Business leaders in Arizona are throwing their support behind Gov. Doug Ducey’s ambitious $3.5 billion plan to improve education in low income areas of the state.
It is No. 1 on the Chamber of Commerce’s agenda this year, said Garrick Taylor, senior vice president of government relations. Lawsuit reform and changes to the way ballot initiatives are conducted are also high on the agenda, he added.
In his State of the State Address in January, Ducey announced 15 new education proposals, including signing bonuses for public school teachers working in low income areas and expanding all-day kindergarten in those same districts.
“We are supportive of Gov. Ducey’s budget request on education,” Taylor told the Arizona Business Daily. “It calls for directing funds to schools that are achieving excellent outcomes, especially those in low income areas.”
Business owners are increasingly aware that investing in education is a wise way to move forward, Taylor said.
“It is critical for our overall economic strategy," he said. “We are not just about regulations or labor. Businesses want to have confidence the state is producing quality results and a quality workforce.”
Ducey wants the money to also be spent on school construction and repair, and to craft a way to erase student debt for those pursuing careers in public schools. His announcement of the proposals prompted bipartisan applause in the legislature, according to a report in the Arizona Republic.
Taylor said lawsuit reform is second on the list of priorities for the Chamber this year. He said plaintiff attorneys are using the Americans with Disabilities Act to “extort dollars out of business owners.” Demand letters are sent to business owners who believe they are in compliance with the act, but may in some way not be.
There are two bills before lawmakers, Taylor said, including one that gives business owners who believe they are in compliance 60 to 90 days to comply with the act, depending on the scope of the repairs needed.
If, after that period, the businesses still has not complied, then a lawsuit can be filed.
“It’s saying to the attorneys that if you are truly motivated from a desire to change practices, then you should support this,” Taylor said.
Third on the list are changes to the operation of ballot initiatives. This was prompted partly by the successful initiative to raise the minimum wage to $10, Taylor said. While the Chamber understands a majority of voters backed the initiative, Taylor said it arguably should not have been on the ballot at all.
A challenge by the Arizona Restaurant Association arguing signatures were obtained improperly was thrown out of court because the judge ruled it was not filed in a timely manner.
Under the present law, a challenge has to be brought within five days, but it does not specify whether that is five business days or calendar days, Taylor said. The association brought the challenge within five business days, but the judge ruled it should have done within five calendar days.
“We want that cleaned up so that a challenge can be brought within 10 business days,” Taylor said.