It was one year ago this month when President Trump commented that the cure cannot be worse than the problem. Sitting now at day 351 of 15 days to slow the spread, restaurants are still limited to 50% capacity, bars are closed, gyms are limited to 25% capacity, and thousands of Arizona students haven’t seen the inside of a classroom in months. It is time to recapture a sense of normalcy by protecting businesses, limiting liability exposure, and putting an end to school shutdowns. Several bills at the legislature this session aim to do just that.
Protecting Businesses from Policing Mask Mandates
Over the course of the perpetual lockdown, businesses have been expected to assume the role of the state by policing mask mandates from counties, cities, and towns in fear of shutdowns, fines, or other draconian penalties. In the House, two bills address this issue and protect businesses from emergency orders.
HB2770, introduced by Rep. Chaplik, passed out of the House Commerce committee just a couple weeks ago on a party line vote. The bill is simple in its approach, asserting that businesses are not required to enforce mask mandates from the state, any agency, county, city, or town.
HB2570, introduced by Rep. Hoffman, passed out of the House Government & Elections on February 18 on a party line vote. The bill would protect businesses by prohibiting any agency, county, city, or town from revoking a business’s license for not complying with a state of emergency mandate, unless there is clear and convincing evidence that the business was the actual cause of transmission of the disease addressed in the emergency order.
Protecting Businesses and Other Organizations from Civil Liability
Even if businesses are allowed to open back up and the threat of license revocation is ended, businesses and organizations would still risk civil liability suits from their employees and customers.
After failing to pass civil liability protections at the end of the last legislative session, SB1377, introduced by Sen. Leach, passed the Senate by a vote of 18-12 last week. The bill would protect a provider from civil liability during a public health emergency unless there is clear and convincing evidence that the provider failed to act or acted in a manner that was grossly negligent.
This is a necessary measure to ensure businesses can open with reasonable protections for employees and patrons, without leaving them exposed to frivolous lawsuits.
Putting an End to School Shutdowns
At this time, even the CDC is reporting that COVID transmission is not a concern for in-person learning. Yet thousands of students are still out of the classroom, leading to decreasing performance and growing mental health concerns. And taxpayers are still expected to foot the bill for empty seats.
In his State of the State, Governor Ducey insisted he will not fund empty seats. But just a cursory scroll through the Department of Education dashboard reveals that even today, the share of schools that are in person are far outweighed by not only those that are hybrid, but those that are entirely distanced.
Arizona must continue to reopen businesses and schools. The health of our businesses, economy, and children depends on it.
It’s no secret that COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on parents’ lives for almost a year now, especially when it comes to the education of their children. And while solutions to move learning online seem simple, the reality has been much different.
Just ask students of color and low-income parents and children.
A recent study by McKinsey and Company shows that students of color are up to five months behind in learning. And by the end of the school year, the study estimates that these same students could be one year behind.
That should be cause for concern for anyone who takes their job as an educator seriously. But instead, teachers’ unions threatened to strike if schools reopened this past fall. And many continue to consider stunts like “sick outs,” even with multiple schools in our state returning safely to in-person learning.
But these threats only prove to be deaf to the challenges faced by low-income students, many of whom lack access to the proper technological resources or quiet study environments that can help make virtual learning successful. To top that off, most low-income parents are unable to work from home to help their children with this distance “learning.”
That’s why it’s no surprise that there’s been a mass exodus of students from district schools. One report estimates up to 3 million students across the country who haven’t experienced any formal education since last March. And Arizona certainly isn’t immune to this educational pandemic. Chandler Unified School District has approximately 1,600 fewer students than it anticipated. And this comes after the district positioned itself to be one of the few in Arizona that expected an increase in enrollment for this year. That projection was enough to convince Chandler residents to vote for a $290 million bond measure in 2019. Now, the district faces a possible funding loss of $21 million.
It’s clear that COVID has changed the game for the education debate in Arizona. And that’s why it’s understandable that so many students and parents have deserted their public schools. Parents need help. But many school boards continue to waver between virtual and in-person learning.
