PRESCOTT VALLEY – District 1State Rep. Tom O'Halleran, R-Village of Oak Creek, foreshadowed upcoming battles for water and commerce legislation during Thursday morning's Prescott Valley Economic Development Foundation's quarterly breakfast.
O'Halleran, the keynote speaker at the event, gave a detailed analysis of water and commerce bills he plans to introduce to the Legislature.
State Rep. Lucy Mason, R-Prescott, also spoke at the event, and said she will introduce three bills that will protect property owners' rights in relation to homeowner associa-tions.
O'Halleran said he is a member of the state's innovation and technology council and chairman of the council's legislative group.
"One bill was brought through the Senate last year, and leadership in the House held it," he said. "Not all of the leadership, just one certain portion – that was the majority leader – who is not going to be the majority leader this year. We are very hopeful that we will develop that bill again this year. It is a tax credit bill for angel investment – the part of venture capital that Arizona is having a critical problem with."
Angel investors are also known as venture capitalists. These investors loan money to start-up businesses and often take sizable risks in exchange for potentially large profits.
O'Halleran said the bill will spread $20 million in tax credits over a four-year span. The bill's language targets rural Arizona, he said.
"We are working with the State Compensation Fund for a $25 million investment on their part in trying to bring in other partners to develop a larger venture capital fund," O'Halleran said of another legislative effort, which could help companies advance from the "angel investment stage into the seed stage."
He also said the state's rural areas need legislators to give the state Tourism and Commerce departments enough money to operate their entire budgets.
O'Halleran plans to introduce at least three bills that will focus on ensuring adequate water supplies.
"Right now, cities and towns do not have any say on development in those areas based on water availability," he said. This will help municipalities with water supplies that are under tremendous stress.
"The regional aspect of that is the second bill," O'Halleran said, adding that municipalities must learn to work together so they can avoid "double-counting" water amounts.
He noted that state experts estimated that the San Pedro Watershed had 30 million acre-feet of water in storage for years, only to learn that the aquifer actually has 15 million acre-feet.
The third water bill he wants to introduce is designed to ensure that private water companies have the infrastructure to serve growing populations. O'Halleran said the state cannot afford to depend on the Water Infrastructure Finance Authority to finance every water utility's construction needs.
The state also needs to give rural areas more access to available Central Arizona Project water and the infrastructure to access that water, he said.
Mason said she has three bills relating to homeowner associations that she will introduce "that are built to protect the homeowner from losing his property."
She said she would tell the representatives that she will not take away the legal authority of the associations to operate in a responsible manner.
"Our property rights, in my opinion, are really struggling right now," Mason said. She said she wants to protect homeowners from losing property because of minor homeowner code violations.
Mason also said she plans to work on water legislation.
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