April 26,2019 | TRIADVOCATES
1. Governor signs bill banning texting and driving. On Monday, Gov. Doug Ducey signed HB 2318, outlawing hand-held cellphone use behind the wheel in Arizona. For the signing ceremony, the governor was joined by the family of fallen Salt River Police Officer Clayton Townsend, who was killed by a suspected distracted driver this past January. While the bill bans handheld cellphone use while driving, drivers can use their phones at stoplights and when their vehicle is parked. Drivers are also allowed to use their phones in an emergency. Officers can issue warnings immediately and can write tickets starting in 2021. A first violation would result in a ticket of between $75 and $150. A second violation would be a ticket of up to $250. With the governor’s signature, Arizona becomes the 48th state to ban texting and the 18th state to ban hand-held phone use while driving. Montana and Missouri are now the only states that do not ban texting for anyone driving, though Missouri does for drivers 21 and younger.
2. Tuesday marked the 100th day of the Arizona State Legislature—the milestone that marks what should be the end of the legislative session. The operative word here is “should,” as hitting the 100-day deadline is the exception, rather than the rule, for the Legislature. A more important number, perhaps, is 120—the number of days before the per diem for lawmakers gets slashed by more than two-thirds. As determined in statute, each legislator earns $24,000 a year, plus $35 per day for the first 120 days. After that, it drops to $10 per day for the remainder of the session. But, even with a looming decrease in per diem, there's still no end in sight. After the mad dash to clear deadlines for bill introductions and committee hearings, we’ve hit a lull in activity on the floor. With the focus now entirely on budget discussions, there's still quite a bit of work that needs to be done to get legislation to the finish line, but the timeline for doing so remains unclear. Here’s a summary of measures technically still alive and awaiting action:
- House Bills awaiting Senate Rules: 36
- House Bills awaiting Senate COW: 21
- House Bills awaiting Senate Third Read: 47
- House Bills awaiting Concur or Refuse: 12
- House Bills awaiting Conference Report: 3
- Senate Bills awaiting House Rules: 49
- Senate Bills awaiting House COW: 33
- Senate Bills awaiting House Third Read: 54
- Senate Bills awaiting Concur or Refuse: 3
3. Construction is hot in Arizona. The retail category, which makes up approximately half of total sales tax collections, increased (year-over-year) by 1.1% in March—the slowest growth rate during the last 18 months. Prime contracting tax revenue increased, year-over-year, by 17% in March and is up by 16.2%, year-to-date. This category is currently on track to experience its highest growth rate since FY 2006 when collections increased by more than 20%. The double-digit growth rate in prime contracting tax collections this fiscal year is directly related to the construction industry and the housing sector. Year-over-year, construction employment is up by more than 10% and single-family building permitting is up by more than 12%. Here’s a quick look at the sales tax growth rates compared to the previous year:
4. Hey batter, batter… Earlier this week, the House and Senate took a break from heated legislative deliberations and engaged in some friendly competition for the annual legislative softball game. While the Senate appeared to have the upper hand with its strong fan presence and solid motivational chants – including “We Vote Faster” – they ultimately came up short. The House, considered the underdog after multiple years of losing, took home the trophy with a 15-12 win. Now, let’s hope the Legislature can channel that kind of sportsmanship during budget negotiations—and (quickly) land on a deal that can be celebrated by the masses.
5. The Wayfair issue is receiving renewed attention as legislators shift their focus from bills to the budget. With revenue projections down and the governor holding a firm line on depositing $500 million into the Rainy Day fund, legislators are looking for permanent revenue streams to fund requests that are competing to be included in the FY 2020 budget. If the term “Wayfair” isn’t ringing a bell, here’s a quick refresher: Last year, SCOTUS ruled that states can impose sales on online purchases even if the business doesn’t have a physical presence there. The decision in the case, South Dakota v. Wayfair, reverses a 1992 ruling on Quill Corp. v. North Dakota that said sellers only had to collect state sales taxes if they had a warehouse or office in the state. Long eager to increase remote sales tax collections, Arizona lawmakers are jumping to take advantage of their newfound right to tax remote sales.
Gov. Doug Ducey concluding his remarks at the GOP fundraising dinner on Wednesday, telling the audience that he had another event to get to:
“But I should be OK on time. I’m hitching a ride with Paul Mosley.”
Paul Mosley, a former Arizona lawmaker, attracted national headlines last year after a video captured him bragging to an officer during a traffic stop about driving up to 140 mph on a regular basis. Mosley, who told the officer he doesn't notice the speed because of his vehicle's “nice wheels” and suspension, did not receive a ticket, citing legislative immunity—a provision in the Arizona Constitution that prevents arrest of lawmakers in certain circumstances. The incident prompted the governor to sign an executive order clarifying that law enforcement officers may cite or otherwise penalize lawmakers and other elected officials when they endanger public safety through excessive speeding or other traffic violations.
A “going-home bill” is shorthand for legislation that has been identified by a lawmaker as an issue that must be addressed before adjourning session and going home.
It’s a going-home bill for multiple legislators this year—unless it gets a hearing, they’ve already told leadership they’ll hold out on voting for a budget deal.
This week, the Arizona Department of Transportation named Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport the 2019 Arizona Airport of the Year, making this the third time Gateway has received the award. Last year, the airport served more than 1.5 million passengers and, just last month, had the busiest month on record for passenger activity with a 26% year-over-year increase. Congrats, Gateway! You make being awesome look just plane easy.