Rep. J.D. Mesnard will begin his fourth term in the Arizona House of Representatives in January 2017 in a unique fashion, as the most powerful lawmaker in the Chamber. With the House speaker’s gavel comes great influence over the entire legislative process, including the ability to improve how the Chamber operates.
Mesnard intends to be an inclusive leader, considering the opinions and desires of his caucus while bringing efficiency to the House’s business. Mesnard shared his approach to leading and the issues lawmakers may face early in the 2017 session with business leaders during the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce Public Affairs Committee meeting on Dec. 9.
Mesnard, a Republican who worked as a policy adviser in the Arizona Senate for eight years before being elected to represent Legislative District 17 in 2010, has a thought or three about how the Legislature should function. As speaker, he can now institute those reforms.
“I’m excited to be the speaker of the House,” Mesnard said. “Efficiency and speed will be a theme for me. I’ve already instituted a time clock on voting.”
He said he has preliminarily discussed these process changes with some of his Democratic colleagues. He expects they’ll be receptive to the updates, adding that they’re all aimed at “wasting less time” and “making floor (debates) be a more efficient use of our time.”
Mesnard also shared the issues he thinks lawmakers will be addressing early in 2017. He noted that these are issues he believes lawmakers will be discussing early on, but he hasn’t developed official positions on them or discussed them with his GOP caucus yet.
Determining the ramifications of the Arizona Supreme Court’s November ruling that will result in refunds to those participating in the Public Safety Pension Retirement System (PSPRS) to the tune of $220 million will likely be a hot topic, Mesnard said, largely because local municipalities will likely be forced to cover the costs. The law that the court ruled unconstitutional was passed in 2011 to improve the financial health of the underperforming system.
Also likely to be on legislators’ radars are the effects of the recently passed Proposition 206, raising Arizona’s minimum wage and mandating sick time.
He also thinks lawmakers will have the Arizona Coyotes on their minds, as the club prepares to relocate from Glendale to a new site near the Arizona State University main campus in Tempe. The club proposes to cover half of the $400 million price for the new arena with taxpayers covering the rest. Such a deal would require the establishment of a special taxing district and legislative approval.
He also expects focus on more traditional public policy issues including education funding and school facilities construction and maintenance, specifically.
Mesnard closed by reassuring the business leaders in the room that he is dedicated to advancing pro-business policies, which is not surprising, since he was one of 50 Chamber-endorsed candidates that won election or reelection to the Legislature this year.
“I look forward to the session ahead and working with you guys in advancing policies that are good for the business community, good for the economy and creating jobs for Arizona,” Mesnard said.
– Written by Josh Coddington, marketing and communications manager, Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce.