The economic downturn rattled almost every industry in Arizona at its foundation.
“The recession served as a necessary wake-up call for both the Valley and the entire state,” says Andy Warren, CEO of Maracay Home and Greater Phoenix Economic Council board member. “In the years leading up to the recession, many people in Arizona had a mindset that economic expansion was invulnerable to setbacks. The recession has changed that mindset.”
But in the middle of the unstable economic environment, analysts would have a hard time identifying Arizona as one of the states that was hit the hardest by the economic downturn if they looked only at GPEC’s success during that time.
In fiscal year 2012, GPEC helped 36 companies expand or relocate to the region — the most in the economic catalyst’s 23-year history. That topped GPEC’s previous record of 31 companies, which it set in 2011, giving GPEC its two best years when times were toughest and competition for companies was at its most fierce.
So how did GPEC achieve such success in a down economy?
“GPEC has distinguished itself as a true public-private partnership where the cities, county and business leaders have a working forum to collaborate around economic development issues,” says Don Smith, president and CEO of SCF Arizona and vice chairman of GPEC’s board of directors. “It also possesses an outstanding research capability that can reliability assist other economic development interests in making successful decisions. The strategies and tactics at GPEC are robust, and comprehensive, covering local, national and global interests on behalf of the state, and the ground game both internationally and domestically is exceptional.”
The economic impact of GPEC’s success is staggering. The 36 companies it assisted in 2012 will create more than 4,000 jobs for the Greater Phoenix region, will generate $178 million of net new payroll, and absorb or build approximately 3.8 million square feet with their phase one investments. Companies GPEC helped relocate to the Valley include CyrusOne, one of the largest data centers in the country, and Silicon Valley Bank, an expansion from California creating 250 jobs at an average salary of $88,000. Advanced business services, general business services, transportation and distribution, manufacturing and healthcare continue to drive the majority of GPEC’s relocation activity, with environmental technologies rounding out the lion’s share.
GPEC President and CEO Barry Broome credits part of his organization’s success to a major policy achievement for Arizona, the Qualified Facilities Income Tax Credit.
“Gov. Jan Brewer, House Speaker Andy Tobin, Senate President Steve Pierce and the entire Arizona legislature have worked hard to improve our business climate as evidenced by the Qualified Facilities Income Tax Credit,” Broome said. “Moving forward, key economic development programs are still needed to compete with other markets to attract high impact, export-oriented companies and investment — working together as we have done in recent years, I have no doubt we’ll get there.”
More than 11 percent of GPEC’s locates were international companies, primarily due to ramped-up efforts on the organization’s foreign-direct investment program and 16.7 percent were from California, another highly concentrated effort with partners throughout the state to draw investment to the Sun Corridor.
“We now have strong consensus that nurturing high quality job growth is our top priority,” Warren says. “Leadership at the state level, municipal level and from the private sector are now fully aligned with a singular focus toward specific growth industries applicable to Arizona. We are creating a fiscal environment where Arizona is fully competitive with other growth-oriented states … This clear mission and focus is on growth industries that will drive the future economy such as healthcare, clean technology, technology, aerospace and defense.”
Just as we always do this time of year, the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry today kicked off the next legislative session with our annual Legislative Forecast Luncheon. This year’s edition was held at a packed Phoenix Convention Center, where the 1,000-person crowd had the opportunity to hear from Gov. Jan Brewer and state House and Senate legislative leaders about their vision for the 2013 session.
We also use the event as the Chamber’s opportunity to roll out our Business Agenda, and this year was no different. The Business Agenda outlines the top legislative priorities for Arizona’s business community. The Agenda, in addition to highlighting the Chamber’s priorities at the Legislature and in Washington, outlines the short and long-term goals for the Arizona Manufacturers Council and the Chamber’s policy issue committees.
In 2013, we’ll be working at a state level to:
> Support a world class education system, including the successful adoption of the Arizona > Common Core Standards.
> Reduce health care costs for business and restore Proposition 204.
> Expedite business permitting and licensing requirements.
> Support sales and use tax uniformity and simplification.
> Reduce the insurance premium tax.
> Allow relevant military experience to count towards training requirements for professions that require a state license or certification.
I thought Gov. Brewer’s comments today were excellent. She spoke with conviction behind her contention that the state’s sales tax system – known in Arizona as transaction privilege tax, or TPT – is overly complicated and needs reform. She was backed up in that assertion by the comments from the panel. The Chamber looks forward to adding its voice to this choir that business needs a simpler TPT system, which will in turn lead to greater compliance. TPT reform will make a great next chapter in the tax reform that this governor and the Legislature have advanced the past two years.
I was also heartened to hear the governor make clear her support for Arizona’s Common Core Standards. These new rigorous education standards will play a big role in ensuring that Arizona’s students are prepared for higher education and the workforce. By raising the bar and our expectations, we’re also strengthening Arizona’s competitiveness, making our state even more attractive to job creators as an outstanding place to invest. The Chamber will be in full support of the full integration of the Common Core into Arizona classrooms and the transition from the current AIMS exam to the PARCC assessment, which will be closely aligned with the Common Core curriculum.
The governor also took the opportunity to reflect on a major accomplishment from last session, personnel reform. Because of the work of the governor and the Legislature, more Arizona state employees are treated like their counterparts in the private sector. Last year’s reforms are not just about making it easier to dismiss poorly performing state employees, but rather about making it easier to attract talent and position the state to retain its talented workforce. We were proud to have supported the governor’s personnel reform plan so vigorously.
During our panel featuring Senate President-elect Andy Biggs, Senate Minority Leader-elect Leah Landrum-Taylor, House Speaker Andy Tobin and House Minority Leader Chad Campbell, I was encouraged by the comity (and a little comedy) on display from all four legislative leaders. While there are clear differences in ideology and policy, I know everyone in attendance was impressed by their commitment to service and doing the right thing for Arizona.
Like any legislative session, there will no doubt be some dust ups over the path the state should take in critical areas of importance like health care, education, taxation and regulation. But because of our governor and Legislature’s desire to ensure a bright future for our state, I am confident that 2013 will be an excellent year at the state Capitol.
Glenn Hamer is the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry is committed to advancing Arizona’s competitive position in the global economy by advocating free-market policies that stimulate economic growth and prosperity for all Arizonans. http://www.azchamber.com/.
January 7, 2013 – The Arizona Small Business Association (ASBA) will offer a forum for Arizona small business owners and supporters of the small business community to discuss the critical issues facing small businesses this year at the 2013 Small Business Outlook. ASBA’s annual event will be highlighted by a panel of industry leaders who will delve into important topics such as public policy, sales tax, healthcare in Arizona and access to capital. The event will be held Thursday, Jan. 17at The Phoenician in Scottsdale.
Panelists for the 2013 Small Business Outlook include:
Jerry Bustamante, Senior V.P. of Public Policy + Southern Arizona, ASBA
Michael Hunter, Director of Legislative Affairs and Special Advisor on Tax Policy & Reform, Office of the Arizona Governor Janice K. Brewer
Don Hughes, Policy Advisor for Health Care, Office of the Arizona Governor Janice K. Brewer
Craig Jordan, Lender Relations Specialist, Arizona District Office
John Oates, Head of State Government Affairs, Cigna
Rick Murray, CEO of ASBA, states, “At our Small Business Outlook, our expert panel will explore the main issues expected to rule the headlines and dominate the dialogue this year.”
One such topic is public policy. Panelist Jerry Bustamante, senior vice president of public policy for ASBA, will discuss why he predicts there will be more cooperation across party lines. He comments, “We are entering Arizona’s Legislative session with more clarity this year, in comparison to the many questions left unanswered at this time last year.”
Michael Hunter, director of legislative affairs and special advisor on tax policy and reform for the Office of the Arizona Governor Janice K. Brewer, can explain, for example, how the Fiscal Cliff being averted affects Arizonans and what the new tax bill means to small business owners. Also from the Office of the Arizona Governor Janice K. Brewer, Don Hughes, policy advisor for health care, can speak about new health care policies.
Cigna Head of State Government Affairs John Oates will discuss health care policy as well. He is responsible for legislative and regulatory advocacy in the states, and formerly served as a legislative aide in the Texas House of Representatives, a health policy analyst in the Texas Senate, a health policy advisor in the Governor’s office and as the Committee Director for the Senate Health Services.
Arizona District Office Lender Relations Specialist Craig Jordan will cover the topic of access to capital. Jordan will comment on the Small Business Association’s role in providing capital access to small businesses, loan production information, and the enhancements to programs and loan programs that currently exist.
The 2013 Small Business Outlook will commence at 7:30am and conclude at 10:00am on Thursday, Jan. 17. The Phoenician is located at 6000 E. Camelback Road, Scottsdale, AZ 85251. To register for the event, please visit asba.com/outlook or call (602) 306-4000.
The Arizona Small Business Association (ASBA) is the largest trade association in the state representing 11,000+ member businesses, and over ½ million employees in all 15 counties. ASBA members enjoy access to significant group discounts, countless opportunities to do business with each other, a wide array of insurance products, and active advocacy efforts on public policy issues to protect their businesses. Discover more at www.asba.com or by calling 602.306.4000 or 520.327.0222. Join ASBA. Be amAZed®
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has decided against creating a state-run health insurance exchange to implement a key part of President Barack Obama’s federal health care law.
