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Arizona needs balanced approach to renewable energy policies

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In our highly charged political environment, the question of whether to incorporate more renewable energy resources as part of our overall energy infrastructure is—as with most issues—often viewed in the prism of being either “left” or “right.”  Unfortunately, this simplistic view distorts an increasingly important issue, and one that has much deeper significance than whether, from a political perspective, conservatives or liberals perceive renewable energy positively or negatively. In fact, transitioning to a more robust renewable energy portfolio has important implications for air quality, water supply, economic development, and national security.

Jaime Molera
Jaime Molera

Recently, representatives from our state’s utilities, business community, and political leaders met in a forum to discuss the value of expanding the sources that make up our electric grid, and the consensus was clear: the value of diversifying our energy portfolio and expanding our utilization of renewable energy options is not a left or right question, but an imperative that will have significant impacts on our state.

The forum was hosted by Greater Phoenix Leadership in conjunction with the Arizona Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Phoenix Chamber, The Western Way, and moderated by Pat Graham of The Nature Conservancy. The impetus for the forum was a visit by retired Vice Admiral Lee Gunn of the CNA Military Advisory Board, who gave a compelling presentation on how additional renewable energy facilities can enhance the national security of our electric grid; essentially, the message was that by diversifying the number and types of sources we use for energy generation, we make it more difficult for those who wish to do us harm to target our energy supplies.

Aside from the national security imperative, it is clear that the promotion of clean energy (e.g. solar energy creation and storage, nuclear energy, hydrogen fuel cells, electric vehicle adoption, etc.) has significant positive impacts for Arizona from an air quality and water supply standpoint, not to mention augmenting economic development opportunities.  APS and SRP are committing significant resources to this end and should be commended for their aggressive approaches to Arizona renewable infrastructure.

Glenn Hamer
Glenn Hamer

Regarding air quality, we know that Arizona struggles with air quality problems, which results not only in consequences for public health but for Arizona’s economy as well. That is because, when a state is out of compliance with air quality standards—or close to that limit—federal environmental regulations limit opportunities for manufacturing and business growth and expansion unless the state can show how it will offset the additional emissions that economic expansion might produce.

 

Yet, by investing in renewable energy technology, Arizona’s businesses, both new and expanding, can pursue development opportunities while still complying with federal air quality standards. For example, when an Arizona business voluntarily institutes a program to incentivize its employees to carpool or drive electric vehicles to work, the reduction in vehicle emissions can be used as an offset toward obtaining the necessary air quality permit for expansion. In general, Arizona’s business community will be well served by promoting these types of emission reduction credits (ERCs), since there is no maximum limit on the amount of eligible reductions. In Maricopa County especially, air quality concerns are significant, and expanding the use of ERCs by, for example, installing workplace electric vehicle charging stations, will provide certainty that economic expansion will not be hindered by the federal environmental regulations.

With respect to water, recent analyses from various private and public entities continue to underscore the need to address Arizona’s current and future water supply needs. Although Arizona did significant work in 2019 to address surface water challenges through the Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan, it is clear that there is much work left to be done to address Arizona’s long-term needs. Here too, there is a robust nexus with renewable energy. Unlike traditional electricity generation, solar energy requires significantly less water. Continuing to invest in solar energy technology and other less water-intensive methods of electricity generation provides a real opportunity to accommodate our state’s growing energy needs while being mindful of our water usage.

Today’s political climate has become an all-or-nothing, zero sum game. When it comes to energy policy, too often those on the right ignore real environmental and conservation problems, and those on the left ignore legitimate concerns about loss of employment, economic growth, and individual freedom due to overburdensome government regulation.

It is time to move away from a polarized approach to renewable energy. Fortunately, Arizona businesses understand that a balanced approach to major policies facing the state is possible. Gov. Doug Ducey emphasized this point in his recent State of the State address, it is what we in Arizona call the “Arizona Way.” There is a genuine interest and commitment in moving toward, promoting, and expanding renewable energy development and usage.  Arizona is in a premier position to move past the “right vs. left” arguments and pursue policies that embrace a meaningful renewable energy platform that will benefit our great state for many decades to come.

Jaime Molera is a partner with Molera Alvarez and Glenn Hamer is president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Arizona Chamber seeks to lower tuition for ‘Dreamers’

Arizona Chamber of Commerce President Glenn Hamer outside the Rayburn House Office Building. Hamer and other business officials from the state were in Washington to lobby the Arizona congressinoal delegation on immigration reform. (Cronkite News Service photo by Pei Li)
Arizona Chamber of Commerce President Glenn Hamer outside the Rayburn House Office Building. Hamer and other business officials from the state were in Washington to lobby the Arizona congressinoal delegation on immigration reform. (Cronkite News Service photo by Pei Li)

The head of a major business organization is looking for legal ways to make education more affordable for “dreamers” who attend state universities and community colleges in Arizona.

And while Glenn Hamer hopes for some state or federal legislative action, that goal ultimately could mean asking voters to rethink a law on who gets – and does not get – in-state tuition they approved in 2006.

The president of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry said Thursday he thinks there may be some wiggle room in enforcing that law which says those not in the country legally have to pay more than the tuition available to other Arizona residents.

Hamer said that law is based on the idea that Arizona taxpayers should not be subsidizing those who have entered the country illegally or overstayed their visas. But he believes there is a way to legislatively determine that there is some rate – less than full out-of-state tuition – that complies with the law.

There is already some precedent for that. The Arizona Board of Regents has a policy saying those in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program can attend at a tuition of 150 percent of what is charged to residents.

But that rate can still add $6,000 a year on to a student’s bill. And Hamer said he believes that legally can be driven lower.

Ideally, Hamer said, the whole problem would be resolved if Congress were to deal with the issue and formally declare that DACA recipients are in this country legally.

At this point, DACA exists only because of an executive order signed by Barack Obama when he was president.

The Arizona Supreme Court ruled unanimously last year that does not make those in the program eligible for in-state tuition, no matter their residency status. If Congress acts, then the court ruling becomes legally moot.

But Hamer also has a back-up plan of sorts if the tuition for DACA recipients cannot be legally tweaked and Congress fails to act: Take the issue back to Arizona voters.

The idea of restricting access to in-state tuition was approved in 2006 by a margin of more than 70 percent in favor. But Hamer said things are far different now.

“I could certainly make the argument that, way back when, we were not thinking about dreamers,” he said.

In fact, DACA did not even exist at that time. It was only in 2012 when Obama decided that those who came here as children and met other qualifications could not only remain without fear of deportation but also be allowed to work.

“I believe the average age of a dreamer in terms of the entrance into the United States was 6 years old,” he said, meaning they were not making a conscious decision to violate federal immigration law. “They’re going where their parents are taking them.”

Hamer said multiple polls have shown popular support for providing a permanent solution, including possibly a path to citizenship, for the more than 800,000 who have been accepted into the program nationally, including more than 23,000 in Arizona.

And he said that there already is a basis for resolving the issue: a grand compromise that would give President Trump the $5 billion he wants for a border wall in exchange for legalizing not only DACA recipients but also others who are in this country illegally.

But, failing federal resolution, Hamer said it’s in the interest of the state – and the business community he represents – to create the maximum opportunity for DACA recipients in Arizona to have a higher education, and one that is affordable. And that, he said, cold ultimately require revisiting that 2006 law.

That raises problems of its own.

The most immediate is that the 2006 law, having been approved on the ballot, is subject to the Voter Protection Act. That constitutional provision bars lawmakers from repealing or making major changes to anything that voters have approved. Instead, these have to go back to voters.

“The Voter Protection Act is certainly a challenge,” Hamer said.

Then there’s the fact that any alteration or repeal would go on the 2020 ballot at the same time that Trump is up for reelection. That raises the possibility that border security could be a major campaign issue.

That’s why a frustrated Hamer said his organization is hoping to get it resolved in Washington.

“I don’t think it’s too much to ask Congress to do its job once every 30 years,” he said.

But Hamer said the issue is far too important to Arizona to have it live or die based on what Congress does or does not do. If nothing else, he said, it’s good for business.

“We’re now in an economy where there’s more jobs open than human beings to fill them,” Hamer said. “We need workers of all skill levels.

And Hamer figures that if college graduates earn an average of $1 million more over a lifetime versus those with just a high school diploma, that’s money they’re going to be spending.

“That’s good for everyone,” he said.

Hamer also pointed out Arizona has a goal of having 60 percent of its students get some sort of postsecondary certificate or degree by 2030

“Starting with increasing opportunities for the DACA population seems like a pretty good way to make some progress,” Hamer said.

Arizona’s drought plan offers key lessons for the road ahead

opinion-WEB

By now most have heard the news: Arizona, the other six Colorado River Basin states, and the federal Bureau of Reclamation secured a major victory for the health of the Colorado River by completing the Drought Contingency Plan (“DCP”) agreements this spring, and getting Congress to enact implementing legislation within weeks. It had become clear that we needed to take action to plan for a drier future in the region.

Even with an extended drought that added urgency to negotiations, it was not easy to achieve this success. Each of the seven states had to develop a plan to implement the DCP agreements. And Arizona, which was facing the biggest potential reductions in Colorado River water deliveries, faced a major political and practical challenge. Political victories like the adoption of Arizona’s DCP Implementation Plan should be well understood because we will need to ensure similar successes on other water issues in the near future.

Glenn Hamer
Glenn Hamer

So what did Arizona do right, and what can we learn from this process as we take on other water issues going forward?

Generally, the politics of scarcity can bring out the worst kind of political behavior. However, in this case, it brought out Arizona’s best.  There were at least five key ingredients that led to agreement on how Arizona would implement the drought plan agreements.

First, leaders demonstrated selflessness and prioritized the best interest of the entire state. The “Arizona Lower Basin DCP Steering Committee” process was co-chaired by policy experts who were directly responsible for the plan’s implementation – Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) Director Tom Buschatzke and Central Arizona Project (CAP) General Manager Ted Cooke.  At the outset of this process, Buschatzke and Cooke (reflecting the perspectives of their agencies) differed on important issues, but they also understood that reaching an agreement on the DCP was of paramount importance and required creativity, compromise, and extraordinary persistence.

Second, the Steering Committee process met the test of ensuring robust involvement by diverse stakeholders. Virtually every stakeholder group was represented. Agendas were published, timelines were adopted, information was shared about the risk to Arizona’s water supplies, and small group discussions were encouraged to work through difficult issues. At times the meetings were contentious. Yet the process also produced creative solutions, good faith negotiations, and broad consensus on the essential aspects of the plan.

Kevin Moran
Kevin Moran

Third, key government leaders like Gov. Doug Ducey, Senate President Karen Fann, Speaker of the House Rusty Bowers, and the CAP Board each made funding commitments that sent powerful signals to the stakeholders and facilitated agreement on the plan’s conservation and water sharing components.

Fourth, it helps to have a deadline – and this came in the form of stern, timely leadership from federal Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman. Last December Burman announced that the seven Colorado River basin states had to complete the multi-state DCP agreements by January 31, 2019 or one would be imposed by the federal government. Arizona’s leadership in enacting its statute by that deadline set the stage for California to complete its own plan.

