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Photo radar, STRs and state-shared revenues: the Paradise Valley Town Council 2024 legislative agenda

photo of Paradise Valley Mayor Jerry Bien-Willner
Paradise Valley Mayor Jerry Bien-Willner looks on during a public discussion at Town Hall. (Photo: Arianna Grainey/DigitalFreePress)

Paradise Valley Town Council sets 2024 agenda at Arizona capitol

By Terrance Thornton | Digital Free Press

Paradise Valley Town Council has set its agenda for political goals in the new year — and, most importantly, the new lawmaking session at the Arizona Legislature set to commence this coming January.

Highground Public Affairs Consultants is the lobbyist outfit employed by the Town of Paradise Valley.

“We can’t believe we are approaching a new legislative session because it feels like it, well it did just end,” Doug Cole, chief operating officer at HighGround Public Affairs Consultants, told Town Council the afternoon of Thursday, Nov. 9. “The latest one [session] just ended on July 31 — this was the longest legislative session in Arizona history.”

For Paradise Valley Town Council key components of the local governing board’s 2024 legislative agenda includes considerations like:

  • Short-term rental impact on neighborhoods
  • Sales Tax Extension (Prop 400)
  • Threats to state-shared revenues including the Highway User Revenue Fund
  • Transaction Privilege Tax (TPT) Construction Sales Tax
  • Maintain the usage of photo radar traffic technology

Mr. Cole pointed out in about 12 months the election of the American president will occur signaling a likely high voter turnout in the Valley of the Sun.

“Stating the obvious, this is an election year, so hopefully we will not be in session that long because all 90 members of the legislature have to run for re-election,” he said.

“Some good things were done in the last day such as allowing the Board of Supervisors to put the half-cent transportation tax that is expiring here in a couple years on the ballot for Maricopa County voters. That was a huge victory in the end, but it came with a cost and that cost was the governor agreed to phase out the residential rental tax. The town does not have one, but many other municipalities do — and that will be a $220 million cumulative effect.”

Mr. Cole explained to Paradise Valley Town Council a bill to prohibit the use of photo radar on local thoroughfares did reach the governor’s office this previous session.

“The very important item to the town is keeping our ability to utilize photo enforcement technology,” he explained. “That bill, unfortunately, for the first time ever made it all the way to the governor’s office, but she [Gov. Katie Hobbs] vetoed it. I predict we will continue to fight that battle with the makeup of the Legislature as it still is.”

For Mr. Cole, the 2024 Paradise Valley Town Council legislative agenda is one with similar focus of previous years.

“It is an outgrowth of previous legislative agendas we have presented to you all before over the years. You all run a very lean, effective government that provides quality services at a good price — and we need to keep it that way,” he said. “We had a lot of bills on affordable housing and we can anticipate more efforts. We are exempted from a lot of that due to population, but we will keep a close eye as population numbers can change very quickly.”

When it comes to short-term rental regulations, Mr. Cole explains a deal has been struck between the League of Arizona Cities and Towns and STR operators whereas both parties have agreed to let new regulations come to term.

“The league made an agreement with the industry saying the league would not work to abolish initial preemption — that we would let these new regulations work,” he said. “We worked with everyone at this table. The league passed a resolution that they would work on the density issues and I think you an anticipate three different bills to be introduced.”

Mr. Cole says he anticipates bills on STR operations to be emerge at the capitol based on density, the proximity of STRs to each other and a new zoning code proposal similar to efforts in Savannah, Georgia.

Town Council and a ‘banner day’ for local government

Following his presentation, Mr. Cole offered a positive sentiment as earlier in the week, Tuesday, Nov. 7, the large majority of both public and school district funding measures — things like general obligation bonds and override renewals — were passed by voters in municipalities across the Valley.

“If you look at Tuesday’s results for cities and towns it was a banner day for local government. It was a vote of confidence from Tucson to Phoenix,” he said. “It was a good day for local government and that shows a great vote of confidence.”

Paradise Valley Mayor Jerry Bien-Willner, who is a member of an executive committee at the League of Arizona Cities and Towns, says he has found the work at the advocacy group to be refreshing.

“I am very pleased to tell you that the league is very well prepared for the upcoming legislative session,” he said of the efforts he witnessed this past summer attending the league’s annual conference in Tucson. “I think league staff is very enthusiastic and they say they feel very well prepared. I think we can expect a full court press from municipalities.”

Paradise Valley Councilwoman Ellen Andeen pointed out the unfunded liability at the Public Safety Pension Retirement System is a bit below designated levels.

“On our police pension, I see that it says we are 88% funded, and I just want to make sure that was correct,” she said. “I just want to make sure we are keeping out eye on the ball.”

Following confirmation Councilwoman Andeen was correct, town staff explained there has been a sharpening of pencils when comes to the realization of actuarial accounting projections. The policy statement speaks to a minimum funding level of at least 90%.

Water continues to be a focus of elected leaders across the state and the country as Paradise Valley Councilwoman Julie Pace asked if a firm stance on water conservation ought to be explored through the published legislative agenda.

“Do we need to say anything about water? Anything that relates to us being drawn into taxes that are not fair for our residents … What about, ‘the Town of Paradise Valley supports water conservation?’ It will allow us to set up policy and allow people to realize what we are doing.”

Mayor Bien-Willner and other members of Town Council agreed a policy statement was premature but to evaluate water conservation measures as they emerge over the next legislative session.

“For me, the default would be the General Plan, that includes water conservancy,” Mayor Bien-Willner said.

“I am not disagreeing in the position… I don’t know what might be is in front of us on water and I am concerned that anything that paints us with a broad brush especially on statewide issues that are sensitive like water could have unintended consequences. I am totally open and we are expecting that I’d we get water proposal we would weigh in as appropriate.”

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