$100 million water deal will include $30 million from state, Ducey vows

The Hoover Dam and Lake Mead
The Hoover Dam and Lake Mead

Gov. Doug Ducey vowed Thursday to work with the state Legislature to allocate $30 million to water mitigation efforts so the state can sign onto a multi-state plan to stabilize water levels in Lake Mead, which could soon face a water shortage.

Ducey’s announcement coincided with a meeting wherein Arizona water interests were presented with the most complete plan to date on how water cuts could be divvied up among the state’s water users.

The proposal introduced Thursday is complicated and many details still need to be ironed out, but the initial public look shows the plan and mitigation efforts will cost nearly $100 million through 2026 — when water users are slated to shift away from the DCP and renegotiate previous water guidelines.

Mitigation is water-speak for how Arizona water users will be compensated — with water, money or both — for taking reductions in order to build up water levels in Lake Mead.

Stabilizing water levels on the lake has become a top priority among Arizona and the six other Colorado River Basin states after the Bureau of Reclamation predicted a shortage could happen at the lake as soon as 2020

Ducey plans to put the $30 million appropriation in his executive budget, which he will present at the start of the 2019 legislative session. He will then push for the Arizona Legislature to pass the appropriation.

“This is something we want to take to the finish line,” said Hunter Moore, Ducey’s policy advisor on natural resources. Moore did not say where the governor expects to get the $30 million in state funding.

Moore was talking both about Arizona inking an internal state agreement and passage of the DCP.

Ducey hopes his vow to secure funding during the next legislative session will indicate to Arizonans that he is serious about moving the DCP forward and serious about the internal proposal on the table, Moore told water stakeholders Thursday.

Rep. Rosanna Gabaldon, D-Sahuarita, who sits on the DCP Steering Committee, praised the governor’s willingness to put the state’s money where his mouth is. But she also issued a warning to the Legislature that the money must be dedicated for water and not swept for other projects.

The water compromise proposal comes with a price tag of nearly $100 million. After the state’s share, CAP plans to kick in $60 million, which will come from its ratepayers. There’s also an $8 million funding gap that will likely be filled by private entities like the Walton Foundation.

The compromise also plans for approximately $30 million in additional funds to go to Pinal County farmers for groundwater infrastructure to make up for the reductions in their water supply. The proposal plans to seek federal dollars to pay for the new infrastructure, but none of the money has been assured yet.

The proposal introduced Thursday received mixed reactions from the the nearly 40-member DCP Steering Committee that includes lawmakers and representatives from the Governor’s Office, the state’s tribes, municipalities, agriculture interests, state water entities and developers. But much of the feedback was positive.

Arizona is still far from inking the internal agreement.

Tom Buschatzke, the director of the Department of Water Resources, said Arizona’s water interests may not be at the beginning of the process anymore, but they may as well be because there’s still so much work to do to finalize the plan by the end of the year so the Legislature can vote on it in January. Expect many more meetings in the next month, he said.

But Arizona is also closer now to moving forward on water than it has been all year.

“The discussion today of the $30 million budget request out of the Governor’s Office and the discussion of the strong advocacy that will go with that to make that happen is extremely indicative to how close we are,” he said.

10 percent pay raise would end DPS turnover, improve public safety

Lights on the top of a police car

Driving the nighttime backroads of Arizona can be dangerous and lonely for a Department of Public Safety Trooper.

It is hard to recruit citizens to join our department because of the dangers that exist. For 14 years, I have been a Trooper along the interstates and state highways of this beautiful state. In my assignments through the state, I have heard the voices of my co-workers always trying find the next overtime time job, just to support their family. Seeing the tired faces of dispatchers having to work another double shift, not having the quality of life they all deserve with their family and friends.

Jeff Hawkins
Jeff Hawkins

DPS faces a shortage. Low pay compared to other law enforcement agencies around the state makes it harder to attract new troopers.

In 2019, nearly 400 people left DPS, including almost 200 troopers. Some retired and some went to other law enforcement agencies. No matter the reason, DPS could not replace either sworn or civilian positions as fast as employees were leaving.

As of this year, DPS counts nearly 270 vacancies among the sworn troopers with another 200 civilian positions unfilled. According to the most recent pay survey, troopers are about 15 percent behind their peers while civilians lag behind their peers by 18 percent.

In this good economy when potential employees have many options, both in law enforcement and the private sector, the uncompetitive wages offered by DPS make the state’s highway patrol organization a tough sell.

To be sure, the governor’s budget proposal makes significant and needed investments in DPS. For instance, Gov. Doug Ducey wants to purchase two new helicopters and add money to replace helicopters every two years, add new vehicles and fully fund overtime. Most critically, the governor begins a three-year update to the statewide radio network.

The House and the Senate have each recognized the pay disparity for these state employees and have moved in their respective budget proposals to close the gap. But to attract more troopers and civilian employees, DPS must offer a more competitive pay package.

We hope to persuade lawmakers who are writing the budget now to pass a 10 percent pay raise for both sworn and civilian DPS employees. This is the most important thing the Legislature and the governor can do to increase our ranks and add to public safety.

On those dark nights patrolling rural areas of this state, troopers often find themselves far from any backup. That’s in large part because of the considerable amount of vacancies among our ranks. Increasing pay will help the department attract more and better qualified recruits. More troopers on the road helps ensure better public safety – for our fellow troopers and the citizens we are sworn to protect.

The Legislature and Ducey can play a big hand in this effort. By increasing pay 10 percent as we recommend, our Arizona highways can be a safer place for motorists and troopers. This investment in Arizona’s Troopers and its civilian team members is a huge move towards making DPS whole.

Jeff Hawkins is president of the Arizona Troopers’ Association.

2 Arizona sheriffs refuse to enforce a stay-at-home order

From left are Mohave County Sheriff Doug Schuster and Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb
From left are Mohave County Sheriff Doug Schuster and Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb

Two Arizona sheriffs are refusing to enforce Gov. Doug Ducey’s stay-at-home order as the state continues to deal with the coronavirus.
Mohave County Sheriff Doug Schuster and Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb both said they aren’t going to hand out fines, citations or arrest people who disobey the governor’s mandate that has been extended through May 15.
Mohave County is in northwestern Arizona with Pinal County located south of Phoenix. Of Arizona’s 15 counties, the state’s two most populous — Maricopa and Pima — have the most COVID-19 cases by far.
“I’m not going to make criminals out of law-abiding citizens,” Schuster told Phoenix TV station KTVK. “As a sheriff, I cannot in good conscience issue citations or arrest people for not social distancing.”
“It’s unfortunate that we’re here but I need to make a stand for the people and for freedom,” Lamb said. “I don’t want to cite, fine or arrest fine people.”
Ducey already has laid out consequences for violating his stay-at-home order: a $2,500 fine and up to six months in jail.
But Schuster and Lamb said they will not enforce the mandate.
The two sheriffs said they’re not encouraging people to break the governor’s order but feel compelled to uphold the constitution.
“We recognize the sacrifices people have made throughout this health emergency,” a statement from the Governor’s Office said. “We know many Arizonans are feeling economic pain and we’re doing everything we can to alleviate that while ensuring health and safety.”
Meanwhile, state health officials said Sunday that Arizona now has 8,640 coronavirus cases and 362 known deaths, an increase of 276 cases and 14 deaths since Saturday’s released figures.
The Arizona Department of Health Services said more than 76% of the people who have died of coronavirus were ages 65 and older.
A majority of the deaths have come in Maricopa County (4,585) and Pima County (1,326).
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

2 lawmaker restaurateurs take different paths to resuming dine-in

From left are Diego Espinoza and Jeff Weninger
From left are Diego Espinoza and Jeff Weninger

Two lawmakers, who also own restaurants, are handling reopening their businesses in different ways now that Arizona is allowing dine-in services to resume with some guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Rep. Jeff Weninger, R-Chandler, owns Floridino’s Pizza & Pasta and decided to open back up on Wednesday May 13.

The Chandler Italian restaurant was open for takeout, as many others were, during the past two months, but Weninger said he still took a financial hit. He said restaurants still have bills to pay and it only makes it more difficult when there’s little to no revenue to cover everything.

“Restaurant owners stress about closing for holidays,” Weninger said, to put things into perspective. “So it has been rough, but we haven’t laid off anybody. We ran very high labor in order to keep all of our people employed,” he said

Rep. Diego Espinoza, D-Tolleson, owns a Mexican restaurant in his hometown called Fuego Bar and Grill, and while he might be “eager” to reopen, he is going to only allow drive-through, curbside and delivery services to continue and allow patrons to eat on the two patios of the brick-and-mortar location.

Espinoza did not respond to multiple requests for comment, but the restaurant’s Facebook page announced its plans on handling the opportunity to reopen.

“We continue to monitor the CDC & Arizona Department of Health guidelines for any changes that will allow us to open our dining room with no risk,” the post reads.

Gov. Doug Ducey, against the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, granted restaurants the opportunity to reopen dine-in services beginning on May 11. Some have complied while others have deemed it to be too soon.

The CDC guidelines for states to reopen dictate that dine-in services should be reserved for the Phase Two of the three-phase approach. Arizona is only beginning phase one.

Phase One states that “bars remain closed and restaurant service should remain limited to drive-through, curbside takeout, or delivery with strict social distancing.”

While Ducey’s staff has repeatedly said they are following CDC guidelines, they are in fact following White House guidelines, which have differed from the CDC suggestions.

The Associated Press reported the CDC guidelines were actually shelved by the White House for not agreeing with their plan and were told it “would never see the light of day,” until one of the scientists behind it leaked it to the press.

Weninger said his restaurant has 800 square feet of space and they already had to reconfigure the layout to comply with take-out orders and physical distancing.

“We’re reconfiguring it again, to have a dual purpose of curbside takeaway and dining in,” he said.

Based on polling his customers, he said a majority wants to come inside to dine, so he just needs to figure out how to efficiently serve both needs while also “giv[ing] excellent service.” That’s why he didn’t open on the earliest date of May 11.

He said he is aware of a new grassroots group of local restaurants called Too Soon Arizona.

“I think everybody has a free choice and good for them,” Weninger said. “Where I have a problem with that is when they try to start inhibiting other people’s free choices to reopen and other people’s customers’ ability to make a choice to go into those restaurants.”

While Weninger has not been directly shamed by Too Soon Arizona, he claims there is a clear “political objective.”

“I stayed away from it right away and then a week or two ago, they came out with something criticizing the governor for reopening and stuff and it kind of validated my concern,” he said.

The group is made up of hundreds of restaurants, most of which are from Tucson, who say while the number of COVID-19 cases is still increasing it is not safe for them to open their doors just yet.

“We feel proceeding incautiously with the reopening of businesses will worsen human suffering in our communities and prolong the negative impact this pandemic is having on small businesses & the economy,” the business owners said.

Adding insult to injury is the concern that nobody will even enforce social (or physical) distancing at restaurants that have already begun to open up shops. Ducey dodged multiple reporters’ questions about who will enforce places that don’t comply with guidelines.



2 lawsuits filed over new elections law

In this March 22, 2016 file photo, voters wait in line to cast their ballot in Arizona’s presidential primary election in Gilbert. (AP Photo/Matt York, File)

Two lawsuits have already been filed challenging a new voting law Gov. Doug Ducey signed on Wednesday. 

On Thursday morning Mi Familia Vota, a group that focuses on building Latino political power, announced it was suing in federal court seeking to get House Bill 2492 declared unconstitutional. They are being represented by Marc Elias, a Democratic elections lawyer who has been involved in cases across the country related to redistricting and voting laws. And a little later a coalition of progressive organizations, including Living United for Change in Arizona, announced they had filed their own suit seeking to get the law overturned. 

“Voters should be able cast their ballots freely, safely and equally to make the promise of democracy real for all Arizonans,” said Trevor Potter, founder and president of Campaign Legal Center, a pro-voting rights nonprofit that is representing LUCHA and the other plaintiffs. “This law takes Arizona in the wrong direction.” 

Sponsored by Rep. Jake Hoffman, R-Queen Creek, HB2492 requires the state to verify the citizenship of people who register to vote using the U.S. Election Assistance Commission’s form. State law requires proof of citizenship to register to vote; the federal form asks people if they are citizens but does not require them to show proof. Supporters of HB2492 cast it as a common-sense measure that will ensure that only citizens can vote. 

“This will not take legitimate voters off the rolls,” Ducey said Thursday. “This will not take citizens off the rolls.” 

In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Arizona had to accept the federal form but could still insist on stricter standards for state elections. As a result, a small number of Arizonans – about 11,600 of them voted in 2020 – who didn’t meet the state’s proof of citizenship requirements receive federal-only ballots that only have federal elections on them. 

Opponents of HB2492 worry it will do exactly what Ducey said it will put barriers in the way of legal voters. LUCHA’s lawsuit says the bill “relegates a group of eligible, registered voters to second-class status by imposing arbitrary limits on how and in which elections they may vote.” The lawsuit argues requirements such as requiring documentary proof of citizenship and address to register to vote, barring federal-only voters from voting by mail, and directing counties to check citizenship data that could be outdated in deciding who to register will disenfranchise some legal voters. 


2018 Legislative forecast: Finding money for public schools

(Photo by Ellen O'Brien/Arizona Capitol Times)
(Photo by Ellen O’Brien/Arizona Capitol Times)

Gov. Doug Ducey kicks off the legislative session Monday with a call for more education funding — but not with the tax hikes that some say are necessary to provide truly adequate funding for schools.

In an interview with Capitol Media Services, the governor said the state has made a “significant investment” in K-12 education, saying aid to schools is $700 million higher now than it was three years ago.

“More is needed,” he said, saying the details of his budget will have to wait.

But the governor rejected suggestions and proposals by several different education and business groups that the quickest — and easiest — way to raise the revenues needed is to boost state sales taxes, curb tax credits or close what some describe as “loopholes” in the tax code.

Gov. Doug Ducey
Gov. Doug Ducey

“I’m not raising taxes,” he said.

Instead, Ducey insists that he can find the money elsewhere in the budget.

“Our economy is growing,” he said. “Our state government is being operated more effectively and efficiently.”

But the kind of money Ducey can find through such savings is unlikely to satisfy those who cite not only Arizona’s reputation of being at or near the bottom of per-student funding but the problems in both attracting and retaining teachers. And that starts with 2,000 classrooms not having qualified teachers at the helm, instead being run by substitutes or students being forced into overcrowded classrooms.

Senate Minority Leader Katie Hobbs was more succinct in her criticism of the governor’s contention that the state can adequately meet education needs with savings elsewhere.

“We’ve got all the change from the couch cushions that there is,” she said.

It’s not just Democrats and educators who are critical of Ducey’s position that the state can fund education without additional revenues. He also is increasingly at odds with those who otherwise might be considered allies.

It starts with the debate of the future of the 0.6-cent sales tax approved by voters in 2000 specifically to fund education. Without action, it will self-destruct in 2021, along with the approximately $600 million it raises.

The governor said he supports simply asking voters to extend it, insisting it could be reformed in a way to generate more dollars. He also doesn’t want any action this year, a move that House Minority Leader Rebecca Rios called “incredibly irresponsible.”

Beyond that, others say education needs more than that 0.6-cent tax raises.

In this Nov. 16, 2017, photo, Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas addresses about 50 school district and charter school representatives at her department's annual MEGA Conference on programs and services for low-income students. In October, the Arizona Department of Education revealed it had misallocated millions in Title I funding, federal dollars for the state's most economically disadvantaged kids. (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)
Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas  (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)

Diane Douglas, the state superintendent of public instruction, favors boosting the levy to a full penny, figuring to use three-fourths of that to boost teacher salaries by about 10 percent.

Jim Swanson, CEO of construction firm Kitchell Corp., thinks even more than that is needed, suggesting a doubling of the 0.6 cent levy.

And others, including Phil Francis, the former CEO of PetSmart, said it probably will take a 1.6-cent tax to produce the revenues needed.

Even the more fiscally conservative members of the business community are saying something more is needed to generate more dollars.

“Tax revenues are not matching the health of the economy, not just in Arizona but across the country,” said Glenn Hamer, president of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, blaming much of that to the increase in online purchases whose tax revenues are not captured. Hamer said he wants to look at reform, opening the door to expanding the list of items and services that are taxed, though he has no specific revenue number in mind.

And Kevn McCarthy, executive director of the business-oriented Arizona Tax Research Association, said he could support a tax increase. But he said that is contingent on cleaning up other disparities in education funding, like some school districts getting more money per student because of things like desegregation expenses.

desk-books-school-620All that puts Ducey in the position of being a holdout amid increased public focus on the state’s public education system and concern that children are being shortchanged because of the state’s failure to put more dollars into K-12 education.

There is no dispute over the numbers. Even Ducey press aide Daniel Scarpinato concedes that current per-student funding, after adjusting for inflation, is still not back to where it was before the recession.

There’s also the separate fact that Ducey, who convinced voters in 2016 to tap a special trust fund to end a lawsuit against the state, insisted that the cash that generates would be just the first step toward improving education funding.

But questions remain about what has been produced so far, with teacher salaries up just 1 percent this year.

Ducey promised another 1 percent for the coming school year. But that still leaves salaries far short of what they are in virtually every other state.

The question of how short depends on who you ask — and what ruler they use.

For example, the Morrison Institute says that elementary school teacher pay is the lowest in the nation, even when adjusted for statewide cost of living; high school pay is not far behind at 49.

By contrast, the Arizona Tax Research Association, which represents major taxpayers, has its own way of looking at it.

“While we do stipulate and recognize Arizona’s teach pay ranking has dropped in the last 20 years, we do not agree with the assertion that Arizona is last by any measure,” said Sean McCarthy, the organization’s senior research analyst.

So where does it believe Arizona falls? No. 28 adjusted for per-capita income.

Ducey said those numbers, even if correct, are not where Arizona should be.

“I believe we need to come up on teacher salaries,” he said.

“It’s very hard work to teach a kid, especially a kid that’s not learning,” the governor continued. “They’re putting the work in. They’re getting the results. And I want to see the dollars flow to them.”

But the governor sidestepped questions of where he believes teacher salaries in Arizona should be in comparison to the rest of the country, saying his focus is on the trendline.

“What I look at is how are we doing this year versus previous year and are we making improvements year over year,” he said.

There’s another big education decision facing Ducey and lawmakers: whether to block voters from getting the last word on the expansion of the program that provides vouchers to parents to send their children to private and parochial schools.

Foes gathered more than 100,000 signatures following last year’s vote, holding up up enactment until November when those who go to the polls would get to decide whether to ratify or reject what the Legislature approved. Supporters have responded by asking the courts to void the referendum, citing what they said are various irregularities.

If those legal efforts falter, the only way to quash a vote on what would be Proposition 305 would be for lawmakers to alter last year’s legislation.

That presents a political question for lawmakers.

If it remains on the ballot, that could bring out foes of expansion. And once they’re voting “no” on more vouchers, they could just as easily spread their displeasure with those who enacted it in the first place, including Ducey.

A legal challenge to that petition drive has yet to get a final ruling.

Other education-related issues likely to provoke debate include:

– Extending funding for special career and education programs now in high schools to ninth grade;

– Requiring all high schoolers to take a college-entrance examination;

– Revamping and reenacting a law voided by a federal judge aimed at “ethnic studies” programs that prohibit things like teaching ethnic solidarity;

– Capping the year-over-year increases in what corporations can divert from state income taxes to groups that give scholarships to help students attend private and parochial schools;

– Requiring parents to be notified when their student athletes suffer a concussion.

2019: Moments of bipartisanship mixed with rough politics

Rep. Raquel Terán, D-Phoenix, in this screenshot testifies February 20 before the House Judiciary Committee about her bill to repeal an abortion law. The committee’s chairman, Rep. John Allen, R-Scottsdale, refused her request to hold the bill and made a political example of it.
Rep. Raquel Terán, D-Phoenix, in this screenshot testifies February 20 before the House Judiciary Committee about her bill to repeal an abortion law. The committee’s chairman, Rep. John Allen, R-Scottsdale, refused her request to hold the bill and made a political example of it.

The highs and lows of the 2019 legislative session can be measured by how well legislators worked together with the smallest of margins.

Republicans in both chambers could have accomplished everything that needed a simple majority vote without the help of a single Democrat – save for a few holdouts as seen during budget negotiations – but that’s not how the session went.

At the highest, the Legislature voted unanimously 108 times in the House (when all members voted) and 178 times in the Senate. At the lowest, the House voted 64 times down party lines; the Senate 22 times. But there were also lows where bills did not make it past a committee hearing.

On February 20, Rep. Raquel Terán, D-Phoenix, was used by the Republicans as an example of what can happen when ideas aren’t fully fleshed out.

The Phoenix Democrat introduced legislation that would repeal a law that requires a doctor to ensure all available means and medical skills are deployed to promote, preserve and maintain the fetus’ life if the baby is delivered alive during an abortion.

Terán asked the House Judiciary Committee chair, Rep. John Allen, R-Scottsdale, to hold the bill because she knew it would not have enough votes. Allen denied her request and heard the bill anyway.

Terán introduced the bill for a personal reason – her sister had a miscarriage – and said that Republicans were not looking at this to have a conversation.

“It’s totally political,” she said.

Allen didn’t relent.

“The idea that you drop a bill and never want it to be heard is not lawmaking. It’s politics,” he said.  Nobody voted for it.

The 134-day session was not all ugly, as legislators were able to unanimously vote on a bill regarding empowerment scholarship accounts – one of the most divisive issues.

Several Republicans support an ESA-expansion, while Democrats don’t. Voters overwhelmingly rejected an expansion in 2018, but that didn’t stop Republicans from introducing legislation this year.

No ESA expansion bill came to fruition during the session, but one bill through ups and downs was able to make its way to the governor’s desk.

In the eleventh hour, controversy started brewing as a direct result of an Arizona Department of Education audit into ESAs. The ADE found several families in Window Rock on the Navajo Reservation who were using their approved-ESA vouchers for private schools across the state border in New Mexico, though the school was still on the reservation and only minutes away from the border itself.

Gov. Doug Ducey and Secretary of State Katie Holmes display legislation Ducey signed for Arizona''s Drought Contingency Plan. (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)
Gov. Doug Ducey and Secretary of State Katie Holmes display legislation Ducey signed for Arizona”s Drought Contingency Plan. (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)

This was mistakenly approved by the previous administration, a spokesman for ADE said at the time, and the ESA director sent letters to the families demanding repayment of the amount used or they would lose voucher access.

Once the Legislature found out, both majority leaders sponsored mirror bills to fix the issue. Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman did not work with Rep. Warren Petersen or Sen. Rick Gray directly, but had discussed potential solutions with other legislators – including the three who represent the Navajo Nation in Legislative District 7.

Once a solution was reached, one that did not involve a voucher expansion, both the House and Senate approved the measure unanimously, and Gov. Doug Ducey signed it at the deadline, vowing to make it part of his agenda next session to allow Native American students to spend public monies outside the state’s borders.

The ESA bill was one of the final decisions Ducey made during the session, which means the session began and ended with immense bipartisan supported bills.

The first piece of legislation Ducey signed this session was the Drought Contingency Plan. There were a few bumps in the road, even post-signing, but the state was able to make its first DCP deadline with all but three legislators voting “aye.” The three Democratic senators voted against it because they thought the drought plan didn’t adequately address the issues of water scarcity and conservation.

The Legislature completed its two bills in time to meet federal standards, except it wasn’t good enough.

On January 31, the day Ducey signed the measures, he was with Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs and members of the Legislature and boasted about the historic moment.

“We did it by bringing everyone to the table, putting party labels aside and placing Arizona first,” he said. “The Drought Contingency Plan is a historic, bipartisan achievement.”

Other instances of highs and lows involved a religious mocking and a heartwarming moment in the final minutes before sine die.

Rep. Athena Salman, a known atheist, was in charge of delivering the opening prayer and chose to do so about nature. Rep. John Kavanagh, the following day, decided to introduce his “guest” in the gallery – it was God, and that led to a protest from Salman.

The final moments of the session did involve an uplifting situation in which Rep. Jennifer Longdon, D-Phoenix was physically lifted, in her wheelchair, onto the speaker dais. All other 59 representatives were able to sit in the chair all year, but not Longdon who has pushed for accessibility even before she was elected.

House Speaker Rusty Bowers then pulled out a measuring tape and vowed to fix this problem for next session.

“We can do this,” he said.

22,000 Arizona children could lose health care

Health care for more than 22,000 Arizona youngsters is in jeopardy because of congressional inaction.

The federal budget year expired Sept. 30 without lawmakers taking action to fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program for the new year. States use those dollars to provide care for about nine million children of the working poor, including 22,389 at last count in Arizona.

Congress’ failure to act on the $15 billion annual appropriation does not immediately leave these youngsters uninsured.

Heidi Capriotti, spokeswoman for the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, which administers the CHIP program, said officials from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services say they have some unspent dollars from the fiscal year just ending. Capriotti said there should be enough to carry Arizona through October and November.

There is broad bipartisan support for the program. But the debate over how to fund it, coupled with the recent dysfunction of Congress, leaves the question of whether it can be restored – and how quickly – up in the air.

“We expect the Congress is going to take action soon,” Capriotti said, adding the debate on this health care program “kind of got derailed by Graham-Cassidy,” the last version of Republicans’ unsuccessful effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

But she conceded that may not happen.

“Obviously, we want to give our members 30 days’ notice prior to any program change,” Capriotti said.

There is another option: The state could pick up the tab.

But that is unlikely, given that the Republican-controlled Legislature balked last year at renewing the program even with no state dollars needed.

Arizona already provides health care for individuals and families up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. That is $28,180 for a family of three.

CHIP, approved by Congress in 1997, is designed to cover the children in families who earn more than that but not enough to be able to afford private health insurance. Children can get covered if the family income is less than twice the federal poverty level, or $40,840, for that same family of three.

Arizona joined the federal program in 2001 under Gov. Jane Hull, a Republican. She said the federal match – three dollars for every state dollar – made it a good deal.

There have been bumps before in what is called the Kids Care program in Arizona, though not due to what is happening in Washington.

In 2010, lawmakers seeking to cut state spending said they could not afford even that 25 percent match. They imposed a freeze on enrollment, though those already in the program could remain as long as their families remained eligible.

The result was that the program, which had 45,000 children enrolled, dropped by last year to fewer than 1,000. It also left Arizona as the only state without a functioning program.

A divided Legislature last year agreed to reinstate the program after Congress agreed to pick up the full cost, at least through Sept. 30 of this year. It is that authorization – and more to the point, the funding – that is awaiting renewal.

But even with the state no longer having to provide a match, some Arizona legislators still opposed the program.

Republican U.S. Rep. Andy Biggs
Republican U.S. Rep. Andy Biggs

Andy Biggs, then the Senate president, said he wasn’t buying arguments that there would be no cost to the state. But if that were not the case, Arizona shouldn’t be lining up for the federal dollars, he said.

“While every program… has an advocate and a desire to accomplish a certain albeit potentially even altruistic or beneficent purpose, at some point one realizes that perhaps we can’t afford every program,” said Biggs, who at the time was running for Congress. He has since been elected.

And Sen. Nancy Barto, R-Phoenix, was unimpressed by arguments that Arizona has been the only state without a CHIP program.

Sen. Nancy Barto (R-Phoenix)
Sen. Nancy Barto (R-Phoenix)

“Well, kudos to us,” she said.

It actually took a bit of political gamesmanship to get the program restored over the opposition of GOP leadership and the lack of support from Gov. Doug Ducey.

Rep. Regina Cobb (R-Kingman)
Rep. Regina Cobb (R-Kingman)

Rep. Regina Cobb, R-Kingman, attached language to restart enrollment to Kids Care into legislation making changes in the program to allow more parents to use public dollars to send their children to private and parochial schools, something the Republican leaders wanted.

That gambit succeeded, as the House attached the amendment and approved the bill with 38 votes: 15 of the 36 Republicans joined with all 24 Democrats to override the GOP leaders.

Cobb, in pushing to restore Kids Care, conceded at the time that federal funding beyond Sept. 30 of this year was not assured. But she pointed out that if that happens, the measure contains language allowing the state to once again stop enrolling children, just as it did in 2010.

2nd straight year of calls for a lawmaker’s ouster

Rep. David Stringer, R-Prescott, answers questions Wednesday about his comments which were interpreted by some as racist. Stringer said he was not a racist but simply was detailing his views on the effects of rapid immigration on the country. With him is the Rev. Jarrett Maupin who agreed to let Stringer explain his comments to leaders of the African-American community in Phoenix. PHOTO BY HOWARD FISCHER/CAPITOL MEDIA SERVICES
Rep. David Stringer, R-Prescott, answers questions Wednesday about his comments which were interpreted by some as racist. Stringer said he was not a racist but simply was detailing his views on the effects of rapid immigration on the country. With him is the Rev. Jarrett Maupin who agreed to let Stringer explain his comments to leaders of the African-American community in Phoenix. PHOTO BY HOWARD FISCHER/CAPITOL MEDIA SERVICES

For the second year in a row, the House hovers on the edge of moral turmoil and the potential ouster of a member.

Twice this year, Rep. David Stringer, R-Prescott, has been recorded making inflammatory comments about race and immigration, and stories of private comments he made away from cameras and recording devices have come to light.

In June, he lamented that there aren’t “enough white kids to go around” in Arizona’s public schools.

In November, he said African Americans “don’t blend in.”

Now he faces numerous calls for his resignation, including from prominent members of his own party, and suggestions that he be recalled or expelled from the House if he refuses.

The controversial episode has parallels to the lead up to the 2018 legislative session.

In November 2017, the Arizona Capitol Times reported on a series of sexual harassment accusations made against then-Rep. Don Shooter, R-Yuma. Soon after, he was suspended from his duties as chairman of the House Appropriations Committee amid calls for him to leave the Legislature altogether.

Shooter wouldn’t quit, and ultimately he was expelled February 1 by his fellow House members by a 56-3 vote.

Unsurprisingly, Shooter was among the three who voted against the motion. So was Stringer, who lamented on the House floor the process that had led his colleagues to that point.

“I must vote no,” Stringer said that day. “And I hope that this procedure is never followed again. I would hate to be a victim, I would hate for any of you to be subject to this kind of a process.”

Stringer’s sin differs from Shooter, whose expulsion stemmed from graphic sexual comments he made toward women and men, including lobbyists and his fellow lawmakers. Investigators hired by the House also determined his actions, including lewd hand gestures and notes left for a fellow lawmaker, created a hostile work environment in violation of House policies.

Although Stringer’s words weren’t sexual or graphic, they have also had an impact on his colleagues and constituents, leading some to believe he simply cannot be an effective lawmaker anymore.

Rep. Rusty Bowers, R-Mesa. (Photo by Paulina Pineda/Special for Arizona Capitol Times.
Rep. Rusty Bowers, R-Mesa (Photo by Paulina Pineda/Special for Arizona Capitol Times.

Swift action

House Speaker-elect Rusty Bowers, R-Mesa, was quick to take action after the Phoenix New Times reported on Stringer’s latest comments on November 30.

In a written statement, Bowers said the comments were “vile” and had personally offended him. He asked Stringer to resign as chair of the House Sentencing and Recidivism Reform Committee that day and removed him entirely from the committee Stringer had fought for years to create.

Bowers has since dissolved the reform committee, and the issues that would have gone before it will be absorbed into the House Judiciary Committee, from which Stringer was also removed. Bowers additionally stripped Stringer of his seat on the chamber’s Education Committee, though he remains on the Government Committee.

Not everyone has been satisfied by the punishment, but Bowers told the Capitol Times he believes he has sanctioned Stringer appropriately and will go no further.

“The Constitution permits the Legislature to expel a member for their behavior but not for their beliefs or views, however repugnant they may be,” he said.

Instead, Bowers will leave the decision up to the voters of Legislative District 1, who just a month ago overwhelmingly re-elected Stringer. They could now choose to launch a recall effort against the lawmaker five days after he is sworn into office.

“That’s up to the people of District One,” Bowers said. “It sounds like they’re plenty upset and that that’s a course that they could take.”

On December 6, the newly elected House Democratic leadership – Reps. Charlene Fernandez, Randy Friese, Reginald Bolding and Athena Salman – sent a letter to Bowers saying he had not gone far enough. They agreed with his “well-reasoned rationale” for removing Stringer from three of his committee assignments, but they argued the same logic must apply to his remaining seat.

Additionally, they asked that Bowers call for a vote to censure Stringer if he does not resign before session begins on January 14.

“In November, Arizona voters chose to send one of the most diverse groups of legislators that we’ve ever seen (to the Capitol),” the Democrats wrote. “What our caucus celebrates as a symbol of our country’s unique strength and progress, Rep. David Stringer clearly sees as an existential threat to the American way of life.”

Friese, the incoming assistant minority leader, said while Stringer has already proven himself an ineffective legislator to his district, it’s too early to determine if he’ll be a drag on the entire body of the House.

If that turns out to be so, Democrats could make the case that Stringer is creating a hostile work environment in violation of House policy, Friese said.

“I think that there will be a hyper focus on how Mr. Stringer interacts with the body… as a whole, and what environment does that create,” he said.


Stringer’s views may have attracted widespread attention this year, but they came as no surprise to some in Yavapai County who’ve known the Republican for years.

Long before either recorded episode, Stringer reportedly made numerous other disparaging remarks that left the impression he was, as Prescott City Councilwoman Alexa Scholl put it, “morally flawed” and unfit for office.

Jonathan Conant, treasurer of the Yavapai County Bar Association and a Republican in LD1, said Stringer has been more careful with his words in the past, but he’s been emboldened the longer he’s got away with it.

“I feel dirty when I’m around him,” Conant said, describing Stringer as a man who is easily frustrated and quick to lash out with “morally reprehensible” speech.

He recalled several conversations with Stringer that suggested the lawmaker holds anti-Semitic views in addition to the disparaging beliefs he has expressed about people of color.

In July 2017, Conant’s wife Ali was a teacher and felt personally attacked when a conversation with Stringer about education turned “scary.”

She wrote about the interaction in a Facebook post, recalling someone present during the conversation who told Stringer he didn’t know who he was speaking to.

“At this point Representative Stringer looked directly at me and said, ‘I know exactly who I am speaking to,’” she wrote. “‘I see the San Francisco t-shirt with the peace sign and that… that…. that…Star of David. Oh, I know exactly who I am speaking to. She’s advertising it!’”

Even if giving Stringer the benefit of the doubt, Conant said Stringer’s choice of words tells a different story.

“He could be doing the best thing for the state, but if the appearance is not that, he’s not serving the state,” Conant said.

What’s next?

Following Stringer’s comments about “white kids” in Arizona schools in June, Gov. Doug Ducey called on Stringer to resign, arguing his words disqualified him from serving in the Legislature. It’s an opinion Ducey reiterated after Stringer’s latest episode.

AZGOP Chairman Jonathan Lines has also sought Stringer’s resignation, and the Prescott City Council voted on December 4 to pass a resolution adding to the demands that he step down.

Despite the outcry, Stringer has given no indication he’ll yield.

Over the summer, he defended his June comments as an honest attempt to discuss race, and appeared at Lo-Lo’s Chicken and Waffles to deliver an apology some found lacking. Since the Phoenix New Times report on his latest comments, Stringer has made no public statements, nor has he returned multiple requests for comment.

His fate may rest in the hands of his constituents, as Bowers and some Republicans balk at further punishment.

Rep. T.J. Shope, R-Coolidge, said he doesn’t see representatives going so far as to expel Stringer. While Shope said he personally has no love for the lawmaker, expelling Stringer for what amounts to his beliefs is a step too far for most lawmakers.

“I don’t think he deserves to be there,” Shope said. “But by God, the people in his district knew what he said a few months ago, and they sent him back.”

“Voters can be wrong,” Conant said.

The results may be different if given another chance, Conant said. That could happen if Stringer were ousted, be it by recall, impeachment or expulsion. Conant suggested that Stringer could be impeached under Article VIII of the Arizona Constitution, arguing his conduct constitutes malfeasance. And a petition is being circulated among attorneys in Yavapai County to ask the House to expel Stringer.

“People are tired. Do something once, shame on you. Do something twice, shame on me,” Conant said.

Pressure to do something may mount as more reporting on Stringer emerges. He has already been caught on tape twice, Shope noted, and more could come.

“Don’t you gotta think there are other recordings of Stringer that are going to come out? This is just going to be a slow leak that continues,” Shope said. “Do we get to the point where somebody’s personal feelings on race are an expellable offense? I don’t know.”

Ben Giles contributed to this report.

4 GOP lawmakers align with Democrats to kill tax cuts for veterans


State senators on Tuesday rejected the one tax break sought by Gov. Doug Ducey in his State of the State speech.

Four Republicans lined up with the 13 Senate Democrats to quash the idea of exempting military pensions from the state’s income tax.

None of the Republicans explained their decision during the vote. But Sen. J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, is pushing an alternate set of tax breaks, ones that would give broader relief to individuals and businesses.

“I generally oppose carve outs,” he told Capitol Media Services after the vote.

Sen. David Farnsworth, of Mesa expressed similar sentiments.

David Farnsworth
David Farnsworth

“When we make policies they need to be broad and affect everybody,” he said. “Any time we carve out any segment it shifts the load to everyone else.”

Ducey press aide Patrick Ptak said his boss is not deterred by Tuesday’s vote – or the fact that four members of his own party refused to go along.

“Because this is included in the governor’s budget package, our expectation is that it will be enacted as part of the final budget rather than as a stand-alone bill,” he said.

Tuesday’s vote is the second setback in a week for the governor in getting the priorities from his State of the State speech enacted.

Late last week Ducey had to give up on his call for lawmakers to put a provision into the Arizona Constitution forbidding cities from having policies which preclude law enforcement from cooperating with federal immigration officials. The governor found himself not only short of votes but facing opposition from the business community concerned about how putting such a measure on the November ballot would affect the state’s image and its ability to land conventions and conferences.

Arizona law currently exempts the first $3,500 of any military pension from state income tax. Ducey proposed removing that cap entirely — at a cost to the state of $43 million a year — calling it a matter of economic development.

“We have a goal: to make Arizona home base for veterans everywhere in the country,” he said.

Sen. Sonny Borrelli, R-Lake Havasu, who retired from the Marines after more than 20 years, echoed that theme Tuesday in trying to line up the votes for SB 1237.

“This encourages these vets to stay here, lay down roots, move and escape from other crazy states like what I did from California,” he said. And Borrelli said this isn’t necessarily a net loss of taxes to the state.

Sen. Sonny Borrelli (R-Lake Havasu City)
Sonny Borrelli

“I bought a house,” he said.

“I paid property taxes which goes to my local school,” Borrelli continued. “Everything I spent was taxed and went to the local community and even to the state” in sales taxes.

But Sen. Andrea Dalessandro, D-Green Valley, said she doesn’t see it that way.

In fact, she argued, cutting revenues actually can work against those who have retired from the military. She said that means less money going into the education of people who will provide them the health care they will need.

“That is really more important to me that they have someone to take care of them,” Dalessandro said.

And Sen. Jamescita Peshlakai, D-Window Rock, said the proposal would benefit only those with military pensions, not anyone who is a veteran. More to the point, she said it actually helps only those who retired as officers – with higher pensions.

Borrelli effectively conceded the point.

He said the average rank for an enlisted person after 20 years in the military is E-7, with a pension of less than $24,000 a year.

What makes that number significant is that Arizona already provides a $12,000 deduction from income for single people and $24,000 for couples. So that means an enlisted person who is married already has an exemption equal to his or her military pension.

What that leaves, Borrelli said, are folks like retired lieutenant colonels.

Sen. David Gowan, R-Sierra Vista, the prime sponsor of the legislation, told colleagues they need to look at the issue through more than the lens of lost state revenues.

“I’ve not served in the military at all,” he said.

“I do sponsor this bill in tribute to (those who) actually go out and sign their name on a dotted line to say, ‘I am willing to die for your freedoms today,’ ” Gowan said. “We can give back to them.”

Anyway, he said, they earned their pension not in Arizona but abroad, though there is nothing in the proposal specifying where they served and whether it was overseas.

Gowan is not giving up, using a procedural maneuver that would allow him to make another bid to line up the 16 votes in the 30-member chamber to resurrect the issue.


4 mayors want statewide mask mandate, but don’t enforce their own

Covid 19 stock

With a new spike in COVID-19 cases, the Democratic mayors of four cities renewed their demand Friday that Gov. Doug Ducey impose a statewide mask mandate even though they concede that their police are not enforcing their own local orders.

In an online press briefing, the mayors also said they want a mandatory 14-day quarantine of people who visit the state or proof of a negative test for COVID-19. The only exception would be for those who produce a negative test for the virus.

But the governor’s chief of staff said there’s nothing new in their arguments. And Daniel Scarpinato said his boss sees no reason to back away from his belief that the best way to get people to mask up is through messaging on their importance and securing voluntary compliance.

Whether that message is working, however, is in serious question.

The Department of Health Services reported 4,471 new cases of infection from the coronavirus. That compares with a peak of 5,450 at the end of June when Ducey imposed new restrictions on business and fewer than 600 a day in September before the new upswing. There also were 43 deaths reported, bringing the statewide tally to 6,427.

Meanwhile, a separate metric shows that the rate of spread in Arizona continues to rise.

And the Institute for Health Metrics Evaluation predicts that, absent some change in policies — whether masks or other restrictions — the demand for beds in intensive-care units will exceed capacity sometime this coming month.

Regina Romero
Regina Romero

Tucson Mayor Regina Romero said the messaging about masks being done by the governor’s office, backed by a paid public relations and media campaign, isn’t enough.

“What we need is decisive statewide action,” she said. “Unfortunately, we have yet to see that from Gov. Ducey.”

In fact, Ducey did not want any sort of mask mandate at all, even issuing an executive order barring local officials from imposing their own. It was only after Romero and others threatened to go ahead anyway — and provoke a legal fight — that the governor backed down.

Now Ducey is using that option for local action to explain why more is not needed, claiming that existing ordinances cover 90% of Arizonans. Romero scoffed at that as an answer.

“COVID-19 does not see county or city limits,” she said.

Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego cited the predictions that hospitals could run out of ICU beds. And that, in turn, could lead to implementation of the Crisis Standards of Care which would permit medical personnel to essentially triage patients to determine who gets what limited care is available.

She also pointed out that Ducey, at his most recent press conference, said he believes that masks do help stop the spread. But that, Gallego said, is not enough.

“You can’t say you believe in it and not implement the policy,” she said.

That’s not how Ducey sees it.

Gov. Doug Ducey explains why he's not implementing new restrictions even as he concedes Wednesday  that the rate of COVID-19 infection in Arizona is on the rise. With him is state health chief Cara Christ. (Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer)
Gov. Doug Ducey explains why he’s not implementing new restrictions even as he concedes Nov. 18, 2020, that the rate of COVID-19 infection in Arizona is on the rise. With him is state health chief Cara Christ. (Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer)

At that Wednesday press event, the governor noted that officials in some communities, facing local opposition, have opted not to impose mask mandate or have repealed the ones that were in place. That sort of controversy, the governor said, doesn’t help build compliance.

“What I want to avoid is some of the division and politics that have happened around this issue,” Ducey said, saying he prefers “participation and cooperation.”

That, in turn, goes to the question of enforcement.

All four cities — Tucson, Phoenix, Tolleson and Flagstaff — have their own mask mandates. But even Romero conceded that there are people at events in her city who are not complying.

More to the point, citations for violating the city ordinance are not being issued.

“Pima County Health Department is responsible for enforcement,” Romero said.

That’s not exactly true. When Ducey amended his executive order allowing for local mask-up ordinances, he also gave cities the authority to compel compliance.

But Romero said it’s up to individuals who see violations to call the health department to report not just the local mask ordinance but also things like crowding in bars, which is prohibited under the statewide executive order.

“We know and realize there are bad actors,” she said.

And what of the role of Tucson police?

“TPD doesn’t go into a business and take it upon themselves to enforce that mask mandate,” Romero said. “What we’re doing is coordinating and cooperating with Pima County Health Department.”

That, however, raises the question of what would be the point of a statewide mask mandate if enforcement won’t be any stricter than it is now. Romero, however, said a single law with a single message is better than the “patchwork” set of ordinances that exist now.

“That’s why it’s important that Gov. Ducey lead,” she said. And Romero said it also means that local health departments can work directly with the state.

Kate Gallego
Kate Gallego

But Gallego conceded that the issue of curbing the virus may be less tied to people wearing masks in public than other forms of transmission. She said there is an issue of spread in “small groups of people who know each other, including family members.

“It is not going to be possible to have enforcement at people’s homes if they are having big Thanksgivings in their dining room,” she said.

Gallego said her own city’s police department has had “hundreds of educational contacts with our residents talking about the importance of masks.”

“We believe that arresting people and putting them in jail — that would be one of the most likely areas for transmission — is not the way to get through this,” she said.

The issue of mandatory testing of new arrivals goes a step beyond the directive by Ducey on Wednesday for the state health department to set up sites at Sky Harbor, Tucson International and Phoenix Gateway airports where people can get free saliva testing and results within 48 hours. The governor said that anyone who tests positive would be expected to self-quarantine.

There is precedent for what they want. The governor himself issued a similar edict in April on visitors from the New York City area after there was a spike in cases there.

That order later expired when infection rates in the tri-state area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut declined.

Scarpinato said there’s no reason for that now. He said Ducey believes that if free testing is convenient and the results come back positive that visitors will voluntarily agree to remain away from others.

“We know that people want to get tested, we know that people want to act responsibly,” Scarpinato said.

He also suggested the mayors were being intellectually dishonest in pushing the importance of a quarantine, noting that when Ducey issued his April order he got kickback from Phoenix.

An aide to Gallego insisted that the Federal Aviation Agency prohibits airport employees from participating in this kind of public health screening. And Annie DeGray said that even includes making announcements to arriving passengers that they must quarantine themselves and cannot simply leave the airport to go out and do what they want.

9/11-era law gives governor extensive authority in virus outbreak

Passengers wearing masks as a precaution against the spread of the new coronavirus COVID-19 use their phones at the Sao Paulo International Airport in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)
Passengers wearing masks as a precaution against the spread of the new coronavirus COVID-19 use their phones at the Sao Paulo International Airport in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020. A law passed in 2002 to address bioterrorism threats gives Gov. Doug Ducey broad authority in the case of an outbreak of the virus in Arizona.  (AP Photo/Andre Penner)

Wondering what Gov. Doug Ducey could do if coronavirus should begin to spread in Arizona?

Turns out, quite a lot, courtesy of some post 9/11 fears.

A state law passed in the months following the 2001 terrorist attack allows the state’s chief executive officer to order medical examinations and even isolate and quarantine people — all without court approval — if he decides to declare an emergency due to the any sort of virus outbreak.

And he even could use police and the National Guard to enforce his orders.

The law was a direct response to the Sept. 11 attacks. It was designed to provide a comprehensive plan of what happens in case of a biological terrorist attack, beefing up existing law that give the governor powers in emergencies.

The wording, however, is much broader. It includes any illness, health condition or syndrome caused not only by bioterrorism but also any “epidemic or pandemic disease.”

It starts with an enhanced surveillance advisory.

That triggers mandatory reporting by doctors and veterinarians of illness. But it even requires pharmacists to notify state officials if there is an “unusual increase” in prescriptions for antibiotics or even in over-the-counter drugs that might be purchased by someone with an illness.

Then there is tracking. That includes allowing the health department to access confidential patient records and to interview anyone.

And if the governor declares a state of emergency, state and local health officials have the power to quarantine anyone who has contracted the disease or who has been exposed.

The law does require the agencies to use the “least restrictive means” to sequester people to protect the public and prevent the spread of the disease. And it spells out that those who are quarantined, whether in their own homes or elsewhere, are to be provided adequate food, clothing, medical care “and a means of communicating with those in and outside these settings.”

But it does allow quarantine without a court order if health officials determine any delay would post “an immediate and serious threat to the public health.”

There is, however, a requirement to seek court approval within 10 days. And anyone who is quarantined can seek a court order, with some deadlines for court action.

A state of emergency also allows the governor to order to mandate medical examinations for anyone who has been exposed and ration medicine and vaccines. And, in the case of highly contagious and highly fatal diseases, the governor can mandate treatment or vaccination of those who are diagnosed with the illness “or who are reasonably believed to have been exposed or who may reasonably be expected to be exposed.”

And the law requires law enforcement and the National Guard to enforce both these requirements for treatment and vaccination and any orders for quarantine.

The statute does have a notable exception: It does not permit any form of quarantine or medical treatment for those with acquired immune deficiency syndrome or any other infection caused by the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV.

Ducey is clearly aware of what he told KTAR this past week are his “immense authorities” to act in

Not everyone serving in the 2002 Legislature thought the broad changes in law were a good idea.
House Majority Whip Robert Blendu, R-Litchfield Park, one of only 10 lawmakers to vote against HB 2044, said the governor – Jane Hull at the time – already has broad emergency powers.
“If she needs more, no one from the governor’s office came down and told me,” he said.

9th Circuit Court halts voter registration

Brazil Vote Concept

Arizonans who want to vote this election now have only through Thursday to get signed up.

In an order issued late Tuesday, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals concluded that U.S. District Court Judge Steven Logan, an appointee of President Obama, acted illegally when he extended the state’s voter registration deadline from Oct. 5 until Oct. 23.

“The district court’s order was an obvious abuse of discretion,” wrote the judges.

But two of the judges said it makes no sense to compound the problem by immediately halting all new registrations. Instead, they left the door open for two more days.

Potentially more significant, the order contains another provision that spells out that anyone who registered after Oct. 5 — as Logan allowed — will get to keep their right to vote on Nov. 3 despite missing the original deadline. The only requirement is that their registration forms must “reach county election offices by that Thursday night deadline.

So far, according to data compiled Tuesday by Hobbs’ office, there were 26,652 new names added to the registration list since Oct. 5. That includes 8,317 Republicans, 6,237 Democrats, 393 Libertarians and 11,705 not affiliated with any recognized political party.

On top of that, another 74,035 people used the window of opportunity to update their registrations. That can include changing parties and updating addresses.

Only Judge Jay Bybee, an appointee of President George W. Bush, dissented, saying that those who registered after the Oct. 5 deadline — what is in state law — should not be allowed to cast a ballot for the general election. But the majority said that an immediate and retroactive halt would only further complicate matters, forcing election officials to undo the registrations that already have come in the door.

The order came over the objection of Attorney General Mark Brnovich. He was willing to allow those who already registered to vote but sought an immediate cutoff of new signups.

Attorney Kory Langhofer, representing the Republican National Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee, filed his own objection.

Langhofer wanted the court to rule that anyone who signed up after Oct. 5 was ineligible to vote, even if they already had registered since that date. He said no decision has been made whether to seek review by the full 9th Circuit.

Logan issued his ruling earlier this month following a complaint by Mi Familia Vota and the Arizona Coalition for Change that the COVID-19 outbreak and the resultant travel and gathering restrictions imposed in March by Gov. Doug Ducey curtailed their ability to sign up new voters. He agreed to add an extra 2 1/2 weeks to help compensate.

At a hearing Monday, two of the appellate judges expressed doubts about the legality of Snow’s ruling. But rather than decide the issue, they directed the attorneys to work out something themselves.


9th Circuit takes Ducey’s side in school fund case

A federal appeals court has overturned a ruling that could have affected the ability of Gov. Doug Ducey and future governors to tap a special education trust account to funnel more cash into schools.

Neil V. Wake
Neil V. Wake
In a unanimous decision Tuesday, a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said District Court Judge Neil Wake, a President Bush appointee, never should have heard the complaint by Michael Pierce. He charged that Ducey had acted illegally in tapping the fund, created by Congress in 1912 when Arizona became a state, after voters approved Proposition 123 in 2016 without first getting congressional approval.

But the appellate judges, consisting of one President Trump appointee and two President Obama appointees, said in an unsigned opinion the only people who have standing to sue under the 1912 Enabling Act are those who actually have incurred an “injury in fact.” And Pierce conceded that his only injury is because he is a resident of Arizona and the state is harmed if more money is taken from the trust than Congress allowed.

That, the appellate judges, said, means Pierce had no standing to sue in the first place.

Doug Ducey
Doug Ducey
They acknowledged, as did Wake, that Ducey continues to distribute funds according to the terms of Proposition 123. But they pointed out that, in the interim — though not before voters approved the ballot measure — Congress altered the federal law to effectively and retroactively authorize what Ducey had done.

Finally, the appellate court said Wake never should have barred Ducey — or future governors — from again altering the distribution formula absent first getting congressional approval. They said that legal dispute is not “ripe for adjudication” because it is based on events that may or may not ever occur again.

Proposition 123 was Ducey’s plan to put more dollars into K-12 education without hiking taxes.

In essence, the governor asked voters to tap the special trust fund which consists of money earned from the sale or lease of the 10 million acres of land that the federal government gave Arizona as part of the Enabling Act. About eight million acres remain.

Under normal circumstances, the beneficiaries of the trust — in this case, public schools — would get a certain percentage of what is there.

Ducey’s proposal sought to more than triple the amount to funnel an extra $3.5 billion into schools for a 10-year period.

Pierce sued, contending that any change in the distribution required Congress to amend the Enabling Act. There also was the fact that, in boosting withdrawals through 2024, it would leave less in the trust at that point than if the formula were not changed.

Ducey disagreed. But he eventually did get congressional approval.

But Wake sided with Pierce, saying the governor was wrong to make the withdrawals first and then get the legal blessing of Congress.

Wake acknowledged that, at least as far as Proposition 123 is concerned, the matter now is moot, what with Congress ratifying the change. But the judge issued an order barring Ducey — or any other future governor — from making additional changes in the formula without going to Congress first.

What makes that particularly crucial is that the distribution formula automatically returns to pre-2016 levels after 2024. And that means a net reduction in state dollars for education unless the formula is again altered or some other source of cash is found.

Ducey, not wanting that restriction for any successor, then sought to void Wake’s ruling.

