State Legislative News
Sine Die for the 2015 Legislative Session
The 2015 Legislative Session has officially adjourned after 81 days, making it the shortest Session since 1968. Overall, the outcome was positive for our industry. There was no legislation introduced or furthered that landed our state in the national spotlight and the Arizona Office of Tourism avoided budget cuts in a very difficult financial year. However, the short Session meant that many bills related to tourism were not heard or implemented, so there is still much work to be done to educate our elected officials and advocate the value of Arizona lodging and tourism to our state. Following is a brief re-cap of tourism related bills:
Funding for Tourism Promotion
The Governor signed the Fiscal Year 2016 budget, which restored the $4.5 million cut to the Arizona Office of Tourism (AOT) from the state’s general fund making the final FY 2016 tourism budget just over $21 million, when including funding and pass-through dollars resulting from Propositions 202 and 302. This was a huge victory for our industry and a testament to the Governor’s and the Legislature’s understanding of the value of our industry to Arizona’s economy.
The Real ID bill was a prime example of political theater. It started as S1273, sponsored by Sen. Worsley, and allowed Arizona residents the option to update driver’s licenses in order to comply with the Federal Government’s new Department of Homeland Security criteria that is required to board commercial flights and enter into federal buildings. Without obtaining the new license, Arizona residents would be one of only four states that would require a passport to board an airline flight beginning January 1, 2016. After many calls, meetings and creative bill attachments, the Real ID Act passed both Chambers and is expected to be signed by Governor Ducey. Thanks to all who played a critical role in this important piece of Legislation.
The Mega Events bill (H2328), initiated by Phoenix International Raceway, was not heard this Session due to the budget focus and quick timeline. However, there is support for a Mega Events funding mechanism of some sort by many Legislators as well as some in the Administration, so AzLTA will continue to meet with statewide sports leaders to develop a strategy for moving forward.
AZ Film Office Bill
Two bills related to the creation of a state film office and a film tax incentive (H2144, H2621) were introduced this session but did not have support to move forward. AzLTA is in discussions with AOT and the Governor’s Office to determine how a film office might be created and housed in the future.
Schools Start and End Dates
A bill that would develop a state calendar for school start and end dates, H2303, was introduced, but never made it out of the House. While the main opposition to this idea is loss of local control, AzLTA would support a statewide school calendar, which has proven successful in many other states. We have reached out to the bill sponsor to determine how we might assist in this initiative for next Session.
Hotel Employee Background Checks
Senate bill S1432, which would have required resort, hotel and motel owners and managers to run background checks of employees with room key access, died before making it to the House. AzLTA obtained legal counsel to review the language and met with the bill sponsor to reiterate the industry’s desire to promote this practice for guest safety precautions. We recently added a new member that specializes in employee background checks and we will continue to provide information and training on this topic.
A key component of assisting us in educating elected officials on the importance of tourism is our Super PAC. In order to renew our Super PAC status, we need to garner a minimum of 500 donations of at least $10. We are very close to meeting this goal and we need your help! If you haven’t yet donated to our Super PAC, please consider doing so today- and please spread the word to your family and friends!
We contributed more than $15,000 to in-state campaigns during the last election cycle and those dollars have assisted us in raising the awareness of the value of tourism. There has currently been a lack of potentially controversial bills that are typically presented at the Legislature and that is a direct reflection of our efforts.
Details of all of these bills can be located on www.AZLeg.gov.