Brewer’s decision announced Wednesday means the federal government will set up an online marketplace for the state, offering subsidized private health coverage to the middle class. The governor reiterated her unwavering opposition to the health care overhaul, and said there were too many costs and questions associated with a state-run exchange.
“The federal government would maintain oversight and control over virtually every aspect of our exchange, limiting our ability to meet the unique needs of Arizonans and the Arizona insurance market,” she said in a statement.
Brewer joins other Republican governors in such states as Texas and Maine who have balked at creating state-run exchanges, although others in Nevada and New Mexico have opted to proceed. She sent a federal official a one-page letter conveying her decision.
Her announcement preceded a Dec. 14 deadline for states to declare whether they’d run their own exchanges.
A decision to create an exchange would have been subject to approval by the Republican-led state Legislature. Though the Nov. 6 election results reduced the size of Republicans’ majorities in the state House and Senate, a Brewer push to create a state-run exchange would have faced a fight from GOP lawmakers who oppose the law.
An alliance of hospitals, insurance companies and business groups wanted Arizona to have a state-run exchange, arguing that it would increase coverage while giving the state flexibility in designing a program to its liking.
Conservative advocacy groups such as the Goldwater Institute stood in opposition. They said Arizona shouldn’t help implement a law that could foist new expenses on the state and raise health insurance prices for residents.
Senate President-designate Andy Biggs said he appreciated Brewer’s thoughtful deliberation.
“Any exchange run by Arizona would still include an inappropriate imposition by the federal government on our state,” the Republican lawmaker said.
“State control is a mirage,” agreed Sen. Nancy Barto, a Republican who heads the Senate’s health committee.
The incoming Senate minority leader, Democrat Leah Landrum Taylor, said Brewer’s decision was a “missed opportunity to establish health care solutions that are tailor-made for the unique needs of the state.”
House Minority Leader Chad Campbell, a Democrat, said Brewer’s decision was grandstanding that reflected “an extremist agenda.”
Brewer’s administration spent two years planning for a possible exchange, accepting federal grants totaling approximately $31 million to pay for the advance work.
The grant money is paid to the state to reimburse it for costs, Brewer spokesman Matthew Benson said. Most of the money remains unspent and available to pay for costs for working with the federal government on its creation of an exchange, he said.
As part of that planning, Brewer in September selected a minimum benefits package for a state-run exchange based on current insurance coverage for state employees. She noted in a Sept. 28 letter to the Obama administration that the package she chose excludes abortion coverage.
On another implementation issue with state versus federal considerations, Brewer has decided it would be better to have the state run its own program to review health insurance rates, rather than leave that to the federal government. The state has formally approved rules for a rate-review program.
Brewer still must decide whether to expand eligibility for the state’s Medicaid program as called for by the law.
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer is postponing when she’ll declare whether Arizona will create a state-run insurance exchange as part of implementing the federal health law that she opposes.
Brewer’s office disclosed the postponement on the hot-potato issue late Thursday after the federal Department of Health and Human Services extended until mid-December a deadline for states to make exchange declarations.
The deadline had been Friday, and that’s when Brewer had been planning to make her declaration.
“The governor remains committed to doing her due diligence about a decision of this importance, so she is hopeful that the federal government is going to provide the specific guidance and instruction we’ve been awaiting,” Brewer spokesman Matthew Benson said.
The exchange would serve as an online marketplace for consumers to purchase health coverage, which approximately 1.3 million people in Arizona lack.
An alternative to having the state create and run an exchange would be to step aside and allow the federal government to set up one for Arizona. Or she could propose a hybrid partnership between the two levels of government.
Business groups, hospitals and insurance companies have urged Brewer to create a state-run exchange, which would be subject to legislative approval. The Goldwater Institute and other conservatives say the state should not help implement the law.
Creation of an exchange would be subject to legislative approval, and a Republican legislative leader said earlier Thursday he didn’t know how such a proposal would fare.
Senate Majority Leader Andy Biggs, who will become Senate president in January, said some GOP lawmakers oppose creating an exchange, others are cautiously skeptical and others are open to the idea.
Biggs, who is among opponents of the health law and its exchange requirement, cited concerns about costs that would be imposed on the state.
Like the federal-state Medicaid program, “the feds really control it,” Biggs said.
House Minority Leader Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix, said it’d be best if the state runs the exchange as long as it is consumer-friendly.
“This is not a partisan issue at this point,” he said.
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer has been selected as the Honorary Starter for the AdvoCare 500, Phoenix International Raceway President Bryan R. Sperber announced today. As the Honorary Starter, Governor Brewer will wave the green flag to start the AdvoCare 500, as well as greet the drivers during pre-race ceremonies on Sunday, Nov. 11, 2012.
“We are delighted to welcome Governor Brewer to serve as the Honorary Starter of the AdvoCare 500,” Sperber said. “Governor Brewer has long recognized the positive economic impact to the State that NASCAR events at PIR have had. Her participation underscores that the race is more than a championship sporting event, it’s also an economic engine for Arizona.”
Named Arizona’s 22nd Governor on January 20, 2009, Brewer was elected Arizona’s Secretary of State in 2002. Brewer’s career in politics began in 1982 when she was elected to the Arizona House of Representatives where she served until 1987. Following that, she ran for and was elected to the Arizona State Senate, where she served until 1996, including a four-year period as Majority Whip. In 1996 she was elected to the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors where she served two terms with the county before being elected Arizona Secretary of State.
“Phoenix International Raceway and NASCAR are premier attractions for the City of Phoenix and State of Arizona,” said Governor Brewer. “Like tens of thousands of Arizona racing fans, I’m excited for the AdvoCare 500 and thrilled to have the opportunity to participate as the Honorary Starter. I would like to thank PIR and NASCAR for their continued collaboration on this successful event.”
Tickets for the November 11 AdvoCare 500 Semi-Final NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race and other events throughout the November race weekend at Phoenix International Raceway are available at www.phoenixraceway.com or by calling 1-866-408-RACE (7223).
Gov. Jan Brewer is promoting Scott Smith to be her new chief of staff, replacing Eileen Klein who has accepted the state Board of Regents’ top staff job.
Smith was Brewer’s top legislative lobbyist before becoming her deputy chief of staff, He is also director of the state Department of Administration and was point man for Brewer in working on a package of changes to state personnel system.
Klein leaves Brewer’s staff to become Board of Regent president. Klein initially was Brewer’s budget director but she was promoted to chief of staff in late 2009.
That appointment of the former legislative aide helped improve relations between Brewer and the Republican-led Legislature during the state’s budget crisis.
Brewer’s office says the changes involving Smith and Klein are effective Nov. 9.
The federal Transportation Bill made it through Congress and includes improving I-11.
WASHINGTON — Finding rare political accommodation on the cusp of a holiday recess, Congress passed legislation Friday designed to salvage 2.8 million jobs and shield students from a sharp increase in loan interest rates.
The legislation, which also revamps highway and transit programs and shores up the federal flood insurance program, now goes to the White House for President Barack Obama’s signatures.
The federal Transportation Bill includes Interstate 11, which would better link Phoenix and Las Vegas.
There’s also the potential to extend the highway north toward Canada and south to the Mexico border.
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer says it would be “a significant step in continuing to foster economic development and tourism, build stronger transportation infrastructure for the Intermountain West and support national and international trade.”
The governor’s office says Phoenix and Las Vegas remain the largest U.S. cities not linked by an interstate highway corridor.
The combined population of Phoenix, Tucson, Las Vegas and Reno was less than 700,000 when the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 was enacted.
Lawmakers trying to leave town for a weeklong Fourth of July recess had been facing twin deadlines: Federal highway and transit aid programs and the government’s authority to levy federal fuel taxes were expiring Saturday. And interest rates on new student loans were set to double on Sunday.
The burst of legislating came just four months before the November elections, giving lawmakers achievements to show off to voters who have increasingly held Congress in low esteem while the economy continues to flounder.
“We have a bill that will boost this economy. We have a bill that is supported by conservatives and liberals, progressives and moderates. I think it’s a great day,” said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who led Senate negotiations on the transportation portion of the package.
Boxer estimated the bill would save about 1.8 million jobs by keeping aid for highway and transit construction flowing to states and create another 1 million jobs by using federal loan guarantees to leverage private sector investment in infrastructure projects.
Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said: “Probably millions would have been put out of work if we hadn’t acted.”
Not all lawmakers were happy.
“At least it’s not as bad as our Republican colleagues wanted,” complained Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., who has championed bike and pedestrian programs that the measure would squeeze. “But make no mistake, it is not a bill to be proud of.”
In the bargaining that led up to an agreement on the package earlier this week, House Republicans gave up their demands that the bill require approval of the contentious Keystone XL oil pipeline and block federal regulation of toxic waste generated by coal-fired power plants. Democrats gave ground on environmental protections and biking, pedestrian and safety programs.
The bill consolidates various transportation programs and reduces the number of programs by two-thirds. States would have more flexibility on how they spend transportation aid. It also revamps rules on environmental studies of the potential impact of highway projects, with an aim toward cutting in half the time it takes to complete construction projects. And the measure contains an array of safety initiatives, including requirements that would make it more likely passengers would survive a tour bus crash.
