ISSUE 13 - April 6, 2012

Legislative overview

Today is the 89th day of the second regular session of Arizona's Centennial Legislature. During the past week, Governor Brewer vetoed HB 2647 (county stadium districts; Rio Nuevo). Interestingly, her veto letter focused little on the substance of the legislation; rather, it explained that the she vetoed the bill because of its financial implications, stating that, "it is unwise to enact legislation that has a fiscal impact or changes tax policy until we have reached an agreement on projected revenues and appropriated expenditures as part of a state budget for Fiscal Year (FY) 2013." The Governor further wrote: "I cannot sign into law … any other measure with a fiscal impact, while other critically important funding issues … remain unresolved in the state budget."

The budgets unveiled by the Governor and the Legislature are some $500 million apart in their spending proposals for the fiscal year beginning July 1. Lawmakers propose to set aside $200 million for debt reduction and another $250 million for a rainy day fund (in anticipation of the expiration of the temporary one-cent sales tax in 2013 and higher federal healthcare costs). At the same time, the Governor proposes additional spending for school maintenance and construction, reading programs, services for the seriously mentally ill, private prison beds and child welfare programs.

Most legislative activity during the past week involved the consideration of bills that had already passed their houses of origin. In other words, the Senate voted mostly on House bills previously approved by the House and vice versa.

The Legislature has also entered the season of conference committees. After a bill has passed one chamber and is later amended and passed by the second chamber, the original chamber can concur with or refuse the changes. If the chamber concurs, then the bill proceeds to its final passage vote in its original chamber. If the chamber refuses, the bill goes to a conference committee where differences in the House and Senate versions of the bill are reconciled, and a conference agreement is produced. Conference agreements must then be passed by both chambers before proceeding to the governor for signature or veto.

Consolidated elections

On Wednesday, April 4, the Senate defeated HB 2826 (consolidated election dates; political subdivisions) by a vote of 11-17. The original bill, which previously passed the House despite the League's opposition, mandates that, with very narrow exceptions, all municipal elections must be held in the fall of even-numbered years.

Before its defeat on third reading, the bill was amended in the Senate Committee of the Whole to address various technical issues. The League, however, remains opposed to the bill as amended for a variety of reasons, including: state interference in a matter of purely local concern (particularly with respect to the elimination of spring elections for cities and towns); prospective ballot length and voter fatigue; increased costs and voter confusion; unnecessary and harmful delays for certain types of elections; and difficulties associated with all-mail ballots.

On Thursday, April 5, the Senate approved the motion of Senator Andy Biggs (R-Gilbert) to reconsider HB 2826. Accordingly, the bill could be scheduled for a revote in the Senate anytime prior to adjournment sine die.

The League thanks those senators who voted "no" on HB 2826. Furthermore, we encourage cities and towns to contact their senators to: 1) thank them for rejecting this bill; 2) restate how important it is for municipalities to retain their limited flexibility with respect to election dates; and 3) request that senators continue to oppose HB 2826 on reconsideration.

Council procedures

HB 2570 (political subdivisions; proceedings; governing bodies) provides that a city or town council may not take action on a proposed ordinance until it has been publicly posted in its final form for at least seven days. The bill also prescribes a process for the adoption of emergency ordinances and exempts certain other ordinances from the bill's enhanced notice requirements.

The bill was amended in the Senate Committee on Government Reform to stipulate that emergency ordinances expire 90 days after adoption instead of 60. Additionally, the amendment makes certain clarifying changes to last year's SB 1598 (cities; counties; regulatory review) regarding licensing timeframes and exempt permits and licenses.

The measure was scheduled for consideration by the Senate Committee of the Whole on Monday, April 2, but was retained while stakeholders worked on a compromise agreement. HB 2570 has been rescheduled for the Committee of the Whole on Monday, April 9. In the meantime, the League continues to work with the sponsor, Rep. Justin Olson (R-Mesa), and other interested parties to effect additional changes to the legislation.


On Tuesday, April 3, the Senate Committee of the Whole considered and passed HB 2729 (state regulation of firearms). The bill, opposed by the League, requires governmental entities to permit guns into public establishments, unless armed personnel and metal detection equipment are installed at the entrances to such establishments. The measure, sponsored by Rep. David Gowan (R-Sierra Vista), further preempts municipalities from having firearms ordinances stricter than state law. The bill now proceeds to its third reading in the Senate.