But the legal dispute also took on an unusual and unexpected personal turn as the governor lashed out at the judge on a personal level.

“Judge Wake puts on a robe in the morning and thinks he’s God,” the governor said at the time. “But he’s not.”

And it got even more personal.

“I want to tell you what everyone down at the courthouse needs to know,” Ducey said.

“It’s time for Judge Wake to retire,” the governor continued. “He’s an embarrassment to the legal community.”

As a sitting judge, Wake could not comment. But gubernatorial press aide Patrick Ptak said it was not unfair for Ducey to attack a judge who is legally precluded from responding to personal attacks.

Wake got to the federal bench in 2004 after being nominated by Republican President George W. Bush and with the recommendation of the state’s two GOP senators, John McCain and Jon Kyl.

9th Circuit to hear appeal on McSally’s appointment

Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., smiles with her staff after delivering her first major speech on the Senate floor, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, July 30, 2019. McSally is a former Air Force colonel who flew combat missions in Iraq and Kuwait. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., smiles with her staff after delivering her first major speech on the Senate floor, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, July 30, 2019. McSally is a former Air Force colonel who flew combat missions in Iraq and Kuwait. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Federal appellate judges have agreed to decide whether Martha McSally can continue to serve as a U.S. senator at least through the 2020 election.

And they have agreed to rush the case – at least by judicial standards.

In a brief order, the judges of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected arguments by McSally and Gov. Doug Ducey, who appointed her, that there is no need to expedite the issue.

“Regardless of how this court ultimately decides this appeal, Arizona voters will have the opportunity to select the person to complete Sen. John McCain’s term in 2020,” wrote Brett Johnson, one of the attorneys representing the governor. And he argued that there would not be a need for an expedited hearing had the challengers to the appointment moved a bit faster when the case was heard in federal district court in Phoenix.

U.S. senator John McCain looks on during a press conference at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014. McCain and several other U.S. senators said they've warned the Afghan President Hamid Karzai that a failure to sign a key Afghan-U.S. security deal would pose a threat to the country and the region. (AP Photo/Massoud Hossaini)

James Tyrell III, McSally’s attorney, echoed those arguments in what amounts to a “me, too” filing with the court.

But that didn’t convince the appellate judges who agreed to move more quickly than normal and set a hearing for November.

That still leaves the question of whether there can be a final resolution and an order for a special election if it comes to that before the already scheduled August 2020 primary where McSally could face Republican foes in her bid to fill out the last two years of McCain’s six-year term and, if she survives that, the November general election where Democrat Mark Kelly hopes to unseat her. That’s because whoever loses this round is likely to seek U.S. Supreme Court review which could delay a final ruling.

“All we can do is try,” said attorney Michael Kielsky who is representing the challengers. And he conceded that a final determination could come too late to force the special election being sought.

But Kielsky said that, if nothing else, it would set the precedent for what happens in future Senate vacancies and how long an unelected choice by the governor can serve.

Central to that is the 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It took the power to name U.S. senators away from state lawmakers and gave it directly to voters.

It also says that when there are vacancies, the governor “shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies.” Ducey has done that, setting the primary for Aug. 25, 2020 and the general election for the following Nov. 3 to determine who gets to serve through 2022.

The lawsuit, however, contends the Constitution requires the appointment to be temporary “until the people fill the vacancies by election as the Legislature may direct.”

In this case, McCain died last August.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, left, appointed former U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl on Sept. 4 to fill the seat vacated by the late Sen. John McCain. Though Kyl accepted the appointment, he will not seek election in 2020 nor did he agree to serve out the full remainder of the term. PHOTO BY KATIE CAMPBELL/ARIZONA CAPITOL TIMES
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, left, appointed former U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl on Sept. 4, 2018, to fill the seat vacated by the late Sen. John McCain. Kyl resigned in January. PHOTO BY KATIE CAMPBELL/ARIZONA CAPITOL TIMES

Ducey initially named former Sen. Jon Kyl to the seat until he quit in, at which point the governor selected McSally who had just been defeated in her own Senate race by Democrat Kyrsten Sinema.

But challengers are arguing that 27 months between McCain’s death and the November 2020 election hardly counts as a “temporary” appointment. He wants a special election ahead of that to give voters the chance to put someone other than the unelected McSally in office to represents them as soon as possible.

Challengers have to seek 9th Circuit intervention because U.S. District Judge Diane Humetewa rejected his arguments that the Constitution requires there be a special election within a year, if not less, when there is a vacancy in a senate seat.

In her June ruling, Humetewa acknowledged that Ducey is allowed to fill a Senate seat on a “temporary” basis.

But the judge said she finds nothing in the law that says 27 months is too long for a temporary appointment. And Humetewa rejected the argument that allowing McSally to serve until the 2020 election infringes on that 17th Amendment right of voters to choose their own senators.

Humetewa also accepted arguments by Ducey’s attorneys that there are good reasons not to call a special election and instead let McSally serve through 2020. That includes arguments that turnout at a special election would be less than during a regular one, plus the cost of a special election.

9th Circuit upholds law to burden Libertarian candidates

Symbol of law and justice in the empty courtroom, law and justice concept.
Deposit Photos

A federal appeals court has upheld a 2015 state law which the Libertarian Party charges – and some Republican lawmakers admitted – was specifically designed to keep its candidates off the ballot.

In a unanimous ruling Friday, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals acknowledged that the law could require would-be Libertarian candidates to gather the signatures of up to 30 percent of registered party members to qualify for the primary.

But Judge Margaret McKeown, writing for the court, said that isn’t the fault of the Republican-controlled Legislature that enacted the requirement.

She pointed out that the Libertarians, just like Republicans and Democrats, can offer themselves for office by getting the signatures of just 1 percent of those who are eligible to sign petitions. That means not just Libertarians but also those who are unaffiliated with any other political party.

Margaret McKeown
Margaret McKeown

McKeown, a President Clinton appointee, said it is the decision of the Libertarian Party to allow only party members to vote in the Libertarian primary.

“And it does not want its candidates to solicit signatures from non-members,” she said.

Put simply, McKeown said the problem is of the party’s own making because of party policy. And she said that voiding the law – and going back to the way things were – would “incentivize parties to have fewer registered members and therefore artificially reduce the signature requirements.”

Michael Kielsky, a party member and plaintiff in the lawsuit, said he expect the ruling to be appealed.

Prior to 2015, candidates for recognized minor parties could get on the ballot simply by submitting petitions with the signatures of one-half of one percent of those registered with the party. In 2018 for the Libertarians, a statewide candidate would have had to collect around 160 names.

That year Republicans lowered the requirement to one-quarter of one percent. But they engineered it so that the figure was based on all who could sign a candidate’s petition.

That added political independents to the base, who actually outnumber Democrats and run a close second to Republicans.

So in 2018 the minimum signature requirement for a Libertarian running statewide was 3,153, about 10 percent of all those actually registered as Libertarians. For the Green Party the floor was 1,253.

Meanwhile the numbers for Republican and Democrat nominations remained close to what it always had been: 6,223 for the GOP and 5,801 for Democrats, both a small fraction of each party’s voter registration.

McKeown acknowledged the burden for Libertarians with the party’s desire to have petitions signed only by party faithful. And she said it could reach 30 percent for some offices.

But she said states are entitled to make the “preliminary showing of a significant modicum of support” as a condition of being put on the ballot. And the judge dismissed the current burden as being unreasonable, citing the fact that Arizona law permits people to get nomination signatures not just in person but online.

Kielsky said the court ignored the evidence that there were political motives behind the change in the law.

“It is designed to screw us,” he told Capitol Media Services.

In debating the change, GOP lawmakers made it clear they hoped to improve the odds for Republican lawmakers who might otherwise lose votes to a Libertarian.

As proof they cited the 2012 congressional race for CD 1, which runs from Flagstaff and the Navajo Nation to the edge of Tucson.

Republican Jonathan Paton garnered 113,594 votes against 122,774 for Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick. But Libertarian Kim Allen picked up 15,227 votes – votes that then-Rep. J.D. Mesnard, now a state senator, contended likely would have gone to Paton.

Similarly, in the newly created CD 9 which encompasses parts of Tempe and Phoenix, Democrat Kyrsten Sinema beat Vernon Parker by 10,251 votes, with Libertarian Powell Gammill tallying 16,620.

And to ensure the point was not lost on his GOP colleagues, Mesnard made the issue more personal, warning them that they, too, could find themselves aced out of a seat if they don’t change the signature requirements.

“I can’t believe we wouldn’t see the benefit of this,” he said during a floor speech.

Kielsky said all that presumes that “the votes belong to a particular party, they do not belong to the people.”

The law produced the desired results: There was not a Libertarian Party candidate for governor on the ballot for the first time in more than two decades. That cleared the way for a head-to-head race between incumbent Republican Doug Ducey and Democrat challenger David Garcia, without either candidate having to worry about votes being siphoned off by a minor party contender.

A lot could go wrong for both flyers in LD6 Senate race

Elections right ahead on a green highway sign.

In 2018, Felicia French came within 600 votes of doing the improbable – a Democrat flipping a legislative seat in northern Arizona and creating a 30-30 deadlock in the House.

Two years of near-constant campaigning later, the retired Army colonel from Pine is weeks away from an election that could end up deciding the balance of the state Senate. And while she said she’s optimistic about the eventual election results, she’s leaning on lessons learned from flying medical evacuation helicopters during her 32 years in the Army. 

“The joke about the difference between a helicopter pilot and a fixed-wing pilot is that helicopter pilots are always anticipating something going wrong because you don’t have much of a safety cushion. We fly in a lower altitude, so if anything goes wrong you don’t have much time to recover from it and do a corrective action emergency procedure,” French said. “So you were always looking for what’s going to go wrong, and I feel that way now.” 

A lot could go wrong for French in Legislative District 6. Republicans still hold a nearly 9-percentage point edge in voter registration – more than double their lead in most other hotly contested districts. The district went for Donald Trump by double digits in 2016, and while moderate Democrats Tom O’Halleran and Ann Kirkpatrick have represented the area in Congress since 2012, their campaigns are bolstered by Native American voters who don’t live in LD6.

But a lot could also go wrong for retired Air Force Lt. Col. Wendy Rogers, a jet pilot and the Republican candidate who pulled off a lopsided upset victory over longtime Sen. Sylvia Allen, R-Snowflake. Rogers’ decade-long streak of losing congressional races in Tempe and northern Arizona convinced some Republicans that she would cost the GOP their Senate majority, while her scorched-earth primary against Allen alienated would-be allies in LD6, including current Rep. Walt Blackman, R-Snowflake. 

“It’s a district that the Democrats think they can actually swoop in and take,” Arizona Republican Party Chair Kelli Ward said during a September 30 live-streamed town hall with Republican candidates.

Wendy Rogers
Wendy Rogers

The Rogers campaign declined to participate in a phone interview. But during the Sepember 30 town hall with Ward, she said her campaign has been rallying Republican support since the primary, during which 8,000 more LD6 voters voted in the Republican primary than the Democratic one. 

“We played the long game and we reached out to infrequent Republican voters,” she said. “We know that will put President Trump and Martha McSally, people who have to run statewide, in very good stead. We’re very proud of that.”

Rogers faced criticism from both her primary opponent and Democrats in the district for being too focused on federal issues, rather than issues specific to rural Arizona. She said during the Republican town hall that the biggest issue in her district is preventing Flagstaff from turning into Portland, Oregon, a liberal bastion.   

Rogers is on track to both outraise and outspend every other legislative candidate in Arizona’s history. The roughly $551,000 she has collected with a month to go before the election is only $3,000 less than prodigious fundraiser Kate Brophy McGee, R-Phoenix, raised for a nail-bitingly close Senate race in 2018. 

And outside groups, from national Democratic organizations, to conservative PACs that backed Allen over Rogers to a political action committee backed by Gov. Doug Ducey, have already sunk more than $600,000 into advocating for or against either Rogers and French. 

Ducey’s PAC, Arizonans for Strong Leadership, is the biggest individual player, spending more than $140,000 on negative ads about French and another $91,000 to back Rogers. It has created a more negative campaign than French experienced when she ran for the House in 2018. 

Felicia French
Felicia French

 “They’re in the local paper,” French said. “Every time it’s published, there’s a full-page ad against me and I didn’t have that last time.”

 Ducey’s PAC is invested in portraying French — as well as Democrats running in tight districts in suburban Phoenix — as San Francisco-style liberals, playing off the Republican mantra of  “Don’t California my Arizona.” In French’s case, that means ads highlighting her support for a 2018 renewable energy ballot initiative that voters overwhelmingly rejected and 2018 comments about not wanting charter schools to receive public education funding, said Republican consultant Barrett Marson, who works with the governor’s PAC. 

“She has a lot of wonderful California ideas that just don’t fly in Arizona,” Marson said.  

French said she found those kinds of attacks “honestly quite amusing,” adding that she was a registered Republican until about 15 years ago and that nobody could serve 32 years in the military and be an “extreme liberal.” 

She left the Republican Party while she was studying climate change as a national security issue at the Department of Defense, because congressional Republicans were ramping up a policy of denying the existence of manmade climate change. It took several more years for French to officially join the Democratic Party, because initially she didn’t see Democrats being fiscally responsible.


A majority under pressure reveals legislative fissures

Rep. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, addresses those protesting the closure of businesses April 22 at the state Capitol. With her is Sen. David Farnsworth, R-Mesa. PHOTO BY HOWARD FISCHER/CAPITOL MEDIA SERVICES
Rep. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, addresses those protesting the closure of businesses April 22 at the state Capitol. With her is Sen. David Farnsworth, R-Mesa. PHOTO BY HOWARD FISCHER/CAPITOL MEDIA SERVICES

Early the morning of May 7, a Thursday, a motley crew of senior Senate Republicans and their Democratic counterparts, disregarding a chorus of conflicting desires from the membership as a whole, pulled the plug on the 2020 legislative session.

It appeared to be a practical decision. More than a month of quarantine has exposed deep fault lines within the majority party, schisms so vast that further legislating would likely devolve into an attritious slog. Those divisions haven’t gone away – a sizable chunk of legislative Republicans want to get back to business, and many of those same lawmakers have repeatedly threatened to raise hell at figureheads in their own party for putting the state under a quasi-lockdown for the past several weeks.

The saga began on March 30, when Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, himself a Republican, followed other states in announcing a stay-at-home order that discouraged Arizonans from going out into public except to participate in a broad list of “essential” activities. Nonetheless, frustration with Ducey from his own party quickly developed.

The executive orders have highlighted three distinct factions in the House and Senate Republican caucuses: those who trust that the governor made the right decision, those rankled by some orders but not willing to roll their party leader and those who are ready to burn it all down.

Leading the charge in the House, the incubation chamber for this most recent strain of intra-party dissent, is Rep. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa. She’s been vocal – on social media, in the press and at protests in front of the Capitol – in her insistence that the stay-at-home order amounts to a tyrannical overreach by the governor.

“I have to be a voice for my community,” Townsend said. “And they are screaming. I don’t know who [Ducey] is talking to, but it’s not LD16.”

Townsend has gone as far as to write a letter to U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr, asking him to issue an opinion on the constitutionality of the stay-at-home order.

And, in a move that is perhaps even more significant now that legislative adjournment is imminent, she drafted a concurrent resolution that would effectively end the governor’s declaration of emergency, terminating the stay-at-home order with it. Ending the session early, she said, would amount to a failure of leadership.

A declaration of emergency can be terminated in two ways – by the governor’s decree or by a concurrent resolution of the Legislature. Although Townsend was the first to raise the possibility, a growing number of her colleagues in the House, including Majority Leader Warren Petersen, have joined her in calls for legislative action. In the Senate, Michelle Ugenti-Rita hoped to carry a companion resolution, but she said on Facebook May 7 that Senate Prsident Karen Fann will not allow her to introduce it.

“I wish Warren Petersen was our speaker,” Townsend said. “He would be able to take care of this without giving up. I hope [Bowers] does the right thing.”

Townsend’s seatmate, Sen. David Farnsworth of Mesa, said he strongly supported both proposed resolutions. Farnsworth, who has attended two protests at the Capitol calling on the governor to immediately reopen the state, said there are always crises to provide excuses for the government to grow its authority, but lawmakers and the people of Arizona must remind the governor that his first duty is to protect the individual liberties of Arizonans.

David Farnsworth
David Farnsworth

“If I were king of Arizona, I would open it up,” Farnsworth said. “If people want to stay home, let them stay home and cower under the covers.”

Frustration with the governor’s handling of the virus has spilled over into frustration with leadership within the Legislature. Whispers abound about a ploy to instate more outwardly conservative leaders, those who might be more ideologically sympathetic with the Liberty Caucus – a group of Tea Party-style Republicans who came to power in the state more than a decade ago under the guidance of then-Rep. David Gowan, who would go on to be House speaker and then join the Senate.

One grievance is a lack of communication. This was on full display when Bowers and Fann announced in April that they planned to convene the Legislature and adjourn shortly thereafter on May 1, without first securing buy-in from many members.

One such lawmaker, Rep. Mark Finchem of Oro Valley, said at the time that leadership’s decision to go ahead with a plan that hadn’t been shopped around was “disturbing,” and that he only found out about the May 1 date from an attorney friend who happened to have business before the Legislature.

The Senate’s new plans to adjourn sine die on May 8 also came as a surprise to many members, said Sen. J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler. Mesnard, who favors continuing the legislative session indefinitely so lawmakers can easily come back to pass legislation or serve as a check on the governor, said Republicans received individual follow-up messages after a closed caucus meeting on the morning of May 7 asking if they would support sine die or a bill proposed by Sen. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert, to protect people and businesses that disobey Ducey’s executive orders from punishment or civil liability.

After that, Mesnard said he learned about sine die plans from reporters who called following Fann’s early morning press release.

“When leadership wants to do something, unless there’s enough folks pushing back, it will happen,” he said. “The Senate leadership has made clear that it wants to sine die. I don’t think that there are enough folks pushing back.”

J.D. Mesnard
J.D. Mesnard

Mesnard said he’s counting on Republicans in the House to push back, something Rep. Walt Blackman, R-Snowflake, said he and his fellow colleagues in the Liberty Caucus are doing.

“We’re in a situation where we need to speak up,” Blackman said, adding that he’s counting on that group to fight to “get back to work,” presaging the likely pushback that a motion to adjourn will get from some in the GOP.

While Blackman’s not outwardly critical of the job that leadership has done, he acknowledged that others are – and said that the House majority position that Petersen will vacate if he goes to the Senate may present an opportunity.

In fact, Blackman said he has been approached by other members to make a bid for leadership – a job he doesn’t doubt his ability to do, but nonetheless is not interested in for now.

“When you have this much pressure in a situation, the idea that we are somehow showing stress cracks should not be all that surprising,” said Rep. John Allen, R-Scottsdale.

Interestingly, similar factors were at play when the Liberty Caucus was born. In 2009, Gowan, then a freshman member of the House, led a cadre of lawmakers who were frustrated with House Speaker Kirk Adams, who drafted a recession-era budget proposal that didn’t make the aggressive cuts that the new class of conservatives wanted since they were rid of Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano. She resigned to join the Obama administration.

Gowan had promised on the campaign trail to read every budget before voting on it, and now was being robbed of the opportunity to review the bill, which was written without input from the freshmen. He and the fledgling Liberty Caucus refused to vote for the bill, and strong-armed Adams into making deeper budget cuts.

Whether this new iteration of staunch conservatives will be as effective this time is unclear – though they’ve got a growing track record, having cajoled Bowers into backing down from a plan to adjourn on May 1, and raising their concerns to the level of the governor, who has expedited the end of the stay-at-home order.

“The governor has moved quite a bit toward the Legislature’s worldview,” said Allen.

Democrats see the winds changing too, especially with the about-face the governor pulled in extending and then quickly dialing back his executive order.

Charlene Fernandez
Charlene Fernandez

“From one day to the next, things changed,” said House Minority Leader Charlene Fernandez, of Yuma.

Still, moving the needle any further may be difficult. Even though GOP membership has made it quite clear that top-down decision-making causes heartburn, many were once again surprised to hear about the May 7 decision to adjourn the next day. And a concurrent resolution to overturn the emergency declaration would require dozens of puzzle pieces to fall into place in a very specific order, largely because lawmakers have blown by deadlines for the introduction of legislation. Democrats, of course, wouldn’t vote on such a measure, and the same can likely be said for a small handful of moderate Republicans in the Senate.

Sen. Kate Brophy McGee, R-Phoenix, is among the group of moderate Republicans who believe Ducey made the right decisions with the information he had available. Members of her caucus were understandably alarmed by Ducey’s comments about potentially jailing, fining or revoking business licenses for people who flouted his executive orders, she said, but she wouldn’t support their “reactionary” resolutions to end the state of emergency.

The state had 9,945 COVID-19 cases and 450 deaths as of the morning of May 7, and those numbers continue to rise. Ducey now plans for his stay-at-home order to expire May 15, with retail and salons fully reopening May 8 and restaurants allowed to resume dine-in seating on May 11.

The primary response of both the Legislature and the governor needed to be protecting public health, Brophy McGee said. But she said it may be necessary to clarify how much authority lawmakers ceded to the executive in the name of public safety, she said.

“When the house is on fire, or there is a threat of fire, you don’t necessarily have the time to check off all the boxes,” she said. “This whole set of circumstances was so unprecedented, and it came upon us so fast.”

Fellow moderate Sen. Frank Pratt, a Republican from Casa Grande, described the resolutions aiming to overthrow the governor’s order as a “bad idea.” Those questioning Ducey’s actions should consider that the governor made decisions based on communicating with public health experts, Pratt said.

“I believe it’s kind of a slap at the governor,” Pratt said of Townsend’s resolution. “I support what the governor is trying to do. He’s charged with a real tough decision.”

A rundown of issues likely to rise in 2018 legislative session

While public education is expected to be the top issue when lawmakers return on Monday, a few other subjects are likely to command some attention.

Despite gains under Obamacare, roughly 800, 000 Arizonans do not have health care coverage. Insurance companies are tweaking policies in an effort to get those people to enroll.

Health care:

Look for the governor to propose statutory limits on the amount of opioids doctors can prescribe.

Gov. Doug Ducey, facing what he last year declared to be a health care emergency, already has laid the groundwork for what he wants. He ordered the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, the state’s Medicaid program, to limit the number of days of opioids someone could receive. That’s based on conclusions by state Health Director Cara Christ that prescriptions for more than five days lead to a sharply higher risk of addiction.

That same order also limits dosages.

Look for Ducey to propose similar — if not stricter — limits on what all other doctors in Arizona can prescribe.

Less clear is whether the medical community will go along with putting those into state statute.

In general, doctors do not like lawmakers telling them how to practice medicine. But a spokeswoman for the Arizona Medical Association said members of her group are working with Christ to come up with something accessible.

And there may be something else.

Several states have gone on the offensive, filing lawsuits against opioid manufacturers for improperly promoting their drugs.

In Arizona, that has taken the form of only a single lawsuit filed against Chandler-based Insys Therapeutics by Attorney General Mark Brnovich. But Ducey suggested that a more aggressive approach may be necessary.

“I think all bad actors need to be held accountable in this solution,” he told Capitol Media Services. “All should be looked at.”

Also on the health front, Arizona and other states are waiting for Congress to finally reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program. It provides nearly free care to children in families whose parents earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but still have trouble with commercial health insurance premiums.

Funding ran out Oct. 1. But some interim federal legislation and leftover state dollars are likely to keep the program operating here through at least March.

If Congress fails to act, it will be up to Ducey and lawmakers to find the cash — about $9.3 million a month — or tell the more than 24,000 children that their coverage will end.

ASU sign Arizona State University 620Higher education:

Four years ago, Ducey got elected governor at least in part based on claims that tuition at the state’s three universities was too high. The blame was put at the feet of Fred DuVal, his Democrat foe, who headed the Board of Regents.

Now it is Brnovich who is asking a judge to determine that current tuition runs afoul of a state constitutional provision that instruction be “as nearly free as possible.” And that, in turn, has Ducey defending the schools as “accessible and affordable” and swatting Brnovich for making a legal case out of it.

But the more immediate problem for the schools could come from Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley, who previously has criticized the regents and their policies.

Legislation last year to rein in the board went nowhere. But this year Finchem is armed with a formal opinion by Brnovich saying that it is entirely within the purview of the Legislature to determine the role of the board in governing the schools.

The Colorado River is a major source of water for Arizona. The management of its supply involves numerous stakeholders and agencies.
The Colorado River is a major source of water for Arizona. The management of its supply involves numerous stakeholders and agencies. (Photo courtesy of Central Arizona Project)


State lawmakers are going to revisit the old adage that in Arizona whiskey is for drinking and water is for fighting.

It’s been nearly three decades since the last comprehensive overhaul of state water laws, complete with details on who gets to use it and how — including separate rules for surface and groundwater — and where it can be sold or transferred. Those laws also can affect growth as developers in some areas of the state must show a 100-year assured water supply.

The issue has taken on new urgency with the ongoing drought.

Agreements governing who gets water from the Colorado River are based on years of higher flow. Now with Lake Mead reaching perilously low levels, Arizona needs to figure out how to deal with the issue as it has the lowest priority claim to water in the lake, meaning it will be the first to have its allocation cut.

There’s a separate turf fight brewing between the Department of Water Resources, which is under Ducey’s control, and the Central Arizona Water Conservation District which has its own elected governing board.

abortion-gavel-620Social issues:

While abortion has been legal in this country since 1973 that has not stopped foes from seeking to find ways to curb the practice.

In past sessions that has included various restrictions on how and where pregnancies can be terminated, and by whom. There also have been attacks on indirect funding — state and federal law cannot be used for elective abortions — by going after family planning dollars given to Planned Parenthood.

One potential target this year is moving up the date beyond which abortions cannot generally be performed to the 20th week of pregnancy. That is earlier than current laws which require doctors to try to save the lives of fetuses considered “viable,” generally not until at least 22 weeks.

There also will be some debate about how young someone can be to legally marry.

While would-be couples can get hitched on their own at 18, there is no minimum age for those who can obtain parental permission or, in some cases, also get the consent of a judge.

Legislators also are likely to take a look at marijuana from both sides of the debate.

On one hand, there will be legislation to legalize the drug for recreational use. But there also are bills to actually put some curbs into the 2010 voter-approved law allowing people with certain medical conditions to use the drug.

Also look for a renewed effort to keep minors from using indoor tanning booths

police-cop-620Law and order:

It wouldn’t be an Arizona legislative session if there were not a debate about firearms.

On one side of the equation is the new public awareness of “bump stocks,” add-ons to semiautomatic weapons that use the inertial energy of a fired round to rapidly reload the chamber and fire off another. It was just such a device that led to the massacre of concert goers earlier this year in Las Vegas.

But for the moment, such proposals have only Democrat support in the Republican-controlled Legislature.

On the other side, look for various measures designed to help further shield Arizona gun owners from any new federal regulations.

The thornier debate could be about whether Arizona needs to reconsider its mandatory sentencing laws that have put more than 40,000 people behind bars.

That has taken on urgency with the more than $1 billion budget for the Department of Corrections. But so far the potential of being criticized by prosecutors as “soft on crime” has left lawmakers only nibbling around the edges, like for programs designed to help keep those who have been released from reoffending.


Arizona’s road funds continue to come up short as the number of vehicles on the road increases but the gasoline taxes for construction and repair fail to keep pace.

Part of that is the gasoline tax is set by statute at 18 cents a gallon, a figure it has been at for nearly two decades even as inflation has eaten away at the buying power. But there’s also the fact that vehicles are becoming more fuel efficient, meaning people are driving more on fewer gallons.

And then there’s the increasing sale of all-electric vehicles which not only pay no gasoline taxes but get a discounted vehicle registration fee.

Efforts to boost revenues through higher state gasoline taxes have proven political nonstarters. But there are parallel efforts to give counties greater flexibility in raising funds locally.

handshakeBusiness issues:

Ducey has made deregulation a cornerstone of his administration, swatting down efforts by state agencies to curb ridesharing and even hair cutting by volunteers.

One new issue on that agenda is going to be what kind of training — if any — someone needs to style hair. That comes on the heels of increased popularity of ”dry bars,” places where patrons can go for a quick wash and blow dry.

Business interests hope to get a break from one provision of the 2016 voter-approved law hiking the minimum wage.

They can’t get lawmakers to overturn the statute that took the wage from $8.05 an hour that year to $10.50 now and eventually propelling it to $12 by 2020. But they are hoping for more flexibility in requirements for most companies to give workers at least five days off for sick time and certain other personal uses.

Other issues that could provoke some debate include:

– Revamping the existing gaming contacts the state has with Native American tribes, giving them the ability to expand their operations in exchange for more revenue sharing;

– Deciding whether the state should set rules for what happens when students show up for lunch but don’t have the money to pay;

– Bringing Arizona into line with federal law which outlaws laetrile, a chemical made from apricot pits that technically remains legal to possess and use in Arizona and whose use is promoted by some who say it can cure cancer;

– Permitting motorcyclists to ride in between lanes;

– Easing the restrictions local governments can place on home-based businesses.

A stutterer’s perspective on Gov. Doug Ducey

Doug Ducey
Doug Ducey

Oct. 22 marked International Stuttering Awareness Day, a day intended to raise public awareness of an issue faced by 1% of the world’s population and roughly 3 million Americans.

Subsequently, it was also the same week that Gov. Doug Ducey came under scrutiny by national syndicates and others for allegedly mocking presidential hopeful Joe Biden’s stutter at a rally for President Trump.

Critics and naysayers alike accused the Governor of ridiculing Biden on the basis of a seven-second clip circulated on social media and immediately concluded that he was guilty.

Scrolling through the disparaging comments and articles including one that implied if the Governor were in high school, he would be expelled for being a bully, I began to ponder my first introduction to Ducey and how I was treated with utmost respect.

My first years of my life I communicated with sign language and spoke my first word at age three. Taunted by bullies throughout my life, I have had my intellectual ability questioned due to my fluency and even had a parent once tell me that I would “most likely not be successful” because of my speech.

Mark Fitzgerald
Mark Fitzgerald

Despite my life challenges, I have managed to build a thriving yet youthful career in government relations and even had the privilege of being mentored by United States Secretary of the Air Force, Barbara Barrett. I do not view my situation as a disability or something that impedes my success; rather I deem it as something that I can and will overcome.

I first met the Governor at a fundraiser for then Congresswoman now United States Senator Martha McSally in 2018. One of the youngest attendees invited, I was surrounded by statesmen and leaders alike including former US Senator Jon Kyl and former Congressman now Fox News contributor Jason Chaffetz. A setting full of well accomplished people, I was easily one of the most inexperienced individuals in attendance and my nervousness overpowered my fluency, which resulted in a struggle to simply say my first and last name. Greeting the Governor, I forcibly introduced myself. In a stutterer’s mind, these consequential moments seem like an eternity but only last a few seconds. Finally expressing my statement, the Governor smiled and asked me where I went to college. I promptly responded, “The University of Arizona” and the Governor, an Arizona State University alumnus quipped, “Mark, when I was running for Governor, I said I would be a leader for all Arizonans…. even a Wildcat like yourself.” As others, including high profile individuals and donors, lined up to speak with him, Governor Ducey listened intently and never interrupted me nor walked away, in contrast to the many in my lifetime who have. This moment served as a testament to the person and leader who Governor Ducey is – a compassionate, respectful leader who looks past your challenges and sees your potential. He is a leader who believes that adversity does not build character but rather reveals it. Subsequent encounters with Governor Ducey have been equally respectful. He has gone out of his way to say hello, remembering my name and exchanging encouraging words.

At the 2020 Democratic National Convention in August, arguably the most widely talked about event of the week was 13-year-old New Hampshire teen Brayden Harrington who spoke on behalf of Biden. A heartfelt moment, I saw many similarities between the young teenager and myself. Aside from our similar speech patterns, we shared another thing in common: we both had leaders of two different ideologies care and listen to us as we spoke. My personal interactions with the Governor have been shared countless times. I always conclude that stuttering will never deter you from success. Most accomplished leaders will take into account your opinion even if it takes lengthened time to speak.

The United States remains at a time of hyper partisan divide, where leaders are demonized solely by association with another. Those who participate on social media remain keen on attacking and mischaracterizing anyone who does not fit their political narrative and ideology. If one does not believe in similar principles, critics will find any means to speak negatively about you. We need to look past partisan like behavior and ideologies and rather recognize each other for our virtues and moral character.

Arizona is fortunate to have a compassionate leader like Governor Ducey. He is a good man who has always treated me with utmost respect. He should be characterized on the virtues he puts forth, not on a seven second clip taken out of context.

Mark Fitzgerald is a Legislative Assistant at Arizona Governmental Affairs.



A tale of two votes: One will walk, the other won’t – yet

Thousands of teachers, students and public education advocates rallied at the Arizona Capitol on March 28, 2018. (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)
Thousands of teachers, students and public education advocates rallied at the Arizona Capitol on March 28, 2018. (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)

Cheryl Foster is ready to walk out of her classroom.

She’s afraid it could mean the end of her 26-year career, and she worries deeply about what that could mean for her students.

But she’ll do it. She’ll do it for them, said Foster, who was among the wave of protesters who carried handcrafted signs during Red for Ed demonstrations at the Capitol in recent weeks.

But for Foster and her fellow teachers who carried the signs, anxiety about their careers and their students, and frustration over the voting process grew as they weighed whether to strike in spite of Gov. Doug Ducey’s plan for a 20 percent raise by the 2020 school year.

The decision on whether to walk out of schools across the state went to a three-day vote organized by Arizona Educators United and the Arizona Education Association that began April 17.

Cheryl Foster has been a teacher for 26 years. Though she fears that leaving her classroom could mean the end of that career, she supports a statewide walk-out for Arizona Educators United's demands. (Photo courtesy of Cheryl Foster)
Cheryl Foster has been a teacher for 26 years. Though she fears that leaving her classroom could mean the end of that career, she supports a statewide walk-out for Arizona Educators United’s demands. (Photo courtesy of Cheryl Foster)

Foster, a fourth grade teacher at Kyrene de la Sierra Elementary School, voted in favor.

She cast her vote after she and 12 other teachers met with the governor on April 17.

She said the meeting felt “impersonal” and “calculated. She said it seemed like a PR stunt rather than a genuine discussion about solutions that weren’t his own and that he “did it for the tweet” he later sent about the meeting.

She said he missed the heart of the movement, missed that their passion lies in the children they serve every day.

“Teachers are not just teachers of science and social studies and math,” she said. “We become caregivers, and we become so connected to our students.”

Ducey’s teacher raise proposal does not include dollars for additional school counselors or pay increases for school support staff or increased per pupil funding, so Foster was not satisfied.

Tiffany Huisman, a ninth grade teacher in the Phoenix Union High School District, was also among the teachers who met with Ducey, but she left feeling a bit more optimistic, and she ended up voting against a walkout.

“I added my own box that said, ‘not right now,’” she said.

She said she thinks the effect on end-of-year activities and graduations would be too great.

Huisman said she would support a walkout at a future time, though, if Ducey and the Legislature prove not to be committed to funding public schools beyond this election cycle.

She felt the governor was genuine and more candid then she expected, even if he did not seem to fully grasp that his plan addressed but a “sliver of the problem.”

Tiffany Huisman, a ninth grade teacher, was left cautiously optimistic about Gov. Doug Ducey’s plan for teacher raises after meeting with him and a dozen other teachers on April 17. She’s not yet sure she’ll stand with her colleagues if they choose to walk out of schools statewide. (Photo courtesy of Tiffany Huisman)
Tiffany Huisman, a ninth grade teacher, was left cautiously optimistic about Gov. Doug Ducey’s plan for teacher raises after meeting with him and a dozen other teachers on April 17. She’s not yet sure she’ll stand with her colleagues if they choose to walk out of schools statewide. (Photo courtesy of Tiffany Huisman)

Huisman said the move to vote felt rushed, and not enough was known about how the decisions to proceed with it or the voting process were made.

“I know we have momentum, but we must be thoughtful in our approach and look toward a longer-term strategy,” she said. “I’m just not sure this is the right approach.”

Huisman took what she called a Red for Ed field trip, meeting not just with Ducey but also with Sen. Kate Brophy McGee, R-Phoenix, and Rep. Lela Alston, D-Phoenix, to learn about the legislative process.

The experience was energizing, she said, and she wished more of her colleagues would take it upon themselves to do the same.

Instead, they were taking a vote on whether to leave their schools without a clear plan: how long would a walk-out last, when would it even begin, what would happen to their students?

“This is stressful. This is my life. This is my livelihood. These are my kids,” Huisman said. “And I will do everything for them to ensure they get the best possible education in Arizona. Right now, they are getting substandard leftovers.”

Abortion questionnaire bill on Ducey’s desk

It is now up to Gov. Doug Ducey to decide whether women will be asked why they want an abortion.

On a largely party-line vote the state Senate voted 17-13 Wednesday to approve a list of questions about the reasons for deciding to terminate a pregnancy.

Senate Minority Leader Katie Hobbs (D-Phoenix) (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)
Senate Minority Leader Katie Hobbs (D-Phoenix) (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)

SB 1394 does allow a woman to refuse to answer any and all of them. But Sen. Katie Hobbs, D-Phoenix, said that does not diminish what she said is the real purpose behind the measure.

“The motivation is simply to harass and intimidate and shame the women who go in to receive this constitutionally protected medical procedure as well as the doctors who provide it,” she said.

And Hobbs said the new requirements will lead to a legal challenge, “costing Arizona taxpayer dollars just to further one particular group’s political, ideological agenda.” That refers to the anti-abortion Center for Arizona Policy which crafted the bill.

But Sen. Nancy Barto, R-Phoenix, who agreed to carry the measure, said the more information that the state and researchers have about abortions and the reasons women make that choice will lead to better public policies and laws on the procedure.

Barto specifically defended asking women whether they’re being coerced to terminate a pregnancy, whether they’ve been raped and whether they are the victims of sex trafficking.

Sen. Nancy Barto (R-Phoenix)
Sen. Nancy Barto (R-Phoenix)

She said there is evidence that most women in that last category in particular have had at least one contact with a health care provider. Barto said the questioning, which occurs in private, could provide an opportunity for women to seek help confidentially.

The bill on the governor’s desk has a list of questions. That includes whether the abortion is elective, due to maternal or fetal health, and whether the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest, whether the woman is a victim of sex trafficking or domestic violence, and whether the woman is being “coerced into obtaining an abortion.” Barto said several other states already ask similar questions.

“We need to reject the notion that asking a woman, allowing her, giving her an opportunity to disclose her coercion into having an abortion is somehow shaming,” she said.

Hobbs, however, said this is just another set of unnecessary hurdles that the state is seeking to erect.

She pointed out that Arizona already asks women things like their age, educational background, race, ethnicity and number of prior pregnancies miscarriages and abortions.

“None of these things have any bearing on the procedure,” Hobbs said. “This bill is just an additional layering of unnecessary regulation of abortion.”

Supporters of the legislation have argued repeatedly that this is not designed to impair the constitutional right of women to terminate their pregnancy, pointing out that women remain free to refuse to answer the questions. But Sen. Sylvia Allen, R-Snowflake, said she cannot separate it out from the underlying issue.

“What I want to be is a voice for the little voices, for the ones whose lives are snuffed out because of the many, many reasons women choose abortion,” she said.

Sen. Kate Brophy McGee of Phoenix was the lone Republican to oppose the measure while Democratic Sen. Catherine Miranda, also of Phoenix, voted for it.

Ducey has signed every abortion restriction and reporting requirement that has reached his desk since he took office in 2015.

Abortion questionnaire bill signed into law

(Deposit Photos/Merion_Merion)
(Deposit Photos/Merion_Merion)

Women who want to terminate a pregnancy are going to be asked some questions first.

But they don’t have to answer.

Gov. Doug Ducey on Friday signed a measure into law that spells out a new list of things that doctors and clinics are required to ask. The law takes effect 91 days after the Legislature ends its session.

Existing law contains an open-ended question that health care providers are supposed to ask about the reason for the abortion. That includes whether the procedure is elective or due to some issue of maternal or fetal health.

But Sen. Nancy Barto, R-Phoenix, said that doesn’t provide sufficient information, at least not in a form where it can be classified into categories and published in annual reports by the Department of Health Services.

As originally crafted by Cathi Herrod of the anti-abortion Center for Arizona Policy, the list of choices women would have been given when asked about why they want an abortion would have included economic reasons, a decision not to have children at this time, the pregnancy was due to rape or incest, or whether there were “relationship issues, including abuse, separation, divorce and extramarital affairs.”

That gained Senate approval over the objections of Senate Minority Leader Katie Hobbs, D-Phoenix.

“If I get an abortion, it is no one’s business,” she told colleagues.

“It is not this Legislature’s business, it is not the governor’s business or anyone in state government,” Hobbs continued. “The Catholic Church does not need to know why I am getting an abortion, and not the Center for Arizona Policy.”

But when several House Republicans balked at the list, Herrod was forced to pare down the list.

As signed by Ducey, women will be asked whether the abortion is elective or whether it was due to one of a list of medical conditions.

Other questions include whether the procedure is being sought because the pregnancy is due to rape or incest. And women also will be questioned whether they are being coerced into the abortion, whether they are the victim of sex trafficking and whether they are the victim of domestic violence.

Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert, defended in particular the questions on sex trafficking and coercion. He said it gives women, who will be taken into a separate room, a chance to seek help.

Nothing in the measure requires a woman to answer in order to have her pregnancy terminated.

House approval came after Republicans rejected a bid by Rep. Daniel Hernandez, D-Tucson, to also ask women if they were seeking an abortion because they lacked access to affordable family planning. Farnsworth said that question is irrelevant.

Ducey, in a prepared statement, said the bill simply updates existing reporting requirements by requesting information, which women need not provide, on whether a crime has occurred and provides information on services to women on how to report that crime. The governor did not address the other questions women will be asked which are not related to crimes.

Activists deliver petitions demanding Ducey advocate against confederate monuments

This memorial to Confederate troops was erected in 1961 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, one of six monuments around Arizona. (Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer)
This memorial to Confederate troops was erected in 1961 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, one of six monuments around Arizona. (Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer)

Over 1,000 petitions were delivered to Gov. Doug Ducey’s office Thursday morning demanding the governor advocate for removing Confederate monuments from state property.

There are six Confederate monuments in Arizona, two of which are on state lands: The Jefferson Davis Highway memorial on U.S. Route 60 in Gold Canyon, and a memorial to Arizona Confederate troops at the state Capitol.

Activists with ProgressNow Arizona, the AZ Coalition for Change, the East Valley chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and others delivered the signed petitions to the Executive Tower, asking Ducey to take an active role in moving those monuments elsewhere.

Rep. Reginald Bolding, D-Phoenix, said Ducey has given mixed messages on whether the Confederate monuments should stay or go.

Following a South Carolina church shooting in 2015, the Associated Press reported that Ducey said he’d order the state’s transportation department to review the name of Jefferson Davis Highway, which memorializes the president of the Confederacy. Ducey said at the time the highway should be renamed after an Arizonan.

But following a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia — when a car plowed into a crowd of counter protesters, killing one and injuring 19 — Ducey said he had no interest in removing confederate monuments on state property. “It’s not my desire or mission to tear down any monuments or memorials,” Ducey said in August, and deferred requests to change the names of such monuments to various boards and commissions responsible for them.

“Governor, were you telling the truth the first time you actually made the statement, or were you telling the truth now? And whichever one it is, please let the public know,” Bolding said.

Josselyn Berry, the executive director of ProgressNow Arizona, said citizens have gotten the runaround from Ducey and various boards and commissions who say there’s nothing they can do.

“We are tired of it. These confederates monuments on Arizona property need to come down,” Berry said. There should not be monuments to racism, white supremacy and hate on state property, and it is time our governor takes leadership and does something about it.”

Additional funds to help Arizona conserve water supply

Lingering drought and demand from growing cities have lowered water levels on Lake Mead behind Hoover Dam. The U.S. Interior Department could declare a shortage on the Colorado River as early as 2017. (U.S. Geological Survey Photo)
(U.S. Geological Survey Photo)

The state’s water department got additional funds to help stave off cuts to Arizona’s water supply from the Colorado River and hire more people in next year’s budget.

Still, the Arizona Department of Water Resources won’t have anywhere near the number of employees it had before the Great Recession.

The fiscal year 2018 budget gives the department $2 million in non-lapsing funds, with $2 million more expected in both 2019 and 2020.

If the water level in Lake Mead drops below 1,075 feet, Arizona would start seeing cutbacks.

The money will go to pay groups to keep their water in the lake rather than take it out, said Tom Buschatzke, the department’s director.

The state recently joined with the city of Phoenix, the Walton Foundation and the Gila River Indian Community to come up with funds and plans to conserve water in Lake Mead.

Keeping water in that lake has already prevented cuts, Buschatzke said. Over the past few years, Arizona, California, Nevada and Mexico all kept water in the lake, amounting to between 8 and 10 feet, he said. The lake stayed only a couple feet above 1,075, meaning the conserved water was crucial, Buschatzke said.

A wet year helped the state avoid any cutbacks for 2018, with the chance of a shortage next year at basically zero. On May 10, Lake Mead’s water level stood at 1,084 feet.

But in 2019, the chance of the lake dropping below 1,075 feet is 31 percent.

Gov. Doug Ducey’s executive budget proposal estimated the cost of Arizona keeping 410,000 acre-feet of its water allotment in Lake Mead at $61.5 million, $42 million of which would come from the federal government. The rest would come from Arizona entities, including the $6 million from the state over the next three years.

Ducey recommended allocating $6 million to ADWR as a way to “allow Arizona to continue its tradition of responsible management of its water supply.”

Buschatzke said the funding sends a signal to other entities, like cities, businesses or nonprofits that could create a “snowball effect” of people coming forward to contribute either water or money.

“That’s a strong message that’s being sent. … We’re not going to rely on Mother Nature to solve our issues on the Colorado River,” he said.

The fiscal year 2018 budget also gives ADWR added employees, potentially as many as 11, Buschatzke said. The bulk of the new employees will work on water rights adjudication, a process that’s been in progress for 40 years, he said. The department will also hire a water rights attorney and hydrological mapping specialist, as well as people to enforce the state’s groundwater management laws, he said.

The department had 225 employees before major cutbacks to staffing across state government during the recession left it with 90, Buschatzke said. The department hasn’t been cut in the past two years, though, and will be back up to about 150 employees during fiscal year 2018, he said.

The added employees and appropriation put the state in a healthy place as the population and economy here continue to grow, both of which rely heavily on an assured water supply, Buschatzke said.

“We are positioning ourselves well for the future by having the resources to deal with these water issues that are facing us,” he said.

ADOT fee double forecasted amount, angers lawmakers


That balanced budget that Gov. Doug Ducey said wouldn’t raise taxes is going to cost Arizona motorists an extra $32 a year for every car, truck and motorcycle they have.

And it’s more than 50 percent higher than Arizonans were told when the plan was first adopted earlier this year.

The fee is designed to have motorists pay directly for the costs of the Highway Patrol rather than having the agency funded out of gas tax and existing vehicle registration fees.

That is supposed to free up cash from the gas tax to instead be used for road construction and repair. And that, in turn, means that general tax collections which had been used for those purposes could instead fund other priorities of the governor and Legislature.

There’s a reason the fee, approved by lawmakers earlier this year, is a surprise. And it’s political.

The Arizona Constitution requires a two-thirds vote of both the House and Senate for any new or increased tax or fee. And there were not the votes in either chamber to do that.

So lawmakers and the governor used a loophole of sorts: They directed John Halikowski, the head of the state Department of Transportation, to figure out how much the Highway Patrol division of the Department of Public Safety costs to operate. And then Halikowski was directed to impose a new fee to cover that cost.

In passing the buck, so to speak, by refusing to set the fee themselves, lawmakers then needed just a simple majority.

But the fee that was announced Thursday surprised Rep. Noel Campbell, R-Prescott, who came up with the idea.

“That amount was not broached,” he told Capitol Media Services, saying “$17 or $18 was what the fee they told us we’d be dealing with.”

That’s also the number Campbell gave to colleagues when they approved the plan.

The Prescott lawmaker is not happy with Thursday’s announcement.

“We gave him the authority,” he said of Halikowski.

“We hope that he does the right thing,” Campbell continued. “I’m certainly going to talk to him about that and find out why.”

It’s not just Campbell that got a surprise when ADOT set the fee.

In preparing the plan earlier this year, legislative budget analysts figured that Highway Patrol would need about $135 million a year. Even with a 10 percent buffer, that would come to just $148 million.

And that, they figured, would cost vehicle owners just $18.06 a year.

So what changed?

ADOT spokesman Doug Nick said it turns out the Highway Patrol budget will be $168 million. Add 10 percent to that and the fee needs to raise to $185 million.

And there’s something else. Legislative budget staffers figured the cost would be divided up among 8.3 million registered vehicles.

But Nick said the owners of many of the vehicles on the road have prepaid their registrations for two or five years. So they can’t be taxed until they renew.

Add to that vehicles that are exempt from the levy, like government vehicles and those owned by nonprofit entities, and that $185 million has to be raised from the owners of just 5.8 million vehicles.

Do the math and you come up with $32.

The whole money-making maneuver – including the decision to leave the fee up to the ADOT director – is the culmination of a multi-year effort to find new dollars to help build new roads and repair existing ones.

That is supposed to be financed largely through a gasoline tax. But that 18-cent-a-gallon levy has not been raised since 1991 when gasoline was in the $1.20-a-gallon range.

And while there are more vehicles on the road, they also are more fuel efficient, with the number of road miles driven – and the wear and tear on the roads – increasing faster than new revenues.

What’s made matters worse is that the current and former governors and lawmakers, looking to balance the budget, have siphoned off some of those gas tax revenues to pay for the Highway Patrol. That left fewer dollars for both urban and rural transportation needs.

There were several lawmakers who were less than pleased with how the fee increase was crafted.

“Sen. Warren Petersen, R-Gilbert, called it “the worst kind of tax increase” because it was being done without any idea of what it would cost motorists.

“We’re going to tell an unelected bureaucrat to go ahead and raise these fees to whatever he wants to,” he said.

Sen. Sylvia Allen, R-Snowflake, also balked at approving a yet-to-be-determined fee.

“I just can’t in good conscience pass something I don’t know what it is exactly,” she said.

ADOT may be illegally charging repealed fee

Deposit Photo
Deposit Photo

More than 166,000 Arizona motorists who are now renewing their vehicle registrations are being hit up for a $32 fee that the agency may not legally be entitled to collect.

Four years ago state lawmakers authorized the Department of Transportation to levy a “public safety fee” on every vehicle at the time of registration. The new fee — the size of which was left to ADOT officials for political reasons — was designed to have motorists pick up more of the cost of the state Highway Patrol.

Amid public outcry, the legislature voted in 2019 to scrap the fee. But with Gov. Doug Ducey having built his budget on it, they agreed to allow it to continue through the current fiscal year.

That’s June 30.

But here’s the thing.

ADOT is demanding that motorists whose registrations are good only through June 30 also pay that fee, even though the funds collected will be for renewed registrations that begin July 1. Spokesman Doug Pacey said his agency reads the statute as allowing for that.

That decision angered Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale who led the fight to repeal the fee and came up with the language about exactly when it would finally expire. She told Capitol Media Services that assessing the fee on registrations that take effect in the new fiscal year was never her intent.

Michelle Ugenti-Rita
Michelle Ugenti-Rita

“I went through this thousands of times to make sure this was crystal clear,” she said. “I cannot even believe that’s their interpretation.”

More to the point, Ugenti-Rita said that, with the state now flush with cash, there’s no reason for ADOT to take another more than $5.3 million out of the pockets of the 166,793 vehicle owners who are now renewing their registrations that expire at the end of this month.

The fee was a method of raising more money, at least indirectly, for road construction and repair.

Those projects are supposed to be funded by gasoline taxes and vehicle registration fees. But lawmakers, in prior efforts to balance the budget, siphoned off some of what was raised to finance the Highway Patrol.

So Noel Campbell, then a Republican state representative, came up with a plan: finance the Highway Patrol with a separate “public safety fee” — with the amount determined by ADOT — added to other registration costs. That, in turn, freed up the existing revenues for roads.

But the $32 price tag ADOT put on it resulted in an outcry, not only from residents who saw it as a hidden tax hike but from lawmakers who were told it would not be anywhere near that much.

Ugenti-Rita pushed to rescind it immediately. But with Ducey’s budget dependent on the revenues, she had to settle for a delayed repeal.

The way she sees it, anyone with a renewal before June 30, the end of the fiscal year, would be obligated to pay the fee. But anyone whose registration is good through the end of the month was exempt.

“You’ve already paid through the 30th,” Ugenti-Rita said.

And she was not pleased when she learned that ADOT was collecting it for the registrations that were effective July 1.

“It’s like dealing with a snake-oil salesman,” she said of dealing with not just ADOT but other state agencies. “There’s no support for their very advantageous interpretation.”

Nor is Ugenti-Rita willing to simply let the issue slide.

“It’s a ton of money,” she said, both from the individual perspective of the Arizonans who she said were improperly charged the $32 as well as the cash that’s going into state coffers.

What’s next, Ugenti-Rita said, will be a call to ADOT to see if she can get the problem fixed.

If she does, that could put the agency in a difficult position as it already has started billing — and collecting — for the new registrations for the period that begins July 1.

After 8 years, Ducey hands off a changed Arizona to Hobbs

Gov. Doug Ducey speaks during inauguration ceremonies at the Arizona Capitol in Phoenix. Ducey became the first governor since Bruce Babbitt, who left office in 1987, to complete two full, four-year terms. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

Former Gov. Doug Ducey officially turned over the governor’s office to Gov. Katie Hobbs on Monday, marking a shift in party power at the state’s highest office and the end of a lengthy and consequential era in Arizona politics. 

