Bethany Barnes of Arizona-Sonora News Service brings us the latest on the effort to eliminate funding for Clean Elections:
A bill that would ask voters if they want to defund Clean Elections in favor of education barely passed out of the House Thursday with a 31-27 vote.
Republicans and Democrats argue that HCR 2026 is designed to deceive voters.
“Clean Elections was not voted at a time where it was tied to education funding,” said Rep. Doris Goodale, R-Kingman. “I believe that’s kind of a playbook out of the dirty playbook of sleazy political tricks.”
The bill’s sponsor, Paul Boyer, R-Phoenix, said that for him, tying the two together made logical sense because he is passionate about education funding and doesn’t think public money should go to politicians.
Goodale, who chairs the House Education committee, also took issue with throwing money into the “black hole of education.” She said she would rather see the money targeted at something specific.
When the bill went through the House Judiciary Committee Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert, the committee’s chair, said he didn’t understand what was wrong with asking voters if they want to redirect money during tough economic times.
“When we take it to voters and its in a vacuum we have the other side of the problem, which is we have limited resources and now we are saying, ‘Do you want Clean Elections?’ and we’re not going to consider what the rest of the budget is,” Farnsworth said.
Bethany Barnes of Arizona-Sonora News Service brings us the latest on the complicated efforts to reform the state sales tax:
For a moment it looked like changing Arizona’s complex tax system, at least when it came to construction, might not be possible this legislative session.
While everyone’s still holding cards close to their chest and talks are ongoing, Arizona lawmakers think they’re found a way to simplify taxes for contractors without leaving a gaping hole in every city’s budget.
In the original proposal Tucson estimated it would lose around $7 million, but now it looks like the city could end up making money off the latest plan — something the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Glendale, said she is working on fixing.
HB 2657 is Gov. Jan Brewer’s effort to simplify what many argue is the most complicated tax system in the country. The bill passed out of the House Ways and Means Committee unanimously but with many noting that something would need to be done about the bill’s harsh impact on cities.
What is TPT tax?
This year's HB 2485 would extend the environmental audit privilege to companies that discover violations of health and safety laws. It lays out an extensive list of material that would be shielded in the case of any lawsuits. HB 2485 passed out of the House on a 39-17 vote on Monday, March 4, and is awaiting hearings in the Senate.
In response, Republican Sen. Judy Burges of Skull Valley has sponsored SB 1403, which would forbid state agencies from participating in anything that could advance the cause of U.N. Agenda 21. This creates a number of problem for state agencies involved with water and energy conservation, since such programs now may be considered in line with the goals of Agenda 21.
Despite those concerns, Burges—citing the "seductive evils" of energy conservation and sustainable development—has pushed ahead with the bill, which passed out of the Government and Environment Committee last week on a 4-3 party-line vote and passed the Senate Rules Committee on Monday, Feb. 25, but was retained on the Committee of the Whole vote on Thursday, Feb. 28.
As we mentioned in this week's cover story, Brewer has wants to introduce more competition into the Arizona school system by instituting a plan that gives schools that get higher test scores and improve their academic performance a boost in state funding. Critics say it would result in schools with struggling students—often at the bottom end of the economic ladder—having fewer resources to help the kids who need it most.
Brewer's plan has been turned into SB 1444, which creates a complex formula for state school funding based on academic performance. SB 1444 passed the Senate Appropriations on Tuesday, Feb. 26. Next stop: The obligatory Rules Committee hearing and then it's off to the Senate floor.
Julia Tylor of Cronkite News tells us that SB 1242, one of our Bills To Watch this session, has stalled awaiting a hearing in the Senate Finance Committee:
PHOENIX — When Alexis Bristor graduates from Arizona State University in December with a degree in film and media production, she plans to pack her bags and head straight to Hollywood.
“There’s a few editing places around Arizona, but they aren’t really doing the kind of things I want to do with my career,” Bristor said. “They’re usually focusing on family films or promotional videos kind of a thing for local companies and stuff like that, whereas I want to be making films.”
This mindset is part of what prompted Sen. Al Melvin, R-Tucson, to author SB 1242, which would create an income tax credit for companies that produce multimedia in Arizona. The goal of the legislation, Melvin said, is making Arizona more competitive with other states that offer similar tax incentives, thus enticing graduates of Arizona’s film schools to stay.
“Our universities have great programs in the field, as well as our junior colleges,” Melvin told the Senate Committee on Commerce, Energy and Military earlier this month. “All we’re trying to do here is level the playing field with New Mexico and other states that are competing with us.”
Bethany Barnes of Arizona-Sonora News Service reports on a state bill to fund programs for mental-health first aid, a program that has been championed by Congressman Ron Barber at the federal level.
Two Tucson lawmakers are hoping their bipartisan bill will help Arizonans be more attune to the mental health needs of their community.
HB 2570 passed out of the House Appropriations Committee Wednesday and would take $250,000 from the general fund to expand the Arizona Department of Health Services’ Mental Health First Aid program.
The program runs 12-hour training sessions to help the public to understand and assist people with mental illness. The training is often free and is similar to taking a CPR class, according to the Department of Health Services’ website.
The Tucson Police Department came out in support of the bill. TPD Sgt. Jim Kirk compared the program to neighborhood watch efforts, which he said were a great help when he was a burglary sergeant.
The bill came out of conversations that the bill's sponsors, Rep. Ethan Orr (R-Tucson) and Rep. Victoria Steele (D-Tucson), had when running against one another. Orr and Steele both live less than a mile from the Safeway where former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot. The two started talking and realized what they had in common, Orr said.
Rep. John Kavanagh (R-Fountain Hills) said he was pleased to hear the bill, noting that it “is a critical part of the overall education process,” that is needed for mental health.
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