In the meantime, parents are seeking out better options for their kids. Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESA), which allow parents to use their tax dollars to homeschool or choose an alternative learning solution for their children, have exploded around the state since the pandemic hit. And now, Senate Bill 1452, introduced by Senator Paul Boyer, seeks to expand the ESA program to include low-income students. The bill would give parents up to $7,000 in ESA funds to spend on their children’s education and cut the approval waiting time for parents to 30 days instead of 100.
Thankfully, last week the Arizona Senate Education Committee passed SB1452 amid support from prominent black leaders, like Pastor Drew Anderson. They hope to offset what is known as the prison pipeline due to a lack of education and would much rather see our tax dollars invested in education, most especially school choice.
Predictably, teachers’ unions disapprove and are doing everything they can to stop SB1452 from becoming law.
But something needs to be done. Low-income students deserve an opportunity to attend schools that will work for them. As Pastor Drew says, “School choice is today’s modern Civil Rights movement, and we must get this bill passed.”
How often do you experience an emergency? Monthly? Weekly? Every day? More than likely, it’s pretty uncommon—as it should be.
Maybe someone should tell the government. Because it seems like every time you read the news, some government official is declaring a new “state of emergency.” But these declarations stopped looking like real emergencies long ago. And this past year in the midst of COVID-19, it’s gotten out of control. This is especially true in cities and counties across Arizona, where officials are using emergency orders to beat up on local citizens.
Using COVID to grab more power
One year ago, words like “masks,” “lockdowns,” and “social distancing” weren’t a part of our regular vocabulary. But then COVID hit the United States, and local officials seized the opportunity to enact closures and mandates that did little to address the pandemic.
Flagstaff Mayor Coral Evans was among the first to make a power grab, limiting dining at restaurants and closing most gathering places.
And in March, then Gilbert Mayor Jenn Daniels rushed to close park playgrounds and sport courts without a single case of the virus in town. Just a few months later, she followed that up with a mask mandate. This was at the same time Maricopa County, of which Gilbert is a part, issued its own mask mandate.
Meanwhile Scottsdale residents have likely been experiencing mask-mandate whiplash. They had to deal with a mask mandate in June that was rescinded in September and then reinstated this January, one day after Mayor David Ortega was sworn into office.
And then there’s Pima County. In December, officials there announced a daily COVID curfew from 10 p.m until 5 a.m. Because apparently the virus only comes out at night? Thankfully, a Superior Court judge issued a temporary restraining order halting enforcement of the curfew earlier this month. But it didn’t take long before Pima County filed an appeal.
And while COVID is an issue that may warrant some action (which should NOT include crushing small business or trampling on our rights), did you know that some cities in our state are starting to use these powers to declare “climate emergencies”?
Emergency orders for the climate
Let’s start with Flagstaff, who as we mentioned earlier, leapt at the opportunity to use emergency orders after COVID hit. But officials didn’t stop there. In June, the Flagstaff City Council actually declared a climate emergency as well. And right now, they are using this radical declaration to impose a slew of extreme Green New Deal mandates that will destroy businesses, cost taxpayers a fortune, and likely violate state law. You can read all about their plans right here.
Maybe these officials should stop and read state law. After all, several years ago Arizona passed Proposition 207, which protects property owners from any land use law by cities that devalue their property. Passing ordinances that put a bunch of mandates on property owners without their consent, even under a so-called “climate emergency,” is a violation of this law.
And that brings us back to Tucson, which of course is within Pima County. This January, Tucson Mayor Regina Romero and the city council followed Flagstaff’s lead, declaring a “climate emergency.” And now they are proceeding with a plan to make Tucson carbon neutral within the next decade.
But does any of this sound like a real emergency?
It’s time for the legislature to act
These emergency orders have gotten out of control in our state. Too many government officials are abusing their powers. And in the process, they are crushing local citizens, destroying small businesses, and pushing the Green New Deal.
But that’s not what emergency orders are for. Emergency orders should be used for real emergencies. That’s why this level of government overreach needs to stop.
Now, it’s time for the legislature to act and put an end to these types of emergency declarations. Otherwise, local citizens will be paying the price for years to come.
Do you remember when people were flocking to Arizona? When new employers, entrepreneurs, and families found our state attractive because of its low taxes?