Ducey, 58, becomes Arizona’s first governor since Bruce Babbit, who left office in 1987, to complete two full, four-year terms on the job. In eight years in office, Ducey presided over profound changes that will continue to affect the state for years to come. 

The governor signed conservative policies into law on everything from economic policy to education during his time as the state’s top executive. Beginning next year, Arizonans in all income brackets will pay a flat 2.5% tax and many families will get taxpayer money to cover education expenses – both products of legislation backed by the governor. 

In other areas, the ground has shifted under Ducey’s feet since he took office in 2015. 

The “Red for Ed” movement that led teachers around the state to go on strike eventually led to pay increases for teachers that the governor approved in 2018. The Arizona Republican Party, now dominated by figures from the MAGA faction of the party aligned with former President Donald Trump, is almost unrecognizable from the state party that helped elect Ducey to two terms in the governor’s office. 

Members of Arizona Educators United protest on April 10 as Gov. Doug Ducey gives his weekly KTAR interview. Dozens of teachers, students and other public education advocates marched outside as the temperature in Phoenix reached 100 degree for the first time this year. (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)
Members of Arizona Educators United protest on April 10, 2018, as Gov. Doug Ducey gives his weekly KTAR interview. Dozens of teachers, students and other public education advocates marched outside as the temperature in Phoenix reached 100 degree for the first time this year. (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)

Ducey frequently says that he’s left the state “better than (he) found it,” and he invariably cites Arizona’s economy as the prime example of his success. 

“He did a great job with the economy. There’s no doubt about that,” said longtime Republican consultant Chuck Coughlin. Specifically, Coughlin said, Arizona has added jobs not just in traditional sectors like home-building and development, but in a diverse range of industries, particularly high-tech manufacturing. 

The new manufacturing projects include battery and electric car makers who have set up shop in Pinal County and a semiconductor manufacturing plant that’s under construction in North Phoenix. Even President Joe Biden flew into Phoenix to help celebrate progress on the chip factory in December. 

In terms of lawmaking, Ducey’s signature accomplishments mostly came near the end of his tenure, and they run the gamut of conservative policy priorities. 

In 2022, his last legislative session, the governor signed a massive expansion of Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Account program, better known as school vouchers. The law removed eligibility requirements from the program, allowing any Arizona family to get state funds to cover their children’s education expenses, including tuition at private schools. 

Also last year, lawmakers delivered a billion-dollar package based on the governor’s vision for bringing more water to the state: desalination. A board set up to administer the more than $1 billion investment (which will come out of state coffers over three years) has already taken steps that could lead to financially backing a desalination plant in Sonora, Mexico. 

And in 2021, with the governor’s support, lawmakers passed the state’s historic flat tax. 

Those moves were possible, in part, thanks to Arizona’s growing revenues and enviable financial surplus. In 2015, his first year in office, Ducey signed a slim $9 billion budget. In 2022, that figure had doubled to $18 billion, but still included provisions to top up the state’s rainy-day fund, which now comes to more than one billion dollars. 

Daniel Scarpinato, a former chief of staff to the governor, credited the fiscal belt-tightening of Ducey’s first year – when the state faced a $700 million deficit – for paving the way for future spending packages. 

“I don’t think that we’d be in the position today of being able to do all these things if that (the deficit) had lingered,” Scarpinato said. 

The tax cuts and voucher expansion were, predictably, partisan endeavors, while the water project ultimately received widespread bipartisan support. In another area – public school funding – the governor’s legacy may still be up for debate. 

Even though Ducey ultimately signed the 2018 law that aimed to increase public school teacher pay around the state by 20%, Arizona remains close to last in average teacher pay across the country and public school class sizes have continued to grow in recent years. Scarpinato said that the bottom line is that teachers got a significant raise while Ducey was governor. 

But Stacy Pearson, a Democratic strategist, said Ducey shouldn’t be applauded for effectively restoring education funding that had been cut by former Gov. Jan Brewer, while allowing the state to remain far behind its peers. 

“That he’s trying to get us to celebrate going from dead last to second-to-last, or third-to-last, is laughable,” she said. 

Another important piece of legislation signed by Ducey might have a counterintuitive impact. 

A 2022 abortion law (passed in anticipation of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade) bans abortion after the 15-week mark of a pregnancy except in medical emergencies, but it may actually have the effect of loosening abortion restrictions in Arizona. That’s because the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled last month that the 15-week ban supersedes a more restrictive state law that dates to the 19th century. 

Outside of lawmaking, Ducey’s second term was largely defined by the Covid pandemic. Phoenix was one of the first cities to report a coronavirus case in January 2020 and, in March 2020, Ducey signed a series of emergency orders that largely shut down the state – closing schools, restaurants, gyms and other businesses.

But the lockdown was lifted abruptly in May and, that summer, the virus began spreading rapidly through the state. Hospitals were overwhelmed and thousands died, but the governor resisted calls to impose health and safety measures like a face mask mandate, arguing it would damage the state’s economy and that lockdowns imposed a toll on mental health.

By the time Ducey left office, more than 30,000 Arizonans had died of Covid and the state had the unwelcome distinction of the highest per capita Covid death rate of any state.


Gov. Claudia Pavlovich, Sonora, Mexico, and Gov. Doug Ducey, talk after a press conference Nov. 29, 2016, to announce Lucid Motors has agreed to open a plant in Casa Grande.

On border issues, Ducey in some ways brought a more restrained approach than his predecessor Brewer, who signed the controversial “show me your papers” law, SB 1070. He forged a close relationship with former Sonora governor Claudia Pavlovich and emphasized economic cooperation. But he also took some aggressive action aimed at border security. 

He initiated the “border strike force” in 2015 – a program aimed at stopping drug trafficking that eventually came under criticism for failing to live up to its name. And in 2022 started busing migrants to liberal cities on the east coast and building a shipping-container border barrier without federal permission – until the federal government secured a legal agreement to take it down. 

Ducey had the fortune of working with Republican-controlled legislatures during his time in office, but narrow majorities did lead to some conflict. In his final legislative session, he signed a budget that got bipartisan backing and included concessions to Democrats in the form of more public-school funding, after some hard-right lawmakers refused to get on board with Ducey’s budget plan. 

The Arizona Supreme Court from left are Justices Bill Montgomery, John Lopez, Ann Scott Timmer (vice chief justice), Robert Brutinel (chief justice), Clint Bolick, James Beene, and Kathryn King.

Among other actions that will reverberate long after he’s gone, Ducey’s numerous judicial appointments mean his judgement will help shape how the state’s legal system functions for years to come. 

Most notably, he expanded the Arizona Supreme Court from five to seven justices, though he insisted the move didn’t amount to court packing. As he leaves office, five of the justices are Ducey appointees. (The other two were appointed by Brewer.) 

Even while Ducey was still in office, the justices had a hand in securing some of his most important policy accomplishments. 

In 2021, the Arizona Supreme Court effectively quashed Proposition 208, a voter-approved initiative that would have raised taxes on high-earning Arizonans in order to provide more funding for public education. (The Arizona Supreme Court sent the case back to a trial court, but with instructions that basically forced the judge’s decision.) Had it taken effect, it would have significantly altered the flat tax program signed into law the same year. 

Compared to Brewer, who fought bitterly with the legislature and memorably wagged an accusatory finger at then-President Barack Obama when he visited Arizona, Ducey took a more low-key approach and, at least publicly, didn’t pick many fights. 

Even Pearson, for the most part a critic of the governor, gave Ducey credit for that. 

“I may not agree with his policies, but the guy did exactly what he said he was going to do … and he did it without scandal,” she said. 

Even so, Ducey had his own clash with a sitting president, in a moment that underscored the political shifts underway during his tenure. 

In 2020, as he certified Arizona’s election results, he silenced a call from Trump, who at the time was ramping up his claims that the election had been marred by widespread fraud. That led to a rift between the two men and was part of a broader schism between Ducey and more hard-right elements of the Republican Party. 

One question that remained unanswered as the governor’s office changed hands on Monday is what Ducey will do next. He declined to run for Arizona’s open U.S. Senate seat last year against Democratic incumbent Mark Kelly, but he has reportedly expressed interest in running the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. In interviews in recent weeks, the governor hasn’t offered hints about his future plans. 

Editor’s note: This story was revised on Jan. 9, 2023 to include a passage on the Covid pandemic. 

After court losses, ballot initiative backers regroup

Members of the Invest in Arizona Coalition deliver boxes of signatures to the Arizona Secretary of State’ Office on September 28, 2021, at the Capitol in Phoenix. The group was delivering boxes of signatures to stop income tax cuts passed by the Arizona Legislature earlier that year and a series of election law changes. The Arizona Supreme Court on April 21 struck the proposal from the ballot. PHOTO BY MATT YORK/ASSOCIATED PRESS

As in most recent election years, Arizonans will probably get the chance to vote on several ballot initiatives this November, but this year’s measures come on the heels of court rulings that have blocked a pair of high-profile proposals.

Last week, the Arizona Supreme Court said they’ll keep off the ballot Proposition 307 – a citizen referendum that would have let voters approve or reject a tax cut legislators passed last year. And last month, a Maricopa County judge tossed out Proposition 208, a measure voters passed in 2020 that would have imposed a tax on high earners to increase public education funding. Judge John Hannah wrote in his opinion that an earlier ruling by the Arizona Supreme Court effectively forced him to strike down the measure.

The outcomes are leading Democrats to cry foul about the court’s role and raising questions about the future of ballot measures as a policy tool.

“I think the court has made it obvious that they’re not afraid to … legislate from the bench,” said Julie Erfle, a Democratic consultant and commentator. David Lujan, who helped organize Prop. 208 and backed Prop. 307, said he is “frustrated that the Supreme Court continues to block the voice of voters.”

Roy Herrera, a Democratic attorney, said he has counseled clients that are thinking about mounting a ballot measure campaign that there’s a legal risk.

“If you’re trying to pursue a progressive ballot measure … you’re going to get challenged legally in every which way,” Herrera said. “And you’re going to be dealing with a court that seems to have a political leaning and that’s going to make it very difficult.”

Republicans, including Gov. Doug Ducey, have largely applauded the court’s moves. “This ruling is another big win for our state’s taxpayers,” the governor said last week, after the court ruled to keep Prop. 307 off the ballot.

Kory Langhofer, a GOP attorney who represented the Arizona Free Enterprise Club, which brought the suit against Prop. 307, disputed complaints about overreach. “You can’t say: ‘I keep losing, so the refs are biased,’” he said. And he downplayed the impact of the recent cases: “It’s not been a sea change, even though there’s been two cases here in the last six months.”

Citizen ballot measures – both original initiatives and referenda on laws passed by legislators – are a regular feature of Arizona elections. Except for 2014, there’s been at least one citizen ballot measure in every statewide election year going back at least three decades. The measures touch on a wide range of issues, from legalizing marijuana to regulating the payday loan industry.

In general, citizen initiatives and referenda are more commonly used by Democrats in Arizona, since they can serve to bypass the state’s Republican-majority Legislature.

Legal challenges touch just a fraction of all ballot measures, but the courts are getting involved more often of late. “Challenges to initiative petitions have increased, I’d say in the last four years,” said Andrew Gould, a Republican and former Arizona Supreme Court Justice who’s now running for attorney general.

The Arizona Supreme Court from left are Justice Bill Montgomery, Justice John R. Lopez, Vice Chief Justice Ann Scott Timmer, Chief Justice Robert Brutinel, Justice Clint Bolick, Justice James Beene, and Justice Kathryn H. King

The results haven’t been all bad for those backing ballot measures. For instance, in 2017, the Arizona Supreme Court rejected a challenge brought by business groups against Proposition 206, a measure voters passed in 2016 that raised the minimum wage and created mandatory sick leave.

That ruling was among the first after Gould and John Lopez joined the court in 2016, following Ducey’s controversial proposal to expand its membership to seven from five justices.

Herrera said he’s not sure whether the move made a difference in recent rulings. “The court was already all Republican before, so it’s a little bit hard to tell whether the outcomes would be different,” he said.

Still, the two recent cases have left some on the left reconsidering their tactics.

Herrera said one solution for frustrated Democrats could be to focus on gaining more representation at the Capitol – flipping legislative seats and electing candidates to statewide offices like the governorship. “That’s, ultimately, the only backstop we have to this kind of stuff, is to have actual elected officials,” he said. Erfle said that’s what she expects – “My guess is that a lot of these groups are going to start shifting their resources more heavily into elections.”

But Lujan pointed out that ballot measures present an easier route than legislation for policies that seek to raise revenue. That’s because if lawmakers want to raise taxes, they need two-thirds majorities in both the House and Senate. “Even if you flip the Legislature, that makes it difficult,” he said. “So that’s why we’ve had to rely on ballot measures in the past, and likely in the future, in order to raise the revenue that we need for schools.”

He said education groups might come back with another ballot measure in 2024, or 2026. But he did suggest that, if backers can gather enough support from lawmakers, working through the Legislature could be a better way to get an initiative on the ballot. “The other way to do this, hopefully in the future, would be to elect a Legislature that, rather than have to do ballot measures, they can refer something to the ballot,” he said.

In the meantime, this year’s ballot is likely to feature a handful of initiatives, including some with conflicting mandates. And even with Prop. 307 gone, progressive groups won’t be sitting this cycle out. The coalition Arizonans for Fair Elections is collecting signatures to get a sweeping initiative onto the ballot that would rewrite election laws – and limit legal challenges to citizen initiatives.

Gould said it’s not ideal to have ballot measures or courts deciding the fate of policy – a better solution would be for lawmakers to be more responsive to constituent demands. “If the Legislature was more active, then maybe people wouldn’t see the need to resort to” ballot measures and legal challenges, he said.

But he added that there’s a certain inevitability to legal challenges when major policies are at stake: “Our society is one in which every important issue, sooner or later, ends up in the courts,” Gould said.

AG challenges governor’s emergency powers

From left are Doug Ducey and Mark Brnovich
From left are Doug Ducey and Mark Brnovich

The state’s top prosecutor says Gov. Doug Ducey is acting illegally in telling police to ignore restaurants violating certain state liquor laws.

In a new court filing, Attorney General Mark Brnovich said he disagrees with the bar owners suing the governor that the laws granting him emergency powers are an unconstitutional delegation of legislative powers.

“When the pandemic hit, the governor was well within his authority to declare an emergency and close down all non-essential businesses in an even-handed manner until health officials could better determine the nature of this novel virus,” he said.

But Brnovich said that’s not what happened here, with the governor deciding not only that restaurants can open but bars cannot — at least not the way they were designed — but directing state liquor agents and police to turn a blind eye to bars selling alcoholic beverages to go, something specifically prohibited by state law.

And then there’s the fact that Ducey’s emergency has been in place since March.

“It is clear that we are now in a world where the governor is picking winners and losers regarding the economic recovery from the emergency, not reacting to the emergency itself,” Solicitor General Beau Roysden wrote for Brnovich, who is his boss. “But that is a legislative function, and not within the proper scope of the emergency powers that are conferred to address the exigencies of emergencies when they first arise.”

So Brnovich wants Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Pamela Gates, who is handling the case, to interpret the emergency statute being cited by the governor as justifying his actions to be solely “conferring authority to carry out emergency functions and closely related activities, not as an indefinite grant of legislative authority.”

And Brnovich said if Ducey believes restaurants need economic relief — his stated reason for giving them an exception from the laws that now bar them from selling alcohol to go — there is an option.

“The governor can call the legislature into special session to address through legislation the secondary economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic that his current executive order attempts to address through executive fiat,” he said.

In a prepared response, gubernatorial press aide Patrick Ptak said his boss believes that his actions are legal. But he also said Ducey had good reasons for the decisions he made.

“The pandemic has placed an enormous burden on all Arizonans, both economically and related to public health,” Ptak said. “The governor’s actions have allowed establishments to focus on public health while continuing to maintain operations safely and responsibly.”

But the governor’s own attorney conceded last month that his client was, in fact, making an economic decision in having law enforcement ignore violations of liquor laws by restaurants.

Brett Johnson, in his own legal filing, argued that giving restaurants the “privilege” to sell beer, wine and liquor out the door “qualifies as a recovery and response activity because it aids restaurants.” He said that is because they were previously closed to in-house dining.

Restaurants have since been allowed to serve patrons. But Johnson said the restaurants still need the financial help because they remain “subject to capacity restrictions.”

The gubernatorial edict at issue specifically directs that agents of the Department of Liquor Licenses and Control “shall not enforce the provisions of the Series 12 (restaurant) liquor license that prohibit the sale by restaurants of beer, wine and spirituous liquor off premises.” Ducey’s order also keeps police from enforcing those laws.

Ilan Wurman, representing more than 100 bar owners, says that isn’t fair.

“Giving the restaurants the off-sale privilege and letting restaurants stay open, all while closing down bars, seems to be a clear act of economic favoritism,” he said.

Brnovich, in his filing, agrees that Ducey’s order giving special privileges to restaurants amounts to “discriminating in other respects against similarly situated bars.”

But he said the broader question is the scope and duration of the authority that Ducey claims he has under statutes granting him powers to act in cases of emergency.

“There are not set criteria for ending this emergency, confirming that — seven months into it — the governor has claimed for himself the indefinite power to act legislatively,” Brnovich said.

He said if the law is as broad as the governor claims, it clearly is an unconstitutional delegation by the legislature of its powers.

But rather than challenge the statutes, Brnovich told Gates there’s an easier way to resolve the dispute.

“The court should conclude as a matter of statutory interpretation that (the emergency law) provides a much more temporally constrained power that must be exercised even-handedly to address the exigencies of the emergency,” he said. And once Gates adopts that construction of the law, Brnovich said, she should rule that Ducey’s directive to allow restaurants to violate the liquor law exceeds his authority.

This isn’t the attorney general’s first public disagreement with the governor over the scope of his emergency powers. In July, Brnovich told a federal judge there may be legitimate claims that Ducey exceeded his authority in closing certain business.

That case involved claims by Xponential Fitness against the governor that he had no legal basis to re-close gyms and fitness centers in June after there was a new spike in COVID-19 cases.

Brnovich took no sides in that dispute. But he told the federal judge handling the case that the claims against Ducey “raise serious issues of first impression involving executive authority in an emergency.” And he said these “deserve close and careful consideration by the court.”

That case ended up being dismissed after that fitness center and others were allowed to reopen, albeit with limited capacity.


AG clears Ducey of illegal electioneering allegation

From left are Doug Ducey and Mark Brnovich
From left are Doug Ducey and Mark Brnovich

Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich ended the investigation into Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, saying he did not violate state law when he encouraged small business leaders to vote no on Proposition 208 last year. 

Ducey was accused of electioneering using state resources while on a phone call in his office with state employees in September, but the attorney general said it closed its investigation and won’t take any further action. 

Deputy Solicitor General Michael Catlett found that the purpose of the call was to discuss the state of the economy as it relates to the Covid pandemic, and that Ducey’s rights under the First Amendment to “speak on matters of public concern” outweighed using said rights “during the work day and using the State’s telecommunications equipment.”

“The Office does not believe that the manner in which the Governor exercised his First Amendment rights in this case is sufficient to override his First Amendment rights or support a violation of A.R.S. 16-192 (A),” Catlett wrote.  

Brnovich has also previously explained that alleged electioneering happening during a “traditional work day” is “not a relevant consideration to evaluating if public resources have been expended” when the person in question holds elected office. 

Invest in Education, the organization that brought the complaint, did not provide any evidence that Ducey “expended additional resources because the Governor responded to a question from a constituent about his views on a matter of public concern,” so  Catlett said that the public resources would have been expended regardless of his response on the ballot proposition. 

During a call with business leaders, Ducey repeatedly told them to not only vote against the income tax hike for education, but to go on the No on 208 website to get more information. 

Ducey’s aides denied that he had broken any law about using public resources to influence the outcome of an election, but shortly after Arizona Capitol Times published the story on the call, Roopali Desai, the attorney representing Invest in Education, filed a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office, saying they were disturbed to read about Ducey’s potential violation. 

Ducey’s efforts proved to be unsuccessful as voters narrowly approved the measure with 51.5% of the vote, despite more than $20 million spent to defeat it. The measure adds a 3.5% surcharge on earnings above $250,000 for individuals and $500,000 for married couples filing jointly and it iis expected to raise anywhere from $827 million to $940 million a year, depending on whose estimates are used.

In the Sept. 29 call in question, Ducey complained that the Invest in Education initiative was “a small business killer” and urged people to vote against it. 

“I’m asking the small business community to get the word out. Let’s keep our economy chugging along,” he said in an audio clip obtained by the Yellow Sheet Report, a sister publication of the Arizona Capitol Times. 

The Attorney General’s Office also pointed to a 2015 AG opinion explaining that elected officials should not be exempt from “expressing views on matters of public policy,” saying that opinion protects Ducey under the First Amendment as well.

Brnovich has previously issued opinions on similar violations including how elected officials may exercise their free speech rights without improperly using public money to influence elections. 

He also charged several elected officials including Ducey-appointee Andy Tobin, who runs the Department of Administration, for using the Arizona Corporation Commission letterhead in an email urging others to vote no on a ballot measure in 2018. Tobin and the others were each fined $225.

AG opens probe of Ducey over alleged illegal electioneering

From left are Doug Ducey and Mark Brnovich
From left are Doug Ducey and Mark Brnovich

Arizona’s Republican attorney general is investigating Arizona’s Republican governor over potentially violating state law relating to electioneering using government resources. 

As the Capitol Times reported earlier this month, Ducey may have broken a state law by using government resources to tell business leaders to vote against Proposition 208, also known as Invest in Education, and the office of Attorney General Mark Brnovich is now looking into it. 

During a call with business leaders, Ducey repeatedly told them to not only vote against the income tax hike for education, but to go on the No on 208 website to get more information. 

Ducey’s aides denied that he had broken any law about using public resources to influence the outcome of an election, but shortly after Arizona Capitol Times published the story, Roopali Desai, the attorney representing Invest in Education, filed a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office, saying they were disturbed to read about Ducey’s potential violation. 

“It’s difficult to imagine a more blatant and brazen violation of A.R.S. § 16-192,” Desai wrote, adding that Ducey ”plainly used ‘public resources’” and his “words were unquestionably ‘for the purposes of influencing the outcome’ of an election.” 

Capitol Times obtained the complaint via the state’s public records law. 

A spokesman with the Attorney General’s Office confirmed the investigation, but said he cannot comment further since it is “ongoing.”

Brnovich has previously issued opinions on similar violations including how elected officials may exercise their free speech rights without improperly using public money to influence elections. 

He also charged several elected officials including multi Ducey-appointee Andy Tobin (who now runs the Department of Administration) for using the Arizona Corporation Commission letterhead in an email urging others to vote no on a ballot measure in 2018. Tobin and the others were each fined $225. 

In the September 29 call in question, Ducey complained that the Invest in Education initiative was “a small business killer” and urged people to vote against it. 

“I’m asking the small business community to get the word out. Let’s keep our economy chugging along,” he said in an audio clip obtained by the Yellow Sheet Report, a sister publication of the Arizona Capitol Times

He repeated the talking points of the anti-Invest in Ed campaign, including that proposal has no accountability and the money “won’t get to the classroom and won’t benefit our teachers.”

AG renews plea to governor to begin executions in Arizona again


Attorney General Mark Brnovich is once again pressuring Gov. Doug Ducey to pave the way for executions in Arizona.

In a letter this week, Brnovich told the governor that it is clear that the federal government is able to get its hands on pentobarbital. What that means is that the problem the state has had in the past in getting the drugs — and doing so legally — from a willing supplier no longer exists.

And Brnovich pointed out there are now 20 individuals on “death row” who have exhausted their appeals.

But it is up to the Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry to actually order the drugs. And that agency is under the control of Ducey.

Mark Brnovich
Mark Brnovich

“It has been six years since Arizona carried out an execution,” Brnovich told the governor. In fact, he said, some of the crimes for which people have been convicted and are awaiting execution date back to the 1970s and 1980, specifically citing the 1984 slaying of 7-year-old Vicki Lynne Hoskinson who disappeared while riding her pink bicycle at Tucson’s De Anza Park. Frank Jarvis Atwood, who had previously been released on parole from California, eventually was arrested and convicted.

“The time has come for Atwood and others to be held accountable,” Brnovich wrote.

Brnovich made a similar plea to Ducey a year ago when U.S. Attorney General William Barr announced that the federal government intended to resume executions after nearly two decades.

There was no response from Ducey at that point.

The federal government did finally carry out its first execution on Tuesday, using lethal injection on a man convicted of murdering an Arkansas family in the 1990s.

On Wednesday, there was no specific response form Ducey about obtaining new execution drugs or asking for Brnovich’s help in getting them. Instead, gubernatorial press aide Patrick Ptak would say only that the governor has received Brnovich’s letter and “will continue working with the Department of Corrections to ensure justice is served and that we follow the law.”

Part of the new push from Brnovich on Ducey is because the state has either won or settled lawsuits over the death penalty and the drugs that can be used.

Last year a federal appeals court concluded that Arizonans have no legal right to know where the state obtains drugs to execute inmates. That ruling, Brnovich said, makes it more likely that the state will find a supplier, many of which have been unwilling to sell their drugs for executions because they fear “harassment or retaliation by death penalty opponents.”

And just three weeks ago the state settled other claims, agreeing not to limit the ability of witnesses to hear the sounds of the execution.

Arizona has tried to get drugs used in executions in the past.

The state in 2015 ordered 1,000 vials of sodium thiopental, a muscle relaxant used in the execution process, from a supplier in India. That came after a domestic manufacturer refused to sell it for executions.

The decision to order the drugs came despite warnings by the FDA that buying the drug from India-based Harris Pharma would be illegal. That followed a 2012 decision by a federal judge, ruling in a lawsuit brought by inmates, requiring the federal agency to block importation of the drug as unapproved.

Customs and Border Protection seized the drugs at Sky Harbor Airport. And in 2017 the Food and Drug Administration refused to release them.

Arizona has not carried out an execution since it put Joseph Wood Jr. to death in 2014 in a procedure that took nearly two hours. He had been convicted of the 1989 death in Tucson of his girlfriend and her father.

Brnovich said it’s time to restart the process. But he needs Ducey’s cooperation.

“I again ask for your assistance in procuring the drugs necessary to resume executions in Arizona,” he wrote to the governor. “It is imperative to fulfill our obligation to uphold the rule of law.”

AG says businesses can make workers get vaccination

Healthcare cure concept with a hand in blue medical gloves holding Coronavirus, Covid 19 virus, vaccine vial

Private businesses in Arizona are free to require that their workers be vaccinated against Covid, Attorney General Mark Brnovich has concluded.

And Brnovich said companies have the right to make the same demand of customers.

But the attorney general, in a 40-page legal opinion issued Friday, said neither of those rights is absolute. In both cases, the business has to provide “reasonable accommodations” for those who cannot get vaccinated due to a disability. And they must not discriminate against customers who will not get inoculated due to a sincerely held religious belief.

He laid out ways that employers can deal with workers, like staggered schedules. telework assignments and mask requirements.

Brnovich, however, had no real answers for how a grocery store, bar, restaurant, retail outlet or even movie theater could meet their burden to provide a reasonable accommodation, especially as federal law does not require a company to makes changes that would “fundamentally alter” their services.

An aide, for example, said she could not say whether a mom-and-pop grocery store that requires patrons to be vaccinated now would have to provide home delivery for a customer who cannot or will not get vaccinated due to medical or religious reasons.

“We can’t provide legal advice to one specific grocery store or a movie theater,” said press aide Katie Conner.

“It’s not our job to say exactly how they can do it,” she continued. “It’s our job to interpret the law as it’s currently written, not to come up with a policy for them.”

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)
Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)

Strictly speaking, the formal opinion has no force of law like a court ruling. But it can be cited when there is litigation.

While Brnovich is providing broad authority to private employers, he is siding with the state and Gov. Doug Ducey who contend that a state law that takes effect on Sept. 29 precludes the right of local governments to impose such mandates on their own workers. That could lead to litigation with the city of Tucson whose legal counsel contends it has the same rights over its employees as any other private company.

The conclusions come amid increased public debate about the rights of those who, for whatever reason, have decided not to get the vaccine. These range from arguments about personal liberties to questions about the vaccine’s safety given that it has not been given full approval by the federal Food and Drug Administration but instead is being distributed under an “emergency use authorization.”

Brnovich suggested that he’s not entirely comfortable with his conclusions.

“The attorney general … believes strongly that government should not mandate that citizens relinquish their bodily liberty and undergo vaccination, particularly when a vaccine is being distributed and administered only through an EUA, in return for being able to participate fully in society,” he wrote.

“Only in the most limited of circumstances should government allow private parties to mandate vaccination,” Brnovich continued. “Americans should be allowed to choose which risks they are comfortable taking and which they are not.”

But he said his job is not to promote his personal philosophy.

“The law does not always reflect good public policy,” Brnovich said. “And our role with respect to an attorney general opinion is to say what the law is, not what it should be.”

What that leaves, he said, is the right of employers and business owners to decide who can work for them and who can enter their shops based on their vaccination status. What they cannot do, he said, is illegally discriminate.

That starts, said Brnovich, with the requirement to provide a reasonable accommodation to those who  cannot get inoculated because of medical reasons. And he said that should not be difficult, given that companies already have been using these kinds of measures since the outbreak.

“This includes teleworking, masking, social distancing, enhanced sanitation measures, and/or staggered work schedules,” Brnovich said.

Religious beliefs present a somewhat different situation.

He said that is covered under the federal Civil Rights Act which bar discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. That law, in turn, defines “religion” to include all aspects of religious observance and practices as well as beliefs.

But there is language that provides an “out” for employers who can demonstrate an inability to reasonably accommodate a worker’s religious observance or practice “without undue hardship on the conduct of the employer’s business.”

And it’s even more complicated than that.

The leaders of various religious groups, including the Pope and the president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, have issued statements saying the inoculations do not run afoul of church doctrine. That even includes the fact that some of the vaccines are the result of research on fetal tissue.

But Brnovich said their opinions are not the test.

“The fact that no religious group espouses such beliefs or the fact that the religious group to which the individual professes to belong may not accept such belief will not determine whether the belief is a religious belief of the employee or prospective employee,” he said. Instead, it has to be “measured by the employee’s words and conduct at the time the conflict arose between the belief and the employment requirement.”

Those same requirements to provide options for unvaccinated individuals also applies to “places of public accommodation.” And the definition of what that includes, Brnovich said, is quite broad, including places of entertainment, amusement, recreation, anywhere where food or beverages are sold for on-premises consumption, hotels, health and recreation facilities “and all establishments which cater to or offer their services, facilities or goods to solicit patronage from members of the general public.”

Brnovich has a record of sorts on the issue of the rights of businesses to turn away customers.

In 2018 he sided with the owners of Brush & Nib, a graphic design firm, who argued that their sincerely held religious beliefs allows them to refuse to provide custom invitations for same-sex weddings despite a Phoenix anti-discrimination ordinance.

The Arizona Supreme Court sided with the business. But the justices, in issuing what they said was a narrow ruling based solely on the specific facts of that case, did not address whether the owners were required to provide some “reasonable accommodation” for gay customers.

AG says cops can enforce emergency orders

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)
Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)

Police and sheriff deputies are legally entitled to enforce emergency proclamations and orders issued by state and local officials, according to Attorney General Mark Brnovich.

In a formal opinion Tuesday, Brnovich said it’s not just the governor who can declare an emergency and issue restrictions. He said city mayors and the chairs of boards of supervisors have many of the same powers as the governor to declare an emergency.

And those powers, detailed in Arizona law, can range from curfews and closing streets to ordering any business to close.

But Brnovich also had a word of caution for those called upon to enforce those orders.

“In exercising such authority, law enforcement officials must continue to be mindful of constitutional rights and should execute their duties in a manner than promotes justice,” he wrote.

In issuing the opinion, though, Brnovich does not say what happens when there is a conflict between what local officials decide is appropriate response to an emergency and any executive orders issued by the governor that may conflict.

That is precisely the situation that currently exists in at least one Arizona city, with the business closure order issued by Flagstaff Mayor Coral Evans being more comprehensive than the declaration by Gov. Doug Ducey. In fact, the governor’s order specifically precludes cities from going beyond his list.

Ryan Anderson, an aide to Brnovich, said that issue was not addressed because the request by Sen. Paul Boyer, R-Phoenix, did not raise it.

And Anderson said that still leaves the issue as an open legal question.

“We weren’t consulted on the (governor’s) executive order,” he told Capitol Media Services. “I think it’s a very good question to ask whether his executive order is a floor or is a ceiling.”

For the moment, Anderson said, any answer has to come from Ducey.

“Go speak with the governor,” he said. “It’s his executive order, he defined it.”

And Anderson said if Brnovich is asked to opine on that, he will.

But gubernatorial press aide Patrick Ptak noted that Brnovich, in his opinion, said that local declarations “shall not be inconsistent with orders, rules and regulations promulgated by the governor.”

“The law is clear,” he said. “The state’s guidance supersedes other directives.”

Ducey has insisted all along that he believes his order trumps any local orders. And his executive order specifically considers hair salons, nail salons and barbers to be “essential services” which cities cannot order shuttered.

Yet Evans has not backed away from her own proclamation which has ordered those businesses closed. And the governor has yet to take any legal action against either Evans or Flagstaff to have her proclamation declared void.

Boyer said he asked for the legal opinion not to help cities but because he has gotten questions from business owners following the governor’s Monday “stay at home” order. That order directs Arizona residents to “limit their time away from their place of residence or property” to participate in “essential activities” or to work or use the services of “essential businesses.”

The senator said the people who approached him wanted to know what would happen if they continued to do certain kinds of work and whether they could be cited by local law enforcement.

Brnovich’s answer is clearly “yes.”

He pointed out that state law says any person who “knowingly fails or refuses to obey any lawful order or regulation” issued under emergency powers given to local officials is guilty of a class 1 misdemeanor. That carries a penalty of up to six months in the county jail and a $2,500 fine.

But Brnovich cautioned that police and deputies must take into consideration “the constitutional and statutory liberties that Arizonans enjoy,” even in declared emergencies.

For example, he noted, Arizona law allows state and local health officials to issue quarantine or isolation orders. But Brnovich pointed out that the law requires these to be implemented “by the least restrictive means necessary to protect public health” and that someone’s home may be an acceptable place of quarantine.

“Established court precedents in various contexts demonstrate the careful balance that must be struck in protecting public health while respecting individual rights,” Brnovich wrote.

Pima County Sheriff Mark Napier said deputies will not be setting up checkpoints or pulling people over to make arrests but instead seek to educate people about what the law allows.

“It’s not the intent to see how many people we can arrest,” Napier said in a statement on Facebook Live on Monday. He said that arrests would be reserved for cases “of egregious violators and people thumbing their nose” at restrictions.


AG starts execution process for 2 inmates


Arizona is finally ready to carry out its first two executions in seven years.

Attorney General Mark Brnovich filed the necessary paperwork Tuesday with the Arizona Supreme Court to have the state put to death Frank Atwood Jr. and Clarence Dixon.

Aide Ryan Anderson said there are still a few steps the court has to take. And then there’s the question of actually setting a date.

But Anderson said there is no reason why both cannot be executed before the end of the year.

There is one thing that has to be decided: the manner of death.

Arizona now uses lethal chemicals to execute inmates after it took 11 minutes for Donald Eugene Harding to die in 1992 by asphyxiation. Voters agreed later that year to replace the gas chamber with lethal injection.

But that law allows any inmate whose crime was committed before Nov. 23, 1992 to choose. In fact, Walter LeGrand was executed in the gas chamber in 1999 at his request and is believed to be the last person in this country put to death by that method.

A representative from the state Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry said Tuesday that the gas chamber is “fully operational.”

Clarence Dixon
Clarence Dixon

Brnovich on Tuesday asked the Arizona Supreme Court, which has the last word, to set up a briefing schedule to review the request for death warrants to be issued. But in his legal filings, the attorney general said there’s really nothing left to discuss.

He said the justices need to determine if all of the appeals and post-conviction proceedings have been concluded.

“If those proceedings have terminated, as the state will show, the relevant statute and procedural rule, respectfully, leave this court no discretion to deny the warrant,” Brnovich told the justices.

And there are other complicating factors if either Atwood or Dixon choose lethal injection.

One is that the pentobarbital, the barbiturate the state plans to use, has to be compounded. And once that happens it has a shelf-life of 90 days. So that, Brnovich said, requires the dates to all line up so that the executions, once set, can be completed in that time period.

If these two go forward, it would break the logjam.

Brnovich said there are 115 inmates on Arizona’s “death row,” with about 20 of them, including Atwood and Dixon, having exhausted their appeals. The attorney general, in a prepared statement, made it clear that he considers the renewal of executions to be proper.

“Capital punishment is the law in Arizona and the appropriate response to those who commit the most shocking and vile murders,” he said.

Frank Atwood
Frank Atwood

In fact, in Arizona, the death penalty is not an option simply because someone murdered another person. Instead, it takes a jury concluding there were sufficient “aggravating circumstances” like whether the crime was done for money, whether the person was out on parole, and whether it was committed “in an especially heinous, cruel or depraved manner.”

“This is about the administration of justice and ensuring the last word still belongs to the innocent victims who can no longer speak for themselves,” Brnovich said.

Atwood, a previously convicted pedophile, was convicted for the 1984 death of 8-year-old Vicki Lynne Hoskinson. She disappeared in 1984 while riding her pink bicycle at on her way to mail a letter for her mother.

Authorities eventually tracked Atwood to Texas where he was arrested on charges of kidnapping, with murder charges added after Vicki’s skull and some bones were found in the desert northwest of Tucson the following year.

At trial, witnesses for the state testified that pink paint on the front bumper of Atwood’s car had come “from the victim’s bike or from another source exactly like the bike” and that Vicki’s bicycle had nickel particles on it that were consistent with metal from the bumper.

In seeking to overturn his conviction, Atwood argued that his trial counsel was ineffective. But Judge Sandra Ikuta, writing for the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, said there were legitimate reasons for decisions made by attorney Stanton Bloom in how to conduct the defense.

And the judges said, in essence, Atwood’s theory that police and prosecutors planted evidence was so far-fetched as to have no credibility.

Mark Brnovich
Mark Brnovich

Dixon was found guilty of murdering Deana Bowdoin, an Arizona State University student, in 1978. She was found murdered in her bed with a macrame belt around her neck and blood on her chest.

While police found DNA they were unable to match it to anyone.

The break came in 2001 when Tempe police matched it to Dixon who by that time was serving a life sentence in prison for a 1986 rape. Dixon had lived across the street from Bowdoin at the time of the murder.

Dale Baich, a federal defender who represented Dixon in post-conviction proceedings, said corrections officials have yet to respond to questions about the process, including Covid safety measures and whether spiritual advisers will be allowed in the execution chamber.

He called the decision to execute him”unconscionable,” and not only because of Dixon’s mental condition. Baich cited statistics he said show that the death penalty is disproportionately imposed on poor people and people of color and is more likely to be imposed in Maricopa County.

It has taken years to determine when Arizona would again start executing inmates.

It started with questions of whether the state could — or would — get the necessary drugs for executions. And it took a court ruling to conclude that the public has no right to know where the state obtains the chemicals.

The state then tried to obtain sodium thiopental, a muscle relaxant. When the manufacturer would not sell the drug to Arizona to put someone to death, the state then ordered them from a suppliers in India despite warnings by the federal Food and Drug Administration that such a move was illegal.

The drugs were seized at Sky Harbor Airport and never released.

In the interim, the federal government managed to get its hands on pentobarbital and last year carried out its first executions in years. That led Brnovich to pressure Gov. Doug Ducey to either have his corrections department get the drugs or at least ask for the attorney general’s help in getting them.

It has taken until now for Arizona to get the drugs it needs.

All along, Hoskinson’s mother, Debbie Carlson, has been pushing Ducey to actively pursue the drugs to ensure that Atwood is put to death.

“I would like to thank Attorney General Mark Brnovich for standing with us in our quest for justice,” she wrote in a 2019 opinion piece in The Arizona Republic. “

It is now my hope that Gov. Ducey will hear our plea and direct the Department of Corrections to procure the drugs to execute the perpetrator.”


AG suggests measured words when making allegations of fraud in election

From left, Secretary of State Michele Reagan and Gov. Doug Ducey sign the formal certification of election results Monday as Attorney General Mark Brnovich, required to be there as a witness, observes. (Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer)
From left, Secretary of State Michele Reagan and Gov. Doug Ducey sign the formal certification of election results Monday as Attorney General Mark Brnovich, required to be there as a witness, observes. (Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer)

Attorney General Mark Brnovich warned Monday that people “need to be really careful when making serious allegations” about election fraud or other issues or risk undermining democracy.

Brnovich’s comments came on the heels of the state formally certifying the results of last month’s election. There were no surprises in the legally required formality involving Brnovich, Gov. Doug Ducey, Secretary of State Michele Reagan and Supreme Court Chief Justice Scott Bales.

But the results come after charges by Jonathan Lines, chairman of the Arizona Republican Party, that there were irregularities in the procedures used. And Lines even has started his own party-financed “independent audit” of the practices in Maricopa County.

Ducey, as the top elected Republican in the state – and someone who got help from the state GOP – repeatedly dodged questions about the efforts by the party chairman to question the conduct of the vote.

“I refer you to Mr. Lines for those questions,” he said.

“We have had some concerns around certain issues,” the governor continued.

“But I’m not going to expand on that,” Ducey said. “I’m just going to say I’ll let his investigation or what he wants to focus on play out.”

Brnovich, however, gave a somewhat more direct response to the question about the activities of Lines, though he didn’t mention the state GOP, which also provided financial help for his own reelection effort.

“I think people need to be really, really careful when they make serious allegations,” he said. “One of the things I think that’s problematic in the country today is that people are undermining the integrity of institutions, all sorts of institutions.”

But the attorney general said this isn’t just a problem of the GOP’s making.

“Both sides are doing it and it needs to stop,” Brnovich said. “It’s why politics gets so nasty in this country.”

Neither Lines nor his press aide responded to requests for comment about not just the issue of undermining confidence but the fact that Ducey said reporters should seek him out.

But party spokeswoman Ayshia Connor said there is nothing to report yet on the audit that Lines launched on the practices of Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes after alleging voting “irregularities.”

In setting up the audit, Lines said it would focus on “allegations of fraud in the election.”

Lines, however, provided no examples. Instead, he said the party was hiring Attorney Stephen Richer to set up a website for people who submit information.

“We are still gathering information,” Connor said Monday. “We will keep you posted.”

The GOP move came after Republicans lost their stranglehold on all statewide elections.

While Ducey won handily, Democrats took over an open seat in the U.S. Senate and the offices of secretary of state and superintendent of public instruction. And one of the two seats up for grabs on what had been an all-Republican Arizona Corporation Commission also was clinched by a Democrat.

Republicans also lost four seats in the state House, reducing their margin to 31-29.

Other than general allegations of fraud, Lines wants his audit to also look into the decision of Fontes, a Democrat, to open “emergency voting centers” on the Saturday and Monday before the Nov. 6 election. Lines has questioned the legality of such centers, even though they have been operated before by Republican recorders.

And Lines wants to look at Election Day voting procedures, challenges, ballot counting and the process for reporting results.

At the formal canvass of votes Monday, Secretary of State Michele Reagan reported the statewide turnout was 2.4 million, or more than 64.8 percent of registered voters. While that was 17 points higher than the 2014 election, it did not set a statewide record, even for a midterm non-presidential election.

Reagan said, however, that new records for midterm elections were set in Coconino, Gila, Maricopa, Pima and Yavapai counties.

AG urges federal judge to examine governor’s powers in emergencies

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)
Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)

The state’s top lawyer is telling a federal judge that there may be legitimate claims that Gov. Doug Ducey has exceeded his legal authority in closing certain businesses.

And he’s urging her to take a closer look.

In a new filing Wednesday, Attorney General Mark Brnovich said that the claims by Xponential Fitness against the governor “raise serious issues of first impression involving executive authority in an emergency.” More to the point, he said these “deserve close and careful consideration by the court.”

But Brnovich does not want to be involved in the dispute that will play out this coming week before Judge Diane Humetewa.

He pointed out that attorneys for the chain of fitness centers sued not just Ducey over the legality of his order but also the state. And Brnovich is required to defend the state.

Doug Ducey
Doug Ducey

Only thing is, the attorney general says the state has “sovereign immunity” from these kinds of federal court lawsuits.

“Indeed, the Supreme Court has consistently held that an unconsenting state is immune from suits brought in federal courts by her own citizens as well as by citizens of another state,” he said. And in this case, Brnovich said, “the state has taken no steps to waive immunity here or otherwise invoke the jurisdiction of a federal court here.”

And if Brnovich – and the state – are out of the lawsuit, that leaves it strictly up to Ducey to defend his actions.

The claim by Xponential Fitness in this case is in some ways similar to the effort in Maricopa County Superior Court by Mountainside Fitness to void the governor’s mandate that gyms and fitness centers, which he allowed to reopen in May, once again have to shut their doors. That move was in response to a sharp spike in the number of COVID-19 infections in Arizona.

Attorney Joel Sannes, representing Mountainside, argued that his client’s due process rights were violated with the summary closure.

Judge Timothy Thomason refused to block Ducey from enforcing that order while the case makes its way through court.

But in this case, attorney Alex Weingarten contends that the governor’s actions actually are violations of the U.S. Constitution.

What it comes down to, the lawsuit says, is Ducey singling out indoor gyms and fitness centers “while inexplicably allowing most businesses in Arizona to continue operating without additional restrictions.” And Weingarten said the governor’s decision to do that without even giving affected businesses a chance to be heard “can only be described as irrational and arbitrary.”

All this goes to the governor’s authority not only to act but to do so unilaterally, with no notice, no hearings – and no chance for affected businesses to challenge the order.

Brnovich, in his filing with the federal court, said Ducey never consulted with him in crafting and implementing his executive orders. And that, the attorney general said, means he “takes no position on the underlying merits of the plaintiffs’ claims” – other than saying that they raise serious issues about the governor’s authority in emergencies that have never been addressed and need the court’s “close and careful consideration.”

Ducey, in his own motion filed July 8, told Humetewa she also should toss the claims against him.

Brett Johnson, the governor’s attorney, said that businesses had no right to be consulted before Ducey ordered them to shut down. He said that’s not required in an emergency situation.

And Johnson said there’s no basis for Xponential to claim that gyms and fitness centers were being unfairly singled out while other businesses were allowed to remain open.

He cited a federal appellate court ruling that said it is reasonable for a governor to conclude that “heavy breathing and sweating in an enclosed space containing many shared surfaces creates conditions likely to spread the virus.” And Johnson told Humetewa that all she needs to decide is that Ducey had a “rational basis” for his decision.

“Gov. Ducey need not show that gyms are more dangerous than other types of businesses that are currently allowed to remain open,” Johnson wrote.

Humetewa has scheduled a hearing for this coming week.

AG weighs in on governor’s emergency powers

The Arizona Capitol grounds are shown Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2004 in Phoenix.   (AP Photo/Matt York, File)
The Arizona Capitol grounds are shown Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2004 in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York, File)

Arizona lawmakers could take it upon themselves to end a governor’s emergency declaration with a concurrent resolution, which doesn’t require the governor’s signature, but the governor could issue another emergency declaration immediately after termination, says Attorney General Mark Brnovich. 

In his latest opinion, Brnovich, at the request of Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Scottsdale, wrote that ending an emergency declaration (except when relating to war) does just that — it ends the declaration. But there is nothing that would stop Gov. Doug Ducey from issuing a subsequent order that does the same thing as the one the Legislature voted to end. 

“Even if the Legislature terminates a declared state of emergency, the Governor may declare a new state of emergency and re-institute prior measures so long as the conditions for the existence of a state of emergency under A.R.S. § 26-301(15) are satisfied,” Brnovich wrote. 

 In that event, the order could only end if the governor ended it, or the Legislature could vote to end it again leading to a possible never ending cycle of terminating and reinstating emergency orders. 

Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale, and Kavanagh’s Legislative District 23 seatmate in the other chamber, was pushing Senate Concurrent Resolution 1001, which made its way through committee hearings along party lines, but never received a full vote of the Senate. She wanted to end Ducey’s order he issued in March over concerns he was overreaching in the past year when it came to masks and closures of businesses. She also said she does not think Arizona is still in a state of emergency. 

Kavanagh requested the opinion in December after his own concerns that ending the emergency order would allow local governments like Phoenix, Tucson and Flagstaff – all led by Democrats – to issue their own stricter mandates since an executive order from Ducey, which tied the hands of local governments to act upon themselves, would also end if there was no longer an emergency. 

However, Brnovich said that was unlikely because powers from city, county and municipal governments are not equivalent to the powers of the governor. 

“Local jurisdictions have statutory emergency powers independent of the Governor,” Brnovich wrote, adding that, to his knowledge, “there are no state emergency plans or programs granting local jurisdictions specific emergency powers.”

Kavanagh could not be immediately reached for comment. 

The opinion now is moot, at least for the current situation since Sen. T.J. Shope, R-Coolidge, alerted Ugenti-Rita he would not support the resolution, which means it doesn’t have the votes to move out of the Senate with no Democrats in favor of ending the emergency order. 

Ugenti-Rita, as well as several other lawmakers, are trying to scale back the unilateral power the executive branch has under a state of emergency so the legislative branch has a “seat at the table.” 

During the Covid crisis, Ducey has acted alone in making decisions, usually at the guidance of public health officials. Ducey never called the Legislature back into a special session to address certain issues affected by the pandemic. 

That would change under several legislative proposals that would not allow a state of emergency to continue past 21 to 30 days without legislative approval and in some instances would require the Legislature to convene in a special session. Any future governor, under these proposed laws, would also not be able to issue a subsequent emergency order under the same (or similar) guidelines of the previous one. 

AG: Counties can implement mask mandates

Group of serious millennial people in casual clothes and protective masks for coronavirus prevention standing against brick wall and looking at camera

Gov. Doug Ducey cannot use his emergency powers to preclude counties from enacting their own mask mandates, Attorney General Mark Brnovich said Tuesday.

In an informal legal opinion, Brnovich acknowledged that when the governor declares an emergency he assumes broad powers to enact laws and regulations. So too, for that matter, do local governments.

The attorney general noted those statutes in the Emergency Management Code say that local laws “shall not be inconsistent with orders, rules and regulations promulgated by the governor.” And that would normally allow gubernatorial pre-emption.

But Brnovich said counties also have separate powers under another section of the law dealing with public health. And those, he said, are not subject to gubernatorial review — or veto.

The opinion is most immediately a victory for Pima County which has ignored Ducey’s March 26 order abolishing not only the mandates he had imposed on patrons and staff of certain businesses to wear masks but rescinding his June edict permitting local governments to have their own mask mandates. Ducey said the powers that cities and counties have is superseded by his emergency authority.

Brnovich, however, said the governor is missing a crucial legal point: that independent statutory power of counties to regulate health.

It starts, he said, with the fact the Public Health and Safety Code allows counties to “adopt provisions necessary to preserve the health of the county.”

More particularly, Brnovich said counties are specifically required to “investigate all nuisances, source of filth and causes of sickness and make regulations necessary for the public health and safety of the inhabitants.” And that, he said, is not subject to the governor’s emergency powers.

Tuesday’s opinion, however, does not leave the governor totally powerless.

The attorney general said that Public Health and Safety Code also allows the state Health Department to implement its own policies during a public health emergency. And Brnovich said the agency could set its own statewide policies on things like masks by enacting rules or regulations that could pre-empt local ordinances.

Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale, a foe of the local mask mandate and one of the three legislators who asked for the legal opinion, said that’s a good sign.

She said that would allow Ducey to pursue his legal fight with Pima County by working with his health department to enact a new rule. And Ugenti-Rita said she believes the formal rule-making process, which can often take months, can be expedited.

But the governor isn’t interested.

“Given local government inability, ineffectiveness and unwillingness to enforce mask ordinances when they were most necessary, we believe it is largely inconsequential,” said gubernatorial press aide C.J. Karamargin.

The opinion also was requested by two other Republican state legislators who questioned the decision by Pima County to keep its mask mandate: Sens. Vince Leach of Tucson and Rep. Bret Roberts of Maricopa. Roberts had no immediate comment; Leach did not respond to a message.







Age of ‘tough-on-crime’ policies is fading in Arizona

The “tough-on-crime” trend is so 20th century.

That antiquated verbiage, and the politically charged rhetoric behind it, is fading fast even in red state strongholds like Arizona. In its wake, a new movement has formed under a far more millennial catchphrase: smart on crime.

Caroline Isaacs
Caroline Isaacs

Caroline Isaacs, Arizona program director for American Friends Service Committee, said everywhere else in the country, “criminal justice reform” is old news.

In its place is a movement to be “smart” in tackling criminal justice.

Arizona may be lagging behind other states, including Republican strongholds like Georgia and Texas, in this arena, but the effort has steadily drawn support from across the political spectrum.

Last summer, the Arizona Supreme Court’s Task Force on Fair Justice for All offered 65 recommendations aimed at improving the criminal justice system, which led to the introduction of bills seeking to halt unfair penalties on the poor.

Rep. Eddie Farnsworth
Rep. Eddie Farnsworth

Those efforts failed when Republican Rep. Eddie Farnsworth refused to hear the legislation in the House Judiciary Committee, a move he declined to explain at the time.

But the movement is undeterred.

‘It is humanity. It is individual justice’

Dave Byers, the task force’s co-chair and director of the Administrative Office of the Courts, said by “hook or crook,” the courts are finding ways to implement changes.

“High-risk people who have access to money get out,” he said. “A poor guy, (a) working folk who’s got a ticket and can’t pay the bail because his license is suspended or whatever the issue is, sits in jail. It doesn’t make any sense.”

Repeatedly penalizing a single mother caring for a child with cancer, for example, may do no good, he continued.

“It is humanity. It is individual justice,” Byers said. “We don’t treat everyone the exact same way.”