Pension reform

On Monday, April 2, the Senate Rules Committee approved HB 2745 (NOW: PSPRS; employer contributions). The bill changes the Alternate Contribution Rate (ACR) requirements of the Public Safety Personnel Retirement System (PSPRS). The change would preclude an employer from paying the PSPRS ACR on a PSPRS-eligible position if the person hired to fill that position: 1) was hired before the effective date of last year's pension reform bill; 2) previously retired from PSPRS; and 3) is enrolled in another state retirement system. The League supports the bill, which will result in cost savings for some of Arizona's cities and towns. The legislation, which previously passed the House by a vote of 58-0, now proceeds to the Senate Committee of the Whole for further consideration.

Animal cruelty

On Thursday, April 4, the Senate passed HB 2780 (animal cruelty; ranching dogs) by a vote of 16-13. The bill provides an exemption from animal cruelty statutes with respect to dogs involved in ranching and farming activities. An amendment previously adopted by the Committee of the Whole narrows the exemption considerably. Nevertheless, the League opposes the bill because it specifically preempts municipal ordinances involving abuse of ranching dogs. The bill returns to the House, which can concur with or reject the bill as amended by the Senate. If approved, the bill moves to the Governor for her signature or veto. If rejected, a conference committee will be appointed to reconcile differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill.

Alarm installation

On Tuesday, April 3, the Senate passed HB 2748 (NOW: alarm business; alarm agent; certification) by a vote of 21-7. The measure provides for the establishment of a statewide certification requirement for alarm businesses and alarm agents, and preempts further local regulation of alarm installation. The amended measure returned to the House, where the sponsor chose to send the bill to a conference committee to make additional changes. On Thursday, April 4, the House appointed members to the conference committee; Senate appointments to the committee are pending.

Public works notification

On Tuesday, April 3, the Senate unanimously approved HB 2350 (NOW: cities; counties; regulations). The measure requires a municipality to post its capital improvement plan (CIP) on its website. Also under the legislation, a utility is entitled to receive, upon request, copies of the CIP, along with information on any new or accelerated projects. The League is neutral on the bill, which now awaits action by the Governor.

Sales tax collection

On Thursday, April 5, the Senate Committee of the Whole considered and passed HB 2466 (NOW: payment; local sales tax). The bill, which provides for the creation of an online portal for the direct remittance of taxes by taxpayers in self-collecting cities, was amended to clarify the role of the Department of Administration with respect to vendor procurement. The bill, which previously passed the House by a vote of 56-0, now proceeds to its third reading in the Senate.

Spirituous liquors

On Thursday, April 5, the Senate passed HB 2606 (NOW: liquor; omnibus) by a vote of 24-5 on reconsideration. (The measure passed the House last month by a vote of 47-9.) Among other things, the bill, sponsored by Rep. J.D. Mesnard (R-Chandler), permits the State Liquor Board to consider municipal tax delinquencies in liquor license suspension and revocation proceedings. It further permits a city or town to use the average of the last five years of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for fee increases (as opposed to just the previous year's CPI). Because the bill was amended in the Senate, it must now return to the House for the sponsor to concur with or refuse the Senate changes.

Traffic control

On Tuesday, April 3, the Senate passed HB 2557 (NOW: intersection; definition) by a vote of 17-12. The bill redefines the definition of "intersection" in the transportation statutes to make it more difficult to cite drivers for red light violations. The bill, which arose as a strike-everything amendment in the Senate, now returns to the House for the sponsor to concur with or refuse the changes made by the striker.

Political signs

On Tuesday, April 3, the House passed SB 1200 (political signs; hazardous locations) by a vote of 33-25. The bill, sponsored by Senator Sylvia Allen (R-Snowflake), stipulates that a government agency must notify the owner of a political sign in writing if a particular sign is deemed to create a hazardous condition. It further provides that, for purposes of calculating the time frame for permissible sign installation, a primary election begins on the day that early ballots are first mailed out to voters. The bill next proceeds to the Governor for her signature or veto.