It wasn’t that long ago. Here’s just one example from 2019, when the state’s top marginal tax rate was 4.50%— one of the most competitive in the country!
But all of that has changed thanks to Proposition 208.
With the passage of this disastrous piece of legislation in which voters were misled, Arizona’s new rate was raised dramatically to 8%. This gives Arizona the ninth highest small business tax rate in the nation! Of course, the teacher unions and out of state special interest groups behind Proposition 208 said this wouldn’t happen—that it would NOT tax small businesses. Clearly that was a lie.
And now, with Arizona already having the 11th highest sales tax rate and the 20th highest business property tax rate in the country, we are officially a high tax state for small business.
That’s not exactly something we’d want to advertise to those who may consider moving here. After all, a recent study from the Cato Institute found that American citizens are leaving high tax states for lower tax states. Certainly, that’s not much of a surprise. But Arizona used to be ones of the desirable states to move to because of its low taxes. Not anymore.
And while the media and the Left continue to push the myth that the people of Arizona are undertaxed, just ask small business owners their experience since Proposition 208 passed. If the taxes were so low, then why are many of them picking up and leaving the state?
The fact is that Arizona has now joined the ranks of other high tax states that have experienced decades of decline. You probably know some of them: Illinois, New York, California. Each of these states are dealing with high taxes, distressed economies, and people fleeing to other states to find greener pastures.
Just look at California, where an estimated 13,000 businesses left between 2009 and 2016. In fact, during the economic boom years in 2018 and 2019, 765 commercial facilities left the “Golden State.”
But this begs the question: If the economy was booming throughout the country, why did these businesses leave? The answer is quite simple: high taxes.
Is that what we want here in Arizona? We certainly hope not.
But thanks to Proposition 208, Arizona has now lost the tax-competitive advantage that once made it so special. And that means we can expect other nearby states like Nevada, Utah, Colorado, and Texas to have the upper hand when it comes to attracting small businesses and creating new jobs.
It’s time for our state legislature to take swift, aggressive action to fix this problem. Proposition 208 has made Arizona a high tax state, crushed small businesses, and done irreparable harm to the state’s competitiveness. And if our legislature doesn’t do something soon, we’ll end up in an endless cycle of decline—just like our neighbors in California.
You Can Make a Difference
If we don’t act soon, Arizona will soon look like other high tax states in rapid decline. Find out what you can do to undo the damage being caused by Proposition 208.
Supporters of the Arizona Corporation Commission’s plan to impose the Green New Deal and ban all fossil fuels are up in arms this week. The reason? The legislature has decided to exert their constitutional authority and make it clear that they are in charge of setting energy policy for the state.
This week the Arizona House and Senate are hearing HB 2248 and SB 1175, legislation that would prohibit the Corp Comm from adopting any policy or rule regulating distributed energy without legislative authorization. Several interest groups and Green New Deal activists have signed in against the bill, and they have coalesced around one argument: legislators aren’t smart enough to handle energy policy. This is a topic that should be left up to the “experts” over at the ACC.
Just a cursory look through the comments submitted to Request to Speak, the legislative system used to register support or opposition to a bill, catalog dozens of statements ranging from condescending to insulting.
Here is just a small sample of the vitriol sent their way:
Lawmakers Are Too Dumb to Understand Energy Policy
“The ACC is independently elected to make energy decisions because they are more knowledgeable than legislators!”
“ACC, not state reps, have focus & expertise to determine energy issues.”
Apparently legislators are competent enough to decide tax policy, create the state’s budget, criminal code, and legislate on other complex issues, but when it comes to energy policy our elected legislative body is not qualified enough.
Will of the Voters! Except for the Steyer Initiative, That Doesn’t Count
“This bill proposes to disrespect the will of the voters who strongly supported Clean Energy”
“The ACC Rules being considered have been properly vetted and have strong public support. This bill is legislative overreach.”
It was only two years ago when Arizonans overwhelmingly rejected Proposition 127, a ballot measure that would have imposed Green New Deal energy mandates very similar to what is being proposed by the ACC. Voters have spoken on the issue, and it wasn’t to have the Corp Comm install a sweeping energy plan that will raise utility prices and cause rolling blackouts in the state.
