Tag Archives: federal government

Grand Canyon - AZ Business Magazine Mar/Apr 2011

Arizona strikes deal to reopen Grand Canyon

Arizona reached a deal Friday with the Interior Department to pay for Grand Canyon National Park to completely reopen using state and local funds during the federal government shutdown.

The deal means the park should reopen Saturday, allowing thousands of tourists to flock to the natural wonder in northern Arizona, said Andrew Wilder, spokesman for Republican Gov. Jan Brewer.

Arizona will pay the national Park Service $651,000 to keep the Grand Canyon open for seven days. The $93,000 a day is less than the $112,000 daily rate the federal government said this week was needed to fund the park operations.

In addition to state money, cash provided by the town of Tusayan and raised from private business would also be included in the funding.

Park spokeswoman Kirby-Lynn Shedlowski said Friday evening that officials at the park hadn’t been notified of the deal and were awaiting word.

Brewer had been pushing to only use state money to open a portion of the park, something the Interior Department said Thursday it would not contemplate because of the complexities of keeping some parts of individual national parks closed while other parts were opened.

National parks in Utah began opening Friday after Gov. Gary Herbert sent $1.67 million to the U.S. government, while Colorado paid $360,000 to reopen Rocky Mountain National Park through Oct. 20.

Brewer and the state’s congressional delegation had been lobbying the Obama administration to allow reopening of the park since shortly after it closed Oct. 1. Three other states also made the request about their parks.

Arizona Flag

Arizona Politics 2010: The Year That Was SB 1070

It’s the start of 2011. This is usually when everyone writes top 10 lists for the year just past. I was going to write a “top 10 political stories of 2010 column,” when it occurred to me that was the year of one main significant political story.

Oh, there were plenty of important political happenings. President Obama and the Democrats were crushed nationally in the midterm elections. Arizona said goodbye to Congressman John Shadegg, Congressman Harry Mitchell, and Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick, and hello to newly elected Congressmen Paul Gosar, Ben Quayle and David Schweikert.

Our state struggled to balance the budget, and almost every city in Arizona made major cuts in order to balance theirs. Gov. Jan. Brewer’s re-election faced an early challenge from within her own party. During the general election campaign she froze in a televised debate and didn’t seem to offer any tangible evidence of headless bodies in the desert. Then of course she sailed to an easy victory at the polls.

Voters even decided that marijuana should be legal in Arizona (as medicine that is).

None of these other stories came anywhere close to being as significant as the firestorm created by the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act, more commonly known by its Senate bill number, SB 1070. At one point in the 2010 legislative session, SB 1070 seemed to lack support and was close to being dead. Then tragically, on March 27, southeastern Arizona rancher Robert Krentz was found shot to death alongside of his dog. His ranch sits 12 miles away from the U.S.-Mexico border. SB 1070 found new life and was signed into law on April 23.  Suddenly the nation was abuzz about Arizona. It even became a headline internationally.

Those first few weeks were a little surreal. Almost daily, you could find our local elected officials on national talk shows speaking out in favor or against it. Supporters justified that action was needed to deal with illegal immigration, an issue the federal government was ignoring. Opponents claimed SB 1070 would violate civil rights and lead to racial profiling.

SB 1070 was a little vague, so on April 30, HB 2162 was passed to amend and clarify it.

A boycott was called against Arizona and numerous lawsuits were filed, including one by the U. S. Department of Justice. The day before SB 1070 was to go into effect, a federal judge issued an injunction against a portion of the law that effectively killed it.

You might think that this is where the SB 1070 story ends, but it doesn’t — and that is what makes it such a huge event. Although nationally, numerous jurisdictions and high-profile people were passionate in their opposition, polling showed that it was more popular with the masses. A number of states are discussing similar legislation for 2011.

