Upcoming Phoenix Elections- Don’t forget to Vote!

This year’s City of Phoenix elections present less drama than perhaps any in the last decade. Three of four incumbent City Council members are running unopposed, and Mayor Greg Stanton faces just two challengers, both of whom lag well behind him in fundraising.

The 2013 City Council race had 16 candidates running, but still drew only 23.4 percent of registered voters to the polls.  With a much less eventful campaign this year, even lower voter turnout is likely. While it is no secret that Presidential elections draw the highest voter turnout (2012 saw 74.3 percent of voters participate), Phoenix is making a push to increase voter participation, especially in City elections.

Early voting remains highly popular among Phoenicians, with early ballots routinely making up between 88 and 96 percent of votes cast. To receive an early ballot, you may sign up to be included on the Permanent Early Voter List (PEVL), which means you will automatically receive an Early Voting Ballot for each election without needing to request one for each election. Registering to vote online, or signing up to place your name on the PEVL, is a simple process which can be done here.  Other options include mailing in the registration form found through the online link or filling out a registration form in person at the County Recorder’s office.

Important Dates:

  • July 27, 2015: Deadline to Register to Vote in the Phoenix General Election
  • August 25, 2015: Elections for Mayor and Council Members in Districts 1, 3, 5, and 7

Candidates for Mayor

  • Anna Maria Brennan
  • Matthew Jette
  • Greg Stanton (Incumbent)

Candidates for District 1

  • Thelda Williams (Incumbent)

Candidates for District 3

  • Bill Gates (Incumbent)

Candidates for District 5

  • Felix Garcia
  • Daniel Valenzuela (Incumbent)

Candidates for District 7

  • Michael Nowakowski (Incumbent)

The Chamber reminds you that voting is vitally important, and that the business community can make major impacts on policies that affect us all. Get out and vote!

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SCOTUS In Action

The US Supreme Court has been in the spotlight recently, and among its rulings on several landmark cases were two – King v. Burwell and Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commissionwith direct impacts on our state 

King v. Burwell

The Court took on deciding whether the IRS was allowed to extend tax-credit subsidies to coverage purchased through exchanges established by the federal government under Section 1321 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  Arizona is one of the 34 states that rely on premium tax credits through HealthCare.gov, the federal government’s health care insurance exchange, to comply with the Affordable Care Act, as there is no state exchange in place.

The case hinged on language of the statute that the petitioners argued provided eligibility for tax credits only to those persons in states with state-operated exchanges.  The Court ultimately found this claim to be invalid as the language is ambiguous and stated in the majority opinion that “Congress made the guaranteed issue and community rating requirements applicable in every State in the Nation, but those requirements only work when combined with coverage requirements and tax credits.”  Had the court not upheld the Affordable Care Act, nearly 127,000 Arizonans would have been left in limbo with no access to health insurance, potentially shifting the costs to business.

Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission

Until 2000, the Arizona State Constitution granted the State Legislature the ability to draw congressional districts, but when voters passed Proposition 106 to address gerrymandering concerns that same year, the constitution was amended.  The Congressional Redistricting power was removed and instead given to the newly created Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (AIRC). 

In 2012 the legislature sued the AIRC and argued Proposition 106 violated the Elections Clause of the federal Constitution which gives state legislatures the authority of planning the “times, places, and manner of holding elections.” In the majority opinion, Justice Ginsburg stated that banning the initiative process of lawmaking would do more than stymie the attempts to curb gerrymandering, it would also cast doubt on the other laws that have been adopted by the initiative process.  The Court ruled in favor of the AIRC, thus upholding the existing political boundaries.

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June Public Affairs Recap

On June 5th the Public Affairs Committee met for the last time of the 2014-15 year and after six years Susan Anable retired her role as the Public Affairs Committee Chair.  She showed exceptional leadership during her tenure, and made the hard decisions which kept the Committee true to the Chamber’s mission and purpose of promoting a thriving business community in Arizona.