Finally, the entire process was defined by bipartisanship. A water crisis would impact all of us, regardless of party affiliation, something leaders from both parties at the Legislature recognized as they participated in the Steering Committee. State Sen. Lisa Otondo (D-Yuma), for example, met the sometimes steep learning curve of a complex subject head-on, emerging as a trusted educator for her fellow legislators. Her hard work earned her special recognition by the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry at its end-of-session awards ceremony. On Capitol Hill, Sen. Martha McSally and Rep. Raul Grijalva, lawmakers who typically occupy opposite ends of the political spectrum, shepherded the federal implementation of the DCP through to passage. The success of the DCP could and should prove to be a model for how to find solutions to other difficult public policy challenges.

Arizona will need to bring the same quality of leadership and creative problem-solving that produced the DCP success story when water stakeholders resume work on the other pillars of a sustainable water future:  protecting groundwater in both urban and rural areas, starting the regional process of re-negotiating the 2007 Interim Guidelines, and finding collaborative ways of conserving water while benefitting Arizona’s rivers and streams. The passage of DCP was historic for Arizona.  Now, we have an opportunity to develop solutions for the long-term conservation of our state’s precious water resources.

Kevin Moran is the Senior Director of the Environmental Defense Fund’s Western Water Program. He served as a member of the Steering Committee that developed the Arizona DCP Implementation Plan. Glenn Hamer is the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry and also served on the Steering Committee.

Budget calls for school districts to divvy up pay increase

MRebuffing last-minute protests by educators picketing the Capitol, Republican lawmakers took the first steps Monday to providing a 9 percent raise this coming year for teachers.

But not necessarily all teachers.

The final version of the budget deal negotiated between GOP leaders and Gov. Doug Ducey puts $273 million into the $10.4 billion spending plan for the coming year specifically for teacher pay hikes.

But unlike Ducey’s original proposal, each school district will get its share as a bulk dollar amount. That, then leaves it up to board members to decide how to divide it up.

What that could mean is a larger bump at the bottom of the pay scale, both to attract new teachers and keep them in the profession. The state Department of Education estimates that 40 percent of new teachers leave after two years.

Some of that is because the job isn’t what they expected or other non-financial issues like workload. But state schools chief Diane Douglas, who has been a prime proponent of higher pay for teachers for years, has said that money is clearly a factor.

That same plan for bulk salary grants to school districts also will apply for the 5 percent pay hike proposed for the following school year and an additional 5 percent the year after that.

Along with that flexibility, the spending plan unveiled Monday also calls for more transparency, with new requirements for school districts to annually report on their web sites their average teacher salaries. House Speaker J.D. Mesnard said that ensures “this is all out there for people to see.”

Teachers rally outside the Arizona House of Representatives Monday, April 30, 2018, in Phoenix on their third day of walk outs. Teachers in Arizona and Colorado walked out of their classes over low salaries keeping hundreds of thousands of students out of school. It's the latest in a series of strikes across the nation over low teacher pay. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Teachers rally outside the Arizona House of Representatives Monday, April 30, 2018, in Phoenix on their third day of walk outs. Teachers in Arizona and Colorado walked out of their classes over low salaries keeping hundreds of thousands of students out of school. It’s the latest in a series of strikes across the nation over low teacher pay. (AP Photo/Matt York)

None of this satisfied educators who remained on strike for a third day on Monday as they marched around the Capitol in what they hope will be a successful effort to convince lawmakers not to adopt the budget and pay-hike plan that Ducey has proposed. And all indications are that many teachers will remain on strike through at least today — and possibly until the budget is enacted at the end of the week.

Ducey and Republican lawmakers question the protests, pointing out it provides for a 19 percent increase in teacher pay, at least on average. But education groups are not confident that the funds will be there, particularly in later years, leaving open the possibility a future governor and future lawmakers could rescind the promise.

What’s also missing as far as educators are concerned are specific dollars earmarked for support personnel like janitors, reading specialists, counselors and bus drivers.

Ducey counters that his budget includes $100 million in additional district assistance, money that schools can spend on whatever priorities they have, whether repairs or other pay increases. But that, however, is only part of $371 million a year schools are supposed to have been getting all along for books, computers, buses and other minor repairs.

But the biggest complaint is that state aid on a per-student basis is less now than it was a decade ago, even before the effects of inflation are considered. The education groups want that $1 billion difference restored.

That question of whether the funds will be there to finance higher teacher pay is what’s behind an initiative to hike personal income taxes, at least on the wealthiest Arizonans, in an effort to raise $620 million.

But David Lujan, who chairs the Invest in Education campaign, denied Monday that financing increased aid to education this way is a kind of class warfare.

“Right now, lower and middle-income people are paying a larger portion of their income in taxes,” he said. “I think this is a fair way to go.”

In criticizing the plan, Glenn Hamer, president of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said that one big flaw is that there are not that many people in Arizona who are in those top tax brackets. The result, he contends, is that it would take only a few of the richest choosing to move — or find other ways of shielding their income — to drop the bottom out of the anticipated $620 million in annual revenues.

Lujan brushed that concern aside.

“The answer to volatility is making a more diverse economy,” he said.

“How do you get a more diverse economy?” Lujan continued. “One of the biggest ways is to invest in your public education system.”

But the most recent figures from the state Department of Revenue — from 2012 — suggest there aren’t a lot of people at the top end of the income scale to bear the burden. It found there were fewer than 15,000 filers in Arizona with a federal adjusted gross income of more than $500,000 out of more than 2.4 million tax returns.

Lujan also said that the proposal simply brings the taxes back to where they were before lawmakers started making cuts.

That, however, is not true. The tax rates that the initiative seeks to impose are actually higher than they’ve been in decades.

Prior to 1990, couples with taxable income of more than $15,480 paid income taxes at a rate of 8 percent. That year the Legislature put in a tax schedule closer to what exists now, with the top bracket being 7 percent for couples with taxable income of more than $300,000.

The initiative spells out that couples earning more than $500,000 pay $20,622 — a 4.1 percent blended rate for that first $500,000 that is identical to what they pay now — plus 8 percent of anything over that figure.

And at $1 million the tax bill becomes $60,622, a 6.1 percent blended rate for that first $1 million, as compared to a current bill of $43,322. Plus they would owe 9 percent of anything in excess.

“We wanted to hit it where it was people who were going to be able to afford it, who benefited from past tax cuts,” Lujan said.

The initiative actually differs in one key way from the original plan that had been unveiled late last week.

That would have required school boards to get approval from teachers and support staff for how they spend the money, essentially mandating collective bargaining on school districts. Lujan said Monday that controversial language now is gone.

Chamber calls for killing remaining sanctuary-city bill

2013 AZ Chamber of Commerce logo

The head of a major business organization wants state lawmakers and Gov. Doug Ducey to quash a proposal to allow individuals to sue cities that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration officials.

“We don’t need it,” Glenn Hamer, president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry told Capitol Media Services on Tuesday. And he said it has the potential of creating needless controversy and ill will.

“This is an area where there needs to be great sensitivity,” he said. And Hamer said that with strong laws against “sanctuary cities” on the books “we believe that attention would be better focused elsewhere.”

Glenn Hamer
Glenn Hamer

Hamer said he has sharing his views with lawmakers who will decide the future of the measure — and with Gov. Doug Ducey who will have to make the final decision whether to sign it if it clears the House and Senate.

That pressure could be the death knell for HB 2598.

It was opposition from the business community, including the state chamber, that forced the governor to pull the plug last month on his plan to ask voters to enshrine into the Arizona Constitution provisions of the 2010 law that outlaws sanctuary cities. That move came despite the fact that Ducey’s proposal was a keynote of his State of the State speech.

“The business community had concerns,” Ducey chief of staff Daniel Scarpinato conceded when explaining why his boss decided not to pursue that plan.

Strictly speaking, HB 2598, unlike the ballot proposal, is not part of the governor’s agenda. Instead, the measure crafted by Rep. Bret Roberts, R-Maricopa, seeks to impose new financial liability on any community whose policies keep law enforcement from cooperating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

In essence, the legislation says crime victims can sue cities and counties if the person who committed the offense had been released from custody without local officials contacting federal agencies to inquire whether the person was here legally. Lawsuits also would be allowed if local jurisdictions ignored a request by ICE to be notified about someone’s pending release.

In pushing the measure, Roberts said the issues are the same as the now-scrapped constitutional ban on sanctuary cities: the fear that some communities might adopt sanctuary-type policies. He said HB 2598 would provide a financial disincentive.

Roberts told Capitol Media Services he is undeterred — and a bit confused — by business opposition. He said all it does is provide civil restitution to any future victims who are injured due to sanctuary policies.

“Why would a business not want to protect victims?” he asked. “If any one of of these business owners were to become a victim this bill would protect them as well.”

Bret Roberts
Bret Roberts

And Roberts suggested that the opposition may be ill considered.

“There used to be a day where cities competed to be the safest in America,” he said. “Unfortunately today it’s more about political correctness and identity politics.”

Ducey refused to comment.

Hamer told Capitol Media Services he agrees with Roberts on two points.

“The chamber supports a strong, vibrant business community and safe communities and neighborhoods,” he said. It was for that reason, Hamer said, that his organization opposed the measure on the November ballot in Tucson to adopt sanctuary policies.

The second point, however, is the political parallel between the now-defunct ballot referral pushed by Ducey and HB 2598.

“We felt it was prudent to stop moving that through the process,” Hamer said of the governor’s plan. “And that same sentiment in terms of the desirability of moving anything in this area would hold for any other legislative activity for this session.”

In fact, Hamer said, what Roberts is proposing is in some ways even worse than Ducey’s proposed constitutional amendment because of its financial implications.

“We’re not necessarily the biggest fans of opening up our cities, our law enforcement officials to civil liability,” he said.

And then, Hamer said, there’s the publicity that such legislation would create, both nationally and internationally — and the potential ill will that could create.

“We recognize that there’s increased sensitivity to anything that this state does on immigration,” he said. That goes beyond SB 1070 but also other measures, like the Legal Arizona Workers Act, a measure that goes back to 2007 which prohibits businesses from knowingly or intentionally hiring an “unauthorized alien.”

“We’re a welcoming state,” he said, pointing out that Mexico “is far and away our largest trading partner” as well as the largest source for international visitors.

And Hamer said that, for some border communities, shopping by Mexican nationals accounts for upwards of 60 percent of their local sales tax collections.

“And we want to focus on the positive,” he said.

Roberts said such opposition is not merited.

“People and businesses, both currently and I predict in the future, will continue to move to Arizona because we provide a business friendly environment,” he said.

Diversity and inclusion benefit all companies

Diverse Group People Working Together Concept

In corporate America, diversity has long been a buzzword. But in recent years, inclusion has been added to the mix.

“I would define diversity as having a lot of difference in the room. I would define inclusion as
having that same variety of diversity but also feeling included in the conversation and decisions that are made,” said Marion K. Kelly, co-founder of the Diversity Leadership Alliance in Phoenix and director of community affairs at the Mayo Clinic. “You can have all the diversity in the world, but if that diverse population that you have is not at the level to make an impact in policy and set the course direction for the organization, all you have is diversity in the room.

“When you have diverse and inclusive individuals in the room who have that
kind of impact, that’s what makes a real difference.”

