Wednesday, November 25, 2020 1:22 am

Legislature’s ‘animosity toward cities and towns’ overshadowing healthy debate, Chandler mayor says

Jay Tibshraeny calls for consensus on state water plan

By Phil Riske | Senior Reporter/Writer

Chandler Mayor Jay Tibshraeny is serving his second and last term as mayor. In between mayoral terms, he served in the Arizona Senate, giving him the advantage of living both sides of local and state governments.

He was interviewed by email. Edited only for length and clarity

What bills, both enacted and defeated, were good for Chandler and cities in general?

For the past two years, I’ve had the privilege of serving as President of the League of Arizona Cities & Towns. I witnessed first-hand the large volume of bills introduced that impact city and town operations or policies in some way. We fought a number of bills that undermined our authority, supported bills that helped us deliver services, and often worked to amend bills where agreement could be found.

Each year the League drafts legislation in an effort to resolve common issues affecting cities and towns. I was pleased to see several of these proposals pass. One includes establishing statewide licensing of sober living homes under the Department of Health Services (SB 1465). Another reduces the local campaign committee filing thresholds (HB 2078) to ensure the voters are aware of who is participating in their local elections. Unfortunately, another League sponsored proposal that also dealt with campaign finance in local elections did not pass. HB 2182 would have allowed local officials to transfer their money to higher office accounts. This was an equity issue since state accounts can be transferred down to the local offices.

Finally, after years of fighting against the state taking millions of dollars out of the Highway User Revenue Fund to fund the Department of Public Safety, we were pleased to see the Governor sign a bill enabling ADOT to establish a user fee to help support DPS. This new revenue is currently being used to free up some resources to fund education, but we are optimistic that the state took the first step in establishing a new resource for transportation.

Do you still feel the Legislature seeks to increase power over cities?

There will always be some natural tension between the state and local governments. Local officials are elected to represent their citizens who expect their community to reflect their unique values. State lawmakers are elected to enact policies that affect every corner of the state. Not all of the legislative proposals are appropriate for every community.

Have political and cultural trends of the Legislature changed from the time you served?

The intersection of local decision-making and statewide policy consistency is an appropriate debate and often where the most tension appears. Unfortunately, this otherwise healthy debate seems to be increasingly overshadowed by heightened animosity towards cities and towns in recent years.

What bills, both enacted and defeated, were bad for Chandler and cities in general?

Chandler, alongside the rest of the cities and towns, worked hard this year to defeat harmful legislation. The so-called digital goods bills (HB 2479 and SB 1392) had significant financial implications for the cities and the state. We were fortunate the bill did not pass as it would have cost millions in revenue. Another bad bill we were able to defeat would have given real estate signs special treatment in the right of way. After the US Supreme Court ruled that government cannot regulate signs based on content, cities and towns were forced to rewrite their sign codes to be content neutral. This bill would have undermined that and caused a proliferation of temporary signs in the streets.

On what issues did Chandler spend the most lobbying effort?

Because of its financial implications, Chandler spent a lot of time on the digital goods bills (HB 2479 and SB 1392). Had the bill passed it would have reduced Chandler’s annual revenues by several million dollars each year. Another bill that Chandler spent a significant amount of time engaged in related to cable license reform (SB1140). The original bill proposed to do a number of things, including take away some of our authority over the right of way while at the same time transferring license authority away from the individual local governments and to the state. It went through several rewrites as it worked its way through the process. Although more work needs to be done to resolve some outstanding issues, the bill that was ultimately sent to the Governor maintained local licenses and protected our right of way.

Do you support Governor Ducey’s water plan?

Water continues to be a priority for the City of Chandler. This is most easily demonstrated in the significant investments we have made in securing dependable water resources. We encourage the governor to bring all the stakeholders together and work on a consensus resolution in this critical area.

Why didn’t a school safety bill pass, and what is Chandler doing for school safety?

From what I understand, the Governor and the Legislature were in agreement on the principle of safe schools, but they ultimately could not find agreement on what new laws would help. Chandler takes school safety very seriously and has school resource officers assigned to schools throughout the city. Our dedicated officers work collaboratively with school officials to ensure Chandler schools are able to provide a safe learning environment. Every threat is investigated and nothing is taken for granted.

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