Although there was time for cake, the committee still had one final vote to make before wrapping for the summer- Proposition 103 (Charter Amendment for Pension).  Deputy City Manager Rick Naimark gave the presentation on Prop 103 which you can find here.  It will create a new pension system tier for incoming civilian city employees with three tiers and is being called a ‘Stacked Hybrid Plan’.  Tiers are differentiated based on hire date and salary, which dictates the contribution rate.  Employees will have a maximum salary level for the traditional pension system of $125,000 and any earnings over that will be placed into a 401k style defined contribution system.  The Committee voted unanimously to support Prop 103 which went on to the Chamber’s Board of Directors for final approval.

On June 18th the GPCC Board of Directors met and voted to accept the Public Affairs Committee recommendations to support two City of Phoenix ballot propositions, Prop 103 and Prop 104.  As a recap, Prop 104, the Comprehensive Phoenix Transportation Plan, will fund a comprehensive transportation plan for Phoenix that will maintain and expand the light rail and bus systems, improve city streets and roadways and provide Phoenix residents with more transportation options. You can find more information on Prop 104 here.

Keep an eye out, we will be sending out the meeting dates for the upcoming  year shortly!

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2015 City of Phoenix Elections

This summer the City of Phoenix is holding elections for Mayor and City Council Districts 1, 3, 5, and 7, which is shaping up to be the least competitive race in over a decade with only two of the five incumbents facing challengers.  A sharp contrast to just two years ago when there were 16 candidates running in the City Council election of 2013.

A major issue the City of Phoenix faces is voter turnout, with just 23.4 percent of registered voters casting ballots in the 2013 election, this year is expected to see much lower turnout due to the smaller pool of candidates. Early voting continues to be the most popular way Phoenix Residents cast their ballots. Learn more or Sign up for the Permanent Early Voter List (PEVL) here.  Below you will find important information so that you make it to the polls come Election Day:

  • July 27, 2015: Deadline to Register to Vote in the Phoenix General Election
  • August 25, 2015: Elections for Mayor and Council Members in Districts 1, 3, 5, and 7

Candidates for Mayor

  • Anna Maria Brennan
  • Matthew Jette
  • Greg Stanton (Incumbent)

Candidates for District 1

  • Thelda Williams (Incumbent)

Candidates for District 3

  • Bill Gates (Incumbent)

Candidates for District 5

  • Felix Garcia
  • Daniel Valenzuela (Incumbent)

Candidates for District 7

  • Michael Nowakowski (Incumbent)

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Could more K-12 dollars be on the way?

On the heels of a US Census report showing Arizona seriously lacking in K-12 funding, Governor Doug Ducey announced plans to give the system a muchneeded shot in the arm. The Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, along with other business and education leaders, attended the governor’s press conference announcing a proposal to pump $1.8 billion into K-12 schools over five years beginning in FY 2017 pending legislative and voter approval, all without raising taxes.

The federal government gave Arizona lands as an endowment at the time of statehood in 1912.  Arizona sells those lands and the revenues are deposited into the  Permanent Land Endowment Trust Fund. Those monies are held in trust and are invested by the state treasurer for the benefit of various beneficiaries as outlined in the Arizona Constitution. K-12 schools receive the largest share of the funds at 93 percent.

By increasing the distribution percentage from the Fund from the current 2.5 percent to 10 percent over five years, the proposal takes advantage of the outstanding growth the Fund has experienced over the last several years. Following the initial five year increase, the proposal drops the distribution from 10 percent down to five percent for the next five years before returning to the current distribution rate after ten years. Even after the increased distribution amounts, the Governor anticipates the Fund having a higher balance than today, thereby protecting the Fund for future years of beneficiary payments.

While this is certainly not a cure all for the problems facing our K-12 system, it would provide muchneeded financial relief for our schools and give the state time to come up with a longterm funding and school finance reform plan. The GPCC is excited to work with the Governor, the Legislature and other stakeholders in the coming months to make sure this plan is successful.  A strong public education system helps build our economy  as a sustainable economy needs a talented workforce pipeline.

For full details on the proposal, please click here.

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May 2015 Public Affairs Recap

If you missed last Friday’s Public Affairs Committee Meeting, here are the highlights:

With the Legislative Session over, the Chamber is shifting its focus towards local issues for the summer. City of Phoenix Budget & Research Director Mario Paniagua presented to the committee on the FY 15-16 proposed city budget. With no proposed reductions to services, the projected expenditures are $1.154 billion, which matches the level of currently projected resources.  This number will be further refined in the coming weeks when the proposed budget is formally adopted by the city council.

