It’s the Pitts: June 2023

Grapes harvestArizona Legislature Chaos

Here’s an update on the progress of our truly unique Arizona Legislature. Amidst the chaos and during the recess that was called to replace expelled Republican Representative Liz Harris, Governor Hobbs personally went to the capital and met with legislative leaders. In the meeting room they call the “cage” in the House of Representatives building, the budget is developed to attempt to negotiate a bi-partisan budget.

Hobbs served in the Arizona House from 2011 to 2013 and the Senate from 2013 to 2019. She then served as the Secretary of State from 2019 to 2023 before she ran for governor last year. So, she knows how the system operates. And it worked. The legislature passed a bi-partisan $17.8 billion budget on May 10th and the governor signed it on May 11th. It passed the Senate by a 25 – 5 vote and the House by a 43 – 16 vote – far and away the most bi-partisan budget vote I can recall in Arizona.

The Arizona legislature has essentially been a one-party operation for a long time. In many years, the minority party (for years the Democrats) weren’t even able to participate in the negotiation process. And now, of course, thanks to the bi-partisan vote, everyone is upset because, by definition, no one got everything they wanted! (Remember when we thought that was how it was supposed to work? You know – negotiation and compromise. Sorry – a bit of a flashback there.)

Another Recess

Now, the legislature is in another recess until June 12th, awaiting the replacement of additional legislators. Here’s where we stood as of Friday, June 2, the 145th day of the legislative session. (The Arizona Constitution calls for a 100 day session.) 1,671 Bills had been introduced in what I described in my last column in this space as “the most dysfunctional legislative session in Arizona in memory.” Only 160 Bills had been signed, with 94 vetoed.

The House and Senate leadership managed to keep a small number of Bills alive during the multiple recesses. Rumors put the number between 20 and 40, but they have not even announced what those Bills might be. If they can fill the empty seats and reconvene on the 12th, they will probably work fast to clear those Bills in a few days and quickly adjourn. The adjournment date is important, of course, because, with very few exceptions, all Bills approved during this year’s session do not go into effect until 90 days after the legislature adjourns sine die.

My Impact Study

We are about to conclude the gathering of data to complete the third statewide Arizona Wine Tourism Economic Impact Study that I’m preparing with data being compiled by the research department at NAU for the Arizona Office of Tourism (AOT). This follows the studies we did in 2011 and 2017. We will be providing our preliminary report for the Governor’s Conference on Tourism in Tucson in July, which I’ll be attending.

The final report will be completed in September, in a timely fashion to present to next year’s state legislative session. While our first two studies focused only on what are now the three AVA regions in the state (Sonoita, Willcox, and the Verde Valley), this time we are adding information about the metro tasting rooms, wine festivals, outlying/start up areas, and businesses that have been created because of the growth of the industry.

Michael Giannetto, our lead researcher from NAU, and I have visited and gathered data from every tasting room in the three principal growing regions, plus areas like Kingman and other outliers. In addition, either together or separately, Michael and I have visited the tasting rooms in Scottsdale, Tucson, and more, plus attending and collecting data from festivals including Sedona, Walkin’ On Main, Verde Valley, Oro Valley, Tempe, both Willcox Festivals, and more. We’ll also be including Tilted Earth.

On the weekend of May 20th, Michael attended the Willcox Wine Festival while I attended the Verde Valley Wine Festival. I think Riverfront Park proved to be an excellent, attractive location, with plenty of space and ample parking. And, when the unbelievably intense rain on Friday left six inches of standing water in the area after everything was set up, it dried quickly and made for a quite pleasant setting for the festival on Saturday.

On a Personal Note

On a personal note, serendipity was the name of the tune for me at the AWGA fund raising dinner on Friday night. I briefly sat at a table to say Hi to Sandy Moriarty, when Paula pointed out that I had taken a seat at a sponsored table. She pointed out a nearby empty seat, to which I happily moved.

I wound up seated next to the manager of the Footprint Center in Phoenix, the home of the Phoenix Suns. We struck up a conversation and quickly realized that we were both very active in the music business some 40 years ago and had so many friends in common from that time period, it was incredible. We couldn’t stop talking. And, he had attended a symposium I had conducted in Los Angeles in the early 1980s that I had titled the “Performance Summit Conference” while I was the publisher and editor-in-chief of the trade magazine for the live entertainment industry worldwide.

The auction proved to be quite successful, and I had a great time! I owe a giant thank you to Paula. And, of course, this is a hearty endorsement for another great reason to attend wine festivals!

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