After 117 days, lawmakers wrapped up their 2016 work in the early morning hours of May 7, concluding a legislative session featuring several wins for the business community and economy overall.
Here are a few items that our tireless public affairs team, guided by our issue committees and led by VP of Public Affairs Mike Huckins, worked hard to support or defeat on behalf of our member businesses.
State lawmakers’ and Gov. Doug Ducey’s restoration of funding for joint technical education districts (JTEDs) earlier this year was a major win for the business community, as these institutions specifically train students to become the workforce needed by our members.
Lawmakers further signaled their dedication to bolstering the state’s entire education ecosystem, by allocating an additional $32 million total to universities this year after cutting nearly $100 million in last year’s budget. This funding is a step in the right direction toward full adoption of the Arizona Board of Regents’ new funding model, which is supported by the state’s universities, including ASU President Dr. Michael Crow. This support is a critical piece to us growing our economy.
The Chamber along with more than 20 medical organizations and first sponsor Rep. Heather Carter helped enact HB2502 this year. The medical licensure compact, which is supported by 31 state medical and osteopathic boards, establishes a comprehensive, streamlined process allowing physicians to become licensed in multiple states. This common-sense law also increases the physician pipeline to our state.
By developing a new, expedited pathway to licensure for qualified physicians, HB2502 also increases access to health care for patients in underserved or rural areas and allows patients to more easily connect with medical experts through telemedicine. The bill does not change Arizona’s existing medical practice requirements or impede disciplinary actions made by the Arizona Medical Board.
Our lawmakers continued their forward-thinking bent this year with passing the pension reform bill, which became Prop. 124, for which we also encourage as YES vote on today’s (May 17) ballot. The bill makes several sorely needed changes to the state’s woefully underfunded pension system (PSPRS). The widely supported measure came about as a compromise between lawmakers and unions representing both firefighters and police officers.
Thanks is also in order to the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Arizona School Boards Association, Arizona State Board of Education, Mesa Public Schools and many others that united to defeat a bill that would have allowed parents to opt their children out of taking a statewide assessment. A statewide education assessment is a very logical, critical instrument used to implement and measure high standards within our schools. These assessments, along with other indicators, are critical measures for school accountability and performance. We oppose any efforts to reduce educational accountability.
One proposal that brought out fierce supporters and opponents was SB1516, which made wholesale changes to the statute covering campaign expenditures and contributions. I count the passage of this bill as a success in that it streamlines chapters upon chapters of campaign finance laws while simultaneously protecting the business community’s ability to participate in elections and putting the brakes on fly-by-night operations.
Rounding out this year’s education funding is Proposition 123, which is fully supported by this Chamber and several other organizations and is up for voter approval today (May 17). Please find your nearest polling place and vote YES on this measure, as it is a thoughtful solution to a vexing issue. Ultimately, our kids, teachers and economy benefit from the well-funded education system enabled by immediately flowing money from Prop. 123. We will tout it as a point of pride for Arizona and as an attractor for businesses.
Our public affairs team at the Chamber spends each day at the Capitol during session fighting for policies that are most beneficial to our member businesses and working with lawmakers to grow the economy.
We thank our elected officials for their service to the businesses and residents of our great state.