“It doesn’t have everything,” Mica said. But “we were able to do more with less and move transportation for the nation forward.”
The bill would spend about $100 billion on federal highway programs over two years, but puts off the politically tricky decision on how to pay for them after that.
The federal 18.4 cent-a-gallon gasoline tax and 24.4 cent-a-gallon diesel tax are no longer enough to pay for current spending on highway and transit programs. And two commissions and an array of private sector experts have said the U.S. should be spending about twice as much or more on its transportation infrastructure as it does now.
But Congress and the White House have refused to discuss raising fuel taxes or an alternative long-term source of money. The federal trust funds that pay for highway and transit programs are forecast to be nearly broke by the time the bill expires.
“When the bill expires we face a high cliff from which the program could fall,” said Erich Zimmerman, a policy analyst with Taxpayers for Common Sense.
The fuel taxes are not indexed for inflation and haven’t been increased since 1993, so their buying power has steadily eroded. Also, cars and trucks today are more fuel-efficient and the number of miles driven has flattened, resulting in less gas tax revenue. Since 2008, Congress has three times dipped into the national general treasury to borrow a total of $34.5 billion to keep transportation programs going.
Congressional bargainers reached an agreement earlier this week on the $6 billion college loan portion of the bill that would avert a doubling of interest rates beginning Sunday on federal loans to 7.4 million students. The current 3.4 percent interest rate on subsidized Stafford loans would balloon back to 6.8 percent on Sunday under a cost-saving maneuver contained in a 2007 law.
About $20 billion of the measure’s cost is paid for by making changes in companies’ pension calculations that will reduce their tax deductions, and increasing the payments businesses must make to insure their pension programs.
The bill also extends the federal flood insurance program to protect 5.6 million households and businesses. It addresses a shortfall arising from claims after 2005’s Hurricane Katrina by reducing insurance subsidies for vacation homes and allowing for increases in premiums.
The measure also requires that 80 percent of fines for violations of the Clean Water Act as a result of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico will go to a trust fund for Gulf Coast states damaged by the spill.
For more information on the federal Transportation Bill, visit The House of Representative’s website at appropriations.house.gov.
A ruling came down from the Supreme Court regarding Arizona immigration law, but more decisions likely remain.
The Supreme Court threw out key provisions of Arizona’s crackdown on illegal immigrants Monday but said a much-debated portion could go forward on checking the status of suspects who might appear to be in the U.S. illegally.
The court upheld the “show me your papers” requirement that police check suspects’ immigration status. Even there, though, the justices said the provision could be subject to additional legal challenges, and they removed some teeth by prohibiting officers from arresting people on immigration charges.
“The Court’s decision today is not likely to cool the immigration debate that continues to rage,” said Pavneet Uppal, managing partner, Fisher & Phillips in Phoenix. “The rise in state immigration law enactment has been the product of what the states perceive is the lack of action by the federal government to secure the country’s borders and engage in comprehensive immigration reform. The patchwork quilt nature of state immigration laws will continue to play an important role in the day-to-day operation of businesses despite the parameters and restrictions established by this decision.”
The Obama administration had assailed the Arizona law as an unconstitutional intrusion into an area under Washington’s control, and the court struck down provisions that would have made state crimes out of federal immigration violations.
But several lawmakers and civil rights groups said the part of the law left in place by the high court was an invitation to racial profiling.
The court announced that Thursday would be the last day of rulings this term, which means the decision on President Barack Obama’s landmark health care overhaul probably will come that day.
The Arizona decision landed in the middle of a presidential campaign in which Obama has been heavily courting Latino voters and Republican challenger Mitt Romney has been struggling to win Latino support. During a drawn-out primary campaign, Romney and the other GOP candidates mostly embraced a hard line on illegal immigrants, though Romney has lately taken a softer tone.
Romney did not immediately comment on the court decision Monday, but he said, “I believe that each state has the duty — and the right — to secure our borders and preserve the rule of law, particularly when the federal government has failed to meet its responsibilities.”
In Monday’s decision, the court was unanimous on allowing the immigration status check to go forward. The justices were divided on striking down the other portions.
Justice Anthony Kennedy said the law could — and suggested it should — be read to avoid concerns that status checks could lead to prolonged detention.
The court struck down these three major provisions: requiring all immigrants to obtain or carry immigration registration papers, making it a state criminal offense for an illegal immigrant to seek work or hold a job and allowing police to arrest suspected illegal immigrants without warrants.
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer said the ruling marked a victory for people who believe in the responsibility of states to defend their residents. The case, she said, “has always been about our support for the rule of law. That means every law, including those against both illegal immigration and racial profiling. Law enforcement will be held accountable should this statute be misused in a fashion that violates an individual’s civil rights.”
Civil rights groups that separately challenged the law over concerns that it would lead to rights abuses said their lawsuit would go on.
Even with the limitations the high court put on Arizona, the immigration status check still is “an invitation to racial profiling,” said American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Omar Jadwat.
The Obama administration sued to block the Arizona law soon after its enactment two years ago. Federal courts had refused to let the four key provisions take effect.
Five states — Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Utah — have adopted variations on Arizona’s law. Parts of those laws also are on hold pending the outcome of the Supreme Court case.
Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor joined all of Kennedy’s opinion.
Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas would have allowed all the challenged provisions to take effect. Justice Samuel Alito would have allowed police to arrest undocumented immigrants who seek work, and also make arrests without warrants.
Scalia, in comments from the bench, caustically described Obama’s recently announced plans to ease deportation rules for some children of illegal immigrants.
“The president said at a news conference that the new program is ‘the right thing to do’ in light of Congress’ failure to pass the administration’s proposed revision of the Immigration Act. Perhaps it is, though Arizona may not think so. But to say, as the court does, that Arizona contradicts federal law by enforcing applications of the Immigration Act that the president declines to enforce boggles the mind,” Scalia said.
The Arizona case focused on whether states can adopt their own measures to deal with an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the face of federal inaction on comprehensive reform, or whether the federal government has almost exclusive authority in that area.
Kennedy wrote obliquely about the impasse at the national level.
“Arizona may have understandable frustrations with the problems caused by illegal immigration while that process continues, but the state may not pursue policies that undermine federal law,” Kennedy said.
Justice Elena Kagan sat out the case because of her work in the Obama administration.
For more information on Arizona Immigration law, visit Arizona State’s website at az.gov.
Online sales tax is supposed to be charged by companies that have an actual brick and mortar building located in Arizona. What about those that don’t have a physical presence in Arizona.
The issue of whether Amazon.com should be required to collect tax on online sales to Arizonans isn’t going away.
State legislators during their 2012 regular session considered but ultimately shelved proposals to force the Seattle-based online retailer to collect tax on its sales in Arizona.
But the issue is expected to resurface publicly in coming months when a newly appointed state task force considers making recommendations for legislative action on improving Arizona’s sales-tax system.
Gov. Jan Brewer didn’t specify online purchases as a topic for the task force to consider, but a senior Brewer aide who will lead the panel said the issue will be taken up under its charge to recommend ways to simplify the state’s sales-tax system.
“We’re likely to dedicate some significant time and resources to it,” said Michael Hunter, Brewer’s tax policy adviser and her chief legislative lobbyist.
Because of the simplification mandate and brick-and-mortar retailers’ complaints about no-tax competition from Amazon.com, “it’s going to have to come up,” agreed Kevin McCarthy, a task force member and head of a business-backed taxpayer advocacy group.
Meanwhile, the state apparently still has a $53 million tax assessment pending against the online retailer in confidential proceedings.
Arizonans are legally supposed to pay sales tax on purchases of goods bought from retailers that don’t collect tax, but few do.
Amazon contends it doesn’t have to collect sales tax from Arizonans because it doesn’t have a “physical presence,” such as stores, in the state. The company contends its so-called “fulfillment centers” — distribution warehouses that ship goods to customers — don’t count because they’re owned by a subsidiary.
The Arizona Senate on March 8 soundly rejected a bill that would have classified Amazon as an in-state retailer for tax purposes because the subsidiary has facilities in Arizona.
In some other states, fulfillment centers have led to Amazon agreeing to begin collecting sales tax. A recently announced agreement calls for Amazon to collect tax on sales in New Jersey starting next summer, the same time the company plans to begin building two new centers that will be its first in that state.
Michelle Ahlmer, Arizona Retailers Association executive director, said her group will push the task force to recommend that legislators pass a law next year requiring Amazon to collect sales tax by July 2013 at the latest.
“We don’t want a quick glossing over,” Ahlmer said. “There’s no way we can let this stay the way it is.”
Hunter said Brewer’s office didn’t take a yes-or-no position on the 2012 legislation but questioned whether a $53 million assessment against Amazon by the state Department of Revenue could be undermined.
Because the department contends Amazon already must collect tax, the task force needs to consider the impact of changing state law, he said.
It’s too early to discuss what the task force might recommend, Hunter added. “The message I want to deliver is we need to let the process unfold.”
Citing confidentiality requirements regarding taxpayers, Revenue Department spokesman Anthony Forschino declined to comment on the assessment.