Michael McQuarrie, director of the Center for Work and Democracy in the School of Social Transformation at Arizona State University, added that diversity first became an issue for
companies because of the historic exclusion of women and people of color from certain jobs and employment sectors.

“Inclusion is designed to rectify the effects of that institutional and historical exclusion,” he said.

But what of Arizona corporations? Are they dedicated to making diversity and inclusion a way of workplace life? McQuarrie and Kelly say that while no Arizona specifics have been gathered, the state mirrors the national picture, which is not great.

According to Fortune magazine, 27 women were CEOs of Fortune 500 companies in 2020. In a 2018 report, the Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility states that there were 10 Hispanic Fortune 500 CEOs. Meanwhile, Business Insider finds that currently there are only four Black CEOs of Fortune 500 companies — and none of them are women.

“It’s a failing of Arizona, but it’s a prevailing failing across the country,” McQuarrie said.

Glen Hammer, CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, hopes to make Arizona an example for other states. Hamer is serving on a steering committee for a U.S. Chamber of Commerce initiative to address inequality of opportunity through education, employment, entrepreneurship and criminal justice reform.

“Glenn looks forward to joining his colleagues from across the business community not only in dialogue, but in the development of durable solutions to promote greater equity and inclusion,” said Garrick Taylor, senior vice president of Government Relations and Communications for the chamber. “The more our workplaces look like Arizona, the better off we are. This requires constant effort and a willingness to recognize we can always do more.”

As many professionals have heard, change comes from the top down. That’s why having racially and ethnically diverse leaders — or even white leaders ready to listen — can improve a company’s diversity and inclusion record.

“I think it depends on the leadership and what the appetite is of the leadership for diversity inclusion and that makes a major difference,” Kelly said.

That’s especially true if corporate CEOs — overwhelmingly male and white — are open to hearing truth to power.

“I don’t think we’re there yet, but I think that we need to be working toward that,” Kelly said. “You probably know of stories and I certainly know of stories where someone who spoke up in a meeting that was contrary to what the leadership was saying was all of a sudden no longer invited to meetings and in some cases was no longer there at the company. So yeah, that fear component is real. We work out of our experiences and so if the experiences don’t change,
it’s only going to quiet the dissenter.”

Kelly admits that his years of experience have made him bolder when it comes to speaking up, even if it makes fellow executives uncomfortable. He adds that it’s time to have uncomfortable discussions about diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

“I speak up much more often than I did, you know, 10, 15, 20, years ago because you go along to get along,” he said. “Now I decided that if they wanted to hear the real truth of our [African-American] experiences, that I had to share that in a manner that was a little more raw than what we normally speak … because it would otherwise go over their heads and they won’t hear the impact.”

But as selfishness often leads to selflessness, some companies that have made diversity and inclusion a part of corporate culture are not doing it simply to be good citizens, although that is a byproduct, McQuarrie said.

“They’re usually not trying to rectify historical and institutional exclusion,” he said. “So, the question is, why do companies actually do this? Part of it is these companies are now often trying to market to different kinds of groups of people with a lot of different backgrounds and a lot of different characteristics.”

In a 2018 report, the Boston Consulting Group found that companies with diverse management teams saw a 19% boost in revenue compared to their less diverse counterparts. In another 2018 report, the global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company found that 43% of companies with diverse boards noticed higher profits.

It’s also important to note that when speaking of diversity and inclusion, the conversation is no longer just about race, ethnicity and gender. Sexual preferences, backgrounds and worldviews should also be represented.

“I think that organizations need to get to the place where they’re allowing their employees to bring all of who they are to work and that we don’t expect them to be a homogenous group,” Kelly said. “As a matter of fact, when the group is homogeneous you get the same milk, you get the same outcome. But when there’s diversity among the staff it brings a different perspective.”

Ducey at odds with chamber of commerce over tariffs

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey talks to reporters outside the West Wing of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, April 3, 2019, following his meeting with President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey talks to reporters outside the West Wing of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, April 3, 2019, following his meeting with President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Gov. Doug Ducey took a swat of sorts Monday at businesses who are concerned about the effects of the president’s threatened tariffs on the state and national economy.

Ducey, speaking with reporters, specifically mentioned the U.S. Chamber of Commerce which released a study saying that a 5 percent tariff – the first step that Trump plans to impose on June 10 – would increase costs to Arizona consumers by about $452 million. The chamber also said if the levy goes to 25 percent in October, as the president has threatened, that would translate out to an additional nearly $2.3 billion paid by Arizonans.

Ducey was unimpressed.

“Well, the U.S. Chamber is going to prioritize commerce,” he said.

“That’s why they’re called the Chamber of Commerce,” Ducey continued. “The Arizona governor is going to prioritize public safety.”

And Ducey said he believes it’s possible to do both.

The study by the U.S. Chamber is just part of the group’s efforts to deter Trump from imposing the tariffs. The group also has said it is “exploring all options, including legal action”

A spokesman for the U.S. Chamber declined to respond Monday to Ducey’s comments.

But it isn’t just the concerns of the national chamber that Ducey is minimizing. There also are the comments of Glenn Hamer, president of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry who late last week said the president’s announcement of an escalating system of tariffs against Mexico is “baffling and, if carried out, will be terribly damaging.”

“This will only inflict harm on the U.S. consumer,” he told Capitol Media Services. . And Hamer pointed out that tariffs are not paid by the foreign country or even the foreign company that is exporting the goods, but are added on to the costs for customers here.

Ducey on Monday brushed aside that threat of tariffs to the state’s Arizona financial situation.

“Our economy is roaring right now,” the governor said in response.

“Our economy is doing terrific,” he continued. “Our economy is going to continue doing terrific.”

And what of the fact that tariffs are paid not by the host country but by U.S. consumers in the form of higher prices?

“There are no tariffs,” the governor said as he got into his vehicle and left.

Not yet.

Central to the issue are plans announced by Trump late last week in a Twitter post threatening to impose a 5 percent tariff on all imports from Mexico starting June 10 “until such time as illegal migrants coming through Mexico, and into our Country, STOP.”

He later expanded that to say the tariffs will go to 10 percent on July 1, 15 percent a month later, 20 percent a month after that, and finally 25 percent by Oct. 1.

“Tariffs will permanently remain at the 25 percent level unless and until Mexico substantially stops the illegal inflow of aliens coming through its territory,” the statement reads. And it says that the question of whether Mexico has taken the proper steps to stem the flow – and whether to end the tariffs – is “to be determined in our sole discretion and judgment.”

Ducey said that, if nothing else, there’s another benefit to tariffs in the form of media attention.

“Well, are we talking about the border again?” he asked reporters questioning him on Monday.

“Are you guys talking about the border?,” Ducey continued. “Good. Now let’s get something done on the border.”

And the governor insisted that, despite the number of news stories written about the flow of migrants from Central America , the issue “is not getting the focus nationally or locally in terms of what’s happening.”

His proof? The fact that there is a “humanitarian crisis, the security crisis that’s happening at the border.”

“And there’s been no action.”

Ducey also sought to place much of the blame for the crush of migrants at the border on Congress..

He said federal officials, constrained by statutes and the number of detention facilities about how long people who seek asylum can be kept, have no choice but to release people into local communities.

“Congress makes the law,” the governor said. “They’ve had no changes in the law.”

And Ducey sees a motive behind all that.

“They’ve used this as a political issue as if the 2020 race has already started,” he said.

And that gets back to the point of Ducey siding with the president in threatening to impose tariffs as a method of pressuring Mexico to stem the flow of Central American refugees through that country enroute to the U.S. border.

“Governors and mayors can do all they can,” Ducey said. “If you can’t see that these nonprofits are at their breaking point, then you would be calling for the same action I’m calling for.”

Ducey has found himself not only at odds with the business community on the issue of tariffs but even among some members of his own Republican Party. That includes U.S. Sen. Martha McSally whom the governor appointed to office.

“I do not support these types of tariffs, which will harm our economy and be passed onto Arizona small businesses and families,” she said in a prepared statement.

And on Monday, Congressman David Schweikert said he understands the thinking of the president in trying to pressure Mexico to “lock” its southern border. But he told KTAR that tariffs are not the answer.

“With Mexico being Arizona’s No. 1 trading partner by far, it sort of becomes a double whammy on the people of Arizona,” he said. “We suffer a lot of the cost.”

Still, Schweikert said, the president’s announcement appears to have gotten the attention of Mexican officials who were reportedly enroute to Washington to discuss the threat.

Correction: This was revised to add the word “public” to the following quote, which was inadvertently left out. “The Arizona governor is going to prioritize public safety.”

Governor has much to consider before restart of economy

Gov. Doug Ducey discusses COVID-19 and the state's response at a press conference last week. (Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer)
Gov. Doug Ducey discusses COVID-19 and the state’s response at a press conference last week. (Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer)

Gov. Doug Ducey has to decide this week whether his executive orders limiting activity due to COVID-19 are worth the continued harm to the Arizona economy.

The governor most immediately has to act on his month-old stay-at-home order telling people they cannot go out unless they are engaged in an essential activity. That edict self-destructs at midnight Thursday night unless renewed.

Given Ducey’s cautious approach to enacting the order in the first place — at least two dozen other governors had acted before Arizona’s March 31 implementation — it is unlikely he would allow it to simply expire. Instead the expectation is for a loosening, perhaps tied to some advisories about social distancing.

And it won’t matter much, at least to the Arizona economy, unless Ducey also alters his list of what are “essential” business and services — and the more important list of what are not and must remain shuttered. There is no deadline for Ducey to act as that order on essential businesses remains in effect until he alters or rescinds it.

The governor’s orders already permit people to go out to shop at essential businesses. So easing his order to let people go out won’t mean anything if there’s no new places for them to go, whether to shop,  dine, drink or even have a picnic in the park.

Arizona Chamber of Commerce CEO Glenn Hamer, left, earlier this year with Gov. Doug Ducey (Capitol Media Services file photo by Howard Fischer)
Arizona Chamber of Commerce CEO Glenn Hamer, left, earlier this year with Gov. Doug Ducey (Capitol Media Services file photo by Howard Fischer)

But here, too, the governor was slow and deliberate about deciding what can remain open, even to the point of initially concluding that barber shops, hair salons, spas and tattoo parlors were essential until he finally acknowledged that there was no reasonable way to maintain social distance.

A similar loosening is likely to be in a stepped approach, providing additional opportunities for people to shop — with some controls.

That’s exactly the course being urged by Glenn Hamer, chief executive of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry and a close political ally.

“As we thaw out parts of the economy that have been frozen, we need to do that safely,” he said. That starts with opening up smaller retail operations with “appropriate social distancing” and other safety protocols.

But all that is too slow for some Arizonans who want Ducey to immediately scrap both his stay-at-home and essential services orders.

Sen. David Farnsworth, R-Mesa, said he does not dispute that the orders — fewer infections and “flattening the curve” to preserve hospital beds — appear to have worked.

“The question is, to what extent?” he told Capitol Media Services after a rally last week.

“How long do we wait to get our economy back?” Farnsworth continued. “I think the majority of the people down here feel like the time has come, that the main point of danger has passed, that it’s time to reopen.”

