The League of Arizona Cities and Towns held its annual conference last week to connect city-level elected officials with one another and with resources, companies and constituents.
Arizona Governor Doug Ducey and U.S. Senator Kyrsten Sinema both attended the conference to share what they are doing at the state and federal levels to make Arizona a better state in which to live, work and play.
In a fireside chat with Gilbert Mayor Jenn Daniels, Ducey discussed the 2019 legislative session, how he is making the state more business-friendly, focusing on school safety and bolstering Arizona’s relationship with Mexico.
According to Ducey, 92 percent of the bills passed by the legislature this year were bipartisan.
State lawmakers started this year’s legislative session under pressure to swiftly pass Arizona’s part of the Drought Contingency Plan (DCP) that would protect the dwindling Colorado River supply through 2026. An issue that Ducey said is only brought up every 40 years.
“We were really able to get some big things done as well like [the] Drought Contingency Plan,” Ducey said. “We were the only Basin [state], there’s seven of them, that had to do this through the legislature by date certain. We were able to do that.”
“Infrastructure is something that the legislature was able to address, not only through responsible budgeting — you’ve probably noticed that your HURF funds are no longer swept — but we were able to put $130 million additional into infrastructure,” Ducey said.
The budget put an additional $661 million towards K-12 education, including the fulfillment of Ducey’s 20×2020 teacher pay raise plan and also provided pay raises to Department of Public Safety correctional officers and 40 percent of state government employees.
This session Arizona also led the way in regulatory reform by passing a bill establishing universal recognition of occupational licensing.
“We are the first state in the nation to have universal recognition of occupational licenses,” Ducey said. “Arizona has a spotlight shining on it right now in terms of our growth, our success economically and the innovative ideas we’re bringing into public policy.”
Next, the governor addressed the issue of school safety, an issue he has remained committed to given the rise of gun violence on school campuses around the country..
“I think all of us have a role… in terms of school safety, but no one can do more than our mayors and our elected leaders at the legislative and state level regarding this issue,” Ducey said. “Why are states only reactive to these school shootings? What can we do to be proactive?”
According to Ducey, over the past two years, the state has put $20 million towards more cops and counselors, improved background checks and worked towards addressing mental health issues.
“We need to think of this in terms of the health of our state. What’s happening in terms of mental health? We talked [last] week about suicide prevention, and the statistics are staggering both among our youth, our veterans and our elderly. Something is wrong,” Ducey said.
Lastly, Ducey addressed Arizona’s relationship with Mexico.
“I’m so proud of our state and our relationship with Mexico. Mexico is our number one trading partner,” he said. “Our relationship has never been stronger with the nation of Mexico and the state of Sonora than it is today.”
“I think Arizona is being observed as the ambassador state for how to have that relationship with Mexico,” Ducey continued. “Our nation is at a crossroads on this issue and there’s something that will be put in front of Congress in the fall called the USMCA… we’re incredibly fortunate that Mexico‘s not only our neighbor, they’re also our partner and ally and they are our friend. The same goes for Canada. My concern is that politics will be played with the USMCA. Let’s tell our representatives, whoever they may be, to vote yes on the USMCA.”
Sinema also attended the event to share what she has been working on in the U.S. Senate since being elected in November 2018.
During the session, Sinema worked to help pass the Defense Bill that provided resources for Marine barracks, renovated hangar at the Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma, secured $132 million for an A-10 program at Davis Monthan Air Force Base, and secured $5.6 billion to increase the F-35 aircraft fleet at Luke Air Force Base.
“I’m going to continue to work with both Republicans and Democrats to ensure we have a strong National Defense that keeps our country safe and that supports good-paying jobs right here in Arizona,” Sinema said.
In her first term as senator, Sinema was appointed to the Veterans Affairs Committee and passed multiple bills to help veterans in Arizona.
First, she worked on the LEGION Act that expands the American Legion to include veterans who served during times of undeclared conflict and give them all the benefits provided by the legion. Second, she worked on the Protecting Affordable Mortgages for Veterans Act that provides lending services to veterans, helping protect them from “shady loan practices.”
Sen. Sinema tackled a number of other issues this year, including working to cut red tape for businesses, passing the water infrastructure bill to improve water supply reliability during times of drought, as well as border bills that process migrants quicker, and a parental leave bill.
“I pledge to continue to work to get results for everyday Arizonans. My approach is going to be the same as it’s always been and that is to work with literally anyone to get things done for our state,” Sinema said.