Amazon representatives did not immediately respond to inquiries about the assessment. Amazon reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission have disclosed only the assessment’s existence, not a resolution.
In considering the defeated legislation, some Arizona legislators sided with retailers who argued Amazon’s no-tax status jeopardizes thousands of jobs at brick-and-mortar businesses.
One senator who opposed the bill said it could make recruiting businesses difficult if they worry they could be hurt by future changes in tax policy.
Other senators echoed an Amazon lobbyist’s testimony that the legislation would violate the Arizona Constitution’s prohibition on bills targeting specific individuals or companies.
After signing the May 11 order creating the tax force, Brewer said the online sales tax issue “is probably something we need to look into and determine what Arizona can do.” But she said it requires a national solution by the federal government.
“That’s where the buck stops on that issue,” Brewer said.
Find out more about Arizona state tax laws and online sales tax requirements at the State of Arizona Department of Revenue’s website aztaxes.gov.
The Arizona Small Business Association (ASBA), the largest trade association in Arizona representing over 11,000 member businesses, has ramped up its public policy focus over the past few years at the state and federal level to advocate for small businesses throughout Arizona. After surveying its members, ASBA determined the following five areas as its 2012 Legislative Priorities: 1) Taxation, 2) Regulation, 3) Economic Development, 4) Health Care and 5) Education.
“We are committed to stronger representation and increased advocacy for small businesses at the state and federal level to make Arizona more business friendly,” states ASBA CEO Rick Murray. “And because of our size, ASBA has the clout to shape public policy.”
This year, ASBA had 13 priority bills to help support small businesses, six of which were passed and signed by Gov. Jan Brewer. Among them:
Establishes a 13-member Committee to study, make recommendations and propose legislation to revise Arizona’s tax code to reflect the 21st Century economy. This includes both individual and corporate income tax, as well as transaction privilege tax, or sales tax.
Clarifies language on unemployment insurance and essentially increases the amount of time an employer has to file various appeals on unemployment insurance claims.
HB2272 “Public Records Exemption, Research Data”
The exemption from public records laws for certain state university records is expanded to include information or intellectual property that is developed by persons employed by a university. This will protect the private sector’s intellectual property and encourage more research and clinical studies conducted in Arizona.
“Public policy is a priority of ASBA,” says Jerry Bustamante, senior vice president of public policy for ASBA. “We had a very productive legislative session this year with many wins that Arizona businesses are going to benefit from.” Bustamante adds that, while ASBA advocates for small businesses at the state and federal level, it also works with local chambers of commerce throughout Arizona on legislative issues and encourages them to take the lead and be the voice of business in their communities and city hall.
ASBA has a Public Policy Committee of dedicated volunteer members and staff that are charged with conducting research, surveying the membership, developing its legislative priorities, tracking bills and taking action to influence the passage or defeat of bills. In addition, Murray and Bustamante are Lobbyists and the organization maintains a Lobbyist dedicated to attending each day of the legislative session.
For more information on ASBA’s role in public policy and its 2012 legislative priorities and how it helps small businesses, visit asba.com/legislativesummary.
On Tuesday, April 10, Gov. Jan Brewer signed a bill which reforms voting rights and guardianship laws in Arizona. House Bill 2377, sponsored by Representative Eddie Farnsworth (R-Gilbert) now permits the Courts to determine, by clear and convincing evidence, that a person can retain sufficient understanding to exercise their right to vote.
“Previously, under a limited guardianship, persons were completely barred from selecting their political leaders, even when they followed the news and knew who they wanted to vote for,” said Art Gode, board member of the Arizona Center for Disability Law (ACDL). “My son, Clint, is a perfect example, which is why I wanted ACDL to lead the fight to change this law.”
In written testimony to members of the House and Senate, Peri Jude Radecic, executive director of ACDL, said the bill is now consistent with House Bill 2181 that was passed in 2003 which promoted the establishment of limited guardianships.
“At that time, the legislature recognized that there is a range of capacity. In addition, medical advances, along with improvements in assistive technology, now allow many individuals with disabilities to live a nearly independent life,” said Radecic.
“We have always believed that individuals with disabilities, who are under a full or limited guardianship, have the same right to vote in our city, state and federal elections.”
The bill was a collaborative effort between ACDL, The ARC of Arizona and the Office of the Arizona Secretary of State.
The bill becomes law on the “general effective date” which is 90 days after the end of the current state legislative session. The legislature is still in session.
The Copper Club, Inc. has announced their “Copper Persons of the Year”—the men and women of Arizona’s copper mining industry. The Ankh Award will be accepted by Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona, the evening’s keynote speaker, on behalf of the past and present employees of the mining industry. In addition, The Copper Club will honor CODELCO’s Jürgen Leibbrandt, executive vice president, commercial development, also as a recipient of the Ankh Award, for lifetime achievement in recognition of his contributions to the copper industry through the International Copper Association and the promotion of copper throughout the world.
The Copper Club Inc., the leading organization for networking, educational grants and events for those who support the copper industry, will present the awards during their Annual Dinner, on May 16, 2012, at The Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix. This special event is in conjunction with “International Copper Week,” (May 13-19, 2012), a celebration of the copper mining industry, recognizing the 50th anniversary of the Ankh Award, the 50th anniversary of the Copper Development Association and the centennial anniversary of Arizona — the copper state.
The Copper Club’s Chairman, Arthur Miele said, “We are pleased to present the Ankh Award to the Copper Persons of the Year—the men and women of the copper mining industry of the great state of Arizona, on their centennial anniversary, and we are honored to have Governor Brewer to accept it on their behalf.” Further, Miele said, “The Copper Club Board of Directors selected Jürgen Leibbrandt to receive the 2012 Ankh Award for lifetime achievement in recognition of his distinguished and honorable contributions to the copper industry. The Copper Club, on behalf of the global copper industry, extends its sincerest congratulations on this much-deserved award to Mr. Leibbrandt.”
“On this 100th anniversary of our state, I am proud to accept this honor on behalf of the men and women of the Arizona copper mining industry,” said Brewer. “Arizona is copper country. Just as copper mining is a key piece of Arizona’s heritage, I’m confident that – with the hard work of the men and women in this industry – copper will play an important role in Arizona’s prosperous future.”
“It is with deep gratitude to be the recipient of this prestigious award on this very special anniversary year,” said Leibbrandt. “I look forward to accepting the Ankh Award amongst my esteemed colleagues and friends and thank the Copper Club for their on-going support and promotion of our industry.
The Copper Club, Inc. seeks to promote the interest of the copper mining industry by honoring those who have forged pathways in the industry and paving new paths for students working toward careers in the industry. During the Annual Dinner, The Copper Club will also announce the 2012 recipients of their Educational Grants Program, which assists exceptional students in preparing for careers in fields related to maintenance and expansion of the copper industry. Each grant is $10,000, awarded to students who demonstrate academic excellence and financial need.
International Copper Week attendees will be provided with networking, education and business opportunities on a domestic and international scale, from a variety of organizations under one roof. Also during this week, the American Copper Council (ACC) will host “Copper College,” a full educational program consisting of panels, workshops and presentations combined with several recreational and social opportunities. Also during this time, The International Wrought Copper Council (IWCC) will hold their Joint Meeting, inviting all companies to attend that mine, smelt and refine copper as well as all companies that produce semi-fabricated products.
You can find out more about The Copper Club at copperclub.org.
A new Arizona law aims to increase fresh produce donations directly from farmers to food banks and other charities. The Western Growers-sponsored bill signed last night by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer allows farmers to receive tax deductions if they donate some of the crops they produce—literally giving away the fruits of their labor to the hungry. Building on the spirit of giving, the law revises previously complicated rules for the donations in hopes of boosting charitable contributions.
Sponsored by Arizona Sen. Steve Yarbrough (R-Chandler), the new law will apply to all 2012 tax year Arizona grown fresh produce donations.
“I am very pleased and appreciate the action whereby Gov. Brewer signed my Senate Bill 1121. This bill will make farm fresh produce donated to food banks easier to accomplish and will greatly benefit some of the most needy in our society,” said Yarbrough. “I applaud Western Growers for urging this legislation.”
Arizona food banks are also excited about the new law.
“We’re looking for good, solid nutritious food. And fresh produce, you can’t hardly get any better than that,” said Ginny Hildebrand, president & CEO of the Association of Arizona Food Banks. “We’re really excited about the potential of this law. What we know is that these growers and owners of fresh produce products in Arizona have one purpose in mind—that is to feed hungry people. They don’t grow product to see it wasted.”
Analysis from the food bank shows that less than 1 percent of fresh produce grown in Arizona was donated to food banks in past years. Hildebrand hopes the new law will change that. The law makes these fresh produce donations common sense by allowing farmers and others to deduct the wholesale market price of the fresh produce for tax purposes. The law also gets rid of complicated restrictions that entire crops be harvested on behalf of a charity. That means farmers can immediately donate food when they choose.
That’s important for Arizona farmers like Western Growers board member Gary Pasquinelli of Pasquinelli Produce Company, who heard about a similar law developed with help from Western Growers in California. Pasquinelli asked the right question: Why not a similar law in Arizona? Paul Muthart, also of Pasquinelli Produce Company, then provided critical input to make sure the tax deduction would work with businesses tax structures.