In the New Year, Russell Pearce, the Arizona Senate president and major sponsor of SB 1070, is continuing to focus on the same issue. With the start of the next Arizona Legislative session, he intends to take on the U.S. Constitution’s 14th amendment dealing with citizenship being granted to anyone born in the U.S. He is trying to prevent illegal immigrants from getting citizenship for their children by fleeing to America and having a baby on U.S. soil.

Although SB 1070 didn’t get enacted, it did serve part of the purpose it supporters intended. Illegal immigrants now recognize Arizona as the least friendly state to homestead in.

I still believe that SB 1070 would not have really fixed the problems it was intended to fix. However, it was successful in driving a complicated issue into the mainstream of discussion on the national level.

Arizona Gains Seat House of Representatives

Arizona Gains One House Of Representatives Seat From The 2010 Census

It all starts with the census! The American Constitution mandates that every ten years our federal government must run a census. Once the census is complete, there is a massive political trickle-down effect.

The first and most obvious result of a new census is changes to congressional representation. There are 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, and they apportioned out to states based on percent of overall population. States that have populations which have grown in the last decade will have seats added. States that have shrunk in population will lose seats.

Arizona has been on the growth side of this equation for a number of decades. At statehood, Arizona got its first seat in the U.S. House. It added a second seat in 1940, and then gained one seat each census from 1960 through 1990, putting us at six seats. In 2000, Arizona gained two seats, and now in 2010 another one will be added to put Arizona at nine. This means Arizona will have more of a voice in the U.S. House as well as more importance in the Electoral College for Presidential races. Arizona’s nine seats tie us with Indiana, Massachusetts and Tennessee and put us behind only thirteen states that have a larger number (although we are right next door to the biggest; California has 53).

So, what do we do with this extra seat? After a census we redistrict. Arizona will now have to redraw the maps that determine where our congressional districts are. The eight current districts will need to be turned into nine. This can be one of the ugliest processes in the entire American political system. And that also leads to a wonderful term called gerrymandering. Redistricting is political. It is logical that parties want to gain more support and will try to use this process to give themselves an advantage.

It is hard to explain, but easy to illustrate. Take a scenario of a state where the two major parties are almost equally divided, and they are redistricting for nine seats. (This is not Arizona’s scenario as Republicans have a significant registration edge.) You might think that drawing a new map would be easy and fair.

We might have a number of competitive districts and maybe an outcome of five Republicans and four Democrats. Now let’s say one party could control that process. If I were a Republican in control in this scenario, I would try to force as many Democrats as possible into two or three districts. This is a giveaway.  Now you know that no Republican can win in these new “Democrat-safe” districts, but you have also created six or seven districts that will have a majority of Republicans with fewer Democrats. This is gerrymandering at its finest.

In order to stop this type of scenario, numerous laws have been passed, and the courts have even helped to try and moderate (or control, depending on your view) the process. In Arizona, with the passage of Proposition 106 in 2000, we have the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission. This is a commission of five people who will draw the lines. There will be two Republicans, two Democrats and an Independent. This commission will draw lines for both Arizona’s nine congressional seats as well as the 30 new state legislative districts.

So, does this mean that everything is fixed? Hardly! In any political process where you try to legislate “fair” you run into the problem of what is “fair”? In the first few weeks of 2011 we will be hearing a lot about the selection process for the redistricting commission and the work they have to do.

Health Care Reform in Arizona - AZ Business Magazine Nov/Dec 2010

Business And Community Leaders Are Trying To Figure Out What Health Care Reform Will Mean In Arizona

For government and business, providers and patients, the U.S. health care reform legislation promises a new world of costs and care.

Most individuals without insurance will be able to get it. Those who have insurance already probably will have to pay more for it. Hospitals, doctors and others in the front lines of health care will begin to change long-established ways of doing business. State governments and many businesses, already battered by recession, will face new costs and possibly some benefits.

But beyond these generalizations, little is certain about what health care reform will mean in Arizona and across the country. The bill is vague in many areas and leaves important details of implementation to be determined by federal regulators and other officials in the weeks and months ahead.

