The Arizona Legislature got started on its new session last month and Sun Cities lawmakers are studying a number of bills that will affect the Northwest Valley.
The Sun City Home Owners Association and the Property Owners Residents Association of Sun City West provide residents with an opportunity to address their concerns to legislators in a monthly morning forum. The first is scheduled 8:30 a.m. Friday, Feb. 7 in the meeting room at the SCHOA office, 10401 W. Coggins Drive, Sun City. Other forums are scheduled in March and April, with a May forum added if the legislative session continues into that month.
Legislators from Arizona’s District 21 and District 22, along with Maricopa County officials, are invited to attend and answer residents questions.
Some Northwest Valley legislators shared highlights of what they are working on and following.
District 21 Sen. Rick Gray (R-Sun City) is working with the Arizona Attorney General’s Office on senior abuse legislation, Senate Bill 1132, which is co-sponsored by District 21 Rep. Kevin Payne (R-Peoria).
“It prevents the transfer of a person’s property and/or finances more than $10,000 to a nonrelative whom the person has known for less than two years,” Mr. Payne stated in an email. “With many retirees spending their later years in the West Valley, this bill will help them protect their hard-earned assets from falling into the hands of bad actors.”
Mr. Gray believes the bill goes far beyond the Sun Cities.
“This is important not only for Sun Cities residents but for all of our seniors in Arizona,” he stated in an email.
The bill would add definitions to theft from vulnerable adults and clarify some points.
Mr. Gray stated he has not seen any legislation yet he considers potentially harmful, but there are two initiatives that will seriously impact the Sun Cities and state in a negative way.
“The Surprise Billing Initiative is driven by the SEIU union out of California and it would require every hospital worker to be given a 20 percent wage increase,” Mr. Gray stated. “It would drastically raise the cost of health care for everyone in Arizona, not just our seniors. Our hospitals are very concerned, especially those in our rural areas because it could cause some closures, further harming health care in rural areas.”
The recreational marijuana initiative is also a concern for the senator.
“If you look at the studies in Colorado that were done to find the impact on that state after marijuana was legalized for recreational use you will see that it had a very detrimental effect,” Mr. Gray stated. “And it didn’t generate the revenue the proponents promised.
He added there is strong evidence there are some medical benefits from marijuana. He stated District 21 Rep. Kevin Payne (R-Peoria) is looking at running a bill that would enable researchers to do more work to study the benefits so its use can be maximized for those it can help.
“But the negative impact of recreational marijuana is something every person should be concerned about, Mr. Gray stated.
He suggested residents read Alex Berensen’s book “Tell Your Children.”
District 22 Rep. Ben Toma (R-Peoria) plans to introduce a tax cut of at least $100 million dollars this year.
“There is talk of offsetting income tax for veterans and possibly freezing property taxes (to avoid increases) for veterans,” he stated in an email.
In addition, Mr. Toma plans to pursue extensions of current programs designed to keep current employers and provide incentives to new companies to come to and expand their business in the West Valley.
“That will benefit the Sun Cities,” he stated.
Mr. Toma is also supportive of efforts to bring additional transit options to the Sun Cities and Surprise, including expanded bus service.
The representative encourages residents to become involved in the legislative process.
“I encourage residents to email and call my office (as well as the offices of all representatives and senators) to express their support or opposition to all proposed bills,” he stated.
Residents can also go to the capitol and sign up for the request to speak system to add their name in support or opposition to any bill legislators hear. The initial RTS registration has to be done in person but comments and specific bill positions can then be done online.
Mr. Payne encourages Sun City residents to reach out to his office directly.
“I have been proud to be a voice for them at the Legislature and rely on their input and feedback to ensure I am doing my job effectively,” he stated.
Email email@example.com or call 602-926-4854.
District 22 Sen. David Livingston (R-Peoria) is promoting a number of bills he believes are beneficial to his district.
Senate Bill 1283 is asking for $5 million from the state general fund in fiscal year 2020-21 to the Department of Economic Security for emergency shelter beds in western Maricopa County to shelter and serve homeless seniors who are at least 55.
SB 1157 would appropriate $40,000,000 from the state general fund to the Arizona Department of Transportation to widen State Route 101 from 75th Avenue to Interstate 17.
SB 1309 is asking for $8.5 million from the state general fund to ADOT to distribute to the city of Peoria to widen and improve drainage on 67th Avenue between Happy Valley Road and Pinnacle Peak Road.
SB 1044 would appropriate monies from the state general fund to the Arizona Department of Veterans’ Services to hire six additional veterans’ benefits counselors.
“As a senator, I am dedicated to serving my state, and especially legislative district 22,” Mr. Livingston stated in an email. “I try to encourage everyone to get involved and speak their mind. If there is a bill that one is passionate about, they should come down to the capitol and testify in the committee. We value all the input as we need to hear why residents are supporting or not supporting a bill.”
Visit azleg.gov for committee agendas. Sun Cities residents are also working with legislators on specific bills and other efforts.
House Bill 2474 will address issues of people in the medians of busy roadways from a public safety perspective. The bill prohibits pedestrians from being on any roadway medians unless they are using them to cross the street, according to Greg Eisert, former Sun City Home Owners Association board member and Governmental Affairs Committee chairman. The law would not apply to people walking their dogs in the wide medians on Peoria, Alabama and 107th avenues in Sun City, he added.
“This bill cleans up and clarifies existing law,” Mr. Eisert said during the Jan. 28 SCHOA board meeting.
Mr. Payne introduced HB 2474.
“Whether individuals are panhandling or advertising, it has no place on Arizona streets because it causes a distraction for drivers and presents a physical danger to those loitering in the median,” he stated in an email.
Sun City communities attract active adults 55 and older from across the nation because it is a wonderful place to live, he added.
“I drafted this bill with Sun City residents in mind, those who wish to preserve that high quality of life that brought them here, while also protecting the safety of both motorists and pedestrians,” he stated.
Jim Powell, SCHOA board member, said House Bill 2485 will address vehicles parked on sidewalks.
“In the past, Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office has not cited for non-moving violations and we want to see that happen because it sends a message,” Mr. Powell said at the SCHOA board meeting.
Bob Miller, PORA board member, said the agency is establishing close working relationships with legislators and all agencies in Sun City West.
“The legislators want to work with us on issues important to residents,” he said during PORA’s Jan. 27 board meeting.
Connie Scott, PORA board member, also serves on a Northwest Valley transit committee.
“We need to let legislators know what Northwest Valley residents’ needs are for transportation,” she said.
Ralph Johnson, PORA board president, said he is working with six Northwest Valley chambers of commerce and the group hired a lobbyist to address substantial transportation issues with legislators.