For over a decade, Arizona Legislative Republicans have not had to worry about a governor who may be inclined to use executive actions to unnecessarily regulate businesses around the state. They’re now advancing a bill to protect businesses in their districts from any new regulatory overreach that could be coming from the new Democrat Chief Executive on the Ninth Floor of Arizona’s Executive Tower.
This week, the Arizona House passed HB 2254, sponsored by Representative Justin Wilmeth. The bill “requires a proposed rule that will increase regulatory costs in excess of $500,000 within two years after implementation to be ratified by the Legislature,” according to the overview provided by the State House. 31 Republicans voted for the legislation, opposed by 27 Democrats. Two Democrats did not vote (Representatives Stacey Travers and Amish Shah).
Representative Wilmeth issued the following statement after his bill’s party-line passage in the House: “Burdensome regulations can lead to higher prices, fewer small businesses, and fewer jobs. HB 2254 says legislative approval would be required before high-cost rules could be implemented by the state. Executive agencies would have to get buy-in from the Legislature before they could move forward with major regulations. It will increase government accountability by strengthening oversight on unelected bureaucrats and help keep government regulations in check.”
Earlier last month, HB 2254 passed the House Government Committee with a partisan 5-4 vote and the House Rules Committee with a unanimous 8-0 vote.
Republican Legislators did not have to take precautions when it came to protecting Arizona businesses from the heavy and onerous hand of state government during the previous administration. Former Governor Doug Ducey led the way for the Grand Canyon State and the nation by “eliminat(ing) or improv(ing) over 3,365 regulations since 2015 – the equivalent of a $183 million tax cut.”
Representatives from the Sierra Club – Grand Canyon Chapter, AZ Solar Energy Industries, and WM E Morris Institute for Justice opposed the bill’s passage through the House process. Stephen Shadegg from Americans for Prosperity Arizona supported this legislation.
HB 2254 now heads to the Arizona Senate. If it clears that chamber, it will await its fate at the hands of a governor who will have to decide whether to voluntarily allow a Republican-led legislature to hold her regulatory actions accountable to their oversight.
Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.
AZ Free News sampled 46 legislators’ latest campaign finance reports of the state legislature and found that 22 of 47 legislators sampled received 50 percent or more of their campaign contributions from either lobbyists or PACs.
PACs and lobbyists have significant footing in the legislature. That would explain why the first week of January is known as “hell week” within the legislature — not because they’re in preparation for the new session kicking off, but because lobbyists are scrambling to fundraise for legislators. Arizona law prohibits legislators from receiving lobbyist campaign contributions while in regular session.
The following are state legislators that receive 50 percent or more of their campaign funds from PACs and lobbyists combined:
In the House, Richard Andrade (D-Glendale), about 51 percent; Ben Toma (R-Peoria), about 56 percent; Lorenzo Sierra (D-Avondale), about 62 percent; Steve Kaiser (R-Phoenix), about 64 percent; John Kavanagh (R-Fountain Hills), about 64 percent; Rusty Bowers (R-Mesa), about 64 percent; Diego Espinoza (D-Tolleson), about 66 percent; Joanne Osborne (R-Goodyear), about 74 percent; David Cook (R-Globe), about 75 percent; Justin Wilmeth (R-Phoenix), about 79 percent; John Fillmore (R-Apache Junction), about 83 percent; Tim Dunn (R-Yuma), about 87 percent; and Kelli Butler (D-Paradise Valley), about 96 percent.
In the Senate, Vince Leach (R-Tucson), about 53 percent; T.J. Shope (R-Coolidge), about 56 percent; David Gowan (R-Sierra Vista), about 71 percent; Rosanna Gabaldon (D-Sahuarita), about 73 percent; Lupe Contreras (D-Avondale), about 75 percent; Sonny Borrelli (R-Lake Havasu City), about 79 percent; Tyler Pace (R-Mesa), about 82 percent; Sine Kerr (R-Buckeye), about 90 percent; and David Livingston (R-Peoria), about 91 percent.
Of note, all of Gowan’s 32 contributions came from outside of his district — 28 came from Maricopa County. Additionally, $5,000 of Gowan’s $8,950 non-lobbyist contributions came from Phoenix Coyotes owner Alex Merulo.
Butler received over $10,000 from the Tucson branch of one of the largest labor unions in the country: the United Food and Commercial Workers (UCFW). Her PAC contributions totaled $13,000, and $150 of her individual contributions were from lobbyists. There were several inactive lobbyist donors among the individual contributions totaling $250. In all, Butler’s total contributions were over $13,700.