All this occurs against the backdrop of additional hits to the Arizona economy, with even more people applying last week for first-time unemployment benefits. That puts the number of Arizonans who have lost their jobs since the outbreak — and his executive orders — in the half-million range.

But it also comes as questions remain about how extensive is the virus in Arizona and whether, without comprehensive data, it is premature to reopen segments of the state economy.

The health department reported Monday another 1,732 people had been tested. That brings the overall tally in the state to 66,543.

That is just 0.9 percent of the total population. Kaiser Family Foundation finds only Virginia with a per capita testing rate as low.

There have been some moves to improve that, including an order from state Health Director Cara Christ last week allowing those who believe they have been exposed to COVID-19 to get tested.

And on Monday, Ducey announced what he called the Arizona Testing Blitz, aiming to get anywhere from 10,000 to 20,000 people tested every Saturday for three consecutive weeks, beginning this weekend.

“The testing is important,” said gubernatorial press aide Patrick Ptak, saying that’s why Ducey announced the blitz, though it won’t start before his boss has to make a decision on the stay-at-home order.

But Ptak said Ducey’s decision will be based on more than just test results.

“Other data is also important, like whether our hospitals are prepared,” he said. And Arizona got some good news, with the health department saying Monday was the first day in more than a month that no COVID-19 deaths were reported.

The governor separately has been promoting antibody testing to determine who already has had the virus — and may now be immune. And Ducey has made it clear that, too, will figure in the decisions he has to make.

“Antibody testing can be a game-changer in our fight against COVID-19,” he said in a prepared statement last week when Sonora Quest Laboratories announced it will offer such blood tests in addition to diagnostic tests to determine active infection. “This is another welcome expansion that will help provide certainty as Arizona looks to economic recovery at the appropriate time.”

Ducey also is touting a new program at the University of Arizona which is providing $3.5 million to test 250,000 health care workers and first responders to determine who has been exposed to the virus and developed antibodies. But the first testing won’t begin until later this week, and initially only in Pima County.

Hamer said the bottom line — and the message he wants the governor to have — is that businesses want to reopen.

“Arizonans want to work,” he said.

“We want to see people go back to work,” Hamer continued. “And we want to see our economy fully restored.”

Still, he said, it has to be done in a prudent and safe fashion.

“And it’s going to be done in phases,” Hamer said.

He said there are models out that that work.

“Protocols are going to have to be in place that limit traffic,” Hamer said.

That’s already being done in many grocery, home improvement and department stores, with a new customer being let in when one leaves. And he said that’s even more important as the rules for who can open are broadened.

“We can’t have a gazillion people in a small store when you have a pandemic without effective therapeutics and good treatment,” Hamer said. And he said there are likely to be other mandates and suggestions, ranging from sheets of plastic separating customers from cashiers to tape lines on the floor marking social distance for those waiting in line.

All this presumes that even if Ducey loosens the restrictions that Arizonans will be willing to foray out.

“Consumer confidence is the $64,000 question,” Hamer conceded. “It’s very important for the governor’s actions to continue to be consistent with the comfort level of the citizens.”

House resumes work, pushes liability bill

Members of the House Rules Committee, all masked and socially distanced, discuss what bills will be as the House resumes work May 18. (Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer)
Members of the House Rules Committee, all masked and socially distanced, discuss what bills will be as the House resumes work May 18. (Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer)

Republican lawmakers are moving to make it harder for someone who contracts COVID-19 to sue the business where they believe they were infected or a company that made a device that did not provide the promised protection from the virus.

Legislation introduced Monday still preserves the right of all to sue those whose actions or inactions exposed them to the virus.

But the measure spells out that simply proving negligence by the business owner is not enough. They would have to show that there was gross negligence. And that generally requires someone to convince a jury not only that the business failed to take some action to preclude the spread of the disease but that it was done in reckless disregard of the consequences.

And there’s something else.

This proposal says that when the claim involved COVID-19, the standard for proof becomes “clear and convincing evidence.”

That is a higher burden than “preponderance of the evidence,” essentially asking a jury to decide if the allegations are more likely true than not. But it is not as strict as the criminal standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Rep. Rusty Bowers (R-Mesa)
Rep. Rusty Bowers (R-Mesa)

House Speaker Rusty Bowers, R-Mesa, did not dispute that if this becomes law employees will have a more difficult time of proving that the unsafe conditions at a workplace are responsible for their illness. But he said that’s not the focus of what Republicans are trying to do: stimulate and reopen the economy.

“There is a very large segment of the public that runs our economy, that we have to quickly empower and build their confidence that they’ll be able to reopen and have an acceleration where they can feel comfortable hiring the employees, the employees can feel comfortable, all working responsibly together to move the needle,” he said. “And I think a liability protection bill that has a higher standard on two counts is a good thing to do.”

And what of protections for workers who believe they are being put in unsafe situations?

“I don’t believe any employee is being forced to go into any situation,” Bowers responded. Ditto, he said, of customers having to go to any business.

“We’re not saying, ‘You must go patronize,’ ” the speaker said. But Bowers said COVID-19 requires special protections for employers.

Rep. Athena Salman (D-Tempe)
Rep. Athena Salman (D-Tempe)

“One of the major challenges to all businesses right now, that they have expressed to us, is their fear of uncontrolled liability in a very hyper-litigious society,” he said.

“The trial attorneys may want to have open season and lean on people,” Bowers said. “In a pandemic, I would think that would be a well-based fear.”

Rep. Athena Salman, D-Tempe, the House co-minority whip, said it is true that workers can refuse to return to what they believe are unsafe situations. But she also pointed out that they would forfeit their unemployment benefits.

Federal law allows people to refuse available work under only narrow circumstances, like being quarantined, caring for a family member who is infected, or being a member of a population that is particularly susceptible to COVID-19. Anyone else offered their old job back has to return or stop collecting benefits, a situation she said that creates real problems.

“If you are a restaurant worker and your employer says, ‘You can’t be wearing a mask while you’re serving food,’ and you’ve been self-quarantining this whole time until you’re forced to come back to work … you have to go back to work,” she said. More to the point, Salman said if an employee in that situation gets sick, “it is likely that that person probably contracted it while they were at work.”

Glenn Hamer
Glenn Hamer

Bowers said COVID-19 is different, requiring special protections for businesses.

But Barry Aarons, lobbyist for the Arizona Association for Justice, said the problem is that nothing in the proposal helps employees who may become ill due to the negligence of others. In fact, he said, the reverse would be true, making it even more difficult for them to hold others liable.

Gubernatorial press aide Patrick Ptak said the governor is focused on ensuring that Arizona “safely opens.” And that, he said, requires the cooperation of employers.

“He knows the challenge this has placed on our small business and wants to work with the business community on solutions that protect consumers and entrepreneurs,” Ptak said.

That leaves the question of what is different now that requires special rules for lawsuits.

Glenn Hamer, CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, defended special liability rules for COVID-19 cases.

“What’s different right now is the severity of the disease and the speed for which we need manufacturers to step up and produce the products necessary to keep Americans alive,” he said.

Consider ventilators.

“Some are literally starting from scratch in putting these together,” Hamer said. The same thing is happening as distillers are now manufacturing hand sanitizer.

“The reward shouldn’t be, ‘Hey, they accidentally screwed something up’, they’re sued into oblivion,” he said. “It should be, if there’s a mistake, they’ll change it quickly.”

Anyway, Hamer said, the law applies only to lawsuits involving COVID-19.

The plan is to have the House vote on the measure this week and send it to the Senate which, while having voted to say it had completed its business, is technically in recess.

One question that remains is whether courts will uphold the special rules even if they are enacted. The Arizona Constitution specifically bars lawmakers from limiting the right to recover damages for injuries. The question that remains is at what point imposing a higher burden on plaintiffs effectively eliminates their right to sue.

Salman said the GOP plan is paying attention to the wrong issue.

“The focus should be that we are living at the beginning of a global pandemic that is costing people’s lives, now how do we open up the state when every single reputable public health expert is saying it is way too soon,” she said.

Lawmaker calls Supreme Court ruling ‘partial’ victory for LGBTQ

Rep. Daniel Hernandez explains legislation to extend the protection of anti-discrimination laws to include sexual orientation and gender identification. PHOTO BY HOWARD FISCHER/CAPITOL MEDIA SERVICES
Rep. Daniel Hernandez, D-Tucson. PHOTO BY HOWARD FISCHER/CAPITOL MEDIA SERVICES

A new ruling Monday by the U.S. Supreme Court on gay rights is imposing new restrictions on Arizona employers that neither the state legislature nor state courts were willing to do.

The 6-3 decision by the high court effectively puts a provision into federal law that says people who contend they were fired the opportunity to sue under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act which bars employers from discriminating based on sex.

“Homosexuality and transgender status are inextricably bound up with sex,” the justices said.

The move follows decades of unsuccessful efforts by some legislators to add sexual orientation and gender identification to existing laws that now prohibit discrimination in public accommodation and employment.

In effect, Monday’s court ruling catches the rest of the state up to cities like Tucson, Phoenix, Tempe and Flagstaff whose anti-discrimination laws already cover sexual orientation. But the high court decision covers only employment discrimination.

Rep. Daniel Hernandez, D-Tucson, chair of the Arizona LGBTQ Caucus, called the ruling a significant — but only partial — victory. He said nothing in Monday’s ruling provides blanket legal protections he believes are necessary for gays.

In this file photo from Friday, Nov. 30, 2018, the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court gather for a formal group portrait to include new Associate Justice, top row, far right, at the Supreme Court Building in Washington, Friday, Nov. 30, 2018. Justice Ginsburg, 85, is missing arguments for the first time in more than 25 years as she recuperates from cancer surgery last month but is recuperating and working from home. Seated from left: Associate Justice Stephen Breyer, Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, Chief Justice of the United States John G. Roberts, Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Associate Justice Samuel Alito Jr. Standing behind from left: Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch, Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Justice Elena Kagan and Associate Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, file)
In this file photo from Friday, Nov. 30, 2018, the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court gather for a formal group portrait to include new Associate Justice, top row, far right, at the Supreme Court Building in Washington, Friday, Nov. 30, 2018.  Seated from left: Associate Justice Stephen Breyer, Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, Chief Justice of the United States John G. Roberts, Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Associate Justice Samuel Alito Jr. Standing behind from left: Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch, Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Justice Elena Kagan and Associate Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, file)

“In Arizona, you can still be discriminated against in stores, restaurants and hotels,” he said. “You can still be denied housing.”

Hernandez told Capitol Media Services that was brought home last year when the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that Phoenix could not enforce its anti-discrimination ordinance, which covers sexual orientation, against the owners of a calligraphy firm who refused to design wedding invitations for same-sex couples saying it conflicted with their Christian beliefs.

On one hand, Hernandez said, it was a narrow ruling, with the justices applying it to only the specific facts in that case.

“But it laid out, essentially, a toolkit for those businesses that want to discriminate,” he said. That’s why Hernandez said there needs to be a statewide law to overturn that ruling.

“If you are a business that has an open-door policy, you can’t decide who you close the door on just because you disagree with them,” he said.

Hernandez has had no luck. In fact, House Speaker Rusty Bowers earlier this year even refused to assign his anti-discrimination proposal to a committee for a hearing, telling Capitol Media Services at the time he saw no reason to overturn that state Supreme Court ruling.

