Here at Veridus (Motto: We read the bills so you don’t have to), we like to shine a light on unsung legislation … the plucky little bills otherwise lost amid the avalanche of 1,000 bills dropped in the first two weeks of session.
What follows are some of the bills that may have you nodding in approval – or wondering what those danged Millennials have done now that would necessitate such a law. Here’s a sampling:
- HB2005: schools; dating instruction; prohibition:
Reading, writing, ‘rithmetic and . . . dating? Not under this bill. HB2005 would repeal a current law that allows schools to provide “age-appropriate” instruction into dating abuse, and prohibit teachers from giving any sort of dating advice or instruction to students.
- HB2299: unlawful food or drink contaminations
Look, we get it – the Tide Pod Challenge left a bad taste in your mouth. That doesn’t mean it’s time to reach for the Blue Bell. This legislation outlaws the latest and grossest internet trend, which features maladjusted individuals going to a grocery store and licking or otherwise tampering with a food item before placing it back on the shelf. Don’t try it ‘til you buy it, people.
- HB2339: balloon releases; prohibition; enforcement
This bill would make it illegal to release balloons into the atmosphere FOR ANY REASON. (Accidental release of five or fewer is OK). Question: Does this also apply to sky lanterns? The Instagram-influencer lobby may not be pleased with this one…#skylanterns
- HB2537: cat declawing; prohibition; exceptions
Don’t declaw: it’s the law. The cat lobby AKA Big Feline is behind HB2537, which would ban the process of declawing cats, except for in certain medically-necessary circumstances. 10 out of 10 cats say pass this right meow.
- HB2669: online dating fraud; members notice
From cats to catfish. . . this bill would help protect online daters from falling prey to potential fraudsters who say they’re into you when in fact they’re secretly trying to swindle you. Don’t fall for it: Swipe left.
Veridus Clients in the news
Phoenix Business Journal
The city of Phoenix decided Wednesday to delay putting new ground transportation fees in place at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport until after the Arizona Supreme Court rules whether the fee increases are constitutional.
In December, Phoenix City Council passed an ordinance that would hike fees for ground transportation services at the city-owned airport, with ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft seeing the biggest increase. The fee increase was slated to begin Feb. 1.
On Jan. 16, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich said the city of Phoenix violated state law when it voted to increase fees and asked the Arizona Supreme Court to rule on the matter.
On Wednesday, councilmembers met in executive session, discussed the matter with legal counsel and had a teleconference with the Arizona Supreme Court before announcing the delay.
It is not clear when the Supreme Court will rule on the matter.
[…] The city has argued that the fees for ride-hailing companies are similar to what they are already being charged at other major airports.
Phoenix officials consider the fees to be like rent, giving Uber and Lyft access to Sky Harbor’s roads and curbs. In exchange for the higher fees, the city was prepared to give Uber and Lyft more curb space and add branded Uber and Lyft signs to the pick-up area and better wireless internet access.
Chamber Business News
A new think tank dedicated to further improving student achievement and educational opportunity at charter schools across Arizona recently was launched by the non-profit Arizona Charter Schools Association (ACSA).
The new Arizona Center for Student Opportunity will also provide accurate information about the positive impacts charter schools are having on students, said Matthew Ladner, a leading education policy researcher who has been named to head the Center.
[…] Ladner brings almost as many years of education policy experience to the role. Much of his research has focused on how demographic and social shifts affect Arizona’s education system.
“Matt’s extensive knowledge of charter schools, education reform and demographics will prove to be an invaluable resource for the Arizona Charter Schools Association as we continue to work towards ensuring that every child has access to a quality school,” said Jake Logan President and CEO of the ACSA that advocates for and strengthens the autonomy, equity, and quality of Arizona’s public charter schools.
Ladner was previously senior research strategist for the Arizona Chamber Foundation, where he examined various education and economic challenges facing the state. He also served as senior advisor for policy and research at the Foundation for Excellence in Education, focusing on charter schools, school choice, race and special education. He also is currently executive editor of redefinED, a Friedman Fellow at EdChoice and a senior fellow at the Texas Public Policy Foundation.
[…] Arizona was a pioneer state in bringing choice to parents though the charter school movement.
Today, its 556 charter schools serve almost 200,000 students.
ACSA officials said the movement has served the state well.
For the last four years, public charter students outperformed the state average on the statewide AzMERIT assessment.
In addition, more than 2 out of 3 public charter schools in Arizona that received a letter grade from the Arizona Department of Education last year earned an “A” or “B.” The results include the academic performance of traditional, hybrid and alternative charter schools and district schools.
“These letter grades are proof that Arizona public charter schools are raising academic achievement for students from all backgrounds — particularly those from low-income and under-served communities,” CEO Logan said.