Established in 1984, the Association of Arizona Food Banks is a private, non-profit organization serving five-member regional food banks (Community Food Bank, Desert Mission Food Bank, St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance, United Food Bank, Yuma Community Food Bank) and a network of nearly 1,600 food pantries and agencies. As one of the first state associations in the nation and an inaugural partner state association of Feeding America, AAFB was instrumental in the development of a statewide gleaning project, and our advocacy efforts have brought about beneficial state and federal legislation for our member food banks and the people they serve. For more information, to find a food bank or pantry in your area, or to learn more about donation and volunteer opportunities, please visit www.azfoodbanks.org.
Arizona’s State Land Department and Arizona Public Service are working in coordination to build the first-ever solar project on Arizona State Trust lands. Nearly 400 acres in Yuma County will soon be home to the 35-megawatt APS Foothills Solar Plant. The cost to APS for a 35-year lease on the land is $10 million, which will go primarily to help fund Arizona public education.“It is a commitment we share with Governor Brewer, the Arizona Corporation Commission and other key decision makers in Arizona. Together, we have taken another important step toward creating a sustainable energy future for Arizona.”
The unprecedented decision to build this project on State land supports Arizona Governor Janice K. Brewer’s goals to facilitate and encourage renewable energy and economic development in Arizona.
“This collaboration furthers our ongoing efforts to establish Arizona as a global leader in renewable energy,” said Governor Brewer. “The project will bring quality solar jobs to Arizona and dollars to support our state’s public schools – all while utilizing Arizona’s most abundant resource, the sun, to generate clean and renewable energy. It’s the first of many solar projects that will benefit the entire state and cement our status as the ‘Solar King.’ ”
For the past eight months, the State Land Department has done extensive work to identify State Trust land sites suitable for solar development. With these locations in mind, State Land Department Commissioner Maria Baier approached APS about building a solar plant on State Trust land. This led to an independent assessment by APS to determine the most suitable development location for its next solar plant – which yielded the Yuma Foothills project site. The fit was ideal for Arizona and for the company.
The result is APS’s fifth, and largest, AZ Sun project to date. The Foothills Solar Plant will have a capacity of 35 megawatts, or enough to power 8,750 Arizona homes. All the electricity produced from this facility will be used to serve local Yuma residents.
“Through our growing investment in solar energy, we are helping the environment, creating jobs and protecting our customers against potentially volatile fuel prices,” said Don Brandt, APS Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. “It is a commitment we share with Governor Brewer, the Arizona Corporation Commission and other key decision makers in Arizona. Together, we have taken another important step toward creating a sustainable energy future for Arizona.”
Foothills will create more than 100 construction jobs and will break ground in August 2012. The plant is expected to come online in two phases – the first 17 MW will reach commercial operation by March 2013; the remaining 18 MW will reach commercial operation by December 2013. APS has hired Atlanta, Ga.-based AMEC to construct the facility.
The AZ Sun Program was approved by the ACC and enables APS to invest in the development of up to 200 megawatts of solar photovoltaic power plants across Arizona. APS will finance and own the projects, which are being designed and constructed by third-party solar developers, contractors and equipment providers. AZ Sun is good for APS customers because they benefit from the savings of renewable tax credits and utility-operated power plants for the entire useful life of the facilities.
The proceeds from land sales and leases of State Trust lands go to the beneficiaries of the State Land Trust, primarily Arizona Common Schools, supporting grades K-12. The Arizona State Land Department manages 9.3 million acres of Arizona State Trust Land. For more information about the Arizona State Land Department visit www.land.state.az.us or call (602) 542-4621.
OptumRx, a leading pharmacy benefits management (PBM) organization and one of the Optum companies of UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH), said it will create at least 400 new jobs in Tucson over the next 12-18 months.
The announcement was made at a news conference Thursday, attended by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and Stephen J. Hemsley, CEO of UnitedHealth Group, at the company’s new office in the University of Arizona Science and Technology Park.
“We are strengthening the infrastructure of Optum Rx in advance of a major expansion early next year, and we especially appreciate the help and support that comes from the outstanding workers and leaders of Arizona in that effort,” said Larry C. Renfro, executive vice president of UnitedHealth Group and CEO of Optum.
“I am pleased that Optum and UnitedHealth Group recognize Tucson’s high-quality workforce and Arizona’s excellent business climate,” said Gov. Brewer. “The hundreds of jobs Optum will create here over the coming months show that Arizona is a premier destination for the growth of innovative businesses such as Optum. I look forward to a long and successful partnership between Optum and Arizona.”
The new OptumRx office, currently undergoing renovation, is expected to be ready for occupancy by mid-year, with recruiting for the new customer service positions expected to begin no later than the fourth quarter. The company will be hiring for Customer Service Advocates and a variety of positions involving training, workforce management and quality management. The company expects the facility to be fully staffed by the end of next year to help ensure OptumRx is prepared to serve millions of additional UnitedHealthcare employer and individual health plan participants.
“The technology at this facility, along with the commitment and know-how of our employees here, will help us fulfill our mission of making the health care system work better for everybody,” said Dirk McMahon, CEO of OptumRx. “An aging population and more people gaining access to health insurance mean more Americans will be using more prescription drugs, so the importance of our Tucson employees to our business will only increase.”
When hiring begins, people with health care or customer service experience are encouraged to apply for these new jobs.
For more information on OptumRx and their new jobs, visit their website at optum.com.
The Automobile License Plate Collectors Association (ALPCA, Inc.) has overwhelmingly voted that Arizona has the best license plate in the United States. Last year, Arizona introduced a beautiful Centennial plate to honor the 100th anniversary of statehood in 2012. Since 1970, ALPCA recognizes a state with the best license plate design of the year. This year marks the 41st anniversary of the award and the second award for Arizona after winning in 1996 for its general issue plate.
“I am pleased to announce that the Great State of Arizona is this year’s recipient of ALPCA’s Best Plate Award,” said ALPCA President Greg Gibson. “Arizona’s outstanding Centennial plate topped plates from nine other states.” ALPCA members worldwide were asked to vote based on two judging criteria: the overall attractiveness of the license plate design and its legibility as a tool for public safety and law enforcement. “Congratulations to the residents of the Grand Canyon State, Governor Jan Brewer and to the license plate design team in Phoenix,” stated Gibson. ALPCA’s Best Plate Award Coordinator Gus Oliver said “Many of the members commented about the combination of boldness and simplicity of this plate. I knew it had an excellent chance of winning the moment I first saw it.”
“The Centennial license plate commemorates an historic milestone for the State of Arizona. To see our emblem receive national recognition on the heels of our 100th anniversary is both an honor and a glowing source of pride for Arizonans,” said Governor Jan Brewer. “I thank the Arizona Centennial Commission, the Department of Transportation and the Department of Public Safety for advocating and seeing to fruition this very special plate.”
Arizona became our nation’s 48th and last of the contiguous states on February 14, 1912. Beginning in 2011 and continuing throughout 2012, more than 425 events and projects hosted by organizations and communities across Arizona are commemorating 100 years of statehood, telling the stories of the past while envisioning the states next 100 years.
“We are honored to receive this award for a license plate that commemorates our historic Centennial and distinctively represents Arizona,” said Karen Churchard, executive director, Arizona Centennial Commission and 2012 Foundation. “Arizona has one of the best state flags, and we wanted to be sure to incorporate its colors and design into the theme of the Centennial plate.”
Since the Centennial Plate was introduced last fall, thousands of Arizona motorists have bought them. The popular specialty license plate was designed by P.S. Studios of Phoenix and required approval from the Arizona Department of Transportation and Arizona Department of Public Safety.
Ironically, the colorful design of New Mexico’s Centennial Plate won the contest last year. Although Arizona and its neighbor are both celebrating their centennials this year, the contest is based on the year the plate was first introduced, which was 2010 for New Mexico and 2011 for Arizona. Finishing as runner-up and third place to Arizona were new general issue plates from Nebraska and Louisiana, respectively.
A special awards ceremony is being planned in the coming weeks. ALPCA’s President will travel to Arizona to present State officials with award plaques.
On Wednesday, February 22, the Republican party held their primary debate here in Arizona. I ventured out into deep Mesa to cover the debate, but since I couldn’t actually get into the building, I decided to walk around outside the Mesa Arts Center, where a large, outdoor viewing party was being held. There were plenty of journalists there reporting on the debate, so instead of writing a conventional news story, I decided to record a running diary of my time at the event. Pics are at the end of the post.
5:02 pm – Paul supporters out in full force today.
5:12 pm – Political events have the best people watching.
5:16 pm – About 50 percent of the crowd is vocal Ron Paul supporters. So far I have only seen a small number of people #SpreadingSantorum or showing support for the other two candidates.
5:21 pm – There is a large number of protesters here to support the DREAM Act, a legislative proposal that would provide amnesty for illegal immigrants. For the rest of this piece, I will refer to these protestors as “the DREAM Actors.”
5:25 pm – The city of Mesa hired a band to perform on stage before the debate starts. They’re trying really hard, but no one is listening.
