I have been actively following the Arizona Legislature for about a dozen years now, and during each session there is always a theme or a polarizing issue that just seems to capture attention and monopolize headlines. When times were good and revenues exceeded budgeted projections, "feel good” public programs were introduced or expanded. When state revenues began to tank and budgets got tight, the focus turned to cutting programs, sweeping funds and raiding the state’s emergency rainy day fund. Topping them all in recent years has been immigration and the passage of SB 1070 in 2010 that is still catching headlines.
This year was supposed to be a "lame duck” legislative session. It is an election year and not just any election year but a presidential election year when voter turnout is usually higher. Legislators wanting to return to office were expected to play it safe, complete their business and end the session as quickly as possible so they can hit the campaign trail.
There might be some truth to this, but, from my vantage point, Arizona’s business community enjoyed some much-needed wins during this session of the Legislature, making it anything but a "lame duck” year.
This year’s session will most likely be remembered for the headlines that revolved around guns, contraceptives and scandals. Beyond that, Arizona’s business community enjoyed some much-needed wins that might have flown under the radar because House Ethics Committee hearings were more interesting to the news media.
Still though, some of the bills that will become laws are positive steps forward on such things as tort reform, taxation and easing of regulations, even if they aren’t grand slam news stories.
The Arizona Small Business Association (ASBA) is pleased that a number of our priority bills were passed and signed by Gov. Jan Brewer. Among them:
• HB 2123 that will establish a 13-member Transaction Privilege Tax Reform Committee to study and make recommendations regarding the collection of revenues to the general fund. This includes both individual and corporate income tax, as well as the transaction privilege tax, or sales tax.
• HB 2150 clarifies language on unemployment insurance and essentially increases the amount of time an employer has to file various appeals on unemployment insurance claims.
• HB 2272 will exempt private companies and individuals from public records laws when working with Arizona’s public universities. This will protect the private sector’s intellectual property and encourage more research and clinical studies conducted in our state.
These are just a few pro-business bills that will become law as a result of this year’s legislative session.
These wins may not be as attention-grabbing as guns in public places, but they are good public policy that will contribute to improving Arizona’s business environment.
ASBA is committed to advocating for good public policy at the state and federal level and will continue to partner with other business groups with similar goals.
Jerry Bustamante is senior vice president of public policy and oversees the Southern Arizona office of the Arizona Small Business Association, 4811 E. Grant Road, Suite 262, in Crossroads Festival, phone (520) 327-0222.
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