Gov. Doug Ducey
Gov. Doug Ducey (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)

Gov. Doug Ducey said it’s the right thing to do. He noted the recidivism rate is approaching 50 percent, and if offenders do not find opportunities after serving their time, that problem will persist.

“It costs a lot to house and feed someone and shelter them,” he told the Arizona Capitol Times. “If you can get them on the other side of the equation, where they’re a productive, taxpaying citizen who has a career, a job or an opportunity, well, that’s just a better direction to go in.”

Lauren Krisai of the libertarian Reason Foundation said Arizonans now see that tough talk is “losing rhetoric,” and incarceration is not a catchall solution.

“It’s not like you’re either against crime or you want our communities to be crime-ridden,” she said. “That’s a false dichotomy. We can’t incarcerate our way out of this problem… That makes us less safe.”

‘States are at the front line’

Kurt Altman
Kurt Altman

Attorney Kurt Altman said the movement is being driven by the return – or lack thereof – from investing in the criminal justice system.

“We forget that 95 percent of the people that we send to prisons are going to come back into society,” said Altman, the state director of Right on Crime. “We’re not doing anything right now to help them reintegrate and stay in that society without going back.”

And the states, he added, are more in tune to the effects of that failure.

“The states are at the front line of this,” he said. “The states are looking at their communities, their workforce, their budgets and saying, ‘We need to do something.’”

In Altman’s view, Arizona has a difficult road ahead because of its “law and order” history, but he noted changes made this year.

Legislation signed by Ducey requires licensing authorities to grant regular or provisional licenses to convicted offenders who are otherwise qualified applicants.

That law may have changed the life of one of Altman’s former clients, a man who ran a barber operation while in prison but who was denied a license when he was released.

“He knew how to do two things, and when he couldn’t do the legitimate one, he turned back,” Altman said.

He predicted that getting people, especially low-risk offenders, back to work will be a priority in the years to come.

Amy Kalman
Amy Kalman

In those low-level cases, diversion programs may be the answer, said Amy Kalman, president of Arizona Attorneys for Criminal Justice.

She said giving offenders the tools to find employment, maintain stable housing and take care of their children makes families more cohesive and helps get people more engaged in normal spending that boosts local economies.

And those changes get to the root of what Kalman characterized as the underlying causes of minor crimes: housing instability, lack of education and addiction.

Kalman said “common sense reforms” are still dismissed as being soft.

Yet she remains hopeful for a “meeting of the minds.” After all, even Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery’s opposition could not stop changes to civil asset forfeiture.

Civil asset forfeiture coalition ‘did the impossible’

Isaacs of American Friends Service Committee said the coalition behind civil asset forfeiture reform “did the impossible” by rolling over a “shot-caller” like Montgomery and heavy opposition from the law enforcement community.

The changes proposed by Farnsworth in HB2477 proved to Isaacs that more could be done sooner rather than later.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona was among the bill’s supporters.

Will Gaona
Will Gaona

“Regardless of whether or not you think that the changes to civil asset forfeiture was really criminal justice reform, what’s important is you saw a broad coalition of organizations come together in order to reform Arizona’s laws and were able to do so over the very public objections of law enforcement,” said ACLU Policy Director Will Gaona. “Moving forward, it means this is possible in Arizona.”

The ACLU found an unusual ally in the Goldwater Institute.

Jon Riches
Jon Riches

Director of National Litigation Jon Riches said the state’s forfeiture laws, which have drawn the ire of conservative groups, have been “an affront to due process.”

The matter involves clear due process issues, Riches said.

“Look, if the government is going to try to take somebody’s property, the presumption should be that the government has to prove some sort of doing,” Riches said.

He said more should be done on the civil forfeiture front.

He pointed to the “perverse incentive” created when the proceeds of forfeitures go back to the seizing agency, and the fact that a criminal conviction is not needed to seize property.

For those changes and others to be made, Isaacs said the movement will continue to rely on broad support.

“Let’s all hold hands and jump,” she said. “We don’t need a champion. We don’t need one person to stick their neck out. Let’s all just say, ‘This is what we want to do. How do we get it done?’”

Agencies make case for new spending, but most requests likely doomed

Ask most state agencies, and they’ll say they need more money. Their lists of wants and needs range from small-dollar requests to eight-digit figures for major initiatives.

And one theme carries through most years – much of what the agencies beg the Governor’s Office for doesn’t ultimately get funded.

Every fall, the agencies send budget requests to the Office of Strategic Planning and Budgeting, the branch of the Governor’s Office tasked with overseeing the state budget. Some of the requests may end up in the executive budget Gov. Doug Ducey rolls out in January, which then gets negotiated with the Legislature.

Many of the agencies hit on common ongoing needs. Lots of agencies ask for money for massive informational technology projects, most of which don’t get funded. For agencies that provide social services, there’s always “caseload growth,” or costs that need to be covered to maintain a program as it is. And then there are operational costs, like wages and benefits for employees.

Will Humble
Will Humble

Will Humble, the former agency head of the Department of Health Services under two governors, crafted budget requests based on what a governor was interested in, seeking money for things that aligned with the governor’s priorities.

“Part of being an agency director is being a mind-reader,” Humble said.

Humble didn’t want to put in requests that would raise eyebrows, but ones that stood a chance of actually getting the green light. Essentially, each agency is competing against the others, so it’s important to put the strongest, most-likely-to-succeed arguments up front, he said.

“I never looked at it as my wish list. I looked at it as my ‘what is it that I can sell’ list. I wished for a lot more,” he said.

Requests for money from the general fund, the state’s all-purpose kitty, are tougher to justify than those that come from other sources, like taxes, grants, fees or federal programs. Some agencies are largely self-funded, requiring no money from the general fund, while others rely heavily on general fund appropriations.

Daniel Scarpinato, Ducey’s spokesman, said the governor is looking for good policies that will improve services for citizens while keeping a balanced budget.

“And also certainly we’re looking for savings. We‘re looking for where can we save money, not just spend money,” he said.

Plus, he noted, the governor has priorities outside the budget requests, like putting more money into K-12 education. Things like a request from the Department of Corrections for reducing recidivism – which Scarpinato said is an investment financially and personally – will be looked at seriously and prioritized by Ducey.

“The fact is that there are limited resources and money doesn’t grow on trees,” Scarpinato said. “We really need to prioritize K-12 education and our teachers, and that means that the rest of state government has to figure out how to deliver essential services and improve services by saving money.”

ag-budget-webHelp us attack the cities

Attorney General Mark Brnovich wants nearly $1 million to pay for eight staffers in a newly established unit of his office aimed at government accountability and investigations of cities.

A law passed in the 2015 legislative session also tasked the office with investigating complaints from lawmakers about cities or towns that they claim aren’t following state laws. The AG wants more money to investigate these complaints, which could result in the state withholding revenues from cities and towns. The government accountability and special litigation unit, created to handle the lawmaker complaints, also focuses on election law complaints from citizens, open meetings law violations and misuse of public funds.

So far, the attorney general has investigated three complaints under the new law, two of which were resolved locally and one of which prevailed at the Arizona Supreme Court.

Because of the successful court case, the AG “anticipates several new complaints to be filed by legislators in the near future.”

Now, attorneys for the government accountability unit are funded through money brought in by enforcing the Consumer Fraud Act. But the AG’s office said the funding isn’t sustainable, and it takes time and money away from consumer protection duties.

“This workload places the (Attorney General’s Office) in the difficult position of choosing whether to neglect critical consumer protection enforcement in favor of lawmaker initiated S.B. 1487 investigations,” the budget request says.

AG spokeswoman Mia Garcia said the new law requires attorneys to work within strict time deadlines to investigate complaints against cities and towns, which requires resources.

“We weren’t given any special funding, despite the new mandate. The way this unit is funded now isn’t sustainable, and we need a permanent funding source,” Garcia said.

adoa-budget-webObserving World War I

Next November will be the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War, and the Arizona Department of Administration wants to spruce up its monuments in anticipation.

The department expects an influx of visitors on November 11, 2018, and wants to use $25,250 to maintain and repair the monuments and mechanical equipment located at Wesley Bolin Plaza.

The money wouldn’t come from the state’s general fund, but a separate fund with more than $200,000 available that’s meant to go toward repairing monuments and memorials.

ADOA also has applied for a grant to restore the World War I memorial through an initiative sponsored by the World War I Centennial Commission and the Pritzker Military Museum & Library. If it doesn’t get awarded a grant, the department said it will first use the $25,250 appropriation to restore the World War I memorial. The department said it’s also actively trying to get donations from groups that support the various monuments on the plaza.

“If the funds are not appropriated this fiscal year, ADOA will miss the opportunity to repair and restore monuments in observance of the World War I Centennial,” ADOA’s budget request says. “In addition, there will be further degradation of the monuments and memorials.”

dcs-budget-webThink of the children

In order to help kids get adopted, the Department of Child Safety seeks $21 million from the general fund to cover the growth in its adoption subsidy program.

The subsidy largely provides ongoing money to help families cover expenses if they adopt children with special needs, DCS said in its budget request.

Families can get a one-time payment of up to $2,000 to help cover the costs of the adoption process, like court fees, attorneys, fingerprints and home studies. But for some families that adopt special needs kids, there’s an ongoing “maintenance subsidy,” averaging $700 per month, to help pay for some of the child’s costs, based on the family’s needs.

The money can be used by families to cover child care, insurance and educational needs, the department said in its request, but it’s not intended to cover all the daily living expenses of the child.

The number of adoptions has increased in the past few years, and the department expects there will be 14 percent more adoptions next fiscal year than this year, from 29,420 on average in this fiscal year to 33,539 next year. The numbers of adoptions spike in November, dubbed “adoption promotion month,” and more children get off the adoption subsidies in the summer, when many new adults graduate from high school.

If the department doesn’t get the funding needed to keep up with growth, it will have to drop the amount it pays in new adoption contracts, which would be a “financial disincentive to adopt versus keeping a child in foster care,” the budget request says.

“New adoptions may be stalled by a reduced ability to finalize new contracts, with increased time in out-of-home care leading to relatively higher costs to the State overall and reduced outcomes for children,” the budget request says.

adot-budget-webWhen will we think of the roads?

Ask any rural lawmaker: Do the roads throughout the state need help? During the 2017 legislative session, funds for highways became a battle-cry for lawmakers after the Governor’s Office didn’t include any money for roads in his proposed budget.

The Department of Transportation wants $25.6 million to help address crumbling highways throughout the state.

Typically, ADOT has used about $15 million each year on sealing deteriorated roads, said agency spokesman Steve Elliott. The $25.6 million request would be added to the $15 million, he said.

But that’s only a fraction of what the department estimates it needs to repair cracks, seal roadways and smooth out rough patches. The total need is more than $128 million, something ADOT recognized wasn’t doable because of the lack of state dollars and the difficulty of administering all the money at one time.

If money isn’t spent now to address road issues, the investment taxpayers put into roadways will deteriorate faster and negatively affect travel for both business and pleasure, the department wrote in its request.

And if the state doesn’t pony up more money for roads, the department won’t be able to preserve and extend the life expectancy of its highway system.

“These essential duties, if not properly funded, will result in more rapid deterioration of our pavement leading to more expensive reconstruction in the long run and more expense to the taxpayer,” the department wrote.

liquor-budget-webYou booze, you lose

Other requests are relatively small, but could have a big impact on an agency’s ability to do its job. Take the Department of Liquor Licenses and Control – the agency wants $35,000 to help with litigation costs and $102,000 for a full-time assistant attorney general.

Since the liquor department doesn’t have enough money now to fund litigation costs, it has to drop the amount it collects for fines in the hopes people won’t appeal them, the agency’s request says.

Now, if people with liquor licenses violate liquor laws, they get their fines reduced by half if they don’t contest the findings or judgments in legal hearings, the agency wrote.

“While there is no real way to measure direct impacts, a concern is that increased efforts to avoid contested cases could be jeopardizing public safety as well as adversely impacting services,” the agency wrote.

The agency currently has an assistant attorney general who spends one-third of their time on liquor department issues, but it wants a full-time person to focus on legal support and navigate complex liquor laws.

Without a full-time assistant AG, the department has missed opportunities to pursue more complex investigations related to racketeering, the agency wrote.

ade-budget-webWe don’t really want these epi-pens

The Department of Education is seeking $1.65 million to purchase injectable epinephrine for state schools, but its own officials deemed the request “unnecessary.”

The funds would be used to purchase two doses of adult and two doses of pediatric epinephrine for each of about 2,000 district and charter schools.

A 2013 law requires the department to make this exact request each year and to train selected staff to administer the potentially life-saving drug to someone experiencing a severe allergic reaction.

But the department would like an end to that mandate.

Epinephrine auto-injectors are sold in packages of two for a generic wholesale price between $300 and $400, or $800 per school. That leaves the remaining $50,000 for the same staff training each year.

But if the Legislature opts not to provide the funding, adding to the epinephrine stockpile is optional anyway.

“Schools are currently able to pursue other avenues to receive free or reduced pricing to stock epinephrine auto- injectors for emergency purposes,” the department wrote, “so the department believes this mandated budget request is unnecessary.”

In other words: We’re all set, thanks.

sfb-budget-webSave our crumbling school facilities

As school facilities age and degrade, emergency solutions have cost the state thousands of dollars at a time, according to the School Facilities Board.

Now, the board would like the authority and resources to predict failures and prioritize repairs.

Take the chiller (a cooling system) failure at Lake Havasu High School for example.

The board wrote the school’s two chillers failed, leaving the school without any relief from the heat. For months, the chillers had not been performing as expected, but nothing was done to preempt the inevitable.

The school had to be cooled, the board wrote. The replacement process took months despite being accelerated, and in the meantime, funding was provided to rent two trailer-mounted temporary chillers at a total cost of $325,000.

If the chillers had been replaced ahead of their failure one at a time, the rental would have been unnecessary.

In addition to the authority to predict such failures, the board is seeking expenditure authority from the Building
Grant fund to inspect school buildings every five years, to implement a tool prioritizing repairs and to partner with a third-party to gather information about the facilities and add it to that database, dubbed the Facility Condition Index.

“The information would roll up to a ‘dashboard’ giving the SFB an indication of a building system’s condition,” the board wrote. “The timing of repairs and replacements of those systems would be prioritized and managed to reduce avoidable costs and minimize disruption to students.”

Each school district would have its own dashboard to track scheduled maintenance, the board went on. Projects could be scheduled in advance and completed during breaks, and multiple purchases could be made at once to take advantage of bulk pricing.

The board included a draft for the proposed partnership, including anticipated costs well over $1 million,
though the board anticipates that cost would still pale in comparison to excess emergency costs.

Agreement on school funding ends at whether more is needed

Gov. Doug Ducey announces a plan to give teachers a 20 percent raise over the next three fiscal years. (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)
Gov. Doug Ducey announces a plan to give teachers a 20 percent raise over the next three fiscal years. (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)

Arizona’s public education system could use more money– a point few argue against. The disagreement comes when elected officials and education advocates start talking about how to get there.

Arizona School Boards Association lobbyist Chris Kotterman made that observation as he reflected on a proposal to increase personal income taxes for the wealthiest Arizonans.

He recalled a roomful of the education community’s representatives discussing the idea and his own trepidation about it..

An income tax hike would draw too much well-funded opposition to be successful, he said, but don’t expect ASBA to lobby against the proposal.

The proposal now billed as the Invest in Education Act may not be a perfect solution, but he said it’s a response from voters who look at the political establishment as not funding what’s important to them.

Chris Kotterman (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)
Chris Kotterman (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)

“For a long time, we’ve been on the ‘lower taxes are always better’ train, and the last 20 years have borne out that we haven’t been able to keep pace with the voters and what they say they want,” Kotterman said.

He said the state’s revenue structure does not match its priorities.

Education may be at the top of that list, but politics cloud the discussion around a workable policy solution.

Kotterman pointed to the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry as an example– both the chamber and ASBA are in favor of a strong public education system, he said.

But the chamber likes Empowerment Scholarship Accounts; ASBA thinks they are “harmful.”

“It’s not as simple as being able to set aside your differences and come to the table,” Kotterman said. “It’s that, literally, these organizations see things completely differently.”

The chamber swiftly came out in opposition to the Invest in Education Act, arguing it would harm small businesses, tie teacher pay to a volatile funding source and damage the state’s competitiveness.

But spokesman Garrick Taylor said the chamber is right there with the education community in that business leaders want to see more funding for schools.

He said that need is recognized on all sides, including the chamber and Republicans at the Capitol. He pointed specifically to their support for the extension of the sales tax under Proposition 301, which was accomplished this year even after the effort appeared dead, and the chamber’s backing of the budget that included Gov. Doug Ducey’s teacher pay raise plan.

Kotterman praised  the recently passed budget and additional dollars given to education, but he said that wasn’t enough to solve the problem entirely.

And the people are tired of promises of more to come.

“Red for Ed demonstrates that the hunger for vast improvement in a short period of time is very strong,” Kotterman said. “Incrementalism is not an approach that’s going to satisfy education supporters at this point.”

At the heart of the Red for Ed movement was the idea that there has not been leadership at the Capitol intent on improving education in Arizona.

“I don’t want to dismiss the frustration, but the idea that there are leaders at the Capitol who are just whistling past the graveyard is one that we would reject,” Taylor said.

Garrick Taylor
Garrick Taylor

Taylor said public education walked away with significant wins this session, and he believes more will come–perhaps not in 2018 with a ballot initiative to tax the rich, but perhaps sooner than we think.

“There is evidence that Arizonans of all stripes can coalesce around a policy solution,” he said.

That’s the problem as some education advocates see it, though. Not only is there disagreement about how Arizona achieves a more stable, well-funded public education system but also about what that system should look like in the first place.

“I have no idea what the right number is because we don’t even know what the right system is,” said Chuck Essigs, director of government relations for the Arizona Association of School Business Officials. “How can you say what it’s going to cost to build a house when you don’t even know what the house should look like?”

He referred to an oft cited number in the argument for more education funding: about $1 billion to bring the state back to 2008 levels.

But will that produce the public education system the people want? Essigs doesn’t know.

What about if the state returned to 1990s levels of funding? He said that would likely double the amount. And would that be enough? Maybe.

To know how much something is going to cost, he said, you have to know what you want it to look like.

He proposed an adequacy study to find out, to bring together the business and education communities to specifically describe what they want public education to accomplish. With common goals, perhaps the state could settle on a common price tag.

Stacey Morley
Stacey Morley

Stand for Children’s Stacey Morley added another layer to Essigs’ argument.

She pointed out that the state’s formula to disburse funds is grossly out of date compared to the education system now focused on choice.

She said the current school finance system was designed more than three decades ago for a system that only accounted for traditional district schools.

The public education system has since evolved around school choice, but the underlying school finance model has not.

And that, Morley said, has limited the state’s flexibility to adequately fund education while exacerbating tensions between charter and district schools.

Everyone has a “little kingdom” they’re trying to protect, she said. Everyone is afraid of losing what they have.

And no one is winning.

“Until we’re willing to put everything aside and really look at it holistically, I don’t know that we’ll ever solve it,” Morley said. “Even if we have enough for a few years, it’ll come back.”

So, too, may the hordes of angry educators.

Like ASBA, the grassroots group Save Our Schools Arizona was not excited by the Invest in Education Act. And like ASBA, SOS Arizona is content to let the Arizona Center for Economic Progress-led coalition behind the initiative lead the charge on income taxes.

But spokeswoman Dawn Penich-Thacker said there’s something to be learned from the proposal and the conversation it evolved from.

Save Our Schools Arizona spokeswoman Dawn Penich-Thacker joined thousands of public education advocates who rallied at the Capitol on March 28, 2018. (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)
Save Our Schools Arizona spokeswoman Dawn Penich-Thacker joined thousands of public education advocates who rallied at the Capitol on March 28, 2018. (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)

She said the political establishment is between a rock and a hard place: Donors and the party playbook want one thing, and voters want something else entirely.

Lawmakers on both sides have told her about that struggle, she said, but the fact that they see a choice other than representing their constituents is the problem.

“I don’t think that anyone feels that’s how democracy is supposed to function,” she said. “You’re elected, but you don’t know whether you should do what your voters want or what your donors want? … Those two entities are at odds.”

And the people have shown they are ready to take matters into their own hands.

“If you’re not going to look at options that the rest of us normal people, regular people see as being on the table, then I guess we’ll just do it,” Penich-Thacker said. “Regular voters and regular people don’t care about the party playbook.”

All in a session’s work: Pay hikes to official dinosaurs


If the just completed legislative session were a school year, the Class of 2018 would not be making the Honor Roll.

Oh, sure, there were a few outstanding successes, like coming up with a comprehensive plan to deal with opioid abuse from all angles. And even the vote to give teachers a 19 percent pay hike probably rates an A even though educators wanted far more, like restoring state aid to at least 2008 levels.

There also were some Bs for dealing with problems, like having the state license sober living homes for the first time ever and removing Arizona from the list of states where there was no minimum age to get married.

But much of the 116-day session resulted in what could be described as just average, run-of-the-mill alterations to existing state law, much of it to satisfy one or another business interest.

And there were more than a fair share of Fs — and incompletes in particular — for things left undone, particularly anything dealing with gun violence and school safety.

Still, there were examples of being able to work and play well together, notably the package of changes designed to deal with the spike of opioid-related deaths.

Coordinating with members of both parties and affected interests, Gov. Doug Ducey put together a plan that does everything from limit the number of pills that patients can get at any one time and the strength of their dosages to training for doctors to a “Good Samaritan” provision allowing people to call for help when a buddy overdoses without fearing they will get arrested themselves.

Still even that had to be picked apart, with lawmakers rejecting some ideas like a “needle exchange” program to ensure that addicts weren’t sharing disease as they were sharing needles.

school-funding-620Ducey and the Republican legislative leadership did focus on K-12 funding, not only with the pay hike but also a move to start restoring $371 million in other annual school district assistance that they had taken in prior years.

There also was a decision to extend the 0.6-cent sales tax for education that was set to expire in 2021. Still, it did take a bit of prodding from a newly energized group of teachers, organizing under the #RedForEd banner, to get their attention.

Lawmakers also did agree to require recess periods for children in kindergarten through fifth grade. They also spelled out that schools that offer kindergarten incorporate play as an instructional strategy and be “academically meaningful.”

School districts are now barred from refusing to sell unused buildings to charter schools.

Substitute teachers can now use some of their time in front of a classroom toward the experience requirement to get a teaching certificate.

And schools are now free to put up the state motto of “Ditat Deus” including its English translation of “God enriches.”

Then there’s the list of what did not get done.

The most spectacular — and perhaps most far-reaching — failure was the inability to enact any changes in laws designed to deal with gun violence, particularly at schools.

While there has been no shortage of mass shootings, the killing of 17 students and teachers at a Parkland, Fla. high school appeared to put some momentum into the movement to address the issue, both nationally and in Arizona. Even Ducey came up with a plan.

But the governor found few friends, with some pointing up his refusal to propose universal background checks on gun sales and a ban on “bump stocks,” even as others sniped at the idea of allowing a judge to order someone locked up for evaluation to determine if that person is such a potential danger to self or others that his or her ability to have a firearm should be curbed.

Lawmakers also refused to enact stiffer penalties for the intentional abuse or killing of pets, even after being told that those who commit those crimes often go on to become mass shooters.

Lake Pleasant, located Northwest of Phoenix, is part of the system that supplies water to Maricopa and Pima counties. (Photo courtesy of Central Arizona Project)
Lake Pleasant, located Northwest of Phoenix, is part of the system that supplies water to Maricopa and Pima counties. (Photo courtesy of Central Arizona Project)

Close behind is the failure to make meaningful — and some say needed — changes in state water laws.

Arizona does have what some consider to be a fairly effective code for dealing with groundwater.

But the drought has pointed out the flaws and the gaps in the statute, things like property owners in rural areas being able to pump all they want without even measuring it. There also are questions about how existing laws work when they deal with surface waters which are handled different in the statutes even though taking water from one tends to affect the other.

But the big hang-up was what amounted to a turf war about Colorado River water with Ducey and his Department of Water Resources on one side and the Central Arizona Water Conservation District with its own elected board on the other.

Also failing was a bid to allow counties to impose their own gasoline taxes to meet road construction and maintenance needs.

A bid to provide tax relief to senior homeowners also failed, as did a ban on photo radar.

And Arizona will not be joining 47 other states that have some sort of a ban on driving while texting. While a measure cleared the Senate it was blocked when House Speaker J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, said the only thing acceptable to him would be a law on “distracted driving.”

Lawmakers did spend some of their time telling other levels of government how to operate.

Most significant is a law that prohibits cities and counties from enacting ordinances which require that nonprofit groups disclose the source of their dollars when they get involved in affecting elections. But the Legislature also decided to restrict the ability of cities to set their own election dates if they can’t show that it does not depress turnout.

They also inserted themselves into some personal areas, spelling out a list of questions that have to be asked of a woman before she can get an abortion and deciding that when there are frozen embryos after a divorce that the parent willing to bring them to term gets preference.

But they were willing to alter state laws in the name of promoting business — sometimes specific interests.

(Photo by Preston Keres/U.S. Dept. of Agriculture)
(Photo by Preston Keres/U.S. Dept. of Agriculture)

Consider the measure to allow Grade A eggs to remain on store shelves longer. That was pushed by the Arizona Retailers Association concerned that consumers were loath to buy eggs that were close to their 24-day pull date, resulting in lots of unused — and unusable — product.

Trust companies can now meet their legal capital requirements with gold coins.

Sand and gravel companies pushed through a measure allowing them to get variances from existing requirements to reclaim the land where they mined their products.

Landlords are getting more flexibility in how they handle personal property left behind by tenants.

Companies that sell service contracts on things like appliances are becoming exempt from the same requirements as other forms of insurance.

Grocers are being spared the possibility that a local community might seek to impose a sales tax on sugared sodas.

And lawmakers voted to set up a “regulatory sandbox” program where companies can try out “innovative” financial products to offer to Arizonans without having to be licensed or get other regulatory authority.

Republican lawmakers did agree to ask voters in November to impose some new limits on the Citizens Clean Election Commission which administers funds to statewide and legislative candidates who forego private donations.

But they opted not to put a “clean energy ” measure on the ballot crafted by Arizona Public Service to compete with a more comprehensive initiative by a California billionaire. Also failing to be referred to the ballot was an effort to undermine a part of the 2016 voter-approved minimum wage law which gives workers guaranteed sick days, and another measure to revamp the Independent Redistricting Commission.

Some of what happened during the session had little to do directly with legislation.

There was the decision by the House to eject one of its own after several lawmakers, lobbyists, staffers and even a newspaper publisher complained that Rep. Don Shooter, R-Yuma, had sexually harassed them.

The Sonorasaurus,Arizona's state dinosaur (Wikimedia Commons)
The Sonorasaurus,Arizona’s state dinosaur (Wikimedia Commons)

And the whole attitude of less regulation allowed Ducey to unilaterally decide that testing autonomous vehicles on Arizona roads was just fine — until the governor had to reverse course after a pedestrian was killed in Tempe.

Other odds and ends from the session:

– Eliminating the ability of credit bureaus to impose a charge every time someone wants to freeze or unfreeze a credit report;

– Limiting the authority of courts to consider someone’s blindness in questions of adoption or parenting time;

– Making it a crime to extort someone to have sex;

– Banning the practice of forcing victims in sexual harassment and assault cases to sign confidentiality agreements in civil settlements;

– Enhancing the penalty for drunk-drivers who end up going the wrong way on freeways;

– Establishing the Sonorasaurus as the official state dinosaur;

– Prohibiting the use of software in cash registers and computers designed to help retailers avoid paying sales taxes;

– Allowing those who declare bankruptcy to keep up to $2,000 worth of firearms;

– Tightening up laws to prevent people from using electronic messages to get around open meeting requirements;

– Limiting the ability of those who sell gift cards from including an expiration date;

– Prohibiting people from misrepresenting pets as service animals.

All mail election debate gets new life, spurred by virus

In this March 10, 2020, file photo, a King County Election worker collects ballots from a drop box in Seattle for the primary election in Washington State, where elections are all mail. In Arizona, where voters can ask for a mail-in ballot, Democrats and some Republican election officials are calling for an all mail election, at least for this year as the coronavirus causes anxiety for face-to-face contact at the least and sickness and death at the worst. PHOTO BY JOHN FROSCHAUER/ASSOCIATED PRESS
In this March 10, 2020, file photo, a King County Election worker collects ballots from a drop box in Seattle for the primary election in Washington State, where elections are all mail. In Arizona, where voters can ask for a mail-in ballot, Democrats and some Republican election officials are calling for an all mail election, at least for this year as the coronavirus causes anxiety for face-to-face contact at the least and sickness and death at the worst. PHOTO BY JOHN FROSCHAUER/ASSOCIATED PRESS

A fight is brewing in Arizona over whether to switch to an all-mail ballot for the primary and general election in order to combat the spread of COVID-19.

A handful of states already operate their elections using a vote-by-mail process. While Arizona Democrats have long pushed to join those states, local election officials and Secretary of State Katie Hobbs are now seeking a temporary change during the coronavirus pandemic.

It comes off like a partisan issue, but there are some Republican election officials who agree that the current crisis is not normal and all-mail ballots are necessary, even if Republican lawmakers don’t feel the same way.

Katie Hobbs
Katie Hobbs

Hobbs, a Democrat, announced one day after the March 17 Democratic Presidential Preference Election that she would seek help from the GOP-controlled Legislature to make the temporary switch.

“We are in unprecedented territory,” Hobbs said. “We don’t know where things are going to be in August and November.”

The Legislature did not respond to Hobbs’ request before recessing on March 23, and it won’t take up the issue when it does return, Senate President Karen Fann said.

“My Republican caucus members are not in favor of that,” the Prescott Republican said. “This is more of a partisan issue.”

Conversations leading up to the March election were difficult and stressful, Hobbs said, adding that she does not want election officials, poll workers or voters to put their own health at risk to cast a vote.

“Arizona has a proven track record at being good with mail-in elections,” she said. In Arizona, voters can join the Permanent Early Voting List, or PEVL.

The state already has roughly 80% of its ballots cast by mail, with the 2018 election having the highest turnout yet for a midterm election at 2.4 million voters (roughly 1.92 million by mail). That election is what got Hobbs into her current position and brought more Democrats into office locally and nationally.

Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes, also a Democrat, had a similar solution just days before the March 17 election. He tried to send all registered voters their ballots by mail, until Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich obtained a court order stopping him.

But now the state has more time to prepare, while watching COVID-19 get worse. On March 17, Arizona had 20 diagnosed cases and no deaths, and the Legislature was still in session.

As of April 9 there are more than 3,000 known cases with 89 deaths and those numbers are ever growing. There’s no telling what the numbers will look like come August or even November.

Hobbs said switching to an all-mail election is not an easy solution, but it is the right one and it’s common sense.

“I think it is absolutely irresponsible to not look at this as a feasible solution in the middle of this health crisis, and I for the life of me cannot understand why anyone would be opposed to it,” she said.

Michelle Ugenti-Rita
Michelle Ugenti-Rita

Opposition to all-mail elections should be easy enough to understand, said Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, a Scottsdale Republican who leads her caucus on election policy. Changing the law is simply unnecessary because anyone who wants to vote by mail already can by signing up for the Permanent Early Voting List, Ugenti-Rita

“It empowers voters because they’re the ones still in charge,” she said. “We should default to making sure the voter is in control instead of trying to shove an agenda down their throats.”

Ugenti-Rita vowed to do everything she can to prevent universal mail elections, adding that counties would do better to launch educational campaigns reminding voters that they can sign up for the early voting list, or vote early in person to avoid Election Day crowds.

County election officials are taking advantage of a public health crisis to push a longstanding policy goal that has never been popular at the Legislature, Ugenti-Rita said.

“It’s not necessary to require all mail-in voting since the option already exists for voters,” she said. “This is just people not letting a crisis go to waste.”

The Arizona Association of Counties has pushed since 2012 to give counties the ability to hold elections entirely by mail. Cities and towns already have the ability to hold local elections by mail, but under state law counties lack the authority to change how elections are held.

In previous years, counties have argued that mail elections will save money and that voters like the ability to vote by mail.

“All of those things are still true, but none of those things matter this year,” said Jenn Marson, executive director of the Arizona Association of Counties. “What matters this year is it’s a health crisis.”

Counties hire and train poll workers, most of whom fall in the 65 or older age range considered most at risk for severe cases of COVID-19. They expect to have to hire about 16,000 poll workers, but those volunteers are hard to find even in normal years, Marson said.

Counties have been asking for a temporary change to session law, rather than a permanent change to state statute, that will enable election officials to run mail elections for the August primary and November general election, then revert back to the normal way of running elections next year.

Hobbs has pushed for the same thing. In response to an op-ed in the Arizona Republic from Rep. Shawnna Bolick, R-Phoenix, Hobbs said it was irresponsible and only makes it harder to protect voters’ safety.

“The opposition would make more sense if we were talking about blanket authorization for all vote-by-mail from now until eternity, but we’re not,” she said. “There’s literally not one true thing in the entire op-ed. It’s just wrong.”

The decision realistically needs to be made by April 15 for the August primary and June 15 for the general election, Hobbs said.

bolickBolick argued that switching to an all-mail ballot is more complicated, riskier and less accurate than voting in-person. She wrote that a ballot cast in-person is counted more accurately and securely than one mailed, the voting by mail lends itself to fraud and confusion in part because the mail isn’t secure, that it’s more expensive, and the counties will need to hire and train more people to switch to a vote-by-mail system.

Bolick, who sits on the House Elections Committee, also argued there’s a link between voter fraud and mail-only elections, which is another false claim.

“I think that is based on misinformation and flat out not knowing how the process works,” Hobbs said to that argument. “Voting by mail is very secure.”

Bolick did not return a request for comment.

A previous claim of voter fraud happened out of the Legislature in 2016 where then-Sen. Don Shooter said people cheat by microwaving already sealed ballots with a bowl of water so the ballots can be opened, altered and then resealed without anybody noticing.

The Arizona Capitol Times investigated this claim and disproved it

Rep. Travis Grantham, R-Gilbert has also argued on Twitter that voting only by mail can lead to more opportunities for cheating in an election. It’s a narrative that President Donald Trump has pushed at least since the 2018 election in Arizona given the high volume of mail ballots. 

At the time, Trump was disputed by both Republican Gov. Doug Ducey and Republican Secretary of State Michele Reagan. The latter had to thoroughly explain Arizona’s ballot counting process and why it takes longer than most states.

Trump then took it a step further saying people cheat with mail-in voting and it would be bad for Republicans. He said if registered voters are given the opportunity to vote by mail or absentee “you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.”

Trump also notably votes by mail.

Grantham said he thinks it’s the right of voters to vote in-person and considers voting during the pandemic as an essential service.

He said people can go to the grocery store during a pandemic, so why not vote in person?

Travis Grantham
Travis Grantham

Grantham has come under criticism for minimizing the pandemic at times, though his controversial Twitter comments have simmered down since saying only a small fraction of Arizonans have been infected with COVID-19 three weeks ago.

Local election officials also took umbrage with Bolick’s op-ed, calling it “inaccurate” and “misleading.”

Republican Pinal County Recorder Virginia Ross and Cochise County Elections Director Lisa Marra, who works for a Board of Supervisors with a Republican majority, said they spoke on behalf of the Arizona Recorders Association and the Election Officials of Arizona in an op-ed arguing it’s “crucial that the Legislature extend our ability to hold ballot-by-mail elections for state and federal elections.”

The duo wrote that it’s safer, cheaper and easier and wouldn’t compromise the integrity of elections, as Bolick claimed, noting that many cities and towns already hold all-mail elections.

“Mailing ballots to voters is less complicated and less expensive compared to the massive logistical undertaking of finding, staffing, equipping, testing, sanitizing and maintaining hundreds of voting locations across the state. Doing so is comparable to opening a new business overnight, and the staffing alone takes the equivalent of a small army,” they wrote.

Yavapai County Recorder Leslie Hoffman, a Republican, agreed with the two saying that because Arizona already has a lot of ballots cast by mail it would be a simple transition.

“We’ve got the system. We’ve got it down. We know how to do it right,” she said. “Voting is a tradition, not how you vote.”

Hoffman noted that one part of the argument that has consistently been forgotten about is even if 100 percent of voters sign up for PEVL or if the all-mail election happens, “you’d still have to open up a polling location in every precinct because that’s the way the law reads.”

Without a law change, that would still happen in the election, Hoffman said.

That law change, or any other in their favor, doesn’t seem likely at this point as the GOP majority Legislature is not inclined to move forward with the temporary change, Ducey has made no inclination to work with Hobbs or county officials on this and Hobbs thinks if it goes to court Brnovich will prevent it from happening.

Neither Ducey or Brnovich’s offices provided comment for this story.

Another argument against the idea comes from Tim La Sota, an attorney, who thinks Hobbs is overreacting to the pandemic.

He said a lot of people already vote by mail in Arizona and they still have that option, but going to all-mail for him is a “nonstarter” and that it’s less convenient for people in rural communities.

“The notion that we need yet another governmental solution, a one size fits all, I think just is the wrong solution,” he said.

His solution would be to send something out reminding voters how they can sign up for a mail-in ballot. Still, La Sota acknowledged that if the pandemic gets worse, his opinion might change.

Hobbs said if things don’t progress to an all-mail solution then what La Sota suggested is a backup plan.

“I would much rather spend that money mailing ballots instead because that makes it more expensive to have to do both,” she said.

All-mail ballots also cost less than the current election model, Hobbs said, though regardless of which option gets settled on, she said the office plans to use the $8 million from the federal CARES act to fund the final solution.

Correction: A previous version of this story erroneously reported that Cochise County Elections Director Lisa Marra works for a Republican County Recorder, when in fact, she works for the Board of Supervisors. 

Alleged revenge-porn violation against former House staffer depends on time crime was committed

Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale, stands at her desk on the floor of the Arizona House of Representatives, before a vote to expel Rep. Don Shooter, R-Yuma. Ugenti-Rita’s allegations of sexual harassment by Shooter led a host of women and one man to air similar allegations against him. (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)
Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale, stands at her desk on the floor of the Arizona House of Representatives, before a vote to expel Rep. Don Shooter, R-Yuma. Ugenti-Rita’s allegations of sexual harassment by Shooter led a host of women and one man to air similar allegations against him. (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)

Rep. Anthony Kern wants prosecutors to determine if a former legislative staffer violated Arizona law by sharing sexually explicit messages about Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita.

But whether the law was potentially violated depends on when the messages were sent.

Brian Townsend, a former House staffer who last worked as policy director in 2015, told attorneys investigating sexual harassment in the chamber that he shared “unsolicited, sexually explicit communications” in a manner Townsend said was intended to “hurt and humiliate” Ugenti-Rita, to whom he is now engaged.

Rep. Anthony Kern (R-Glendale)
Rep. Anthony Kern (R-Glendale)

Kern, R-Glendale, drew attention to Townsend’s testimony while voting to expel Rep. Don Shooter, a Yuma Republican who’s pattern of sexually harassing behavior was the focus of the investigation.

The report concluded that “credible evidence supports the finding that Mr. Townsend acted alone and without a member of this body’s knowledge.”

“I will be drafting a letter to the Attorney General and the Maricopa County Attorney in response to an alleged unwelcome, harassing and offensive communication by a Mr. Brian Townsend,” Kern said.

He later added that Townsend’s actions were potentially “unlawful acts, and I want those thoroughly investigated.”

A House spokesman said Kern is drafting the letters and expects they’ll be sent on Monday.

It’s a crime to share nude photos of another person without their consent if the intent is to harm, harass or intimidate that person.

But the law declaring that crime a felony was not adopted until 2016. That year, the Legislature passed HB 2001, sponsored by House Speaker J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, with an emergency clause, meaning the law went into effect the moment Gov. Doug Ducey signed the bill on March 11, 2016.

Ryan Anderson, a spokesman for Attorney General Mark Brnovich, said the date the messages were sent and the date the law took effect would be relevant to any law enforcement agency who may follow up on Kern’s request.

“We are aware of the allegations in the investigative report concerning the electronic transmission of sexually explicit communications reportedly intended to hurt and humiliate a state lawmaker,” Anderson wrote in an email. “Arizona law is clearly designed to protect victims who have a right to expect privacy. We can’t comment further.”

Also at question is whether a prosecutor would pursue charges against Townsend without the consent of Ugenti-Rita.

It’s too early to determine if prosecutors have something to act on, said Amanda Jacinto, a spokeswoman for Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery. A law enforcement agency with jurisdiction — perhaps the Department of Public Safety — would first have to investigate the allegations.
As for investigators, a victim’s participation is helpful, but not necessary.

“As long a you’re able to establish a crime did happen, you don’t need a victim to bring the crime forward to authorities,” Jacinto said.

Attorneys hired for the House investigation were told by multiple third parties, and Shooter, about the explicit messages, and that Ugenti-Rita may have known about them or perhaps participated in sharing the messages. There was no doubt that the “unsolicited, unwelcome, and harassing contact” occurred, according to the report, so it was up to investigators to determine whether Ugenti-Rita was involved.

Ugenti-Rita “unequivocally denied” knowledge of the messages, and based in part on her “genuine surprise and shock,” investigators found her denial credible.

The investigators had previously criticized Townsend as an uncredible witness in their investigation, but found his response when confronted with the allegations consistent and credible. Townsend took “complete ownership for the alleged conduct,” and broke down trembling and crying in front of investigators several times.

“Mr. Townsend immediately became emotional, expressing that he knew the discovery of his actions would be the ‘death knell’ in his career and relationship with Ms. Ugenti-Rita,” investigators wrote.

“The independent, credible evidence supports only a finding that Mr. Townsend acted alone and without Ms. Ugenti-Rita’s knowledge or participation when committing the egregious and potentially unlawful acts at issue,” investigators later added.

Allister Adel named new Maricopa County Attorney

Newly-appointed Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel talking to reporters after her sewaring-in on October 3, 2019. (Photo by Dillon Rosenblatt/Arizona Capitol Times)
Newly-appointed Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel talking to reporters after her swearing-in on October 3, 2019. (Photo by Dillon Rosenblatt/Arizona Capitol Times)

Allister Adel, an attorney in private practice and former executive director of the Maricopa County Bar Association, will be Maricopa County Attorney for the next year.

After more than a day in executive session, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors unanimously appointed Adel to finish off Bill Montgomery’s term as county attorney. 

Montgomery resigned from his post one day after Gov. Doug Ducey appointed him to the Arizona Supreme Court on September 4. Chief Deputy Rachel Mitchell, who was also in consideration for the appointment, became acting county attorney after Montgomery’s departure. 

Adel is the first woman to hold the job as chief prosecutor of the fourth largest county in the U.S. and already stated in her application she plans to run for election in 2020. 

After taking her oath of office, Adel said she plans to serve the office and Maricopa County with “integrity and honor.” She said her first priority is to be briefed on all pending cases by senior staff and then she will take the time to meet members in the office.

“I’m going to walk the halls and introduce myself to the team,” she said.

Speaking on a list of harassment controversies the office has faced recently, Adel said she will take any and all allegations seriously. 

“Things will be investigated and handled swiftly and appropriately, but justly.”

As the first woman to hold this job, Adel said she is honored, but says she didn’t earn the job for being a woman.

 “I earned this based on my merits … I am a character-driven leader and I think that will shine through.” 

During her short time at the Department of Child Safety, Adel made the news for sending the Governor’s Office a memo under the state’s whistle-blower statute regarding Ducey’s appointment of Greg McKay as DCS Director in 2015. The statute prohibits a government workplace manager from retaliating against an employee who alleges a violation of the law, mismanagement, a gross waste of funds, or an abuse of authority.

Mike Liburdi, Ducey’s general counsel at the time, confirmed it was Adel who sent the memo. The Governor’s Office refused to make her complaint public arguing it contained information considered attorney-client privilege. Liburdi said it’s because Adel has an attorney-client relationship with Ducey since DCS reports to the governor.

She previously told Yellow Sheet Report that as an outsider to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office she couldn’t say for certain whether she thought Montgomery did the job well while he was there, but she praised his dedication to seeking justice. 

Adel said she would seek a stronger working relationship with the courts and law enforcement than Montgomery had. 

“Especially as we start to have conversations about criminal justice reform,” she said.

Adel has held several different jobs since leaving the MCAO in 2011, including administrative law judge at the Arizona Department of Transportation, and  general counsel for Arizona Department of Child Safety.

She also said she’s a big believer in transparency and will strive to ensure the media and the public are able to access public records through the office. 

Montgomery had a shaky record when it came to fulfilling records requests in a timely manner during his tenure to the extent that the ACLU of Arizona sued him for not fulfilling records requests after a seven-month period. 

“If we are doing our job right, we have nothing to hide,” Adel said. 

Editor’s note: This story has been revised to include comment from Allister Adel and information on Adel’s background, including a whistleblower memo she wrote in 2015. 

Anthony Garcia: Gathering signatures is a prayer answered


Anthony Garcia, a veteran signature gatherer, said the lucrative business of circulating petitions helped him stay out of jail.

When he first got started in 2008, Garcia was living in a men’s shelter and needed to find a job to stay in the program. What started off as just a regular job soon turned into a vocation for the West Valley native.

With the money he earned from petition gathering, he said, he was able to buy his first car straight off the lot, his wife was able to go to school, and he had the opportunity to spend a month working in California, the first time he and his family had visited the state.

But Garcia, 39, said despite it being a well-paid position, it’s hard work, and it’s only getting harder with changing signature-gathering laws. Bad apples in the business, he said, are also making it more difficult to collect signatures, an issue he’s all too familiar with.

This year, Garcia, who works in construction framing houses, wound up testifying in court during an election challenge hearing after someone impersonated him and used his name to fraudulently gather signatures for a candidate seeking election to the Senate.

Cap Times Q&AWhat attracted you to signature gathering?

I was in Church on the Street and they said when you’re in Church on the Street you gotta have a job to stay in the mission. I was in recovery in the men’s home. I called my old foreman and he said I could have my old job back but I had to go to orientation. Orientation was at like 5 o’clock in the morning. I had to leave the mission at like 3 in the morning and ride my bike from 43rd and Van Buren to 99th Avenue and Lower Buckeye to get to orientation on time. It was over at like 10 and I rode my bike to 91st and Encanto to catch the free shuttle to Maryvale. When I got there, I started praying. I just said, “God, show me something different because what I’m doing is just wrong and I’m going to be with the same people and I don’t want that anymore. I want something different.” As soon as I got done praying, I promise you, this guy starts walking up to me with petitions in his hand. We started talking and he told me he was about to go to the college and hire and fire some people. I asked him if he owned his own business and I told him I wanted to work for whoever he worked for. He asked me if I was a registered voter and I said yes, and then he asked me to sign his petitions and he gave me the number to his boss. The number was for Pastor Jim, and right off the bat I knew that was God’s answer to my prayer. I went to meet with him and he gave me the lowdown on how it all works. His office was like right down the street from my grandma’s house and everybody there had lived on that block forever and they were all registered voters. So I went straight over there and I got everybody on the block to sign. It was like two hours. I rode my bike back over to his office and the guy gave me a check for like $350 and I was hooked.

Do you circulate petitions for candidates and initiatives?

I go wherever the money is at.

What are some of the big names you’ve circulated petitions for?

Doug Ducey, Kyrsten Sinema, Ruben Gallego. I did a couple justices of the peace.

What’s the secret to getting someone to sign a petition?

If you’re walking down the street and someone’s waving at you, and I wear a lot of gold chains, so you’re walking down the street and you see this guy with gold chains waving at you, you’re going to be like what’s this guy all about. So I’ll do that. Or once I have someone, I’ll talk loud and people are nosy and if they hear something that catches their attention they’ll stop. If you can get just one person to stop, a lot of people will stop because it’s monkey see, monkey do. Or you make a silly sign. You know what gets a lot of people’s attention, if you spell something wrong because everybody will try to correct you. Or compliment them on their shoes or their hat. People are self absorbed so if you talk about them they’ll come talk to you. But it’s always 50-50. There’s people that will ignore you and people that will talk to you. You just have to talk to everybody. The more people you talk to the better your odds are.

Do you have a favorite spot where you usually collect signatures?

I usually go to the DMV on 51st Avenue and Indian School. That used to be my spot but there’s a lady, Darcy, and she kind of took the spot over so I’m kind of stuck walking around that area. But that’s a good spot, you get a good response.

What’s the most signatures you’ve ever gotten in a single day?

My biggest, it wasn’t a single day, it was Comic Con. I got 1,500 signatures in three days. … Festivals are the best.

What’s the most money you’ve made in a single day?

I made like $1,500 in three weeks. That’s when Bonita (Burks) was around and there was competition. That was the best part, when there was competition and we worked as independent contractors, like freelancers, we could go wherever we wanted and make more money.

It’s not every day that someone gets impersonated. How was it to learn someone was using your name professionally?

Oh man, you feel terrible. It’s messed up. I was worried. I’m still wondering why, why would someone do that? I lost a lot of sleep over that.

Do you think the incident will affect how you decide who to gather signatures for in the future?

It will just make me more cautious in who I associate with and what petitions I do. I guess I won’t so easily pick people off the street and say here I’ll do your petitioning because that’s what I did and look what happened.

Do you think the bad apples in the business tarnish the reputation of seasoned and reliable signature gatherers?

It definitely messes with the reputation of good petition gatherers. One example, the smear campaign they’re trying to do with the Clean Energy petitioners. Now people don’t want to sign my petition. It’s going to be harder to get signatures and it’s already hard to get signatures.

Do you see yourself working as a circulator for years to come?

Oh yeah. I have kids and they’re young. But when they’re older and they go to college I plan on traveling throughout the country doing petitions. I can’t afford to travel, I don’t have retirement, so I’m going to work my butt off until the day I die.

APS executive makes no promises on future political spending

Don Brandt, center, CEO of Arizona Public Service and its parent company, Pinnacle West Capital Corp., appears before the Arizona Corporation Commission in Phoenix, Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2019. (AP Photo/Tom Tingle, Pool)
Don Brandt, center, CEO of Arizona Public Service and its parent company, Pinnacle West Capital Corp., appears before the Arizona Corporation Commission in Phoenix, Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2019. (AP Photo/Tom Tingle, Pool)

The incoming chief executive of Pinnacle West Capital Corp. refused Wednesday to promise that the company won’t spend money in the future to elect utility regulators of its choosing.

Jeff Guldner told members of the Arizona Corporation Commission that he wasn’t saying there would be a repeat performance of what happened in 2014 and 2016 when the parent company of Arizona Public Service put a combined $15 million into campaigns to elect members of the panel. But Guldner said he cannot give a firm answer because he does not take over from Don Brandt, the current CEO, until Nov. 15.

That answer left commission Chairman Bob Burns unsatisfied, particularly as the commission is constitutionally precluded from barring APS or any other utility from getting involved in political campaigns.

Burns told Guldner that he wants that commitment after he takes over – or else.

“I would suggest that if we do not receive that commitment from APS, maybe we need to change the way that we go about determining return on equity,” the chairman said, suggesting that perhaps the entire board of Pinnacle West should come to the commission the next time APS requests a rate hike.

“I think we would have the opportunity to do a little negotiation and have a settlement right then and there.”

Burns also charged that the political spending is part of a larger plan by Pinnacle West to “capture” the commission to ensure that it got the decisions the company wanted on issues like requests for higher rates. And Burns even charged that Gov. Doug Ducey has had a hand in the process, including the appointment of Andy Tobin to the panel, an appointment Burns said was very “disruptive.”

Bob Burns explains why he was the lone vote against selecting Tom Forese as new chairman of the Arizona Corporation Commission (Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer)
Bob Burns (Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer)

“I have no proof,” Burns conceded later to Capitol Media Services. “But it smells.”

“This is the first time we’ve heard a lot of these concerns,” said gubernatorial press aide Patrick Ptak. He said the commission does its job and the governor does his, including filling vacancies on the commission as constitutionally required.

Tobin has since resigned to take a job in the Ducey administration, with the governor appointing Lea Marquez Peterson to replace him.

Burns wasn’t the only one with sharp comments about Pinnacle West – and specifically the way Brandt has run the company for the past dozen years.

Commissioner Sandra Kennedy told Brandt he “behaves like a kingpin,” operating Pinnacle West in a way to benefit only to the company to the detriment of its customers and the public at large.

“You have, in essence, created a machine to purchase any and every elected official and defeat anyone in your way,” she said.

The daylong hearing was called in the wake of the discovery that a Sun City West woman had died last year of heat-related conditions after APS disconnected her power on a 107-degree day after the failure to pay $51 of a $176 bill. And there were several pointed questions about what commissioners saw as the failure to provide Stephanie Pullman with adequate notice.

But much of the discussion centered around the policies of Pinnacle West in spending money on elections.

Sandra Kennedy
Sandra Kennedy

Burns cited reports that showed Pinnacle West and APS had looked at plans as far back as 2009 to set up and fund “grassroots” organizations with the specific goal of convincing Arizonans that the decisions being made by the Arizona Corporation Commission were contrary to the interests of the public and ratepayers.

Then in 2013, company lobbyist Jessica Pacheco hosted a fundraiser at the Phoenix Country Club for Justin Pierce in his race for secretary of state at a time his father, Gary, was a commissioner.

That took a more concrete form in 2014 when Pinnacle West quietly funneled money through other groups, including the Free Enterprise Club, the Arizona Cattle Feeders Association and Save Our Future Now to undermine the campaigns of some Republicans who were seeking commission seats because they were supportive of requiring utilities to get more of their power from solar and other renewable sources.

All totaled Pinnacle West spent $10.7 million on that race, with the outcome being the successful campaigns of the two Republicans it backed.

Attorney William Maledon, who represents the company, confirmed Wednesday that an FBI probe into expenditures made in the 2014 race remain under investigation. He declined to provide specifics citing confidentiality requirements.

In 2016 the company was above board in the spending of $4.2 million to ensure the commission remained an all-Republican affair.