“Quite frankly, we won’t know the financial impacts until we move through the process and see what the federal government and insurance companies do,” says Donna Davis, chief executive officer of the Arizona Small Business Association (ASBA).

Barry Broome, president and chief executive officer of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council (GPEC), says it is too early know what the bill will mean.

“It sounds very good to be able to cover the uninsured, but what the costs are and how they are going to be distributed are still not clear,” he says.

Marjorie Baldwin, director of the School of Health Management and Policy and assistant dean at Arizona State University’s W. P. Carey School of Business, says it is important to note that the law’s primary purpose is to cover the uninsured.

“This bill is about access,” Baldwin says. “It’s designed to cover the uninsured. There is much less in it about quality of care and little about cost controls.”

On what the price tag for health care reform will be, Baldwin says, “The one safe prediction is that it is going to cost much more than anticipated.”

Hospitals and doctors
Whether the health care overhaul is ultimately deemed a success will be determined to a large extent by what happens inside the nation’s hospitals, clinics and doctors’ offices.

Peter Pavarini, a health care lawyer for Squire, Sanders and Dempsey and an adviser to health care organizations, believes hospitals are actually well-positioned to adapt to the new law.

“Hospitals have been anticipating something happening for some time,” Pavarini says. “Hospitals have the resources to prepare better than some of the other players in the health care system.”

Several provisions in the law are expected to lead to a dramatic shift in the way hospitals are paid by insurance. Under the existing system, providers receive set rates for specific medical procedures. The new law moves toward a system in which hospitals receive a set amount for treating an overall condition or a so-called “bundled payment.” This shift is expected to require more detailed treatment plans, coordinated care and closer cooperation among hospitals and physicians.

“With the bundled payments, you have to have a more integrated approach and an approach that aligns physicians and hospitals,” says Suzanne Pfister, vice president of external affairs at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix.

The hospital already has been moving in this direction, according to Pfister. St. Joseph’s has forged a series of partnerships with area health care organizations, including outpatient and short-stay providers United Surgical Partners and SimonMed Imaging
.
“We are continuing to look at moving from acute care to a continuum of care,” Pfister says.

Pavarini believes the new payment systems for Medicaid and Medicare will bring big changes to care at hospitals. When the system is in place, hospitals will get a set payment for delivering all of the care a patient receives from 72 hours before admission to 30 days after discharge, he notes.

“That’s a whole different model from what we have now,” Pavarini says. “This means it’s not good enough just to get the patient in and out of the hospital. It means testing can’t be duplicative. And it means patients better be ready for discharge when they’re released.”

Pavarini says doctors and hospitals will need to cooperate more closely as the law is implemented. He sees hospitals forging formal alliances with physician groups and appointing more practicing physicians to their boards of directors.
A more basic concern for hospitals is how much they will be paid. Because expansion of Medicaid is a key feature of the law, hospitals are concerned about long-term revenue.

“Payments are going to shift more to the level of Medicaid, and Medicaid has not been a particularly good payer,” Pfister says.

Officials at Phoenix-based Banner Health, one of the largest nonprofit health care systems in the country, are still examining the legislation to assess its consequences.

“This reform is primarily about health insurance, not health care reform,” the organization said in a statement. “It will result in expanded AHCCCS (Medicaid) coverage in Arizona and access to insurance, but the need remains to address reducing the cost of health care.”

The bill includes a number of provisions that will increase the role of primary-care physicians. Medicaid fees will go up for primary-care doctors, who also will be eligible for bonuses from Medicare.

St. Joseph’s is concerned about being able to find enough physicians as health care reform is implemented in the coming years, according to Pfister.

“Arizona has fewer physicians per capita than the national average, so we face that already. Arizona does not have enough primary-care physicians and even some specialists,” she says.

The larger hospitals that have formal ties to physicians and other providers probably will fare best under health care reform, according to Pavarini. But he believes smaller, more isolated hospitals will struggle and some will close.