Emergency response

On Tuesday, April 3, the Senate passed HB 2094 (prepaid wireless E911 excise tax) by a vote of 20-9. The bill was signed into law by Governor Brewer two days later on Thursday, April 5.

The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Bob Robson (R-Chandler), levies a tax of .8 percent on the retail sale of prepaid cell phone services to assist governmental entities with maintenance, operation and capital costs associated with the 9-1-1 system. Arizona currently levies a tax on all telecommunications services for this purpose. The tax, however, is currently collected only on monthly wired and wireless services. The League supports HB 2094 as a means to effect considerable improvement of Arizona's aging 9-1-1 system.

Revenue allocation districts

On Monday, April 2, the Senate Rules Committee passed HB 2469 (revenue allocation districts). The bill was discussed by both Senate caucuses that same day. The measure, sponsored by Rep. Rick Gray (R-Sun City), authorizes municipalities to form Revenue Allocation Districts, which can pledge increases in both property tax and sales tax revenue to secure bonds issued to benefit the district. The League supports the measure, which previously passed the House by a vote of 44-13 and now heads to the Senate Committee of the Whole for further consideration.

Government deposits

On Wednesday, March 21, the Governor signed into law SB 1135 (government deposits). The bill, supported by the League and sponsored by Senator John McComish (R-Phoenix), had previously passed both the House and Senate by unanimous votes.

The new law authorizes municipalities to invest surplus funds and other monies not used for operating costs into federally insured savings deposit accounts through Insured Cash Sweep (ICS). ICS is a deposit placement service that allows for a depositor's funds to be swept from a transaction or checking account into savings accounts (interest-bearing money market accounts). ICS allocates the funds to accounts in banks throughout the country in amounts less than the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) insurance maximum of $250,000 so that both principal and interest are eligible for FDIC insurance.

Legislator profile - Senator Robert Meza

Senator Robert Meza
The B-2 Spirit, commonly known as the Stealth Bomber, is an American aircraft featuring stealth technology designed for penetrating dense defenses. It is able to deploy both conventional and unconventional weapons. The plane's "low observable" or "stealth" technology empowers it with the capability to penetrate an enemy's most sophisticated defenses to attack its most heavily defended targets. The bomber's stealth is largely derived from its reduced radar signature, making it difficult for opposition defenses to detect, track and engage the aircraft. The aircraft is sophisticated, sleek and effective.

This brief description of the B-2 also applies to a secret weapon in the Democratic caucus of the Arizona Senate. Meet Robert Meza, Arizona's very own stealth legislator.

Unlike many of his colleagues, Senator Meza, a third-generation Arizonan representing Glendale and Phoenix, affirmatively shuns the spotlight. He prefers to operate largely behind the scenes and underneath the radar. "The Catholic nuns of my youth advised us to do good deeds but not become braggadocios," remembers Meza. "I learned that you can be a person of great action and accomplishment without the need for accolades or the limelight."

He credits his powers of stealth for having helped engineer a number of legislative accomplishments, candidate victories and redistricting successes. With respect to many of these efforts, his involvement remains unknown to the public and his colleagues. Meza wears results-producing anonymity as something of a badge of honor.

Meza's ascension to the Senate was made possible, in the first instance, by the migration of his forebears from Guadalajara to Arizona circa 1896. They came both to pursue opportunities in the United States and to escape civil war in Mexico. His ancestors were mostly laborers, miners and field workers.

By the time Robert was born in St. Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix, his mother's side of the family had become highly educated and accomplished. Meza counts among his uncles a physicist, chemist and architect. His father, who hailed from a blue collar family, was a unionized sheet metal worker. The marriage produced three children, including Meza's older sister, Liz, and his younger brother, Michael.

Determined to give their children every opportunity for a good education and rich life, the Mezas were the first Latino family to move into an otherwise all-Caucasian neighborhood. As a youth in the Alahambra Elementary School District, Meza was a soccer enthusiast, a gifted student and a mean trombone player. He went on to attend Bourgade Catholic High School in Phoenix. At Bourgade, Meza was captain of the track and tennis teams.

Following high school, Meza was strongly considering college in California - either UCLA or Berkeley. He was heavily recruited by Notre Dame, however, so he went to South Bend to have a look. Visiting the campus, peopled by approximately 7,000 students, Meza was struck by its unusual warmth and beauty. He was captivated by the Golden Dome of the Virgin Mary, two campus lakes, the school's rich football tradition and the excitement of dormitory life.