There was no reported spending on candidates in 2018, with Pinnacle West instead putting more than $30 million into a statewide campaign to defeat a ballot measure that would have mandated the use of more renewable energy.

Commissioner Boyd Dunn pointed out that the panel, by itself, is powerless to limit corporate spending on campaigns, even when it is by a utility to elect preferred regulators. But he said that’s not an answer.

“Because it is legal it does not make it right,” he told Brandt.

Commissioner Justin Olson agreed.

“Our utilities should not spend money electing their regulators,” he said.

There also was some kickback from Pinnacle West when the questions got very specific about exactly what happened in the Pullman case.

State utility regulator Boyd Dunn July 10, 2019, at the Corporation Commission. Dunn wants changes to ethics rules to disqualify commissioners from voting on matters when they have received campaign help from someone involved in the case. (Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer)
Boyd Dunn (Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer)

The utility recently settled out of court with the family. And Maledon said family members have asked that the specifics of the case not become a part of the hearing on disconnection policies.

That explanation left Kennedy unsatisfied.

“We should know what happened,” she said, telling Maledon that the company settled with the family to keep from having to answer questions.

But some details did emerge.

Daniel Froestcher, an APS vice president, acknowledged that no one actually made personal contact with Pullman, instead leaving a notice on her front door. That annoyed Dunn.

“A lot of us in the summer are not using the front door,” he said, instead entering the house through the carport. And Dunn questioned why no one actually bothered to knock on her door.

Froestcher told commissioners he used to do the job of contacting customers.

“I had dogs released on me,” he said. “I have been verbally threatened and one time I had a weapon pulled on me.”

Hence the change in policy. But that drew a skeptical response from Dunn who questioned how likely it was that people living in what is largely a retirement community are a threat.

Froestcher said it’s a system-wide policy, with APS serving customers in 11 of the state’s 15 counties.

Brandt deflected multiple questions from Kennedy who complained about the rates and customer service.

“The reality is, for the vast majority of our customers, electricity is a bargain,” he said, citing national figures that show the average household spends just 1.6 percent of its take-home pay on power.

APS had no similar figures for its own customers. But Brandt defended the charges.

“Research shows a vast majority of our customers are not concerned with their electric bill.”

Brandt also defended company spending on things like sponsorships, like having the APS logo displayed at sports arenas.

“It projects a positive image,” he said, telling commissioners that the cost of these – he provided no figures – comes from corporate profits and not from direct customer payments.

Arizona needs balanced approach to renewable energy policies


In our highly charged political environment, the question of whether to incorporate more renewable energy resources as part of our overall energy infrastructure is—as with most issues—often viewed in the prism of being either “left” or “right.”  Unfortunately, this simplistic view distorts an increasingly important issue, and one that has much deeper significance than whether, from a political perspective, conservatives or liberals perceive renewable energy positively or negatively. In fact, transitioning to a more robust renewable energy portfolio has important implications for air quality, water supply, economic development, and national security.

Jaime Molera
Jaime Molera

Recently, representatives from our state’s utilities, business community, and political leaders met in a forum to discuss the value of expanding the sources that make up our electric grid, and the consensus was clear: the value of diversifying our energy portfolio and expanding our utilization of renewable energy options is not a left or right question, but an imperative that will have significant impacts on our state.

The forum was hosted by Greater Phoenix Leadership in conjunction with the Arizona Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Phoenix Chamber, The Western Way, and moderated by Pat Graham of The Nature Conservancy. The impetus for the forum was a visit by retired Vice Admiral Lee Gunn of the CNA Military Advisory Board, who gave a compelling presentation on how additional renewable energy facilities can enhance the national security of our electric grid; essentially, the message was that by diversifying the number and types of sources we use for energy generation, we make it more difficult for those who wish to do us harm to target our energy supplies.

Aside from the national security imperative, it is clear that the promotion of clean energy (e.g. solar energy creation and storage, nuclear energy, hydrogen fuel cells, electric vehicle adoption, etc.) has significant positive impacts for Arizona from an air quality and water supply standpoint, not to mention augmenting economic development opportunities.  APS and SRP are committing significant resources to this end and should be commended for their aggressive approaches to Arizona renewable infrastructure.

Glenn Hamer
Glenn Hamer

Regarding air quality, we know that Arizona struggles with air quality problems, which results not only in consequences for public health but for Arizona’s economy as well. That is because, when a state is out of compliance with air quality standards—or close to that limit—federal environmental regulations limit opportunities for manufacturing and business growth and expansion unless the state can show how it will offset the additional emissions that economic expansion might produce.


Yet, by investing in renewable energy technology, Arizona’s businesses, both new and expanding, can pursue development opportunities while still complying with federal air quality standards. For example, when an Arizona business voluntarily institutes a program to incentivize its employees to carpool or drive electric vehicles to work, the reduction in vehicle emissions can be used as an offset toward obtaining the necessary air quality permit for expansion. In general, Arizona’s business community will be well served by promoting these types of emission reduction credits (ERCs), since there is no maximum limit on the amount of eligible reductions. In Maricopa County especially, air quality concerns are significant, and expanding the use of ERCs by, for example, installing workplace electric vehicle charging stations, will provide certainty that economic expansion will not be hindered by the federal environmental regulations.

With respect to water, recent analyses from various private and public entities continue to underscore the need to address Arizona’s current and future water supply needs. Although Arizona did significant work in 2019 to address surface water challenges through the Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan, it is clear that there is much work left to be done to address Arizona’s long-term needs. Here too, there is a robust nexus with renewable energy. Unlike traditional electricity generation, solar energy requires significantly less water. Continuing to invest in solar energy technology and other less water-intensive methods of electricity generation provides a real opportunity to accommodate our state’s growing energy needs while being mindful of our water usage.

Today’s political climate has become an all-or-nothing, zero sum game. When it comes to energy policy, too often those on the right ignore real environmental and conservation problems, and those on the left ignore legitimate concerns about loss of employment, economic growth, and individual freedom due to overburdensome government regulation.

It is time to move away from a polarized approach to renewable energy. Fortunately, Arizona businesses understand that a balanced approach to major policies facing the state is possible. Gov. Doug Ducey emphasized this point in his recent State of the State address, it is what we in Arizona call the “Arizona Way.” There is a genuine interest and commitment in moving toward, promoting, and expanding renewable energy development and usage.  Arizona is in a premier position to move past the “right vs. left” arguments and pursue policies that embrace a meaningful renewable energy platform that will benefit our great state for many decades to come.

Jaime Molera is a partner with Molera Alvarez and Glenn Hamer is president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Arizona asks judge to hold off on fines in inmate care case

FILE - This July 23, 2014 file photo shows a state prison in Florence, Ariz. A book that discusses the impact of the criminal justice system on black men is being kept out of the hands of Arizona prison inmates. The American Civil Liberties Union is calling on the Arizona Department of Corrections to rescind a ban on "Chokehold: Policing Black Men." (AP Photo/File)
 This July 23, 2014 file photo shows a state prison in Florence, Ariz. (AP Photo/File)

The state of Arizona wants a judge to hold off on her threat to order $1.6 million in additional contempt-of-court fines against the state for failing to adequately follow through on its promises to improve health care for its 33,000 prisoners.

The state has asked U.S. District Judge Roslyn Silver to delay the possible fines as it appeals an earlier $1.4 million fine and civil contempt ruling against Corrections Director Charles Ryan for noncompliance with a settlement over the quality of inmate care.

An appellate ruling that’s favorable to the state could invalidate Silver’s order in which she threatened to issue another round of fines, the state’s lawyers said in court records late last week.

The state’s lawyers said Arizona would be forced to “unnecessarily undergo extensive contempt proceedings and undertake payment of exorbitant contempt” if Silver denies the request. They say the state has improved its compliance since the judge raised the possibility of more fines.

Corene Kendrick, an attorney representing the prisoners, said the state is trying to keep Silver from holding a hearing over the threatened fines.

“They are recycling some of the arguments they have used in the past to try not to have orders go into effect,” Kendrick said.

The judge set a July 1 deadline for the state to fully comply. She said she would impose $50,000 for each performance measure that’s not met at each prison.

The state hasn’t fully complied on 21 performance measures, such as ensuring newly prescribed medications are provided to inmates within two days and making medical providers tell inmates about the results of pathology reports and other diagnostic studies within five days of receiving such records.

The lawsuit alleged that Arizona’s 10 state-run prisons didn’t meet the basic requirements for providing adequate medical and mental health care. It said some prisoners complained that their cancer went undetected or that they were told to pray to be cured after begging for treatment.

It also alleged that the failure of the medical staff at one prison to diagnose an inmate’s metastasized cancer resulted in his liver enlarging so much that his stomach swelled to the size of a pregnant woman at full term. Another inmate who had a history of prostate cancer had to wait more than two years for a biopsy.

The state denied allegations that it was providing inadequate care, and the lawsuit was settled without the state acknowledging any wrongdoing.

Late last year, Silver raised the possibility of throwing out the settlement and resuming litigation, saying the state’s insistence on defending its performance was ill-advised.

The state paid the $1.4 million fine issued nearly a year ago and was later fully reimbursed by Corizon Health Care, which has provided health care in Arizona’s prisons for more than five years. Another company, Centurion of Arizona, will take over as the state’s prison health care provider on July 1.

Gov. Doug Ducey, who is Ryan’s boss, expressed confidence in his corrections director after he was found to be in contempt of court last summer. The governor has said he wants state agency directors, not judges, running their departments.

Arizona charitable giving improves thanks to tax credit law change

Arizona isn’t exactly the most charitable state.

According to one survey, in fact, it’s dead last. And that means Arizonans could certainly give more.

Whether they’re conscious or not of Arizona’s reputation, legislators have over the years hunkered down to encourage charitable giving.

Last year, Gov. Doug Ducey signed a law doubling the amount of tax credits residents can claim for charitable giving to $400 for individuals and $800 for married couples.

In addition, the law also expanded the tax credit for contributions to charitable groups focusing on foster care to $500 (from $400) for individuals and $1,000 (from $800) for married couples.

The new tax credit on foster care contributions can be claimed separately from the traditional tax credit for giving to charitable groups.

Ron Johnson
Ron Johnson

The expansion is a big win for nonprofits engaged in helping low-income Arizonans, said Ron Johnson, executive director of the Arizona Catholic Conference. The Catholic Church is among the most active charity groups in the country.

Johnson said last year’s expansion was a culmination of years of work to make Arizona’s charitable giving law less complicated.

He noted that the doubling of the tax credit was the first increase since the inception of the law, then known as the Working Poor Credit.

And prior to 2013, taxpayers had to itemize their tax deductions to claim a credit for contribution to a charitable organization. That made it harder for many to claim the credit, Johnson said.

Lawmakers changed the law so that the credit is made available to taxpayers claiming the standard deduction.

Johnson said anecdotally, charities have reported seeing significant bumps in their contributions, and many attributed it to the changes in the law, particularly the doubling of the tax credit for charitable giving.

“This has been a really good way to try to help the nonprofits who help the neediest in our communities,” Johnson said, adding that he hopes to see even bigger increases in charitable giving in the future.

Johnson has good reasons to hope for change.

WalletHub’s 2016 survey showed that Arizona is No. 50 when it comes to charitable giving and No. 46 when it comes the percentage of residents claiming to have donated their time for charitable causes.

Arizona also holds the fewest number of charities per capita, the survey said.

State records also show that only a fraction (less than 9 percent) of those who have claimed the tax credit donated the maximum amount.

But is it still charity if giving is subsidized by the state?

Senate President Steve Yarbrough (R-Chandler) (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)
Senate President Steve Yarbrough (R-Chandler) (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)

Senate President Steve Yarbrough, who has worked on this issue for years, conceded that a dollar for dollar tax credit from the state incentivizes people to give.

But helping nonprofits this way provides “so much more bang for our buck” than even direct government assistance, Yarbrough said.

For one, nonprofits often deploy an army of volunteers, making their funds go much further, he said.

Charities play an important role in critical areas, such as ensuring children aren’t hungry at school, and the benefits accrue over time in ways that may not be immediately apparent or quantifiable.

Imagine, Yarbrough said, the benefits over time of keeping kids at school and helping them be successful.

The expansion of the tax credit to charitable giving in the area of foster care means bringing in more resources to a very needy group, he added.

“The need is great, and the results of charitable giving are terrific,” Yarbrough said.

Arizona cities refuse to enforce statewide curfew

Volunteers help sweep up broken glass from the vandalism damage at Scottsdale Fashion Square Mall Sunday, May 31, in Scottsdale, Ariz., following a night of unrest and protests over the death of George Floyd, a handcuffed black man who died in police custody with much of the arrest captured on video of a Minneapolis police officer kneeling on the neck of Floyd. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Volunteers help sweep up broken glass from the vandalism damage at Scottsdale Fashion Square Mall Sunday, May 31, in Scottsdale, Ariz., following a night of unrest and protests over the death of George Floyd, a handcuffed black man who died in police custody with much of the arrest captured on video of a Minneapolis police officer kneeling on the neck of Floyd. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

A dozen or so Arizona cities and counties have no intention to enforce Gov. Doug Ducey’s statewide curfew he declared on May 31. 

At least four county sheriffs so far have publicly stated they think the curfew is unnecessary or does not affect their area.

Sheriffs in Yuma County, Navajo County, Greenlee County and Santa Cruz County were among those who essentially said no. 

“The Yuma County Sheriff’s Office will not be enforcing the Curfew Order unless there is a need to enforce it, such as the event of a riot,” Yuma County Sheriff Leon Wilmot said in a written statement. 

Yuma was one of the rural cities Ducey pointed to as those he spoke with before declaring the statewide curfew that will take place every night between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. until June 8, though it may also be extended. 

However, a spokeswoman for Yuma Mayor Douglas Nicholls said that isn’t true.

“Mayor Nicholls was not in any discussion with the Governor’s Office prior to the announcement of the emergency declaration,” said spokeswoman Lucy Valencia. 

Sierra Vista was another city he apparently talked to, but Mayor Rick Mueller said his city has not seen riots or violent protests and that the police department does not expect to need to use the curfew. 

The city’s police chief added that protests have been peaceful and respectful so far. 

“We will show citizens the same respect in carrying out this order by emphasizing education on the state’s guidance, unless enforcement is called for to protect safety or property,” SVPD Chief Adam Thrasher said. 

In Ducey’s Sunday afternoon announcement, he credited “local leaders” in helping him make that decision, but neither he nor anybody on his staff has revealed who those leaders were,

Phoenix, Tucson and Scottsdale are the only three cities to see damage from riots and “looting” over four nights of protests, but all three mayors have said they did not talk to the governor before the announcement and they did not request the curfew.

The call for a curfew appears to have come from a handful of East Valley cities that feared the kind of looting they saw at Scottsdale Fashion Square would hit their cities next.

A spokesman for the City of Chandler said Mayor Kevin Hartke along with mayors from Gilbert, Mesa and Tempe all expressed interest in a regional curfew if there was not a statewide mandate. 

“There was some discussion amongst the four cities that there was an interest and they relayed that to the Governor’s Office,” Chandler spokesman Matt Burdick said. 

He said that Chandler has not seen any violence over the past four nights of protests across the state, but this was more of a preventative measure.

Mesa Mayor John Giles, who was on that call around noon on May 31 (roughly an hour before the announcement), said in a statement he did not request the curfew, but does support it. 

Ducey didn’t give so much as a heads-up to the Democratic mayors of cities that actually had mass protests, Phoenix and Tucson, which has almost become par for the course over the past several months. 

Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego said she hasn’t spoken to Ducey in months and Tucson Mayor Regina Romero said she found out about the curfew from the governor’s tweet.

Ducey’s staff has said the curfew is not designed to be enforced against law abiding citizens, but to be used as a tool for law enforcement “to prevent the lawlessness we’ve seen here and in cities nationwide.” 

But since the “lawlessness” the governor describes has only happened in three major cities, others won’t comply. 

Greenlee County Sheriff Tim Sumner said his county, with the smallest population in the state, will not be enforcing the curfew. 

“As the Sheriff, I advised my deputies and staff we would not be enforcing the Covid 19 Orders and now we will not be enforcing this Curfew Order, as again, it is not a law,” Sumner said.

The Holbrook Police Department announced on Sunday that since there had been no protests or riots in Holbrook, the city would also not enforce the curfew. 

“We feel that enforcing a curfew would have a negative effect upon our city,” the department said in a statement. 

The City of Winslow also said it would not enforce the curfew on its residents. 

“We are neither Minneapolis nor Phoenix. We are Winslow, and we will not have our rights and our way of life in Winslow compromised by a ‘one size fits all’ regulation such as this latest order,” Winslow Mayor Thomas McCauley said in a statement.

But some counties of course will comply.

Pima County Sheriff Mark Napier, after speaking to Ducey, said the curfew should help address the high level of violence.

Arizona coronavirus cases exceed 2,000 as deaths top 50

Some people wearing face masks wait in line to shop Saturday, April 4, 2020, in Tempe, Ariz. Honeywell announced that it is adding manufacturing capabilities in Phoenix to produce N95 face masks in support of the government's response to the novel coronavirus The company's Phoenix expansion will allow Honeywell to produce more than 20 million N95 disposable masks monthly to combat COVID-19 in the U.S. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Some people wearing face masks wait in line to shop Saturday, April 4, 2020, in Tempe, Ariz. Honeywell announced that it is adding manufacturing capabilities in Phoenix to produce N95 face masks in support of the government’s response to the novel coronavirus The company’s Phoenix expansion will allow Honeywell to produce more than 20 million N95 disposable masks monthly to combat COVID-19 in the U.S. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Arizona has a total of over 2,000 cases of the new coronavirus, and the state’s death toll from the disease has topped 50, state health officials reported Saturday as President Donald Trump approved Gov. Doug Ducey’s request for a major disaster declaration .

The Department of Health Services reported 2,019 cases statewide with 52 deaths as of Saturday morning, up from 1,769 cases and 41 deaths as of Friday.

Doug Ducey
Doug Ducey

Trump’s approval of the disaster declaration opens the door for the state to receive additional federal assistance, Ducey said in a statement that expressed thanks to the president.

“This continued collaboration will be crucial as we utilize all tools to combat this virus,” Ducey said.

Ducey also announced that Arizona has an agreement with Honeywell to produce over 6 million N95 face masks for the state over the next 12 months and that the Department of Health Services would deliver them to counties for distribution to health, safety and emergency response workers.

All 15 of Arizona counties have diagnosed coronavirus cases. Over half of the state’s cases and deaths were in Maricopa County, which includes most of metro Phoenix.

Maricopa County health officials reported 1,173 cases — 58% of the statewide total — and 28 deaths, 54% of the statewide fatalities. The state listed two fewer cases in Maricopa County.

Arizona reported its first diagnosed case, a man in Maricopa County who had returned from travel to Wuhan, China, on Jan. 26. The second case wasn’t reported until March 2, also in Maricopa County.

Arizona reported its first coronavirus death, also in Maricopa County, on March 20.

Other Arizona counties with the most cases as of Saturday morning included Pima (326), Navajo (177,) Coconino (147) , Pinal (89) and Yavapai (43), as reported by the state Department of Health Services.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

Ducey asked Trump on Wednesday to declare a major emergency for Arizona.

The federal declaration would provide help under numerous programs, including unemployment assistance, legal services, hazard mitigation, nutritional aid and crisis counseling, Ducey’s request said.

Ducey declared an emergency for the state on March 11, a step required for the federal declaration.

Charlotte, North Carolina-based Honeywell announced  March 30 that it was adding manufacturing capabilities at its Phoenix campus to produce N95 masks in support of the federal government’s response to the outbreak.

“I’m grateful to Honeywell for stepping up and partnering with Arizona to help get these masks to our doctors, nurses and EMTs on the front lines,” Ducey said in a statement.

Honeywell said it anticipates the mass production of masks will create 500 jobs and that the company has begun recruiting, hiring and training manufacturing workers at its Phoenix site.

Honeywell’s announcement said some masks produced in Phoenix would go to the federal government for the national stockpile but that the company also would have capacity to produce masks for states and other American healthcare and emergency response organizations.

Honeywell said its Phoenix operation would continue to produce aircraft engines and auxiliary power units.

In other Arizona coronavirus developments:

— The state Department of Corrections will now allow its officers to wear non-medical masks at work in prisons, the Arizona Republic reported, citing guidance issued by Corrections Director David Shinn. A corrections lieutenant earlier filed a whistleblower complaint saying officers were barred from wearing protective equipment because Shinn believed it would scare inmates.

New guidelines issued Friday by federal officials recommend that Americans wear face coverings when in public.

— Northern Arizona University President Rita Cheng announced that the university was offering 25% credit on housing and dining charges to students who choose to move out of university housing by April 16 because of the outbreak, the Arizona Daily Sun reported.

— Pima County has seen a spike in distress calls from hikers apparently due to an increase in trail use by inexperienced hikers because of the coronavirus outbreak, the Arizona Daily Star reported. Deputy James Allerton said search and rescue deputies answered 17 distress calls from hikers in the past two weeks, up from the half-dozen they would normally expect.

Arizona corrections director to appeal his contempt ruling


Arizona Corrections Director Charles Ryan is appealing a ruling that found him in civil contempt of court and fined the state $1.4 million for failing to adequately improve health care for inmates.

Ryan’s lawyers also are trying to undo another adverse ruling in the case by U.S. Magistrate Judge David Duncan, who repeatedly criticized the state’s efforts to comply with a settlement in a lawsuit over inmate care and handed down the contempt ruling a day before retiring from the federal bench.

Attorneys for the embattled prisons chief said in a one-sentence filing Saturday that he planned to appeal the June 22 contempt decision. The state’s appellate brief is due in late October.

Charles Ryan (AP file photo)
Charles Ryan (AP file photo)

Ryan’s lawyers also are asking the lower-court judge who replaced Duncan in the case to free the state of its responsibilities to measure parts of the settlement that the state contends it’s complying with.

“It is the court’s role to enforce the stipulation (the settlement) as agreed by the parties, not to redesign it or expand it,” Ryan’s lawyers wrote in a document filed July 20.

Duncan had previously denied the state’s request to free itself of some of those duties and instead ordered the appointment of an expert to review the state’s monitoring of its compliance. In the past, Duncan has questioned the accuracy of the state’s reports about how it is faring in making the changes.

“The legal standard is really high to get an order set aside, and they really didn’t make the case,” said Corene Kendrick, an attorney representing the prisoners. “They are just rehashing the case they made before (and) badmouthing Judge Duncan.”

The $1.4 million fine was based on the state’s acknowledgement that it had more than 1,400 instances in December, January and February during which it failed to make the improvements that it had promised to make when it settled the case.

The 2012 lawsuit alleged that Arizona’s 10 state-run prisons didn’t meet the basic requirements for providing adequate medical and mental health care. It said some prisoners complained that their cancer went undetected or they were told to pray to be cured after begging for treatment.

It also alleged that the failure of the medical staff at one prison to diagnose an inmate’s metastasized cancer resulted in his liver enlarging so much that his stomach swelled to the size of a pregnant woman at full term. Another inmate who had a history of prostate cancer had to wait more than two years for a biopsy.

The state denied allegations that it was providing inadequate care. The lawsuit was settled in 2014 without the state acknowledging any wrongdoing.

Gov. Doug Ducey, who is Ryan’s boss, has expressed confidence in his corrections director after he was found to be in contempt of court. The governor has said he wants state agency directors, not judges, to run their departments.

Corizon, the health care provider for Arizona’s prisons for the last five years, isn’t a named target of the lawsuit. But the company has defended itself by saying it has put significant effort into meeting the settlement’s terms and has steadily improved compliance.

Arizona cuts to college student support still among steepest in nation

ASU sign Arizona State University 620

State support for students at Arizona’s three public universities has fallen by 53.8 percent since 2008, more than three times the national decline over the same period, according to a new report.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities said the Arizona cuts were the most extreme example of a national trend that has seen a total reduction in state aid of nearly $9 billion over the 10 years, as states scrambled to close budget gaps caused by the recession.

Despite efforts by states in recent years to reverse the trend – including in Arizona, where state support per student rose 4.25 percent last year – the report’s authors said they worry that those increases are slowing down.

“The clear majority of states have been reinvesting and that has been a broad trend over the past few years,” said Michael Mitchell, a senior policy analyst at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, in a call on the August 30 report.

“But there are indications that we can see that this reinvestment is trailing off and the amount of reinvestment that we’ve seen over the past few years just hasn’t been enough to make up for the drastic magnitude of cuts over the time period we’re looking at,” he said.

Those cuts average 16 percent per student nationally since 2008, the report said.

Arizona’s 53.8 percent reduction was largest in the nation, with Louisiana next-closest with a 44.9 percent reduction. In terms of an actual dollar reduction, however, Arizona’s per-student cut of $3,450 was fourth-highest, behind Louisiana, New Mexico and Alabama.

While the cuts have been partially offset by increases in federal aid – an average Pell grant grew 23 percent during the period – steady increases in tuition continue to make college unaffordable for many, according to the report.

“We have seen increases in federal student aid, but in states where tuition costs have increased rapidly those additional federal investments have not kept up with rising college costs,” Mitchell said. “The net cost of attendance has increased even for low-income students at four-year colleges.”

Vianney Careaga, student regent on the Arizona Board of Regents, said in an email that the report’s “findings do not surprise me, but rather echo similar findings in reports issued” by the regents.

Careaga and others pointed to recent efforts to improve the situation in Arizona. Those include the regents’ “50-50” plan, which aims to increase per-student aid for state residents from the 2015 level of 34 percent to a level of 50 percent – an improvement, but still well below the 2008 level of 72.2 percent.

Sarah Harper, a spokeswoman for the board, said in an emailed statement that the state budgeted $8 million toward that plan this year and $15 million next, adding that the regents are “grateful” for the support of the model by Gov. Doug Ducey and the Legislature.

Advocates also point to a law signed by the governor this year that they say will allow the state’s universities to fund up to $1 billion in infrastructure and research projects in coming years.

Rep. Paul Boyer (R-Phoenix)
Rep. Paul Boyer (R-Phoenix)

The prime sponsor of that bill, Rep. Paul Boyer, R-Phoenix, said more support is needed, but the state is in a tough spot.

“We got here because of decisions the state made between fiscal year 2004 and fiscal year 2009, which brought about $4.7 billion in new spending,” said Boyer, the chairman of the House Education Committee. “We had ongoing permanent spending without an ongoing permanent revenue source.”

He said the state needs to have “taxation that is predictable” to increase higher education support. But education funding is a large part of the budget, Boyer said, making it a target for cuts.

Arizona deserves better than Ducey, McSally, Trump in this crisis


We love Arizona. Even the heat and the traffic – all of it. It is our home, our people and our families are here, and we have built political power in our community for more than a decade. That’s why it’s tearing us apart watching our state become the number one hotspot for COVID-19 cases in the world, with Black, indigenous, Latino, and low-income communities hit the hardest by this deadly virus. Now, nearly six months into the pandemic, with government rental assistance programs failing, and the end to the federal unemployment stimulus on July 25th, we are outraged to see our state and federal government flounder aimlessly from one hashtag to another without a clear plan to take care of our people.

Alejandra Gomez
Alejandra Gomez

Arizona desperately needs leadership, decisive action, and to listen to the voices of the community who are living this nightmare every single day. When COVID-19 started to become real in the United States and the majority party in the state Legislature spent sickening amounts of time trying to downplay the virus and even calling it a hoax, we stepped up and called for a comprehensive People’s Bailout that would have addressed many of the housing, unemployment, and healthcare disasters we are seeing play out in real time in our neighborhoods. When legislators forced votes on many of these issues in March, including $40 million for rental assistance, $10 million for food banks, and providing paid family and medical leave to those impacted by COVID-19, we watched with dismay as each was shot down on party lines. And in the U.S. Senate, the leadership vacuum is just as large. As the COVID-19 crisis only gets worse by the day, we have watched Senator Martha McSally let President Trump do the talking instead of stepping up with a clear plan to help her constituents.

Tomas Robles
Tomas Robles

With the Legislature adjourned sine die and no special session forthcoming, Gov. Doug Ducey is left as the chief policy maker in Arizona. As we write this, the Governor is sitting on tens of millions of dollars of taxpayer money that the Legislature appropriated in March. Right now, he has the power to appropriate more money for rental assistance and a boost to unemployment payments. Time and time again, he has shown his disconnect from reality, with his interest in pleasing President Trump and providing political cover to McSally greater than taking care of Arizona. When we extended an invitation in April for the governor to hear directly from our members most impacted by COVID, we received no response. No wonder his approval numbers for his handling of the pandemic are the lowest of any governor in the nation.

Arizona has a cascade of crises careening towards us, and Ducey is more interested in pretty words than real action on behalf of our families, while McSally is content to sit on the sidelines and watch Arizonans fall ill, face eviction, and record joblessness. Thousands of Arizona families are unable to pay basic bills like rent, food and utilities. Ducey is still sitting on tens of millions of dollars in aid appropriated by the Legislature for just this moment. McSally has failed to lead and allowed the HEROES Act, which would provide desperately needed relief and economic stimulus, to sit on a shelf collecting dust for more than two months. This is our State leadership, Arizona? It didn’t have to be this way in the state we love and have fought so hard for time and time again. The time to act aggressively, substantively, and with the urgency that meets the issues at hand is now. LUCHA stands ready to work in a real, concrete way on policy that centers those most impacted and meets the moment. Until then, it has become all too clear that the governor’s press conferences and McSally’s Twitter account will continue to be all talk and no action on behalf of the people they are supposed to serve.

Alejandra Gomez and Tomás Robles, Jr., are co-executive directors of LUCHA.

Arizona eases bar restrictions on games – but no dancing

Karaoke is back at your local bar.

So are pool and darts. Also video games and pinball.

And you can even participate in axe throwing if that’s your thing.

But leave the dancing shoes at home. For the moment, Arizona remains a dance-free zone.

The changes come as the state Department of Health Services has decided that these activities, which have been forbidden for months under the COVID-19 emergency restrictions, can now be conducted – if certain precautions are taken.

There was no immediate response from the health department to questions about why the sudden change in what’s allowable.

But nothing in the risks from the virus has changed substantially since at least August according to the agency’s own “dashboard” which determines the restrictions on business. In fact, the percent of tests for the virus that have been coming up positive actually is showing an upward trend.

What has changed is that Gov. Doug Ducey and state DHS Director Cara Christ are defending themselves in court against a lawsuit brought by more than 100 bar owners charging that their rules are unlawfully discriminatory. That is because restaurants have been able to open and operate pretty much normally now for months, albeit with some occupancy limits, while bars face additional hurdles not only to open but, if they do, to the kinds of traditional activities that have brought in customers.

Attorney Ilan Wurman, who represents the bar owners, told Capitol Media Services that none of these changes will end that lawsuit. He said there are still unjustified restrictions on how his clients can do business, particularly in comparison to what some places licensed as restaurants have been able to do.

But Wurman said they will make a difference.

“It’s a huge deal,” he said.

For example, he said, some of his clients were promoting special nights for pool or darts tournaments, even though those contests didn’t generate a lot of cash themselves.

“But no one was showing up to have a drink,” Wurman said, without the “draw” of the games.

Still, things won’t look exactly the way they did before the governor enacted his emergency restrictions in March.

Take karaoke.

The person with the microphone has to be at least 12 feet away from the closest customer. Health officials have said that things like singing tend to project moisture particles farther than the normal six-foot “social distancing” barrier.

But with plexiglass dividers in place, six feet is acceptable.

Microphones have to be disinfected or changed out between customers.

And while it may interfere with hitting some of those high notes, participants have to keep their masks on.

More interested in a game of pool?

That, too, is now OK, but with a maximum of four players for a table and no one else gathered around. There has to be that six-foot physical distancing between the players and other game areas. And if players don’t have their own equipment, everything else needs to be disinfected between each group’s use.

Arcade and video games have their own set of rules, with just two players to a machine – and no spectators or cheering section behind them. There also are the physical distancing requirements, whether it’s the six feet of space or closing off every other machine.

Plus, of course, masks are mandatory.

The new rules also account for bowling and even axe throwing, with only the active participant permitted to be out of his or her chair and a limit of no more than 10 players and observers.

And if you have your own bowling ball – or axe – please bring it.

The rules are set up pretty much so that those who are not participating in any activity are supposed to remain seated except to play or go to the bathroom. Standing, mingling and dancing remain off limits.

In fact, the rules say if there is a dance floor it has to be closed off to the public or “repurposed” for more seats to allow greater social distancing among patrons.

Arizona has not actually been game-free all this time. Wurman pointed out that some enterprises that sell alcohol but are licensed as restaurants, like Dave and Buster’s, have had arcade games all along.

What this does, he said, is level the playing field and allow facilities licensed as bars to compete head-to-head.

Arizona finds pharmacist to prepare lethal injections

lethal injection

Arizona has found a compounding pharmacist to prepare the drug pentobarbital for lethal injections, officials said October 27, moving the state closer to resuming executions after a six-year hiatus.

Finding a pharmacist to prepare lethal injections was one of the barriers the state faced since it put executions on hold after a botched execution in 2014. In August, Attorney General Mark Brnovich said the state had located a supplier of the drug.

As Brnovich revealed that his office had found a pharmacist, Corrections Director David Shinn said his agency had already started the process of obtaining the drug and had found a compounding pharmacist.

In a letter October 27 to Gov. Doug Ducey, Brnovich pointed out 20 of Arizona’s 116 death row inmates have exhausted all appeals of their sentences.

“Many of those inmates committed heinous murders decades ago,” the attorney general wrote. “We must ensure that justice is served for the victims, their families and our communities.”

Dale Baich, chief of the unit in the Federal Public Defender’s Office in Arizona that represents inmates in death penalty appeals, said he’s concerned about whether the compounding pharmacist is qualified to provide such a drug. “There are questions that still need to be considered,” Baich said.

Executions in Arizona were put on hold after the death of Joseph Wood, who was given 15 doses of a two-drug combination over two hours. His attorney had said the execution was botched.

Wood was executed for the 1989 shooting deaths of his estranged girlfriend, Debra Dietz, and her father, Eugene Dietz, at an automotive shop in Tucson.

In recent years, Arizona and other states have struggled to buy execution drugs after U.S. and European pharmaceutical companies began blocking the use of their products in lethal injections.

Five years ago, the state tried to import sodium thiopental, which had been used to carry out executions but was no longer manufactured by companies approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The state never received the shipment because federal agents stopped it at Phoenix International Airport and the state lost an administrative challenge to the seizure.


Arizona GOP fundraising drops significantly under Ward

Kelli Ward at a campaign rally in August 2018. (Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr)
Kelli Ward at a campaign rally in August 2018. (Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

The Arizona Democratic Party is out raising the state GOP by a lot.

New campaign finance reports show the Arizona Republican Party collected just $81,320 in the three months ending Sept. 30. By contrast Democrats raked in $347,841.

And this isn’t just a one-time problem.

An analysis by Capitol Media Services finds that Republicans managed just $382,582 for the first nine months of the year, including nearly $180,000 from political action committees. Democrats took in $641,345, with $339,312 from PACs.

“I think it’s too early to declare this some sort of crisis for the Republican Party,” said GOP political strategist Stan Barnes.

And the phenomenon is not new, with an energized Arizona Democratic Party bringing in more cash during the two-year 2018 election cycle than the Republicans, though by nowhere near the current disparity.

“But it’s fair to say the world’s going to be watching whether or not this leadership of the party can raise the kind of money necessary to be relevant,” Barnes said. “And that question still remains.”

That “leadership” issue refers to the decision by precinct committeemen in January to oust party Chairman Jonathan Lines, who had been the establishment favorite, in favor of the far more conservative and overt Trump supporter Kelli Ward.

Ward, a former state senator from Lake Havasu City, had failed in two prior attempts to gain statewide office: a primary challenge to U.S. Sen John McCain in 2016 and, just last year, her bid to become the Republican nominee for Senate in a primary eventually won by Martha McSally.

Political consultant Chuck Coughlin said that Ward’s history as a candidate – and an unsuccessful one at the statewide level – is part of what’s going on now with fundraising.

“It’s a different role,” he said of being the party chief.

“It’s really behind the scenes,” Coughlin said, with the party chair working closely with other elected officials “and being very servant-oriented to their needs and solicitous of their needs and desiring of their support.”

And Ward?

“She seems much more comfortable in front of the scenes,” Coughlin said.

That includes most recently her role in leading some anti-impeachment demonstrations. And Ward has taken a much higher public profile than her predecessors.

“Of course, that doesn’t sit well with major donors,” he said.

Zach Henry, spokesman for Ward and the state party, did not return repeated calls seeking comment.

But the issues for the GOP go beyond who is leading the party. There’s the Trump factor.

“The Donald Trump cloud over the state of Arizona is a consequence,” said Barnes. “And I think one of those consequences is traditional large-gift donors are unsure.”

None of that, he said, means that Trump himself is in danger of losing Arizona.

“But donors and their money are emotional people,” Barnes said. “And the president’s impact on some of those egos is probably meaningful and having an impact on contributions.”

Put another way, Barnes said the history of the GOP is that its fundraising has done better when the party apparatus was controlled by the more “country club establishment wing.”

Former state House Speaker Kirk Adams said that, in some ways, the lag in donations to the state party following Ward’s selection is not a surprise. He said that the ability of the party chair to connect with donors and rake in cash is built on relationships.

`Do you have existing relationships and do you have the ability to make new relationships?” he asked. “It’s a lot of work.

That, however, leaves the question of whether Ward will get to that point.

“I believe she has the ability to build relationships,” said Adams who until last year was chief of staff for Gov. Doug Ducey. “I don’t know that’s she’s doing it yet.”

Barnes thinks she’ll come around.

“It seems to take time for that new chairman to figure out where the love is among the contributors that support that chairman’s point of view or that chairman’s agenda,” he said. “I have long-term confidence that Kelli Ward is going to figure that out.”

So what’s the impact of the party having less money?

“You can’t win elections without money,” said former Republican Gov. Jan Brewer. She said it’s critically important now, on the heels of some key Democrat victories in 2018, “to help these candidates take back the seats that we lost last time.”

That includes trying to wrest control of the state’s congressional delegation, with Democrats holding five of the nine House seats, and the fact that the GOP edge in the state House slid by four, to the bare minimum 31-29.

And McSally hopes to hang on to the U.S. Senate seat that used to belong to McCain.

Still, Brewer said any reticence by GOP faithful to give to the party need not be fatal. She said there are other options.

One, said the former governor, is to give directly to the candidates. Brewer said donors also can write checks to the Republican National Committee.

Still, she said, that could be a hardship on some candidates.

“They’ve always counted on the party,” Brewer said.

Coughlin said there already are mechanisms in place to find other ways to help.

He noted that Senate President Karen Fann and House Speaker Rusty Bowers have formed what amounts to a political action committee to solicit donations for GOP legislative candidates. And consultant Nathan Sproul said the Trump re-election campaign is expected to pump major dollars into the state, with dollars also expected to flow in to keep that U.S. Senate seat from falling into Democrat hands as what happened last year with the election of Kyrsten Sinema.

Still, Coughlin said, it would be more efficient to have these kinds of campaigns coordinated by the party, even to the point that it gets a better rate on its postage.

“But if they’re not bringing anything to the table themselves, and particularly because it’s a caustic relationship with the other electeds, then maybe you rethink that.

Arizona governor allows lawmakers to boost expense pay


(Deposit Photos)
(Deposit Photos)

Members of the Arizona Legislature who live outside of the metro Phoenix area will be getting a big increase in their daily expense pay under legislation Gov. Doug Ducey allowed to become law on Monday. It was the first time in seven years a bill became law without his signature. 

The governor also signed 10 mainly routine bills into law, acting on the remaining measures from this year’s legislative session. 

Ducey’s decision on lawmaker expenses came two years after he vetoed similar legislation that would have boosted the expense pay of all 90 lawmakers. He said such an increase shouldn’t benefit Phoenix-area legislators who don’t have to maintain a second home, nor should it take effect without an election in between. 

The governor’s spokesman, C.J. Karamargin, said the new law isn’t perfect but far more limited than the 2019 version. He did not immediately explain why Ducey took the highly unusual step of allowing the bill to become law without signing it, which the state Constitution allows. 

Lawmakers earn $24,000 a year. Those who live in Maricopa County get $35 a day in expense pay for the first 120 days of the session or while doing actual legislative work outside of session. Lawmakers from other parts of the state get $60 a day. The expense pay drops significantly after 120 days. 

Under the bill Ducey allowed to become law without his signature Monday, rural lawmakers will get the federal winter per diem rate for Phoenix during session, which is $207 a day — $151 a day for lodging and $56 for meals. 

Proponents of the legislation called it long overdue, noting that there had not been a change in the rate lawmakers receive for expenses since 1984. 

When the Senate debated the increase in May, Republican Sen. David Gowan of Sierra Vista noted he has to maintain a residence in Phoenix during the monthslong legislative session. 

“The issue here is about being able to do the travel, being able to pay for the living expenses that incurs while we’re here,” said Gowan, who sponsored the measure. 

Democrats also backed the change, with Rep. Lisa Otondo of Yuma saying that forcing lawmakers to absorb the cost of serving means only the well-off can afford to seek election to the Legislature. 

“This is a per diem increase so that candidates from either party can have access and run for this office and not lose money,” she said. 

The bill initially also gave lawmakers in Maricopa County an increase in daily expense pay, but it was amended June 29 to remain at $35 a day. 

The bill drew wide bipartisan support, but did not get formal votes until the final days of the legislative session that ended on June 30. Several critics who voted against the raise said the Legislature shouldn’t be rushing through such a change on the last day of the session. 

The pay and rates would be automatically adjusted each year when the U.S. General Services Administration sets them for federal workers. The rates for Maricopa County lawmakers would drop after 120 days in session to $10 a day, as it is currently, while rural lawmakers would see their new $207 daily rate cut in half. 

Among the legislation the governor did sign was a measure that sets new testing standards for medical marijuana and one requiring the state Board of Education to require that health education classes in K-12 schools include mental health education. Both were sponsored by Democrats. 

Arizona governor gets good, bad marks for virus response

President Donald Trump meets with Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
President Donald Trump meets with Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

In early August, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey beamed  in the White House as he basked in praise from President Donald Trump  for his handling of the COVID-19 outbreak. Arizona’s response to the virus, Trump said, was a model for other states.

Just a few weeks earlier, Ducey was being vilified as Arizona hospital beds filled with infected patients and hundreds of people were dying each week. Arizona was the leading virus hot spot in the nation and the Republican governor was getting the blame.

The governor’s management of the coronavirus though the pandemic’s initial low stages to its extreme onslaught and back to lows again holds stark lessons for other states as their leaders oversee reopenings of universities, K-12 schools and businesses into the fall.

Whether Ducey deserves credit or blame for alternately controlling and unleashing the virus is not in doubt — observers say he’s earned both.

Ducey for months has tried to juggle conflicting virus priorities of politics and public safety while attempting to minimize the economic harm from closing businesses and to rein in a unique, fast-spreading and sometimes lethal virus in a state with a strong libertarian fabric.

Wearing masks, staying home and keeping safe social distances, as in some other places, became a sticky conflict point among many headstrong Arizona residents.

Parlor games like darts and pool are prohibited under social distancing rules during the pandemic. (Photo by Klara Kulikova/Creative Commons)
Parlor games like darts and pool are prohibited under social distancing rules during the pandemic. (Photo by Klara Kulikova/Creative Commons)

Like many governors, Ducey took the early prevention step of shutting down much of the state’s economy and invoking a stay-home order in March.

But he reopened the economy in May with little or no enforcement of new rules like limits on bar capacity. Bars and nightclubs in Tucson and metro Phoenix were packed the weekend after the lockdown was lifted.

A surge of new infections hit the state just 10 days later and Arizona hospitals were packed with the sick within weeks, nearing their capacity to treat patients.

On June 1, Arizona had confirmed more than 20,000 virus cases and had 917 deaths. They continued rising over the summer, with cases topping 200,000 in late August, and deaths surpassing 5,000.

Some believe Ducey reopened so early because Trump made a visit to Phoenix in early May to visit a plant making protective masks. Ducey’s decision to quickly remove restrictions instead of using a measured approach has also come under criticism.

Regina Romero
Regina Romero

“It wasn’t phased in – it was just ‘boom open it all up’ – timed to when Trump came to Arizona,” said Regina Romero, the Democratic mayor of Tucson. “And I felt very strongly that it was too soon, that it was timed for political purposes and not based on science and public health.”

Kristin Urquiza made local and national headlines when she blamed Ducey for the death of her 65-year-old father, Mark Anthony Urquiza of Phoenix, who died of the virus June 30. She said her father was serious about taking virus prevention steps until Arizona’s reopening, when he resumed his normal life and headed to a karaoke bar with friends only to get infected.

“His life was robbed. I believe that terrible leadership and flawed policies put my father’s life in the balance,” Urquiza said in July ahead of her appearance at the Democratic National Convention, where she criticized Trump.

Ducey has brushed off the criticism, repeatedly saying that his decisions are informed by science and data from health experts.

Mark Anthony Urquiza
Mark Anthony Urquiza

In late May, Ducey pushed back on reporter questions about videos from old town Scottsdale on Memorial Day that showed crowds of hundreds of people partying in the nightclub district. He repeatedly avoided criticizing businesses and people ignoring social distancing guidance and stressed that most people were following the rules.

At that point, the state had fewer than 1,000 new virus cases daily.

“Thank you to the people of Arizona for being responsible,” Ducey said. “We wouldn’t have these numbers if people weren’t being responsible.”

But Ducey simultaneously ignored advice from health officials outside his administration. Just seven days after his stay-home order ended on May 15, the president of the Arizona Medical Association physicians group sent Ducey a letter urging him to crack down on bars and nightclubs that weren’t enforcing social distancing guidelines.

“Now, there is clear proof of overcrowded bars, people elbow to elbow, increasing significant risk of potential spread and a resurgence of the virus,” Dr. Ross Goldberg wrote in a May 22 letter obtained from Ducey’s office by The Associated Press under a public records request.

Goldberg in his letter urged Ducey to take enforcement action, but it did not happen.

Case counts rose exponentially and by mid-June the state was a national virus hotspot, logging more than 3,000 cases a day and on its way to a June 29 peak of more than 5,400 new daily cases.

Bob England
Bob England

“The reopening that we saw in May came much faster and all together than I think any of the public health folks would have recommended,” said Dr. Bob England, the former director of the Pima and Maricopa County health departments.

By June 17, Ducey’s hand was forced into making politically unpalatable decisions.

Ducey early on had banned local governments from taking steps beyond what the state was ordering, but reversed course by allowing cities and counties to impose mask requirements. At the end of June, he re-ordered bars, nightclubs, movie theaters and water parks to close.

By late July, and a month later Arizona was no longer a virus hotspot. Bars and nightclubs that serve food and other venues in much of the state were allowed to reopen with limited capacity.

But this time, bars that violated limits on capacity and bans on dancing or violations of mask orders were subjected to a state crackdown: Several were closed by state health authorities and their liquor licenses were suspended indefinitely.

Dr. Eric Toner, a senior scholar at the John Hopkins Center for Health Security in Baltimore who has been setting health care preparedness policy for pandemics for decades, gives Ducey credit for acting this time to prevent big bar scenes.

“You have to be actively looking for non-adherence to the guidelines, and you have to be vigorous in enforcement,” he said.

But Toner said Ducey deserves criticism for failure to act earlier against packed bars.

“I think that’s probably the biggest factor in why Arizona’s cases got so big,” Toner said. “It was a delayed response, a slow response by the state government to the spike in cases.”

Toner warned that Arizona’s responses can serve as lessons for other states.

“Governments need to be very responsive and not wait for things to get bad – because once they get bad then it’s going to take weeks or months to recover,” he said.

Arizona governor gives raises to aides despite lean budget

Teachers rallied at the Arizona Capitol on May 2, 2017, after Rep. John Allen said teachers got second jobs to increase their lifestyle and buy boats. Teachers chanted that they wanted a 4 percent raise from the state. (Photo by Rachel Leingang, Arizona Capitol Times)
Teachers rallied at the Arizona Capitol on May 2, 2017, after Rep. John Allen said teachers got second jobs to increase their lifestyle and buy boats. Teachers chanted that they wanted a 4 percent raise from the state. (Photo by Rachel Leingang, Arizona Capitol Times)

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has given 44 of his staffers raises of up to 20 percent despite offering teachers raises of less than 1 percent because of a lean budget.

The Arizona Republic reports that records the newspaper obtained indicate the Republican governor gave the majority of his staff a raise, a promotion or both since he took office in 2015.

Ducey’s spokesman says the raises to aides went to individuals “who have really proven themselves and done good work.”

The governor has also promoted at least 40 employees and their salary increases ranged from 5 to 100 percent.

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Arizona governor signs stripped-down $11.8 billion budget

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed a stripped-down emergency state budget Saturday that contains $50 million in spending to help tenants, homeowners and small businesses weather the coronavirus crisis.
The $11.8 billion spending plan for the budget year that begins July 1 essentially contains no new spending beyond required inflation adjustments and promised raises for teachers. The package was hammered out among majority Republicans and Democrats in the Senate last week.
Republicans who also control the House balked at the plan after it was approved by the Senate but finally agreed to support it Monday.
The rare bipartisan Senate package includes money to prevent evictions and foreclosures during the crisis, provide services for the homeless, assist small businesses and pay for food bank operations. It also includes longer welfare payments and a waiver from work requirements. It added to a basic budget legislation the Legislature rushed through to ensure government keeps running amid the pandemic.
The budget adds to $55 million in emergency cash approved earlier this month to fund the health department’s virus response efforts. That money would come from the state’s rainy day fund.
The Legislature adjourned for at least three weeks after the House passed the budget. The absence may be longer because the Legislature’s budget analysts believe it will take until May to see the first major effects of the coronavirus crisis on state tax revenue.
That impact is likely to be huge. Ducey has shuttered restaurants, bars and movie theaters in most counties to slow the spread of the virus. Unemployment applications have soared as resorts, airlines and other employers laid off workers.
The Legislature began its session in January expecting a budget surplus nearing $1 billion on top of the state’s $1 billion rainy day fund.
Ducey hinted in an interview on KTAR radio Tuesday that he expects the rainy day fund to be tapped for the state’s financial hit from the crisis.
“This is going to be more than a rainy day,” he said. “We’re going to utilize every resource we have to protect Arizonans, to make sure we’re fighting this public health battle and then to make sure nobody falls through the cracks, and then as soon as its appropriate that we ramp that economy back up.”
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death. The vast majority of people recover.

Arizona governor: Inquiry into police force ‘whitewashed’

Attorney Marc J. Victor speaks to the media concerning his client, Johnny Wheatcroft, Monday, Feb. 11, 2019, in Chandler, Ariz. as Wheatcroft's wife, Anya Chapman, right, listens. Victor has filed a lawsuit on behalf of Wheatcroft claiming the Glendale, Ariz. police dept. used excessive force against Wheatcroft during his arrest in 2017. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Attorney Marc J. Victor speaks to the media concerning his client, Johnny Wheatcroft, Monday, Feb. 11, 2019, in Chandler, Ariz. as Wheatcroft’s wife, Anya Chapman, right, listens. Victor has filed a lawsuit on behalf of Wheatcroft claiming the Glendale, Ariz. police dept. used excessive force against Wheatcroft during his arrest in 2017. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Arizona’s governor says an excessive force investigation into police in a Phoenix suburb seems to have been “whitewashed” and should be reopened.

The comments Wednesday were an extremely rare rebuke of police and prosecutors for Republican Gov. Doug Ducey.

He was reacting to newly released body-camera video showing Glendale police officers repeatedly using a stun gun on a handcuffed man.

Johnny Wheatcroft has sued, saying one officer kicked him in the groin while another stunned him in the testicles during the July 2017 encounter.

Prosecutors declined to file charges. One officer was suspended for three days.

Ducey says prosecutors should “get to the bottom of what happened and hold people accountable.”

The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office announced Wednesday it is turning over materials related to the incident to the FBI in Phoenix to investigate.

“After having personally reviewed all available video evidence, I have determined further investigation is warranted,” said Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery in a press release. “In order to ensure the public’s confidence in any future determination of whether the use of force was lawful, review by an uninvolved agency is appropriate.”

Arizona interest in anti-mask school vouchers outpaces funds

Angela Black, right, with her brother Luke Black at their home, pose for a photo Tuesday, May 11, 2021, in Mesa, Ariz. The students, a third grader and kindergartner, attend a school where mask wearing is optional. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Angela Black, right, with her brother Luke Black at their home, pose for a photo Tuesday, May 11, 2021, in Mesa, Ariz. The students, a third grader and kindergartner, attend a school where mask wearing is optional. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

A program announced by Arizona’s Republican governor last month to give private school vouchers to parents who object to campus mask requirements has seen applications surge, with twice as many either started or completed than can be funded with the $10 million in federal coronavirus relief earmarked for the plan. 

And Republican lawmakers who back expansion of the state’s existing voucher program doubt any students who receive the grants will be forced back into public schools when the federal cash is exhausted. Opponents of the school voucher program suspect that is highly likely. 

The program Gov. Doug Ducey created will give $7,000 per school year to each student who enrolled in a public school with either mask requirements or that requires unvaccinated children exposed to the virus to quarantine or isolate differently than vaccinated children. Applicants can earn up to 350% of the federal poverty level, which equals $92,750 for a family of four. They can use the money for private school tuition, tutoring or other costs.  

The governor’s education policy adviser said last week that applications for 454 children had been completed and another 2,255 started in the first 13 days the application window was open and 69 approved.  

If all the current applications are completed and funded, the governor would need to pump another $10 million into the program, and would consider doing so, said Kaitlin Harrier, the education policy adviser. 

“It’s important that we, at every step, no matter what’s happening, no matter what stage of the pandemic we’re in, we give parents options,” Harrier said. 

The program uses some of the federal pandemic school funding directly controlled by Ducey, who signed legislation banning masks or vaccine mandates in schools in June that takes effect on Sept. 29.  

