April 16, 2021
By Jenna Bentley
Almost anyone who has dealt with the government can tell you that customer service is not its forte. But thanks to a new Goldwater Institute law signed by Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, government responsiveness is about to take a giant leap forward in the Grand Canyon State.
Imagine if a company sent you a bill but provided no contact information if you have questions about what you’re being charged for. Or, imagine you bought a big-ticket item, but the manufacturer didn’t include any customer service contact information if it broke down. While this obviously would be unacceptable in the private sector, this happens all the time when government communicates with the citizens it is supposed to serve.
Even worse, unlike the private sector, government agencies can demand payments, fines, or fees with the force of law, or can take action on important permit or license applications that can be necessary for a whole range of activities from operating a business to getting married.
Unfortunately, if there is an issue with trying to obtain such government permissions, citizens often struggle to contact someone who can help resolve their issues. If a government agency demands payment of a fine or fee, or is responsible for taking action on a permit or license submitted by a citizen, that agency should provide appropriate contact information for a person responsible for communications regarding these issues.
The Goldwater Institute has taken action to fix this problem. HB 2696, written by the Goldwater Institute, sponsored by Representative Steve Kaiser, and signed by Gov. Ducey, now requires state agencies to publish a directory of employees responsible for assisting members of the public to include point of contact information on any government communication that demands payment of a fine or fee, revision request, or denies any permit or license application.
Having a contact listed for the government body will be a benefit to hundreds of industries but will also create a ripple effect beyond just the immediately impacted party. “A major factor in housing affordability is unnecessary delays in the permitting process. HB 2696 helps streamline the approval process by ensuring timely communication between government and our members. Sometimes a phone call is all you need to get a project moving,” said Connie Wilhelm, CEO of the Home Builders Association of Central Arizona.
Government operations need not be perfect, but when a government agency is demanding payment from its citizens or acting on issues important to its citizens, it should at least be responsive. The signing of HB 2696 is a pivotal step to easing the burden on Arizonans trying to obtain government permission.
Jenna Bentley is the Director of Government Affairs at the Goldwater Institute.