“I think that my right of freedom of religion and religious beliefs and expression is at least equal to anybody else’s,” he said.

What might happen next year could depend in part on business community backing. But the head of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, while declaring his support for what the Supreme Court did on Monday, refused to commit to backing such a law.

“We’re going to be very sympathetic when we look at different laws to make sure we don’t have discriminatory treatment in our society,” said Glenn Hamer, the organization’s president and CEO. “We will certainly review any proposal of that sort.”

And then there’s Gov. Doug Ducey. As recently as last year, the governor said he did not support extending state anti-discrimination laws to protect people based on sexual orientation.

Ducey declined to comment on Monday’s Supreme Court ruling, with press aide Patrick Ptak saying the governor is reviewing it with his staff. But Ptak said his boss “remains opposed to discrimination in all its forms.”

That lack of any specific protections in Arizona law is significant.

Doug Ducey (Photo by Dillon Rosenblatt/Arizona Capitol Times)
Doug Ducey (Photo by Dillon Rosenblatt/Arizona Capitol Times)

In a 1994 ruling, the state Court of Appeals, pointed out that state lawmakers have never extended legal protections to individuals based on sexual orientation. And based on that, the judges ruled that Arizona employers are free to fire workers solely because they are gay.

Since that time there have been no new cases on the issue. And attorney Richard Langerman, who represented Jeffrey Blain in that case, told Capitol Media Services that had his case been tried as recently as last month, before Monday’s Supreme Court ruling, the results would have been the same and his client — and all others — would have no legal recourse in Arizona.

Blain, an employee of Golden State Container Inc. of Phoenix, claimed he was fired because he is a gay man with AIDS.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Norman Hall instructed the jury that they should rule in Blain’s favor if they determine that he was fired because he has AIDS.
That is based on provisions of the Arizona Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination based on disability. A state attorney general’s opinion concluded that AIDS fits within the definition of handicapped.
The judge, however, said jurors should ignore the question of whether Blain was fired because he is gay. Hall concluded that, under Arizona law, employers are entitled to do that.
The jury ruled in favor of the company. That sent the case to the Court of Appeals.
Langerman told the appellate judges the verdict might have been different if the jury had considered whether his client’s sexual preference also was a factor. Judge Joseph Livermore, writing the unanimous appellate opinion, disagreed.
The judges said Arizona employers do not need a reason to fire workers.
What companies cannot do, however, is fire someone for a bad reason, like violating constitutional protections based on race, religion or sex. Bad reasons also include violations of public policy, such as firing a worker who refused to break the law.
The judges said they could find nothing in Arizona law that makes a discharge based on sexual orientation a violation of public policy.

Jan Brewer (Photo by Gage Skidmore)
Jan Brewer (Photo by Gage Skidmore)

Livermore noted that lawmakers in most states, including Arizona, have not enacted laws barring discrimination based on sexual preferences, the way they have when dealing with sex, race, religion and age. The judge also pointed out that Congress specifically has rejected an outright ban on discrimination against gays in the armed forces.
The lack of statewide action on the issue has created a patchwork of statutes, with Tucson, Phoenix, Tempe, Flagstaff, Sedona and Winslow banning discrimination in private employment. Some other Arizona communities offer more limited protection.

In some ways, Arizona’s business community is out ahead of Ducey and state lawmakers.

Many major Arizona employers already have policies prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation. And some of them in 2014 went on record in urging then-Gov. Jan Brewer to veto legislation which would have expanded the right of businesses to claim they are entitled to deny service to anyone, including gays, based on the owner’s “sincerely held” religious beliefs.

Brewer ended up killing the measure.

More recently, several business groups aligned themselves with Phoenix in a battle over whether the owners of a calligraphy firm who cited their religious beliefs could be forced to design wedding invitations for same-sex nuptials. In that case the Arizona Supreme Court sided with the business.

Mass subpoenas to be tested in challenge to energy measure

power-lines-620Opponents of a ballot measure to increase Arizona’s use of renewable energy have the right to subpoena more than 1,600 individuals who gathered signatures to get the proposed law on the ballot.

But there are several ways backers of the Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona initiative could argue in trial, set to begin on August 20, that there’s not a good reason to compel those individuals to show up in court, according to some elections attorneys.

There’s high stakes over the subpoenas thanks to a 2014 law that requires judges to toss signatures from circulators who don’t show up in court.

The law, adopted as an amendment pushed by Secretary of State Michele Reagan, then a state senator, places the burden on circulators and the committee they work for to ensure that signature gatherers show up in Maricopa County Superior Court, where legal challenges to statewide ballot initiatives are heard.

Failure to show means a judge must invalidate all the signatures collected by that individual.

Attorney Brett Johnson, an attorney for GOP lawmakers Vince Leach, John Kavanagh, Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Glenn Hamer and others challenging the Clean Energy initiative, told the court he plans to subpoena nearly all those who gathered signatures for the initiative, since they all registered with the Secretary of State’s Office and signed paperwork acknowledging they might be subpoenaed.

Election attorney Andy Gordon said it’s “pretty transparent” what Johnson’s strategy is.

“If you subpoena someone to show up and they don’t show up, all their signatures are automatically disqualified. That’s what they’re trying to do,” Gordon said. “Their hope is that the people don’t show up.”

What remains to be seen, Gordon said, is how the court will handle all those subpoenas — and what arguments Jim Barton, the attorney for the Clean Energy campaign, will make to dispute that all the 1,600 subpoenas are necessary.

Barton’s effort to quash the subpoenas pre-trial failed, as the court ruled the plaintiffs may subpoena however many signature gatherers they choose. The judge has also acknowledged the logistical challenges that issuing so many subpoenas presents.

That could be an opening for Barton to make the argument that some of the subpoenas weren’t necessary and the judge shouldn’t disqualify signatures even if an individual doesn’t make it to trial, Gordon said.

“I think that’s the argument you need to make because of these peculiar statutes, and because you’re dealing with kind of fundamental constitutional rights to the initiative,” Gordon said. “They should have to make a particularized showing, at least when you subpoena 1,600 (individuals), that there’s some reason to think there’s really underlying problems, other than just a ploy to disqualify the signatures.”

Roopali Desai
Roopali Desai

Attorney Roopali Desai, who worked with Gordon in 2016 to subpoena dozens of circulators in two initiative challenges for the first time under the 2014 law, said there may also be an argument that the statute requiring judges to toss signatures for no-show circulators is, on its face, unconstitutional.

“It may just be, as a statutory impediment on the citizen initiative process, not counting voters signatures simply because a circulator doesn’t show up — there’s a disconnect between the impact to the voter who signs the petition versus this burdensome requirement that was put into statute by the Legislature,” Desai said.

Barton has hinted at arguments he might might make in trial. Issuing subpoenas just to see if a individual will show up “is contrary to the purpose of that (subpoena) power being granted to attorneys,” he said.

“When you subpoena someone to trial, you are compelling them to appear, presumably for a reason. And I think just to see if they show is not a good reason,” Barton told the Arizona Capitol Times. “It’s not what the subpoena power is for.”

Johnson has argued in briefs that subpoenas are necessary because “there is no other source for this witness information.”

And a spokesman for Arizonans for Affordable Electricity, a group formed to oppose the Clean Energy initiative, said that individual signature gatherers can best shed light on signatures those opposed to the initiative think should be invalidated.

The spokesman, Matthew Benson, wouldn’t say whether Johnson plans to call every signature-gatherer who complies with the subpoena to the witness stand.

“I’m not saying we will or we won’t,” Benson said. “I’m saying we reserve that right.”

“From our campaign’s perspective, the circulators are primary sources of information about these petitions,” Benson added. “No one’s in a better position than they are to address peculiarities with these petitions that we have identified.”

Desai said Barton might be on to something by arguing that there’s a disconnect between the Rules of Civil Procedure, which specify when and how subpoenas are issued, and the law as written in 2014.

When Gordon and Desai were hired to challenge an initiative to cap the pay of top hospital executives, they were cautious in who they subpoenaed. Though they identified more than 300 signature gatherers with potential issues on their petitions, Desai said they only subpoenaed about 80 individuals.

Desai said they thought it frivolous to issue subpoenas for individuals when there were other ways to easily prove in court a signature was problematic and should be invalidated.

“You have to give people notice of what it is that you want. It has to be within a particular time frame. And then you have to have these specific procedures to have them show up,” Desai said. “The statute just seems to completely obliterate, or pay no attention, to the service rules.”

That could be a path to argue that the statute requiring signatures to be tossed should be overruled by the courts, Desai said.

Mayors at odds with Ducey’s list of essential services

Emily Miles has her temperature taken before being allowed to donate blood at a temporary blood bank set up in a church's fellowship hall Tuesday, March 24, 2020, in Tempe, Ariz. Schools and businesses that typically host blood drives are temporarily closed due to precautionary measures in place to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus leading to extremely low levels of blood availability throughout the state. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Emily Miles has her temperature taken before being allowed to donate blood at a temporary blood bank set up in a church’s fellowship hall Tuesday, March 24, 2020, in Tempe, Ariz. Schools and businesses that typically host blood drives are temporarily closed due to precautionary measures in place to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus leading to extremely low levels of blood availability throughout the state. (AP Photo/Matt York)

A new executive order by Gov. Doug Ducey on “essential services” appears less designed to empower him to force people to stay home than to preclude Arizona cities from once again getting out in front of him on actions to slow the spread of COVID-19.

When the governor announced the order on Monday he said he did not intend to issue stay-at-home orders “at this time.” Instead he described it as a move to “provide clarity” so that “people in these situations can plan ahead.”

But the actual verbiage of the order — not made available until after Ducey’s press conference — paints a far different picture, forbidding any county, city or town from making “any order, rule or regulation” that prohibits anyone from performing any function that he, his health department or his Division of Emergency Management designated as an “essential function” during the pandemic public health emergency.

And to drive home the point, it says that any order by a local government restricting people from leaving their home during the emergency “shall be consistent with advice from the Arizona Department of Health Services. It also says that any order must be “coordinated with the state prior to issuance.”

It was officials from Tucson, Phoenix and Flagstaff, all Democratic strongholds and cities led by women, that instituted the first bans on people gathering at bars and a prohibition on in-restaurant dining. It was only later, after insisting he would not do it, that Ducey followed suit with a similar order, but only for those counties where there have been confirmed cases of the virus.

And the governor’s list of what he considers essential — and off-limits to local restrictions — is very broad, ranging not just from traditional health and public services to payday lenders and pawnbrokers to golf courses and the sale of firearms and ammunition.

Isela Blanc
Isela Blanc

The move drew an angry reaction from Rep. Isela Blanc, D-Tempe, whose own city also has acted, on its own, to shutter bars and allow only take-out food.

“I’m concerned that we have city mayors that are leading on this issue and being more responsible than the governor in dealing with this,” she told Capitol Media Services.

“We are dealing with a worldwide pandemic that could be fatal,” Blanc said. “But the state isn’t willing to take necessary precautions to keep the health system from being overwhelmed.”

She’s not alone in her concerns.

In a letter Tuesday to the governor, the mayors of Tucson, Flagstaff, Tolleson, Somerton and Winslow said his order is “too broad” in its definition of essential services that cities cannot shutter, specifically citing the inclusion of payday lenders and golf courses.

