As the new legislative session looms at the Arizona capitol, Paradise Valley Town Council is readying its political agenda.
Elected leaders of the Town of Paradise Valley heard from both its Deputy Town Manager, Dawn Marie Buckland, and hired lobbyist Doug Cole, chief operating officer at Highground Public Affairs Consultants.
“We have been slowly climbing out of the Great Recession, which devastated the Arizona Legislature,” Mr. Cole told Town Council. “We lost about a billion dollars in revenue overnight and that just decimated the capitol.”
Paradise Valley Town Council Thursday, Nov. 7 hosted a work session discussion on the future prospects of what the 2020 municipal legislative agenda ought to entail.
According to state law, the Arizona Legislature session begins annually noon on the second Monday of January.
Mr. Cole says the ending fund balance for the 2020 budget at the Arizona Legislature is nearly $470 million better than originally projected.
“We are $470 million above where we thought we would be --- we are seeing growing increasing in all sectors,” he pointed out. “Corporate income is up 38 percent. My overall message is the state is going to have a lot of additional income to work with. And, that includes the raises for the teachers, that is all in there. The good news is there is money out there.”
But while more anticipated revenue is a good thing, Mr. Cole warns sometimes that makes the legislative session a little tougher.
“All of the various needs are still out there,” he said pointing out he has been in the lobbyist game since 1990 and history often repeats itself. “Sometimes having money out there makes the session that more difficult.”
Mr. Cole pointed out several statewide ballot initiatives --- including an effort to outlaw private political contributions coined “Dark Money” and a marijuana measure seeking to allow adult recreational use --- as major political movements.
“They seem to be a gathering an awful lot of steam,” he said of both the Dark Money and pot initiatives. “It will be quite a crowded ballot if half of those get on the ballot.”
A major focus of the Town of Paradise Valley is what local regulations will emerge at the Arizona Legislature in the 2020 session regarding short-term rentals.
“I see more legislation coming to fix the loopholes with Senate Bill 1350,” he said of the 2016 law spurring the burgeoning vacation rental marketplace in Valley of the Sun.
“I do not see a full repeal of the bill —- I don’t think our governor would approve that, but I do see more limitations on the amount of people who can be there ... I do see more limitations on clustering.”
Mr. Cole contends Paradise Valley leadership has played a crucial role in seeking solutions to the growing short-term rental chagrin.
“The town has been a leader in this area and I don’t think the reforms passed in this last session --- I don’t think the bill would have passed without you,” he said. “We were front and center on that debate and will continue to be.”
And, as always, the ongoing political conversations surrounding the virtues of photo enforcement will again emerge, Mr. Cole says.
“Photo enforcement we always watch out for,” he said.
“We have been very effective in keeping the bad bills dead and find ways to work the ones we can. We have been looked on as we are not just, ‘no.’ We do have a reputation that we will work with stakeholders, but an outright ban is not something that works for the town of Paradise Valley.”
Paradise Valley Town Council will again see the legislative agenda prior to formal adoption in early December.
“Paradise Valley is universally enjoyed for its tourism and high quality residential living in Arizona,” Ms. Buckland said of local legislative interests.
“It embodies what people come to Arizona to enjoy. As a small community within a large metropolitan area, the town believe local government best represents the quality of life of local communities regarding their respective public safety, legislative, financial and administrative policy matters, and that partnerships develop positive relations and are essential for success.”
Ms. Buckland says the above illustrates the basic premise of the town’s legislative viewpoint, but in particular, town efforts to explain the municipality's perspective on issues including photo radar.
“That was something that was very powerful in many cases,” she said of local leaders testifying at the Arizona capitol. “But specifically the photo radar --- there is a shockingly amount of misinformation out there.”
Paradise Valley Mayor Jerry Bien-Willner lauded the efforts done by Highground and internal staff.
“We all see the hard work you do,” he pointed out.
“It is tireless work. Things are constantly changing and evolving. At the state capitol. It is exponentially more complicated because there are more stakeholders and more interests of course. To keep an eye on those moving target takes a lot of tenacity and skill.”
From a general perspective, Mr. Bien-Willner and fellow members of council will further define the legislative agenda alongside with town staff, he said.
“I think we can fine-tune our message,” he said. “I think most people come to live here full-time because of our residential zoning. I would like to have each member of council to ruminate on this. All of us are smarter than one of us, as Councilman Paul Dembow likes to say.”
Paradise Valley Town Council is expected to finalize the legislative agenda later this month with formal adoption expected Thursday, Dec. 5 at Town Hall, 6401 E. Lincoln Drive.