Bill advances to expand churches' tax exemptions

The Senate gave preliminary approval to legislation expanding the exemption churches and religious organizations have from state and local property taxes.

There is no tax on land or buildings used for worship. HB 2446 would expand that to any vacant land owned by the church, provided it is not being used to generate a profit. To qualify for the exemption, churches would have to certify they plan to use the land for a religious purpose "within a reasonable time."

Holding the land to sell at a profit at a later date is not considered "religious use," even if the proceeds will be used to further the organization's religious mission.

Sen. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, complained the measure contains no provision for the government to recoup lost tax revenues if a church subsequently sells off its land at a profit.

The measure was already approved by the House and now needs a final roll-call vote before going to the governor.

Senate votes to kill shield for lottery winners' IDs

A bid to let lottery winners shield their identities from the public suffered a serious, and potentially fatal, setback.

The Senate voted 16-11 to kill House-passed HB 2082 to exempt the list of winners from the state's public-records laws.

Sen. Al Melvin, R-Tucson, argued it was good public policy to protect lottery winners who could put themselves at personal risk once people realize they have come into a fortune.

The measure was opposed by the Arizona Newspapers Association.

A procedural motion by Sen. Rich Crandall, R-Mesa, will allow the bill to be resurrected if backers can round up the required 16 votes.

Howard Fischer