Phoenix Rising: Bills, bills, bills

phoenixrising

This month, the legislature has reconvened and considers a new set of bills. (Nicole Neri/DD)
This month, the legislature has reconvened and considers a new set of bills. (Nicole Neri/DD)

Every January, a wave of protesters and power brokers descend upon the copper dome just west of downtown Phoenix in order to shape the future of Arizona. In the process of this heart-pounding hundred days, many laws that would affect the daily lives of downtowners are considered, including the few below.

GPLET Reform

Republicans including Rep. Vince Leach, R-SaddleBrooke, hope to change the Government Property Lease Excise Tax agreement system through HB2213. Pushed by the Arizona Tax Research Association, the bill will make the government calculate the value owed by the agreement instead of the lessor, prevent any further grandfathering of GPLET agreements and redefine blighted areas, which affect whether a GPLET agreement can be made. HB2213 is scheduled for a hearing in the House Ways and Means Committee on Jan. 25 at 10 a.m.

Municipal IDs

Not one but two bills have been dropped regarding the use of city issued identification cards. Rep. Jay Lawrence’s, R-Scottsdale, HB2086 would fully prohibit the cards, while Sen. John Kavanagh’s, R-Fountain Hills, SB1021 would make the cards clearly show they could not serve as identification unless they met the same standards as state identification cards. HB2086 is scheduled for a hearing in the House Federalism, Property Rights and Public Policy committee on Jan. 24 at 2 p.m. SB1021 has made it all the way to the Senate floor and is awaiting a third reading and final vote in the Senate before it can make its way to the House of Representatives.

Historic Preservation Funding

Downtown’s own Rep. Ken Clark, D-Phoenix, Rep. Lela Alston, D-Phoenix, and Sen. Katie Hobbs, D-Phoenix, introduced HB2074 to supply $1,000,000 to the Arizona Exposition & State Fair Board for the preservation and renovation of historic buildings. In 2016, the 1938 Works Progress Administration Building at the State Fair Ground was saved by donations from the City of Phoenix, the Phoenix Industrial Development Authority and even the State of Arizona in its annual budget after being slated for demolition back in 2014. HB2074 was assigned to the House Appropriations and Rules committees on Jan. 11 and awaits hearings.

Schools & Universities

Sen. Debbie Lesko, R-Peoria, is attempting to make desegregation funding require voter approval, which could impact a revenue stream of $11,151,530 to the Phoenix Elementary School District and $55,800,892 to the Phoenix Union High School District through SB1174. Starting in 2018 elections, the school districts would either receive approval to continue levying the additional funds for a period of seven years or phase it out over the course of five years. SB1174 was assigned to the House Appropriations and Rules committees on Jan. 23 and is awaiting a public hearing.

Sen. Sylvia Allen, R-Snowflake, is leading a coalition of eight other Republican senators and a Republican representative in attempting to cap tuition and mandatory fee payments at public universities from going up more than two percent a year with SB1061. This would also require that resident undergraduate students pay the same rate throughout four consecutive years in a system much like the pledge system at Northern Arizona University. The Arizona Board of Regents, which governs the public universities, has opposed the bill as it often opposes tuition caps, in order to be in control of its own fate in case state support for universities declines again. SB1061 will be heard in the Senate Education Committee on Jan. 26 at 9 a.m.

Rep. Bob Thorpe, R-Flagstaff, has proposed HB2260 in order to make it so that a dormitory or temporary college or university residency address is not sufficient to register to vote. This would mean that the approximately 1,300 students in the Taylor Place residence hall would not be able to register in the downtown district and instead would be forced to vote in their home districts. HB2260 has been assigned to the House Government and Rules committees on Jan. 23 and is awaiting a hearing.

Police Staffing

In the wake of the Phoenix Police Department’s staffing crisis, Rep. Lawrence and Sen. Sonny Borrelli, R-Payson, have introduced HB340, which suggests a minimum level of police staffing at two and a half officers per 1,000 people in cities with populations above 500,000. Under this calculation, Phoenix’s nearly 2,900 officers would be very much short of the 3,783 officers the law would require for its population of around 1,153,000. HB2340 has been introduced but has not yet been assigned any committees in which to be heard.

Local Control

In 2016, the Legislature passed SB1487, which allowed any legislator to file a complaint with the Arizona attorney general when he or she believed a county, city or town was acting in violation of state law. The attorney general would then investigate and, if he or she found a plausible violation of state law, instruct the county, city or town to comply with state law or lose shared revenue funding. Cities and towns have opposed this bill vocally and the City of Tucson is currently in a lawsuit with the State over this bill.

However, that hasn’t stopped the boilerplate language from being inserted in many different bills. Sen. Steve Smith’s, R-Maricopa, SB1210 would expand the effort to include any political subdivision of the state, including numerous special districts. On the other hand, Rep. Thorpe’s HB2257 would actually provide more notice to local governments and appears to encourage more compromise and negotiation between the State and localities. SB1210 is awaiting committee assignments, while HB2257 was assigned to the House Government and Rules committees on Jan. 11 and is awaiting a hearing.

Notably, though, there is no sign of any legislation to amend last year’s HB2440, which changed the requirements for creating a business improvement district retroactively and sank the effort to create a Roosevelt Row business improvement district.

What do you think?

What do you think of these bills? Let us know in the comments below and let your legislators know by signing up for Request to Speak. After signing in once at a kiosk at the Capitol on 17th Avenue and Washington Street, you can make your opinion publicly known on any of the bills above from the comfort of your own home and participate in the Arizona democracy.

Contact the columnist at raboyd2@asu.edu.