In addition to the budget, Proposition 104 was up for discussion. This ordinance would fund a comprehensive transportation plan for Phoenix that will maintain and expand the light rail and bus systems, improve city streets and roadways and provide Phoenix residents with more transportation choices. The proposal increases the current city transportation sales tax to 7/10 of a penny through 2050.  Deputy City Manager Rick Naimark presented to the committee on what is contained in the proposal. Bill Scheel, Maria Baier and others argued in favor of the proposition, while Scot Mussi from the Arizona Free Enterprise Club spoke in opposition. As stated by proponents, the proposed transportation plan aims to serve the growing population of Phoenix by reducing traffic congestion growth and keeping Phoenix green.  This will be done by tripling the current light rail miles, increasing bus frequency by 70 percent, increasing the hours that transit is in operation, add more bicycle lanes and sidewalks, add new streetlights, and allocating $240 million for new roads and bridges.

The Public Affairs Committee voted to recommend supporting the proposition. It now moves to the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors for determination of a final Chamber position.

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2015 Sentinel Award Recipients

The Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce will honor three elected officials tomorrow, Wednesday, May 13, by presenting them with the Sentinel Award at the 28th Annual IMPACT Awards Luncheon at the Arizona Biltmore, A Waldorf Astoria Resort in Phoenix. Continuing a tradition that began 2011, the Chamber recognizes elected officials who are great partners with the Chamber in supporting a robust and thriving business environment.  This year’s honorees are:

Representative Brophy McGee has been a supporter of education and the business community during her time in the Arizona House of Representatives.  As Chair of the Banking & Financial Services Committee, she has helped maintain a business friendly regulatory environment, along with supporting numerous education policies that will have a positive impact on workforce development in Arizona.

Representative Bob Robson, the current Speaker Pro Tempore of the Arizona House of Representatives, has served at both the state and city level and has a long history of being an ally to the business community.  Whether it’s strengthening and growing the state’s public university system or guiding numerous state pension and personnel reform measures, Representative Robson focuses on making sure that Arizona has a vibrant and thriving economy.

Councilman Sal DiCiccio, District 8, has been a long standing advocate for business here in Phoenix.  By supporting fiscal prudence, lower taxes, and less regulations he has helped maximize business retention in Phoenix.  Councilman DiCiccio is always at the forefront of finding ways to maximize the permitting process which is absolutely essential for job creation and growth.

Congratulations to this years recipients and we look forward to seeing everyone at the IMPACT Awards Luncheon!

Arizona Biltmore, A Waldorf Astoria Resort
2400 E. Missouri Ave. Phoenix 85016

10:30-11:00 a.m.- Check In and Networking
11:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.- Program

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2015 Legislative Session Wrap Up

The First Regular Session of Arizona’s 52nd Legislature adjourned in the early morning hours of April 2, 2015, and the state’s business community claimed several victories on critical issues. The Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce (GPCC), whose Public Affairs team worked closely with lawmakers throughout the 81-day session, offers its key successes on behalf of Arizona business:

– Supported continued industry growth through tax reform & supported efforts to further streamline the sales tax system. HB 2568 was a key success that reduces the insurance premium tax over the next several years. The Chamber also stopped attempts to place personal taxpayer information up for public scrutiny.

– Defeated measures that place burdensome requirements on private health insurance contracts. A core principle of the Chamber is supporting polices that advocate for a free-market based health care system that offers affordable, cost-effective and quality health care options to businesses and individuals.

– Continued streamlining Arizona’s Workers’ Compensation system through common sense reforms that reduce ambiguity and administrative burdens on business and employees.  Bills like HB2331 and HB2346 help reduce the number of claimants making false claims for compensation, and stipulate that businesses are not required to reimburse a person for costs associated with medical use of marijuana.

– Championed SB 1007 and HB 2661 that strengthened Arizona’s efforts to maintain state primacy under the EPA’s carbon emission reduction requirements under the Clean Air Act and help assure an adequate water supply for future economic development.

