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2014 Legislative Wrap-Up

The Arizona State Legislature adjourned sine die from its regular session for 2014 with a wide array of legislation passed that will be beneficial to our business community. With the exception of a handful of bills, that luckily did not become law, the Greater Flagstaff Chamber feels that overall, this was a successful session for smart public policy that will help strengthen our businesses, attract quality jobs to our state, and provide a good framework for educating our K-12 students.

Legislation We Supported

Manufacturers Electricity Sales Tax – This bill was a major win for our region’s manufacturers. It exempts them from paying a sales tax on their electricity and natural gas usage which can help save these companies a significant amount of money. It will also put Arizona on par with the rest of the country (as we were one of the few states that still charged this tax on manufacturers) making us a more attractive place to do business.

Highway User Revenue Fund (HURF) Restoration – Funding for highway and mass-transit programs largely are the responsibility of individual states. Approximately 75% of funding comes from states’ programs, and the remaining amounts are through a combination of local and federal resources. In recent years, however, due to state budget constraints, HURF dollars have been swept away from their intended use and deposited into other state projects. Since 2003, Flagstaff has lost over $4.8 million of it’s HURF shares. As a result, Flagstaff and many communities throughout the state are suffering from a roadway infrastructure in need of repairs. The budget passed by the legislature included a $30 million restoration of these funds, which will be dispersed throughout the state, but will help our community with our road and highway repairs.

Joint Technical Education Districts (JTEDs) Funding – Through our Northern Arizona Manufacturing Partnership, a coalition of over twenty manufacturers, technological companies, and business associations, we advocated for continued state funding for JTEDs. Our state and our nation are at a critical point in having enough new workers entering the technical career field who are properly trained to take on the demands associated with many types of work so fundamental to our local and state economies. Funding was approved that restored $1.5 million to the JTED budget. These monies will allow about 2,000 ninth graders to enroll in a statewide technical training and education program.

Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS) Replacement – During the 2013 session, the legislature passed law that abolished the AIMS test, determining that it would be given for the last time during this past school year. During the 2014 session, the legislature supported Governor Brewer’s call to replace AIMS with a new test that would be in line with the new Common Core standards in education being implemented, known locally as Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards (ACCRS). The Greater Flagstaff Chamber supported this legislation, in favor of higher academic standards and a rigorous student assessment that helps our graduates be assets to industry upon graduation and successful at acquiring the careers they so desire. Lawmakers approved $8 million for the procurement of a new assessment.

Legislation We Opposed

SB1062 – The contents of this bill were of great concern to us and we believed it was not reflective of the character of neither our community nor our state. As a city that is Northern Arizona’s central hub of tourism, academic achievement, and economic development, we did not want to send a message that Arizona is not a welcoming place. We want our community and our state to be an inviting and attractive place for top talent and businesses that will be the foundation of our economy. We expressed our strong opposition to this legislation and fortunately Governor Brewer swiftly vetoed it.

Anti-Common Core Bills – The Greater Flagstaff Chamber has been a strong supporter of Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards (ACCRS), nationally known as Common Core education standards. Under ACCRS, new sets of math and language arts norms have been established that will better prepare our students for a changing economy. These research-based standards were developed by a multi-state coalition, which included Arizona, seeking opportunities that would ready students for entry-level college work and job training. During the legislative session this year, a cluster of anti-Common Core bills cropped up in the House and Senate, but were fortunately all defeated. We believe we can’t afford to settle for mediocre, 15-year-old academic standards if our students are going to graduate high school ready for college and career, competing for jobs in a global economy.