Wilmeth’s ten non-lobbyist donors included three inactive lobbyists and one wife of an inactive lobbyist.
Five legislators sampled reportedly received less than 10 percent of funds from PACs and lobbyists: Morgan Abraham, about 4 percent; Quang Nguyen, about 7 percent; Judy Burges, about 7 percent; Amish Shah, about 7 percent; and Joseph Chaplik, about 8 percent.
There were several legislators sampled that we couldn’t review because their reports haven’t been filed yet — even though they were due well over two months ago.
State Representative Alma Hernandez (D-Tucson) still hasn’t filed her campaign finance report due April 15. Hernandez has been late consistently since her first year in office (2018), accruing $3,500 in fines altogether. Her latest campaign finance report, which she has yet to file, is 76 days late and she owed $1,675 currently — her highest single fine to date. It took Hernandez 69 extra days to file her 2021 cumulative finance report: it was due January 15, but she filed it March 25.
Just over half of Hernandez’s individual donors from her last report, the cumulative one for 2021, were from out of state and made up the majority of those contributions: $5,980 versus the $3,920 from Arizona. Among them were several prominent figures in the Jewish community including acclaimed author and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel’s son, Elisha Wiesel, as well as Broadway star Jonah Platt.
State Senator Stephanie Stahl Hamilton (D-Tucson) did file her report on time — but like Hernandez, over half of the individual contributors on her latest campaign finance report were from out of state.
It appears that the Hernandez siblings are alike when it comes to campaign finance reports. Since the year his sister took office, Hernandez grew increasingly tardy with filing the reports. For two separate 2020 reports, he accrued over $5,100 in fines. His 2021 cumulative report was filed late by 67 days, and he was fined $1,450 for that. Both the Hernandez siblings are 76 days late on their first quarter report.
Another perennially tardy filer is State Representative César Chávez (D-Maryvale). Like Hernandez, he is 76 dates late and owes $1,675, but for his senate campaign’s first quarter report. Chávez was also late by 58 days to file his senate campaign’s 2021 cumulative report, owing $1,225.
Similarly to Hernandez, Chávez has a history of late filings, the highest of which were 121 days late to file his 2020 pre-general election filing, 163 days late to file his 2016 pre-general election report, and 953 days late to file his 2016 first report for the fourth quarter and post-general election report.
One interesting campaign finance report came from State Senator Wendy Rogers (R-Flagstaff). The report totaled nearly 600 pages, with 586 dedicated to individual contributions alone that totaled nearly $360,000. No lobbyists could be discerned among the over 7,000 contributors, and over 1,600 of them were Arizonans. A vast majority were retired, nearly 4,500 of them, bolstered by the self-employed and small business owners.
Only one PAC donated to Rogers: the Save America PAC gave one contribution of $5,000 in January.
Citing the importance of growing Arizona’s international presence, House Speaker Rusty Bowers hopes a new Ad Hoc Committee on International Affairs will enhance trade opportunities while also strengthening border security.
“The world is an ever-changing place, and it’s important that the State of Arizona be proactive to attract more commerce, education and culture to this beautiful state,” Bowers said this week in announcing formation of the ad hoc committee.
The committee co-chaired by Tim Dunn (R-LD13) and Rep. Cesar Chavez (D-LD15) will organize visits and joint events in Arizona with international dignitaries, while identifying and working with outside organizations to strengthen Arizona’s international relationships. Committee members will also conduct hearings related to foreign trade, international affairs, and border security.
“Whether it be trade, border security or tourism, this committee will be a key force in making Arizona safer and more prosperous,” said Dunn, an agri-businessman who chairs the House Committee on Land, Agriculture & Rural Affairs.
According to the Observatory of Economic Complexity, Arizona had $1.9 billion in trade exports and $2.38 billion in trade imports in September 2021. Between September 2020 and September 2021, exports increased by $327 million (20.7 percent) while imports increased by $221 million (10.2 percent).
For Chavez, international relationships are critical for growing the state’s business, trade, and education sectors.
“I’ve always believed that Arizona is the State of Opportunity because of what can be accomplished in a bipartisan manner,” Chavez said. “Through the work of this ad-hoc committee, I’m certain that we’ll give Arizona its well-deserved global presence.”
Dunn and Chavez will be joined on the committee by Reps. Regina Cobb (R-LD5), Diego Espinoza (D-LD19), Alma Hernandez (D-LD3), Steve Kaiser (R-LD15), Lorenzo Sierra (D-LD19), and Justin Wilmeth (R-LD15).