Opponents of mandated vaccines and masks, including several Republicans vying to replace Ducey in 2022 when he must leave office, called for a new voucher program after some schools kept mask mandates in place despite the new law amid a statewide surge in Covid cases. They were inspired by a similar push by GOP Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to give vouchers to students whose parents oppose school mask mandates. 

Ducey is a major supporter of “school choice” — a blanket term for allowing parents to use money that would normally go to their public school for private school tuition or other education costs. He has continued supporting voucher expansions despite voters soundly rejecting a 2017 universal school voucher law by a 2 to 1 vote the following year. Arizona voters can temporarily block laws enacted by the Legislature by gathering signatures, and if voters ultimately oppose the measure it is repealed. 

Ducey and Republicans who back school vouchers have continued to expand the voucher program, although another major expansion this year was sharply scaled backed amid opposition from a handful of Arizona House Republicans.  

Sharon Kirsch, spokeswoman for the grassroots group of educators and parents that organized the referendum, Save Our Schools Arizona, said she is curious what kind of outreach the governor has done to promote the programs and just who is applying. 

“Of course we have concerns, of course we know that this will be a permanent expansion,” Kirsch said Friday. “They continue to try to find ways to expand — they’re relentless about that.” 

The governor’s office was unable to immediately provide any breakdown on the applicants, either their demographics or where they live. 

Republican Rep. John Kavanagh, who chairs the House appropriations committee and like many in his caucus backs school vouchers, said he hopes those awarded grants will never be forced back into a public school. 

“I would hope that we would use state money and that we could let them remain in the schools that they’ve migrated to,” Kavanagh said. “I don’t think people would be upset if we don’t rip kids out of the new schools that they’ve been attending.” 

Before this year’s scaled-back expansion, the Arizona Department of Education says about 250,000 students were eligible, but only about 10,000 students are getting vouchers, technically called Empowerment Scholarship Accounts. They cost the state about $145 million a year. More than half goes to disabled students, the original group intended to benefit from the program when it was created in 2011. 

The governor’s office said the new program will help parents who object to Covid restrictions imposed by schools, during and after the pandemic. 

“It’s certainly my hope that parents will have options, no matter where their home school is and regardless of this program,” Harrier said. “And that we would have a school choice environment that would transcend above all of this, and provide maximum choice.” 


Arizona is a signature away from texting while driving ban

woman driver hands use cellphone driving a car

Arizona is a step closer to becoming the 48th state to ban texting while driving.

But some lawmakers aren’t convinced that alone will save lives and voted to take the fight against distracted driving a step further.

The House passed Rep. Noel Campbell’s HB2318, which bans texting while driving but also effectively outlaws handheld cell phone use while driving.

The House additionally passed Sen. J.D. Mesnard’s SB1141 along party lines, empowering officers to not only pull over drivers for using their phones while driving but also for other activities that distract them from driving safely.

Both proposals now go to the governor’s desk.

Today’s votes occurred with family members of those killed by texting motorists watching in the gallery.

House Minority Leader Charlene Fernandez, D-Yuma, specifically addressed the survivors of Clayton Townsend, an officer with the Salt River Police Department who was killed when he was struck by a texting motorists while conducting a traffic stop.

“We’re going to get it done today,” she told them.

The House’s 44-16 vote on HB2318 came after lawmakers defeated a version with many of the same restrictions but a crucial difference: It would have been a secondary offense, allowing police to cite offenders only if they were pulled over for some other reason.

“We are only one of three states in the entire nation that does not ban text messaging and driving even though we know the frightening statistics,” said Campbell, who has championed making texting while driving and the use of hand-held cell phone a primary offense, allowing police to stop motorists solely because they are breaking this new law.

Campbell noted that Arizona cities and counties already have their own versions.

Under the new state law, which takes effect in 2021, a first-time offense would result in a fine of between $75 and $149. Subsequent violations could mean fines of up to $250.

Campbell’s bill divided House Republicans – 16 voted against it – but won support from every Democrat, taking the legislation across the finish line.

Majority Leader Warren Petersen, R-Gilbert, warned that the legislation would make anything from talking on the phone while driving to simply having it in your pocket a violation of the law.

He said there’s nothing inherently dangerous with talking on a cell phone, even without a hands-free device.

“There have been people who have driven their whole lives holding their phone up, talking on their phone, that have not had an accident, myself included,” he said. “We are going to make a lot of people lawbreakers with this bill.”

But Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, said that simply isn’t correct.

He pointed to a provision of the bill that would allow drivers to touch their phones to activate hands-free features without breaking the law.

The protests against the bill ultimately came down to concerns that it is not written well enough and that it opens drivers up to being pulled over on the mere pretense that they had touched their phones.

Such concerns did not extend to Mesnard’s distracted driving bill, at least not for Republican members.

That bill passed without bipartisan support after Democrats argued that it would expand law enforcement’s ability to racially profile in communities of color.

“This will be a tool to stop anyone in those communities,” Rep. Isela Blanc, D-Tempe, said.

She supported HB2318 because it focused on driving while using a cell phone, but like her Democratic colleagues, she argued SB1141 is “too incredibly broad.”

Beyond that, Assistant Minority Leader Randy Friese, D-Tucson said, the bill is too subjective and too vague, potentially rendering it unenforceable.

“Device in hand equals violation – it needs to be that simple,” he said.

But Rep. Walter Blackman, R-Snowflake, rejected arguments that the bill would empower law enforcement officers to unfairly apply the law.

He said he’s never been pulled over for driving while black but for legitimate reasons. And if passing SB1141 puts lives that could be saved above individual liberties, he would opt to save lives.

“Liberties can be restored. Lives cannot,” he said.

Capitol Media Services’ Howard Fischer contributed to this report.

Arizona lawmaker pushes to legalize sports betting

In this Dec. 30, 2018, file photo, Arizona Cardinals' Larry Fitzgerald, left, snags a one-handed touchdown pass against the Seattle Seahawks during the first half of an NFL football game, in Seattle. Betting on the Cardinals or any other sporting event will become legal in Arizona under a Republican lawmaker’s proposal. (AP Photo/John Froschauer)
In this Dec. 30, 2018, file photo, Arizona Cardinals’ Larry Fitzgerald, left, snags a one-handed touchdown pass against the Seattle Seahawks during the first half of an NFL football game, in Seattle. Betting on the Cardinals or any other sporting event will become legal in Arizona under a Republican lawmaker’s proposal. (AP Photo/John Froschauer)

A Republican lawmaker has a proposal to legalize sports betting in Arizona through legislation he says will avoid nullifying state gaming compacts with Native American tribes.

Sen. Sonny Borrelli, R-Lake Havasu City, wants to bring sports gambling to bars and private clubs throughout Arizona, but he wants the state’s tribes to have exclusive rights in operating sports betting.

The Lake Havasu City Republican likened his SB1158 to off-track betting for horse races.

“This is basically like off-casino betting for sports,” he said.

Borrelli said sports gambling would fall under Class 3 gaming per Arizona law, and therefore must be given exclusively to the tribes. And while tribes would immediately be eligible to allow sports gambling in brick-and-mortar casinos under Borrelli’s bill, he’s also trying to get sports gambling kiosks into bars and clubs throughout the state.

As for his choice of location, Borrelli said he only wants bars and clubs with a liquor license to ensure the clientele is the appropriate age.

“You gotta be 21 to go in a bar. You gotta be 21 to gamble,” he said.

The United State Supreme Court in May cleared the way for states to legalize sports betting, inciting state lawmakers across the country to introduce legislation to bring sports gambling to the masses.

In Arizona, the situation is more complicated.

The state has gaming compacts with some Native American tribes, which have the exclusive rights to operate casino games in Arizona. Those compacts – which specify what games tribes can and cannot operate, and what revenue from gambling tribes share with the state – also include a “poison pill” provision.

That stipulates compacts are null and void if either side violates the terms of the agreements.

For example, something as simple as if a tribe operated more slot machines than allowed in the agreements, or if the state granted gaming rights to non-tribal entities, could jeopardize the compacts.

Gaming attorney Steve Hart said Borrelli’s bill would not trigger the “poison pill” provision of the gaming compacts because the tribes would be the “sole and exclusive operator of all sports betting activity.” Hart, of Lewis Roca Rothgerber Christie LLP, consulted with Borrelli on the bill.

“If tribes are the operator of the game, then for the most part, you can conclude there won’t be a ‘poison pill’ issue,” Hart said.

After the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling, Gov. Doug Ducey expressed support for legalizing sports betting, which likely calls for renegotiating gaming compacts with Arizona tribes. At the time, Ducey called for a “modernized” gaming compact, which could include other gaming besides sports.

A spokesman for Ducey declined to comment on Borrelli’s bill, but confirmed the Governor’s Office is involved in “confidential” gaming negotiations with the tribes.

There is no timeline on when those talks will be complete.

Borrelli’s move may be independent of the Governor’s Office, but they seem to be working toward the same end goal.

The bill proposes tribes permitted to operate sports betting could be taxed up to 6.75 percent of gross gaming revenue from sports betting. It’s not clear how much revenue the state could gain from legalizing sports gaming.

Jaime Molera, who lobbies for the Indian Gaming Association, said the tribes are still sifting through Borrelli’s bill, but they appreciate his willingness to loop them in. Borrelli approached some of the tribes in an attempt to work on this issue in a collaborative way, and now they’re willing to work with him as a result, Molera said.

“We’re very appreciative of Sen. Borrelli in that we opposed some of his bills in the past, but what he did this time around, he reached out to a number of tribes and sought out how we can work together in furthering his ideas,” Molera said.

Borrelli’s bill would allow tribes to operate sports gambling at their casinos, but it would also allow tribes to contract with outside companies to operate sports gambling kiosks throughout the state.

Borrelli envisions those contractors negotiating with bars and clubs to rent space for those kiosks on their properties. The bars and clubs get paid for renting space; the tribe gets a cut from gambling revenues; so too does the contractor, who would also be responsible for paying state gaming taxes on profits from the machines.

Arizona lawmakers debate cap on children’s health program

doctor child kid health care 620

Advocates for a health insurance program for children from low-income families are pushing lawmakers not to let Arizona once-again become the only state to freeze enrollment in the program.

Facing a daunting budget challenge during the Great Recession, Arizona capped enrollment in 2010. Lawmakers didn’t re-open it until 2016 and only with a strict limit — nobody new could sign up if the federal government stopped paying the entire cost.

The moment of reckoning is approaching on Oct. 1, when the federal government is scheduled to dial back its contribution to 90.5 percent of the program’s cost, requiring the state to pick up the other 10 percent. Lawmakers last year considered lifting the cap on the program that serves 33,000 children but did not act.

KidsCare covers children whose parents earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, between 138 and 200 percent of the federal poverty line. For a family of four, that’s between about $34,000 and $51,000 a year. Parents pay monthly premiums between $10 and $70 depending on their income and the number of children.

Sen. Kate Brophy McGee, a KidsCare program supporter who is co-sponsoring legislation to lift the enrollment freeze, said there was “enormous” resistance to re-opening the program two years ago. At the time, program supporters used procedural maneuvers to get around opponents who held senior positions in legislative leadership.

“As the program has unfolded and kids have benefited, I hope people are realizing the world hasn’t come to an end and that conditions are actually better,” Brophy McGee said. “I think we need to understand that we are investing in wellness for our children, which tees them up for success.”

During the debate over re-opening the KidsCare program, some Republican lawmakers said low-income families would become dependent on handouts if the program was restored. They rejected arguments that the federal government is covering the vast majority of the costs, noting the large federal deficit.

The last time Arizona froze enrollment in KidsCare, the number of children served dropped 60 percent and the waiting list swelled to 108,000 children in the first 18 months, though the state did not determine whether kids on the list were eligible for coverage, according to a report by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Gov. Doug Ducey’s administration forecasts that 6,000 children who are eligible for KidsCare would not be able to sign up during the next fiscal year if the enrollment freeze takes effect, a number that would rise to 26,000 through 2022.

Ducey’s budget proposal includes $1.6 million to lift the freeze and cover the state’s share during the first year.

Hospitals are required by federal law to evaluate and stabilize anyone who shows up with an emergency. But supporters of the KidsCare program say that’s no way to treat chronic conditions like diabetes or asthma.

“When children are uninsured their families are unable to bring them in when they’re sick, so minor illnesses like colds can get exacerbated and ultimately they end up in the emergency department or even hospitalized for complications like pneumonia,” Dr. Jason Vargas, vice president of the Arizona chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, told lawmakers earlier this month.

Senate President Karen Fann, R-Prescott, said she’s personally supportive of lifting the enrollment freeze but added the state needs to be cautious about taking on the ongoing commitment.

“If we’ve got the money that we can do a little extra to help with important things like that, then absolutely,” Fann said.

Arizona Legislature closes session with big issues undone


The Arizona Legislature adjourned its 2018 session early Friday, leaving without taking action on two of Gov. Doug Ducey’s biggest initiatives of the year, a water policy overhaul and an ambitious school safety proposal that fell victim to concerns about the civil rights.
The Republican-controlled Legislature also failed to repeal a contentious school voucher expansion law that is set to be on the November ballot after opponents of the 2017 measure gathered enough signatures last summer to block its implementation. The fate of the voucher expansion was caught up in a momentous push by public school teachers who rose up in early March and eventually went on strike, forcing the Republican governor and lawmakers to award them with big raises and more school funding in the budget, although not enough to meet the demands of teachers who are ending a six-day strike and heading back to class on Friday.
Republican Sens. Kate Brophy McGee and Bob Worsley both went on record Thursday opposing any repeal, with Worsley calling the issue “kryptonite” and Brophy McGee simply saying “it needs to go to the ballot.” With all Democrats opposed, there was no way it could pass the Senate.
“The huge grassroots group, and I’ve talked to them multiple times, checked with them multiple times, they’re willing to take it to the ballot,” Brophy McGee said. “That’s where they want it to go.”
Teachers and other education advocates banded together as Save Our Schools Arizona gathered more than 100,000 signatures to block the universal voucher bill last summer, a move that kept it from taking effect until voters statewide could weigh in.
They argued that private school vouchers siphoned money from the state’s cash-strapped public schools, while backers said they give parents a choice about where their children attend school.
There has been talk all session of majority Republicans repealing or replacing it to negate the ballot measure.
Senate President Steve Yarbrough and House Speaker J.D. Mesnard presided over their final sessions Thursday afternoon and evening, after shepherding a $10.4 billion budget through the Legislature in a marathon session that began Wednesday night and ended after daybreak. The budget provides $300 million teachers for 9 percent teacher raises in the fall, with a promise of 5 percent raises in each of the next two years.
The school safety proposal died because of a provision that would allow family members to obtain a court order to remove guns from a person at risk of committing a shooting, and allowing them to be ordered held for a mental evaluation. Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert, said that was a bridge too far because it essentially could incarcerate someone without adequate due process.
“The members in the House were just concerned with the due process,” Farnsworth said. “One of the real challenges we had is that it was a civil action but it looked very much like a criminal action in its consequences.”
Democrats also opposed the measure because it didn’t contain universal background checks and other provisions they wanted.
“We don’t have any support at all,” Farnsworth said. “The Democrats are off, probably most of the Republicans are concerned and off, so…”
Lawmakers made final decisions on several hot-button pieces of legislation Thursday evening, including changes to the state’ redistricting and clean election commissions.
The changes to the redistricting commission approved by voters in 2000 failed in the Senate late Thursday. It would have asked voters to boost membership to nine from five and require that all legislative districts are within 2 percent population differences.
Lawmakers did pass a measure that will ask voters to make major changes in the state’s public elections financing system. The measure would allow a committee appointed by the governor to review rules adopted by the Citizens Clean Election Commission. It also would bar candidates who run using public financing from using any of that money for services provided by political parties.
The commission opposes the measure’s provision requiring rule reviews by the governor’s regulatory review commission. Democrats opposed to the measure say that puts a politically-appointed agency in charge of the independent commission’s authority, while Republicans said it prevents gaming of the system and adds oversight other state offices must follow. The bipartisan five-member commission was created by voters in 1998, and the measure will be on the November ballot.

Arizona looks for uptick in manufacturing jobs

In this Dec. 13, 2016, file photo, the Waymo driverless car is displayed during a Google event in San Francisco. Waymo has been testing some of its self-driving minivans supplied by Chrysler's parent company in Chandler and the southeast Phoenix area since 2016.
In this Dec. 13, 2016, file photo, the Waymo driverless car is displayed during a Google event in San Francisco. Waymo has been testing some of its self-driving minivans supplied by Chrysler’s parent company in Chandler and the southeast Phoenix area since 2016.

Arizona has seen a steady decline of manufacturing jobs spanning decades, but hopes are a boom in automotive research will bring it to an end.

Big corporations such as Uber, Lyft, Google, Waymo and Lucid Motors have committed to build test sites for their new cars and build large manufacturing plants in the desert over the last two years, turning Arizona into a live test track for autonomous cars and vehicles.

Just last month, Gov. Doug Ducey announced the Utah-based Nikola Motor Company will be moving its corporate headquarters to Arizona, while also constructing a truck-manufacturing plant in Buckeye with construction scheduled to begin in late 2019. Along with the plant, comes over 2,000 jobs for the city of Buckeye and an estimated $840,000 in direct and indirect revenues.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Arizona has seen a 54 percent decrease in manufacturing jobs since 1970. With the introduction of companies like Uber and Nikola, Arizona is looking to improve that percentage and stop the consistent decline.

With all these corporations making the transition to Arizona, it brings up a commonly asked question: Why here?

Ducey is known for labeling Arizona as a pro-business state and is backed up in a report written by economists for Wells Fargo Securities in February of 2017 when it states, “Employers are attracted by Arizona’s lower business costs, particularly compared to other West Coast states.”

Even with these larger corporations reshaping the economy, it is still hard to predict where the market is headed.

Alan Maguire, an economist for the Maguire Company, said he expects Arizona to generally react to market trends and predicts the state not to favor one sector such as raw materials or big corporations over another in the coming years.

“I think some focus on further encouraging high-value, mid-skill employment could be very beneficial,” Maguire said.  “Things like lower property taxes on manufacturing facilities and encouraging skill based training and recruitment could help bring new manufacturers to Arizona.”

Maguire also said he highly encourages the improvement of manufacturing jobs and sees nothing the state is doing as negative toward improving the economy as a whole.

However, Jim Rounds, president of the Rounds Consulting Group Inc., said the state needs to address the issue of government funding before it starts to hold back the growing economy and make it a priority.

Rounds also said he is encouraged to see the state attracting higher and more well-known firms.

“In order to implement policies to improve the state’s economy,” Rounds said, “the focus needs to be creating more higher-wage jobs.”

Arizona must be bolder on sentencing reform


This legislative session, Republican lawmakers are following in the footsteps of President Donald Trump and addressing the need for sentencing reform in Arizona. So far, the bills that have gained momentum in the House and Senate are well-intentioned but too weak to put a dent in our massive prison population.

Arizona taxpayers are spending $1.1 billion a year to incarcerate nearly 42,000 people. As of last month, more than 50 percent of people incarcerated had served a prison term in Arizona before, according to state records.

David Sheppard (Photo courtesy Just Leadership USA)
David Sheppard (Photo courtesy Just Leadership USA)

I am the founder of Arizona Advocates for Ex-Offenders, a nonprofit organization that helps people overcome the many obstacles they face when transitioning back into society. I started this organization because I have been in their shoes. I know how difficult it can be to find stable housing and employment even years after release.

I also know that long prison sentences are ineffective. The longer a person spends in prison, the more embedded they become in a punitive culture filled with violence and lacking hope. It is difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel, stay positive, and motivate oneself to be better when there is little opportunity to earn time off a sentence.

Arizona is one of a handful of states that still requires all people sent to prison to serve at least 85 percent of their sentence. The 85 percent requirement was implemented in states across the country in the early-1990s.

Over the years, other states have reversed this policy, including Mississippi, which did so after its incarceration crisis hit unsustainable levels. Now Arizona too is watching its prison population become unsustainable.

This year, there is proposed legislation that takes aim at the problematic 85 percent requirement, but two of these bills will unfortunately have very little impact.

SB 1310, sponsored by Sen. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert, only applies to people charged with certain drug crimes. Nearly 80 percent of people in Arizona prisons have significant substance abuse histories, according to the Department of Corrections. Some of these people have not been charged with drug crimes. Even so, their convictions are clearly related to their substance abuse problems. They too should be given an incentive to participate in drug treatment programs by being offered a chance to earn an earlier release date.

HB 2661, sponsored by Rep. John Allen, R-Scottsdale, would allow certain people to be eligible for an earlier release date after serving out 70 percent of their sentence instead of 85 percent. This means no matter how many educational or rehabilitative programs people participate in, the amount of early release credits they can earn will still be severely limited. In comparison, Mississippi requires people with nonviolent convictions to serve at least 25 percent of their sentence and people with violent convictions to serve at least 50 percent of their sentence.

A recent report from FWD.us found that people in Arizona prisons are already serving significantly longer sentences than they would in other states for the same crimes, particularly for property crimes.

FWD.us completed another analysis showing that one earned release credit bill, HB 2270, would have a meaningful effect for Arizona. Arizona now has the fourth highest incarceration rate in the nation. If HB 2270 became law, Arizona would rank 11th. Unfortunately, Rep. Allen, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, refused to give HB 2270 a hearing.

I am fortunate to sit on Gov. Ducey’s re-entry advisory council. I know this is an issue the governor cares about. He has taken steps to expand Second Chance Centers, which are designed to give people the tools they need to find work after their release.

This session, I’d like to see all lawmakers approach criminal justice reform with that same “second chance” mentality, which is founded on the belief that all people can transform for the better. Almost everyone in our prisons will once again come home to be our friends, neighbors and coworkers and we should care for them as such.

I ask Arizona lawmakers to be bold. Be courageous. Follow the lead of the federal government and other states that have seen tremendous success after implementing meaningful sentencing reforms. Demand more out of the proposed legislation this session and make 2019 the year we start down the path to substantial criminal justice reform for our state and substantial second chances for our people.

David Sheppard is a leader of Arizona Advocates for Ex-Offenders. He can be reached at [email protected].

Arizona must develop new water supplies now

Arizona is at a crossroads. Nearly 40% of Arizona’s annual water uses are supplied by the Colorado River. However, the outlook for Colorado River water availability – and Arizona’s junior allocation, in particular – is deeply concerning.   

The Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) has determined that there is insufficient water to support various projects in Central Arizona where development would otherwise naturally occur over the next several years (west Maricopa County and Pinal County). Additional water supplies will be needed to support the growth and economic prosperity we all want for our children and our grandchildren. Arizona must start today. 

Sean Hood

The present water crunch occurs alongside a historic budget surplus that allowed Arizona to make a substantial investment in water augmentation. In July, Governor Doug Ducey signed a bill directing $1 billion to a water augmentation fund over the next three years. The fund will be administered by the Water Infrastructure Finance Authority of Arizona (WIFA). A minimum of 75% of these dollars must be devoted to projects that import water from outside of Arizona. 

The new law does not direct WIFA to implement any particular projects. Instead, WIFA is authorized to select importation projects based on a variety of considerations. WIFA has been vested with significant discretion, and it is critical that WIFA make wise investment decisions.   

We must hope that WIFA will resist pressures to invest in stop-gap measures. WIFA should focus on projects to provide direct delivery of desalinated ocean water, likely in partnership with Mexico.  The technology is proven. More than 15,000 desalination plants operate today in hundreds of countries, and Israel is on the verge of satisfying approximately 90% of its municipal and industrial water demand through desalination.   

The previous desalination concept involved a water exchange with Mexico. Arizona would have helped fund treatment plants to provide desalinated water to users in Mexico. In exchange, Arizona would have received a portion of Mexico’s supply of Colorado River water. Investing billions of dollars in an increased Colorado River allocation is now a questionable strategy. Would that water be physically available on a reliable basis? 

Arizona should think bigger. The Gulf of California is Arizona’s closest ocean water source, and Arizona’s partnership with Mexico should include a water pipeline to provide direct delivery of desalinated ocean water to Arizona. This would involve more legal issues and land use complications, and it would be significantly more expensive. However, this solution would provide a significant, long-term infusion of additional water to Arizona. It would be drought-proof, and therefore far more reliable than a Colorado River exchange because the source would be ocean water. An international water pipeline would be a large project, but that’s what’s required to adequately address Arizona’s water shortage. 

Sean Hood is a litigator and water lawyer at Fennemore. He chairs Fennemore’s largest practice group, business litigation, and has nearly 20 years of experience advising and litigating on a broad range of water rights issues and business disputes. 



Arizona officials: Most virus cases involve younger people

A sports bar is empty before it closed early Monday, June 29, 2020, in Phoenix. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has shut down bars, movie theaters, gyms and water parks amid a dramatic resurgence of coronavirus cases. (AP Photo/Matt York)
A sports bar is empty before it closed early Monday, June 29, 2020, in Phoenix. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has shut down bars, movie theaters, gyms and water parks amid a dramatic resurgence of coronavirus cases. (AP Photo/Matt York)

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Arizona has now surpassed 100,000, and younger people, not the elderly, make up more than half of them, state health officials said Monday.

The Department of Health Services said more than 62,000 of the 101,441 reported cases involve people younger than 44.

Department Director Dr. Cara Christ said it’s people between 20 and 44 who can drive community spread of COVID-19. Younger people have a much lower risk of serious illness from the virus, although some do get very sick or die.

“That’s the biggest concern, is that they’re not at risk, they’re out in public potentially getting exposed.,” Christ said. “They’re also more likely to be asymtomatic or only have mild symptoms, and then potentially could bring it home to an individual who’s at high risk for complications.”

“It’s a huge fear,” she said.

Two weeks ago, Republican Gov. Doug Ducey allowed cities and counties to require face masks to help prevent the spread of the virus. The majority of the state’s population now is under a mask order. Last week, Ducey ordered bars, gyms and movie theaters to close for three weeks in Arizona, which leads the U.S. in new virus cases per capita. The action has drawn criticism from Republicans and defiance from one metro Phoenix chain of health clubs.

But Christ said those nightclubs, bars and gyms are where transmission is more likely. And she pushed back at a gym chain that has sued to challenge the closure order, saying telvision news video showed Mountainside Fitness was not taking needed steps to prevent transmission.

“They’re not requiring masks, they’re not requiring physical distancing, we don’t witness them spraying down the machines afterward,” Christ said. “And we know that when you exercise you’re inhaling and exhaling more forcefully, which increases the transmissibility of the virus.”

Lawyers for Mountainside, which operates 18 gyms in metro Phoenix, were in court Monday and argued that no COVID-19 cases have been traced to an Arizona gym. They also said the state has no rational basis for shutting down gyms that were following the state’s protection guidelines, while letting restaurants and hair salons remain open.

The governor’s attorneys said the order is sound because there’s an increased likelihood of being infected with COVID-19 through respiratory droplets when people exercise vigorously indoors.

A judge said he plans to rule Tuesday on the request to throw out Ducey’s order to shut down.

Totals released Monday by state health officials include an additional 3,352 confirmed cases and one new death. However, they said the figures may be an undercount because of a lag in reporting from hospitals over the weekend. The number of reported COVID-19 deaths stands at 1,810.

Arizona remains high in terms of positive tests and coronavirus hospitalizations. While the test positivity rate nationwide is around 9%, Arizona’s total is around 13.4%, and last week was above 23%. The number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients on Sunday was 3,212, a new high, according to state data. Hospital capacity statewide is currently around 89%.

Arizona’s has seen cases double in the past two weeks, a huge rise that Christ hopes will begin to slow in a week or two as the impact of mask and closure orders is felt.

Ducey reopened the state on May 15 after a six-week stay-home order and other closures, and cases started climbing about two weeks later, after crowds started re-appearing at bars and nightclubs and more people started circulating.

Christ said younger people especially didn’t think they could be affected, and went out.

The mask and bar closure orders are aimed at them in particular, she said.

“We did a really great job messaging to our vulnerable populations, our elderly, our long-term care facilities and out congregate settings about the risks,” she said. “And I don’t know that our younger population associated the risk of COVID 19 with them.”

Worldwide, the number of infections is thought to be far higher than reported numbers because many people haven’t been tested and studies suggest people can be infected without feeling sick.

The coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms such as fever and cough for most people. But for some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.


Associated Press writer Jacques Billeaud contributed.

Arizona opens vaccine appointments to everyone 16 and older

Healthcare cure concept with a hand in blue medical gloves holding Coronavirus, Covid 19 virus, vaccine vial

Arizona is opening coronavirus vaccine appointments to everyone 16 and older.

Gov. Doug Ducey said Monday that appointments will be available at state-run mass vaccination sites in Phoenix, Tucson and Yuma beginning at 8 a.m. on Wednesday. Ducey said the decision was made based on an anticipated increase in vaccine supply.

Arizona is among the first states to allow anyone to sign up for vaccine appointments. President Biden has said he wants states to take that step by May 1 and seek to vaccinate everyone who wants a shot by the end of May.

About 2.9 million vaccine doses have been given to about 1.1 million people so far in Arizona, according to state officials.

The change applies only to state-run vaccination sites, which have distributed the bulk of the vaccines in Arizona but are in urban areas.

Counties and some pharmacies have their own vaccine supplies and eligibility criteria, such as a health condition or a job in an essential industry.

Health officials on Monday reported 484 new confirmed Covid cases but no deaths, marking another day of downward trends in the coronavirus outbreak.

Arizona’s pandemic totals have now risen to 836,737 cases and 16,745 known deaths since the pandemic began.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher than reported because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

State health officials said the number of confirmed or suspected coronavirus hospitalized patients around Arizona decreased to 647 on Sunday.
In addition, the number of ICU beds used by Covid patients fell to 180.

Arizona’s weekly percent positivity for Covid diagnostic testing, an indicator of how much the virus is spreading in the community, is at a five-month low.

Arizona picks senators, military for Trump’s heroes garden

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor is shown Monday, Jan. 6, 2003, before administering the oath of office to members of the Texas Supreme Court, in Austin, Texas. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has recommended a slew of Arizona luminaries for inclusion in the proposed National Garden of American Heroes. The list by the governor's office includes three senators, two governors, and O'Connor, the first female justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, and military and civil rights heroes. (AP Photo/Harry Cabluck, File)
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor is shown Monday, Jan. 6, 2003, before administering the oath of office to members of the Texas Supreme Court, in Austin, Texas. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has recommended a slew of Arizona luminaries for inclusion in the proposed National Garden of American Heroes. The list by the governor’s office includes three senators, two governors, and O’Connor, the first female justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, and military and civil rights heroes. (AP Photo/Harry Cabluck, File)

A Native American U.S. Marine immortalized for helping raise the American flag over Iwo Jima during World War II. Two Arizona senators who were Republican nominees for president. The first female justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Those and other Arizona luminaries are among Republican Gov. Doug Ducey’s picks for a new National Garden of American Heroes. President Donald Trump announced the effort this summer, and his administration reached out to governors and the public for suggestions to add to his own list.

The list by the governor’s office recommends three senators, two governors, military and civil rights heroes as well as two military units, including the Navajo Code Talkers. They used an unbreakable code in their Navajo language to communicate during battles in the Pacific during WWII.

The others are:

— Sen. Carl Hayden: He was known as a workhorse of the Senate, where he represented Arizona from 1927 to 1959 after serving in the House since Arizona statehood in 1912. His efforts on the Central Arizona Project, a canal system that brings water from the Colorado River to Phoenix and Tucson, helped ensure the state’s growth. He announced his retirement in 1968 and died in 1972 at age 94.

— Sen. Barry Goldwater: He was born in Arizona three years before statehood and was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1952. He was the Republican nominee for president in 1964, defeated by Lyndon Johnson. He then ran for Arizona’s other Senate seat in 1968 and won, serving until he retired in 1987. Goldwater died in 1998.

John McCain (Photo by Cliff Owen/Associated Press)
John McCain (Photo by Cliff Owen/Associated Press)

— Sen. John McCain: The son and grandson of Navy admirals was imprisoned after his Navy jet was shot down over North Vietnam in 1967. He moved to Arizona after marrying Cindy McCain and retiring from the military. He won a seat in Congress in 1982, then won Goldwater’s old Senate seat in 1986. He was the Republican nominee for president in 2008 but lost and remained in the Senate until his death in 2018.

— Sandra Day O’Connor: She was the first female U.S. Supreme Court justice, appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1981. She had previously been a judge and a state senator. She retired from the court in 2006. The 90-year-old announced in 2018 that she had dementia and was stepping back from public life.

— Raul Castro: Arizona’s only Hispanic governor served for 2 1/2 years after winning election in 1974. He was born in Mexico and came to Arizona as a young man, earning a law degree and serving as Pima County attorney and a judge. He was ambassador to El Salvador and then Bolivia in the 1960s, resigning as governor to become ambassador to Argentina. He died in 2015 at age 98.

Former Arizona Governor Rose Mofford, left, gets a hug from a supporter as she sits next to another former Arizona governor Raul Castro, prior to an inaugural ceremony for at the Arizona Capitol, in Phoenix, Monday,  Jan. 3, 2011. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has recommended a slew of Arizona luminaries including Mofford and Castro, for inclusion in the proposed National Garden of American Heroes. The list by the governor's office includes three senators, two governors, the first female justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, and military and civil rights heroes. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin,File)
Former Arizona Governor Rose Mofford, left, gets a hug from a supporter as she sits next to another former Arizona governor Raul Castro, prior to an inaugural ceremony for at the Arizona Capitol, in Phoenix, Monday, Jan. 3, 2011. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has recommended a slew of Arizona luminaries including Mofford and Castro, for inclusion in the proposed National Garden of American Heroes.  (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin,File)

— Rose Mofford: She became Arizona’s first female governor when Republican Gov. Evan Mecham was impeached and removed from office. The Democrat had been serving as secretary of state at the time and inherited a big budget deficit and criticism over the state refusing to adopt a Martin Luther King. Jr. holiday. Mofford was governor from 1988 to 1991, declining to run for a full term. She died in 2016 at age 94.

— Pat Tillman: The Arizona State University and Arizona Cardinals linebacker gave up a lucrative pro contract after the Sept. 11 terror attacks and joined the Army. He was killed in Afghanistan in 2004 in a friendly fire incident at age 27.

— Lincoln Ragsdale: He was a member of the Tuskegee Airmen in World War II and a prominent Black businessman and civil rights leader in Phoenix after the war. He died in 1995 at age 68.

— Frank Luke: Luke was an ace World War I fighter pilot who died in 1918 at age 21 after being wounded in flight. He was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously. Luke Air Force Base in Glendale is named after him.

Ira Hayes (AP Photo, File)
Ira Hayes (AP Photo, File)

— Ira Hayes: A Pima Indian from Sacaton, he was one of six Marines shown in Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal’s famous “Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima” photo in February 1945. He later suffered post-traumatic stress disorder and alcoholism and died in 1955 at age 32.

— Stewart Udall: He was elected to Congress in 1954, and President John F. Kennedy named him secretary of Interior in 1961. He served in the post until the end of President Lyndon Johnson’s term in 1969, overseeing major efforts including the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act and the expansion of the National Park system. He died in 2010 at age 90.

— Annie Dodge Wauneka: She was the second woman elected to the Navajo Nation Council and worked to improve health and education within the tribe. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1963. She died in 1997 at age 93.

— The Buffalo Soldiers: This group of Black U.S. Army cavalry unit soldiers was based across the Midwest and West after the Civil War and often assigned to Fort Huachuca in southern Arizona.

Arizona public schools find ways to adapt to funding cuts

Students in Tucson's Amphitheater district receive Chromebooks paid for by the nonprofit Amphi Foundation to help them learn. The foundation funds programs the district would not be able to cover. (Photo submitted by Matt Stamp, Amphi Public Schools)
Students in Tucson’s Amphitheater district receive Chromebooks paid for by the nonprofit Amphi Foundation to help them learn. The foundation funds programs the district would not be able to cover. (Photo submitted by Matt Stamp, Amphi Public Schools)

Arizona consistently ranks among the lowest in the nation for its per-student funding, a fact often cited by advocates hoping for a better financial picture for the state’s schools.

But, as funding levels continue to lag years after the Great Recession, schools find ways to make do.

Some turn to the internet, searching for donations. Many crowd kids into classrooms or have principals step in as teachers. Others go to four-day weeks.

Environmental innovations, like solar panels and artificial grass, can help cut costs. And there’s even a company dedicated to helping schools find ways to save money on things like utilities.

The most obvious way to adjust for low state funding is increasing taxes at the local level through bonds and overrides. But voters aren’t always willing to support tax increases, especially in a Republican-led state like Arizona.

Even so, don’t discount the creativity of educators, say those who have worked in schools and found ways to save money.

There is, of course, the question of whether schools should be forced into cutting costs creatively by low funding levels.

“It’s getting old, and it’s high time that our Legislature steps up to the plate and starts funding public schools the way they should,” said Jim Lee, superintendent of the Paradise Valley Unified School District.


Dozens of teachers ask friends, family and strangers to pitch in on basic classroom costs through crowdfunding sites like GoFundMe and DonorsChoose. Do a simple search for your city and the word “teacher” and you can find a seemingly endless stream of teachers to help.

Tanner Nielsen, a 21-year-old new teacher at Union Elementary School in Tolleson, wants to create a Super Mario Bros-themed classroom, so he created a GoFundMe to ask for monetary help. (Screenshot from GoFundMe)
Tanner Nielsen, a 21-year-old new teacher at Union Elementary School in Tolleson, wants to create a Super Mario Bros-themed classroom, so he created a GoFundMe to ask for monetary help. (Screenshot from GoFundMe)

Tanner Nielsen, a 21-year-old new teacher, wants to create a Super Mario Bros-themed classroom to excite his future students. The second grade teacher at Union Elementary School in Tolleson has raised more than $300 so far.

He said he has wanted to have a Mario classroom as long as he’s known he wanted to be a teacher. The money will help him buy the supplies needed to make the dream a reality.

“I want to be the teacher that I wish I had when I was in second grade,” he said.

One GoFundMe takes a big swing, asking for $14 million to match Gov. Doug Ducey’s proposed teacher raise. The campaign, started in February, has raised $195 so far.

But crowdfunding is hit-or-miss and requires legwork – including near-constant sharing on social media – from teachers or their supporters. There’s also a certain level of fatigue from people on social networks, who are always being asked to give money to GoFundMe campaigns for everything from health care to overseas adoptions.

In some cases, the easier ask may be for specific items, like library books.

More than 30 Arizona schools have received donated books from Kids Need to Read, a 501(c)3 that donates 200 books to libraries in high poverty communities through its Grow Your Library program.

Program director and Phoenix resident Gary Mlodzik was at the Globe Public Library, according to an April blog post, where donations satisfied the area’s “dire need of non-fiction books.”

The local elementary and high schools, he noted, have no libraries of their own.

And William T. Machan Elementary School’s library may be closed this fall after the library aide was fired following federal funding cuts. According to The Arizona Republic, volunteers need to raise $15,000 to keep the library doors open to its largely impoverished student body.


Budget constraints and the state’s ongoing teacher shortage go hand-in-hand. Schools struggle to attract new teachers in large part because of low salaries. In turn, the methods they use to adapt to missing teachers end up saving some money, though educators say they would rather find teachers to fill those vacancies.

Lee, the Paradise Valley superintendent, said there are three main ways schools adapt to vacancies, which end up cutting costs: increasing class sizes, skipping teacher prep periods, and putting principals in front of classrooms.

A few principals in the Paradise Valley district will teach classes, Lee said. One principal has a background in special education, so she filled in in that area when the school couldn’t find substitute teachers, he said.

Classes in the district’s high schools average 35 to 38 students, he said. The class size in smaller for middle and elementary school and depends on the specifics of each school in the large district, Lee said.

Numerous teachers don’t have a prep period and instead teach a class during that time, which increases their take-home pay, but saves the district overall because the person is already on the payroll, Lee said.

“We get awfully creative when we need to,” he said.

Most schools use some of the techniques Lee mentioned to some degree. They all find various ways to help their bottom-lines and do the best they can with the money they’re given, Lee said.

And while he’s proud of the way his district has found new ways to save and earn money, there’s a philosophical question about whether they should have to find gimmicks to get by. State leaders simply must do a better job of funding schools, he said.


For Tucson’s Amphitheater district and many others across the state, a foundation jumps in to help with costs that, under better financial circumstances, would be covered by the schools themselves.

Teachers in Tucson's Amphitheater school district get money for technology and other classrooms needs from the Amphi Foundation, a nonprofit that fills in funding gaps for the district. (Photo submitted by Matt Stamp, Amphi Public Schools)
Teachers in Tucson’s Amphitheater school district get money for technology and other classrooms needs from the Amphi Foundation, a nonprofit that fills in funding gaps for the district. (Photo submitted by Matt Stamp, Amphi Public Schools)

The nonprofit Amphi Foundation started in 1983 and was mainly funded by district employees for many years, though Executive Director Leah Noreng said it’s now mainly supported by the community, from parents to local businesses to corporate sponsors to grants.

“The sad reality is that we’re supporting some things that are otherwise unfunded. We’re not just adding to the top, we’re filling in where these things wouldn’t be funded otherwise,” Noreng said.

The foundation provides some services typical of charities, like a clothing bank and shoe program for needy students. But it also helps fund technology in classrooms, like laptops and 3D printers. And it recently started a mini-grant program, topped out at $500 per teacher, to help pay for equipment or new programs.

The foundation will be giving a $200 startup grant to every new teacher in the district to help them fill their classrooms with needed supplies, she said.

“We don’t want our teachers to have to pay for things out of pocket. No other profession exists where you’re expected to pay for things out of pocket and not get reimbursed by your company. Teachers are doing that every day,” Noreng said.

If the Amphi Foundation didn’t exist, the programs would simply go unfunded, she said. And while she’s constantly trying to grow the fundraising base, it’s impossible to keep up with demand in the 14,000-student district.

“Every year, I feel that the burden is even bigger,” she said. “The reality is, I will never be able to raise enough money because the need is so great.”

Partnerships with local businesses have also helped bridge financial gaps through ongoing investments.

Garden Lakes Elementary School students enrolled in the GCON Design and Build Academy gather around a guest speaker. Sponsors like the construction management company invest in a variety of educational programs across the Pendergast Elementary School District. (Photo courtesy of Pendergast Elementary School District spokeswoman Nedda Shafir)
Garden Lakes Elementary School students enrolled in the GCON Design and Build Academy gather around a guest speaker. Sponsors like the construction management company invest in a variety of educational programs across the Pendergast Elementary School District. (Photo courtesy of Pendergast Elementary School District spokeswoman Nedda Shafir)

Pendergast Elementary School District spokeswoman Nedda Shafir said her district started STEAM (STEM plus arts = science, technology, engineering, arts and math) academies three years ago with the help of business partners that give money to classrooms bearing their brands, building hands-on curriculum without additional costs to the district.

Maricopa Integrated Health Systems sponsors a medical academy exposing students to forensics and medicine, and architecture firm Orcutt Winslow adopted the building design and construction academy where students work with CAD software, a design tool used by professionals in the field. The list goes on.

Those same partners sponsor field trips to their facilities and guest speakers to offer guidance to the sixth, seventh and eighth graders in their elementary programs.

“The businesses are invested. They’re training the workforce of the future, so they’re excited about that,” Shafir said.


A simple Google search will show there’s no shortage of Arizona schools cutting costs with environmentally friendly features, like artificial turf and solar panels.

Shafir from Pendergast Elementary School District said cutting back on appliances like coffeemakers and mini-fridges in classrooms has saved about $20,000 on electricity alone, and other efforts to be more efficient are estimated to have cut the district’s energy costs in half.

But Arredondo Elementary School’s facelift, to be unveiled on August 3, strives to be the model for cost-saving solutions that also create a more comfortable learning environment.

Principal Alison Bruening-Hamati said some classrooms in the old building did not have windows, and lights had to be kept on at all times. Now, in the new facility, every classroom has energy-efficient light fixtures and access to natural light through windows or solar tubes.

Courtney Quesada, a project manager with the Tempe Elementary School District’s facilities department, described the tubes as mini-skylights going from the ceiling of a classroom to the roof where the sun enters the reflective tube.

The added tubes and windows allow the school to “harvest” daylight, Quesada said. Sensors in the classrooms measure how much natural light is allowed in and dim the artificial lighting to save energy.

The cafeteria was equipped with garage doors to let in fresh air in the cooler months rather than relying on A/C, and students are incentivized to turn off unnecessary lighting or utilize outdoor spaces with a weekly Clean and Green Classroom Award.

The upgraded Arredondo Elementary School in Tempe includes an amphitheater with artificial grass. The turf was intended to reduce maintenance costs while also providing an outdoor alternative to indoor classrooms during cooler months. (Photo by Amy Garza/Tempe Elementary School District)
The upgraded Arredondo Elementary School in Tempe includes an amphitheater with artificial grass. The turf was intended to reduce maintenance costs while also providing an outdoor alternative to indoor classrooms during cooler months. (Photo by Amy Garza/Tempe Elementary School District)

Artificial grass in the campus’ outdoor amphitheater and a paved area featuring shade trees have made the school’s outdoor spaces efficient alternatives to indoor classrooms.

While faux turf may be more costly upfront, Quesada said, it pays off over time with little maintenance required.

Bruening-Hamati credited Tempe taxpayers for making the renovations possible through bonding. Without those additional funds, her school and others in the district may not have been so lucky.

“In the state of Arizona, this is really an anomaly at this time because there isn’t a lot of money,” she said. “When it comes down to it, Tempe is really dedicated to their schools.”


Some districts switch to four-day school weeks, hoping to save money on transportation, utilities and administration.

According to the Arizona Department of Education, 53 school districts have four-day weeks – that’s approximately 8 percent of all districts in the state. Most of the four-day districts are in rural areas.

There isn’t a lot of long-term study into how the shortened school weeks affect students, though some research suggests morale and attendance improve for educators and kids. The instructional time remains the same, just in the form of four slightly longer days.

At first blush, it may seem like a district could shave off one-fifth of its budget by cutting out one-fifth of its school days. But the biggest line-item for schools – pay and benefits for teachers – is largely not affected by moving to a four-day week because many still work the same number of hours per week.

A 2011 analysis of the cost-savings aspect of four-day weeks by the Education Commission of the States, a policy think tank, found costs were reduced, albeit minimally. The report said the most a district could save is 5.43 percent by moving to a four-day week, though schools it reviewed saved between 0.4 percent and 2.5 percent on their total annual budget.

The Bisbee Unified School District moved to a four-day week in 2009. According to the ECS report, the district saved $154,000, or 2.5 percent, in its annual budget.


Keith Laake built his entire business on helping other organizations save money.

For a percentage of the savings his staff ultimately identifies, Laake’s Cost Control Associates combs through utility and telecom bills for errors and missed opportunities for less costly rates. Past unnecessary charges can be refunded and ongoing costs can be reduced.

“Even if we were to work with a school district and find nothing, they feel better that they’ve had an expert look it and make sure everything is being billed right and that their costs are optimized,” Laake said. “Fortunately, for most school districts, we do find things.”

And for districts working hard just to “scrape by,” every dollar counts.

The Gilbert Public School District saved more than $40,000 in the first year after the Cost Control Associates audit. The company found more than $10,000 in telecom refunds and an additional $23,000 in annual savings thanks to a rate change. Laake’s staff also saved the district $6,500 annually on electricity.

Teddy Dumlao, finance director for the district, said he believes the savings are really even greater than the initial dollar figure Laake quoted – perhaps tens of thousands of dollars each month when all is said and done.

Because of the audit, Dumlao explained, the district was able to justify energy-efficient updates to facilities, like lighting and air conditioning units, and access federal funds to cover the cost of those improvements.

Dumlao said school districts have been left “hurting and scrambling” in the wake of cuts to state capital funding, so being able to take advantage of more efficient technology has allowed his district to cut costs that could very well cover someone’s salary.

Other districts have seen even greater savings. At Chandler Unified School District, Laake estimated his staff found more than $100,000 in reduced costs there.

And even in smaller districts that may not yield such high dollar figures, Laake said something as simple as cutting utility costs could save jobs.

Arizona resistant to change in ‘tough-on-crime’ sentencing laws

A lingering “tough-on-crime” mentality in Arizona is hampering efforts to reconstruct the state’s criminal justice system.

Several measures introduced this session address fines, fees and probation, but affording more discretion to courts during sentencing and eliminating mandatory minimums has eluded those pushing for a “smart on crime” approach, a buzzword used by a wide range of groups seeking change.

That approach, according to some lawmakers and advocates for change, has been resisted by conservative politicians and prosecutors who have been elected with the help of scare tactics for generations.

Rep. David Stringer (R-Prescott)
Rep. David Stringer (R-Prescott)

Rep. David Stringer, R-Prescott, said though many of his colleagues are interested in discussing changes to the criminal justice system, not all are open to it. After all, he said, Republicans have run on a “tough-on-crime” platform for years.

“There’s resistance to reform and I have to say running on cracking down on crime, tough on crime, these have been Republican issues for a long time. They’ve helped Republicans get elected,” he said. “But I’m distressed that a lot of my colleagues continue to run on this issue.

“Some of them don’t know how to talk any other language.”.

Caroline Isaacs of the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker group focused on criminal justice reform, said GOP legislators haven’t gotten out in front of the issue because of a “lingering and false belief that this is a political liability.”

Stringer and Isaacs are frustrated with how slow the process has been in Arizona, especially given that more conservative states, like Louisiana, tackled the issue in just one session.

But not everyone believes greater changes are needed.

Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said Arizona is already ahead of the rest of the country.

On March 16, the Arizona Prosecuting Attorneys’ Advisory Council said in a news release accompanying the 2017 “Prisoners in Arizona” report that the state has been a “front-runner in criminal justice reform” for 20 years.

The report says the state prison population has declined by 1.1 percent since June 2016, “a trend that is (in) sharp contrast to an annual uptick in prison population from July 2012 through April 2016.”

The researchers also determined that the number of first-time offenders incarcerated decreased by 3.3 percent from 2011 to 2017 because of intervention programs to treat drug and alcohol addiction or mental health issues, which Montgomery said prosecutors have championed for years.

Bill Montgomery
Bill Montgomery

Montgomery called other ideas being pushed by the smart-on-crime crowd “pet projects” that are “based on myths and rhetoric.”

“Most of the folks who call criminal justice reform ‘reform’ – all they’re really out to do is arbitrarily adjust sentencing statutes or adjust truth-in-sentencing with no data to support it,” he said.

But advocates for change say those adjustments will make a real impact, and they point to Montgomery and other county attorneys as one reason why the effort has stalled statewide.


Groups all along the political spectrum agree something must be done to improve Arizona’s criminal justice system. But they haven’t yet reached a consensus on what specifically should be done.

Progressive groups, such as the American Civil Liberties Union and American Friends Service Committee, and conservative groups, like Families Against Mandatory Minimums, are calling for changes to the state’s sentencing statutes.

The groups have also called for an end to mandatory minimum sentences, especially for drug offenses.

But Montgomery scoffed at their ideas of “so-called reform,” arguing that they’re trying to overlay other states’ solutions on Arizona.

He said the reality is other states either face different problems or are simply implementing measures Arizona embraced years ago, such as diverting first-time drug offenders to treatment instead of prison.

“And because we weren’t part of the so-called reform wave, we don’t get credit for what we did,”

Montgomery said.

He said the first step in the public policy conversation must be to define the problem and determine what resources are needed to solve it.

“For so many, and this is what has been a frustration of mine, they don’t understand the problem,” he said.

“We need to come to a common understanding of the criminal environment we actually have, the types of crimes we have to deal with, and then what makes for the most effective policy. … What do we want to define as success for the criminal justice system in Arizona?”

For Montgomery, success would mean reducing recidivism, a goal he shares with Gov. Doug Ducey.

Ducey spokesman Daniel Scarpinato said the governor approaches the issue from a public safety perspective. The governor’s priority, he said, has been to provide people who have already served their time with opportunities to get back on their feet by helping them get jobs, government benefits, and treatment.

Those efforts, Scarpinato said, will help reduce recidivism rates and the state’s prison population, while still “making sure we’re enforcing the rule of law and still being tough on crime.”

Montgomery also said he wants more punitive sanctions in place for drug traffickers to deter them.

Will Gaona
Will Gaona (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)

And on that point, his views and those of change advocates, like the ACLU’s Will Gaona, could not be more different.

According to the Arizona Prosecuting Attorneys’ Advisory Council’s updated Prisoners in Arizona report, 84 percent of state prisoners are repeat offenders.

Gaona said it “demonstrates the failure of our criminal justice system” – those offenders knew they could go back to prison, yet that didn’t stop them from committing new crimes.

“Obviously, this is not an effective intervention, and we’re just going to try it again for longer periods of time for something that has already been demonstrated not to work,” he said.


Lawmakers introduced more than a dozen bills this session seeking to improve the criminal justice system. Few of them, however, went anywhere in the legislative process.

For example, Stringer introduced HB2303 seeking to reduce the penalties for possession of substances such as marijuana, heroin and cocaine, from felonies to misdemeanors. It would have also expanded the list of mitigating factors considered at sentencing to include documented mental illness, addiction, trauma resulting from military service and victimization.

Several bills introduced in both chambers, like HB2621 by Rep. Tony Rivero, R-Peoria, or SB1094 from Sen. Martin Quezada, D-Glendale, sought to address the expungement or sealing of criminal records.

None received a committee hearing.

Other bills were more successful.

Right on Crime, a campaign affiliated with a conservative Texas think tank, introduced a package of five bills this session that among other things, seeks to give the courts greater discretion to impose alternative sanctions, like community restitution, rather than hefty fines or prison time. It also seeks to establish a list of factors the court must consider when vacating and setting aside convictions, and makes administrative fixes to the intensive probation program.

Though a similar package of bills was introduced in 2017, the effort failed after Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert, refused to hear the legislation in the House Judiciary Committee.