Tucson Mayor Regina Romero told Capitol Media Services the problems are even deeper than that.

Consider, she said, Ducey’s order preempting local governments from closing parks.

In his order, the governor said he was focused on areas that provide “opportunities for outdoor recreation with social distancing.” But Romero said it’s not that simple.

Regina Romero
Regina Romero

“Cities are concerned about cleaning bathrooms, all the details that we have to think about in terms of logistics to keep it clean for our community,” she said. Ditto the playground equipment for children.

Romero also said she could live within the governor’s directive if he removed certain items from his “essential list.” That includes personal hygiene.

“Does this cover nail salons? Hair salons? Massage and spa services? Barber shops?” she asked.

“That’s concerning because that has people less than one foot away from each other.”

And it could come to a point, Romero said, where the city will have to look at charting its own path, with or without Ducey.

“I am trying to be cooperative and have good partnership with the governor’s office,” she said.

“But, at the same time, I have to make the call along with my city manager, my city attorney, with scientific information we have in front of us,” she continued. “And I have to be able to make swift calls for the health and benefit of Tucson and Tucsonans.”

In a prepared statement, gubernatorial press aide Patrick Ptak defended the governor’s preemption.

“This order is about protecting public health and preserving critical financial lifelines for many communities across the state,” he said. “It also ensures one uniform policy throughout Arizona so businesses and citizens can responsibly plan.”

The governor’s bid to restrain cities has the support of Glenn Hamer, president of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

“The Arizona economy right now is already in a deep recession, probably in a depression, as is the case with the economy in the 49 other states,” he told Capitol Media Services.

“We want to keep the maximum amount of commerce open that we possibly can consistent with CDC and Arizona Department of Health guidelines,” Hamer said. “It was very important for the governor to get out ahead of this proactively because there is a lot of concern among businesses of all kinds in this state whether or not they’re going to be allowed to continue to operate in this environment where things are evolving by the nanosecond.”

Hamer said that the governor’s list probably should be thought of less as what services are essential and more as a list of businesses that can be safely operated without the spread of the disease. That, he said, is where something like golf courses fit in, enabling people to get out and “get their 10,000 steps” a day with minimal risk of contagion.

 

Politicians weigh in on ballot measures

This April 11, 2018, photo shows a sign directing voters to an early-voting location in Surprise, Ariz. Secretary of State Katie Hobbs settled a lawsuit with the Navajo Nation by adopting an elections procedure that allows counties five days to fix early ballots that don’t match signatures on file or are missing signatures. PHOTO BY ANITA SNOW/ASSOCIATED PRESS
This April 11, 2018, photo shows a sign directing voters to an early-voting location in Surprise, Ariz.  PHOTO BY ANITA SNOW/ASSOCIATED PRESS

If you get your advice from Gov. Doug Ducey you’re going to want to vote against at least three of the four measures expected to be on the November ballot.

The governor has submitted statements in opposition to proposals to legalize recreational uses of marijuana, increase taxes on the wealthy to help fund education, and a third with various provisions relating to hospitals and health care.

But he took no position on a fourth ballot measure to give judges more discretion in sentencing.

On marijuana, the governor called what is expected to be on the ballot as Proposition 207 “a bad idea based on false promises,” saying the experience from other states shows it will lead to more highway deaths, dramatic increases in teen drug use and more newborns exposed to marijuana. Anyway, Ducey said, the current system of medical marijuana, approved by voters in 2010 “is serving the people who need it for health-related reasons.”

Doug Ducey
Doug Ducey

Ducey is not alone, particularly on the issue of whether Arizonans should be able to legally buy and possess marijuana for personal use. The Secretary of State’s Office got dozens of arguments from foes.

All those arguments will be placed into publicity pamphlets mailed to the homes of all registered voters.

So will the handful of arguments in favor of the measure, including one from former Gov. Fife Symington III.

“Today the evidence is overwhelmingly clear: criminalizing law-abiding citizens who choose to responsibly consume marijuana is an outdated policy that wastes precious government resources and unnecessarily restricts individual liberty,” he wrote. “A far more logical approach would be to respect the right of adults to choose to consume marijuana while regulating and taxing its production and sale.”

He has at least a passing familial interest in the issue: His son, Fife Symington IV, is managing director of Copperstate Farms, which operates what is believed to be the largest medical marijuana cultivation facility in the state. And those already involved in medical marijuana are going to get first crack at the expanded recreational system if voters approve.

The pamphlet actually contains two arguments by Will Humble, executive director of the Arizona Public Health Association, one in favor and one against.

Humble told Capitol Media Services his organization sees the issue through a pair of lenses.

On one hand, he said, there are members of his organization who support the idea of “criminal justice reform,” getting rid of state laws that make it a felony to have any amount of marijuana at all.

Will Humble
Will Humble

“But, on the other hand, there is good evidence that these retail marijuana laws increase access to people under 21,” Humble said. “It’s harmful to adolescents.”

He said voters will get to read both perspectives.

“I’m probably going to vote for it,” Humble said, saying there’s no reason to make felons out of people who have small quantities of marijuana. “Even if they don’t do time for it … part of it is going through being arrested, paying the fees for the court, suffering through the criminal justice system, paying for all those classes they make you take.”

On the other side are Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall and Sheila Polk, her Yavapai County counterpart. The measure also is opposed by Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy, whose organization is financing much of the campaign against the initiative.

The proposal to increase income taxes on the state’s top earners, Proposition 210, also drew lots of comments.

Most of the support comes from members of the education community like Joshua Buckley, president of the Mesa Education Association.

“A decade of cuts to education have hit hardest on our state’s most vulnerable population – our children,” he wrote.

And Steve Adams, co-president of the Tempe School Education Association, said the funding is needed to make up for cuts made during the past decade.

“Now is the time for smaller class sizes,” she said. “Now is the time to pay certified teachers a professional salary. Now is the time for all Arizona students to have access to a qualified school nurse, counselor, librarian and support staff who keep them safe and healthy.”

The measure would affect only the top 4% of earners in Arizona, raising the rate only on earnings of more than $250,000 a year for individuals and $500,000 for couples filing jointly. It is billed as raising $940 million a year for K-12 education.

Close-up of child's abacus in classroom.“That’s a whopping amount, especially considering that our economy is recovering from recession and high unemployment,” Ducey wrote. And he said there is no guarantee how much of this actually would wind up in the classroom.

Various business groups also have taken positions against the measure. And state Sen. Vince Leach, R-Tucson, said the measure “will result in a huge drag on the overall economy.”

“If we can’t grow the economy, we can’t invest in schools and raise teacher pay,” he argued.

The health care measure, Proposition 208, pulls some of the same interests together in opposition.

It would require a 20% pay hike for hospital workers, impose new infection-control standards on hospitals, provide protections for insured patients against “surprise” medical bills for out-of-network care, and guarantee that people with pre-existing conditions can get affordable health insurance.

Glenn Hamer, president of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, called it part of a “radical agenda” by “out-of-state special interests.” That refers to the fact the measure is being financed by a California chapter of Service Employees International Union.

Glenn Hamer
Glenn Hamer

“Dramatically increasing health care costs at a time when the Arizona economy is struggling with double-digit unemployment rate and record jobless claims will devastate hardworking families and delay the state’s economic recovery,” he said.

But it has support from groups ranging from the Arizona Faith Network and Living United for Change in Arizona to Poder Latinx and the Sky Harbor Lodge 2559 of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.

The lone item Ducey has not weighed in on is Proposition 209, designed to partly reverse laws on mandatory prison terms imposed in 1978 and modify the 1993 “truth in sentencing” law that requires criminals to serve at least 85% of their term before being released.

It also would end the ability of prosecutors to “stack” multiple charges committed by someone before arrest to allow them to have the person designed a repeat offender.

State lawmakers actually approved that change last year only to have it vetoed by Ducey because of what he said where “unintended consequences that may raise from this legislation.”

Dawn Penich-Thacker and Beth Lewis, co-founders of Save Our Schools Arizona, argued that the state now spends more on incarcerating people than in state aid to colleges and universities.

“By emphasizing rehabilitation, reintegration training and smarter sentencing, the Second Chances Act addresses the other side of the school-to-prison pipeline that holds back too many Arizona families,” they said.

But Polk, the Yavapai County attorney, said voters should not dismantle the sentencing code.

“It will, once again, allow many very serious and repeat offenders to serve only half of their sentence before being released back on our streets and into our communities,” she said. And Polk said the current laws ensure that people are sentenced based on their crimes and not “who you are, where you live, and who your sentencing judge is will determine your sentence.”

Split widens between business and education communities

After working together to pump $3.5 billion over a decade into the public education system, the business and education communities find themselves once more at odds following the latest actions at the Arizona Legislature.

The schism has the potential to threaten not only the extension of Proposition 301, the voter-approved tax increase that provides roughly $650 million a year in resources for Arizona schools, but also future initiatives meant to carve a successful path for K-12 education.

The immediate worry revolves around Prop. 301, which is set to expire in June 2021. Some fear that time is slipping, as the groundwork needed to push its extension – or maybe even expansion – has scarcely begun.

Chuck Essigs (Photo by Gary Grado, Arizona Capitol Times)
Chuck Essigs (Photo by Gary Grado, Arizona Capitol Times)

“I’m not sure people fully appreciate how short the time is to get it (Prop. 301) reauthorized,” said Chuck Essigs, lobbyist for the Arizona Association of School Business Officials.

And while leaders from both the education and business communities agree the tax must continue, they disagree on the status of their relationship.

With Gov. Doug Ducey at the helm, the business and education communities, two of the most influential groups in K-12 policy, had forged an alliance to pass Prop. 123 in 2016, and its success at the ballot box gave educators hope they would have a seat at the table when crafting future education policy.

But K-12 advocates said that hope was dashed following this year’s legislative session, when legislators did little to address issues school advocates raised and instead passed policies they opposed.

They said the teacher pay hikes that Ducey boasted of, for example, failed to even match inflation since the last teacher raise. Similarly, they argued, merit-based funding for schools, which lawmakers approved and which was backed by the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, is ineffective in solving public education funding issues.

But business leaders said their relationship with the K-12 community is “very, very strong.”

Glenn Hamer
Glenn Hamer

“The business community is more engaged now than it has been, maybe ever, in efforts to align our education system with skills that are necessary for a productive workforce,” said Glenn Hamer, president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Indeed, while the business community has always had a robust education agenda, it has aggressively been pushing policies in the last several years.

Notably, business leaders lobbied hard for legislators to restore funding for career and technical education, and by the time the restoration legislation was approved, lawmakers were clambering over each other to get credit for it.

While the business community and K-12 advocates agree on overarching goals, such as better education outcomes and more money for teachers and low-income schools, they differ on paths to get there.

Dick Foreman, president of the Arizona Business and Education Coalition, said “inclusive” was not an adjective he would use to describe the 2016-2017 legislative session.

Foreman agreed that while school leaders were open to discussions about education policy, they were not invited to the table.

However, Foreman recognized that the business community is “sensitive, aware and interested in public education.”

Unfortunately, he added, there is very little opportunity for CEOs and superintendents to communicate on what he considers a level playing field.

