Arizona & Its Hotel Industry Working to Enhance PR

Upon the announcement of its new immigration law a couple of months ago, Arizona incurred a firestorm from opponents, media and protestors that burned hotter than … Arizona in July. But now, the Grand Canyon State is working to rework its image via a new PR campaign partially funded by a hotel trade association. USA Today writes:

Arizona plans to spend $250,000 on a public relations campaign to counter concerns about its controversial, new immigration law and promote itself as "a safe and welcoming destination." The state’s hotel trade group will add another $30,000 to the effort, according to the Associated Press.

The PR campaign is one of the recommendations presented publicly yesterday by a tourism task force appointed by Gov. Jan Brewer to address the state’s tourism industry, the AP reports. The findings came as the ACLU on Wednesday issued "travel alerts" to Arizona visitors in advance of the Fourth of July weekend to inform travelers of their rights if stopped by police.

The task force was charged with finding ways to aid Arizona’s tourism industry as it grapples with fallout from the law that Brewer signed in April, the article says. The law is set to take affect on July 29 barring any legal action. The law has sparked boycotts and outright travel bans from cities large and small, school districts and other municipal bodies at a time when travel is gradually starting to rebound from a two-year downturn.

The state should hire a PR firm "to help manage the existing dialogue and clarify the facts" regarding the immigration law, the AP article says. That effort could include getting into editorials into U.S. newspapers and conducting interviews in key visitor markets.

Brewer two weeks ago approved the recommendations, which paves the way for state agencies and the Arizona Hotel and Lodging Association to carry them out, the story says. The story did not detail what role the Arizona hotel group will play besides making a financial donation.

The recommendations also direct Arizona to "change the tone of the dialogue to reflect the true implications and tangible effects that boycotts have on the lives and families on the most vulnerable tourism employees," the AP reports.

The law requires that police enforce another law to ask people about their immigration status if there is "reasonable suspicion" that the people are in the USA illegally, the story says.

Arizona May Follow Indiana’s Lead with New Agency

Get rid of the Department of Commerce. Move away from politics to policy. Create a new public-private agency that is squarely focused on job creation and economic development efforts. Indiana did it earlier this decade. Arizona’s plan sounds similar.

Gov. Jan Brewer plans to issue an executive order within the next month that will allow her to move ahead with a plan to create a quasi-public agency that will eventually replace the Arizona Department of Commerce.

Brewer first proposed abolishing the department in mid-April, saying the move was key to boosting the state’s economic-development efforts, including attracting and retaining business, growing jobs and competing in the global economy.

She wanted the Legislature to authorize her changes, but lawmakers adjourned before that happened.

It’s not clear exactly how much authority Brewer has to move ahead on her own, but her staff said this week that a legal analysis suggests the governor could use her powers to create the new authority, put in place its 15-member board of directors, establish parts of its budget and begin efforts to target new business and jobs.

Other aspects, including dissolving the Department of Commerce, would take legislative action; lawmakers aren’t expected to reconvene until January.

"We’re in the drafting phase now," Brewer spokesman Paul Senseman said. "We think we can do quite a bit. . . . We can do most of it this way."

Republican legislative leadership said Wednesday that they were not aware of the governor’s plans, although both Senate President Bob Burns, R-Peoria, and House Majority leader John McComish, R-Phoenix, indicated there was "broad acceptance" that the Department of Commerce needed to be revamped.