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Updated Feb 19, 2014 - 3:17 pm

House Committee passes bill that funds big events

PHOENIX — Arizona legislators have approved a bill that would require the
state to reimburse the city of Glendale for some of its public safety expenses
following next year’s Super Bowl.

House Bill 2547, sponsored by House Majority Leader David Gowan, R-Sierra
Vista, would require the state to reimburse Arizona cities for up to $2 million
of public safety costs for hosting major events. The 2015 Super Bowl will be
played in the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale.

Glendale officials say threats to safety such as the Boston Marathon bombings
last year have significantly increased the cost of security at major events.

The House committee on public safety approved the bill 6-1 on Wednesday, but
not before reducing the amount the state would pay by half.

Rep. Justin Pierce, R-Mesa, amended the bill to lower the maximum amount the
state could pay from $4 million to $2 million.

“Without the amendment I wasn’t comfortable putting this forward,” Pierce
said. “Two million probably won’t be enough but I felt like I didn’t want this
to get out of control.”

Glendale Mayor Jerry Weiers said the city is not in the financial position to
pay for those expenses, which are estimated to cost $3.2 million next year.
Glendale spent about $2.3 million on public safety for the 2008 Super Bowl.

“Our city right now, we’re going to spend a lot more money than we’ll ever get
back,” Weiers said. “Is it a perfect bill for me? No. But it’s a whole lot
better than nothing.”

The bill applies to major events that have at least 14,000 attendees and are
broadcast on live TV. The host city must also be selected through a competitive
process by a selection organization or committee.

Brent Stoddard, the director of intergovernmental programs for Glendale, said
tragedies at major events like the Boston Marathon bombings last year have
resulted in a need for increased security and therefore increased costs.

But Republican Rep. Eddie Farnsworth of Gilbert, who cast the only dissenting
vote, said there wasn’t enough evidence to prove Glendale could not afford to
pay for public safety costs.

“We’re talking about many major events that only have to have 14,000 people in
attendance. That’s a fairly low bar. We’re talking about a complete change in
public policy to deal with any event where there’s a bidding process. I see the
state getting involved in a system that may not be what we want to get involved
in,” Farnsworth said.

A Surprise resident has started a petition against the bill. The online
petition created by Earl Clarke has more than 700 signatures. He says the bill
is unfair to non-Glendale residents.

Stoddard said the event benefits all of Arizona, not just Glendale.

“This is a statewide event. This isn’t Glendale’s local Chocolate Affaire,”
Stoddard said, referring to the city’s annual chocolate festival, which draws
about 80,000 attendees.

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