

HB-2513 stablishes the Hyperbaric Veterans Treatment Fund in the Arizona Department of Veterans Services. The bill appropriated a minimal amount of taxpayer money, $25,000, to establish a revolving fund that will facilitate the billing process for veterans who have suffered a documented blast injury with hyperbaric oxygen. The revolving fund will accept contributions from philanthropic and charitable organizations to help defray the cost. Within four years the State General Fund will be reimbursed the original appropriation. Hyperbaric oxygen treatment (HBOT) has been proven to be effective in aiding the healing process of injuries such as blast trauma, however the VA does not yet recognize the treatment. That could be because the VA does not host very many hyperbaric chambers. Arizona has two that can handle six people at a time.

Commentary:

Once again, the term “local control” is significant topic at the Capitol. In an opinion piece from the Free Enterprise Club, the call for a better understanding of the term, as well as the conditions, motivations and impacts that go with it, is timely.

It is high time that the local control argument be unpacked and receive the intellectual scrutiny it deserves.  There have been too many instances where the local control defense has been used to justify freedom crushing eminent domain abuse, suppress voter turnout, and to infringe upon our free speech rights.  If we are to argue for local control, let that control be divested to individuals, families, and businesses.  After all, the spirit of America is not city council-determination, but self-determination.

For the full article click the link Free Enterprise Club.

The budget process is moving along and just as slowly as it has in the past. Living within the ways and means restrictions that taxpayers have placed on the Legislature is always a challenge with so many competing priorities. As evidenced by the percentage of the State General Fund Budget, education is a big priority. So too are infrastructure, health care, the courts, public safety and debt service. More information on the budget will be forthcoming.

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