Meza chose to associate with the Fighting Irish and dove headlong into the Notre Dame experience without so much as a trace of homesickness. "My parents had prepared me to be on my own," he gratefully recollects. "I had been exposed to many cultures and environments. We traveled a great deal as a family, and I had been to band camp and traveled with an interscholastic track team. I was where I was supposed to be - a traditional coeducational Catholic school - and I embraced the experience."

The young Meza found that there was no shortage of spiritual advisors or advice at Notre Dame. He regards Father John Jenkins, the 17th president of the university, as a "spiritual powerhouse." Meza admires how Jenkins demands that students take ownership of the school. "He admonishes students that they are not guests at Notre Dame," Meza says. "Once a student walks onto campus, he owns that school."

Taking stock of Meza's leadership qualities and his ability to bring people together, the fathers of Notre Dame recommended to Meza that he enter politics. Though he eventually took that advice, Meza regrets that he failed to heed another suggestion of his advisors. "They thought that I should study in South America," Meza recalls. "I went to Chile two years ago, and I immediately realized that I should have gone as a student. I was blown away by the country's majestic beauty, rich vineyards, and amazing people. I even had the opportunity to go horseback riding in the Andes with Pinochet's grandson."

Upon graduation from college, Meza was offered a lucrative post with a bank in Chicago. He chose to repatriate to Arizona instead. Of 200 applicants for a position at First Interstate Bank, he was ranked number two. He took a job as a commercial lender for the bank and proceeded to master negotiating skills and the art of risk assessment. The bank was, he observes, a great training ground for politics.

Meza left First Interstate in 1994 and immersed himself in Arizona politics, working on Sam Coppersmith's U.S. Senate campaign as the volunteer coordinator. Following Coppersmith's loss to Jon Kyl, Meza went to work as a fundraiser for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, where he shattered fundraising records for the organization. From MDA, he took his talents to the Phoenix Little Theater, where he doubled the amount of donations to the theater in less than three years. After his stint with PLT, he subcontracted as a professional fundraiser with various non-profit groups, and he made more time for politics.

Showing great leadership potential since his early youth, Meza served as his class president throughout elementary school, the treasurer of his high school and president of his dormitory in college. Consequently, when he was encouraged to run for a seat in the House in 2002, he was well-prepared. Having never lost an election, he began his first legislative campaign as the decided underdog. Emerging from the Democratic primary with 700 more votes than a friend who was also running, Meza earned a seat alongside Debbie McCune Davis, who moved to the Senate in 2006. In 2010, Senator McCune Davis and Representative Meza switched legislative seats and accompanying titles.

Having served on both sides of the Capitol plaza, Meza confesses that he prefers the upper chamber. "It is less complicated in the Senate. There's less havoc, and you can get more done."

A fierce advocate for local government authority, Meza believes that legislative interference in municipal affairs is unwarranted. "The State should stay out of city and town affairs," he explains. "Great cities cannot be micromanaged. To become a premier city, a municipality needs authority, flexibility and maneuverability. If we keep going after cities, we'll end up destroying them."

With a quick wit, piercing eyes and curious mind, Meza engages people with penetrating intensity. He is a pronounced spiritualist and keen student of human nature. Presently, he is completing the process of conversion to Judaism. "I have always identified with the Jewish people," he explains. "Persecuted and abused, they are ever creating new paradigms - often having to operate below the radar."

Senator Meza did recently abandon his stealthy ways as a competitor in the annual "Dancing with the Stars" fundraiser of the Arizona Kidney Foundation. The athletic Meza (a committed tennis playing, weightlifting cyclist) tripped the light fantastic all the way to first place in the gentleman's division. Moreover, he raised $47,000 for the foundation.

Endowed with a sixth sense that serves him well, Meza apprehends that enormous universal shifts are underway. "Karma is moving in a better direction," he observes. He opines that positive energy is slowly and quietly pervading the third rock from the sun - perhaps in much the same way that the subtle influence of Arizona's stealth senator is taking root in Meza's own beloved state and community.

Legislative Bulletin is published by the League of Arizona Cities and Towns.
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