For more information about the association and charter schools in Arizona, visit www.azcharters.org.
CABEZA PRIETA NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE, Arizona — The leader of the Tohono O’odham Nation is once again vowing to fight against the construction of new border fencing along their ancestral lands in southwestern Arizona, as works crews encroach sites of historical and cultural significance to the O’odham people.
Some of the key locations include an ancient burial site located in the immediate vicinity of existing border barriers, as well as Quitobaquito Springs — the only natural source of water for dozens of miles around — where construction crews discovered in October fragments of human remains believed to have belonged to O’odham ancestors centuries ago.
The spring is still used as part of the tribe’s sacred Salt Pilgrimage.
“Regardless that it isn’t within our reservation boundaries anymore, but it’s clear, we have inhabited this area since time immemorial,” Chairman Ned Norris Jr. said. “They’re our ancestors. They’re our remnants of who we are as a people, throughout this whole area. And it’s our obligation, it’s our duty to do what is necessary to protect that.”
Norris led U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva on a tour on Monday of the major archaeological sites along the path of construction at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge in southwestern Arizona.
The visit stemmed from a letter Norris wrote in October to the Department of Homeland Security documenting five of their key concerns with the construction of 43 miles of border fencing west of the Tohono O’odham Nation. […]
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In other news …
The House Elections Committee voted unanimously to support a bill that will allow Maricopa County officials to resolve ballot issues digitally.
Ballots often need correcting when minor errors, like a smudge, make it impossible for machines to count a single vote. Sponsored by Rep. Kelly Townsend (R-Mesa), the bill clarifies those corrections can be made digitally.
The current process to correct a ballot requires a physical duplicate copy of a ballot be printed and filled out in full, even if there’s only one vote on the ballot in question. That takes election workers an average of 12 minutes.
Townsend’s legislation would allow ballots to be duplicated digitally. That would allow election workers to identify and correct individual questions on ballots, a process that takes less than one minute to resolve.
[…] The bill includes an emergency provision, as Townsend hopes to get the bill signed by Gov. Doug Ducey before the looming March election.
“I think that everyone’s on board with getting this done and pushed through so it can be used for the presidential preference election, and we want to try out the machines so that we have a run through before the 2020 primary,” Townsend said.
Arizona Daily Star
Arizona’s presidential preference election is March 17, but only registered Democrats will be eligible to cast ballots.
The Republican Party is not holding a presidential preference vote in Arizona, meaning only Democratic candidates will be on the ballot.
[…] Voters who want to participate in the Arizona presidential preference election must be registered as Democrats by Feb. 18. Independents and people who are registered with no party affiliation will have to change their political party by then in order to vote.
The easiest way to change your party affiliation is through the servicearizona.com website. Forms can also be filled out and mailed to the Pima County Recorder’s Office.
Voters can change their party affiliation again after the presidential preference election. […]
The Internal Revenue Service will start accepting tax returns from individual taxpayers on Jan. 27, kicking off the filing season when more than 150 million returns are expected to be processed.
If this year resembles last, most taxpayers who receive refunds will get back about $2,800 on average.
As before, the IRS is touting the benefits of filing returns electronically. Those benefits include automatic flagging of some common errors and reminders to taxpayers to supply missing information.
The normal due date this year will be April 15, with automatic extensions to Oct. 15 available. Here are some themes to this year’s tax-filing season.
[…] Various dollar thresholds change a bit, such as a slightly higher standard deduction of $12,200 for singles and $24,400 for married couples. The higher amounts make it even less likely that taxpayers will itemize deductions.
If you do itemize, medical expenses were supposed to become harder to write off this filing season. Starting with 2019 returns, medical costs originally were destined to be deductible only to the extent they exceed 10% of adjusted gross income, up from 7.5% the past two years. But legislation signed near the end of last year will keep the 7.5% threshold for two more tax years, 2019 and 2020.
Speaking of medical, the penalty for not carrying personal health insurance has been dropped and no longer applies on federal tax returns starting in 2019.
[…] The IRS for years has encouraged individuals to file their returns electronically. Part of this effort involves the Free File program — a partnership between the IRS and various private-sector tax-return software companies. The idea is to offer free software help to millions of individuals.
Yet the program appears woefully underutilized. According to a January report from the office of the National Taxpayer Advocate, an IRS-watchdog division, only about 2% of eligible individuals used some type of free-filing software in 2018. But roughly 90% of returns are filed electronically, which means the vast majority of filers pay fees.
Those who use Free File are largely dissatisfied with the program and often are steered toward paid services through cross-marketing efforts, said the report, which noted that the IRS doesn’t routinely test the software for quality. […]