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Every year around 1,200 bills are introduced at the state legislature, of which about 300 will make it into Arizona law. With so many bills floating about, voters usually only hear about the ones moving through the process or that receive special attention from the media.

If a bill never gets a hearing or is not covered by reporters, it can die a quiet death. Which is a shame, especially since some bills are so awful that they deserve special attention so that voters know exactly how extreme and radical some lawmakers really are.

Here at the Club we believe it is important that politicians should not be able to hide from their bad ideas. So here is our list of the most outrageous bills proposed at the legislature this year:

Let’s be like Vermont

HB2392, sponsored by Representative Kirsten Engel (D), would adopt Vermont’s standard of appliance and equipment energy standards.  Everything from compressors to lamps to portable air conditioners would fall under the mandate.  Even more absurd, it also requires the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality to revise these statutory requirements based upon any changes in Vermont’s code in the future.  Essentially, energy equipment standards for our A/C units would be set by Vermont lawmakers where the average high temperature in August is 76 degrees.

War on Birthday Parties

HB2664, sponsored by Representative Mitzi Epstein (D) would prohibit anyone from releasing balloons “for any reason, including as part of an event or promotional activity.” Violating the balloon ban would result in a fine up to $500 and require the offending individual to sign a shame letter acknowledging the potential environmental impacts caused by releasing balloons.  There is no age limit in the bill, so little Johnny may pay a price if he gets too careless at his birthday party. But don’t worry, the balloon ban does not apply to the government; they will still be able to release as many balloons as they want.

Put Down That Straw Before Someone Gets Hurt

SB1447 was introduced by Senator Juan Mendez (D) and prohibits a business from offering a customer “single use straws, cutlery, plates or drink stirrers” unless the customer specifically asks for them.  To erode freedom even more, the bill requires citizens to specifically ask for plastic bags for their grocery or retail items AND requires the business to charge them five cents per bag.  You just can’t make this stuff up.

Let’s Hide the Fact That it’s a Tax Increase

HB2304, sponsored by Representative Michelle Udall (R), attempts to manipulate voters into voting for school district overrides by changing the ballot language to say “local support, yes” from the current language of “budget increase, yes.”  Apparently, voters are too savvy and understand that “budget increase” is code for higher property taxes.

Scoring Cheap Political Points

SB1199 (Juan Mendez-D) requires any candidate running for president to submit their state and federal tax returns from the last five years to the Secretary of State to qualify for the ballot.  In fairness, this is an idea the Club could get behind if it applied to ALL elected officials and every employee at the IRS and Arizona Department of Revenue. If we want more tax scrutiny, let’s target it at the people writing and enforcing our tax laws.

Don’t Even Think About Leaving Arizona

HB2530 (Richard Andrade-D) would require call centers to notify the state at least 120 days before their intention to move out of state or country. Failure to do so could result in fines up to $10,000 a day.  The fact that labor unions are backing the bill indicates that they would like a “heads up” in order to mobilize if a business does declare their intention to move. It also may be a way to claw back subsidies given to call centers to locate in Arizona, but that is unclear. Either way, if HB 2530 went into effect Arizona wouldn’t probably have to worry about businesses leaving the state but whether they would locate here at all.

An interesting paradox has developed at the legislature this year. Even though state policymakers are sitting on record tax revenues and a robust Arizona economy, they seem more obsessed with tax increases than ever before.

So far this session there are efforts by Republicans to increase the sales tax by $600 million, raise the gas tax by $750 million, increase income taxes by $200 million, impose taxes on most internet transactions at a cost of over $250 million, retain the $190 Million VLT registration fee and allow political subdivisions to increase sales taxes at the local level. All together it would amount to over $2 billion in tax hikes, a mind-blowing amount that would dwarf any previous tax increase enacted in the State.

The arguments in favor of each of these tax hikes vary, but most surround the topic of additional funding for K-12 schools. This sentiment was understandable. As Arizona stumbled through eight years of job killing policies under the Obama Administration, there was mounting pressure to find new funding sources for education to address the state’s anemic revenue growth.

