Earlier this week, Governor Ducey delivered the first on-line and the shortest State of the State speech of his seven addresses as governor. The theme of this year’s State of the State speech was #AZResilient. The Governor praised the doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers on the front lines fighting the pandemic, and called on the legislature to help achieve his top goals for the coming year.
Here's a recap of his top 2021 priorities:
Governor Ducey announced that the vaccine rollout is Arizona’s top priority. The most recent federal COVID-19 relief bill included $8.75 billion to support vaccine distribution, of which $4.5 billion will be distributed to state, local, territorial, and tribal health departments. Arizona will use its share of this vaccine funding to support and increase mass vaccination sites and to distribute vaccines across the state.
Governor Ducey asked for support from the legislature to expand telemedicine to increase access to medical services to all Arizonans. Governor Ducey commented: “If it’s safe and it works during a pandemic, we should embrace it when we’re not in an emergency as well.”
The governor reiterated his commitment to high-speed internet and accelerating economic development, enhancing education, expanding access to health care, improving public safety, and modernizing government services. The governor wants to coordinate broadband planning, reduce broadband infrastructure regulations at the Arizona State Land Department, and award $3 million in grants to accelerate critical broadband projects in underserved rural and tribal locations across Arizona.
COVID-19 Liability Protection
Governor Ducey wants to protect the business, education and health care communities from “facing frivolous lawsuits related to the pandemic.” Those who have acted in good faith and implemented public health guidelines and mitigation efforts, should have “some stability through a comprehensive liability package that will establish clear rules of the road.”
The governor announced several actions intended to close the achievement gap that has been exacerbated by the pandemic:
Provide tools at the lowest performing schools to improve 3rd grade literacy.
Administer a statewide kindergarten entry evaluation to measure where our students are starting out at - an important tool already used in 34 other states and Washington D.C.
Empower parents to make the best decisions for their children through school choice policies.
Provide grants for schools who increase access for underserved children through innovative transportation options.
Reform school district open enrollment procedures and end exclusionary policies like unreasonably short enrollment windows.
Working with federal partners, the governor proposed increased funding for programs to reduce the threat of wildfires in Arizona, with a focus on removing the overgrown vegetation creating high fire risk in the wildland-urban interface.
The governor stated his commitment to reduce recidivism through educational and vocational programs.
Governor Ducey announced several priorities intended to invest in protecting public safety professionals:
Reliable equipment and infrastructure, such as body-worn cameras and a reliable communications system.
The creation of community advisory panels at the Arizona Department of Public Safety to engage the community and law enforcement in conversations on best practices to continue to improve the relationship and attempt to regain trust.
Support for work performed by the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training (AZPOST) Board to thoroughly review, update, and improve the training requirements for Arizona peace officers.
Proper training to respond to mental health incidents, as well as access to mental health services when needed by law enforcement.
The governor clearly expressed the need to pass significant tax reform to help businesses and families, as well as maintain Arizona’s competitive edge. He called on lawmakers to make further reductions to the state income tax and find ways to reform and restructure the tax code to the benefit of hardworking taxpayers.
Governor Ducey recognized Arizona’s leadership in innovative water technologies and conservation methods and announced the Governor’s Water Innovation Augmentation and Conservation Council.
Governor Ducey wants to modernize the gaming compact to allow for limited, well-regulated gaming while allowing for increased revenue to the tribes and to the State. He asked the legislature to authorize policies to add sports betting, fantasy sports and keno, which again will be limited and well-regulated.