5:40 pm –The DREAM Actors are now marching, while chanting “Sí se puede” and “We’re not afraid.” I have a feeling that immigration is going to be a hot topic at tonight’s debate.
5:45 pm – I just came across some demonstrators imploring the candidates to, “Please free Syria.” Sorry bros, maybe if you guys had more oil …
5:41 pm – There are also a small number of people here to support the #Occupy movement. I wonder if they know that Warner Brothers (a major corporation, man!) gets a cut from every single Guy Fawkes mask they buy.
5:51 pm – “Tonight we will get clear and concise answers from the candidates…” HAHAHA! Good one, J.Brew!
5:53 pm – Arizona Republican Party Chairman Tom Morrissey comes up on stage to ask us if we love our country, and then to lead us through the Pledge of Allegiance. But before we begin, he reminds us that there is no pause between the words “one nation” and “under God.” Thanks for the tip, Tom!
5:55 pm – The MC for the outside crowd instructs us to cheer wildly whenever they point the camera at us. “Get up, cheer, jump around, send gang signs… I mean, no, HAHA, don’t do that!” Are you sure you don’t want to see my gang sings, CNN outside party MC? I want to represent my crew. #westside
6:00 pm – “This is CNN.” LET’S DO THIS.
6:01 pm – THIS DEBATE COULD CHANGE EVERYTHING!!!! At least that’s what CNN says could happen. CNN gives all the candidates a pro-wrestling style intro. Ron Paul’s is by far the lamest.
6:01 pm – During the introductions, Newt gets some polite applause; Romney and Santorum get a few cheers from the crowd outside. Paul has the loudest supporters.
6:04 pm – In the first answer of the debate, Rick Santorum says that he would cut Medicaid and food stamps, but not military spending. But hey, don’t criticize him. Rick is a good Christian man, and I’m pretty sure he’s just following what it says to do in the Gospel.
6:11 pm – Right now, Santorum is getting hammered on his voting record. It must be hard to get elected president after spending many years in Congress. Even the smallest and most routine votes can come back to haunt you.
6:12 pm – People outside keep applauding the comments like the candidates can hear them. Inside the Mesa Arts Center, Newt Gingrich has just informed the crowd that today is the 280th birthday of President George Washington. #historian#knowledgeBombs
6:14 pm – Gingrich’s big stumping point for this debate seems to be energy and gas prices; he has already mentioned it a few times. Also, there is a large man in a chicken suit standing right behind me. I don’t know what he wants.
6:16 pm – The chicken man is standing so close I can feel his breath on the back of my neck. #veryuncomfortable
6:17 pm – Ron Paul continues to get the loudest cheers. He tells the audience that we need to stop all foreign aid because it is a waste of money and it helps our enemies. But what about programs like the Peace Corps, or emergency food/medical services? That might make a good follow-up question, John King.
6:21 pm– Romney is bragging about deporting illegal immigrants while he was Governor of Massachusetts. The DREAM Actors protesting outside do not like this. Also, I have to wonder why the moderators allow the crowd inside the Mesa Arts Center to cheer/applaud during the debate. This has happened at every single Republican debate. It makes the candidates to pander to the crowd and it wastes time.
6:37 pm – Wow, a good follow-up question about the managed bankruptcies and the auto industry by John King. See I knew you had it in you! Still, I’m pretty disappointed with the types of questions I’ve been hearing throughout the Republican Primary. <rant> It seems like the reporters/journalists are covering the campaign like it’s a horse race; they’re not concerned with the actual issues. The news media is only searching for buzz-worthy, marketable, thirty-second soundbites; they let the presidential candidates spout of the same talking points, over and over again, unchallenged. No one ever asks the candidates about how that will actually make their plans happen, or speculates about the possible ramifications if the Republicans succeed </rant>.
6:42 pm – We’re still on the topic of the auto bailouts. Ron Paul is insisting that politicians shouldn’t meddle in corporate bankruptcies, because they can’t figure that kind of stuff out. Are politicians stupid? Does that mean we should start electing smarter people?
6:50 pm – All the Republican challengers seem to agree that President Obama has launched a vicious attack on religious freedoms in America (via contraception). Is Obama the next Maximilien Robespierre? #reignofterror
7:03 pm – Santorum and Romney keep blaming each other for causing Obamacare. Santorum says that Obamacare was based on Romney’s state healthcare plan in Massachusetts, while Mitt claims that Obama’s bill never would have passed through Congress if Santorum hadn’t indorsed Senator Arlen Spector (who voted for the bill after he was re-elected). Which Republican presidential candidate do you think deserves the credit for overhauling the American healthcare system?
7:04 pm – The crowd outside lustily boos Maricopa County Sherriff Joe Arpaio when he is introduced during the debate. They must have had a bad experience at tent city or something.
7:13 pm – Newt Gingrich loves Ronald Reagan. He loves Ronald Reagan more than you ever could. He wants you to know that.
7:14 pm – During commercial breaks, the CNN crew keeps asking us to cheer when they put us up on the big screen. Why do they need our cheers so badly? Are they terribly insecure, to the point where they need constant reassurance that they are doing a good job?
7:20 pm –The DREAM Actors and Ron Paul supporters have crowded around the CNN cameras. Their signs are partially obscuring the big screen, which is angering other people in the crowd.
7:26 pm – We are now on the topic of Iran and nuclear weapons. If you listen, you can hear the drums of war beginning to beat. This is getting the Ron Paul supporters and traditional Republicans fired up, but for very different reasons.
7:31 pm – You can tell people are into the debate when they loudly muttering their own personal commentary. It isn’t the least bit annoying. #sarcasm
7:47 pm – During the last commercial break, two men start chanting Romney’s name. No one else joins in and they quickly stop.
7:52 pm – Gingrich and Romney refuse to answer John King’s final question. They instead use the time for a closing argument about why they should be president. When John King tries to protest, Romney slaps him back down #WHO’SYOURDADDY
7:55 pm – It’s over. Time to get out of here.
Final Take: During the debate, new frontrunner Rick Santorum boxed himself in by pointing out that he voted for large bills and packages that he didn’t believe in, such as Title X, which is not popular among the Republican electorate. He portrays himself as a principled Washington outsider, but by admitting and trying to defend the fact that he played the political game, Santorum lost a lot of his credibility. Honesty gets you nowhere in these debates. I expect Mitt Romney will get a boost over the next several days.
Techno party: SciTech Festival will put spotlight on Arizona as a growing power in science and technology
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer says there is no better way to launch the state’s second century than by creating future leaders in industries that Brewer sees as crucial for the state’s economic vitality.
“Arizona is an emerging world leader for advances in aerospace, aviation and defense, semiconductor and electronics information technology, optics, life science, health science, renewable energy and telecommunications,” Brewer says. “Now, we must focus on ushering in the next generation of great scientific and technological leaders and must cultivate the scientific talents of all its students.”
To cultivate and inspire that talent, the Arizona Technology Council Foundation, Arizona State University and the Arizona Science Center have teamed up to create the First Annual Arizona SciTech Festival, a grass roots collaboration of more than 200 organizations in education and industry — including major employers like Microchip, Catholic Healthcare West, Raytheon and Orbital — designed to showcase how science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) could drive the state’s economy over the next 100 years.
“The SciTech Festival will be the perfect way for Arizona to start rebranding itself around science and technology,” says Chuck Vermillion, chief executive officer and founder of Scottsdale-based OneNeck IT Services.
According to Jeremy Babendure, a biomedical scientist and director of the festival, officials expect more than 100,000 people to attend more than 300 festival-related activities that will take place throughout the state over a six-week period.
“I went through the Arizona school system and then went to ASU,” Babendure says. “But when it came time for me to engage in scientific research, I went out of state. This festival will show the next generation of Arizona scientists what is going on their back yard and show them that it is possible to stay in Arizona and engage in meaningful scientific work.”
Festival organizers hope to showcase the state as a national leader in science, technology, and innovation. Activities will include workshops, conversations, debates, exhibitions, concerts, and guided tours for young people and adults.
“The festival will offer a high-profile way for Arizonans to appreciate the rich base of sophisticated research and technology in our state,” says Sethuraman Panchanathan, deputy senior vice president and chief research officer at ASU.
In addition to the three founding partners, sponsors of the SciTech Festival include, Cox, Avnet, SRP, Boeing, the Arizona Commerce Authority, the Flinn Foundation, US Airways, DPR Construction, Maricopa Community Colleges, Creative Engine and the Helios Education Foundation, which committed $50,000 to the festival.
“By supporting the (festival), Helios believes more Arizonans will become aware of the role STEM plays in our economy,” said Dr. Jo Anne Vasquez, vice president and program director, Arizona Transition Years; Teacher and Curriculum Initiatives. “In order for Arizona to be a player in the new global economy, Helios supports educational initiatives that create a college-going culture with an emphasis on academic preparation in STEM education.”
Getting Arizona’s young people interested in science and technology at a young age is one of the primary goals of the SciTech Festival, says Chevy Humphrey, president and CEO of Arizona Science Center.
“The problem we are having now, is that many of the students in Arizona who are interested in the STEM subjects in school, aren’t staying here after they graduate,” Humphrey says. “We need to find a way to get students interested in science and technology at a younger age and figure out a way to keep our talented young people here. Once we do that, we will have a better chance of attracting great minds and great companies to our state.”
