After months of debate surrounding the controversial reauthorization of the Arizona Commerce Authority (ACA), the tension finally broke on the last day of session when HB2210 was raced through the House and Senate and signed by Governor Hobbs.

Everyone at the capitol was aware of the problems surrounding the Commerce Authority. Our elected officials were briefed on the innumerable deficiencies, questionable activities, and likely illegal behavior of the agency. Yet when it came time to act, the legislature capitulated to the special interest benefactors of the agency, passing a reauthorization with no real reforms. The included changes were so inconsequential that an agency dealing with months of negative press about illegal CEO junkets had nothing but accolades for legislative leadership.

What did the final ACA package look like? In exchange for a five-year reauthorization (one of the longest reauthorizations ever granted to the ACA), the agency agreed to add to their board an attorney practiced in litigating Gift Clause violations, a requirement that their board meetings be videoed and hosted online for public review, a cap of “only” 100 state-paid full-time employees, and some reporting requirements for permitting and approval times by local cities and towns.

So, what started out as a hopeful and robust opportunity for reform quickly disintegrated into window dressing changes. No meaningful legislative oversight of the agency was included. It continues to exempt the ACA from having to use the Attorney General for legal counsel, instead allowing it to be one of the only departments to expend funds hiring silk stocking law firms on the taxpayer’s dime. And it still enjoys its exclusion from the prohibition on competing with private businesses, ironically, considering it claims to exist to promote the thriving of private businesses.

However, the most tragic concession was the jettisoning of the statutory gift clause test, which would have ensured the ACA conducts a constitutional analysis of every grant award and subsidy administered by the agency. The proposed gift clause language was taken straight from the landmark Arizona Supreme Court Schires decision, and given the agency’s track record of violating the Gift Clause, this was the most needed and defensible reform of them all.

Opponents to ACA reform absurdly argued that the “Schires Test” does not apply to the agency, so without its inclusion, it is quite obvious the ACA intends to continue handing out unconstitutional gifts to private business.

Litigation is likely to ensue, but the ACA doesn’t care. It has an unlimited taxpayer-backed war chest to defend these subsidy schemes. It knows it costs a fortune for private actors to sue, and if one of its deals is found to be unconstitutional, it will just modify the next deal, declare it “different,” then dare someone to sue it again. It’s a great scheme if you can figure out how to be part of the 1% that benefits from this racket.

The bottom line is that the absence of substantive reforms to the Arizona Commerce Authority was a missed opportunity for taxpayers. Following a dismal auditor general report and scrutiny by the Attorney General for constitutional violations, there was enough momentum to address many of the problems plaguing the ACA. Sadly, that momentum was squandered, and another government agency was allowed to continue with no oversight or accountability.

Help Protect Freedom in Arizona by Joining Our Grassroots Network

Arizona needs to have a unified voice promoting economic freedom and prosperity, and the Free Enterprise Club is committed to making that happen. But we can’t do it alone. We need YOU!

Join our FREE Grassroots Action List to stay up to date on the latest battles against big government and how YOU can help influence crucial bills at the Arizona State Legislature.