the veridus weekly

05-10-2019

days of session: 117

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


Arizona’s system of direct democracy has been around as long as the state itself. And so have attempts to reform or eliminate the citizens initiatives.

 To initiative supporters, the process is constitutionally sacrosanct and the purest expression of voter sentiment – an end run around policymakers unmoved by public opinion. But initiative critics say Arizona’s relatively low bar for ballot eligibility has increasingly made our state a policy laboratory for moneyed, out-of-state interests. The “Voter Protection Act,” also approved by initiative, means the Governor and Legislature have no authority to repeal or amend any initiative once approved by voters, regardless of any negative or unintended consequences.

 Which brings us to SB 1451, the latest attempt to rein-in initiatives. The GOP-supported bill – which passed out of the House this week on a 31-29,  party-line vote – would add a string of new regulations governing signature petition gatherers, including provisions that:

·         Require any out-of-state petition circulator to register and file a notarized affidavit with the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office; and

·         Prohibit petition circulators who have been convicted of certain crimes, including fraud, forgery and identity theft.

Drawing particular fire from critics is a stipulation in SB 1451 that authorizes the Attorney General to approve, reject or modify the title and summary of any initiative submitted for the ballot. Bill opponents say the provision amounts to a “blatant power grab” that gives the AG too much authority to thwart initiatives he/she doesn’t like; SB 1451 supporters counter the issue is much ado about nothing – the AG already has power to amend the ballot summary, as has been demonstrated In the past.

 SB 1451 awaits a final vote in the Senate before heading to the Governor’s desk. 


PHOENIX – Arizona climbed to No. 7 in an annual survey of CEOs about which states are best for business.

The Grand Canyon State had been No. 9 each of the previous two years in Chief Executive’s rankings of the best and worst states for business.

The magazine compiles the list each year by asking CEOs to rate the states in which they do business on taxes, quality of employees and quality of life.

Arizona has been ranked among the top 10 each year since 2012. Its highest spot in that span was No. 6, which it reached twice, in 2013 and 2016.

“With a booming economy, budget surplus, talented workforce, low regulation and tax environment, and unbeatable quality of life, it’s no wonder business leaders increasingly want to come to Arizona,” Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said in a press release.    [...]

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Today, a coalition of 42 Attorneys General joined in calling on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to take further action to stop the growing proliferation of illegal robocalls and spoofing.

In formal legal comments delivered to the FCC, the attorneys general urged the FCC to adopt its proposed rules on enforcement against caller ID spoofing on calls to the United States originating from overseas, while also addressing spoofing in text messaging and alternative voice services. These provisions are included in the previously passed FCC appropriations authorization bill also known as the RAY BAUM’S Act of 2018. The proposed rule changes the attorneys general are supporting would broaden the authority of the Commission to hold criminals accountable for the significant harm they inflict on U.S. consumers.

It is evident that the explosive growth of caller ID spoofing and robocalls is getting worse each year and is being driven primarily by scams. The number of spoofed calls and the consumer financial losses tied to these scams have increased by nearly 50% in recent years. Americans received almost 18 billion scam robocalls in 2018 and overall, robocalls increased in the U.S. by 57% from 2017 to 2018. The FCC reports that imposter scams have reportedly cost consumers $488 million just in 2018.

[...] The coalition sending formal comments to the FCC included Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia.

Full copy of the comments filed with the FCC.

President Donald Trump is urging Congress to protect patients from "surprise" medical bills — an area of possible consensus despite the fact no one can agree who should pick up the cost.

Trump on Thursday unveiled principles for legislation during an appearance with patients who've been hit with staggering bills for emergency care or when they've gone to a hospital in a health plan's network but were treated by some out-of-network physicians like an anesthesiologist.

[...] Trump’s principles include charging patients as if they were getting in-network care when they're treated by out-of-network providers in an emergency.

They would ensure patients get a single bill, instead of multiple charges weeks or months after treatment. Additionally, patients who have a surgery scheduled would be told in advance if a member of the medical team, such as an anesthesiologist or a radiologist, was out-of-network — and would have to consent before they were treated by that provider.

The pocketbook issue could unite Republicans and Democrats in a Congress that's otherwise fiercely divided over health policy. But health care interests are scrambling to avoid picking up the extra costs now borne by patients. Hospitals, insurers, physicians and employers have flooded congressional health committees with proposed solutions, elevating the issue as lawmakers grapple with other priorities like high drug prices.