Having a solid resource of home-grown talent is a topic often raised by employers looking to move to Arizona, Panchanathan says.
And for companies like Microchip Technology Inc. in Chandler, a leading provider of microcontroller and analog semiconductors, the idea of inspiring students that could become part of a home-grown workforce is one of the benefits that will be derived from the festival for generations to come.
“This is the kind of thing that can start to change the culture and get young people excited about science and engineering,” says Michelle Ragsdale, senior public relations specialist for Microchip, which is participating in three SciTech Festival events. “They will get an opportunity to see how math, science and technology shape our lives. they will have the opportunity mingle with innovators who are making a difference. They will be able to say to themselves, ‘Hey, if I take science, I will be able to do this.’”
Babendure says festival events include a Tech Crawl in Chandler, the “Science of Baseball” in Scottsdale, the “Science of Chocolate” in Glendale, and the “Science of Galileo” as part of the Arizona Renaissance Festival. All of the events, Babendure says, are meant to get Arizona resident excited about science and technology.
“The festival is designed to help the public better understand the strong relationship between the state’s current, outstanding research and technology and the immense potential it offers for Arizona’s future,” said Steven G. Zylstra, president and CEO of the Arizona Technology Council. “State and local leaders … support this initiative as a powerful vehicle for leveraging productive synergy among stakeholders in the scientific, educational, and business communities leading to increased output of future innovators in STEM and resulting in more jobs and increased economic stability.”
Brewer agrees that celebrating science and technology with events like the SciTech Festival is “critical to raising student and public awareness of the impact science and technology have on our lives and to inspire the next generation of scientific leaders.”
One of the events that Microchip is excited to be involved with, Ragsdale says, is the FIRST Robotics Duel in the Desert on Feb. 18. At the duel, FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) high school teams will hold a scrimmage testing out their robots for the upcoming FRC (FIRST Robotics Competition) Arizona Regional. Those that watch the Duel in the Desert will get to meet the teams, talk to the teachers, and see the robots in action.
“Events like this will show young people that you don’t have to be a sports star or TV star to be famous,” Ragsdale says. “It will elevate the excitement about STEM education and open up a new world of opportunities for them.
“But in the bigger picture, the festival will put the focus on Arizona as a location and showing the world that we are paying attention to STEM education,” Ragsdale says. “Hopefully, companies will start to see Arizona not just as a place to come for the great weather, but because we are serious about creating and inspiring the next generation of innovators.”
For more information on the Arizona SciTech Festival and a complete schedule of events, visit azscitechfest.org.
A political appointee with a successful track record in the private sector, Don Cardon has become the face of the new and innovating Arizona Commerce Authority. While Gov. Jan Brewer is chair of the public/private economic development agency and sports mogul Jerry Colangelo serves as co-chair, it is Cardon, as president and CEO, who has his hands on the reins.
Leaders who have gotten to know Cardon better during the process of creating the Arizona Commerce Authority say he keeps his cool at all times, in good days and bad, is respectful of all points of view, is thoughtful, and someone who projects an element of stability for the state of Arizona.
But even more importantly, according to Roy Vallee, outgoing chairman and CEO of Avnet, are Cardon’s financial skills.
“Not only does he have numeric literacy, (he also has an) understanding of financing, how to pull deals together and how to interact with banks and other sources of capital,” Vallee says.
Cardon began his employment with state government in March 2009 as director of the Arizona Department of Housing, and just a couple of months later Brewer appointed him director of the Arizona Department of Commerce, predecessor of the ACA. Before joining the state, Cardon was president and CEO of Cardon Development Group, creating low-income workforce housing projects in Phoenix, Gilbert, Eloy and Winslow, and was the visionary behind the group that helped create CityScape, a mixed-use development in Downtown Phoenix.
Cardon’s stated intention was to see the ACA through its formative stage until a permanent president and CEO could be brought onboard, enabling him to return to the more lucrative private sector. But as the ACA board of directors took shape, comprising the cream of Arizona’s business and community leaders, Cardon was urged by Brewer, Colangelo and board member Michael Manson to remain.
“We sat him down and said you can’t create vision and hope with no structure or follow through,” says Manson, co-founder/executive chairman of Motor Excellence in Flagstaff. “That’s the worst kind of leadership. He realized that was true. We identified him as one of the few people in the state who had the political connections, the Commerce Department background and the business connections to make this work.”
Manson, who has founded several other companies, including PETsMART, says Cardon brings enthusiasm, energy and integrity to the ACA.
“He’s eternally optimistic and politically sensitive,” Manson says. “It takes a unique person to be politically rooted, but business oriented, and to be able to handle all of the political and business entities and very strong personalities it requires. He is truly focused on doing the right things for this organization.”
Indeed, focus is a key word in Cardon’s vocabulary. In guiding the ACA, the focus is attracting and retaining businesses in science and technology, aerospace/defense, renewable energy, and small business/entrepreneurship. He once told an interviewer: “You can’t just kind of throw a line in water and say whatever fish comes along you’ll take, which isn’t to say we won’t respond to any other opportunities. But you have to know what you’re trying to go after.”
At the Commerce Department, economic development was “a shotgun approach,” Cardon says. It was an approach he intends to avoid.
“There was no focus within the department,” he says. “Because of the lack of focus, I don’t believe the Legislature has had a great deal of confidence in our efficiency, our ability to accomplish what we set out to do. It was an agency that has really lost touch with what it’s really supposed to be about.”
Another ACA board member, Mary Peters, president of a consulting group bearing her name, touts Cardon’s private-sector background.
“Don understands what it takes to attract and retain businesses in Arizona,” says Peters, whose resume includes stints as federal highway administrator of the U.S. Department of Transportation in President George W. Bush’s administration from 2006-2009, and director of the Arizona Department of Transportation from 1998 to 2001.
“He knows how to put projects together and how to manage,” Peters says. “That’s the value I see in Don and what he brings in the transition from the Commerce Department, having that continuity. Having spent most of my professional career in the public sector, it’s helpful for me to have someone with that private-sector experience to realize what businesses are looking for. I have a different perspective. I know very well the regulatory side of government. I know what it’s like to work through issues with government agencies so those issues aren’t barriers to companies that would like to come into Arizona.”
When Vallee of Avnet, also on the ACA board, heard about a move to encourage Cardon to accept the top ACA job, even after a search firm had been hired and specs of the job had been outlined, his instant reaction was, “That’s fantastic.”
The reasons: Cardon had a good track record at the Commerce Department and had been intimately involved in the creation of the Commerce Authority.
“He understands the history and the purpose of what we’re trying to accomplish,” Vallee says. “This was a brand new entity, and if we recruit someone who had not been involved in creating it, that person would flounder for a while trying to figure out what the job is all about.”
Because the ACA is a public/private partnership, having a CEO with experience and expertise in both areas is considered a huge benefit.
“He is better able to manage that environment very, very well — better than anyone with one viewpoint or the other,” Vallee says.
Vallee mentions Cardon’s core values, especially integrity.
“We all want someone in that role we can trust,” he says. “People are going to want to do business with someone they can trust, whether it’s investment coming from within state or from outside. As people get to know Don and develop that trust, it’s going to be beneficial to economic development.”
Vallee pauses and adds, “Don is a good man and a good executive, which makes him a really great fit for this job.”
[stextbox id=”grey”]For more information about the Arizona Commerce Authority, visit www.azcommerce.com.[/stextbox]
Mayo Clinic has announced the expansion of its Mayo Medical School in Rochester, Minn., to a new campus in Arizona. The new expansion, in addition to being a symbol of Mayo’s commitment to leadership in patient-centered academic excellence, will allow Mayo to continue redefining the field of medical education.
The new Mayo Medical School – Arizona Campus will include a collaboration with Arizona State University. At this new branch, students will complete a specialized master’s degree in the Science of Health Care Delivery granted by ASU concurrently with their medical degree from Mayo Medical School.
Regarding the new expansion, John Noseworthy, M.D., the president and CEO of Mayo Clinic, says, “This is one of the most important and exciting initiatives we can undertake. For Mayo Clinic, this new branch of Mayo Medical School is firmly aligned with Mayo’s commitment to patient-centered academic excellence and redefining the field of medical education. Together with ASU, we will create the health care workforce of the future.”
ASU President Michael Crow was also excited about the new campus.
“Mayo Medical School is believed to be the first medical school in the U.S. to offer an embedded master’s degree in the science of health care delivery,” Crow says. “ASU is proud to partner with Mayo in this innovative approach to providing future physicians with the complementary competencies needed to deliver high-value care.”
Even Arizona governor Jan Brewer had a few words on the expansion: “This is very good news for all of Arizona. It’s a great example of how Mayo Clinic and ASU are working together to continue to raise Arizona’s profile as a national and international hub for innovation in medical education and health care delivery.”
The new branch of Mayo Medical School will be based on Mayo’s Scottsdale campus in buildings to be remodeled and retrofitted just for it. The campus faculty will be drawn from both Mayo’s instructional resources and experts from ASU, providing a wide range of educational experience.
The specialized Science of Health Care Delivery degree will address the changing needs of 21st century health care delivery, and will include components like social and behavioral determinants of health, health care policy, health economics, management science, biomedical informatics, systems engineering and value principles of health care.
