West Valley stakeholders joined state and federal representatives at the WESTMARC Legislative Agenda Breakfast in mid-June to hear about highlights from the 2019 legislative session.
WESTMARC, or the Western Maricopa Coalition — an economic development agency comprised of the 15 communities, businesses and educational institutions in the West Valley — invited Sen. Anthony Kern, R-Glendale; Sen. Tony Navarrete, D-Phoenix; Rep. Joanne Osborne, R-Goodyear; and Democratic Rep. Lorenzo Sierra, AZ LD 19, to participate in a panel discussion at the Arizona State University West campus.
The panel opened by asking each of the legislators to rate the 2019 legislative session on a scale of one to 10. Kern and Navarrete, who rated it a seven, noted there were significant bipartisan efforts throughout the session.
“There was a whole lot more bipartisan work compared to the last couple of years. We had a lot of bipartisan work around criminal justice reform and providing services and support for our senior citizens across the state,” Navarrete said.
Kern added, “This session was unlike any other in the sense that in the House, anyway, we were able to work together — both parties — and get some good legislation done. I’m very proud of being down there.”
While Sierra also mentioned a high level of bipartisanship, he rated the session a solid five. He believes some areas were overlooked.
“There was some really good opportunities where we showed we can work together across the aisle to do significant things,” Sierra said. “I just think there was some missed opportunities in terms of our ability to fully fund our K-12 system; our pre-k all the way into higher education.”
When asked about the most impactful bills that were passed and signed by the governor in the latest session, the legislative leaders shared conversation on topics from taxation and infrastructure to water.
For Osborne, the passage of HB 2702 is a major win. The bill, dubbed “Wayfair,” requires out-of-state vendors to collect online sales tax.
“Consumers have changed, and I get that. That’s fine. But it has to be fair, and I fought for that for years and years. The fact that we finally got (HB 2702) through — it was something that we all know affects everyone in our communities,” Osborne said.
“Because it’s not just retail. It’s the restaurants that are with the retail places. It’s your hairdresser. It’s the holistic energy and the quality of our life that comes with retail,” she added.
Because of Arizona’s fast-paced urban growth, Sierra deems the passage of the Drought Contingency Plan (DCP) — a plan that stabilizes the Colorado River system and promotes water security in the Valley — especially important.
“(The DCP) was one of the examples of where we had water experts on our side, on the Democratic caucus, and the Republican caucus had some experts, and we were able to work together,” Sierra said.
But Sierra said there is still work to be done.
“We’ve still got significant water issues that we’ve got to work out here. Part of it is identifying and understanding that climate change is real. Climate change is happening and we need to address that on a much more global scale, while at the same time making sure that our farmers and ranchers are being taken care of here; that the urban growth that we’re experiencing is going to have the water to sustain it.”
Moving forward, transportation needs in the West Valley is something all of the legislators said needs to be addressed.
“The infrastructure that we need in these communities is not only going to bring significant amount of dollars to families in these regions; they’re going to bring opportunity; they’re going to bring more access to health care facilities; more access to higher education. Transportation isn’t simply just to move people around. It really is an investment to communities,” Navarrete said.
Sierra added, “When 69% of our workforce leaves from west of I-17 eastward, we just don’t have the capacity to achieve our full potential.
“I think each and every one of us — we’re all going to fight to the death to make sure we get our fair share of what’s coming to us for transportation and infrastructure and investment here in the West Valley.”