Paradise Valley OKs 2020 legislative agenda

Mayor Bien-Willner offers insights into key lobbying efforts within legislative agenda

Posted 12/22/19

Paradise Valley’s 2020 legislative agenda has been approved by town leaders, after a series of meetings to discuss top priorities.

In November, the council held two study sessions to review …

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Paradise Valley OKs 2020 legislative agenda

Mayor Bien-Willner offers insights into key lobbying efforts within legislative agenda

Posted

Paradise Valley’s 2020 legislative agenda has been approved by town leaders, after a series of meetings to discuss top priorities.

In November, the council held two study sessions to review and discuss legislative issues and strategies for the upcoming year.

Overall, many key issues and interests from prior years remain relevant, town officials say.

According to state law, the Arizona Legislature session begins annually noon on the second Monday of January.

In November, the Independent reported the 2020 budget fund balance being in better shape than initially projected, with nearly $470 million in the state coffer.

Several statewide ballot initiatives are looming, hired lobbyist Doug Cole, chief operating officer at Highground Public Affairs Consultants told council earlier this year --- including an effort to outlaw private political contributions coined “Dark Money” and a marijuana measure seeking to allow adult recreational use.

On the approved legislative agenda action items include:

  • Quality of life and public safety concerns to preserve neighborhoods;
  • Local financial stability; and
  • Public safety/traffic enforcement/smart technology.

Continued priorities, the agenda shows, include state-shared revenues; rights of way use; zoning and preservation of quality of life; stormwater and other utility right of way use; and sustainable pension structure.

In fiscal year 2019, the town contributed $9 million to pay down the unfunded liability from 29% funded in 2016 to 76% funded in 2019, the agenda states.

Mr. Bien-Willner later reflected on the upcoming legislative agenda, describing how state-level happenings can affect the residents of Paradise Valley.

• Why is it important for Paradise Valley to be involved at the Arizona Legislature?

Each year, there are laws passed or amended at the Arizona Legislature that can impact our Town in both positive and negative ways. Because the Arizona Legislature can enact laws that “preempt” or override our Town’s ordinances --- an important recent example of this are state laws that tie the Town’s hands with regard to so-called “short term rentals” --- it is vitally important that we stay engaged and proactive in the state-level legislative process to do everything we can to protect our Town and our citizens from any negative consequences of new state laws, which are often unintended, and to work to reform those that are currently impacting us in a negative way.

•What should residents expect from Paradise Valley’s 2020 legislative agenda?

I am extremely pleased with our Council-approved Legislative agenda in that I believe it focuses on all of the key areas important to our Town and its citizens, and it does not look for “hand outs” from the State. Our agenda primarily seeks to prevent any State-level action that could undermine our long-established and highly successful model of limited and effective government and the values we hold dear, including the sanctity of peaceful, safe, and quiet residential neighborhoods and the effective use of technology by our law enforcement personnel. Also important is state-level tax and revenue policy, such as how construction sales tax gets allocated, as major changes in those areas can disrupt our financial planning, and impact the Town’s bottom line. If we don’t speak up on the issues that are important to us at the state and federal level, we can be overlooked and suffer because of that.

•Short-term rentals are clearly one of the most pressing issues for Paradise Valley; through your work with the legislature and Ad-Hoc Committee, do you see a solution for Town residents emerging?

I am cautiously optimistic that progress will be made in this area, but there will be a lot of work to do and I’m concerned that “tweaks” that do not go far enough and kick the can down the road will only make things worse. The current state laws do not serve us or any other community I have heard from well, as they fundamentally disable us from responding to citizen concerns. I believe that our Town is best suited to address its citizens’ concerns about this issue, which is at its core one of preserving neighborhoods, public safety, and maintaining control of our residential zoning – and remember that residential, large-lot zoning is the foundational cornerstone of our Town.

We are grateful that an Ad Hoc Committee of the legislature has formed, and that the State legislators for our district (LD 28) understand and are trying to address our concerns. This includes Sen. Kate Brophy McGee, who is the Co-Chair of the Ad Hoc Committee and has expressed her willingness to work hard on this issue, and Rep. Aaron Lieberman, who has sponsored a bill to repeal the current state law on “short term rentals.” The Town will be looking for a durable, broad-based solution that returns as much control of this issue as possible to the Town Council, the government that is primarily responsible for zoning and public safety for our community. To be clear, the Town is not looking for the state to issue an outright “ban” short term rentals, but instead allow us to handle this issue as a local matter subject to the input and desires of our citizens who live in our community, just like we do with Paradise Valley resorts and their commercial activities.

Also, I am hearing more and more from passionate citizens who want to protect our community from adverse impacts, and those grassroots efforts will be significant. If anyone reading this article would like to be introduced to those folks to help them, please contact me. In short, I feel that the legislative solutions are easy to understand and implement in concept, but the political will at the state level will need to solidify in order to reverse the many negative unintended consequences of the current state law. We will work hard to do whatever we can to support meaningful, positive efforts in this area at the state level.

•In November, it was reported the 2020 budget at the Arizona Legislature is nearly $470 million better than originally projected --- Will this have any impact on residents?

Good economic figures at the state and federal level are always welcome news, but I’m not aware at this time how the surplus of funds at the state level will be handled, and dealing with those funds is outside my scope of duties as Mayor. We trust that the legislature and Governor Ducey will make the best possible decisions they can for both our great State of Arizona and the Town of Paradise Valley.

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