Arizona Should Adopt California-Style Energy Mandates
“Clean energy is good for Arizona. It keeps electricity costs lower, consistent, predictable and reliable over the long term. Being a solar leader gives us more energy independence and control. This is not the Legislature’s job.”
California tried the same plan, and what was the result? After weeks of rolling blackouts Governor Gavin Newsom was forced to beg residents to limit the use of their appliances and turn up their air conditioning thermostats. It got so bad that Newsom suspended the closure of several natural gas power plants that were scheduled for closure.
The Legislature Needs to Butt Out and Let the ACC Run Wild
“DO YOUR WORK AND LET THE ACC DO THEIRS—READ THE CONSTITUTION!”
While the constitution does say that the Corp Comm “may prescribe… and make and enforce reasonable rules, regulations, and orders for the convenience, comfort, and safety, and the preservation of the health, of the employees and patrons,” it also makes it clear that the Legislature has the final say. In the recent Johnson Utilities court decision, Arizona Supreme Court unanimously held that the legislature’s authority over the public health and wellbeing of Arizonans “is paramount” to that of the Commission’s on matters of policy.
As HB 2248 and SB 1175 move forward, it will be interesting to see how lawmakers respond to being told that they are stupid and should stand in the corner while the Corp Comm attempts to set energy policy for the state. Hopefully it will stiffen their resolve to do the right thing: stopping the Green New Deal in Arizona.
They said it wouldn’t happen. They said that Proposition 208 wouldn’t affect the Arizona economy or small businesses. But here we are, just two weeks into the new year, and small businesses are already seeing the effects of a disastrous income tax increase.
How could this be?
After all, Andrea Nemecek, the state director for #INVESTinED, declared that Proposition 208 would NOT tax small businesses. Not that it was unlikely. Not that it may not. She stated that Prop 208 would NOT tax small businesses.
This proclamation was included in her ballot argument submitted on behalf of the YES campaign to the Arizona 2020 General Election Publicity Pamphlet. And it was the very first argument that appeared in the voter guide. Just look at Question 4 on page 137.
4. How much does this tax small businesses?
Answer: Zero. $0.00. Nothing. This initiative ONLY applies to personal income, not business income. This is worth repeating: There are no business-tax increases. This surcharge only applies to personal income.
But Ms. Nemecek wasn’t alone. Every major funder, advocate, and organization behind Prop 208 pushed this same deceitful narrative. Take David Lujan, for example. Mr. Lujan is the director of the Arizona Center for Economic Progress, a co-author of Prop 208. Back in September, he told the Phoenix New Times, “The argument that our opponents make is that this is going to tax small business owners. And that’s completely false.”
This talking point was repeated far and wide, including by #INVESTinED, who tweeted the same exact quote.
So, if this were true. If it is “false” that small business is taxed under Prop 208, then Ms. Nemecek, Mr. Lujan, and the out-of-state special interests that bankrolled this massive tax hike should explain why small businesses are already leaving the state due to Prop 208.
Just look at Landmark Recovery, a business headquartered in Scottsdale. Its owner, Matthew Boyle, told ABC15 last month that his business is packing up and heading to Nashville, Tennessee. Why are they leaving? Because Prop 208 will crush his small business.
Another local favorite, My Sister’s Closet, has filed a lawsuit against Prop 208 because of the damage it will cause her small business.
More businesses are sure to follow. And who can blame them?
It’s bad enough that many of these businesses are still trying to recover from the effects of COVID-19. Now, they’re being hammered by a tax they were told didn’t affect them.
So, who stands to be most affected by Prop 208? The people of Arizona.
A report from the Goldwater Institute estimates a minimum of 124,000 jobs lost within 10 years of Prop 208 going into effect along with $2.4 billion lost in state and local tax revenue.
But #INVESTinED got what they wanted. Prop 208 passed. And now the people of Arizona are stuck dealing with the fall out of a campaign that was less about education and more about deception.
You Can Make a Difference
If we don’t act soon, Arizona will soon look like other high tax states in rapid decline. Find out what you can do to undo the damage being caused by Proposition 208.