This session, nearly all of the bills, which were written and vetted by the Arizona Supreme Court’s Task Force on Fair Justice for All, were unanimously approved by the House and have faced relatively little opposition in the Senate.

Kurt Altman
Kurt Altman

As Right on Crime Director Kurt Altman, sees it, the bills have been successful so far because they seek to halt unfair penalties on the poor and reduce recidivism, ideas he thinks the GOP and Ducey can get behind.

Altman, a former county and federal prosecutor whose practice now includes criminal defense, said while the measures don’t make any major changes to the state’s sentencing statutes, they’re still effective.

Large-scale changes to the criminal justice system, such as changes to sentencing laws, will take more time and buy-in, he said.

“It’s part of the long-term process,” he said. “Are we there yet in Arizona? Probably not. But we’re trying to get there.”

That may be easier said than done.

Advocates have highlighted that there’s still a strong resistance from prosecutors, like Montgomery, who might stand to lose some power if more moderate measures successfully move through the Legislature.

Stringer said one of the problems he has faced is that despite proposing what he called “modest reforms,” he said there is still “tremendous resistance.”

“Some of the prosecutors are very, very adamantly against it because the current system gives prosecutors a tremendous amount of discretion,” he said.

He declined to name which prosecutors are opposed to making greater changes.

Gaona said like in other conservative states, elected prosecutors are working to derail efforts to improve the criminal justice system. In Arizona, he said, the biggest obstacle is Montgomery.

“Prosecutors take issue with criminal justice reform because it often reduces the power that they hold.” he said. “Looking at just his actions, it’s pretty clear that he’s an opponent to reform.”

He said Montgomery drastically amended one of the Fair Justice for All bills, HB2312, which establishes factors the court must consider when determining whether to set aside a conviction, despite having helped draft the original bill.

The original language of the bill, Gaona said, would have led to “real second chances,” and would have helped reduce recidivism by giving ex-offenders the opportunity to have their criminal records sealed.

Gaona said Montgomery’s office is also a proponent of a bill that would create new mandatory minimums for heroin and fentanyl possession – despite touting in public that Arizona “doesn’t incarcerate low-level drug offenders.”

But he pointed out that the state has already tried that with methamphetamine, and Gaona said the Arizona Prosecuting Attorneys’ Advisory Council’s own report seems to suggest that has not been successful in preventing trafficking.

The report indicates that three of the top six offenses for which people are incarcerated are drug related.

At the same time, during a roundtable presentation of the report, Montgomery noted the amount of methamphetamine seized near the border has increased. Increasing amounts of heroin and fentanyl are also trafficked through Arizona.

And Montgomery says tougher sentencing laws are the answer.

Yet the data says otherwise, Gaona said. More people have been incarcerated for related offenses, according to the data, but the amount of drugs trafficked hasn’t been negatively impacted.

Gaona said that indicates to him that drugs continue to be a major driver of incarceration.

Montgomery rejected any suggestion that he and his fellow prosecutors have been standing in the way, calling that “nonsense.”

“I really believe that those who keep pushing that narrative do so because they can’t accept the fact that their ideas are bad,” he said.

If prosecutors had control over the process, he added, drastic changes to Arizona’s asset forfeiture laws never would have passed last session.

Farnsworth’s HB2477 increased the standard of evidence required for authorities to seize property and strengthened reporting requirements. It was nearly universally opposed by law enforcement.

Montgomery argued this is simply what the public policy process looks like – “like making sausage.”

“Prosecutors don’t have a vote at the Legislature,” he said. “We don’t sit on committees. We don’t sponsor bills. We don’t get to vote on the floor. They want to say that there’s a wall. There’s not a wall. It’s a gate. And it’s a gate that requires careful analysis and review because we can’t gamble on public safety.”

Arizona school funding still lagging, report shows

State funding for Arizona’s kindergarten to grade 12 public school system remains nearly 14 percent below what it was before the Great Recession hit in 2007, according to an analysis of school funding in 48 states released Wednesday by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

The study by the Washington, D.C.-based nonpartisan research institute showed that even with an infusion of money since Gov. Doug Ducey took office in 2016, the state’s per-pupil spending is well below its 2008 funding levels when adjusted for inflation. It also said per-pupil formula spending dropped last year by 1.2 percent.

Gov. Doug Ducey
Gov. Doug Ducey (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)

Ducey has touted his efforts to boost K-12 spending.

“Arizona has put more money into K-12 education over the last three years than any other state in the country, without raising taxes,” he told KTAR radio earlier this month. “It has been the focus of every budget that we’ve had.”

But much of that increase came from settling a lawsuit bought by schools that alleged the state illegally cut spending during the recession. The settlement added some state spending but most of the new cash came from increasing withdrawals from the state land trust dedicated to schools.

The study found that Arizona school funding hasn’t recovered from the cuts despite the new spending and could be getting worse, said Mike Leachman, the center’s state fiscal research director.

“It’s clear that Arizona school funding is down significantly and the data we have suggest further worsening at least in terms of formula funding, which is the major source for general support for all school districts in the state,” he said.

The study used U.S. Census Bureau statistics from 2008 through 2015 to review all states except Hawaii and Indiana. It also reviewed state budget documents from 2016-18 for Arizona and 11 other states that had the biggest cuts though the current budget year.

The analysis showed Arizona cut more than any other state through 2015, chopping 36.6 percent of its spending on schools. Local districts made up some of the difference. But even including extra local funding, the census data shows a 24.6 percent reduction for Arizona school funding.

The Republican governor has made school funding his top priority since taking office in January 2016, but he also refused to halt phased-in corporate tax cuts than eliminated hundreds of millions of dollars from the state revenue stream. He has vowed that the state budget he will propose in January will add more K-12 school funding.

The center said seven of the 12 states with the biggest cuts in school funding also cut corporate or personal income taxes, a move it said hurts school budgets.

Overall, the funding cuts hurt the economy because of lower employment in schools, low teacher pay, higher class sizes and a lack of funding to implement school reforms, the center said.

Arizona schools awash in federal virus cash, some flooded

money schools books620

Arizona K-12 schools have been sent nearly $4.3 billion through several federal coronavirus relief packages, with virtually every public charter school or traditional district receiving extra cash to help them endure shutdowns caused by the Covid pandemic and help students make up for lost classroom time.  

But the money wasn’t equally divided.  

Schools that serve a high proportion of low-income students received much more. 

Since March 2020, the federal government has provided $190 billion in pandemic aid to schools, an amount that is more than four times what the U.S. Education Department spends on K-12 schools in a typical year. The Associated Press, relying on data published or provided by states and the federal government, tallied how much money was granted to nearly every school district in the country. 

The AP tracked more than $145 billion sent to states to distribute among schools since last year, including general pandemic relief that some states shared with their schools.  

Not all the money has been distributed, but The Associated Press collected data on $3.57 billion that has so far been sent to Arizona schools, and some schools got half a year’s budget or more in virus relief funds. The biggest pot of money was from President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Act Plan, which included $2.7 billion to Arizona schools. 

Many Arizona charter and public schools that do not have many low-income students received about $500 per student. Meanwhile public schools with a high percentage of students eligible for federally funded free or reduced-price lunches got much more, in some cases a massive amount. 

Two prime examples are the Vail School District southeast of Tucson and the Sunnyside Unified School District in Tucson. 

The two districts educate similar numbers of students in more than 20 elementary, middle and high schools each, Vail 13,792 and Sunnyside about 15,600. 

But Vail got just $558 per student, or $7.7 million, to help it recover from financial and education losses due to the pandemic, mainly because fewer than 30% of its students were classified as low-income. It’s yearly budget is about $110 million. 

Sunnyside, meanwhile, hauled in $82.5 million in federal relief funds, about two-thirds of its yearly district budget of $130 million. That worked out to $5,291 per student.  

Both districts went to remote learning last year as the coronavirus hit the state. Last school year was a mix of remote, hybrid and in-person learning. This fall, most students returned to in-person education.  

They both plan to add more school counselors and have spent money on cleaning and personal protective equipment. 

And both took a financial hit from the pandemic, when Gov. Doug Ducey and the Legislature provided just 95% of regular funding for remote learning.  

Despite assurances from Ducey that districts would be made whole, federal virus payments and federally funded grants the governor doled out came up short for Vail and other districts that are not classified as low-income, Vail district spokeswoman Darcy Mentone said. The district got only 2% of the 5% expected to reach full funding. 

That left the district having to provide additional staffing and other resources, “and we were struggling financially to provide all that,” Mentone said.  

Enter Ducey, who last week announced $163 million for schools that had received less than $1,800 per student, conditioned on them not requiring students to wear face masks or get vaccinated. Vail does neither, so it’s in line to get an additional $12.2 million in federal money controlled by Ducey. 

Mentone said her district was among those that asked the Legislature to ensure schools that didn’t get so-called Title I money got more cash. 

“We wholeheartedly agree … that students in poverty require additional resources,” Mentone said. “But that doesn’t mean that students that aren’t in poverty don’t need anything.”  

Vail has not finalized plans for how to spend that extra money yet, but its principals want at least some of it to be spent on additional staffing, Mentone said.  

Sunnyside’s payments, by contrast, put it in a massive cash-positive position and it can do what Biden asked them to do: think of the money as a way to transform. 

Superintendent Steve Holmes said he thinks that’s just what the public expects and it will be a huge missed opportunity if he doesn’t deliver. He knows money is needed to help students recover the learning loss from the past 18 months but also that some of it can be used to make major gains, if used right. 

“I worry that sometimes people see a large influx of money, and it’s like dig yourself out of the ditch, versus really thinking innovatively of how you can actually change things,” Holmes said. “I truly believe we’re approaching it from a transformational standpoint.” 

He said the question is how to balance “transformation with playing catch-up.” 

“If we’re just about playing catch up from the past, I think it’s going to look bad with the general public that we didn’t do anything with these dollars that were worthwhile. 

The district is spending the money on new technology like updated student laptops and classroom projectors, on summer, afterschool and weekend classes, new arts and band instructors, school counselors, social workers and family resources. It also pushed money into safety, like special air filters that remove viruses. 

It plans to spend the extra $82 million over three years and Holmes said he hopes to retain the extra staff. 

Some schools got an even bigger windfall from the federal relief packages enacted under Biden and former President Donald Trump. Schools on the Navajo Nation generally came out way ahead. 

The biggest winner of all was the Cedar Unified School District on the Navajo Nation. The district runs the Jeditto School in the community Keams Canyon about 125 miles (200 kilometers) northeast of Flagstaff. 

With just 125 students and a $2 million annual budget, the district received $11 million, or more than $90,000 per student. In a brief phone interview, Superintendent Corrina Begay said the district had bought two four-wheel drive school buses but then said she was busy and set up a follow-up call for the following day. She did not respond to multiple follow-up calls, messages or an email. 

Elsewhere on the sprawling reservation, the Red Mesa Unified School District, with five schools and about 430 students, received more than its annual yearly budget in federal money. The district budget is about $8.2 million and it received $12.6 million, more than $29,000 per student. 

Superintendent Amy Perez Fuller, who just joined the district this summer, said some of the money has already been allocated to refurbish decades-old schools. All are getting new paint and air conditioning and repaired plumbing. 

The district is also buying computers, new textbooks and Chromebooks for lower grades. But decisions on how to spend much of the cash haven’t been made.  

“I was happy to find out that we have all this funding, but the first thing I did is I stopped the spending,” Fuller said. “Because I thought, ‘Wait a minute.'” 

She said the district will buy things that are needed.  

“Otherwise, we’ll let it roll over until next year until we find out where we are,” Fuller said. “I’m not careless in spending public money, or my own money as a matter of fact.” 


Arizona Senate, House pass bill for survivors of child abuse

Arizona Senate President Karen Fann, right, confers with fellow Republican Sen. Sylvia Allen in the Senate building in Phoenix, Saturday, May 25, 2019. The Arizona Senate returned to work late Saturday morning with no sign that an impasse that has held up the budget for days is close to a resolution. Still, Fann vowed to forge ahead with parts of the $11.8 billion budget package that she said are "non-controversial." (AP Photo/Bob Christie)
Arizona Senate President Karen Fann, right, confers with fellow Republican Sen. Sylvia Allen in the Senate building in Phoenix, Saturday, May 25, 2019. The Arizona Senate and House passed a bill to expand the statute of limitations for sexual assault survivors to sue, possibly breaking an impasse that has held up the budget for days.  (AP Photo/Bob Christie)

Survivors of childhood sexual abuse will soon have more opportunities to sue their abusers, after the Arizona Senate and House unanimously passed a bill that Gov. Doug Ducey has vowed to sign.

HB2466, a compromise struck between advocates for survivors of sexual abuse and Republican senators who argued that expanding the statute of limitations would expose innocent people to false allegations, will raise the age by which survivors must file civil lawsuits from 20 to 30.

Older, time-barred survivors can file civil lawsuits until Dec. 31, 2020, but they’ll face a higher burden of proof and won’t be eligible to receive punitive damages.

Sen. Heather Carter, who joined fellow Republican Sen. Paul Boyer in vowing not to vote for a budget until the Legislature voted on the issue, called the bill a “critical first step.”

“Arizona is no longer the dark corner where you can hide a pedophile,” Carter said. “With this bill, we are bringing victims out of the shadows and giving them a voice.”

Carter, R-Cave Creek, said she’s been threatened personally and professionally for her pledge not to vote for a budget. Fellow Republican lawmakers have said that every bill she’ll sponsor next year is dead and claimed that her political career is over, she said.

But the issue of protecting children transcends everything else the Legislature does, Carter said.

“Nothing that we have experienced the last two weeks comes even remotely close to what a child who has experienced sexual abuse experiences,” Carter said. “Nothing. And that’s why I held out.”

Carter, Boyer and Senate Democrats have insisted that the Senate address the issue of childhood sexual abuse, denying Senate President Karen Fann the support necessary to pass a budget until HB2466 had at least received a vote.

They faced opposition from conservative Republican senators including Sylvia Allen, R-Snowflake, who said she felt “blackmailed.” She said extending the statute of limitations won’t stop child abuse.

“I guess I don’t see things exactly how you’re all seeing it on the floor today,” Allen said. “I see a lot of politics happening, and deals that were made to hold the majority caucus hostage over the budget.”

Debate about the issue has been especially heated. Republicans in the House caught on a hot mic talking about retaliating against Carter and Boyer by killing their bills and beginning an ethics investigation. And the national Victim Policy Institute paid for social media ads targeting Republicans who blocked the bill as protecting child predators.

Sen. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert, blocked one earlier version of the bill from being heard in his Senate Judiciary committee and testified against another version in the House. He said the bill approved Monday, which has a limited window for older victims to sue, is an acceptable compromise.

“I want to make it perfectly clear,” Farnsworth said. “There is nobody that wanted to protect perpetrators. What we wanted to do is have a bill that was careful in our zeal to go after child molesters that we didn’t victimize those who are innocent but may be accused 50 years later.”

Even after 50 years, survivors remember what happened to them, said Sen. Victoria Steele, D-Tucson. She’s talked on the floor about how she was raped by her grandfather as a child and how it took her decades to speak out about what happened to her.

“People who have been abused, we remember every single day of our lives,” Steele said. “We know. We remember.”

Minutes after the bill was approved in the Senate, representatives also approved the measure, 59-0. Some GOP representatives also lamented the stalemate between Boyer, Carter and their Republican colleagues.

Rep. Regina Cobb, who earlier this year heard Boyer’s original proposal in a hearing but refused to give it a vote, said while Boyer’s motives were pure, the lawyers pushing for him to support it had ulterior motives — particularly by pushing for a window for time-barred plaintiffs to sue.

“The window opened it up to where it was a legal paradise for every ambulance-chasing lawyer in the state,” Cobb said.

Rep. Anthony Kern added that while “everybody” at the Arizona Legislature wanted to protect victims of sexual abuse, “in a rush to doing so, we could’ve hurt innocent people.”

Meanwhile, Democrats praised HB2466 as a good first step. Rep. Diego Rodriguez said lawmakers should consider further expansions of the statute of limitations in the future.

The Phoenix Democrat added that he was certain the stipulation that bars courts from awarding punitive damages to plaintiffs filing lawsuits by the Dec. 31, 2020 deadline would likely be tossed as unconstitutional in court.

Ducey said on Twitter that he looked forward to signing the bill, adding: “This session we heard from many people passionate about pursuing justice, accountability for abusers & protecting children. My sincere thanks to @PaulDBoyer.”

Arizona Supreme Court pulled into political fray

The Arizona Supreme Court from left are Robert Brutinel, John Lopez, John Pelander, Scott Bales, Andrew Gould, Clint Bolick, Ann Scott Timmer.
The Arizona Supreme Court from left are Robert Brutinel, John Lopez, John Pelander, Scott Bales, Andrew Gould, Clint Bolick, Ann Scott Timmer.

The Arizona Supreme Court’s integrity is under attack by supporters of the defunct Invest in Education Act who accuse the justices and Gov. Doug Ducey of collusion.

But the accusations are fueled not by hard evidence but rather by an assumption grounded in speculation and unverifiable information spread by the Ducey campaign.

The court and its justices have been swept up in election season politics that typically bypass the judicial branch. And the lasting impact may not be a shift in electoral chances of Ducey or Democratic gubernatorial candidate David Garcia in November, but a threat to judicial independence.  

On September 9, reporters on a local news talk show revealed that representatives from Ducey’s campaign had told them the Supreme Court decision on the Invest in Education Act was 5-2.

The initiative would have increased state income taxes on individual earnings above $250,000. It would have created a dedicated revenue stream of about $690 million a year for education.

The full Supreme Court ruling, including how the justices sided, has not been released yet.

Ducey and his campaign have since denied that they have any insider information on the Supreme Court ruling and he said the information given to reporters was not presented as fact.

“That’s a rumor. I have no idea about that,” Ducey said September 18.

Ducey’s campaign manager J.P. Twist dismissed the idea of a leak at the court. He did not disclose where the campaign got the vote information from, but said it was a third-hand rumor that didn’t come from the court.

But the damage was already done.


When Ducey’s campaign appeared to have inside information about the demise of the initiative, Democrats and the initiative’s supporters painted the news as a sign of clear collusion between the executive branch and the court.

“This is what corruption looks like,” Garcia tweeted. “Do Arizonans want four more years of Ducey tipping the scales of justice? I think not.”

Garcia spokeswoman Sarah Elliott said the onus is on Ducey’s team to clarify to voters where the campaign got its information.

But without the release of a full opinion on the ruling, there’s no immediate way to prove any misconduct occurred.

Joe Thomas, president of the Arizona Education Association and a Red for Ed stalwart, said Arizonans may never know what really happened, but something doesn’t feel right.

“The frustrating part is no one knows if it’s accurate. No one knows yet, although there’s an investigation whether there was a leak,” Thomas said. “But it sure looks like one.”

Between the “unprecedented maneuver” by the court to strike the initiative from the November ballot and the Ducey campaign purporting to know the vote count, the situation simply stinks, he said.

Yet he acknowledged there has been no evidence beyond what Ducey’s campaign told reporters to support accusations of corruption.

Former Supreme Court Justice Thomas Zlaket said he can’t remember a time when anyone — and certainly not a large contingent of people — seriously questioned the process or the integrity of Arizona’s high court.

Zlaket, who served on the court for 16 years before stepping down in 2002, said a breach among the justices or court staff is highly unlikely.

“I do know some members of the court and they would never, in my opinion, ever leak anything to another branch of government,” he said. “They know it’s just not the way the courts operate.”

The justices have maintained a common practice that no information on a ruling will be given to the parties, their attorneys or the public until an opinion is formally released, Zlaket said. Even law clerks are trained to keep quiet until an opinion is put out.

Half the people involved in any case are going to be unhappy with the outcome, Zlaket said. There’s nothing wrong with informed criticism, but the idea that justices or court staffers are doing something to undermine the public’s trust seems implausible, he said.

The judicial branch is unique because it’s free from the political pressure that pervades the other two branches of government, Zlaket said. The public has instilled their trust and confidence in the court to independently decide their rights and obligations, he said.

“If the public loses faith in the third branch of government and starts to believe that it is nothing more than another political arm of government like the executive, like the legislative branch, then it almost seems to me we’ve got a serious problem,” he said.

These accusations have not gone unnoticed, but the court has not started a formal investigation, said Jerry Landau, the court’s director of governmental affairs. Court staff is discussing the allegations with those involved in judicial opinions, but not questioning anyone outside the court.

“Someone made a statement. Is it true? We don’t know,” he said. “What’s the basis for it? We don’t know. … We’re simply asking if anyone knows about it, and that’s really the end of it.”


The court was targeted by the initiative’s supporters even before the purported vote was shared with reporters.

About a week after the Invest in Education Act was kicked off the ballot, Arizona Educators United, the group behind the Red for Ed movement, vowed retribution in November. They targeted Justices Clint Bolick and John Pelander — the only two justices up for retention this year.

The Invest in Education committee — the group behind the initiative — is not taking part in the effort to target Bolick and Pelander.

The response rankled even some who typically align with the goals of the initiative.

Attorney Dan Barr, on Twitter, deemed the retention election challenge “idiotic.”

“A bedrock of our judicial system is that of judicial independence, and when you start targeting judges for decisions you don’t like, then you make the judges far more wary of doing what they think is the right thing to do,” Barr said in an interview.

He said the court’s critics should have at least waited for the opinion to be released before criticizing it.

The campaign against Bolick and Pelander isn’t just absurd, he said, it’s offensive.

The state Commission on Judicial Performance Review found both justices met judicial performance standards by a vote of 27-0. And according to their reviews, both received integrity scores of 100 percent from attorneys who returned commission surveys.

Bolick said he cannot begrudge anyone engaging in civic activism, but he hopes the effect is not to politicize the court.

“Punishing judges for a good faith decision would be a very concerning precedent,” he said.


He suffered his fair share of losses during his career as an attorney, Bolick said, and he may be the only person in the state to have had two ballot measures thrown off the ballot.

“What did we do? We dusted ourselves off. We got it right the next time,” he said.

Bolick dismissed the suggestion that the justices may have been influenced by Ducey or his administration as “silly.”

The alleged leak is concerning to the justices, he said. If the vote truly was leaked, he does not believe one of his colleagues was responsible.

But he said that anyone would purport to have that information is distressing in any case.

Josselyn Berry, co-director of Progress Now, a left-leaning advocacy group, said some people were quick to suggest corruption or collusion between the Supreme Court and the executive branch after the Invest in Education Act decision because of Ducey’s push to expand the court in 2016.

Bolick worked at the Goldwater Institute before Ducey tapped him to serve on the Supreme Court. He had never been a judge, which raised some eyebrows in 2016, Berry said.

Ducey named two new justices after the Republican-controlled Legislature agreed to expand the court to seven members from five.

House Speaker J.D. Mesnard sponsored the bill to expand the court, which was criticized as an effort by conservatives to pack the court in their favor. But it’s news to him if he or his fellow legislators ever had any influence over the court.

“As the kind of head of half of one of the branches, I’m wondering where that sway is,” he said.

Berry didn’t go so far as to suggest there was a leak at the Supreme Court, but she said Invest in Education supporters are confused why Ducey’s campaign appeared to have information that wasn’t publicly available.

Supporters of the initiative were devastated when the court denied the measure a spot on the November ballot.

“A lot of people worked hard to get Invest in Ed on the ballot,” she said. “270,000 people signed the initiative. A lot of teachers and parents and people worked to get that to happen and so when it was ripped off the ballot … I think there was a lot of anger and upset because they wanted the chance to vote on that.”

But if conservative sway over the court is of the utmost concern here, targeting two sitting justices may do nothing to change that.

Most polls indicate that Ducey is favored to win re-election in November. In that case, should Bolick or Pelander or both lose in the retention election, Ducey would appoint their replacements.

Arizona teacher shortage continues

Arizona continues to have a shortage of teachers for the classroom.

And by some indications, the problem may be getting worse.

A new survey by the Arizona School Personnel Administrators Association found that schools were able to fill fewer than one out of every five vacancies they had for this school year. And 55% of those they did manage to fill were with people who are not actually certified educators.

This is the sixth year the organization has found a similar pattern. But Gov. Doug Ducey rejected the idea that things are the same as when they were when he took office in 2015.

“There’s a lot that’s changed since I’ve been governor,” he said.

“The focus on education has been in every state budget,” Ducey continued. And he specifically cited the average 20% pay hike given teachers.

But state schools chief Kathy Hoffman said it’s no surprise that the vacancy problem has remained relatively unchanged.

“One of the factors that has also remained consistent is that Arizona continues to rank 50th for teacher pay,” she said. Hoffman said that 20% pay hike “did not go far enough.”

“We needed a next step,” she said.

Hoffman said that could have been addressed in part by voter approval in November of Proposition 208. That 3.5% surcharge on individual incomes above $250,000 a year — $500,000 for couples — would have raised an estimated $827 in additional dollars, with half of that to hire teachers and classroom support personnel and to raise teacher salaries.

But the Arizona Supreme Court, ruling on legal challenges from some Republican lawmakers and business interests, have thrown the future of the levy into doubt.

And that financial issue, Hoffman said, is “overshadowing all of our efforts” to keep teachers in the classroom.

Ducey, in citing efforts to boost the number of people in the classroom, cited programs for “alternate pathways” to become a teacher other than going to a college of education. These are people who decide to make a mid-career change and seek to become teachers but don’t have to have a degree from a college of education.

Justin Wing, past president of the association that conducted the survey, said those alternate pathways did help. But he said they make up only a portion of that 55% of non-certified people leading classrooms.

That category includes everything from people who are simply awaiting certification, teachers brought to Arizona from other countries through special visa programs, teachers brought into the state from foreign countries, and even college and university students who are being put in front of a classroom, alone, even before they have graduated.

There also were teachers brought in under a special visa program from other countries.

Yet the vacancy problem remains.

Even after bringing in people through alternate means, schools this year said 28% of the vacancies — 6,560 in the 145 school districts and charter schools that responded — are being dealt with through a combination of long-term substitutes, contracting out for certain services like special education, and even combining classes to the point where the number of students exceeds the school’s class size limit.

And in fact, in one category, things may be worse.

Wing’s survey found 160 teachers who simply did not report to work at the start of this school year. Last year the figure was 141.

And districts reported that another 124 simply abandoned their jobs since the start of the school year, compared with just 56 at the same time a year earlier.

Ducey, for his part, said none of this is unique to Arizona.

“There could be 48 other governors standing here that have a teacher shortage as well,” he said. “That’s something that is challenging the country.”

Ducey insisted, though that “Arizona is leading the country in addressing them.”

Wing said the long-term solution remains getting more high school graduates interested in making teaching a career.

Ducey said that is happening with the Arizona Teachers Academy, a program where students who go into education get one or more year’s worth of free tuition.

Wing said the problem with that is its marketing — or lack thereof.

“If you step into the door at a college of education at any local university or college, you will find out about the grant, probably,” he said. “And you may be eligible for it.”

But at the point a student is walking in the doors of a college of education, Wing said, that person already has decided or is at least considering teaching as a career.

“What about targeting graduates of high Title I schools?” he asked, high schools with a high percentage of students coming from needy families.

Hoffman said she does believe there has been marketing of the program. But she said that also needs to be combined with other programs to get high schoolers interested in making teaching a career.


Arizona utility helps fund Ducey re-election campaign

Gov. Doug Ducey (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)
Gov. Doug Ducey (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)

The state’s largest electric utility and its top executives are funneling money into campaigns to ensure that Doug Ducey remains governor for another four years.

Pinnacle West Capital Corp., parent company of Arizona Public Service, has donated $10,200 to the Ducey for Governor campaign through its political action committee. That’s on top of $5,100 that CEO Don Brandt has given to the same committee and an identical amount to the separate Ducey Victory Fund.

Brandt’s wife, Ginger, has put her own $5,100 into the Ducey for Governor fund.

James Hatfield, the company’s executive vice president and chief financial officer, also has put $5,000 combined into the two funds. Ditto for David Falck, another executive vice president and general counsel.

And Robert Aiken, another VP, put in $1,000 to help the governor get reelected.

But the biggest donation does not show up in state campaign finance reports: Pinnacle West has given $100,000 of corporate money directly to the Republican Governors Association.

What’s important about that donation is that the RGA then can turn around and use money from its war chest to help influence the election. It did precisely that in 2014 when it put nearly $5 million into campaign commercials attacking Democrat Fred DuVal, making it the single largest source of funding that secured Ducey’s win.

The dollars found in reports so far represent what is publicly required to be disclosed. What is not known is whether Pinnacle West is giving money to other groups to help influence Arizona politics.

The extent of that spending is precisely the focus of the lawsuit now playing out in Maricopa County Superior Court.

What is known is that two “dark money” groups spent $3.2 million in 2014 to help elect Republicans Doug Little and Tom Forese to the Arizona Corporation Commission, the organization that sets utility rates. But the groups, Save Our Future Now and the Arizona Free Enterprise Club, have refused to disclose their donors, saying that’s not required because the Internal Revenue Service classifies them as “social welfare organizations.”

APS, for its part, will neither confirm nor deny that either it or Pinnacle West was the source of those dollars.

Since then, Commissioner Bob Burns has tried to question corporate executives about the spending, arguing that it is relevant to the panel’s 4-1 vote last year allowing APS to collect an additional $7 million a month from customers. When APS balked, Burns took his case to Judge Daniel Kiley who has yet to rule on the issue.

Pinnacle West was more up front in the 2016 campaign, admitting it spent $4.2 million to ensure the utility regulatory commission remained an all-Republican affair.

It also is apparently planning a major role in this year’s race.

A group called Arizonans for Sustainable Energy Policy was set up in September to make independent expenditures in future campaigns. As of the most recent report, the organization has $3.2 million, all of that coming from Pinnacle West.

J.P. Twist, who runs the governor’s reelection effort, said there’s a legitimate reason that Ducey has two separate campaign committees: It gives people a chance to give twice and not run afoul of campaign finance limits.

Individuals are limited to just $5,100.

What that means, said Twist, is someone who wants to give Ducey, say $10,000, can have that first $5,100 go directly to the governor. Anything above that, he said, is given to the Arizona Republican Party which then can use the dollars for things to help the governor and other GOP candidates, like get-out-the-vote efforts.

Twist acknowledged the state party has its own fundraising efforts. But he said there’s a reason for having the cash raised under Ducey’s name.

“Having the governor’s name attached to it helps raise money,” said.

But Twist denied that’s an additional financial way of currying favor with Ducey.

“That’s not at all how it works,” he said. “You’re assuming somehow donating money gives you influence in the Ducey administration, which would not be accurate.”

As to the spending for this year’s election, company spokeswoman Jenna Rowell isn’t answering questions.

“We don’t discuss individual contributions,” she said in a prepared statement in response to questions from Capitol Media Services. “In general, we support candidates we believe will continue Arizona’s economic growth.”

But the company’s written policy spells out that that, in general, it may support candidates and organizations that “share an interest in public policy that furthers our business objectives and promotes our mission of creating a sustainable energy future for Arizona.”

“The company’s contribution decisions are based on what is in the best interests of Pinnacle West and not based on the personal preferences of our executives,” the policy reads.

And Rowell said that all contributions are funded by Pinnacle West shareholders and not APS customers.

But whether that’s true is part of the lawsuit Burns has filed against the company. He wants a closer look at the parent company’s political expenses because all of the parent company’s money comes from its APS revenues.

Pinnacle West is apparently interested in some other races. For example, it has so far given 50,000 of corporate dollars to the Republican Attorneys General Association.

As in the governor’s race, those funds run through the national committee can come back to influence what happens in Arizona. That’s what happened in 2014 when RAGA spent more than $3 million in commercials attacking Democrat Felicia Rotellini, helping to elect Republican Mark Brnovich.

The spending by Brandt and his wife is not limited to seeing Ducey spend another four years as the state’s chief executive.

The pair have together put $5,400 into helping former state Sen. Debbie Lesko win her bid for Congress. She is running in the special election to replace Trent Franks who stepped down late last year in the wake of sexual harassment allegations.

Arizona virus hospitalizations climb past 1,000, new record

Medical drip in hospital corridor

The number of Arizonans hospitalized with positive or suspected cases of COVID-19 shot past 1,000 on June 1, raising questions from the state’s former health chief about whether Gov. Doug Ducey should have abandoned his stay-at-home order.

The figure, a record, comes amid what has been a steady upward trend since the Department of Health Services began tracking the numbers in early April.

Gov. Doug Ducey

It also follows the setting of another record last week, with 635 positive cases reported from tests conducted on May 26.

There is some fluctuation in those daily numbers, with reports sometimes taking days to be filed with the state. And even the Department of Health Services says that illnesses within the past four to seven days may have yet to be reported.

But here, too, there is a general upward trend.

Overall, the state reported 24 new deaths on June 2, bringing the total for Arizona up to 941.

And the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University, which keeps its own records, said there has been a steady increase in the number of new cases.

Using a 7-day average, the institute says the state is generating an average of 519 new cases a day. By contrast, on May 15, when the stay-at-home order expired, the average number of new cases was 378 a day.

And that move followed Ducey agreeing to allow bars and restaurants to reopen and to ease restrictions on other businesses.

Will Humble
Will Humble

Will Humble, executive director of the Arizona Public Health Association, told Capitol Media Services the figures give him some concern.

“What it tells me … is that the stay-at-home order was working, because when it ended, it started popping back up again,” he said.

But Humble, himself a former state health director, said the trend also says something else.

“I’m afraid there’s no seasonal effect, or not a significant one,” he said.

“I would have expected to see a moderating effect because of the really high temperatures over the last two weeks,” Humble said. “Instead, you see this uptick in cases starting on the 26th (of May) which continues today.”

What makes the 26th significant, he said, is that the stay-at-home order ended on May 15.

From there, there’s an incubation period of about a week. And then, Humble said, it can take four to six days for lab tests to come back.

Humble said there are several take-aways from the data, particularly the number of patients in hospitals.

“Number One is to keep real good eyes on hospital capacity numbers over the next week,” he said.

“Up until now, there’s been a sense of complacency I think, even in my own mind, that we were going to have plenty of hospital capacity,” Humble said. “But when you see the trends since the 26th, which reflects the end of the stay-at-home order, it makes me believe that at some point there might be a threshold where we’re going to be bumping up against ICU bed and inpatient capacity.”

The most recent figures from the health department show hospitals overall are using 82% of their inpatient beds and the same percentage of intensive care unit beds.

“We don’t want to end up looking like New York and northern Italy,” Humble said. “I didn’t think that was possible two weeks ago.”

Humble said there may be another shoe yet to drop.

He cited several high-profile cases where patrons were swarming in and around reopened bars and restaurants over the Memorial Day weekend, virtually none of whom were wearing masks. There also was a crush of people lined up for tubing on the Salt River, also without facial coverings.

“That was about two weeks ago,” Humble said. “This week is the week I’d expect to see numbers popping up because of the behaviors that happened over Memorial Day.”

He acknowledged that he is looking at the issue strictly from a public health perspective. But Humble, who served under both Democrat and Republican governors, acknowledged there’s a political component in the decisions that have to be made.

“This is a decision for elected officials, especially the governor,” he said. “What’s their tolerance level for having an increased number of cases, recognizing that that has a real-life impact in the community and people’s lives, balanced against his concern about GDP and employment, etc.”

Patrick Ptak said his boss is having no second thoughts on the decisions he made to ease business and travel restrictions.

“The governor stands by his actions,” Ptak said. He said Ducey’s decisions have been guided by recommendations of public health experts and criteria set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to determine what restrictions can be lifted.

Still, he said, the numbers are no surprise.

Cara Christ
Cara Christ

“As we continue to increase testing and slowly phase in reopening, we expect to see continued cases of COVID-19,” Ptak said. And he said that, despite the more than 1,000 patients hospitalized with the virus “our hospitals are well equipped and have the capacity to ensure anyone who needs health care has access to it.”

A spokeswoman for current state Health Director Cara Christ echoed the comments about the expectation of continued cases of the virus.

“We know COVID-19 is still in our community, and we encourage everyone to take steps to remain healthy, especially those most vulnerable to COVID-19,” said Holly Poynter. She did not answer questions of whether Christ believes the easing of restrictions was a mistake.

The moves the governor has taken to ease travel and business restrictions he first implemented in March due to COVID-19 apparently have had some impact on his desire to restart the state economy.

New figures from the Department of Economic Security show that only 22,290 Arizonans filed first-time claims for jobless benefits in the week just ended. That is as low as it has been since the outbreak and the gubernatorial orders restricting travel and business activity.

It also brings to nearly 626,000 the number of Arizonans who have sought unemployment aid since the governor’s restrictions were first imposed.

DES also says 59,086 people applied last week for the separate federally funded Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. That is generally available to those who are not entitled to regular jobless benefits, like the self-employed.

But the agency said most of those are people who had first sought regular jobless benefits but were not qualified. Still, DES spokesman Brett Bezio said he could not say how many of the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance applicants already are counted in that 626,000 number.

Arizona voters choosing between Biden, Sanders as Trump foe


Arizona opened election polls Tuesday for Democrats to pick a presidential candidate as the state deals with a public health crisis that has crippled parts of the nation.

The state’s top election official declined to seek a delay because of the coronavirus, saying Monday that there was no certainty that putting off voting would help.

“We have no guarantee that there will be a safer time to hold this election in the future,” Secretary of State Katie Hobbs said during a news conference in Phoenix alongside Republican Gov. Doug Ducey and other state officials.

Hobbs said after the public votes, an army of election workers will have to process ballots in warehouses, an undertaking that could get more dangerous as time passes.

The Democratic ballot will contain 18 names, but the race boils down to a face-off between Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden. More than a dozen other candidates dropped out, but still appear on the ballot.

Polls opened at 6 a.m. and close at 7 p.m.

The vast majority of the 1.2 million registered Arizona Democrats cast ballots early by mail, but about 300,000 can vote in person Tuesday.

Melissa Cox, 42, dropped off her absentee ballot at an empty emergency polling place in South Phoenix on Monday. She said she’s concerned about the coronavirus outbreak but was mainly trying to avoid potential lines and crowds on Tuesday.

“I’m trying to not be panicked,” said Cox, an admissions counselor for a vocational school who voted for Biden.

Around the state Monday, election officials consolidated polling places, lined up backup poll workers and opened emergency voting centers where people can cast a ballot early as parts of the state shut down to avoid spreading the new virus. Hours for absentee drop boxes were also extended.

Ducey, a Republican, and Hobbs, a Democrat, released a video Monday outlining the precautions being taken at polling places. They include measures to keep distance between people, frequent hand washing by poll workers and regular disinfecting of equipment. Officials also asked voters to wash hands before and after visiting the polls.

“It’s been a lot of work, but it’s well worth it because our democracy is worth it,” Hobbs says in the video.

Hobbs on Friday joined the top election officials in the three other states holding primaries Tuesday in pledging to press forward, even as two states scheduled to vote in the coming weeks — Louisiana and Georgia — delayed their primaries. Delaying Arizona’s primary would require an act of the Legislature.

Ohio’s governor, Mike DeWine, changed his mind Monday and asked a judge to delay voting. That request was rejected. Voters in Florida and Illinois also are voting Tuesday.

Maricopa County officials scrambled to consolidate from 229 to 151 polling places as nursing homes and churches backed out of serving as locations. The remaining polling places are “vote anywhere centers” that allow any registered Democrats in the state’s most populous county to cast a ballot. The locations are available online at http://Maricopa.Vote.

The COVID-19 disease caused by the virus for most people causes only mild or moderate symptoms. For some, particularly older people or those with underlying health conditions, it can cause more severe illness.

Sanders and Biden will vie for the 67 possible delegates to the Democratic Convention in Milwaukee in July. The state party will award delegates to them in proportion to the number of votes they receive. Votes cast for the remaining candidates will earn them delegates if they get at least 15% of the vote. Dropped-out candidates can direct their delegates to back their favored candidate, but they’re free to back who they want.

Republicans aren’t holding a primary for incumbent President Donald Trump and Libertarians chose delegates to their convention at a state party meeting.

Arizona won’t follow CDC mask advice

An unhappy woman wearing a face mask to deal with virus or pollution.

Arizona won’t heed new recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control that most residents and all K-12 student and teachers resume wearing masks indoors regardless of vaccination status, Gov. Doug Ducey said late Tuesday afternoon.  

The CDC on Tuesday recommended that vaccinated people in areas with high Covid spread should wear masks indoors. That includes seven of Arizona’s 15 counties: Apache, Gila, Maricopa, Mohave, Navajo, Pinal and Yavapai.  

And the CDC said anyone in K-12 schools should wear a mask, regardless of vaccination status – but Arizona schools can’t require them because of a provision in the state budget. 

Ducey, who has vehemently objected to talk of renewed restrictions as Arizona and other states began seeing the virus spread rapidly, said the CDC’s new guidelines will diminish public confidence in the vaccine.  

“Arizona does not allow mask mandates, vaccine mandates, vaccine passports or discrimination in schools based on who is or isn’t vaccinated,” he said in a prepared statement. “We’ve passed all of this into law, and it will not change.” 

Ducey and the state legislature worked together to prevent local Covid restrictions during the 2021 session, and a series of new laws prevent counties, cities and school boards from passing their own regulations. 

Freshman Rep. Joseph Chaplik, R-Scottsdale, succeeded in passing a law that would allow businesses to flout mask mandates. Businesses would still be allowed to require masks on their own premises, as some did prior to city mask mandates.  

Ducey rescinded an executive order that allowed cities and counties to institute their own mask requirements in March of this year, but Phoenix, Tucson and Pima County kept their mask mandates in effect for all residents for another month, until the CDC said in May that fully vaccinated people no longer needed to wear them. 

Phoenix’s May declaration states that the city would continue to follow CDC guidance and the document would be automatically updated to comply with new CDC recommendations, without needing an additional council vote.  

Spokesmen for Phoenix and Tucson didn’t yet have answers for what the cities planned to do on Tuesday afternoon. While a March opinion from the Attorney General’s office said city and county mask mandates could still be enforced, the Legislature included language in the state budget declaring that Covid is a matter of statewide concern. Cities and towns are allowed to require masks inside their facilities, but can’t pass any regulations that would affect schools or businesses. 

An earlier draft of the state budget allowed school districts to set mask policies, but a group of Republicans balked at that language and forced it out.  

In a statement Tuesday, Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman called on Ducey to restore the ability for local school districts to set their own Covid policies, including requiring masks.  

Barring action by Ducey, Hoffman said families, administrators and teachers should take the initiative to wear masks in schools.  

“Students, teachers, and parents are ready to get back to in-person learning, but it takes all of us,” she said.  

Ducey argued that the best way to combat Covid is to urge Arizonans to – voluntarily – get vaccinated. So far, roughly 51 percent of Arizonans have received at least one does and 45 percent are fully vaccinated, leaving the state squarely in the bottom half of the country.  

Arizona-Mexico Commission: 60 years of success and friendship


Sixty years ago, Arizona Gov. Paul Fannin looked south across the border to Mexico and famously said, “God made us neighbors; let us be good neighbors.” It was then that the stage was set for the Arizona-Mexico Commission, an international entity that works to foster economic partnerships and an enduring friendship, which has only grown stronger through the challenges of the intervening decades.

Today, Arizona is “Open for Business,” as Gov. Doug Ducey often asserts in word and deed. Among our most important business partners is Mexico — perhaps the most important. Our southern border offers some of the most important ports of entry into the United States, particularly the Mariposa Port of Entry in Nogales, where State Route 189 connects directly with Mexican Federal Highway 15 and opens the rest of North America to trade with Mexico.

Jessica Pacheco
Jessica Pacheco

And while every day we face the challenges of border security, humanitarian issues and emerging threats to free trade,  our cooperative relationship with Mexico has resulted in thousands of new jobs, immense cultural exchange and a border that functions efficiently for the benefit of both Arizona and Mexico.

The Arizona-Mexico Commission is built upon a three-pronged approach — infrastructure, innovation and relationships — to make Governor Fannin’s vision a reality. Today, Governor Ducey shares that vision and has expanded it.


Continued investment in Arizona’s ports of entry is critical to our state’s global competitiveness. We need all of Arizona’s ports operating at their most effective capacity. Governor Ducey has proposed an investment of $700,000 in this year’s budget to build needed cold storage inspection facilities, meaning more fresh produce from Mexico will make it to dinner tables around the country.

Last year, Governor Ducey announced $134 million in improvements to SR189, the largest state investment in rural infrastructure in 10 years, allowing commercial products to move more safely and efficiently on their way to consumers.

Engagement with our congressional delegation is key in securing additional funding to continue improving our ports of entry as we work together to ensure our state continues to lead in North American trade.


Borders that operate at the speed of business are critical to the north-south flow of goods and services through Arizona. In the past five years, we have seen wait times at Arizona’s ports of entry go from hours to minutes. Programs, such as Unified Cargo Processing and Arizona’s Border Liaison Unit, are making our ports more efficient, more secure, and a living example of a national best practice.

It is essential that we draw global business to Arizona to grow our economy. Our competitive business environment coupled with our proximity to Mexico offers something unique to investors looking to do business on both sides of the border.  The Lucid Motors project in Casa Grande perfectly illustrates this competitive advantage.


Relationships matter, and, in Arizona, we know how to make new connections and enhance existing ones. Governor Ducey is a champion for our state, building strong and thriving relationships in Sonora and throughout Mexico.

When the governor traveled to Mexico City for the inauguration of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, he met with top level officials, including Secretary of Foreign Affairs Marcelo Ebrard and Mexico’s ambassador to the United States, Martha Bárcena. These are more than social visits or exercises in protocol. Arizona is positioned to lead with Mexico because of Governor Ducey’s effective diplomacy.

Arizona has the model for cross-border relationships. The Arizona-Mexico Commission has built a proven legacy of bringing the right people together to help Arizona lead when it comes to building strong cross-border ties, supporting the global competitiveness of our region.

When nearly 100,000 Arizona jobs are supported by trade with Mexico, Arizona’s global competitiveness must be a priority. It is critical that we continue to advocate for needed investment in our ports of entry and make sure Arizona is at the center of investment in North America.

The introduction of United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement in 2018 offers Arizona new opportunities to lead in North American trade. With the expected ratification of the agreement this year, Arizona will be positioned to grow existing industries and advance new ones. The economic future of our young border state will turn on how well we succeed.

— Jessica Pacheco is board president of the  Arizona-Mexico Commission.

Arizona-Mexico work to improve rapport while nations collide

Sonoran Gov. Claudia Pavlovich and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)
Sonoran Gov. Claudia Pavlovich and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)

On a December day in 2015, presidential candidate Donald Trump rallied his supporters in Mesa amid cheers for building a giant wall on the southern border and kicking out undocumented immigrants.

The day before, Gov. Doug Ducey held a holiday reception and joint press conference with his Sonoran counterpart, Claudia Pavlovich. The joint event speaks to the strong relationship budding between Arizona and Sonora, and perhaps Mexico at large, as the relationships between the two federal governments fracture.

But it also underscores the difficulty of building relationships as a border state. No matter how much local officials work to find opportunities with Mexico, their actions could be undermined by Trump’s language or actions.

There are obviously big limitations to locals’ abilities. For example, they can’t write or vote on federal laws, so they can’t change a broken immigration system or keep trade agreements intact.

Still, knowing the limitations, Ducey started broadcasting his interest in Mexico before he even took office. In December 2014, he tweeted a photo with Mexican General Consul Roberto Rodriguez Hernández, saying he looked forward to working with the Mexican official.

The tweets didn’t stop once he took office. Ducey frequently sends out photos of his meetings with Mexican officials, usually with notes of gratitude or hospitality.

It’s a far cry from the tense relationship between the two states in the aftermath of SB1070, a law passed in 2010 that targeted illegal immigration as anti-immigrant sentiment took hold in Arizona.

Ducey sees Arizona’s position as a border state as a benefit, not a liability, and his perspective is largely informed by economic realities. For instance, if the North American Free Trade Agreement were dismantled, as President Trump has suggested, Arizona could lose 236,000 jobs, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimated.

“I come from the business community. I knew who my customer was. The customer can either make you very, very successful or the customer can put you out of business,” Ducey said.

Changing relationship

Ducey isn’t alone in his quest to improve relations between the two border states. He’s joined by dozens of business leaders and lawmakers at all levels, from mayors to U.S. senators. Groups routinely travel to Mexico to discuss economic and social issues, and Mexican dignitaries now frequently make stops in Arizona to glad-hand with elected officials here.

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton (Submitted Photo)
Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton (Submitted Photo)

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, a Democrat who started as mayor soon after SB1070 passed, said it seemed like “our state government really turned our back on Mexico.”

Stanton has gone to Mexico 18 times since then. The city has opened two trade offices in Mexico, and Mexico opened a trade office in Phoenix, a sign of how far the relationship has come since then, the mayor said.

The governor himself has traveled to Mexico five times since taking office, according to the Arizona-Mexico Commission, including his first international trip as governor to Mexico City, something that hadn’t happened in a decade. He has also hosted Pavlovich in Arizona six times.

Angel Bours, vice president of the Sonora-Arizona Commission, said it’s clear the two governors have a strong relationship based on trust and a mutual understanding the states need to get along for the sake of the region’s economic health.

He said leaders on both sides of the border have been working on issues all over the spectrum, from trade to border wait times to water to education to social services.

“The relationship between the states goes beyond what the president does or says,” Bours said in Spanish.

The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry has focused intently on growing the business relationships between the two states and came out against ending NAFTA and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

These days, Arizona delegations are received “very, very warmly” in Mexico, chamber President Glenn Hamer said. National rhetoric hasn’t played heavily into talks between business leaders because the local folks are “operating in a different airspace,” he said.

Jessica Pacheco, president of the Arizona-Mexico Commission’s board and an Arizona Public Service executive, said the national rhetoric hasn’t popped up in meetings she has had with her Mexican counterparts. Instead, the binational meetings have swelled in attendance, and the groups have focused on their day-to-day realities, she said.

“The relationship between Arizona and Sonora, I don’t think it’s ever been better than it is right now,” Pacheco said.

Roots of discontent

Most sources for this story pointed to a common low point in the Arizona-Sonora relationship: SB1070, known colloquially as the “show me your papers” law.

The most controversial provision of SB1070 required law enforcement to check the legal status of people they suspected were in the country illegally, a provision critics said led to racial profiling.

The backlash from SB1070 was almost immediate, and the effort to repair the reputational damage to the state’s image is still in progress. Groups from around the country announced bans on travel to Arizona for conferences, some of which still remain intact.

In 2010, the year SB1070 passed, the governors of Arizona and Sonora held no joint meetings, according to the Arizona-Mexico Commission.

Couple the backlash from SB1070 with the notoriety of Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s slogan as “America’s toughest sheriff” and his roundups of immigrants, and there’s a lot for the two sides of the border to overcome.

Christopher Wilson, deputy director of the Wilson Center’s Mexico Institute, a Washington D.C.-based think tank, said the pendulum has largely swung back in Arizona’s favor since SB1070 because of efforts that began at the state level before Trump took office.

But there’s a strong lesson to be learned from the SB1070 backlash, Wilson said.

“Tone matters. Business relationships are hard to form when the perception is totally negative,” he said.

After SB1070 became law, Lance Jungmeyer, president of the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas, anchored in Nogales, Arizona, said Arizonans became “persona non grata” in Mexico quickly.

“And we’ve been fighting it ever since,” he added.

The tide started turning in 2014, as pointed out by a National Public Radio story at the time, when Republicans, including then-Gov. Jan Brewer, who had signed SB1070 into law, sought to work with Mexican officials, and aggressive anti-immigration legislation at the state level had mostly dried up. The change of direction came after many dozens of CEOs of financial giants impressed upon the state’s leaders that they were squandering an opportunity.

Ducey didn’t want to discuss SB1070’s impact on the ability for the two states’ to communicate. He said he came into office and moved forward instead of focusing on the past.

“That’s the beauty of being an outsider and a newcomer to politics. I was able to go to Mexico City and pull out my business card and say, ‘Let me introduce myself, I’m the new governor, and I’m looking forward to a fresh start.’ And we erased and moved forward from that day,” Ducey said.

Trump’s comments

It’s a stark reversal from the recent past. During the Obama administration, Mexico and the U.S shared a congenial relationship while Arizona and Sonora were at odds.

Now, as the Arizona-Sonora relationship bloomed in recent years, the U.S.-Mexico relationship has eroded. Trump ran for office on a wave of border security fever, economic protectionism and isolationism. During the campaign, he said Mexican immigrants were rapists. As president, he floated the idea of adding a 20 percent tariff to goods coming to the U.S. from Mexico. He said the U.S. would build a “big, beautiful” border wall and Mexico would pay for it (Mexico disagrees with this idea).

For longstanding, trust-filled relationships, the president’s words don’t have a big impact, Jungmeyer said. But his words do sometimes require a response.

“Whoever you’ve been interacting with in Mexico, you kind of have to show them that I’m still the same person, our relationship is still the same. That may be a theme going on in American politics, but that doesn’t reflect what you and I have built together,” Jungmeyer said.

So much of the U.S-Mexico cooperation comes from local relationships, where the heart of the ties that bind the two nations are most obvious, said Shannon O’Neil, an immigration and trade expert at the foreign policy think tank, the Council on Foreign Relations.

Only in the past three decades has Mexico come to view the United States as a partner rather than an imperialist threat, O’Neil said. And the harsher, more nationalistic rhetoric coming from the White House could affect the way our southern neighbor views us and spark a nationalist response from Mexico, she said.

But local officials can counteract the national noise by making their voices heard in discussions with people in Mexico and with leaders in the U.S., O’Neil said.

“Stand up for Mexico. They will notice that, and that will go a long way to help build that relationship,” she said.

As for Ducey, he doesn’t think he should get involved in Mexican politics, and he appreciates that the people he works with in Sonora don’t try to get involved in American politics. And he recognizes big issues like comprehensive immigration reform and NAFTA renegotiation are out of his hands, though he can make it known to his federal friends what Arizona wants to see.

