January 13, 2020
By Jenna Bentley
With the start of each legislative session comes the Governor’s State of the State address, and this year, Governor Doug Ducey explained how Arizona has become a bastion of liberty—a big reason why so many Americans (more than 300 a day!) are moving to the Grand Canyon State. We at the Goldwater Institute are proud to have spearheaded many of the reforms that Governor Ducey highlighted in today’s address—and we’re looking forward to making Arizona even more freedom-friendly in 2020.
The Arizona Way
Last year, we were proud to work with the Governor’s Office to make Arizona the first state in the nation to break down barriers to work for newcomers to the state. This groundbreaking reform allows people moving into Arizona to obtain an occupational license simply by showing they were already licensed in another state and had been in practice (in good standing) for at least one year. Shortly after breaking down barriers to work, or universal recognition, became law, Pennsylvania followed Arizona’s lead, and we expect dozens of states to introduce this bill in 2020.
In addition to helping newcomers to our state earn a living, Governor Ducey highlighted other Goldwater reforms—from allowing people to blow dry hair without a government permission slip, to protecting free speech on our college campuses, to ensuring every child gets the education he deserves.
But we at the Goldwater Institute know there’s more to be done if Arizona is to remain a beacon for freedom. And we’re pleased to see that Governor Ducey shares our vision for an Arizona where we are free to live happier, more prosperous lives, without having to get the government’s stamp of approval. “We need to hack away at the permanent bureaucracy and ‘mother-may-I’ state,” Ducey proclaimed. “The people don’t need the government’s permission, the government needs the people’s permission.”
The Goldwater Institute is looking forward to working with the Governor’s Office and the Arizona legislature to advance freedom, including:
Reforming occupational licensing laws. Arizona’s occupational licensing boards of comprised of both industry members and public members. Public members serve a crucial role on these boards, given that entrenched industry members are often hostile to reform that serve the public, instead of the private interests of existing businesses. Public membership also increases transparency and helps ensure that regulatory boards hear the views of consumers instead of just industry insiders. To increase public member roles, the Governor encouraged the legislature to move the makeup of the boards to a majority of public members. As Ducey put it, “real people, unbiased people.”
Another effort will change the occupational likening boards’ funding balance. Regulatory boards often stockpile funding and sit on it, tying up taxpayer resources without doing the public’s work. If proposed legislation passes, any board with more than 50 percent of its appropriation in reserve will be barred from collecting additional fees. This proposal would increase efficiency and public accountability for Arizona’s bureaucracies.
Supporting our veterans. Along with occupational licensing reform, Governor Ducey also reiterated his longstanding support for Arizona’s veterans. That support includes a bill to reduce their tax burdens by eliminating state income taxes on veteran’s pensions. “The government shouldn’t be taxing their service to country, it should be honoring their service to country,” Ducey said.
Another effort to help veterans waives initial occupational licensing fees for current military members, their spouses, and veterans. The Goldwater Institute applauds Governor Ducey for continuing to make our country’s heroes a priority. Over 600,000 veterans live in Arizona, making us the largest population of veterans in the United States.
Veterans’ issues are not new to the Goldwater Institute. In December 2019, the Goldwater Institute announced an initiative to break down barriers to work for military families. This effort empowers military spouses to obtain employment when they move into the state, better enabling them to make the most of their skills without being subject to pointless delays by state bureaucracies. Military spouses already face big enough burdens. Reducing government’s restrictions on their right to earn a living helps them—for helping us.
Boosting educational freedom. Arizona has long stood at the forefront of school choice options. One of these is Empowerment Savings Accounts (ESAs). ESAs have proven a boon to parents whose special-needs kids need tailored schooling options unavailable in government-run schools. Yet in recent months, the Arizona Department of Education’s (ADE) implementation of the program has deteriorated to the point that parents are being denied the funding they’re entitled to, and they are being subjected to arbitrary and unjust restrictions in the form of rules that ADE has no legal authority to impose. Governor Ducey introduced one such parent during his remarks who, although approved to use ESA funds, was then told by ADE that her expenditure was denied and then was ordered retroactively to write ADE a check out of her own funds. “This is an example of the government losing sight of the people it’s supposed to serve,” said Ducey. But, he added, “help is on the way”.
Indeed, it is. Just days ago, the Goldwater Institute filed suit against ADE for similar illegal actions taken against other ESA families. ADE’s policy of forcing parents to submit quarterly expense reports and await the Department’s approval before they get the next quarter’s funding—an approval that can take weeks or even months—violates state law. So does the Department’s adoption of its ESA Handbook, which includes dozens of rules imposed on parents who participate in the program—and which was written without following the procedures required by Arizona law.
As the 2020 legislative session kicks off in our home state, the Goldwater Institute is eager to help keep Arizona among the freest states in the nation and continue to set a strong example of liberty that other states should follow.
Jenna Bentley is the Director of Government Affairs at the Goldwater Institute.