Disclaimer: The comments in this blog are my personal opinion and may or may not reflect an adopted position of the city of Glendale and its city council.

Despite being approved unanimously by the Arizona State Legislature, (60-0 in the House and 29-0 in the Senate), Governor Ducey vetoed HB2473 STATE LIQUOR BOARD; MEMBERSHIP.  This bill began with an idea I brought forward to the Glendale City Council in late 2017.  It was and still is a very reasonable solution to begin to address many of the critical issues of concern with liquor licenses in all of the communities in Arizona. I would like to provide some background and commentary on where the Governor’s actions leave us today.

There is a lot of frustration among cities and towns across the state from city councils who spend a lot of time reviewing, listening to their communities, residents and law enforcement officers in order to make a recommendation of approval or denial on liquor licenses for establishments that will be in their communities.

A council’s recommendation for approval or denial then goes on to the State Liquor Board and cities (most noticeably some of the smaller rural communities) have felt for a long time that the licenses are quickly approved by the liquor board often without any consideration or even discussion about any concerns raised by local city leaders. Cities that recommend denials are usually over ridden by the Board.

The Board’s long history is one of generally ignoring city recommendations. I guess the Board thinks a city can never have enough bars, package stores and convenience stores selling liquor. I know of several square miles within Glendale that have over a dozen of these establishments within them, often in very, very close proximity to one another. Just how many liquor establishments in a small geographical area are necessary “to serve the public’s need and convenience?”                                                                          

For several years now, cities throughout Arizona have started a rallying cry for major reforms to the State Liquor Board and how we deal with the proliferation of liquor establishments in certain areas of our cities.  Having been an elected official for many years, I have learned that you cannot introduce major reforms in one fell swoop at the Legislature. You have to take baby steps, particularly in an area like liquor.  Instead, you have to incrementally and strategically introduce ideas that can begin to address the underlying problems associated with the bigger issues.  It was with this wisdom that I introduced, as a Council Item of Special Interest, the idea of running legislation that would designate one of the 7 seats on the State Liquor Board as a municipal representative which could be a current or former elected official.                                                                                                                   

Currently there are 7 seats on the State Liquor Board, 2 of which are designated for representatives of the liquor industry, 1 that is designated for a neighborhood group representative, and 4 at large seats.  This bill would simply have designated one of these at-large seats for a current or former elected official, who would be nominated by the League of Arizona Cities and Towns (the League) and appointed by the Governor.                                      

The purpose was simply to ensure that municipal perspectives are clearly understood when the Liquor Board is considering license applications.  Having a municipal representative on the board would allow them to share information related to local operations as well as to answer questions from other board members from a local government perspective.  Since these businesses will ultimately be operating in cities, it is important that the board clearly understand the potential effects, both positive and negative, on cities when making a determination on a liquor license application. The industry has several dedicated seats and we felt it was appropriate that cities and towns also have a representative since we bear the burden of their decisions.                     

In my concept, the process of identifying a municipal representative that the Governor could consider was also very simple.  The Executive Committee of the League of Cities, which is made up of 25 Mayors from around the state, would forward 3 names to the Governor for his consideration for that dedicated at-large seat.                                                                         

This concept was modeled after the 2016 bill (SB 1428) that Governor Ducey supported and signed  allowing  mayors to forward at least 3 names to the Governor for the new dedicated municipal seat on the Public Safety Personnel Retirement System (PSPRS) Board of Trustees. It also allowed that if the Governor didn’t like the names he wouldn’t be forced to appoint anyone.  In fact, there are already two vacant at-large seats that have been left unfilled by the Governor for several years now. When that occurs the League’s mayors can submit additional names for the Governor’s consideration as an appointment.                                                                     

With unanimous support of the Glendale City Council, I worked with Glendale’s Public Affairs staff to have the concept introduced in 2018 into the policy making process of the League so that it could be considered by all cities and towns for inclusion in the League’s legislative agenda for this session.  Again, I was attempting to turn the temperature down on the larger rallying cry and calls to go to war on the liquor issue.  What I was proposing was a common-sense compromise.                                                                

 I attended the League Military and Public Safety Policy Committee and advocated for it to be approved and forwarded by the committee to the League’s Resolutions Committee for full adoption.  The Committee did so unanimously. Next, it went to the Resolutions Committee of the League which is made up of the Mayors from all 91 incorporated Cities and Towns in Arizona.  They unanimously approved it for inclusion into the League’s 2019 State Legislative Agenda.

Prior to the start of this current session, the legislative proposal was then brought to the liquor industry in an attempt to get it included in the annual “Liquor Omnibus” bill.  Essentially this is the bill that packages all of the liquor legislation for the upcoming session.  Here is the catch though, nothing can be included in the omnibus bill unless there is unanimous support from the liquor industry lobbyists and their attorney representatives. The industry, of course, declined to provide unanimous support even though they were unable to identify any concerns. They just wanted things to stay the way they are right now on the Liquor Board, meaning only industry reps should have dedicated seats. They were guarding their turf while doing a disservice to the state’s general public.

