Avondale, Ariz., Empowers Residents to Impact State Legislature

by Sandi Burtseva

Avondale, Ariz., is leading the way in a region-wide effort to inform and engage residents, empowering them to fight state legislative proposals that hurt local governments.

Frustration in cities across the Southwest Valley of Arizona has been mounting for several years, as a slew of state bills has taken increasingly more control from municipalities. Now, a growing number of Valley cities are issuing electronic alerts regarding state legislative proposals, aiming to inform residents of bills that would impact them and teach them how to effectively communicate their opinions to lawmakers.

In the past two legislative sessions, bills have rankled municipalities by mandating how they collect anything from impact fees to water deposits from residents.

Avondale Mayor and NLC First Vice President Marie Lopez Rogers gave an example of state over-reach: The Arizona legislature, after passing the water-deposit bill on behalf of the Arizona Association of Realtors in 2010, passed a second bill in 2011 specifically targeting Avondale because the association didn't like how the city had interpreted the first law.

Rogers is among those local leaders spearheading the effort. Launched last month, Avondale Legislative Link (ALL) keeps residents informed and allows them to closely track issues and bills at the state Capitol that affect them. Avondale's updates issues include the names and contact information of lawmakers, allowing residents to easily reach them.

Rogers explained that the city has sent out emails and posted this information previously, but "nothing as concrete as this."

"I was so frustrated last year, and as I talked to residents and told them how [state legislation] is affecting them, they wanted to know 'What can we do? What are some of the things that we can do to help?' and 'We don't even know who our representatives are,'" she said.

ALL was created to address such questions. The interactive online tool helps Avondale residents track legislation with the potential to impact them. ALL also explains the state legislative process - how bills become laws in Arizona, who represents residents in the state House and Senate and how to contact them.

Rogers does not plan to stop there. She has already begun visiting legislators - representing both her and others' districts - at the Capitol. Rogers informs them about ALL, explaining why they can expect to received a lot more input from well-informed Arizona residents.

Just as states do not like the federal government placing mandates on them, cities feel the same way, explained Rogers.
According to The Arizona Republic editorial board, "Avondale is putting in place the tools and creating the culture that builds a strong community. We hope its residents avail themselves of the opportunity to stay informed and connected."