Tag Archives: Legislature

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Arizona law on picking judges challenged

A lawsuit filed on behalf of members of a state judicial nominating commission challenges a new state law changing how Arizona selects judges for its appellate courts.

The Arizona Republic reports that the lawsuit filed Friday says the law is unconstitutional because it effectively would change part of the Arizona Constitution without submitting a proposed amendment to voters.

The law being challenged increases the minimum number of nominees for each vacancy to five from three, the current constitutional requirement.

The Legislature approved the legislation in April, and Gov. Jan Brewer signed it into law.

Republican Rep. Justin Piece of Mesa sponsored the legislation. He says it is constitutional because the commission still can nominate fewer than five candidates to the governor if there’s a two-thirds vote to do that.

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Arizona lawmakers adopt sales tax overhaul

The Arizona Legislature adopted a major overhaul of the state’s complicated sales tax collection system in the final hours of the session Thursday night after a deal with cities and towns removed a major roadblock.

Municipalities led by the League of Arizona Cities and Towns were able to hold off the overhaul after raising concerns they would lose revenue. Gov. Jan Brewer made the overhaul a priority of the legislative session and made major compromises before the final deal was struck Thursday.

The Senate passed House Bill 2111 unanimously and the House passed it with just one opposing vote.

The overhaul would not impact what ordinary consumers pay at store checkouts. Instead, it will make it easier for businesses that pay a so-called Transaction Privilege Tax. The deal leaves in place a tax on new construction that funds many city projects but eliminates it for companies that do home and other repairs.

Municipalities could still lose revenue, but the compromise gives them better ways to track revenue and clarifies how audits are done, said the sponsor, Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Peoria. The deal that was finally cut Thursday happened after months of impasse.

“The League came to the table and gave us some reasonable language about what they wanted,” Lesko said.

The deal came together as the Legislature pushed out a budget and Brewer’s Medicaid expansion plan and made a rush to finish work and adjourn Thursday night.

The overhaul targets the state’s complex system where businesses are taxed on their revenues, at different rates by different entities, including the cities, counties and the state. The tax on contractors and other business transactions known as the TPT, and the state alone is estimated to collect $3.8 billion of the state’s total revenue of $8.6 billion this budget year. Businesses also were subject to multiple audits and had to file returns in every city, county and town where they operated.

That system will be eliminated, with the state overseeing all those functions.

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An open letter to Phil Mickelson

Dear Phil,

I read your recent comments about the crushing tax burden California has imposed on wage earners like yourself. You said that you might even move out of California. Allow me to suggest Arizona – your former home – as your next home.

Though my time playing golf is usually limited to courses where I try to hit the ball into a miniature windmill, you and I have a lot in common. We’re both left-handers. We’re both Arizona State grads, you with a Bachelor’s, me from the law school. You’re a member of the ASU athletics Hall of Fame. I enjoy watching ASU sports.

More importantly, though, we both understand the impact high taxes have on a state’s economy and its hard working residents. A high-tax environment drives capital and people out of state, which explains why California is currently experiencing an unprecedented exodus of wealth.

It’s apparent you’re not alone in your high-tax sentiments. Even your sometimes rival on the golf course, Tiger Woods, said California’s high-tax environment is why he left the state for Florida.

California’s current top income tax rate of 13.3 percent is a good enough reason to pack up one’s clubs and move on.

Sure, California has sandy beaches and sunshine, but that doesn’t dull the sting of paying out nearly half your income in total taxes. It’s hard to enjoy the ocean when you’re watching your hard earned money float out to sea.

Arizona has sunshine and sand (traps), too. And while California has been pursuing a flawed economic strategy, we’ve been making all the right moves.

Over the past two years, Gov. Jan Brewer and the Legislature have worked hard to make Arizona a state that is known for job growth and creation. They’ve decreased the corporate income tax rate, lowered the tax on business property and equipment, cut taxes on investment income and have made Arizona’s tax code more attractive to businesses selling goods and services outside our borders.  While California was raising its taxes (again), our voters rejected a massive permanent tax hike. We’ve also balanced our budget.

The per-capita income going to taxes in Arizona is just 8.7 percent, compared to the national average of 9.8 percent and California’s burden of 11.8 percent. That leaves more money for vacations to your favorite beaches (including those in California) or for purchasing a Major League Baseball team.

We’ve also cut back on unnecessary regulations, freeing up businesses to expand without the worry of frivolous government interference.  You can’t even go into a Starbucks in California without a Proposition 65 warning of the dangers of coffee.

All of these efforts have resulted in Arizona’s move up the leaderboard.  Arizona received the title of number one state for entrepreneurial activity in 2011 and was ranked a Top-10 state for business in 2012. We also ranked second – just behind North Dakota – for states with the best job-growth forecast.

I’ll put this all in terms you can appreciate:  If Arizona competed in The Masters of economic competitiveness, we’d end up with the coveted green jacket.

Phil, you know better than anyone that you can’t beat the golf here. You’re already a crowd favorite come Waste Management Phoenix Open time. So go pack your clubs and call the movers.

