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Arizona House approves bill funding big events

PHOENIX -- The Arizona House of Representatives gave initial approval on Monday to a bill that would require the state to reimburse the city of Glendale for some public safety expenses following next year's Super Bowl.

House Bill 2547 would require the state to reimburse Arizona cities for up to $2 million of public safety costs for hosting major events. The House gave initial approval to the bill by Rep. David Gowan, R-Sierra Vista, but must still cast a roll-call vote on it before it moves to the Senate. Legislators did not debate the bill on Monday but some have expressed concern about it.

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 increased costs of security at major events.

Glendale Mayor Jerry Weiers told members of a House committee last month that 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. The original bill called for a $4 million cap on reimbursement, but an amendment by Rep. Justin Pierce, R-Mesa, lowered that to $2 million. His amendment also would end the fund in Jan. 2016.

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 Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert, said at the committee hearing that 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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