Fortunately, this is no longer the case. Between the change in administrations in Washington and a consistent focus on pro-growth policies here at home, our economy has taken off. Arizona now has the 3rd fastest growing economy in the country. People are once again flocking to the state, and the Arizona Office of Economic Opportunity projects that 165,000 new jobs will be created by 2020.

This has created a gusher in new tax revenue, most of which is going to K-12. Lawmakers are in the process of funding Governor Ducey’s ‘20by20’ teacher pay plan and restoring District Additional Assistance, which combined will add over $1 Billion in new dollars for public schools by next year.
When fully implemented this will be the largest increase in K-12 funding in state history, and will push per pupil funding so high that lawmakers will be forced to override the education spending limit in the Arizona constitution. This is only the 2nd time in 40 years that such an override vote will be required, a fact that should please everyone that has worried that not enough emphasis has been placed on education funding at the legislature.

And here is the best news yet—even after this large infusion of cash into the classroom, Arizona will still have a projected $1 Billion dollar surplus for FY 2020. It proves that the problem was the need for more taxpayers, not tax hikes.

Yet our political class appears ready to go all-in on job crushing tax increases that will derail Arizona’s economic recovery. While this may excite states like Texas looking to poach our entrepreneurs and job creators, it is bad news for everyone else that wants to keep prosperity here in the state.

Lawmakers instead should be looking to embrace our success, maintain the course and continue to pursue pro-growth ideas that work. Now is not the time to surrender to policies or politics that will move Arizona in the wrong direction.

Lawmakers in New Mexico are in a self-imposed quandary. They’ve adopted a lucrative tax credit program for the film industry they simply can’t afford yet can’t walk away from.

The Enchantment State dolls out 25-30 percent rebates for production related expenses up to $50 Million a year. This spending cap is one of the only mechanisms of restrain in the program which is financed straight out of the state’s general fund.

Pressure to uncap the program has mounted due to New Mexico owing $380 Million in backlogged credits. If these trends continue – this debt will grow to $700 Million by 2023 – and a film claiming a credit, then wouldn’t be reimbursed for up to 14 years.

Now Governor Lujan Grisham and lawmakers want to make a one-time payment to clear this backlog as well as remove the annual spending cap so they can have the ability to throw unlimited chum in the water to lure Hollywood sharks.

Only two other states in the country have uncapped their film subsidy programs: Illinois and Georgia. The irony of Georgia’s unconditional love for Hollywood is manifold. The state’s program is rife with abuse. Warner Brothers defrauded the state by charging them $600,000 for an airplane never used in the movie “Sully.” And yet this didn’t stop an award-winning display of hypocrisy when Hollywood stars called for a boycott of Georgia when a Republican Governor was elected. For a state that calls themselves “Y’allywood,” they were harshly reminded that despite spending $200 Million a year on extra caviar money for film stars, when it comes to the real insider VIP party, they’re not on the list.

States are tripping over themselves to throw money at the rich and famous for an industry whose loyalty cannot be bought. They will happily continue to jet-set around the world anywhere the highest-bidding government will pay them for honor of their appearance. The political ridicule they throw in for free.
New Mexico lawmakers are doing their best to pretend they aren’t completely owned by their starlet masters. Their bill also includes razzle dazzle “reforms” including tightening up for what expenditures can be reimbursed (a notoriously abused standard.) And what one would think is a laugh line, requirement for better acknowledgments of New Mexico in the film credits… A little more “limelight” is what New Mexico taxpayers are getting for the promise to dole out hundreds of millions to entitled movie makers.

Despite the flop of film tax credit programs around the nation, states continue to fall for this fool’s errand. Just this year a bill was introduced by Representative Bob Thorpe at the Arizona legislature to divvy out some of the state’s business tax credits to film production. Luckily the bill didn’t get traction.

However, if there is any lesson to be learned by lawmakers in Arizona from New Mexico – it is once you start feeding the lions – they become more voracious – it becomes harder and harder to stop. And for states that think that will keep the lions from biting – think again.

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