Tourism Bill Would Increase Hotel Lodging Costs To Fund Local Promotional Efforts

Tourism Bill Would Increase Hotel Lodging Costs To Fund Local Promotional Efforts

By Terri Jo Neff |

A bill that would allow many municipalities and counties to “assess” hotels and other transient lodging businesses up to $5 per room per night to fund a tourism promotion agency was defeated Tuesday on the House Floor but it can be reconsidered within 14 days after a last minute motion for reconsideration passed by voice vote.

Currently the Arizona Office of Tourism (AOT) is responsible for promoting and developing tourism in Arizona under the supervision of a director who is appointed by the governor. The duties of the AOT include conducting a marketing campaign on the attractions of the state, as well as promoting Arizona via state, national and international media.

However, HB2161 would allow cities, towns, and counties to adopt a resolution to form a Tourism Marketing Authority (TMA) to be funded by a new “assessment” against rooms used for transient lodging (less than 30 day stays). A local TMA would be run by a “recognized” 501c6 nonprofit tourism promotion agency

The TMA could only be formed upon signed approval of the owners of at least 67 percent of the transient lodging rooms within the boundary of the proposed TMA, meaning a transient lodging property could be forced into the TMA even if they don’t wish to participate. The bill calls for all of the per room, per night assessments to be distributed to whatever entity is contracted to run the TMA.

If no recognized non-profit is available in an area, then the tourism promotion office of one of the member municipalities or county could be contracted to manage the TMA. HB2161 does not provide for the already established, taxpayer-funded Arizona Office of Tourism to have any oversight of the TMA operations.

While many tourism promotion groups support the bill, questions were raised during committee and floor discussions about the need to create a business-funded entity that would be responsible for promoting tourism in a certain area without substantial public control or oversight.

HB2161 calls for each TMA to be governed by the board of directors of the tourism promotion agency and at least one person from one or more of the municipalities or county. The only concession in the bill to concern about public oversite is that TMA board meetings would have to comply with public meeting and public records laws.

Groups such as the Arizona Tax Research Association and Republican Liberty Caucus of Arizona oppose the bill, while cities such as Mesa, Scottsdale, and Surprise have taken a neutral position.

The Tourism Marketing Authority created by the bill would terminate after 10 years unless the legislature approves a onetime 10-year renewal.

Legislation Would Allow Sheriff’s Deputies To Practice Law or Partner With An Attorney

Legislation Would Allow Sheriff’s Deputies To Practice Law or Partner With An Attorney

By Terri Jo Neff |

Sheriff’s deputies across Arizona will be able to practice law or form a partnership with an attorney-at-law if House Bill 2763 becomes law, but first the bill has to make it out of the House Rules Committee on Tuesday.

The state’s 15 sheriffs and their deputies, along with all constables and their deputies, are currently prohibited from practicing law. They are also prohibited by statute from forming any type of partnership with an attorney.

HB2763 as initially introduced by Rep. Kevin Payne (R-LD21) would have removed all those prohibitions. However, the House Committee on Military Affairs & Public Safety chaired by Payne amended the bill last week to put the prohibition back in place only for sheriffs, constables, and constable deputies.

That would leave deputies working for the 15 county sheriff’s offices with a new career path or investment opportunities, especially now that the Arizona Supreme Court allows nonlawyers to have ownership of or an investment interest in a for-profit law firm.

The supreme court also approved a new category of licensee -a Legal Paraprofessional (LP)- who can represent clients in court in matters of administrative law, family law, debt collection, and landlord-tenant disputes. LPs may also be granted limited jurisdiction for some other civil matters as well as criminal matters.

It’s unclear what position the Arizona Peace Officers Standards and Training (AZPOST) board takes on Payne’s legislation, which could lead to questions of conflict of interest and financial motivation.

If HB2768 clears the Rules Committee it still has to clear the full House and then the Senate before getting to Gov. Doug Ducey.

