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Several panels could be home to next ‘jobs’ bill

The number of economy-related committees raises an interesting question: Which panel will consider legislation aimed at improving the state’s economy?

In addition to Economic Development and Jobs Creation panel, chaired by Sen.-elect Michele Reagan, there will be a Commerce and Energy Committee. Its chairman, Sen. Al Melvin of Tucson, said his focus will be job growth.

Then there’s the Finance Committee, the panel that traditionally considers legislation that tinkers with the tax code, as any Republican-backed economic development proposal is sure to do.

In the minds of many, what’s ultimately at stake is Arizona’s ability to position itself as an alternative business destination to California.

Reagan, a Scottsdale Republican, said she assumes any bills that deal with improving the state’s business climate would go to her committee, while those that are traditionally assigned to Commerce — such as measures that impact trucking or towing or even the sale of pets — would be sent to the Commerce and Energy Committee.

That decision will ultimately be made by incoming Senate President Russell Pearce, a Mesa Republican.

“I will review every single bill to make sure it goes to the right committee,” he said.

Pearce also didn’t rule out sending economic-development proposals to several committees, saying he wants them to be highly scrutinized.

While the final shape of any legislation aimed at spurring economic growth would be determined through consultation and compromise between lawmakers and the governor, Pearce’s choice of committee to hear the bill will signal what direction the Senate wants to go.

Wrangling over last year’s “jobs” bill — House Republicans advocated for it while Senate Republicans resisted it — led to its demise. A similar ideological battle could surface next session, with some Republicans pushing for targeted tax cuts and others opposing them.

If last session is any indication, the Finance Committee will be most likely to consider a comprehensive economic reform bill. The 2010 bill, H2250, was assigned to the Senate Finance Committee, where it passed along party lines. Republicans supported it, while Democrats were opposed.

But many Republican senators, such as Sen. Ron Gould of Lake Havasu City, dislike targeted tax cuts, which they view as favoring one industry over another. Gould will still sit on the Finance Committee next year. He said he wants the legislation to be assigned to that committee.

But for Glenn Hamer, president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which panel hears the “jobs” bill matters less because the chamber has strong supporters on all commerce-related committees.

“It’s the opposite of pick your poison.” Hamer said. “Whichever committee it goes to, I would expect the jobs package to have smooth sailing.”

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