Arizona has always been a leader in water planning, and in many respects is decades ahead of our neighboring states in water management. For example, California would be Exhibit A on how NOT to manage your water resources.

A major reason that Arizona is so effective at water management is our requirement that landowners in Active Management Areas (AMAs) prove they have a 100 year water supply to the Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) prior to developing the property. These well crafted stipulations have been in place for decades, are state managed and enforced, and have received little to no federal interference. Until now.

The Federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has decided to file a lawsuit in Sierra Vista, a medium sized town in Southern Arizona, declaring that a subdivision that both ADWR and the town approved “may” jeopardize BLM’s claim for groundwater in the area.  This is despite the fact that BLM currently has no legal right to the water—they are making a claim to water in a yet to be decided water adjudication settlement.  An administrative law judge has already ruled against the federal agency.

None of this matters to the BLM, since the real goal is to get the courts to redefine Arizona water laws and allow the federal government to take control of our state’s water resources and water management. It is also why radical environmental groups like the Center of Biological Diversity are assisting BLM to stake claim to our water.

This power play needs to be stopped, and is why Governor Ducey should sign Senate Bill 1268. The legislation would modify Arizona’s water laws to protect state oversight of our water resources and block BLM’s radical lawsuit from moving forward.  It would also ensure that local jurisdiction still have oversight on development and planning in their area.

SB 1268 is a reasonable response to federal overreach and prevents BLM from taking Arizona’s water. The Free Enterprise Club urges support for this common sense measure.

The Free Enterprise Club consistently opposes legislation that provides special tax breaks for targeted businesses.  This session’s “special unicorn” is SB1402, informally known as the Grand Canyon University bill (GCU).

SB1402 would create a property tax carve out for nationally accredited institutions of higher education to be reclassified as a class six property, taxed at 5 percent of full cash value.  Namely, this would benefit Grand Canyon University, the main proponents behind the bill, and a handful of other private educational entities.

Though understandably lawmakers wish to help Grand Canyon University grow and thrive, this is the wrong approach.  Individual tax carve outs unfairly redistribute tax liabilities on other tax payers, and discourage improvements to the system as a whole.  In fact, the state’s impact alone is estimated at $2.6 million which goes to back filling K-12 funding and does not take into account every district’s cost that has a higher education institution.   There is no way to provide targeted property tax relief to GCU, University of Phoenix and other institutions without shifting those costs to every other tax payer.

Inevitably every session a new business comes along which lawmakers claim is unlike any other.  They insist that this business is so unique and provides such monumental benefits that they should have particular exemptions not granted uniformly across the field.  But this is poor public policy.  Every business in the eyes of government should be treated equally and fairly.  That is where lawmakers should spend their time and energy if they truly wish to help GCU, improving the exorbitant and disparate burden of commercial property taxes on all businesses.

Arizona’s public records laws are some of the best in the country for open and transparent government.  SB 1282 dilutes those laws, and hinders the public’s ability to access public records to which they are entitled.

Unfortunately, this bill is headed to the House floor for a vote.  It should be stopped.    

SB1282 allows the government to deny the public access to records they deem “unduly burdensome or harassing.”  This is overly broad and gives all the discretion to the government.  Nothing in this bill stops a records custodian from using this definition to justify a denial of any public records for any reason at all including work flow issues or other factors.    The only recourse for a citizen who may disagree with the burdensome or harassing claim is to take to the courts.  This of course puts a huge burden on the citizen and is yet another obstruction to their right to the access of public records.

SB1282 is unnecessary.  The law already allows for the government grounds to deny disclosure of public records in three areas:

  • The record is confidential by statute
  • The record involves the privacy interest of persons
  • Disclosure would be detrimental to the “best interests of the State”
This last standard has been tested by the courts – in some cases requests that are overly harassing or burdensome have been denied on the grounds that it is in the best interest of the state to do so.  It does require the government to show some harm to their agency in order to invoke it, which is proper.
In sum, this bill is anti-transparency, anti-open government, and unnecessary.  We urge you to contact your legislators and let them know they should VOTE NO on SB1282.

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The Arizona Free Enterprise Club is a free market policy and lobbying group dedicated to promoting a strong and vibrant Arizona economy.