Appropriations Committee Set To Consider Anti-App Tax Bill

Appropriations Committee Set To Consider Anti-App Tax Bill

By B. Hernandez |

PHOENIX – As Big Tech continues to flex it monopolistic powers, State Rep. Regina Cobb is hoping to help consumers save money and innovators compete in the tech market. Rep. Biasiucci has thrown his support behind Cobb’s bill, HB2005, which will allow app developers avoid what the two lawmakers call “devastating” fees imposed by big tech monopolies.

Currently all app developers must sell their products through Apple and Google’s app distribution stores. As a result, app developers are stuck using Apple and Google’s in-app payment processing. HB2005, if passed, would restrict the ability of certain digital application distribution platforms to require use of a specific in-application payment system.

HB 2005 would allow small app developers to provide payment options to their customers rather than being forced to use solely the dominant platform’s service, freeing them from the “App Tax” and lowering costs for consumers.

HB 2005 will be heard in the House Appropriations on Monday, February 22.

House Overview of Provisions

1. Prohibits a provider of a digital application distribution platform whose cumulative downloads from Arizona users in a calendar year exceed 1,000,000 from:

a) Requiring an Arizona-domiciled developer or Arizona user to use a specific in-application payment system as the sole method of accepting payments for either a software download or a digital or physical product; or

b) Retaliating against an Arizona-domiciled developer or Arizona user for using an inapplication payment system or digital application distribution platform not associated with the provider. (Sec. 1)

2. States that an agreement which violates the prohibition is unenforceable. (Sec. 1)

3. Exempts digital distribution platforms used for specialized categories of applications that are provided to users of hardware intended for specific purposes (such as gaming consoles and music players) from the prohibitions. (Sec. 1)

4. Allows the Attorney General to bring an action on behalf of aggrieved parties and seek legal or equitable relief on their behalf. (Sec. 1)

5. Defines Arizona user, developer, digital application distribution platform, domiciled in this state, in-application payment system, provider and special-purpose digital application distribution platform. (Sec. 1)

According to the two lawmakers, developers are charged a 30% processing tax referred to as the “App Tax” for a service they are forced to use, rather than a traditional payment processing fee of 3%.

The lawmakers argue that the “App Tax” tax not only “penalizes small app developers but also limits choice for consumers and forces Arizonans to pay more.”

Arizona House Committee Passes Term Limits On Congress Resolution

Arizona House Committee Passes Term Limits On Congress Resolution

the Arizona House Government and Elections Committee passed HCR 2015 for an amendment proposal convention that would help put term limits on Congress. The resolution is sponsored by Rep. Ben Toma representing District 22, part of the Phoenix metropolitan area.

The resolution passed the house committee with a vote of 7-6. Thirty-five Arizona state lawmakers in the 2021 legislature have taken the term limits pledge (see listing below) promising to support an Article V convention for term limits on Congress.

The state senate counterpart resolution, SCR 1025, is sponsored by Sen. Kelly Townsend. Both resolutions are being guided through the legislature by U.S. Term Limits (USTL), a national, nonprofit advocating for term limits at all levels of government.

“This has been a great week for Arizona passing the USTL resolutions in committees in both chambers,” says USTL’s Arizona State Director, Jim Olivi. On Monday, Sen. Townsend’s bill passed its hearing in the Senate Government committee. “When 85% of people approve of anything, you know it’s a bipartisan proposal,” said Olivi.

According to a 2020 poll by McLaughlin & Associates, congressional term limits is the most popular and bipartisan issue in Arizona, with 85 percent support statewide. That includes backing from 87 percent of Republicans, 85 percent of independents and 83 percent of Democratic voters.

Both resolutions are expected to be voted on in their respective chambers as early as next week.

Bill Recognizes Right Of County Recorders To Have Voice In Some Elections Lawsuits

Bill Recognizes Right Of County Recorders To Have Voice In Some Elections Lawsuits

By Terri Jo Neff |

In a move strongly supported by Arizona’s 15 elected county recorders, the House Government & Elections Committee approved a bill Thursday which greatly limits the powers of the Arizona Secretary of State (SOS) when it comes to responding to and settling some election lawsuits.

