Arizona legislators celebrated the start of the 2022 legislative session at the Arizona Capitol today, entertained by Arizona school bands and the inspiring words of an Olympic athlete. Most legislators attended in person – including Senator Theresa Hatathlie, who was sworn into office this morning to complete the term of former Senator Jamescita Peshlakai.
Several members from both political parties were absent, however, either because they have COVID-19 or because they were concerned about being at the Capitol after the House and Senate removed COVID-19 mitigation requirements. Despite this, they’ve introduced more than 250 bills so far; hundreds more are expected in the coming weeks.
Today’s main event was Governor Ducey’s annual State of the State address. It’s his last year in office, and the speech highlighted top policy changes that have occurred under his administration as well as his goals for this legislative session.
The Governor’s speech, entitled “Arizona Unstoppable,” focused on:
- Abortion: The Governor’s speech briefly expressed support for policy efforts to protect “life in every way possible.”
- Border Policy: Governor Ducey expressed concern about drug trafficking across the Arizona-Mexico border and criticized the federal government’s policies. He outlined steps his administration has taken – including the deployment of the National Guard – at the Arizona-Mexico border and announced new efforts to fund the state’s Border Strike Force, strengthen penalties for human trafficking, enhance intelligence sharing with other border states, and build a border wall. He also urged Arizona’s U.S. Senators to pursue changes to border security policies.
- Children: The Governor praised the state’s efforts to protect child safety but said there’s more to be done. He committed to changing state laws to ensure that families who take in one of their own members receive the same benefits as foster care families who care for children unrelated to them.
- Debt: The Governor pointed to the debt reduction and savings the state has prioritized under his administration and pledged to do more. His budget proposal, which will be available Friday, will include more savings and more payment toward state debt.
- Economy: Governor Ducey reflected on the growth of Arizona’s economy during his time in office, pointing to the state’s large budget surplus and high-wage job growth. He pledged to remain “targeted and responsible” while using taxpayer dollars. He criticized the federal government for economic threats and supply chain challenges, and said the national dynamics make it important to cut taxes at the state level. He pointed to Arizona’s population growth as evidence that people appreciate Arizona’s approach to taxes and regulations.
- Education: The Governor celebrated Arizona’s history of school choice laws and called for new school choice options he believes will mitigate the year many Arizona schoolchildren lost during the pandemic. He urged the legislature to “think big” and enhance school choice however possible.He announced the start of a summer camp to help students catch up in math, reading, and American civics education. He pledged to keep classrooms open and ban critical race theory. The Governor also called on the legislature to require schools to put all curriculum and academic materials online, so parents and other interested citizens can review them.The Governor also called for additional funding for community college programs that provide a workforce for high-wage jobs. (More details will come in his budget proposal.
- Elections: The Governor, who has remained mostly silent about legislators’ ongoing questions and criticisms about past elections, briefly said he hopes to work with the legislature on election improvements that will “bring confidence and security.”
- Guns: The Governor expressed support for legislative ideas that will secure “Arizona’s position as the number one pro-second amendment state in the nation.”
- Infrastructure: Governor Ducey celebrated the big-picture infrastructure investments the legislature has prioritized and hinted that his budget will include more funding for infrastructure, including improvements to I-10. He urged the legislature to find investments in cyber security to protect Arizonans’ data and identities and pledged to pursue better broadband connections to rural Arizona.
- Law Enforcement: The Governor criticized recent actions of the U.S. Justice Department and calls to “defund the police,” and pledged additional resources to recruit and retain law enforcement and corrections officers. He wants Department of Public Safety officers to be the highest-paid law enforcement professionals in Arizona. (More details will come in his budget proposal.) Governor Ducey criticized counties that have charged processing charges for rape kit testing and pledged to limit those charges.
- Public Health: The Governor praised Arizona’s national leadership in telemedicine opportunities and the state’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout. He pledged to give hospitals the resources they need to meet growing challenges and called for additional but unspecified investments in Arizona’s health and health care workers.
- Regulatory Changes: The Governor praised Arizona’s universal licensing law and past limitations on state regulations. He called on the legislature to enact a permanent moratorium on rulemaking to replace the annual moratorium he and former Governor Jan Brewer enacted through executive orders.
- Taxes: The Governor celebrated tax cuts Arizona has enacted over the last seven years, especially the income tax the legislature approved last year. He pledged to enact further tax cuts this year. (More details will come in his budget proposal.
- Veterans: The Governor expressed his goal to make Arizona a place that welcomes veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces and asked the legislature to enact a tuition waiver for veteran’s spouses.
- Water: The Governor highlighted past investments in water technology and pledged to do more this year. He proposed a $1 billion investment in desalination technologies to enhance Arizona’s water supplies.
- Wildfire: The Governor said he hopes to work with the legislature to enhance wildfire prevention.
You can find a copy of Governor Ducey’s address here. And stay tuned for more updates from the Traversant Group team as the 2022 Arizona legislative session begins.