“Arizona has a number of smaller hospitals in less populated areas,” he says. “I think the outlying hospitals in rural communities could have difficulty.”

Businesses
While all businesses will be affected by the health care reform law, some will feel it more than others. Probably least affected will be firms that already provide health insurance now and have a pool of employees large enough to allow the companies to self-insure.

“For most large businesses, fundamentally there’s not a lot of change,” says Keith Maio, president and chief executive officer of National Bank of Arizona. “For us, we’ll have to be a little more paperwork conscious.”

ASU’s Baldwin says the principal effect on large employers will be slightly higher expenses, as they absorb some of the cost of the system’s expanded coverage.

“For larger employers, the law is not going to mean a big difference, but they are going to see their costs go up,” she says.

Smaller businesses though will face new uncertainties, and, for some, significant new costs.

“I would say that there is a cloud of concern generally for small businesses,” says Maio, whose bank has many small business customers. “People who have been through the recession and are still slugging it out have learned to survive. But they still have trouble seeing how they can get back to where they were . That’s why something like the health care bill can have such an impact.”

The law offers a complex mix of incentives and penalties designed to spur employers to offer health insurance. In 2014, employers with 50 or more workers who do not provide coverage will face penalties of $2,000 or $3,000 per employee. Some employers who provide insurance and have fewer than 50 workers will be eligible for tax credits.

“In a sense there is both a carrot and a stick,” says Bradford Kirkman-Liff, professor in the School of Health Management and Policy at W. P Carey. “The idea is to create a very strong incentive to provide insurance.”

The tax credits could offset as much as half of the insurance costs for some employers, Kirkman-Liff notes.

“Arizona has a high number of small employers. Many of them don’t provide health insurance, but some do. This would give them a reason not to drop it,” he says.

The law also instructs states to establish insurance exchanges, where small employers and individuals can purchase policies from insurance companies. The exchanges are designed to bring down the cost of insurance by combining groups of buyers into large pools.

But even with government subsidies and insurance exchanges, some businesses will find the burden too large, according Maio.

“The greatest impact will be on those that employ entry-level employees,” he says. “Arizona has a lot of lower-wage businesses who won’t be able to afford to provide insurance. I think some will opt to pay the fine. Then what have you accomplished?”

Another problem that Maio sees is the 50-employee threshold for the coverage requirement. Employers with fewer than 50 can escape penalties for not providing insurance.

“Have you given them a disincentive to adding people?” he asks.

Davis at ASBA says most business owners are focused on short-term challenges and do not have a clear picture of how the law will affect them.

“For some small businesses who fit the prescribed requirements, it will help offset some of their costs,” Davis says. “For others, it simply won’t.”

Immigration

We Need Immigration Reform, Not Immigration Hype

SB 1070. It has been a few months since it passed, making Arizona the focus of so much national attention. As I have listened to Arizona, the entire country, and even some international Latina singers debate the issue, I have found ironies on both sides.

First, on the pro-SB 1070 side: Republicans (especially Arizona Republicans in state government) hate federal mandates being imposed on states. It’s a fundamental belief in conservative circles that we should have fewer unfunded mandates and more local control. Republican-sponsored SB 1070 flies in the face of these principles. Here’s one way to look at it. The Arizona Legislature was so frustrated that the federal government wasn’t stepping up and dealing with illegal immigration that it passed a law MANDATING that local jurisdictions had to do it. The state didn’t offer cities and counties any money to accomplish this, nor did the state step forward and offer its own resources, such as the National Guard. Local governing bodies were not just told that they could enforce immigration laws but also that they had to, or they could be sued. By any definition, this is an unfunded mandate that supersedes local control. Chalk it up to the ends justifying the means.

On the anti-SB 1070 side, I was surprised at how out of touch opponents were with the average Arizonan’s view on the issue. Polls started reporting that 70 percent of Arizonans supported the new law even in the face of national criticism and boycotts. Most opponents to SB 1070 chalked this up to bad polling and inaccurate data. Everybody must have gotten it wrong though, because those numbers have pretty much held up for the last few months. In fact, a number of other states report similar support, and we can expect more states passing this type of legislation. People are frustrated.

