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House Committee passes bill that funds big events

PHOENIX -- Arizona legislators have approved a bill that would require the state to reimburse the city of Glendale for some of its public safety expenses following next year's Super Bowl.

House Bill 2547, sponsored by House Majority Leader David Gowan, R-Sierra Vista, would require the state to reimburse Arizona cities for up to $2 million of public safety costs for hosting major events. The 2015 Super Bowl will be played in the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale.

Glendale officials say threats to safety such as the Boston Marathon bombings last year have significantly increased the cost of security at major events.

The House committee on public safety approved the bill 6-1 on Wednesday, but not before reducing the amount the state would pay by half.

Rep. Justin Pierce, R-Mesa, amended the bill to lower the maximum amount the state could pay from $4 million to $2 million.

``Without the amendment I wasn't comfortable putting this forward,'' Pierce said. ``Two million probably won't be enough but I felt like I didn't want this to get out of control.''

Glendale Mayor Jerry Weiers said the city is not in the financial position to pay for those expenses, which are estimated to cost $3.2 million next year. Glendale spent about $2.3 million on public safety for the 2008 Super Bowl.

``Our city right now, we're going to spend a lot more money than we'll ever get back,'' Weiers said. ``Is it a perfect bill for me? No. But it's a whole lot better than nothing.''

The bill applies to major events that have at least 14,000 attendees and are broadcast on live TV. The host city must also be selected through a competitive process by a selection organization or committee.

Brent Stoddard, the director of intergovernmental programs for Glendale, said tragedies at major events like the Boston Marathon bombings last year have resulted in a need for increased security and therefore increased costs.

But Republican Rep. Eddie Farnsworth of Gilbert, who cast the only dissenting vote, said there wasn't enough evidence to prove Glendale could not afford to pay for public safety costs.

``We're talking about many major events that only have to have 14,000 people in attendance. That's a fairly low bar. We're talking about a complete change in public policy to deal with any event where there's a bidding process. I see the state getting involved in a system that may not be what we want to get involved in,'' Farnsworth said.

A Surprise resident has started a petition against the bill. The online petition created by Earl Clarke has more than 700 signatures. He says the bill is unfair to non-Glendale residents.

Stoddard said the event benefits all of Arizona, not just Glendale.

``This is a statewide event. This isn't Glendale's local Chocolate Affaire,'' Stoddard said, referring to the city's annual chocolate festival, which draws about 80,000 attendees.

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