End nears for Arizona legislative session following passage of election bill
PHOENIX — The Arizona Legislature’s 2017 session is expected to end Wednesday after a deal ended a two-day battle over the fate of legislation that brought conservative support to a state budget agreement.
The Senate voted 16-12 Tuesday evening for a measure requiring elections on sales tax increases by counties, cities and towns to be put only on November general election year ballots.
A key opponent, Republican Sen. Kate Brophy McGee, negotiated some concessions from legislative leaders to get her support after it became clear the session would be extended until a Republican who supported it returned at the end of the week.
Brophy McGee said she was dragged “kicking and screaming” to the finish line, “unhappy with both a no vote and with a yes vote.”
She said cities need the flexibility to put tax increases on the ballot when revenue is needed because they’re the level of government that provides public safety and critical public services. She said she extracted promises from legislative leaders to have intense consultations on legislation affecting cities and towns.
“I think we can make better decisions. I think the cities and towns are certainly happy to come to the table,” she said on the Senate floor. “And going forward we can take into account unintended consequences in legislation that on its face may seem like a good idea.”
House Speaker J.D. Mesnard had insisted on passage of the bill passed before the Legislature adjourns.
The issue was so important that Senate President Steve Yarbrough said earlier Tuesday that the Legislature may not end its session until Sen. John Kavanagh returned.
That was expected next week, but then leaders worked to get him to fly back Thursday afternoon and planned a late-night session, a plan Brophy McGee’s vote rendered unnecessary.
The legislation might set up a legal battle with some cities which have independence because of their so-called charter status.
The state Supreme Court has ruled that the state’s 19 charter cities, including Phoenix, can choose how to hold their elections. The other 72 cities won’t have that choice.
With the election bill out of the way, remaining issues include the partial restoration of a cut to welfare Gov. Doug Ducey pushed through in 2015.
That measure limited lifetime welfare payments to one year, the shortest in the nation. He has proposing a partial restoration. While Democrats failed to get a complete restoration into the $8.9 billion state budget deal.
Other legislation of interest includes a series of tax credit proposals for businesses, including one designed to help chipmaker Intel.
The House rejected a new amendment on that legislation Tuesday, but Yarbrough said he was working with the governor to get it passed. The new amendment would give even more benefits to Intel by diverting state tax money to help with needed infrastructure, something Yarbrough defended.
“I am hoping we are in a position where enormous capital investment is allowed to also then assist in paying for the infrastructure that supports,” he said.
“I can tell you that $8 or $9 billion in additional capital investment that is going to support thousands of the highest-paying jobs in Arizona in my view is a really good thing.”
One of the other three bills, adding $10 million in tax credits for investors in small companies, passed the senate Monday and awaits a final House vote. One that increases eligibility for a job-creation fund to very small businesses passed the House Tuesday and awaits a final Senate vote.
The most contentious bill, Senate Bill 1212, creates a tax credit for investment in rural communities and appears stalled. The sponsor, Rep. T.J. Shope, said Monday he doesn’t think he has the support of majority Republicans.
The proposal would allow out-of-state companies who generate $50 million in investment capital to get $30 million in tax credits, which they would sell, mainly to insurance companies, to generate cash to repay investors.
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