Legislative Leaders Establish Their 2022 Priorities
Karen Fann (R-Dist 1)
Arizona Lawmakers are gearing up for a busy 2022 legislative session where we will tackle a number of the state's top issues. Among the most pressing of these issues is Arizona's shrinking water supply. With a rapidly growing population, lawmakers must develop solutions that ensure a stable water supply to millions of Arizonans while continuing to foster economic growth throughout the state.
One of the key ways legislators plan to attack the ensuing water shortage is through drought mitigation. Among other items, lawmakers will prioritize water policy that encourages prudent use of resources, including reclaimed water reuse and emerging irrigation technologies in agriculture. Smart water policy recognizes the complexities of diverse agricultural areas in our state and adopts solutions tailored for the region rather than a one-size-fits-all approach.
Farmers are great stewards of our water resources. Water is essential to the economic vitality of agriculture and farmers recognize that underutilized water affects their bottom line. Agriculture is a generational industry and farmers want to protect this resource for future generations that will need it to farm.
Emerging technologies, combined with smart conservation measures and exploring all available water augmentation sources, will ensure Arizona's water future going forward. To that end, the Legislature established the Drought Mitigation Board this year to encourage private sector advancement in these areas. The Farm Bureau, along with the various and diverse water stakeholders across the state, have creative ideas for water management. Our expectation is that the targeted investment of state dollars will push these projects over the edge from concept to reality.
We must put the time and energy into responsible policy solutions; food security is critical to Arizona's autonomy and resistance to food supply chain disruption. Arizona families will always need food, and locally grown food ensures abundant availability.
In 2004, voters approved a half-cent sales tax for transportation in Maricopa County. It's set to expire at the end of 2025. November 2022 is being used as a timeline for a ballot measure to extend the tax. The Legislature still needs to give the approval to get the Prop 400 extension on the ballot. The legislation will work to allow Maricopa County to have the authority to ask for an extension of the sales tax on the ballot. Right now, Maricopa County is the only county without authority to do so. Prop 400 has so far helped fund projects like the light rail, the Loop 303 in the West Valley and the South Mountain 202 that connects the East Valley to the West Valley.
Arizona continues to see strong revenue growth this fiscal year. Revenues have jumped by 19% over the prior year and are $639 million above forecast as of this fall. Experts anticipate this strong growth to wrap up 2021. While the Legislature will look at making key investments in areas of need, economic uncertainty caused by runaway spending and reckless policy decisions at the federal level means our state must also prepare itself for the next economic crisis.
Like prior years, infrastructure, public safety, and paying down public debt, including state pension debt, remain priorities, as does making sure Arizona taxpayers receive direct benefits through tax reductions. We are looking forward to a very productive session
By Russell Bowers (R-Dist 25)
What a great year! The older I get the more folks understand when I tell the same stories over and over. I just forget and if I talked less, I would remember a bit better…or at least that's the lie I tell myself. Even with all the age stuff hiding behind the hills of opportunity, I had no idea what I would be getting myself into looking forward from the vigor of youth and even the sobriety of middle age. The resignation of old age is very imposing, and yet I don't want to give up on some little nuggets that still gleam from the bedrock of life experiences… and there are enough of all of you who have gone through so much more than Donetta and I have, that I am humbled to even mention little details of the last year.
Losing Kacey, who had battled courageously for years and had so much promise, has made me think of so many friends who have lost children to all manner of circumstances, ALL of which have a visceral, wrenching effect on parents and family who love them and see a future of hopeful expectation flee from their grasp. But were it not for tragedy, if all of life had a guarantee of existence without pain, of expectation without risk, of labor with a contracted success rate, we would forego the profound and penetrating gratitude and solace that we feel from supporting friends and timeless "beyond this vale of tears" truths, that carry us through the darkness to light.
We also would be left without a character tried and tested and found sufficient to carry harder things coming beyond the present. As I and many others walked up through the ashes of the surrounding landscape to the burnt-out ruins of our places in the Telegraph Fire; as I pulled out a warped frying pan, the head of a two-tined pitchfork, a rust-cankered debarking knife without handles, or a hundred other tools or melted glass, it wasn't that I lost the utility of any one object, it was a realization that all they represented were little nuclei with surrounding electrons of memorable experiences I would have to work harder to remember without.
That is the feeling that I have sitting in my office thinking of what we will have to build this year: greater investment in bringing water to our state, and convincing so many of you that have sacrificed that we can find solutions together.
That is a top priority in my mind, and in yours. Also, as I have said and continue to say, I hope that we can live to merit the attention of a loving God who wants us to have experiences of all kinds that will bring our better angels forward in humility as we pray for His help. Yes, iterations of all we have worked on before will return, but someday we will remember… and it will be worth it.
By Rebecca Rios (D-Dist 27)
Senate Minority Leader
Moving into the 2022 Legislative Session, we have a myriad of challenges, but also opportunities ahead of us. We are still during the COVID-19 pandemic, our Democracy is at risk thanks to Republicans’ embrace of conspiracy theories, and our public schools, already stretched thin from the pandemic, are at a breaking point from years of deliberate defunding in favor of tax cuts. Last but certainly not least, we face the existential threat of an imminent water shortage in Arizona. This sounds dire, but every session is a new chance for legislators to come together and fight for what’s best for Arizona.
First, we must address the COVID-19 pandemic and its ongoing repercussions. The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed severe cracks in Arizona's foundation and shortcomings in the ability to address statewide emergencies, especially in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color. Our main goal is distributing the rest of Arizona’s share of the American Rescue Act funds. Senate Democrats directed more than $32.8 million from President Biden's American Rescue Plan Act funds to non-profit organizations working to end homelessness and provide domestic violence services. But more needs to be done to ensure these funds make it to where they belong-which is with the people of Arizona.
We also expect an ongoing assault against voting rights because of inaccurate and conspiracy-riddled fraud. Last session we were able to successfully stop several bills that would make our Democracy less secure, but we’re preparing to see much more anti-democracy legislation again. We’re committed to stopping these bills and pushing our own voting rights legislation that will keep our elections secure, fair, and free. Our other priorities include ensuring all of Arizona's children should have access to a quality education and sustainably funded schools. We know Republicans are furious that voters passed Prop 208 to do what they won’t fund our public schools. We’ll fight to protect this funding for our school children and defend our schools from further attacks.
Finally, one of our top priorities is securing Arizona's dwindling water supply. Water levels at Lake Mead are falling faster than anyone projected and this year the government declared a first-ever water shortage on the Colorado River, announcing mandatory cutbacks in 2022 that will bring major challenges for Arizona farmers. Prioritizing funding to conserve water for millions of people in the West and in Arizona will buy more time to come up with more long-term solutions.
These are huge challenges to tackle, but Senate Democrats remain committed to creating an Arizona that works for everyone and we look forward to working on these priorities in this coming session.
Editor’s Note: Arizona Farm Bureau’s farm and ranch leaders look forward to hosting our Legislative Leaders and the rest of Arizona’s legislators at this year’s AgFest on January 19th. Our 14 active Farm Bureau counties will feature their agriculture at various booths out on the Capitol lawn. The event begins late morning and Arizona Farm Bureau President Stefanie Smallhouse will kick things off.