Update| Solar jobs bill moves to House floor on Friday

With only days left until a possible government shutdown, SB 1403 will move to the floor of the Arizona House of Representatives tomorrow, Friday, June 26th.

Solar panels

Its fate there is uncertain, but Michael Bidwill, president of the Arizona Cardinals football team, and chair of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council (GPEC), says he’s optimistic about the bill’s chances.

“I see this as an economic development issue,” Bidwill told the Sun yesterday. “I can’t think of a better place than Arizona to use solar power.”

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House Rules Committee

House Rules Committee

SB 1403 passes the House Rules Committee today, Thursday, June 25.

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SB 1403 will be on the agenda of the Arizona House Rules Committee when it meets tomorrow (Thursday) at 1 PM,  a spokesperson for Committee Chairman Warde Nichols (R-Gilbert) tells the Phoenix Sun.

The bill was withdrawn from the Commerce Committee, which met today, after passing in the Ways and Means Committee. (See story below)

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SB 1403 must be part cat.

That’s the only way to explain how the bill is still alive today, after taking repeated mortal wounds in the Arizona State Legislature.

“The Quality Jobs Through Renewable Energy bill,” cleared a vote in the House Ways and Means Committee today, 5-2, despite attempts to amend it to death.

Is SB 1403 part cat?

How many lives does SB1403 have left?

Senator Barbara Leff, who sponsored the bill in the Senate, told the committee, “This is a brand new era…with Arizona poised to be a leader in renewable energy. It’s almost shameful that we’re not the leader in solar.”

Committee members also heard from Michael Bidwill, president of the Arizona Cardinals NFL football team, and chair of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council (GPEC), who predicted that the window of opportunity to attract high-paying jobs in renewable energy will be closed in 18 months.

“Companies are going to make their decision on where to locate these plants,” Bidwill said, “and then the party’s over.”

There will be winners and losers in the economic tumult that’s reshaping the United States, he continued. Without an economic development plan like SB 1403, Bidwill warned, “Arizona is going to be a loser.”

A majority of committee members apparently agreed with Bidwill.

With still more committee votes to come, a floor vote in the House, the uncertainty surrounding Governor Jan Brewer’s position on the bill, and the clock ticking down the last days of this session, the question now is: How many lives does SB 1403 have left?

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The Arizona solar jobs bill now appears on the agenda for Monday’s meeting of the House Ways and Means Committee — even though the bill has not been officially assigned to the committee by House Speaker Kirk Adams (R-Mesa).

Speaker Kirk Adams

Speaker Kirk Adams

Rep. Michele Reagan (R-Scottsdale) had earlier asked Adams to assign the bill to the Commerce Committee, which she chairs. Instead, Adams held onto the bill, leaving it in limbo for a week. Now it appears that Adams has bypassed the normal assignment process (and the public announcement it requires), and has decided to send the bill to a different committee.

How unusual are the Speaker’s actions? Of the twenty-nine bills passed by the Senate and sent to the House on Monday June 15, SB1403 was the only one still without a committee assignment on Tuesday evening  (or on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday).

A source close to the situation has told The Sun (on the condition of anonymity) that Adams is upset by negative comments about the legislature that were made earlier by some of the bill’s supporters. According to this source, the Speaker is using the powers of his office to retaliate against those individuals for their comments.

Asked by email if this charge were true, the Speaker again refused to comment.

House Democrats, meanwhile, have stayed out of the intra-party battle.

“We don’t have any information on what’s going on in the Speaker’s office,” Sarah Muench, spokesperson for the House Democrats, told The Sun yesterday. “We just have to wait and see what they decide to do.”

What’s likely — but not certain — to happen is that SB 1403 will receive its official designation on Monday to the House Ways and Means Committee, which is chaired by Glendale realtor, Republican Rick Murphy.

Representative Michele Reagan, chair of the Commerce Committee, is a vocal proponent of the solar jobs bill.

Murphy, who received the Sierra Club’s second lowest rating in the AZ House (-27!), would be a unlikely champion of SB 1403.

He is a former chairman of the Arizona Federation of Taxpayers (AFT), an anti-tax group that has been one of SB 1403’s most adamant opponents. AFT is the state chapter of a far-right organization funded largely by oil and gas money and calls green energy “a hoax.” In February Americans for Prosperity ran the TV advertisement below.

Murphy is also longtime opponent of using government incentives to attract businesses. In 2007 he sponsored a bill that would have fined local governments for offering tax breaks or other monetary incentives to retailers.

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It’s after five o’clock ET and the AZ Republican House Speaker’s office has still not announced a committee assignment for a solar jobs bill that had seemed to have such promise a week ago when it was endorsed by the state’s largest newspaper and then was passed by the Arizona Senate. Speaker Kirk Adams’ office has not responded to repeated calls and emails from the Sun inquiring about the bill.

Yesterday, the weekly trade magazine, Solar Industry, posted this message on twitter: “How frustrating! Let’s hope this bill gets through in time…”

It’s unlikely, but possible, that the Speaker will assign SB 1403 yet today.

Check back for updates or search twitter for #az1403.

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The AZ House Clerk published a new list of bill assignments today. On it are bills dealing with funding repairs to state monuments, how “convenience fees” should be defined and one regulating towing trucks.

Not on the list: SB 1403. Again.

Check it out for yourself here.

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After a narrow victory in the Arizona Senate on Monday and with time running out in this session, SB 1403 may have gotten tripped up, perhaps fatally, in a political thicket.

The “Quality Jobs Through Renewable Energy bill,” which backers claim is needed to make Arizona “the solar capital” of the nation, is the only one of twenty-nine bills passed by the Senate on Monday that has not been assigned to a House committee, according to a document posted by the House Clerk’s office.

This way to solar jobs

This way to solar jobs

Bills are assigned by Speaker of the House Kirk Adams (R-Mesa).  When contacted Monday, his office told the Sun that SB 1403 would be assigned Tuesday. As of 10 AM Eastern time Wednesday, no committee assignment had been posted. Messages left by phone and email for Speaker Adams have not been returned.

Senate sponsor of the bill, Barbara Leff, told the Sun Monday that she hoped it would be assigned to the House Commerce Committee, chaired by Representative Michele Reagan (R-Scottsdale). Reagan is a supporter of SB1403, a version of which she introduced in the House last year. That bill died when the clock ran out on the session.

Contacted Tuesday evening, Reagan said she had talked with Adams earlier in the day and told him she would like the bill to be assigned to her committee. “I’m sure we could get it out of committee soon for a House vote,” said Reagan.

Reagan said she was aware that SB 1403 was the only bill not yet assigned, be she refused to speculate on the reason for the holdup.

“Speaker Adams is a great guy,” she said. “I’m sure it’s going to be assigned very soon.”

Timing is crucial to the bill’s fate, however, and every delay hurts its chances.

If we don’t pass the bill this year, we may as well forget about it. — Rep. Michele Reagan

“The window on solar [power] is closing,” Reagan said. “If we don’t pass the bill this year, we may as well forget about it. Manufacturers will have decided where to locate by then.”

There has been talk of hard feelings between some of the bill’s business supporters and Speaker Adams, unrelated to SB1403. Asked about those rumors, Reagan again declined to comment.

She said she was staying focused on getting the bill out of committee, when it arrives, and on lobbying her colleagues to vote for it.

“This is so important,” she said. “It’s a really big deal. It means jobs for Arizona and I hope every resident contacts his or her legislator urging them to pass it.”

Contacted last night, the Greater Phoenix Economic Council (GPEC), the primary business group lobbying for the bill, has not commented on the situation.

H.R. 2454 Transcript from 5/19/2009

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