A bipartisan group of senators is revising a bill addressing a variety of billing scenarios and is in communication with congressional scorekeepers.   [...]

veridus clients in the news

Nearly every automaker has a connected-car element that allows owners to manipulate the car from afar. Smartcar created software that works across these borders, and its latest partnership could make renting some other person's car a little easier.

Turo, a peer-to-peer car sharing startup, announced on Monday that it has partnered with Smartcar to put its system to use as part of the rental process. Normally, when renting somebody else's car on Turo, that person usually needs to be around to hand over the key. Instead of that, Smartcar's system uses renters' phones to wirelessly locate, lock and unlock cars without the need for the "hosts," as Turo calls them, to be present.

[...] It's a huge boon for busy hosts. Now, they won't need to move their schedules around to accommodate renters, allowing them to maintain an additional revenue stream with less potential annoyance. Some similar systems require hardware in the car, but not this one -- it's all done over the air, no OBD-II dongles or anything of that sort.

As with many other fledgling partnerships, this one will start small. Turo will offer its Smartcar system in California and New Jersey to start, with the intention of rolling it out to the entire country later in 2019.

Dairy farmers in Arizona are dealing with challenges brought by tariffs and competition from alternative milk products, such as almond and soy milk, as well as persistent drought across the Southwest.

But they’re forming new partnerships and adjusting their agricultural practices to stay competitive in the rapidly evolving world market, and even attracting new dairy industry producers to set up shop in the state.

One such farmer is Jim Boyle Jr., 44, whose family has been dairy farming in Arizona for five generations. Boyle’s father bought a large farm near Mesa in the 1970s. Boyle has since expanded operations to Casa Grande, south of Phoenix.

[...] Since Boyle’s father started the Mesa farm, the family has partnered with the United Dairymen of Arizona, or UDA, a co-op that processes, manufactures and markets Arizona dairy products in and outside the United States. Roxy Helman, communications manager for the UDA, said the system “helps the farmers focus on making the best product possible, while we do the work for sale.”

Every day, the UDA plant in Tempe receives fluid milk from 74 family farms across Arizona, amounting to about 150 to 200 truckloads of milk, each holding 6,000 gallons of milk and stamped with the words “Undeniably Dairy.” Before the milk is offloaded, it’s tested to ensure it meets federal standards for temperature and the presence of antibiotics, among other things. The milk then travels through the plant to become butter, cheese or powdered milk. Some fluid milk is sold to local grocers for gallon bottling or sent to other dairy processing plants, where it becomes yogurt or sour cream.

With so much milk coming in, the UDA has enough to export to 20 countries. According to Boyle, the importing countries “tend to be protein-short countries,” including Algeria, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia. American dairy products, he said, “are seen as a great source of protein.”     [...]

Motion Picture Assn. of America’s new film-rating chief Kelly McMahon can relate to parents who have to figure out what’s appropriate for their kids to watch. She has an 8-year-old son who loves scary movies.

The 46-year-old longtime corporate lawyer says she’ll let her son watch a film like “Jaws,” which got a surprisingly low PG rating in 1975. But she knows other parents wouldn’t allow their kids to see the intense classic shark movie.

“We’re in the minority, I know,” McMahon says with a smile at the MPAA’s offices at the Sherman Oaks Galleria, where the nonprofit organization screens movies for its team of movie raters. “I’m not going to turn on ‘Jaws’ when his friends are over.”

Those kinds of judgment calls have recently taken on a much larger significance for McMahon, who now has one of the thorniest and least-understood jobs in Hollywood. On Monday, McMahon took over as head of the MPAA’s ratings board, leading the small group of parents who anonymously assign ratings, ranging from G to NC-17, to hundreds of movies a year.

[...] The MPAA, led by former U.S. ambassador Charles Rivkin, is looking to McMahon to bring a fresh perspective to the 50-year-old ratings system, which has sometimes taken heat from moviegoers, filmmakers and political groups. Some critics have accused the MPAA of permitting too much violence in PG-13 movies, while being overly sensitive to sexual content. Many also see the group’s language criteria, in which more than one F-word usually earns an R, as overly rigid.

McMahon, in her first interview since taking the helm, defended the ratings system, which she says has remained a reliable and essential tool for families navigating the multiplex.

However, she says one of her first major goals is to reach out to parents, filmmakers and political groups — including LGBTQ and religious organizations — to hear their concerns. She also wants to add more people to the rating board to ensure its decisions are representative of American consumers. The board currently employs only eight raters; McMahon wants to grow the board to 12. She also wants to address the once-common G (general audiences) rating, which has virtually disappeared from the industry.

