the veridus weekly

05-03-2019

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days of session: 110

 

Regular sessions shall be adjourned sine die no later than Saturday of the week in which the one hundredth day from the beginning of each regular session falls. The President and Speaker of the House may by declaration authorize the extension of the session for a period of not to exceed seven additional days. Thereafter, the session can be extended only by the Senate and House by a majority vote of the members present in each body. 


in focus


Legitimate regulation? Or smoke screen?

That’s what Arizona legislators are debating as they consider a pair of measures aimed at curbing nicotine use among teens. Nationally, teen smoking has trended downward for decades. In 2017, just 7.1% of Arizona high school students reported they had smoked a cigarette at least once in the prior 30 days. But e-cigarette use, or vaping, is exploding. Nearly 1 in 5 Arizona teens now vape at least once a month, according to the 2018 Arizona Youth Survey.

SB 1147, sponsored by Rep. John Allen (R-Scottsdale), would raise the minimum age to buy and use tobacco and e-cigarettes to 21 and bar vape products on K-12 school grounds. But it’s another provision in the “T21” legislation, one that prohibits local government from enacting tobacco or vaping regulations, that has drawn the scrutiny of health advocates. They note the bill is backed by e-cigarette giant Juul and local vaping retailers.

HB 2357 is alternative legislation sponsored by Sen. Heather Carter (R-Cave Creek). The measure wouldn’t change the minimum age to purchase tobacco and e-cigarettes, but would redefine vaping products as tobacco. That would subject e-cigarettes and traditional tobacco products to the same state and local regulations.

SB 1147 still needs approval by the full House before returning to the Senate for concurrence. HB 2357 faces similar circumstances – awaiting approval by the full Senate before returning to the House for concurrence.


PHOENIX — According to data released today by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, Arizona’s real gross domestic product (GDP) increased by four percent in 2018, the fourth fastest growth rate in the nation. Arizona’s GDP growth outpaced that of 46 other states including California (3.5%), Florida (3.5%), and Texas (3.2%). Sectors including manufacturing, real estate and rental leasing, and construction contributed the most to Arizona’s GDP growth over the last year.

[...] Not only is Arizona’s economy growing at one of the fastest rates in the nation, Arizona's median household incomes recently reached a record high of $61,125. Arizona also recently ranked third in the U.S. for economic momentum, fourth for population growth and fifth for personal income growth. Maricopa County, Arizona’s largest county, led the nation with the largest population increase of any county in the nation in 2018.

Over 298,000 new jobs have been added in Arizona since 2015, and the state is projected to add another 165,000 new jobs by 2020.  

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Half of all calls made in the U.S. this year may be robocalls, feds predict

WASHINGTON — On a typical day in Arizona this year, more than 3 million robocalls were made to phone numbers in the state, an increase of more than 1.4 million a day from just a year earlier.

Despite efforts to block the calls, most of which are illegal, the calls keep coming. And the Federal Communications Commission predicts that as many as half of all calls made in the U.S. this year will be robocalls.

[...] Telemarketing and phone scams are the most common complaints to Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s office, said spokesperson Katie Conner.

“What we’re seeing across the country is everyone is sick and tired of receiving these robocalls,” Conner said. “General Brnovich here in Arizona, he gets robocalls all the time and he gets so frustrated.”

But they can be more than just frustrating. The rise in robocalls prevents banks and hospitals from reaching people for legitimate reasons, said Conner, while people used to picking up the phone can be scammed by callers pretending to be the IRS, the police, or a collection agency.

[...] Diane Brown, executive director for the Arizona Public Interest Research Group, said robocalls plague “Arizonans of all walks of life ranging from the elderly to limited income to wealthy corporate executives.”

[...] Under FCC regulations, robocallers are supposed to get written or verbal consent before calling someone. That permission is often included in the fine print on loans or other contracts. But National Consumer Law Center Senior Counsel Margot Saunders said the majority of robocalls, especially telemarketing robocalls, are illegal.

[...] Many robocallers mask their phone numbers as different numbers through “spoofing,” sometimes even presenting local area codes in hopes of getting their targets to pick up the phone.

New technology called STIR – Secure Telephony Identity Revisited – and SHAKEN – Secure Handling of Asserted information using toKENs – should allow telephone companies to identify and unmask spoofed numbers.

T-Mobile, Verizon, and AT&T have all announced plans to implement STIR/SHAKEN technology across networks. T-Mobile was the first to implement robocall-blocking technology in January before deploying it across its networks in April.

In addition to technological tools, regulators are pushing legal changes in the fight against robocalling.  [...]

More than 500 of the 704 people sickened in 22 states were not vaccinated.