Foreman attributed this unequal playing field to differing worldviews. He said CEOs are worried about making profitable decisions, and superintendents are concerned with pleasing teachers.

The relationship between the business community and the education community, Foreman added, is the “same as it always has been, mostly favorable on the surface, but not having a clue what goes on under that surface.”

The schism between the K-12 and the business communities revolves around familiar issues of controversy.

The business community pushed for merit-based funding, which public school advocates believe only favor certain schools, notably charters.

Chris Kotterman
Chris Kotterman

Chris Kotterman, director of governmental relations for the Arizona School Boards Association, said the merit-based funding is “disproportionately awarded to certain charter schools that do very well on standardized tests.”

But Hamer, the chamber official, denies preference for any schools.

“The business community is nondenominational when it comes to educational performance,” he said.

Lisa Graham Keegan, CEO of A for Arizona, also said the business community’s intention is to support schools that aid low-income students and produce students with the skillsets necessary to build a successful workforce and attract businesses to Arizona.

She attributed what she calls a “fast-paced moment” in Arizona’s education history to the “instinct” business leaders bring to schools.

The business community also successfully pushed for the expansion of a controversial voucher program, in which the state provides funding for a child’s private education.

Once limited to certain populations like children with disabilities, lawmakers this year opened up the program to all pupils, albeit enrollment is still capped to roughly 5,000 new students a year.

Kotterman called voucher expansion a “gut-check to true public education advocates,” which he said made clear that the business community is interested in making decisions that benefit their members, with little regard to the education community.

“When your primary economic policy is maintaining low taxes, you’re going to run into problem with institutions that depend on taxpayer support,” Kotterman said. “It does feel like they’re (business community) picking sides… and what they’re picking is a very specific model that advantages schools of choice over traditional district schools.”

Many believe that, in the end, public education advocates and business leaders would have to reconcile their differences, or at least set them aside, in order to push big initiatives.

Daniel Scarpinato, who speaks for the governor, said the success of Prop. 123 last year illustrated what can be achieved when these two groups get on the same page.

“There’s no way that you could have seen such a significant policy like that move through without real cooperation on that end,” Scarpinato said.

He noted that throughout the state’s history, monumental policies in education only happened when the business community and the K-12 advocates hunkered down together.

Ducey is keen on having these two groups work together, particularly because he is pushing big initiatives, such as the ambitious goal of having 60 percent of Arizona’s adults with a professional certificate or college degree by 2030.

More immediately, Ducey wants a “new Prop. 301.”

That reality, shared by many, will only come through if the business and education communities are on the same page, Scarpinato said.

“I don’t think one group can move this on their own,” he said. “And it’s critical, from the governor’s perspective, that there is something next on that because he didn’t fight so hard to resolve the lawsuit and pass Prop. 123 for us to then face a funding cliff.”

While not all parties will agree on every issue, what has to happen next is clear – groups must recognize the achievements that have been accomplished when “we partner,” and coalesce around policies that truly matter, Scarpinato said.

“We have every expectation it will [happen],” he said. “We really feel like we have a potential to come together again on some big issues next session and moving forward.”

But as Scarpinato recommends a unified front, some suggest that parting ways with certain elements of the business community, while cultivating collaboration with others, might be the most viable path for education advocates.

Essigs, who lobbies for school business officials, said he’s optimistic that business and education interests can work together in the future, adding he believes the schism isn’t so much between education groups and the business community at large, but with the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

“Just because (Hamer) says there isn’t doesn’t mean that there isn’t,” Essigs said. “That could lead to a real pessimistic look, but I’m optimistic because I can see other people in the business community are looking at things differently.”

Essigs pointed to groups like the Arizona Business and Education Coalition, as well as local business groups and chambers of commerce, as evidence there are some in the business community who support the goals of education groups like his own.

He said people need to understand differences of opinion exist in the business community, and the path forward requires separating the Arizona Chamber of Commerce from the business community at large.

As long as the state chamber ignores the true needs of schools and the perception that poorly funded schools creates, the education community has no choice but to move forward without them, Essigs said.

“At this point in time, our only choice is to work with and corroborate with the business community that is supportive of public schools,” Essigs said. That would be business groups that, he said, “seem to recognize the problem and realize that, if we want to move forward as a state, and really make some progress, we’re going to have to address how to fund our schools.”

Reporter Ben Giles contributed to this article

The CEOs speak

We asked a handful of company CEOs and business leaders one question: What can the state do to make sure the K-12 system is graduating students who can adequately fill Arizona’s current and future workforce needs? Here are their answers.

Mark B. Bonsall is Chief Executive Officer and General Manager of Salt River Project

Mark Bonsall
Mark Bonsall

SRP’s dedication to delivering safe, reliable water and power requires Arizona’s workforce to be well-educated and prepared for the challenges of a modern economy.

Arizona’s economic development depends on the availability of quality employees who are collaborative, conscientious and creative problem solvers in an evolving industry.

In order to ensure the state graduates students from the K-12 system, it should seek to ensure teachers and students thrive in a classroom environment that inspires and equips tomorrow’s workforce with these critical talents.

Providing adequate resources to attract and retain teachers is a critical ingredient to a complicated recipe for student success.

These resources include not only the provision of reasonable financial rewards but also enlisting the support from school administrators and the community who recognize and value classroom instructors for their proven ability to harness the best from our children.

Achieving a balance of resources that drives student performance is perhaps the state’s greatest challenge in the next few years.

SRP has a long history of doing its part to ensure a vibrant state economy, and stands ready to assist Arizona’s policymakers in this critical endeavor.

Wyatt Decker
Wyatt Decker

Wyatt Decker, M.D., is vice president of Mayo Clinic and CEO of Mayo Clinic in Arizona.

As Arizona’s premier destination for health care, we are pleased to attract top talent to our health care ranks. We recognize the importance of the K-12 system as a pipeline for future doctors, nurses and other health care professionals.

In particular, we value the growing number of private-public education partnerships. We’ve seen this benefit firsthand through our involvement with Paradise Valley High School/Health Care Academy, which provides work-based learning experiences at Mayo Clinic to juniors and seniors.

Additionally, our Young Volunteer Summer Program gives high school students the experience of working directly with patients and attending educational sessions about health care careers. These types of collaborations are an optimal way to encourage students to enter key career areas, such as in the health sciences, which are developed in a way that supports students’ future interest and career goals while also fulfilling employer and community needs.

Similarly, the development of health science classes as part of an integrated curriculum that meets graduation standards is important. The key strategy is incorporation of career education at an early age and consistently thereafter throughout a student’s K-12 education. Career education collaboration benefits the educator, employer and the student.

Glenn Hamer
Glenn Hamer

Glenn Hamer is president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Arizona’s economy requires a K-12 system that ensures as many students as possible have access to a high-quality school, regardless of zip code. To reach that goal, the state must invest in proven results.

Gov. Doug Ducey and the Legislature in 2017 enthusiastically embraced the belief that we should seek to sustain and replicate quality by adopting a results-based funding model that directs additional dollars to Arizona’s high-quality classrooms, with a special emphasis on those great schools serving low-income areas. It’s an approach to funding that offers Arizona the most likely and fastest opportunity we have to grow excellence for more students.

We know what works. According to the Nation’s Report Card, Arizona leads the nation for the most significant achievement gains in math, science, and English Language Arts. We have a culture that has emphasized choice and rigor. We are home to five of the Top 10 public high schools in the country.

Now the focus must turn to expanding access to the high-quality educational choices currently available to some to the many. Results-based funding takes a giant leap in that direction.

Focusing on success over failure is not a novel concept in the business world, and it shouldn’t be in education either.

Dave Howell
Dave Howell
Chad Heinrich
Chad Heinrich

Dave Howell is director of state government affairs for Wells Fargo. Chad Heinrich is associate vice president for state government affairs for University of Phoenix.

As the co-chairs of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s Education & Workforce Committee, we believe the answer to meeting Arizona’s workforce needs doesn’t just rest on K-12.

The K-12 and post-secondary systems have a shared responsibility to build a modern onramp to work and post-high school education. Whether it’s a trade school, college, or structured on-the-job training, our high schools and post-secondary system must be designed to prepare every graduate with the training that leads to an industry certification or credential, or that leads to a degree opportunity.

Though there are some jobs for high school graduates without additional training – particularly graduates who participated in formal Career & Technical Education – at some point shortly following their exit from high school, these students will need to update or advance their skills to remain employable.

This will require an extremely diverse system of public and private colleges and vocational training opportunities that meet the needs of in-demand jobs. Program approvals, financial aid, and public incentives, such as workforce dollars, should align with and reinforce quality programs that give graduates employable skills.

Sandy Gibson
Sandy Gibson

Sandy Gibson is president and interim-CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona.

To be prepared for the workforce, Arizona’s students need various competencies – teamwork, written and presentation skills, and problem-solving. Academically, STEM skills and a second language will give them an edge. And just as important, graduates require life skills like dependability, financial acumen, appropriate risk-taking and perseverance.

A strong education system that can handle this responsibility starts with a capable and stable workforce of teachers. That’s why we must address our teacher shortage and give schools the tools they need to increase teacher pay and better manage workloads.

Moreover, employers need to be able to count on qualified graduates from schools and districts statewide – not just from a few top schools. That’s why Arizona should adopt policies and budgets that strengthen public education for children across our state. In particular, we need to address our state’s achievement gap that leaves students from low-income families behind, keeping them out of the workforce. Policies should be designed to give these students the opportunities and educational services they need.

And lastly, we need to leverage private and federal dollars to support high-quality early childhood education, because we know the return on that investment is greater academic success throughout the K-12 years.

Dawn Grove
Dawn Grove

Dawn Grove is corporate counsel for Karsten Manufacturing Corp., the parent company of PING. She chairs the Arizona Manufacturers Council and chairs the Workforce Arizona Council.

Let’s all embrace each other’s gifts and roles to ensure our students are prepared for tomorrow’s workforce. We’re connected, after all, as schools educate the skilled workers businesses need, and businesses help fund schools and provide the salaries, benefits, and dignity that support Arizona families, allowing our economy to thrive.

Businesses, let’s welcome school leaders – teachers, guidance counselors, board members – into our modern manufacturing plants and let them experience the careers available making cutting-edge products that improve people’s lives. Let’s generously provide schools with ambassadors who can help show real-world application of classroom studies, engaging students’ imaginations for future innovation possibilities.

School leaders, please take opportunities to further educate yourselves on the workforce needs of the local job creators who will eventually hire, continue to educate, and provide for most of your graduates, and work with policymakers to assemble data that include the numbers of graduates gainfully employed in business and manufacturing careers in addition to how many attend college.

Arizona government leaders, please ensure policies and laws strengthen schools with positive educational and workforce outcomes, and encourage outstanding job creators to thrive and grow here.

When we work together nothing is impossible. Let’s see what we can accomplish together.

Steve Macias
Steve Macias

Steve Macias is president of Pivot Manufacturing and is chairman of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

As the president of Pivot Manufacturing, I am on the front lines of the effort to hire and retain qualified workers. As a parent, I’m on the front lines of wanting to do all I can to ensure my kids are going to be one of those qualified workers (in any company!)

