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About 35% of registered voters in Arizona are Republicans, 33% are independents, and 32% are Democrats. Get on social media or attend a school board meeting and the divide in perspectives can be as stark as the difference between what’s on Fox News and what’s on MSNBC.
Transcending our differences and getting results for all Arizonans requires leaders to focus on policy, not politics.
Recent actions at the federal, state and local levels demonstrate that such bipartisanship and compromise can happen.
Arizonans should be heartened.
Congress invested in our nation's infrastructure
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is a major bipartisan package that will direct money toward transit, walking and bicycling infrastructure; clean, electric school buses, and low and no-emission transit buses; support to begin building a nationwide electric vehicle charging network, strengthen the electrical grid and improve energy efficiency; and increased broadband access.
Americans should give due credit to Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, who reached across the aisle and took a leadership role to ensure the legislation’s passage. Sinema’s commitment and spirit of cooperation validate that the political process can still work, despite the naysayers.
Utility regulators acted to help consumers
In recent years, the Arizona Corporation Commission has scored noteworthy pocketbook savings for customers of Arizona Public Service and Tucson Electric Power. Perhaps most significant was the verdict earlier this month in the APS rate case in which 69% of the utility customers are expected to see at least a modest decrease on their monthly electric bill.
Leading to this victory was the bipartisan teamwork of Commissioners Jim O’Connor and Anna Tovar, who persuasively made the case that APS didn’t deserve to receive $215 million from ratepayers on the Four Corners Power plant because of its “planning imprudence.”
On top of that, Commissioners Justin Olson and Sandra Kennedy – political polar opposites – each effectively advocated for APS to get less money, in part due to the company’s prior poor customer service. And Chairwoman Lea Marquez Peterson navigated commissioners through dozens of amendments – including ones she proposed to protect consumers.
The final bipartisan vote by the Corporation Commission began shifting the balance of power from APS shareholders to ratepayers.
Mayors found consensus on transportation needs
As anyone familiar with Maricopa County can attest, there are notable distinctions between the West Valley and the East Valley and in the municipalities comprising each geographic area. Yet, under the leadership of Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego, mayors and other representatives within the Maricopa Association of Governments have unanimously agreed to ask Maricopa County voters to extend Proposition 400 to expand transportation options.
The Arizona Legislature still needs to give approval to get the Proposition 400 extension on the ballot. Nonetheless, citizens should take note of the manner in which Maricopa County leaders from across the political spectrum demonstrated that they can collaborate and cooperate to not only reach consensus but achieve unanimous agreement on tackling regional transportation needs.
The elected officials most likely to make positive impacts in our lives and keep our democracy intact are those who recognize our differences, understand our common challenges and accept that bipartisanship and compromise are often necessary to enact viable solutions.
Fortunately, our state has leaders on both sides of the aisle willing to bear the political pressure and stand up for the public interest.
Diane E. Brown is executive director of Arizona Public Interest Research Group (Arizona PIRG). On Twitter: @ArizonaPIRG.
This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Bipartisanship isn't dead. Here are 3 recent examples to be proud of