I have to admit, I wasn’t too fond of SB 1070 when it passed. But one morning while watching CNN, President Obama helped me to become frustrated. In light of his opposition to Arizona’s new law and the understanding that the federal government was negligent in dealing with the issue, he claimed that U.S. immigration policy was not a pressing current national priority. This was just after SB 1070 passed! What I heard him saying was, “Ask not what your country can do for you. And don’t ask what you can do for your country either!”

Then there is the question of why the federal government has never protested when other local jurisdictions in America have declared themselves “safe-harbor” areas for illegal immigrants. It seems they are establishing national immigration policy in the opposite direction, and yet, the federal government has failed to protest these policies or voice any public opposition.

I don’t believe that SB 1070 is really worth the national hype it has received. The courts have struck down the portion that local jurisdictions opposed most. If the courts hadn’t, would this really have been the solution to the illegal immigration problem in our country? It seems we need to establish a stronger, more practical border policy before much of any immigration policy reform is going to help.

Arizona State Seal

A Quarter Century Of Wisdom Points To The Right Solution

In 1982, I was beginning my first term in Arizona’s House of Representatives. After years of spending increases, our state was suffering an economic slowdown. Recovery was just around the corner.

In 1984, Ronald Reagan was elected to his second term as president of the United States, the federal government announced that it would build an orbiting space station, and the Phoenix area was one year away from receiving its first deliveries of Central Arizona Project water.

In other words, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Yes, we are a different state today than we were a quarter century ago.

Our population has doubled from 3.06 million to 6.8 million.

Per capita income has risen 256 percent, from $13,866 in 1984 to $32,953 today.

The world may be suffering the symptoms of an under-the-weather economy, but citizens from high-tax and high-regulation states will continue to move to Arizona, just as they have for the past 25 years. They will come because of our freedom-loving attitudes, our incredible business and environmental climate, and a commitment to nurturing opportunity.

However, since we have ignored history over the past few years, we must re-live the lessons of previous cycles. Once again, after stumbling through several years of free-spending fostered by a previous administration, Arizona must bring spending back to reality.

This is why I offer a five-point plan to cure what ails us:

  • Cut spending as much as feasible.
  • Don’t create or expand programs.
  • Stop treating one-time windfalls as permanent revenue. Even the feds must stop printing money eventually, so don’t think cash will keep flowing out of Washington.
  • Modernize our tax structure. Let’s get spending under control by 2012. Then let’s renovate our tax system to foster well-paying, sustainable jobs.
  • We must be responsible. The previous administration spent too much, and we must pay the bills, even if it leads to temporary tax hikes that automatically expire in three-to-four years.

Some think our political climate has changed. To those people I say, the more things change, the more we need the wisdom of some of the best political minds from the 20th century: Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater. They advocated:

  • Keeping taxes reasonable.
  • Limiting government intrusion.
  • Encouraging opportunity.
  • Creating prosperity.

Back in 1984-85, for the first time in state history, Arizona officially became a Republican state. We tended to elect conservative Republicans for decades, but many rural and blue-collar Democrats re-registered and pushed my party over the top.

When I became secretary of state in 1998, I watched a national trend away from political affiliation, which made it look like GOP domination would erode. As of April 1, 2009, our 3.1 million registered voters were split into three semi-equal groups. About 36.8 percent are Republicans, 33.8 percent registered as Democrats and 28.5 percent are not affiliated with either party.

Voters may be disenchanted with both parties, but they still love freedom, want limited government intrusion in their lives, and place their faith in the wisdom of Reagan and Goldwater.

The evidence is clear that Arizonans remain as committed as ever to limited government. This is why, come 2010, I am confident that our state will continue to follow the path blazed by Reagan and Goldwater by trusting sustainable, conservative solutions that realistically and responsibly address Arizona’s financial crisis.