A bill to raise the legal age for smokers or users of tobacco, vaping products, and alternative nicotine products from 18 to 21 is set to be heard by the Arizona Senate on Monday.
House Bill 2505 is a strike-everything amendment introduced by Sen. Vince Leach which also expands the definitions of what tobacco, vaping, or alternative nicotine products fall under Arizona’s criminal code. It also puts more restrictions on retailers of such products.
Leach’s amendment would make it a petty offense for anyone under age 21 to buy tobacco, a vapor product, or an alternative nicotine product as well as to have such items in their possession. It would also be a petty offense for someone under age 21 to possess any “instrument or paraphernalia” solely designed for smoking or ingesting a prohibited substance, such as a hookah or waterpipe.
And if that person under age 21 misrepresents their age by means of a written instrument of identification with the intent to induce someone to violate the law then under HB2505 the person presenting the fake ID would be guilty of a petty offense and must pay a fine up to $500.
But Leach is also seeking tomake it a petty offense for any person -regardless of age- to “sell, give, or furnish” tobacco, a vapor product, or an alternative nicotine product to someone under 21 without a prosecutor having to prove the person did so knowingly.
HB2505 also seeks to expand restrictions on the possession or use of tobacco products, alternative nicotine products, and vapor products on school grounds, parking lots, playing fields, busses, and at off-campus sponsored events. The term “school” applies to any public, charter, or private school serving students from K-12.
SB2505 would also redefine the legal meaning of a retail tobacco vendor and prohibit the sale or distribution of tobacco products, alternative nicotine products, and vapor products through a self-service or vending machine unless located in a retail establishment that does not allow anyone under the age of 21 to enter. There would also be restrictions on the sale of such products via delivery service.
Retail tobacco vendors would also be required to “prominently display” a sign measuring at least 80 square inches warning that anyone under age 21 would be committing a crime by attempting to purchase tobacco products, alternative nicotine products, or vapor products. The sign must also note that a fine of up to $300 may be imposed on conviction.
The legislation also confirms that the definitions used HB2505 are to have “the same meaning” as the definitions used in Arizona’s criminal code.
Leach’s amendment to HB2505 includes an exemption to 21 year age limit for “a bona fide practice of a religious belief” that is an integral part of a religious or ceremonial exercise. Another exemption states that it is not a petty offense for someone under age 21 to possess paraphernalia used for smoking or ingesting tobacco or shisha if the item “was a gift or souvenir and is not used or intended to be used” by someone under age 21 for such activity.
If Leach’s effort passes out of the Senate, then HB2505 must be heard again by the full House given that its current language has nothing to do the original procurement legislation addressed in HB2505 when introduced by House Majority Leader Ben Toma.
HB2505 would take effect after Dec. 31 of this year if it is signed into law.
Arizona ranked as the top state for economic performance and third for economic competitiveness according to a nationally-renowned, conservative model legislation nonprofit. Those numbers come from the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) latest report is their 15th annual “Rich States, Poor States” index on state economies.
State Senate President Pro Tempore Vince Leach (R-Tucson), ALEC Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force chairman, attributed the ranking to conservative policies. Leach serves as vice chairman of both the Senate Appropriations Committee and Senate Finance Committee.
“While serving as the Vice Chair of both the Senate Appropriations Committee and the Senate Finance Committee, I’ve advocated for fiscally conservative policies focusing on paying off state debt, cutting taxes, and creating an environment competitive for attracting new business and growing a strong workforce, while removing big government red tape that suppresses the economic success and viability of the states,” said Leach.
Arizona’s ranking for economic outlook has varied over the last ten years — 13th in 2021, 10th in 2020, 11th in 2019, 5th in 2018, 8th in 2017, 5th in 2016 and 2015, 7th in 2014, 6th in 2013, and 9th in 2012. The last time Arizona ranked this high was from 2007 to 2010.
ALEC determined their rankings using each state’s current standing in 15 state policy variables. These are the top marginal personal income tax rate, top marginal corporate income tax rate, personal income tax progressivity, property tax burden, sales tax burden, remaining tax burden, estate/inheritance tax levying, recently legislated tax changes, debt service as a share of tax revenue, public employees per 10,000 of population, state liability system survey, state minimum wage, average workers’ compensation costs, right-to-work status, and tax expenditure limits.