At least 704 people in the United States have been sickened this year by measles, a highly contagious and potentially life-threatening disease, according to a report released Monday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s the greatest number of cases in a single year in 25 years and represents a huge setback for public health after measles was declared eliminated in the United States in 2000. More than 500 of the people infected in 22 states were not vaccinated. Sixty-six people have been hospitalized, including 24 who had pneumonia. More than one-third of the cases are children younger than 5.

[...] Thirteen outbreaks have been reported in 2019, accounting for 663 cases, or 94 percent of all cases. The CDC defines an outbreak as three or more cases. Half of those outbreaks were associated with close-knit religious or cultural communities that were undervaccinated, accounting for 88 percent of all cases.

In response to the record number of cases this year, New York City has imposed a mandatory vaccination order, and Rockland County has required that anyone with measles avoid public spaces or face a $2,000-a-day fine. On Monday, New York city officials said it had closed two schools, and 57 individuals have received summonses for violating the emergency order; they face a $1,000 penalty if the summons is upheld, and a $2,000 fine if they don’t appear at a hearing or respond to the summons.

In California, hundreds of college students were quarantined last week after one student with measles attended classes on three days while contagious at the University of California at Los Angeles, and another contagious person spent hours at a library at California State University Los Angeles. As of early Monday, 343 students and employees remained under quarantine and have been told to stay home and avoid contact with others as much as possible.

The rare and extreme measures reflect the seriousness of this year’s outbreaks. In a statement Monday, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said, “We have come a long way in fighting infectious diseases in America, but we risk backsliding and seeing our families, neighbors, and communities needlessly suffer from preventable diseases.”

[...] There are no treatments and no cures for measles, CDC Director Robert Redfield said. “There is no way to predict how bad a case of measles will be,” he said. Most of those sickened in this year’s outbreaks have been unvaccinated, and most are children younger than 18, he said. “Measles can be serious in any age group, but particularly in children younger than 5 and older adults, they are more likely to suffer complications.”

No deaths have been reported in outbreaks this year.   [...]

veridus clients in the news

PHOENIX - (AP) -- When Chris Williamson was in the market for a new family car, a timely ad and conversations with a co-worker convinced him to try something out of the ordinary. He bought a BMW 3 Series convertible and covers the payments by renting it to strangers on a peer-to-peer car sharing app called Turo.

It allows his family of seven to have a nicer car, essentially for free.

"It's great to have that little bit of extra income and not have to worry about the car payments," said Williamson, a teacher from the Phoenix area.

But his customers and others using car-sharing apps around the United States get their rentals tax-free. That's made them a target for rental car companies, airport authorities and local governments. They say users of the upstart apps should pay the same taxes and fees that come with traditional rental cars.

[...] "These companies are very sophisticated, technology-savvy companies that have hundreds of millions of dollars invested in each of them," said Ray Wagner, senior vice president for government relations at Enterprise Holdings, parent of the nation's largest car-rental firm. "They should be expected to comply with the same rules as a small, mom and pop rental car company located in rural Arizona."

Turo says Enterprise is trying to stifle competition.

Car-sharing companies including Turo and GetAround function like Airbnb for vehicles, allowing people to rent out their cars when they're not using them. Founded about a decade ago, they've taken off recently with the help of millions of dollars from venture capital firms and other investors.

That's put them in conflict with the $42 billion-per-year rental car industry and the tourism and government agencies that tax it and regulate safety and consumer protections.

The battle is heating up in some three dozen state legislatures as well as the courts and offices of local tax authorities. Barraged with lobbying from both sides, lawmakers are grappling with how to regulate an emerging industry without destroying it -- a repeat of recent fights between the taxi industry and Uber and Lyft, and between hotels and Airbnb.

"The tragedy would be if we snuffed out something like this in its infancy that has a lot of great potential," said Arizona Rep. Travis Grantham, a Republican who has introduced legislation backed by Turo that would exempt car-sharing from all rental car taxes except the standard sales taxes.

[...] California, Oregon and Washington passed legislation on car-sharing years before the industry took off, and Maryland did so last year. Bills governing the practice have been introduced in more than 30 other states, with the fight especially contentious in Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, New Mexico and Ohio.

[...] In Arizona, Enterprise is backing legislation that would tax car-sharing like rental cars and require them to enter agreements with airports to use their facilities, while Turo supports a proposal that would exempt car-sharing companies from most taxes.   [...]

Healthcare was a major issue in the 2018 elections, and could be again next year.

In between, there are still discussions about the future of the Affordable Care Act and Medicare, among other aspects of healthcare.

It is with that backdrop that, in early April, Ann-Marie Alameddin took over as president and CEO of the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association.

She joined The Show to talk about the current state of hospitals and the healthcare system.  Listen HERE.  

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