HB2302 stipulates that the SOS cannot settle “or otherwise compromise” an election-related civil action without first consulting the state’s 15 county recorders if the proposed settlement materially affects a county recorder. It also gives any county recorder standing to join an election-related lawsuit and object to a settlement by putting forth evidence that the settlement is impractical or difficult to comply with.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Walt Blackman, is supported by the Arizona Association of Counties. It passed the committee on a 7 to 6 vote, and is expected to pass the House Rules Committee next week.

That, according to Cochise County Recorder David Stevens, is a good thing, as the county recorders are the people legally responsible for registering voters.

Stevens says HB2302 is “a direct result” of Secretary of State Katie Hobbs’ actions prior to the 2020 General Election when she was named in a federal lawsuit which sought to extend Arizona’s voter registration deadline past Oct. 5. Hobbs never informed the 15 recorders about the case, even as she negotiated a settlement that directly impacted the recorders and their staffs.

“The recorders who actually do voter registration were not notified of the federal court case and were not able to present a defense against the extension to Oct. 23,” Stevens told Arizona Daily Independent. “To make it worse, when the extension was later ruled ‘illegal and an abuse of discretion’ and it was thrown out, the SOS provided her opinion as to when the last day of voter registration should be.”

None of the recorders were involved in reaching that opinion, Stevens says.

Eventually the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals voided an Oct. 23 extended deadline ordered by a district judge in Phoenix. The result was a revised deadline of Oct. 15, 10 days after recorders had expected to be done with voter registration.

Stevens pointed out that because early voting began Oct. 7, the extended deadline created several problems as recorders who were facilitating actual voting were suddenly forced to handle inquiries about the ever-changed deadline and register voters for an election that was already underway.

Blackman’s bill is opposed by Secretary of State Katie Hobbs. Which disappoints Stevens.

“To be clear, NOT ONE voter has ever been registered to vote by the Secretary of State,” he said. “It is solely the function of the recorders, and not to involve the ones who actually do the work is malfeasance.”

Hobbs’ handling of the registration deadline case also got her sideways with Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, who contended the SOS has no authority to bind the state or the county recorders to a change in state election law. As a result of that split, Hobbs retained private legal counsel while Brnovich vigorously defended the Oct. 5 deadline, which is set by state law since 1990 at 29 days prior to the general election.

Arizona Small Businesses Tax Relief Passes Out Of House Ways And Means Committee

Arizona Small Businesses Tax Relief Passes Out Of House Ways And Means Committee

PHOENIX – On Wednesday, the House Ways and Means Committee approved legislation that revises Arizona tax structure for taxpayers and protects small business from over taxation by the federal government, without impacting the state general fund. The vote on HB 2838, sponsored by Rep. Joseph Chaplik, was divided along party lines.

In November 2020, the Internal Revenue Service issued guidance (Notice 2020-75) that pass-through entity businesses may claim deductions above the $10,000 State and Local Tax (SALT) cap. In response, at least seven states have imposed a new tax structure at the pass-through entity level permitting this deduction as intended by the federal government. Under HB 2838, Arizona would join those other states, providing small businesses significant potential tax savings.

“Small businesses are the backbone of the Arizona economy, and I will do everything in my power to protect them,” said Chaplik. “As Arizona businesses recover from an unprecedented economic downturn, I remain committed to providing them every opportunity to thrive in this challenging environment. HB 2838 frees up critical capital for business owners and doesn’t cost the state a dime in tax revenue.

“Republicans voted to help all businesses with tax relief without negatively impacting our state revenues. Democrats voted ‘no’ and are not willing to help their businesses in their districts,” claimed Chaplik.

All 31 members of the House Republican Caucus have signed their support for HB 2838. It will next be considered by the whole House.