Having been rebuffed by the liquor industry, in consultation with staff, we approached Representative Anthony Kern, Republican from District 20 in Glendale to sponsor the stand-alone bill and lead it through the legislative process.  He agreed and did a fantastic job.

The bill was introduced in the first few days of the legislative session in January, 2019.  Over the next 4 months, staff, elected officials and neighborhood leaders reached out to their legislators and educated them on the issue all the while advocating for them to approve the bill in committees and on floor votes.  There were many conversations, meetings and work, but it paid off. 

The bill was well received by all legislators as it should have been. It had already been unanimously supported by all 91 cities and towns, which doesn’t happen very often.  The mayors of these cities are the mayors of the residents of their legislator’s districts. The legislative members unanimously supported it (which is a rare feat in a split party legislature), because they have consistently been hearing for years from their mayors and councils how upset they are with having no voice at the Liquor Board. 

This bill was a great opportunity to support a change that didn’t affect the balance of the board, didn’t threaten the liquor industry’s majority, and wouldn’t have any impact on the liquor businesses who many of the legislators also support.  It simply gave the cities a voice and someone they could talk to about their concerns.

So why did Governor Ducey veto this bill which had nothing but complete support and no voiced opposition?  In his veto letter he states; “this bill adds an extra step to the nomination of one of the seven seats on the State Liquor Board, resulting in the inconsistencies in the selection process and creating a new, burdensome hurdle for appointment. We should be focused on reducing red tape not adding to it.”

What is ironic is that this “new hurdle” was modeled after something he had already supported and which he approved in a previous PSPRS bill.  So tell us Governor, why was that not considered red tape when approving the PSPRS bill but its red tape as you veto the Liquor Bill? I suspect you can’t with a straight face.

It is also puzzling that he would say that it creates a burdensome hurdle for an appointment when the whole intent was to get one of the two seats that had been left vacant by the Governor for many years, quickly filled with a municipal representative.  Governor Ducey ends his letter by stating, “I am open to discussions to include a municipal representative on the Liquor Board, but adding a new step in the nomination process is unnecessary”. 

What the Governor is really saying is he wants to appoint who he wants to appoint, when and if he wants to appoint.  He is open to conversations, but he doesn’t want to have to consider a slate of names forwarded by the State’s mayors.  After all, the individuals they forward may not be liquor industry cronies.  In other words, if there is a former elected official that is in cahoots with the liquor industry he might be willing to consider them as they would fit into the “liquor industry only” qualifications that seem to make up the existing Board.  However, that would be worked out through “conversations” not state statute.  It’s unclear who the “conversations” he refers to would be with, but I have a pretty good idea.

While I am angry, I can’t say that I am shocked. What might not be so well known is that while Doug Ducey was pursuing a Finance degree from ASU, for four years (1982 – 1986) Ducey worked at the Hensley & Company, an Anheuser-Busch distributorship, now owned by Cindy McCain, widow of former U.S. John McCain.  He is well known within political circles to have very close relationships and ties to the liquor industry, their lobbyists and their well paid attorneys. 

Once the liquor industry lobbyists stopped this bill from becoming part of their legislative omnibus package, they obviously just sat back and said nothing during this legislative session. They offered no opposition to a common-sense package that would be impossible to oppose publicly under any circumstances.  They were able to take comfort in the fact that they had the ultimate backstop, their friend, Governor Doug Ducey.  All they had to do was whisper in the Governor’s ear, once it got to his desk, that things should remain as they are on the Board – “Liquor Industry Reps Only” – and out came the veto stamp and some ridiculous statements on the bill creating “red tape” as a red herring. 

If we really want to cut red tape here’s a novel idea.  I would propose that any liquor license denied by a city or town council should die right then and there with no advancement to the State Liquor Board.  Imagine the time, energy and resources that would be saved by the State Liquor Board only having to consider those licenses which have been recommended for approval by a city council.  After all, cities are the ones that have to deal with all of the public safety, human and neighborhood related costs of liquor establishments in their communities. It’s where the rubber meets the road.

So where does that leave us today? I wish I could say that we are back to square one. However, I fear we have taken two steps back from square one with this veto.  In an attempt to start solving the larger concerns, I introduced a simple, low hanging fruit solution. Cities were then told with this veto, that it was too much reform, that it went too far and that we should have “conversations” not “representation”. I don’t anticipate this Governor or his liquor friends will change their minds anytime soon.  If I am honored to be re-elected to another four-year term to represent Glendale’s Yucca District in 2020, I am committed to introducing this bill again, when there is a new Governor of Arizona sworn in on January 2023.

I want to especially thank Representative Anthony Kern for his hard work in getting this bill through the state legislature as well as the other 91 city councils and mayors in the State League for their unwavering commitment and all of the Arizona State Legislators for their leadership and unanimous support of this bill.

© Joyce Clark, 2019         


This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law and who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such material. For more information go to http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use,’ you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.