Honestly, very little of what happens each legislative session is truly memorable to the great majority of Arizonans. Just ask anyone who’s not a subscriber of the Arizona Capitol Times what distinguishes the 2007 legislative session from others… or the 2010 or 2003 sessions.
In contrast, the 2013 session was not your typical tussle. It’s guaranteed to be remembered come Aug. 26, 2014, Nov. 4, 2014, and beyond.
All the fuss was about expanding Medicaid eligibility to 133 percent of the federal poverty level in accordance with the Obamacare law.
Proponents of expansion and its constitutionally murky hospital bed tax reflexively characterized their support for single-payer government health care for an additional half-million Arizonans as a “no-brainer,” all the while accepting laurels for their rare “courage” in supporting it.
Meanwhile, the truly courageous resisted being seduced by reckless promises of free money from a bankrupt Washington. Those too-few heroes of the taxpayers refused to commit the fiscal malpractice of signing what’s in effect a zero-down adjustable-rate mortgage with a massive and undetermined balloon payment due conveniently on the far side of their term limit.
But the 2013 session was more than self-satisfied preening and political parricide. Lawmakers passed and Gov. Jan Brewer signed into law an impressive body of legislation beneficial to Arizona’s primary job creators, our small businesses.
Foremost is Rep. Debbie Lesko’s ground-breaking legislation simplifying the administration and collection of Arizona’s incomprehensible transaction privilege (sales) tax that includes adoption of a single, uniform audit system and limited relief from the deplorable prime contracting tax for many service contractors.
Rep. J.D. Mesnard championed legislation creating an immediate state income tax deduction for equipment purchases similar to the federal Section 179 deduction.
Also in taxation, Rep. Eddie Farnsworth built on Sen. Michele Reagan’s complementary efforts and delivered equal tax treatment for small businesses that heretofore was enjoyed only by corporations when leasing property to a subsidiary or entity owned by the same ownership. Farnsworth also achieved important progress in combating lawsuit abuse with his class action reform that will minimize job- killing frivolous litigation.
Rep. Tom Forese burnished his resolutely pro-free market record by authoring a trio of bills protecting small businesses from an overweening government. One bill corrected an egregious overreach by city tax auditors that sought to reclassify tax-exempt items as taxable. Another of his bills frustrates big labor’s effort to impose costly employee benefit mandates through city ordinance by declaring exclusive state authority over such regulation.
Forese also shepherded into law NFIB-written legislation defending the employment of independent contractors against the relentless state bureaucratic effort to reclassify these ‘1099’ workers as ‘W2’ employees.
Rep. Justin Olson reminded us again why he’s so irreplaceable to the cause of free enterprise in Arizona by mastering the minutiae of local government red tape and passing numerous enhancements to the local government Regulatory Bill of Rights.
The Arizona Legislature also passed important legislation lowering the unemployment insurance tax burden by reversing an impending $92.4 million federal unemployment tax hike ($42 per employee) as well as instituting numerous program reforms to lower Arizona’s chronic overpayment of benefits to those no longer eligible for benefits.
Moreover, lawmakers passed Rep. Warren Petersen’s bill ending the pernicious practice of routinely declaring eligible nearly every unemployment claimant by tightening the burden of proof on the claimant when establishing eligibility.
In the end, NFIB’s assessment of the 2013 Arizona Legislative session falls somewhere near the morbid spirit of the old joke, “Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?” Apart from the Medicaid expansion folly, the 2013 session produced solid advancements for Arizona small business.
— Farrell Quinlan is Arizona state director for the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) and its 7,500 Arizona small- business members.