“I think I’ll be asking more questions of our raters and the process,” she said. “As great as any system is, there’s always room for improvement.”     [...]

The Arizona Association for Economic Development (AAED) has announced the recipients of its annual Economic Development Distinguished by Excellence (EDDE) Awards.

The prestigious EDDE Awards honor individuals and companies that have made significant contributions to the advancement of the organization and to economic growth within the state of Arizona.  Recipients are selected from a pool of nominations made by members of AAED.

The William Lampkin Award for Long Term Excellence in Economic Development was given to Lawrence T. Lucero, senior director of economic development for Tucson Electric Power Company, where he has worked for 25 years.

Lucero was honored for his tremendous accomplishments in economic development, including serving on the board of AAED, as chairman of the Tucson Metro Chamber, as president of the Arizona-Mexico Commission and on the State Board of Education, to name a few.

In the last three years alone, he has been involved in nearly 50 successful economic development projects that have resulted in the creation of close to 14,000 new jobs in Pima County.

[...] AAED, founded in 1974, has a mission to serve as Arizona’s unified voice advocating for responsible economic development through an effective program of professional education, public policy and collaboration.

For more information on AAED, visit www.aaed.com  or call (602) 240-2233.

Marijuana-related businesses should have access to the banking system to boost tax collections and reduce crime, according to Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, with 37 other state and territorial attorneys general who are urging passage of federal legislation.

The attorneys general sent a letter to congressional leaders on May 8, urging them to enact the SAFE Banking Act or other legislation that would expand banking access for these companies.

The letter notes that 33 states and several U.S. territories have legalized medical marijuana. However, marijuana is still classified as an illegal substance by the federal government, meaning banks providing services to state-licensed marijuana businesses could be held criminally or civilly liable.

[...] 'Medical marijuana ... is the law in our state'

"Regardless of individual opinions on the matter, medical marijuana was approved by Arizona voters and is the law in our state," Brnovich said in a statement.

[...] The letter from the attorneys general cited estimates that marijuana businesses generated $8.3 billion in sales in 2017, with rapid growth expected to top $25 billion by 2025.

Yet those transactions are handled outside the regulated banking system, forcing businesses to operate on a cash basis.

Among other consequences, this makes it more difficult to track revenues for taxation and heightens a public safety threat because cash-intensive businesses are often targets for criminal activity.

Bankers back proposal

The SAFE Banking Act was approved by the House Financial Services Committee in March and awaits a vote in the full House. It enjoys bipartisan support.

Paul Hickman, president and CEO of the Arizona Bankers Association, said banks here  support the measure. The association represents 65 Arizona banks with 110,000 employees.

Pro-marijuana groups such as NORML also have voiced support for the measure.

New study debunks common misconceptions associated with video game players

 
 

WASHINGTON – May 9, 2019 – More than 164 million adults in the United States play video games, and three-quarters of all Americans have at least one video game player in their household, according to a new survey entitled “2019 Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry,” which the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) released today. The ESA reports that 93% of American households own a smartphone and, of those, almost half of them use it to play video games. After announcing a record-breaking $43.4 billion in industry revenue for 2018, for the first time the ESA took a comprehensive look at the individual Americans who enjoy video games and their lifestyles to better understand their interests.

The study shows that these individuals represent a cross-section of the American population and are diverse, active, engaged in their communities, and see video games as a positive force in society. In fact, more than three-quarters reported that video games provide them with mental stimulation (79%) as well as relaxation and stress relief (78%). Video game players are engaged civically, with 59% reporting they will vote in the next presidential election. More than half (52%) are college educated. They are also just as likely to have hobbies and interests outside of video game playing, with 56% of video game players more likely to have a creative hobby such as drawing, singing, or writing. Video games bring people together in a fun, innovative way, with 63% reporting that they play games with others online or in person.

“This is the golden age of video games. They are the leading form of entertainment in American culture. They enhance our interconnected experiences and relationships with one another and redefine the intersection between humans and technology,” said acting President and CEO Stanley Pierre-Louis with the ESA, the trade association that represents the U.S. video game industry. “Americans play video games to have fun, relieve stress, learn, and spend time with family. This innovative form of entertainment touches on every part of society and improves how we play, work, and live.”

[...] The U.S. video game industry is one of the nation’s fastest-growing economic sectors and provides more than 220,000 jobs in all 50 states, and more than 520 colleges and universities in 46 states offer programs or degrees related to video games.

Read the full report 2019 Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry here. Ipsos conducted the research for the ESA and surveyed more than 4,000 Americans.

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