– Defeated attempts to undermine accountability in the K-12 system by maintaining Arizona’s College & Career Readiness Standards.  Arizona has consistently had one of the lowest-ranked education systems in the country.  It’s time to make education a priority in Arizona. GPCC supports higher education standards and welcomes improvements to the ACCRS.  It is imperative that we raise the expectations of our state’s education system so our students can be more internationally competitive and be a key part of a skilled workforce.

– Supported efforts to reduce the shortages of physicians, nurses, and other health care professionals across the state.  Now, fully licensed primary care providers can apply for the State Loan Repayment Program which provides loan repayment assistance to qualifying student loans in exchange for service in designated areas.  This expands eligibility of health care professionals to include behavioral health practitioners, geriatrics, and pharmacists as Arizona has identified the need for approximately 442 full-time primary care physicians, 441 dentists, and 204 full-time psychiatrists.

GPCC hosted its 21st annual Legislative Wrap-Up Breakfast this past Tuesday morning, April 21, at the Hyatt Regency Phoenix.  A panel discussion lead by Senate President Andy Biggs, House Majority Leader Steve Montenegro, Senate Minority Leader Katie Hobbs, and House Minority Leader Eric Meyer recapped the session.  You can check out pictures of the event here: http://www.phoenixchamber.com/gallery/photos-legislative-wrap-4212015

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Taxation Fairness

Early last week Governor Doug Ducey signed HB2568 (Insurance Premium Tax Reduction) into law, which aims to reduce the inequality between the insurance premium tax and the corporate income tax.  The Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, along with many other chambers, supported this bill and believes fair and equitable practices and applications of tax policy are paramount in increasing Arizona’s competitiveness and incentivizing business retention.

The current insurance premium tax rate of 2 percent is approximately equivalent to a 25 percent corporate tax rate.  Reducing the premium tax to 1.7 percent over the next several years will begin to mend what is a substantial inequality for this industry in Arizona.  Additionally, reducing the insurance premium rate will boost our state’s economy, allow insurance companies to create more jobs in the region, and reduce the inequality between the insurance premium tax and the corporate income tax.

We are focused on the health of our existing businesses in the region and are actively working to retain and expand them.  Specifically, the insurance industry contributes greatly to Arizona communities through job creation, services, and investments. Property and casualty insurance companies have invested nearly $9 billion in Arizona municipal bonds.  According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are more than 27,000 insurance professionals across Arizona and they are integral, involved, and valued community members.  With HB2568 being signed into law, Arizona is on the right path toward growing the insurance industry even more.

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HB2190 Would harm student achievement, waste resources & taxpayers money

It was just a few years ago that Arizona took a positive step forward with the new academic standards in English, language, arts and math: the Arizona College and Career Ready Standards (ACCRS). Since its adoption in 2010, the ACCRS have been implemented throughout the state’s public schools in grades K-12.

During the current legislative session, some Arizona lawmakers are seeking to roll back the progress Arizona’s students and teachers have made with the higher academic standards over the past five years. The House recently passed HB2190, a bill that would prohibit the use of the current academic standards and stipulate that the Arizona State Board of Education redevelop the statewide academic standards. The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.

The consequences of HB2190 would be detrimental to students, teachers, taxpayers, the workforce, economic development and the local economy. In addition to the wasted time, money and resources, HB2190 would cause a sharp blow to student achievement. The repeal of Arizona’s current standards would also create significant disruption in the classrooms, create more bureaucracy for educators and usurp the authority of the state board of education.

Our state has consistently been ranked as one of the lowest education systems in the country. It’s time to make education a top priority in Arizona. The Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce supports higher education standards and welcomes improvements to the ACCRS. We want to see improving results in our K-12 education system. Every child deserves a world-class education that prepares them for the future. It is imperative that we raise the expectations of our state’s education system so our students can be more internationally competitive and be a key part of a skilled workforce.

It’s easy to advocate for your child, your school, and all students in Arizona. Engage in the discussion and raise your voices in support of the current academic standards. Take the next steps by learning more at http://www.expectmorearizona.org and voicing your opposition to HB2190.

Higher education standards will secure the future of Arizona’s students and also the economic future of our state.

Mike Huckins is Vice President of Public Affairs at the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce

Read entire AZ Capitol Times Report here: http://azcapitoltimes.com/news/2015/03/13/eliminating-common-core-would-harm-student-achievement-waste-taxpayers-money/

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