At the outset of Gov. Doug Ducey’s administration, he proclaimed that Arizona should be the nation’s “pace leader” in job creation.
He and the Legislature are off to a good start. Bills are making their way to the governor’s desk that enhance our tax, regulatory and civil justice environments, strengthening what CEO Magazine has already ranked as a Top 10 business environment.
But the state can only do so much to improve its competitive standing when governments at other levels seem to be going in another direction. Arizona’s pro-growth efforts are stymied, for example, when the federal government pursues job-killing environmental or labor regulations.The same can be said for municipal governments.
The state, fortunately, has some recourse when bad ideas crop up at the city level. Since cities are subdivisions of the state, the Legislature can rein in municipal governments whose policies work against Arizona’s best interests.
The House Appropriations Committee recently passed legislation shepherded by Rep. Warren Petersen, an amended Senate Bill 1241, that throws up a needed stop sign on city policies that are poised to harm the state’s competitive standing.
First, the bill prevents the cities from implementing measures that would require businesses to publicly report their energy usage as part of so-called energy consumption benchmarking or energy efficiency audits. In the name of promoting more responsible energy consumption, these benchmarking proposals are being adopted by cities around the country, including New York, Boston and San Francisco.
There’s nothing wrong with encouraging responsible energy use. In fact, it’s good for business. Spending less on energy costs means more money to invest in a business’ core operations.
But there’s opportunity for mischief here. Reporting energy usage on a government website risks companies being labeled as energy hogs by interests seeking to use an employer’s energy consumption to harm its public reputation.
Not all businesses can turn off the A/C and open up the windows. Hospitals can’t tell patients to put on a sweater. Grocery stores can’t unplug the coolers at night. Hotels aren’t going to install coin-op fans.
And such ordinances put building owners in the position of having to collect this private information from their tenants, risking fines if they don’t. Telling building owners they’ll be breaking the law if they don’t get their tenants to spill the beans on their energy usage is not a great economic development strategy.
The bill also prevents local governments from banning or taxing auxiliary containers like plastic bags, bottles and cans.
Adopting plastic bag bans on a city by city basis is a major headache for retailers and restaurants, who must comply with a new set of rules depending on which zip code they’re in.
Unless there’s some clear and present danger to public safety, a grocery store’s bag policy should be outside the purview of government. If that organic food co-op wants to charge you a nickel for not bringing your own bags, fine. But it’s not a topic that should be on the next city council agenda.
No level of government is immune to bad ideas, but at least the state has a mechanism to reverse course when local governments mull ordinances that could create a drag on the economy. The state is making the right policy moves. We don’t want a few cities to put those moves at risk.
Glenn Hamer is the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry is committed to advancing Arizona’s competitive position in the global economy by advocating free-market policies that stimulate economic growth and prosperity for all Arizonans. http://www.azchamber.com/.