AzHHA and other health care organizations propose an alternative to Gov. Brewer’s Medicaid reform plan, the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System ( AHCCCS )
The economic recession has had an impact on industries across the board and health care in Arizona is no exception. Arizona hospitals have lost more than $700 million in state and federal Medicaid funds since 2008 due to previous payment cuts and freezes and another $530.7 million in cuts is headed to hospitals in fiscal year 2012, bringing the total cuts to $1.3 billion.
On March 15, 2011, Gov. Jan Brewer presented her plan, which includes reforms that will lower costs by an estimated $500 million in the State’s General Fund for the partial first year.
Included in these reforms is a phase-out plan for the Proposition 204 population — a voter-passed initiative that entitles anyone whose annual income is equal to or below the federal poverty level of $11,000 annually for an individual to AHCCCS coverage.
In a statement on the organization’s website, the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association (AZHHA) stated they are “deeply concerned that the budget will damage Arizona’s economy at a time when we are struggling mightily to recover from the recession. The budget authorizes the Arizona Health Care Containment System (AHCCCS) Administration to alter eligibility in a way that could result in 160,000 patients losing their healthcare coverage and financially harm the hospitals and healthcare professionals who will care for them when they become ill or injured.”
The most pertinent matters to AzHHA include: the 5 percent cut in all provider payments; the elimination of the Medical Expense Deduction program for patients with catastrophic illnesses and injuries; elimination of federal emergency services coverage for foreign national patients; and implementation of an inpatient bed day limit.
“Each of these proposals will increase the cost of uncompensated care hospitals provide, part of which will be passed on to patients with private health insurance,” says Laurie Liles, president and CEO of AzHHA.
“When AHCCCS and other government programs stop paying for care or pay hospitals significantly less than the cost of caring for their patients, hospitals must make up these losses elsewhere,” Liles adds. “Some hospitals — particularly those located in small, rural communities that operate on very slim margins and serve a high number of AHCCCS patients — have little ability to shift their costs to commercial plans. For those hospitals, the cumulative effect of the AHCCCS budget cuts will be devastating,”
As CEO of a hospital in a rural community, Tim Barnett of Yavapai Regional Medical Center understands this all too well: “Cutting expenses may seem like a good short-term solution but when those cuts are carefully and thoroughly analyzed, it’s clear that the long-term ramifications are potentially disastrous,” Barnett says. “It is far more prudent to think in terms of identifying additional sources of cash coming into our state for the benefit of all our residents.”
According to Barnett, Yavapai Regional Medical Center will lose at least $14 million annually from the cuts in AHCCCS funding. This amount is more money than the center’s annual net revenue. “We would have to look at very drastic changes in how we serve our community… The cuts would affect our ability to care for everyone, not just AHCCCS patients,” Barnett says.
Jim Dickson, CEO of Copper Queen Community Hospital in Bisbee agrees. “It will have a severe economic impact… They’re downsizing the healthcare system substantially, Arizona is already undeserved and we’re going even lower.”
On average, AHCCCS now pays hospitals less than 70 percent of the costs they sustain caring for Medicaid patients. Weathering the recession has been difficult enough and these additional cuts would force hospitals to cope with losses by delaying construction projects, some staff may experience salary freezes and furloughs, eliminating certain high-cost services, leaving vacant positions unfilled and more.
Though AzHHA supports Governor Brewer’s effort to preserve coverage for the existing Proposition 204 population, their goal is to maintain coverage for even more Arizona residents. AzHHA along with a coalition of Arizona hospitals, Medicaid health plans and skilled nursing facilities has proposed a viable alternative to the proposed reforms — a special health care assessment that would generate $465 million to protect coverage for low-income Arizonans.
“AzHHA believes the special healthcare assessment represents a fiscally responsible alternative to AHCCCS cuts included in the recently enacted state budget and the cuts included in the governor’s Medicaid Reform Plan,” Liles says.
AzHHA’s proposal, developed with the Arizona Association of Health Plans (AzAHP) and the Arizona Health Care Association (AHCA), would be tied to available funds and bring in $465 million annually, which would then generate two federal matching dollars for every one dollar from the assessments. The assessments would also stop reductions in health care provider rates, a component of Gov. Brewer’s proposal.
“Part of the federal match would be used to reimburse providers for the assessment, so there is no pressure to pass the assessment on to commercial insurers, business or patients,” Liles says. “The assessment is a ‘loan’ to the state to bring in additional federal dollars to help cover people enrolled in the Proposition 204 program.”
The federal matching funds would come from federal tax dollars that Arizonans are already paying and the assessment is considered to be a short-term solution through 2013 while the economy recovers. In the meantime, the organization plans to work with policy makers on a long-term plan to streamline Medicaid utilization and improve quality of care. Many of the hospitals that may otherwise be adversely affected by Gov. Brewer’s reforms have a positive outlook on the health care assessment.
“AzHHA’s proposal is definitely a good alternative… The best-case scenario would be for the legislature and the governor to work collaboratively along with AzHHA and its colleagues to implement the best solutions for patients,” Barnett says. Recognizing the economic difficulties Arizona is facing and a shared mission of helping heal the state’s economy is something Barnett hopes will bring both sides to a resolution.
“We’re blessed that we already have that solution developed… AzHHA, nursing homes, Medicaid insurance plans and hospitals throughout Arizona are focused on how we can contribute to the solution and how we can help make Arizona an even better place to live and work,” he says.
AzHHA plans to work with policy makers to ensure that lawmakers reconsider their health care assessment and support this alternative to eliminating health care coverage and provider payment cuts.
AHCCCS Cuts Hurt Arizona’s Economy
The Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS), the state’s Medicaid program, is a shared matching program between the state and federal government. For every $1 the state puts in, the federal government matches it with $2.
A rollback of the Prop. 204 population would result in a loss of nearly $1.5 billion in state and federal funding. The annualized impact is $2.27 billion.
If Arizona chooses to opt-out of the Medicaid program, the state will be removing $7.2 billion in federal money from the economy.
Money spent on healthcare is a long-term investment that pays off. The healthcare sector is vast, and there are many large and small companies in various industries. It is also one of the only areas of the economy that has continued to grow throughout the recession.
AHCCCS Cuts Result in Job Losses
As lawmakers struggle to recover the 300,000 jobs lost during the current recession, cuts to the AHCCCS program undermine these efforts by causing more jobs to be lost.
Arizona currently holds a 9.4% unemployment rate.
Scaling back Prop. 204 will eliminate 13,568 private-sector healthcare jobs and 30,000 jobs across all areas of the private sector, as well as a reduction of $2.5 billion to the gross state product in the first full year of the rollback.
A total elimination of Arizona’s Medicaid program would result in a loss of 159,000 jobs, nearly 82,000 in healthcare alone. The healthcare jobs that will be affected are high quality, high-paying positions such as physicians, physician assistants, nurses, dentists, physical therapists, and behavioral health professionals.
These cuts and resulting job losses then create an access-to-care issue (particularly in rural areas) for all patients when services and the professionals who provide them are no longer available.
AHCCCS Cuts Create a Cost Shift to Arizona’s Businesses
Healthcare providers often respond to reductions in AHCCCS payments by shifting a portion of the cost to private payers and insurance companies, which results in higher premiums for Arizona’s businesses and the privately insured.
This cost shift limits the ability for businesses to grow and prosper.
Sources: The Potential Economic Impact of Withdrawing from Medicaid in Arizona. January 2011. W.P. Carey School of Business, Arizona State University. Arizona Chamber of Commerce
It’s not just about the destination; the journey there is what makes it an unforgettable adventure.
We’ve all heard this before, right? From point A to point B, departure to arrival, and everything in between should be just as exciting and eventful. And never before has this been more true than during my breathtaking and relaxing trip to the Grand Canyon via the Grand Canyon Railway.
You’ll experience a side of Arizona you’ll otherwise never have the opportunity to experience aboard this two-and-a-half hour train ride. Atop plains and dry desert and winding through Ponderosa pine forests, the train’s route cuts through varying landscapes.
Along the way, musical acts and entertainment will stroll from car to car, and you’ll learn about the culture and history of the northern Arizona area. Of course, there are a few surprises, too.
We even have a video below featuring some highlights and sights one will witness while on board the Grand Canyon Railway. And this video inspired us to take things one step further … a video contest.
From now until August 31, 2011, share your vacation, trip and Arizona-based adventure highlights with us in a less-than-2-minute video. And you can use any video recording device, whether it be a cell phone, iPad, Flip, video camera, etc.
It can look like the video below or you can put your own twist on it — whatever you’d like to do. Just be sure to credit yourself in the video and use original or royalty-free images and sound. And, of course, the videos must have been filmed in Arizona.
Record, edit, and upload!
Video Contest Requirements
Time: less than 2 minutes
Content (images, sound, etc.) must be original or royalty free.
Video must be filmed in Arizona and must focus on one attraction/location.
Post the video to YouTube.
Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the link to the video, a paragraph description of the video, as well as your contact information, including your name, email and phone number.
We will call and email if you win.
Thrills, Chills & Trills: The Prizes
The winner is determined based on originality and creativity.