Just don’t take too long. I could really use some tips on my swing.

Sincerely,

Glenn

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. 

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Graffiti offenders’ parents may have to pay up

Phoenix residents want the Arizona Legislature to take new steps to combat graffiti, including some that could yank driver licenses of juvenile offenders and hit the wallets of their parents.

A city task force is proposing legislation that would include mandating full restitution by minors convicted of criminal graffiti damage.

City staff said graffiti has not increased over the past year, but is a consistent problem, the Arizona Republic reported.

Between its own costs and those of major utilities, the city estimates it costs $6 million a year to paint over graffiti, said resident and task force member Ginnie Sumner, a former teacher.

“And police will tell you that graffiti is a gateway to other crimes,” Sumner said. “What we’re interested in doing is helping those who get involved in graffiti learn that there are consequences for their actions.”

Under the restitution proposal, there would be a liability for parents capped at $10,000 if the minor can’t pay.

Also under the proposed legislation, juvenile offenders could have their driver’s license suspended or taken away, and spray paint would need to be locked up in stores.

Under current state law, it is already considered criminal damage to inscribe a message, slogan, sign or symbol on any public or private building, structure or surface, except for the ground, without the owner’s permission.

Penalties vary, ranging from fines and up to four months in jail for damage of $250 or less to fines and up to three years in prison for damage of $10,000 or more. Repeat offenders get tougher penalties.

The Legislature’s 2013 session begins Monday.

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Graffiti offenders' parents may have to pay up

Phoenix residents want the Arizona Legislature to take new steps to combat graffiti, including some that could yank driver licenses of juvenile offenders and hit the wallets of their parents.

A city task force is proposing legislation that would include mandating full restitution by minors convicted of criminal graffiti damage.

City staff said graffiti has not increased over the past year, but is a consistent problem, the Arizona Republic reported.

Between its own costs and those of major utilities, the city estimates it costs $6 million a year to paint over graffiti, said resident and task force member Ginnie Sumner, a former teacher.

“And police will tell you that graffiti is a gateway to other crimes,” Sumner said. “What we’re interested in doing is helping those who get involved in graffiti learn that there are consequences for their actions.”

Under the restitution proposal, there would be a liability for parents capped at $10,000 if the minor can’t pay.

Also under the proposed legislation, juvenile offenders could have their driver’s license suspended or taken away, and spray paint would need to be locked up in stores.

Under current state law, it is already considered criminal damage to inscribe a message, slogan, sign or symbol on any public or private building, structure or surface, except for the ground, without the owner’s permission.

Penalties vary, ranging from fines and up to four months in jail for damage of $250 or less to fines and up to three years in prison for damage of $10,000 or more. Repeat offenders get tougher penalties.

The Legislature’s 2013 session begins Monday.

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Morrissey won’t seek 2nd term as GOP chairman

Tom Morrissey has announced that he won’t seek a second term as chairman of the Arizona Republican Party.

He says his decision is due to upcoming knee surgeries that will likely require a lengthy recovery period.

Morrissey’s term will end when the party’s State Committee meets Jan. 26 and elects the chairman, secretary and treasurer.

In a statement issued Wednesday, Morrissey says he expects to be “fully involved in continuing to help conservative candidates for office” after his recovery is complete.

Morrissey says he’s proud of the numerous things the GOP has accomplished under his leadership.

He says that for the first time in Arizona’s history, Republicans hold all statewide offices and majorities in the Legislature.

sales.tax

Governor’s task force making right moves on sales tax

One of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s top legislative priorities for 2013 is to simplify our state’s sales tax system.  Our sales tax is so complicated that you might be surprised to learn that Arizona does not technically have a sales tax. Rather, we have a transaction privilege tax (TPT), something that requires certain merchants to pay for the “privilege” of selling taxable items and a use tax, which is aimed at consumers who purchase certain goods to pay.

Thanks to the leadership of Gov. Jan Brewer and the state Legislature, we have made tremendous progress in tax reform over the past two years. Our corporate income tax rates, capital gains tax rates, business equipment and property assessments are all being reduced to put the state in a better competitive position and to win back the jobs we lost in the Great Recession.

But when it comes to the TPT and use tax, the state is out of kilter. After the expiration of the temporary one-cent sales tax in June 2013, our overall sales tax burden (state and local) will be among the 15-highest in the country. However, perhaps even more problematic than the tax rate will be the incredible complexity of the system, which places substantial administrative burdens on companies – particularly small businesses – and also leads both to willful and inadvertent tax avoidance.

Gov. Brewer on May 11 wisely issued an Executive Order establishing the Transaction Privilege Tax Simplification Task Force, premised on the following three points:

> Arizona has one of the most complex sales tax systems in the country;
> Taxpayers have expressed a clear desire to see reforms enacted that will modernize and simplify the TPT; and
> It is in the interest of taxpayers and state and local governments to make the tax code easier to understand, comply with and administer.