ALEC noted that states with lower expenditures and less taxes generally experienced higher economic growth.
While Arizona climbed upward in the 15 years of the annual ALEC index, the top state didn’t budge. Utah has ranked first in economic competitiveness every year.
The top ten states on ALEC’s list were as follows, in order: Utah, North Carolina, Arizona, Oklahoma, Idaho, Nevada, Indiana, Florida, North Dakota, and Wyoming.
The middle pack of states, in order of ranking: Texas, South Dakota, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Georgia, Arkansas, Michigan, New Hampshire, Ohio, Louisiana, Alaska, Colorado, Alabama, Virginia, West Virginia, South Carolina, Mississippi, Delaware, Montana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Kentucky, Connecticut, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Washington, and Rhode Island.
The bottom ten states, in order: Oregon, Maryland, Hawaii, Maine, Illinois, Minnesota, Vermont, California, New Jersey, and New York.
State Senator Victoria Steele (D-Tucson) treated legislators and constituents to poetry and music at the Arizona State Capitol on Wednesday. Steele felt compelled to do so after her fellow Tucson legislator, State Senator Vince Leach (R-Tucson), criticized Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson the day before for Jackson’s inability to define “woman” during her Supreme Court confirmation hearing. Steele considered Leach’s question to be “audacious” and in need of a response. Since it wasn’t feasible for Jackson to speak for herself, Steele stepped up to the plate.
With a giggle, Steele began to recite poet Maya Angelou’s poem, “Phenomenal Woman.” Then, she began to sing the 1971 hit “I Am Woman” by Helen Reddy, which she explained was offered “just in case there was any doubt” about her definition of a woman. Unlike the poem, Steele cut short her song to perform only the first verse and chorus.
“And that, my friend, is a woman,” concluded Steele.
According to the science, Steele’s remarks didn’t answer the question. A woman is an adult female human. A female human is determined by the two XX sex chromosomes that arise at the moment of fertilization. For males, that’s the XY sex chromosomes. According to the greater scope of nature, females have the ability of bearing offspring and/or producing eggs in ovaries. In the case of humans, females produce eggs and have the ability to carry and bear children after reaching sexual maturity.
It appears that Steele prepared a whole day to respond to Leach’s remarks on Tuesday. Leach said it was “troubling” that someone like Jackson was appointed to the highest court in the land.
“What is to be questioned is a system which puts to the bench of the United States Supreme Court someone that can’t answer a simple question: what is a woman?” said Leach.
During a confirmation hearing, Jackson was unable to answer a question from Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) asking her to define the word “woman.” Jackson said she couldn’t answer because she wasn’t a biologist.
Arizona attorneys may no longer have to have membership within the State Bar of Arizona in order to practice law in the state. On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee passed a bill prohibiting the Arizona Supreme Court from requiring attorneys to have any organization membership in order to become or remain a licensed attorney. Like the bill’s passage in the Senate, the bill passed along party lines in committee.
State Senator Vince Leach (R-Tucson), the bill sponsor, shared that Attorney General Mark Brnovich had to hire an attorney to litigate a case because his attorneys were under State Bar investigation due to complaints from Secretary of State Katie Hobbs. Leach said that the secretary of state was “weaponizing a tool within the legal system.” However, he noted that those 12 bar complaints disappeared after he introduced the bill.
Leach added that many attorneys who wanted to speak on the bill didn’t show up because they were afraid of upsetting the status quo.
“They won’t come here because the State Bar, which is designed to protect the industry, and — if this is a word, if it’s not a word, I’m still going to say it — lawyering to look out for the good of the legal profession. You have members that are forced to pay $500-and-some-odd, don’t want to come here and say ‘Yeah there’s a problem with the bar,’” said Leach.
Leach encouraged the committee to view the State Bar as a corporation, and to question their practices and lobbying activities.
State Representative Neal Carter (R-Queen Creek) asked Leach if union membership was required for the practice of other professions in the state, to which Leach replied no — Arizona is a right to work state.
State Bar of Arizona President Jennifer Rebholz expressed opposition to the bill, arguing that the Arizona Supreme Court should have its decision to require bar membership respected as a matter of separation of powers. The representative insisted that the state bar wasn’t a union, but rather a conduit for the will and disciplinary authority of the supreme court.