Part of the challenge we face is shifting large education and workforce training systems to meet a modern and constantly advancing definition of “qualified.” This is one of the reasons I and many of my colleagues fight against either-or solutions.

We don’t need work-ready or college-ready students; we need students who received a rigorous K-12 education, who are able to experience relevant coursework, such as Career and Technical Education, and who are prepared for post-secondary education and training.

Additionally, students won’t just need training after high school or later, but likely both, as technological advances – particularly in my field of defense and aerospace manufacturing – make skill upgrades a necessity for most 21st century jobs.

A stronger partnership with ongoing communication between schools, job trainers, and employers about current and evolving workplace needs is the best solution to keeping K-12, and whatever comes after, relevant for students and employers alike.

Only nimble organizations can adapt to the rates of change we experience today. We expect our education outlets to be up to the task.

David Martin
David Martin

David Martin is president of Arizona Chapter, Associated General Contractors of America.

The construction industry is finally beginning to recover from the Great Recession. Labor-force scarcity is becoming a bigger challenge for contractors. The K-12 system and many of its counselors do not promote construction as an excellent and rewarding career track. Too many times, our youth are led to believe the only path to success is a college degree, yet construction workers’ pay in Arizona averaged $49,400 – 4 percent more than the average for all private sector employees in the state.

The state can help by more aggressively supporting Career and Technical Education (CTE) as a respectable track for students who may not be interested in acquiring a college degree. In CTE programs, students actually apply what they learn in the classroom while simultaneously learning a craft that will pay them a living wage. CTE student success is also well documented. For example, the graduation rate for West-MEC students who completed a CTE program was 98 percent compared to 76 percent for all students in Arizona; the total enrollment of all five West-MEC campuses was 1,293, with an 88 percent retention; and, all West-MEC students who graduated last month acquired a recognized industry credential and who wanted to go to work had a 100 percent placement rate.

Trump imposes tariffs on Mexico

President Donald Trump reacts after addressing a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017. (Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool Image via AP)
President Donald Trump  (Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool Image via AP)

In a move that could damage the Arizona economy, President Trump late Thursday declared he intends to impose a 5 percent tariff on Mexican imports — potentially rising to 25 percent..

The action, first announced in a Twitter post, comes as the president is increasingly frustrated with migrants from Nicaragua, El Salvador and Honduras showing up at the U.S. border and seeking asylum. And it comes just hours after Trump, speaking at the White House, vowed “very dramatic” action to address the situation.

“On June 10th, the United States will impose a 5 percent Tariff on all goods coming into our Country from Mexico, until such time as illegal migrants coming through Mexico, and into our Country, STOP,” the president said in the posting. But that’s not where it’s going to end.

Trump, in a follow-up prepared statement, said the tariffs will go to 10 percent on July 1, 15 percent a month later, 20 percent a month after that, and finally 25 percent by Oct. 1.

“Tariffs will permanently remain at the 25 percent level unless and until Mexico substantially stops the illegal inflow of aliens coming through its territory,” the statement reads. And it says that the question of whether Mexico has taken the proper steps to stem the flow − and whether to end the tariffs − is “to be determined in our sole discretion and judgment.”

Gov. Doug Ducey, in a prepared statement, appeared to side with the president despite the economic risks to the state.

“I prioritize national security and a solution to our humanitarian crisis at the border above commerce,” he said, despite what the governor said is his personal opposition to tariffs. Ducey said he has reached out to “our friends in Mexico,” including elected officials, law enforcement and the faith community to “work together to alleviate this crisis.”

But Glenn Hamer, president of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the president’s announcement is “baffling and, if carried out, will be terribly damaging.”

“This will only inflict harm on the U.S. consumer,” he said. And Hamer pointed out that tariffs are not paid by the foreign country or even the foreign company that is exporting the goods, but are added on to the costs for customers here.

Hamer said there will be specific impacts on Arizonans − and not just in making avocados more expensive.

He specifically cited disruption of the supply chain for the state’s nascent auto manufacturing industry. And that, said Hamer, exists largely because of the supply chain that exists with companies in Sonora.

One example is Lucid Motors which is planning to build electric cars in Pinal County, with the parts built in Mexico and shipped to Arizona for final construction. A huge tariff, said Hamer, “could put those investments at risk.”

It’s not just Lucid, he said, with other cross-border enterprises working on things like self-driving trucks.

Hamer predicts other economic fallout for Arizona.

He said there are about 300,000 jobs in the state − close to 10 percent of the economy − that are linked to tourism, with Mexican visitors spending $7.5 million a day in Arizona. And Hamer said that for many border area communities more than half their sales taxes can be linked to cross-border visitors.

Hamer said it’s already difficult for Mexican visitors to get into this country.

“I would suspect that if our friends from Mexico feel that this is an unfairly targeted tariff they may be less likely to visit the United States,” he said.

The president, however, does not see the tariffs as potentially harming the U.S. economy.

“The sustained imposition of Tariffs will produce a massive return of jobs back to American cities and towns,” his statement reads.

Hamer did not dispute the concerns of the White House which has seen an unprecedented flood of immigrants, particularly from Central America, arriving at the U.S. border. Immigration officials say they expect to have to deal with close to a million people along the southern border this year, double the figures from last year.

Adding to that are legal restrictions that keep immigration officials from keeping people in custody until they can get a hearing on their asylum claims, forcing their release into communities and potentially sending the message that those who can get here will remain free, potentially for years.

But Hamer said lashing out at Mexico — and doing so in a way that could hurt the Arizona economy − is not the right answer.

“It’s not Mexico’s fault that we don’t have enough immigration judges,” he said. “It’s not Mexico’s fault that we have refugee laws that are in need of updating.”

Trump, however, does not see it that way, accusing Mexico of “passive cooperation” with those coming up through that country’s southern borders.

“Mexico has very strong immigration laws and could easily halt the illegal flow of migrants, including by returning them to their home countries,” the president wrote. “Additionally, Mexico could quickly and easily stop illegal aliens from coming through its southern border with Guatemala.”

On a broader basis, Hamer questioned the wisdom, and the effect on the stock market, of Trump picking this fight.

“We’re in the middle of severe trade turmoil with the second-largest economy in the world, China,” he said.

“And the administration moves forward with what seems like an arbitrary tariff against one of America’s closest friends and one of our top export markets,” he continued. “It just doesn’t make much sense.”

The administration is moving on other fronts to cut the flow, but from the other end of the pipeline.

In an interview earlier this week with ABC, Kevin McAleenan said he was visiting Guatemala to work with that country’s security forces in a bid to break up the smuggling networks that are charging people more than $6,000 to reach the United States. McAleenan called Guatemala the “epicenter” of the migration problem, with 40 percent of those arriving at the U.S. border coming from there.

 

Unemployment skyrockets

W

The number of Arizonans applying for jobless benefits jumped by a factor of seven this past week, providing the first clear indicators of the effect COVID-19 is having on the state economy.

New figures from the state Department of Economic Security shows there were 29,333 initial claims for unemployment insurance for the week ending March 20. That compares with 3,844 the week before and 3,357 the week before that.

And all this occurred before the Legislature adopted an expanded definition of who is eligible for benefits to include not just those laid off but also to waive requirements for people to go out and look for work to get the weekly checks. That provides relief for those who expect to go back to their original jobs once their employer reopens.

More significant, it protects those who are either infected themselves or live in a home where someone has COVID-19.

Glenn Hamer
Glenn Hamer

Glenn Hamer, president of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said those are precisely the people who should not be out going from job site to job site.

On top of that, Gov. Doug Ducey has issued an executive order waiving the existing one-week waiting period after being out of work before someone can collect benefits.

All that portends even higher numbers of people out of work − and looking for benefits − in the weeks ahead.

In a new report, the Economic Policy Institute estimated that the state will lose nearly 280,000 jobs in the private sector due to COVID-19.

Not surprisingly, many of these will come in the leisure and hospitality industry, what with the shuttering of bars and a prohibition against in-restaurant dining in the counties with confirmed cases.

Losses also are projected in retail trade.

What makes that important is that one job out of every five in private industry is in those two sectors.

And there’s a hit to the larger economy.

The most recent figures from the state Office of Economic Opportunity − from January, before the outbreak − show 2.54 million people employed in the state’s private sector. The losses projected by the Economic Policy Institute amount to about 11.1 percent of the total.

If the organization is correct, the change will boost the state’s jobless rate from 4.6 percent to close to more than 12 percent by this summer. That’s higher than not only what it hit during the Great Recession but even higher than records going back nearly a half century, with a peak of 11.5 percent in December 1982.

Less clear is the financial implication on all of that to employers.

By law, jobless benefits are paid for from a trust fund financed by a tax that all companies pay on the first $7,000 of each worker’s salary. Rates can range from less than 1 percent for employers who have the best job history − meaning the fewest number of workers let go − to 5.4 percent for those with the highest number of layoffs.

The average this year, according to DES, is 1.6 percent, down from 2.4 percent following the recession.

Arizona’s standing as the state with the best rate of improper payments of jobless benefits in 2012-2013 is a sharp change from two years earlier, when the state’s improper payment rate of 20 percent was among the highest in the country. (Photo by Bytemarks via flickr/Creative Commons)
(Photo by Bytemarks via flickr/Creative Commons)

More to the point, that trust fund is supposed to be self-leveling.

Both the measure approved by lawmakers and the governor’s executive order contain provisions saying that an individual company’s experience in having to let go of workers due to COVID-19 will not affect their premiums. But the fact remains that as the fund drains down, it will have to be replenished.

That’s precisely what happened after the Great Recession where the fund, which had been at over $1 billion, actually went into the red by $600 million.

And that forced the state to actually borrow money from the federal government. All that meant not only higher premiums but an actual $42-per-employee surcharge approved by the Legislature to pay off the note.

What happens this time depends on several factors.

It starts with the trust. The most recent figures show a balance of more than $1.1 billion.

But then there’s the question of how long the downturn lasts.

Hamer said there’s a big difference between the recession of the last decade and what’s happening now. He said that one was the result of structural weakness in the economy, something that took years to overcome.

By contrast, Hamer said, the state and nation was on sound structural footing until the outbreak. And he said the worst of the virus could be over by the summer and employers could start rehiring then.

One thing Hamer does not want to do, at least not now, is entertain calls by Democrats to raise the benefits.

By law, those who are fired through no fault of their own are entitled to collect half of their salary, generally for up to 26 weeks. But each state is entitled to decide its own maximum.

For Arizona that is $240 a week, a figure that is higher than only Mississippi at $235 — and a figure that has not been updated since 2004 when the minimum wage here was $5.75 an hour and not $12 as it is now.

Lawmakers urging an increase argued that people cannot live on that.

Hamer, for his part, is not necessarily disagreeing. But he said this isn’t the time given that more money being paid out would lead to higher premiums for companies.

“We have to look at it, as we look at that benefit, the effect it’s going to have on employers that are hemorrhaging cash, particularly for smaller businesses that are facing liquidity issues as we speak,” Hamer said.

But he acknowledged that his organization has never argued for boosting the benefits. And that leaves the question of, if not now, then when?

“We’re open to looking at all aspects of the program,” Hamer said. “We want it to remain competitive.”

He said there might be some opportunities for “flexibility” at some point in the future.