Lead by one of the state’s smartest and savviest tax and policy experts, the governor’s director of policy, Michael Hunter, the task force recently released a draft report. The report, which in an easy to digest 22-page document captures the group’s 17 meetings conducted over a five-month period.  The key recommendations:

State law should allow only a single audit, in accordance with existing statutory schedules, including a multi-jurisdictional audit if applicable.
The current tax structure for contracting activity is a mess and should be transitioned to a tax on materials at the point of sale, which if done properly should ease compliance and increase the overall pot of tax dollars available to local communities.
The State Legislature should act to ensure that Arizona is well-positioned to benefit from the taxation of online retail and remote sales.
The state, cities and towns should standardize TPT licensing
When fully implemented, the online portal required by legislation authored by Rep. Rick Gray (HB 2466) should be expanded to issue all TPT licenses and allow for all TPT tax returns to be filed through the portal.

These are all sound, commonsense ideas. While there is much work to be done to implement all of these recommendations, it is exciting that we have taken the first step to simplify a tax system so complicated that few Arizonans even know what it’s called.

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/

Public Policy, AZ Business Magazine Oct/Nov 2006

Greater Phoenix Chamber Of Commerce Outlines Its Most Pressing Public Policy Efforts

Public Policy in Focus

Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce outlines its most pressing public policy efforts

 

Virtually any group that has experienced the give-and-take of supporting or opposing legislation at the state Capitol is aware of the truism—half a loaf is better than no loaf at all. Indeed, that’s how the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce views the 2006 regular session of the Arizona Legislature. And for those who didn’t get everything they wanted, there’s always next year.

Public Policy in FocusTodd Sanders, vice president of public affairs for the chamber, sees the organization’s public policy efforts as challenges, not necessarily hits or misses. One of the chamber’s biggest challenges, Sanders says, was and still is the issue of employer sanctions in connection with the growing problem of illegal immigration.

“We believe employer sanctions are necessary,” he says. “But in drafting legislation, it was difficult to put something together that was tough, but fair to employers, something that businesses can implement. There is a federal requirement that we check IDs, but the way the bill was conceived, even if we do that and find someone who is illegal, we could still be subject to sanctions.”

The Greater Phoenix Chamber and other stakeholders representing restaurants, homebuilders, small businesses, the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry and other chambers of commerce worked with legislators trying to craft an acceptable bill. What was drafted was combined into an omnibus bill dealing with illegal immigration that Gov. Janet Napolitano vetoed.

The chamber was silent on other parts of the bill, including border security, but Sanders says, “We were in favor of employer sanctions. It was drafted in such a way that it was tough, but our members could still implement it.”

One of the biggest obstacles is that federal law requires employers to check IDs, including Social Security cards and driver’s licenses, but those are easily forged, Sanders says. “Business owners are trying to make money,” he says. “They’re not ID experts or document experts. It’s one of the issues we’ll be looking at in the next session. There is a misperception that we were against employer sanctions, which we were not.”

Regarding border security—a hot topic in the general election—Sanders says, “We need to get this done at the federal level. Fixing it at the state level is very dicey at best.”

Another issue and a top priority for the chamber was property tax cuts. “It was quite a process, a lot of give and take,” he says. “The governor wanted a rebate and we wanted a tax cut. We got the cut. Actually, it’s a suspension for three years, so we’ll probably want to go in again for a permanent elimination of that tax. It was our biggest win, given the valuation increases, to protect taxpayers from massive tax bills in the future.”

Elimination of the property tax doesn’t affect the counties, because programs formerly financed by the tax will receive money from the state’s General Fund, Sanders says.

He recalls the big push at the Legislature for eminent domain reform, which the governor vetoed, and the possibility of such an initiative getting on the November ballot. In her veto message, Napolitano has said the bill would have ended existing slum clearance and redevelopment areas and inappropriately restricted the ability of cities to deal with slums and urban blight. “As a chamber, we favor strong private property rights protection,” Sanders says. “We want to make sure it’s balanced. Protection is very important to us.”

AZ Business Magazine October / November 2006The chamber chose not to weigh in on funding for all-day kindergarten and teachers’ raises. “We have supported all-day kindergarten, but with a full phase-in over time,” Sanders says. The chamber was active in efforts to establish and fund the 21st Century Fund. The money is to be used to build and strengthen medical, scientific and engineering research programs and infrastructure, with a non-profit corporation expected to provide matching funds. “We wanted $100 million, and they came in at $35 million,” Sanders says.

Regarding a constitutional proposal to establish a state minimum wage of $5.95 an hour effective July 1, 2007, to be raised to $6.75 an hour on July 1, 2008, and thereafter adjusted for inflation each year, Sanders says, “It’s a safe bet we will be opposed to that measure. We generally oppose those mandates, when government mandates what to pay someone. It’s got a built-in yearly inflator, and that’s where the real pushback will come. In good times, like now, it’s different and maybe business could absorb it, but in bad times it becomes problematic.”

www.phoenixchamber.com

Arizona Business Magazine Oct/Nov 2006