Carter recounted the history behind state bars, pointing to the feudalist systems which required a state bar of sorts to act as an intermediary between the courts and the people. He expressed concern about the fact that attorneys didn’t testify on the bill out of fear of retaliation from the State Bar.
“It seems to me the whole system was borne out of a kind of restricting access idea and that today it drives up cost for legal services, so that those who need it the most — indigent people, people accused of crimes and so on, particularly adversely affects minorities and others than those who have the money to pay for lawyers because it drives up costs,” said Carter. “I also think it makes it harder for those people to join the profession themselves. It really is a sort of anti-democratic, anti-American, anti-equality, anti-access to justice system.”
State Representative Mark Finchem (R-Oro Valley) insisted that individuals weaponize the bar and that it should function more as a service organization, not a labor union. State Representative Jacqueline Parker (R-Mesa) added that the State Bar was far from unbiased.
In their opposition, committee Democrats concurred with Rebholz’s perspective that the State Bar was crucial to the separation of powers.
Arizona’s income tax – with a top rate of 8% – is not competitive. Reducing and eventually eliminating the state income tax would be a huge win for all Arizonans.
Individual taxpayers and families would be able to keep more of their hard-earned paychecks. Small businesses would be able to invest more in their employees. And Arizona would be much more attractive to businesses and investment, bringing new jobs and opportunities to the state.
Over the last decade, millions of people and jobs have been fleeing from high-tax states to states that do not impose income taxes. The ability to work remotely will only amplify this trend.
Unfortunately, Arizona’s current income tax puts it on the wrong side of this equation.
Arizona is a high tax state and slipping further
Under the status quo, Arizona’s income tax – with a top rate of 8% – is not competitive. Eight states – including Arizona’s neighbor Nevada and nearby Texas – do not impose individual income taxes of any kind. Thirty-two more states – count Arizona’s neighbors Colorado, New Mexico and Utah, among them – have top rates that are lower than Arizona’s.
Even worse for Arizona, the list of states that do not impose income taxes will continue to grow. Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, and Arkansas Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin are among several key lawmakers that are working to eliminate income taxes in their states.
Unless Arizona begins reducing and phasing out its income tax, it will continue to fall behind.
The good news is Arizona’s leaders refuse to sit back and allow it to fail. Gov. Doug Ducey, Sen. J.D. Mesnard, President Pro Tem Vince Leach, Majority Leader Ben Toma and many others are eager to provide pro-growth income tax relief.
A flat tax is a much better way to go
They are working on a tax plan that would streamline Arizona’s current four-bracket system (five brackets when accounting for the Proposition 208 “surcharge” of 3.5% that will be imposed on certain income, resulting in top rate of 8%) down to a flat tax of 2.5%.
That would be lower than its current bottom rate of 2.59% (with adjustments being made to ensure that even with the Proposition 208 “surcharge,” which would effectively create two brackets, the top rate would not be higher than 4.5%).
Flat taxes protect all taxpayers from tax increases. Under a progressive income tax, taxpayers are divided into small groups, allowing politicians to rob them one by one. Raising a flat tax, on the other hand, is much more difficult because politicians are forced to answer to every single income tax filer.
Making this news even better, there is a serious effort to include a full phase-out of the income tax (excluding the Proposition 208 “surcharge”) over time through the use of revenue triggers, a responsible way for states to cut taxes without getting ahead of their ski tips.
It could bring new jobs, higher wages
If such a provision were included, Arizona would be a model for other states to copy.
In addition to reducing income tax rates, the Republican tax plan would provide even more income tax relief by quadrupling the child tax credit and by coupling the standard deduction to inflation.
The Republican tax plan would be a huge victory for every single Arizonan. Reducing and, ideally, eliminating the income tax would attract businesses looking to expand, investors looking for growing economies with hospitable tax climates and families looking for greater prosperity.
This would bring new jobs and opportunities to current Arizona residents.
Income tax relief would also allow small businesses, which overwhelmingly pay their income taxes on the personal side of the code, to invest in higher wages, and would allow the hardworking people of Arizona to keep more of their paychecks.
Arizona’s future will be brighter if it begins reducing and eliminating the state income tax.
Grover Norquist is president of Americans for Tax Reform, a nonprofit taxpayer advocacy organization that was founded at the request of President Ronald Reagan. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.