Still, the resiliency of the Arizona-Sonora relationship stood the test of a tumultuous election, and it became a true friendship, Ducey said.

“I do think that our relationship has grown stronger and more trusting because we never blinked during the entire campaign. We never cancelled or delayed a meeting,” he said.

Limits to the relationship

Rep. Diego Espinoza (D-Tolleson)
Rep. Diego Espinoza (D-Tolleson)

Rep. Diego Espinoza, D-Tolleson, who traveled with a bipartisan group of state lawmakers to Mexico in August, said Ducey has done well at improving the relationship with Mexico. But at the state level, the powers-that-be should be looking at ways to help Dreamers with tuition and licenses, something Ducey has largely avoided, Espinoza said.

While the governor has publicly said he wants Congress to pass legislation to allow Dreamers to stay in the U.S. permanently, he hasn’t taken steps to address the in-state tuition or driver’s license issues and has instead shied away from state policy related to the group of young immigrants.

“I just think he should include a bit more of the Latino caucus and the Democrats in general,” Espinoza said.

Stanton said improving conditions for Latinos in Arizona through policies that help Dreamers, for instance, can assist the state’s reputation south of the border.

For something like NAFTA, Bours, of the Sonora-Arizona Commission, said Sonoran and Arizonan officials may not be able to directly vote, but they can impress upon federal lawmakers the importance of trade and its financial impacts on states.

It’s up to those working in the field to show why investing in and collaborating with Mexico is wise, he said, and that’s where the local groups choose to focus.

The economic arguments only comprise part of the picture of the Arizona-Sonora relationship, though, O’Neil said. There are so many cultural and personal ties between the states that create a much deeper connection, she said.

“This is the future of your state. What is Arizona going to be 20 or 30 years from now? That will depend on the education and integration of many of these families that can make Arizona a much stronger place,” she said.

Arizonans dining out at higher rate than most of the country

After being closed for several weeks due to the coronavirus outbreak, Chandler Fashion Center Mall welcomes back patrons with many social distancing guideline signs on May 17, 2020. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
After being closed for several weeks due to the coronavirus outbreak, Chandler Fashion Center Mall welcomes back patrons with many social distancing guideline signs on May 17, 2020. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Customers aren’t exactly filling the places up.

But new figures from OpenTable suggest that Arizonans are once again warming to the idea of dining out — and doing so with more exuberance than much of the rest of the country.

The most recent data from the organization that help people book reservations finds that dine-in seating at the restaurants surveyed is down about 60 percent from the same time a year ago.

Steve Chucri
Steve Chucri

That’s not great. But it comes after weeks of no in-house dining following the March 20 order from Doug Ducey allowing restaurants to provide only curbside and take-out service. It took until May 11 for the governor to partly lift the order, allowing dine-in services with new service protocols and limits on numbers of diners.

And that 60 percent reduction is better than most of the rest of the country, where dine-in service, on average, is still about 87 percent below last year. Steve Chucri, president of the Arizona Restaurant Association, said it appears that only South Carolina and Alabama, among states that shuttered restaurants, are doing better.

What’s keeping the numbers from being better?

Chucri said some of it is a matter of physics and geography.

He noted the requirement for physical distancing between dining parties. So a restaurant has to get rid of perhaps half their tables to make that a reality.

At the same time, Chucri said, some restaurants are waiting until the next phase to reopen to diners. Here, too, he said, distancing can matter.

For example, he cited one Phoenix restaurant which under normal circumstances would have 30 tables. But the size and configuration, Chucri said, might currently allow for perhaps just eight.

“So the models aren’t there to make the money in order to bring everyone back in,” he said.

That’s not all.

“Others are wanting to make sure all the wrinkles are ironed out in the supply chain issue that we’ve been experiencing,” Chucri said.

And even when restrictions are fully lifted — whenever that occurs — there’s the question of whether people are going to feel comfortable enough to go out and sit down at a fancy restaurant or even a fast-food table.

“I think some of it’s going to be word of mouth,” Chucri said, as those who have gone out spread the word about the experiences they have had.

And then there’s the question of what people read — or don’t read — in the paper. Chucri said a story about someone contracting COVID-19 from going out to eat would get a lot of attention.

“But, so far, so good,” he said.

All this has financial implications.

Chucri figures that the ban on in-house dining has cost restaurants statewide a collective $27 million a day in lost revenues. What that left them, he said, is what some were able to make with take-out and curbside services, a figure he said amounts to just 10 percent of what they were making before.

And Chucri said he presumes that, at least for some time to come, there will be Arizonans who remain more comfortable with getting their meals from their favorite restaurants and taking them home.

Arizona’s budget must reflect our water challenges

(Photo by Ellen O'Brien)
(Photo by Ellen O’Brien)

Gov. Doug Ducey and the Arizona Legislature have announced their versions of Arizona’s annual budget, which lays out key funding priorities to safeguard the well-being of our state. Those funds will be used to address a multitude of issues, but perhaps none is more important than Arizona’s water security.

As our state begins to reduce its use of water from the overtaxed Colorado River, our entire state — both urban and rural communities — needs to rethink how we use our water supplies in a way that better balances supply and demand and protects our finite groundwater resources.

Kim Mitchell
Kim Mitchell

Recent polling from the Morrison Institute for Public Policy found that Arizonans ranked water security as one of their greatest areas of concern. To reflect those concerns and proactively pursue forward-thinking water-saving solutions, it’s essential that the Legislature direct greater funding to the Arizona Department of Water Resources, the agency tasked with managing our state’s water stewardship.

The department suffered deep budget cuts following the Great Recession that continue to constrain its operations and, perhaps more importantly, its ability to ensure long-term, reliable water supplies to support Arizona’s economy. During the economic downturn, the Legislature reduced the Department’s staff positions by 61%. Now, almost 10 years later, the department is operating with only two-thirds of its pre-recession staff.

But this is about more than just adding staff back to the department’s roster. Hiring – and retaining – the kind of experts that ADWR needs requires significant resources. The department and Director Tom Buschatzke need additional general fund dollars to attract, hire and retain groundwater modelers, engineers and other water professionals. And the department must be able to offer a competitive salary and benefits to attract and retain the talent and expertise that Arizona needs to protect our limited water supplies.

Arizona is already feeling the effects of a strapped department. Reports from the state auditor show that due to a lack of funding, the department is less able to fulfill its responsibilities managing groundwater and issuing reports that track water conservation. This is a troubling prospect: A recent series in the Arizona Republic highlighted the challenges surrounding excessive groundwater pumping in rural Arizona and illustrated the acute need for acquiring and compiling supply and demand information about water resources throughout the state.

Chris Kuzdas
Chris Kuzdas

Without these analyses, it’s nearly impossible for communities, farmers and ranchers, and families that depend on groundwater to plan for their water future. Today the department is over a decade late in completing several plans to help the state prevent long-term water declines and better manage groundwater resources.

Additionally, the department plays a major role in helping settle water rights disputes between competing parties by providing critical technical and administrative support to the court that adjudicates these claims. That’s no small task – currently, there are over 100,000 unresolved surface water claims in rural Arizona. The department’s ability to provide this technical support has been severely affected since the agency was downsized during the recession. That creates uncertainty about our surface water supplies – and who has the right to use them – that hurts our economy.

While funding for the department has increased slightly in recent years, it is far from enough. In the years since the recession, prolonged drought across the Southwest, combined with a hotter and drier climate and ongoing population growth, has exacerbated our water challenges. We can no longer kick the can down the road. The department – and all Arizonans – deserve action now.

There’s no doubt that our water challenges are myriad and addressing them will require a range of solutions. But funding the department, returning it to satisfactory staffing levels and providing competitive salaries for employee retention is an essential part of the path forward. Only then can the department fully resume essential functions like facilitating scientific research and data gathering that will help prepare us for a drier future.

The Drought Contingency Plan process showed us that it’s possible to confront our water management challenges head on and bring everyone to the negotiating table. If we’re going to do that in the future, the department will need dedicated funding and support from our Legislature.

“Kim Mitchell is the senior water policy adviser at Western Resource Advocates and former hydrologist at the Arizona Department of Water Resources. Christopher Kuzdas is the Arizona water program manager for the Environmental Defense Fund. Both are members of the Water for Arizona Coalition.”

Arizona’s drought plan offers key lessons for the road ahead


By now most have heard the news: Arizona, the other six Colorado River Basin states, and the federal Bureau of Reclamation secured a major victory for the health of the Colorado River by completing the Drought Contingency Plan (“DCP”) agreements this spring, and getting Congress to enact implementing legislation within weeks. It had become clear that we needed to take action to plan for a drier future in the region.

Even with an extended drought that added urgency to negotiations, it was not easy to achieve this success. Each of the seven states had to develop a plan to implement the DCP agreements. And Arizona, which was facing the biggest potential reductions in Colorado River water deliveries, faced a major political and practical challenge. Political victories like the adoption of Arizona’s DCP Implementation Plan should be well understood because we will need to ensure similar successes on other water issues in the near future.

Glenn Hamer
Glenn Hamer

So what did Arizona do right, and what can we learn from this process as we take on other water issues going forward?

Generally, the politics of scarcity can bring out the worst kind of political behavior. However, in this case, it brought out Arizona’s best.  There were at least five key ingredients that led to agreement on how Arizona would implement the drought plan agreements.

First, leaders demonstrated selflessness and prioritized the best interest of the entire state. The “Arizona Lower Basin DCP Steering Committee” process was co-chaired by policy experts who were directly responsible for the plan’s implementation – Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) Director Tom Buschatzke and Central Arizona Project (CAP) General Manager Ted Cooke.  At the outset of this process, Buschatzke and Cooke (reflecting the perspectives of their agencies) differed on important issues, but they also understood that reaching an agreement on the DCP was of paramount importance and required creativity, compromise, and extraordinary persistence.

Second, the Steering Committee process met the test of ensuring robust involvement by diverse stakeholders. Virtually every stakeholder group was represented. Agendas were published, timelines were adopted, information was shared about the risk to Arizona’s water supplies, and small group discussions were encouraged to work through difficult issues. At times the meetings were contentious. Yet the process also produced creative solutions, good faith negotiations, and broad consensus on the essential aspects of the plan.

Kevin Moran
Kevin Moran

Third, key government leaders like Gov. Doug Ducey, Senate President Karen Fann, Speaker of the House Rusty Bowers, and the CAP Board each made funding commitments that sent powerful signals to the stakeholders and facilitated agreement on the plan’s conservation and water sharing components.

Fourth, it helps to have a deadline – and this came in the form of stern, timely leadership from federal Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman. Last December Burman announced that the seven Colorado River basin states had to complete the multi-state DCP agreements by January 31, 2019 or one would be imposed by the federal government. Arizona’s leadership in enacting its statute by that deadline set the stage for California to complete its own plan.

Finally, the entire process was defined by bipartisanship. A water crisis would impact all of us, regardless of party affiliation, something leaders from both parties at the Legislature recognized as they participated in the Steering Committee. State Sen. Lisa Otondo (D-Yuma), for example, met the sometimes steep learning curve of a complex subject head-on, emerging as a trusted educator for her fellow legislators. Her hard work earned her special recognition by the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry at its end-of-session awards ceremony. On Capitol Hill, Sen. Martha McSally and Rep. Raul Grijalva, lawmakers who typically occupy opposite ends of the political spectrum, shepherded the federal implementation of the DCP through to passage. The success of the DCP could and should prove to be a model for how to find solutions to other difficult public policy challenges.

Arizona will need to bring the same quality of leadership and creative problem-solving that produced the DCP success story when water stakeholders resume work on the other pillars of a sustainable water future:  protecting groundwater in both urban and rural areas, starting the regional process of re-negotiating the 2007 Interim Guidelines, and finding collaborative ways of conserving water while benefitting Arizona’s rivers and streams. The passage of DCP was historic for Arizona.  Now, we have an opportunity to develop solutions for the long-term conservation of our state’s precious water resources.

Kevin Moran is the Senior Director of the Environmental Defense Fund’s Western Water Program. He served as a member of the Steering Committee that developed the Arizona DCP Implementation Plan. Glenn Hamer is the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry and also served on the Steering Committee.

Arizona’s eviction ban raises serious Constitutional questions


For many young millennials like myself, the concept of paying rent is second nature. At this point in our lives, few of us have had the opportunity to purchase homes, and renting makes sense for us. However, in the wake of COVID-19, which has caused widespread shutdowns and job losses, many of us are struggling to pay rent on time. In response to this crisis, numerous states and localities have enacted eviction bans and rent deferral schemes.

A lot of young renters may welcome this development, but they should think twice about cheering on these government intrusions into the housing market. Here’s why: while these extreme measures may be well-intended, they are unjust, unlawful and counterproductive.

In Arizona, Gov. Doug Ducey issued Executive Order 2020-14, which directs constables and other law enforcement personnel to temporarily delay enforcement of eviction orders for residential premises if: 1) the defaulted tenant or a household member is subject to a quarantine order, 2) the defaulted tenant has a health condition that makes them more at risk for COVID-19 than the average person, or 3) the defaulted tenant has suffered a substantial loss of income resulting from COVID-19.

The order was originally slated to expire 120 days from its enactment on March 24. However, immediately prior to its expiration, the governor issued Executive Order 2020-49. Executive Order 2020-49 is largely a continuation of its predecessor, but adds that after August 21, a tenant in default is entitled to delay the enforcement of a writ of restitution if he or she had provided the landlord with documentation of: 1) an ongoing financial hardship, and 2) submitted application to a governmental or nonprofit rental assistance program. This order is currently in effect through October 31.

While it may seem compassionate to absolve renters of their obligations during an emergency, somebody ends up paying the price: in this case, it’s landlords who are forced to bear the burden of the crisis thanks to the Arizona order. Yet landlords, most of whom are mom-and-pop operators, often face the same difficulties tenants, millennials and society at large face every day.

Kady Valois
Kady Valois

Generally, landlords, like any other business, offer a service in exchange for money essential to any business. Larger landlords may have the resources to weather several months of deferred rent. Smaller landlords don’t have that advantage – they often operate on shoestring budgets and live much closer to bankruptcy or foreclosure than most people realize. These smaller landlords are typically ineligible to receive federal and state assistance and instead have become collateral damage in the push for increased tenant protections during the pandemic.

Under Ducey’s current executive order, Arizona’s affordable housing crisis, which existed long before COVID-19, will only worsen. As landlords lose out on month after month of rent payments, many could be forced into foreclosure. These foreclosures will result in less affordable housing, which could have been prevented if the governor’s executive order allowed landlords to secure even partial payment of rent.

Better solutions than broad eviction bans exist. In the short term, Arizona could remove maximum occupancy requirements to shelter those who are losing their housing. Arizona could also pay hotels and other similar facilities for temporary housing if an unlikely rash of evictions were to erupt. Furthermore, Arizona can offer rental assistance for renters and tax relief to landlords who agree to forego or lower rent. In the long term, the power to fix these problems rests with Arizona’s legislature.

However, if Arizona and other state governments insist on making sacrificial lambs of landlords, the Constitution and organizations willing to enforce its provisions stand ready to fight. Currently, the Arizona Multihousing Association and others are bringing a petition for special action challenging Ducey’s executive order. They are rising up on behalf of all Arizona landlords to challenge the state’s egregious eviction ban.

As millennials, we cannot expect other individuals to bear our personal and financial burdens. We should celebrate legal actions like the Arizona Multihousing Association’s in the fight to honor individual rights. After all, these liberties are the foundations on which our nation was built.

Kady Valois is an attorney at Pacific Legal Foundation, which litigates nationwide to achieve court victories enforcing the Constitution’s guarantee of individual liberty.


Arizona’s jobless rate ticks upward


The state’s jobless rate is up a tenth of a point and stands exactly where it did a year ago.

And it’s now a full point higher than the national figure.

But the research administrator for the state Office of Economic Opportunity, in announcing the last set of numbers before Election Day, said this isn’t a bad sign for the Arizona economy that incumbent Doug Ducey says has been booming under his tenure. Doug Walls said Thursday there are “other metrics” that show how well the state really is doing.

On paper, the numbers are simple.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for September is 4.7 percent compared to 4.6 percent in August. The 3.7 percent figure for the country, by contrast, is down two tenths of a point.

What’s affecting the unemployment rate, he said, is that the rate of job creation here is just barely matching the number of new people who are now looking for work, whether new graduates, new Arizona residents or simply folks who have not been working — and therefore were not counted as “unemployed” but decide now is a good time to start looking for a job.

It’s the number of jobs created — and not the unemployment rate — that Walls said provide a better indication of economic health.

He pointed out that private sector employment is up by 11,300 in the past month and by 79,000 in the past year. And year-over-year employment has now been in positive numbers for eight years, back into the administration of Gov. Jan Brewer.

Still, it’s hard for politicians to ignore — and not crow about when it goes down — a number that people understand.

“Just out: 3.7 percent unemployment is the lowest number since 1969,” President Trump tweeted out following the release of the national figures earlier this month.

And Ducey himself has used the number in campaign speeches, pronouncing as recently as last month that “the last time unemployment was this low people were renting their videos from Blockbuster.”

The disparity between job creation numbers and the jobless rate has to do with how the government collects the data.

One survey is of about a third of all Arizona employers: How many people do you have working for you. That includes full- and part-time workers. And it actually can count someone twice who has to work two jobs.

It’s that number that’s up by 11,300 last month.

The other checks in with about 1,200 households with two basic questions: Are you working and, if not, are you looking.

That second number becomes the number of unemployed, divided into the total workforce, meaning those working and those looking. After some seasonal adjustment to account for what normally occurs at certain times of the year, that produces the 4.7 percent jobless rate, the same figure as a year ago.

Walls deflected a question of whether this is the “new normal” for Arizona, a state whose jobless rate was at 3.6 percent in 2007.

“It’s not that we’re stuck and not going anywhere,” he said. “We have to look and gauge other metrics in order to get the entire picture.”

That includes the total number of people who are working, which shows jobs are being created.

“One indicator is not going to give you the entire picture,” Walls said.

In responding to the higher unemployment rate in Arizona, gubernatorial press aide Daniel Ruiz said the focus should be on those other numbers, like the year-over-year growth in employment.

There is another indicator, though.

Average hourly earnings last month in Arizona were $25.67, compared with $27.38 nationally. And one thing that affects earnings is demand: As the jobless rate declines, employers need to pay more to attract and retain talent.

The brightest spot in the economy continues to be the rapidly recovering construction industry.

It tanked in the wake of the recession as the housing bubble burst, with employment going from 244,300 — one job out of every 11 in the state — to just 109,300.

Another 1,200 construction jobs were added in September, bringing year-over-year growth to 16,500. That means one out of every five jobs created in the past year was in construction.

But Walls said there is no reason to believe that Arizona will once again become overly dependent on construction jobs which could dry up the next time the economy goes sour. He pointed out that total construction employment is 165,200, which is only two thirds of that 2006 peak.

Manufacturing employment also remains healthy, particularly in computer and electronic parts where employment is up 9.7 percent in the past year. And Walls said the state’s aerospace sector also is doing well.

At the other extreme, employment among retailers selling clothing and accessories shed another 1,000 jobs last month and remains below where it was a year ago. Walls said this industry is particularly susceptible to online competition.

Arizona’s opt-out eliminates physician safeguard during surgery


As a physician anesthesiologist, I’m a physician first and an anesthesiologist second. I’m not only responsible for delivering anesthesia and ensuring my patients do not feel pain during their procedure or surgery, but also, helping ensure that my patients make it out of these procedures alive. 

That might seem like a strong statement, but many people don’t realize anesthesia and surgery are inherently dangerous. During a procedure, I monitor every heartbeat, the patient’s blood pressure, breathing and other vital signs. But even in routine procedures, complications occur and those vital signs can change instantly – threatening the patient’s life.  

My education and medical training as a physician have prepared me to know exactly what to do when the heartbeat stops, blood pressure falls to a dangerous level, or any other medical complication occurs. I instantly identify and diagnose the problem and direct the surgical team to pause what they’re doing if needed, so we can ensure the patient is safe. Once the patient is stabilized, the surgery can proceed and the patient returns to the arms of their loved ones. 

Gov. Doug Ducey’s recent decision to opt-out of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ accreditation standard for hospitals and other settings eliminates the longstanding requirement for physician supervision of nurse anesthetists, even though 80% of Arizona voters overwhelmingly want a physician managing medical complications or emergencies during surgery.  

Heidi Tavel
Heidi Tavel

Ducey’s decision was made without input from the public or the state’s medical community and risks patients’ lives – and for no reason. Eliminating physician supervision and allowing nurses to administer anesthesia without physician oversight results in zero cost savings for patients as Medicare, Medicaid and most third-party insurers pay the same fees for anesthesia whether administered by a nurse anesthetist or physician. It simply lowers the standard of care for patients.

Our governor has dismantled the highly successful anesthesia care team model and will now allow nurses to administer anesthesia without physician involvement. For some patients, this can mean the difference between life and death – something I see all the time. 

I recently had a very healthy man in his early 60s undergo a routine outpatient procedure to repair a hernia. He was a rancher, worked in the hot Arizona sun and had not experienced health issues. Theoretically, this should have been easy for him and the surgical team. However, while he was on the operating table, he had a massive heart attack that would have killed him instantly if it had happened at home. This was confirmed by a cardiologist after the procedure, who found the patient had a life-threatening narrowing of a vessel going to his heart, known as the “widow maker artery.” But just minutes after experiencing cardiac arrest and having no pulse during his outpatient procedure, we got his heart back to a normal rhythm, and he survived to return to his family. 

Without physician involvement in his anesthetic care, I can’t say this patient would still be alive today. Physicians are medical experts with up to 14 years of post-graduate medical education and residency training, including 12,000 to 16,000 hours of clinical training, so nearly twice the education and five times the training of nurse anesthetists. 

Our residency is called a residency on purpose because for four years, we practically live in the hospital, actively participating in an accredited medical program and on a gradual basis, demonstrating our ability to safely practice medicine without other physician oversight. We are at the hospital day in and day out, working so many hours that we put our lives on hold. We sacrifice spending time with friends, family and traveling — the things that many people in their late 20s and early 30s do, because we’re putting in all of our time and effort into learning how to keep people alive. And we do it with no regrets, because it is our calling.  

Just as you would not remove the surgeon (a physician) from the operating room during a surgical procedure and allow a physician assistant to operate alone, what sense does it make to remove physician involvement from the patient’s anesthesia care and allow a nurse to perform alone? 

Community members, lawmakers, people of Arizona, I beg you to ask yourselves: who do you want in charge of your anesthesia care? If it was your family member, your child, your spouse, your parent – would you want a physician in charge of the anesthetic care, or a nurse working alone? Call the governor and demand he rescind his decision to remove physicians from the anesthesia care team. 

Heidi Tavel is an anesthesiologist practicing in Tucson.

Arizona’s stay-home order among last to expire

Arizona Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, center, gives updates regarding the latest on the coronavirus at a news conference as Dr. Cara Christ, left, Director of Arizona Department of Health Services, and Arizona National Guard Maj. Gen. Michael McGuire, right, Director of Department of Emergency and Military Affairs, listen in Wednesday, May 20, 2020, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, Pool)
Arizona Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, center, gives updates regarding the latest on the coronavirus at a news conference as Dr. Cara Christ, left, Director of Arizona Department of Health Services, and Arizona National Guard Maj. Gen. Michael McGuire, right, Director of Department of Emergency and Military Affairs, listen in Wednesday, May 20, 2020, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, Pool)

Before Arizona’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy, Stay Connected” executive order expired May 15, Gov. Doug Ducey was just one of a handful of Republican governors whose states were still under some derivation of a stay-at-home policy.

While some states announced restrictions earlier than Arizona’s March 31 start date, many of them were quick to reopen their states either in April or early May, whereas Ducey opted to extend Arizona’s order an extra two weeks until May 15. The original order would have expired close of business April 30.

Arizona began to allow restaurants to reopen for dine-in on May 11, and swimming pools, gyms, and more to reopen on May 13, which is still later than most other states.

Ducey’s decisions still did not come without criticisms from Republicans and Democrats.

Ducey and his staff have said every decision they made came from advice from local health officials like Cara Christ, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, as well as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the White House.

Democrats called on Ducey before the extension on April 29 to keep the order in place, whereas staunch conservatives demanded he reopen the state early. The same conservatives were the ones rallying at the Capitol on multiple occasions in what was dubbed “touch your face” rallies, and even spurred an idealistic recall effort against the governor.

Impatient Republican lawmakers even criticized the governor one week before the order was set to expire, claiming it was not soon enough.

Ducey is far from the only governor to issue an extension or modified stay-at-home order, but in doing so, Arizona’s final duration for residents to remain at home (with some exceptions) was 45 days. Most other states with Republican governors – 25 in total, not including Arizona – were in place for roughly one month.

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott, who implemented a “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order on March 25, joined Arizona in letting it expire on May 15, but began the state’s phased reopening on April 20. Scott also allowed small gatherings of 10 or fewer people on May 6, recommending they happen outdoors if possible.

He also advised adults ages 65 and older to continue to stay home due to the risk of severe illness.

Maryland also lifted its stay-at-home order on May 15, after 46 days, but Gov. Larry Hogan replaced it with a new health advisory. He allowed some businesses to reopen on May 13, but with a 50% capacity and advised the public to practice safe social distancing and wearing of masks.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker kicked his stay-at-home order into effect on March 24 and let it expire May 18, but Baker replaced it with a “Safer At Home” order asking people to still remain home unless it’s for a medical reason, work, or one of the few things involved in the state’s slow reopening.

“The new Safer At Home advisory instructs everyone to stay home unless they’re headed to a newly opened facility or activity,” Baker said. “And it also advises those over the age of 65, and those with underlying health conditions, to stay home except for absolutely necessary trips – things like health care and groceries.”

Only Alabama, New Hampshire and Tennessee have ongoing stay-at-home orders, and Ohio just ended its order May 19, which was earlier than expected.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey first implemented her stay-at-home order on April 4. It was set to expire on April 30 to coincide with the state’s reopening. And after an 11-day lull, Ivey opted to adopt a new “Safer At Home” order which expires May 22, with some exceptions. Alabama will still allow non-work gatherings with no size restrictions, but six-feet apart from one another – including houses of worship. And gyms, barbershops, restaurants and bars can reopen with restrictions.

As opposed to Arizona though, Alabama has not allowed theaters or casinos to open back up.

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu’s executive order is scheduled to drag on the latest, and will expire May 31. But this is under a modified “Stay at Home 2.0.” Sununu said the state is looking to reopen based on facts, science and data. Restaurants, limited to 50% capacity with only outdoor seating and no more than six people to a table, and retail shops are now open in the state.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee issued his on April 1 and it is set to expire May 30, after an extension.

“The order allows Tennesseans and businesses to return to work in all industries where that can be safely accomplished by following health guidelines, while urging employers to allow or require remote work/telework if possible,” the governor announced in a statement.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine issued his stay-at-home order effective on March 24 – it expired on April 6, but DeWine extended it with the target to reopen May 29. He lifted the order on May 19, though, saying most restrictions are voluntary, but some, like mass gatherings and those involving bars and restaurants, are still mandatory.

DeWine replaced the stay-at-home order with what he calls “Urgent Health Advisory: Ohioans Protecting Ohioans” order.

Arts commission asks for modest $5M appropriation

(Wikimedia Commons)

If 83% of Arizona legislators agree on something important, we all should take notice.

That happened this spring when the Arizona legislature reaffirmed the state’s commitment to arts and culture by reauthorizing the Arizona Commission on the Arts for another eight years. Thank you to those legislators for voting for the bill and Gov. Doug Ducey for signing it into law.

With reauthorization in hand, legislators and the Governor now must turn to fulfilling the purpose of the Arts Commission, which is investing in the vitality and future of arts and culture through public/private partnerships in communities across Arizona. A modest investment of $5 million in ongoing state appropriations in FY2023 will make a huge difference to the artists and arts leaders who are delivering impact throughout the state.

It’s important to note that the lion’s share of dollars invested in arts and culture organizations and programs in Arizona come from private dollars: tickets sales from individuals, major gifts from wealthy donors and sponsorships from businesses. By investing in these programs, we all demonstrate our commitment to the quality of life generated by arts and culture; the economic returns created through direct employment and purchasing as well as a multiplier effect in the economy; and the healing and inspiring experiences for populations of all ages and experiences, from young students to veterans to seniors.

But as the pandemic demonstrated, public investments are also a critical component in this tapestry of financial support. State and local public dollars for arts and culture recognize the public value of a thriving arts and culture community. State and local public funds are also superb resources to leverage other individual and private investments. And public resources can ensure that all people can have access to the incredible experiences of arts and culture.

For that reason, Arizona created a state agency – the Arts Commission – to ensure public access and commitment to this part of our community. But it would be tragic if, on the heels of reaffirming the importance of this agency, the state did not put funds into the state budget to support that state agency.

In a budget spending $12 billion, the inclusion of $5 million for the Arts Commission is a pretty modest investment yet would return the Commission to an ongoing source of funding for the first time since 2011. Furthermore, this $5 million is critical in a year when arts and culture leaders are still recovering from the impact of the pandemic, but without the benefit of federal emergency funds, as they did in 2020 and 2021.

Without a $5 million appropriation, arts and culture organizations could be looking at a reduction in funds available from the Arts Commission.

With this $5 million commitment, the state can ensure that arts education programs produce educational enrichment and reinforcement proven to benefit youth.

With this $5 million commitment, the state can grow its investment in programs for veterans who enroll in arts experiences that help them heal from the trauma and injuries many suffered during their service.

With this $5 million commitment, the state can help scale programs that involve seniors in arts and culture programs which are demonstrated to slow cognitive decline and foster engagement in their community.

In short, every Arizonan learned during these past two years that a life without arts and culture experiences in their community is a life diminished in its quality. As we return to life in our communities, arts and culture stand ready to welcome us. And this can only happen if we have rekindled our investments in these experiences.

We know that the recognition of this value is the reason the Legislature and Governor just reauthorized the Commission on the Arts. And we are just as certain that they will recognize the tremendous return on this investment when they approve a $5 million ongoing appropriation in the budget being adopted soon.

Patrick McWhortor is CEO of Arizona Citizens for the Arts, a statewide grassroots organization advancing arts and culture.


Attorney general offers again to get drugs for executions


Attorney General Mark Brnovich sent a pointed message August 20 to Gov. Doug Ducey: I can get you the necessary drugs when you’re finally ready to start executing murderers.

Brnovich noted that he has offered not once but twice before to help the governor and his Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry to find a legal source of lethal chemicals. To date, the governor has not responded.

Now, the attorney general said he’s done the work that technically is the responsibility of the state agency. And Brnovich said now that he’s found a supplier there’s no reason for further delay by Ducey who, in his six years as governor, has yet to sign a death warrant.

Ducey was noncommittal.

“This is the first letter that I’ve received saying that there’s an actual solution to what was a lack of product that’s there,” he said August 20. “And it was just received.”

What Ducey said he wants, are “the details,” including what is the source.

“And then I’ll have a response for you,” the governor said.

Ducey insisted that he’s not ducking the issue.

“I haven’t been reticent,” he said, “There’s been no opportunity.”

But the issue is not a new one.

Brnovich first offered more than a year ago to help Ducey and the Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry to get a new supply of lethal chemicals to begin executions on the more than 100 people on death row.

He pointed out at the time that U.S. Attorney General William Barr had just announced the federal government intends to resume executions and will use pentobarbital rather than the three-drug mixture that had previously been used.

Arizona has not had an execution since 2014 because of its inability to get lethal drugs through legal means. Brnovich said the federal government has found a legal supply of the drug, meaning the state should be able to also get its hands on it.

At that time there were 14 death-row inmates who had exhausted all their appeals.

Brnovich wrote to Ducey again last month, repeating the same offer after the federal government conducted its first execution.

In both cases, Brnovich aide Ryan Anderson said there was no formal response.

Now, Brnovich said, with the number of inmates who have exhausted their appeals at 20, he has located a supplier. All that’s needed is for Ducey or his agency to put in the order.

“The ball is in the governor’s or the Department of Corrections’ court,” Anderson said.

There was no immediate response from either the Governor’s Office or the corrections agency as to whether either had ever sought to obtain drugs for lethal injections.

The last known effort was in 2015 when the state ordered 1,000 vials of sodium thiopental, a muscle relaxant used in the execution process, from a supplier in India. That came after a domestic manufacturer refused to sell it to put people to death.

The decision to order the drugs came despite warnings by the FDA that buying the drug from India-based Harris Pharma would be illegal. Customs and Border Protection seized the drugs at Sky Harbor International Airport. They were never released.

Ducey has not expressed a personal opinion on the death penalty.

He was asked about it in 2018 after Pope Francis declared that death is unacceptable in all cases.

“I, of course, am going to listen to what the pope says,” Ducey said when asked about it. The governor is a Catholic.

“At the same time, I took an oath to uphold the law in Arizona,” he continued. “And I’m going to continue to uphold the law.”

Brnovich, in his latest letter, said the time has come.

“We must uphold the rule of law and respect court-ordered sentences,” he wrote to the governor. “It is our solemn obligation to all victims of heinous crimes, their families, and our communities, some of whom have been waiting for decades, for justice to be served.’

Attorneys argue over tax cuts in court

A group opposed to the tax cuts approved by the legislature that largely benefit the wealthy wants a judge to reject legal efforts to keep voters from having the last word.

Attorney Andrew Gaona who represents Invest in Arizona says there is no legal basis for claims that the constitutional right of people to second-guess anything lawmakers approve does not entitle them to vote on — and possibly veto — $1.5 billion a year in cuts to individual income taxes. Gaona told Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Katherine Cooper that right of referendum is backed by “the plain language of the Arizona Constitution and binding authority from the Arizona Supreme Court dating back nearly 75 years.”

So he is asking Cooper to toss the the arguments advanced by the Free Enterprise Club, an organization that lobbies for lower taxes, limited government and fewer regulations, that she should quash the petitions and keep the issues off the November 2022 ballot.

Hanging in the balance are whether Arizonans get to vote on a measure enacted by the Republican-controlled legislature and signed by Gov. Doug Ducey to scrap the state’s current system of progressive income tax brackets.

Those rates range from 2.59% for earnings up to $26,500 a year for individuals and $53,000 for married couples filing jointly, up to 4.5% for income exceeding $159,000 for individuals and double for married couples. In its place would be a single 2.5% tax rate.

Ducey has promoted the change as saving the average Arizonan about $300 a year. But that figure is misleading.

An analysis of the plan by legislative budget staffers puts the annual savings at $11 for someone making between $25,000 and $30,000. That increases to $96 for those in the $50,000 to $75,000 taxable income range.

At the other extreme, taxpayers with income of between $250,000 and $500,000 would see an average $3,071 reduction in what they owe. And that increases to more than $7,300 for those earning from $500,000 to $1 million.

Invest in Arizona, the successor to the group that got voters in November to approve Proposition 208, an income tax surcharge on the wealthy, gathered the necessary signatures on petitions to put the measure on hold until votes can decide whether to ratify or reject it.

That vote, however, can’t happen until November 2022. In the interim, the legislative changes to the law remain unenforceable — and the state has to continue collecting income taxes at the old and higher rates.

It is that fact that the Free Enterprise Club is using to argue to Cooper that the petition drives are legally invalid.

Attorney Thomas Basile, representing the organization, does not dispute that the Arizona Constitution allows voters to decide for themselves whether they do or do not like what their elected lawmakers have approved. All they need do is gather the requisite number of signatures within 90 days — currently 118,823 — to block enforcement until the next general election.

But Basile said that right does not extend to measures “for the support and maintenance of the department of state government and state institutions.” And since these measures involve involve taxes, he contends, they are beyond the reach of voters to put on the ballot.

Gaona said there’s a big flaw in that argument. He said nothing in the referendum actually impairs the ability of the state to operate or denies it the revenues needed.

In fact, Gaona said, the reverse is true: If the referendum succeeds, it actually will leave the state with more money than it needs. And that, he told Cooper, means that anything the petition drive seeks to delay — and eventually get voters to reject — would not impair the ability of the state to support and maintain state government and state institutions.

That fact, he argues, is what makes this case different from one cited by Basile.

In that 1992 case, the state Court of Appeals quashed a referendum to overturn a decision by Greenlee County supervisors to impose a half-cent sales tax. Appellate Judge Joseph Livermore said the purpose of the petition drive was to halt an increase in taxes to keep government operating, not to cut them.

“Permitting referenda on support measures would allow a small percentage of the electorate, in Arizona 5%, effectively to prevent the operation of government,” Livermore wrote. And that, he said would thwart until the next election the decision of the majority of the supervisors to fund what they said were “necessary government programs.”

“The functioning of government can be as effectively damaged by the inability to acquire funds as by the inability to spend them,” the appellate judge said.

That’s not what’s happening here, Gaona told Cooper. That because what legislators are trying to do here is decrease tax collections, not increase them.

“There’s no evidence — nor could there be any evidence — that these tax cuts are required to support state institutions,” he said.

Cooper is set to hear arguments early next month. But whatever she rules is unlikely to be the last word, as whichever side loses will seek Supreme Court review.

Also at issue in this case is the fate of a second referendum. It seeks a public vote on a bill passed by GOP lawmakers to give the owners of certain small businesses the option of paying a maximum tax rate of 4.5%.

That became relevant after voters in November approved Proposition 208 which imposed a 3.5% surcharge on incomes of more than $250,000 for individuals and $500,000 for couples. The legislation was engineered as a work-around for what for business owners otherwise would be an 8% tax rate.

But the relevance of that law — and the referendum to overturn it — remains unclear. That’s because the Supreme Court, in a separate ruling, has raised serious legal questions about whether the surcharge ever can legally be collected.




Axed COVID-19 researchers reinstated


Bowing to a barrage of bad press, the Arizona Department of Health Services on Thursday reinstated the group of COVID-19 researchers it fired May 4. 

In an email sent to the Projections Modeling Team, the department announced an “ongoing partnership” with Arizona State University, which oversaw the work of a group of researchers from the state’s universities. 

ASU had vowed to continue and make public the group’s work after the department decided to “pause” its work. 

The department said the work was halted because it worried it was taking too much time from the team of researchers, epidemiologists and economists who it wasn’t paying.

Instead, the state said it would rely on the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s model, which is not public. But the researchers felt their work for the state was too important to stop. 

“Since [the “pause”], the Universities and team members have expressed a willingness to continue doing this work,” the email read. “We are grateful for their dedication and we look forward to an ongoing partnership.” 

This email surfaced after one volunteer modeler told Yellow Sheet Report that the “pause” was clearly political and a step towards a half-baked justification of reopening Arizona as soon as possible. Dr. Joe Gerald, director of Public Health Policy and Management at the University of Arizona’s College of Public Health, said Gov. Doug Ducey cited unreliable data during his May 4 press conference to announce loosening his stay-at-home order and suggested the cancellation by the executive furthered an effort to reopen the economy..

Additionally, Gerald said the group thinks the Governor’s Office is lifting restrictions too quickly and the moves are short-sighted, if the ultimate goal is leading Arizona down a path of fewer cases and deaths. 

“We know more people are going to get sick and more people are going to die. Maybe that’s a tradeoff we’re willing to make,” Gerald said.

Ducey’s chief of staff,  Daniel Scarpinato, said that the governor didn’t order the “pause” in the team’s work, didn’t receive a heads-up that it was coming and said that if it were a political decision, it would be a pretty poor one.

“It’s a DHS public health decision that they made – we didn’t make it – we obviously support their decisions because they’re the experts,” he said. “

Scarpinato said the Governor’s Office doesn’t micromanage the department or its director, Cara Christ. 

The team’s lead modeler, ASU’s Tim Lant, previously told Yellow Sheet Report that the state was “absolutely not” ready to start reopening on May 1.

The model was originally developed to estimate resource needs and disease transmission rates, but Lant’s team ran into problems with insufficient testing data and answering the question of when the state could safely reopen became more important. Lant said he and the team also have to deal with a rabbit hole of clarifications, like the degree of the reopening, the tradeoffs of reopening, and what the meaning of “safe” is.

But one thing remained clear, out of the five scenarios the model ran, opening at the end of May would be the “safest” option that would be the least likely to lead to a dramatic increase in COVID-19 cases, Lant said.

AZ lawmakers seek review of Ducey’s use of federal funds

From left are Arizona U.S. Reps. Raul Grijalva, D-Tucson, and Greg Stanton, D-Phoenix.
From left are Arizona U.S. Reps. Raul Grijalva, D-Tucson, and Greg Stanton, D-Phoenix.

Two Democratic members of the state’s congressional delegation are asking federal officials to review the legality of Gov. Doug Ducey using Covid relief dollars to benefit only schools that do not require masks. 

In a letter Wednesday to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, Rep. Raul Grijalva said the dollars from the American Rescue Plan that Ducey is using were intended to support states in their efforts to “reopen K-12 schools safely and equitably expand opportunities for students who need it most.” Yet what is happening, the congressman said, is the governor is punishing schools that actually follow the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control. 

Those guidelines, issued in the wake of the spread of the Delta variant, recommend “universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status.” And the CDC says children should return to full-time, in-person instruction “with layered prevention strategies in place.” 

Instead, Ducey announced on Tuesday he is dividing up nearly $163 million in rescue plan dollars among schools — but only those schools that do not have a mask mandate in place as of Aug. 27. And the governor set that date for compliance even though a judge ruled just a day earlier that the legislative ban on mask mandates does not take effect until Sept. 29. 

“Gov. Ducey is yet again pursuing reckless and inhumane proposals that will continue to exacerbate this public health crisis,” Grijalva wrote. “In addition, it puts into question the legality around him restricting public health mitigation measures in the first place.” 

Rep. Greg Stanton, in a separate letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, said he already is sure that Ducey is acting illegally. 

“This deeply irresponsible plan appears to violate the plain language of the law as written by Congress as well as the guidance issued by the Department of the Treasury,” he wrote. “These funds are not intended to be used for policies that undercut scientific research to pursue purely partisan ideological priorities.” 

And Stanton wants action. 

“I urge the Treasury Department to make clear to the governor that if he follows through with this reckless proposal, he risks losing these funds for Arizona,” he said. 

Whether the governor’s threat will have any effect on districts with mask mandates remains unclear. 

But at least one district, Scottsdale Unified, approved its own masking requirement Tuesday night, after Ducey’s announcement. 

That brings to two dozen the number of school districts that, for the moment, are openly defying the governor. 

It isn’t just that Ducey wants to use the grant funds only for schools that don’t have mask mandates. He also wants to provide vouchers of these federal dollars to provide $7,000 to parents. 

The governor, for his part, remains convinced he’s doing nothing wrong. 

“We are confident the program used to distribute these funds aligns with federal guidance,” said press aide C.J. Karamargin. 

An aide to Sen. Mark Kelly said his office was studying the legal issues of both the distribution of the aid and the vouchers. 

There was no immediate response from Sen. Kyrsten Sinema on the legal question. But Sinema made it clear what she thinks of the governor’s action. 

“This is the most absurdly dangerous and anti-science step Doug Ducey has taken (and that’s saying a lot, 2020),” she said in a Twitter post. 

“Unless kids under 12 have access to the vaccine, what are parents supposed to do?” she asked. “Just hope their kids don’t get sick and end up in the ICU?” 

Ducey has emphasized that nothing in state law or any of his directives prevents parents from putting masks on their children. But that still leaves them at least partially exposed to unmaked students and adults who may be contagious. 




AZ leaders must be honest, transparent, listen to public health experts

Winged Victory atop the Arizona Capitol Building (Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr)
Winged Victory atop the Arizona Capitol Building (Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

In the last year, Arizonans have seen more than 16,000 of our family members, loved ones, and neighbors die as a result of Covid. This fact cannot be separated from the reality that throughout the pandemic, our state has consistently ranked as one of the worst areas in the nation, with no meaningful action by state leaders to stop the spread. The pandemic became so dire for Arizona’s tribal neighbors that Doctors Without Borders were deployed to assist last summer.

Despite the dire situation in Arizona, Gov. Doug Ducey and Republican leaders have done little to mitigate the spread of Covid. They have ignored the advice of public health experts urging the mandate of statewide mask usage in public and other high-risk situations. They have ignored requests for financial support from cash-strapped local communities. They have put politics ahead of Arizona’s safety, failed to support those who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own, and recklessly reopened the state, without regard to Arizonans’ safety, which led to a precipitous spike in cases and deaths last summer.

We are grateful to U.S. Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly for wasting no time and working in Washington D.C. to address the serious concerns of Arizonans who have struggled throughout this pandemic.

Kelly made the economic rescue of Arizona’s families and small businesses a top priority, fighting for $50 billion in grants and loans for small businesses to stay afloat and keep people employed. Additionally, we thank the Biden administration and the members of the Arizona congressional delegation who are working to ensure that Arizonans can recover from this crisis as quickly as possible. But this rescue plan can only be the beginning.

We are joining Honest Arizona to hold our elected leaders accountable. Arizonans have endured far too much this past year, and we continue to face serious problems. If we’re going to get past this pandemic and get Arizona working families the opportunities they need, our leaders must be honest and transparent, follow the advice of public health experts, and respond to the needs of their constituents.

This commentary is signed by Honest Arizona advisory board members U.S. Reps. Ann Kirkpatrick, Ruben Gallego, former Attorney General Grant Woods, State Sens. Tony Navarrette, Jamescita Peshlakai, State Reps. Reginald Bolding, Cesar Chavez, Director of Arizona Public Health Association Will Humble, Cadey Lawless Harrell, M.D., Hunter Henderson – veteran living with a pre-existing condition, Marcos Castillo – living with two pre-existing conditions, Marked by Covid co-founder Kristin Urquiza

AZ Supreme Court refuses case on lifting eviction ban

Eviction Notice Letter on Front  Door

The Arizona Supreme Court won’t overturn the order by Gov. Doug Ducey blocking residential evictions.

In a brief order October 7, the justices spurned a request by the Arizona Multihousing Association to review the governor’s actions and determine if he is within his legal rights in saying that landlords could not oust tenants who have not been paying their rent because of COVID-19.

The ruling does not resolve the legal claims by the landlord group about the scope of the governor’s emergency powers.

That would take a full-blown trial, something that could take weeks, if not months. In fact, that’s exactly what the order signed by Chief Justice Robert Brutinel suggested.

But it does mean that Ducey’s order, originally issued in March, will remain undisturbed through at least the end of October when it is scheduled to expire – assuming the governor does not extend it as he did in July.

Courtney Gilstrap LeVinus, president of the landlord group, pronounced herself “shocked and disappointed” that the high court won’t hear the case. She said the ruling will have consequences not only for those who own rental properties but for the whole economy.

Courtney Gilstrap LeVinus
Courtney Gilstrap LeVinus

“We can fully expect to see a rental home foreclosure avalanche in the months to come, or certainly in the beginning of 2021, LeVinus said.

The only relief, she said, could come from $100 million that is supposed to be used for eviction relief. But LeVinus said only about $18 million has actually been distributed since the pandemic began.

Attorney Kory Langhofer, who represents the landlords, said the issue goes beyond the immediate effect on his clients.

“It reflects the failure of governmental institutions,” he said.

“Our Constitution requires the legislative and judicial branches to check executive overreach,” Langhofer said. “At the moment, that’s not happening.”

But Langhofer was able to convince only Justice Clint Bolick who was the lone person on the bench wanting the Supreme Court to review Ducey’s actions.

There was no immediate comment from the governor on either the order or whether he intends to let it expire as scheduled at the end of the month.

But even if the justices had taken up the case and overruled the governor it would have had no immediate effect. Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued its own anti-eviction order which runs through the end of the year.

In seeking Supreme Court action, the landlords claim the governor lacks the constitutional authority to tell constables around the state not to process eviction orders, even those issued legally by judges. They also contend that the gubernatorial directive is violating both the property rights of landowners as well as their right to enter into contracts.

In seeking review, the landlords acknowledged that the governor can exercise certain powers in a public health emergency. But Langhofer said that Ducey, is unilaterally barring landlords from enforcing the terms of lawful lease agreements, created “an indefinite economic welfare and redistribution program, rather than a public health measure to contain the COVID-19 contagion.”

Kory Langhofer
Kory Langhofer

Langhofer also warned the justices that if the governor’s order goes unchallenged, “then there is virtually no personal or commercial transaction or conduct that would lie outside his grasp.”

The way the landlords figure it, by the time the order expires – assuming it is not renewed – it will have been 221 days that tenants have not had to pay rent.

How much is owed is unclear.

Economist Elliott Pollack, in a study done for the Arizona Multihousing Association, figures that if just 1% of the more than 919,000 Arizona households who rent did not make payments over a seven-month period that means a loss of more than $67.7 million. Take that rent-withholding figure to 15%, he said, and the foregone revenues top $1 billion.

Pollack said there also is a ripple effect as landlords cannot pay their employees, contractors and suppliers.

But the issue before the court dealt only with the legal questions.

Langhofer told the justices that the statutory provisions the governor is using for all of his executive orders allow him to exercise police powers, specifically to “alleviate actual and threatened damage due to the emergency,” and to facilitate the supply of equipment and services “to provide for the health and safety of the citizens of the affected area.”

He acknowledged the law does allow the governor to “commandeer and utilize any property.” And that, Langhofer said, could be interpreted to include a moratorium on evictions as a means to ensure that people have housing.

But he said that exists only in a “state of war emergency” – and only if the governor makes provisions for compensating the owners of the property.

Laghofer said that Ducey, in issuing his executive order, acknowledged that it had little to do with protecting public health but was “primarily an economic relief measure.” He also pointed out that tenants seeking relief need not show they are infected with COVID-19 or even that they are in a high-risk category, but only that they provide documentation of “ongoing financial hardship.”

Ducey, however, said there is a direct link between his order and public health.

“The fight against evictions is key in slowing the spread of the virus,” wrote Brett Johnson, the private attorney retained by the governor to defend him in all the litigation over the COVID-19 restrictions he has imposed. “The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned that homeless shelters are often crowded, making social distancing difficult, and that homeless can exacerbate and amplify the spread of COVID-19.”

The advice from the justices for landlords to take their case to a trial court is interesting given that there was, in fact, a hearing earlier this year in a separate challenge to the governor’s order brought by Gregory Real Estate and Management. It owns a rental home in Surprise.

In that case, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Christopher Coury upheld the governor’s actions. He said the evidence “demonstrates reality that Arizona leaders and the general population perceived COVID-19 to be an emergent problem and a virus to which swift and urgent attention was required.”

The lawyers in that case are seeking review by the state Court of Appeals. But they also asked the Supreme Court to bypass that step and consider the case now, something the justices refused to do.




AZ taxpayers can breathe a sigh of relief

tax or taxes concept with word on business folder index

The state Supreme Court has ruled that the historic income tax reduction passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Ducey last year will not be referred to the November ballot.

That means Arizona is on its way to having a simple, low, fair and flat state income tax of 2.5% –the lowest in the nation. But it’s worth remembering how we got to this point. In 2014, Arizona was fighting to emerge from the Great Recession, hit harder than almost every state in the country. We were staring down a billion-dollar budget deficit.

Danny Seiden (Photo by Jennifer Stewart)

I was on the campaign trail for then-candidate Doug Ducey when he made a pledge that, to many, may have sounded like a pipe dream – as governor, he would make Arizona the No. 1 state to live, work, and start and run a business – all while reducing the state income tax to as close to zero as possible.

Skeptics mocked the idea, believing it wasn’t possible. Opponents called instead for higher taxes, claiming his plan would bankrupt Arizona. Cynics, perhaps disillusioned by years of empty promises, assumed they were being fed another speech by an ambitious politician who’d say anything to get elected. All stump, no substance.

Undeterred, Governor Ducey was elected – not once, but twice – and he has been delivering on those promises since Day One. I’ve known our governor a long time. And if there’s one thing you should know, it’s that his administration is about results – not rhetoric. And the results speak for themselves.

Fast forward to today. Arizona has dug itself out of a $1 billion hole, and now sits on a record $5 billion surplus. Our economy is booming. Our population is growing. Since taking office, Arizona has welcomed 18,000 new businesses and over half-a-million new residents. We’ve created almost 400,000 new jobs and recovered those lost during the pandemic faster than nearly every other state. Our 3.3% unemployment rate, better than the national average, represents a historic low not seen in over 45 years.

All of this, while pumping record investments into K-12 education, supporting vital infrastructure needs, and funding core priorities like public safety, health care and more. All of this, while cutting taxes every year and advancing pro-growth policies that have made our state among the most competitive in the nation.

None of this was by accident. The current circumstances reflect 7-plus years of good policy and relentless salesmanship by a leader who had a strong vision for what our economy could be. And as for that campaign promise? Last session, Governor Ducey championed and signed into law a historic tax reform package that slashed rates for every Arizona taxpayer and implemented a 2.5% flat rate – the lowest among all other states with an income tax.

The fate of that plan hung in limbo over recent months, as opponents attempted to overturn it via a voter referendum. Thankfully, the Arizona Supreme Court blocked those efforts, rightfully recognizing our Constitution does not allow for the referral of tax measures that impact the “support and maintenance” of state government.

This would be a win for Arizona taxpayers and small businesses under any circumstance, never mind during this period of unprecedented inflation. This decision provides relief for every Arizonan who finds themselves spending more than ever before to fill up their cars, put food on the table, and shelter and clothe their families – and yes, that’s every Arizonan. It also provides the much-needed certainty that Arizona will have the lowest flat-tax rate in the nation – keeping our business environment among the most attractive and competitive for job creators and ensuring the continued long-term economic growth of our state.

We’re grateful to Governor Ducey and the state Legislature for delivering on a promise that Arizonans can take to the bank.

Danny Seiden is president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry.  


Ban on evictions to end, COVID-19 cases spike


Gov. Doug Ducey won’t impose any new restrictions on individuals or businesses despite what appears to be a record number of daily COVID-19 cases and a trend that is pushing even higher.

And he has no plans to extend a moratorium on residential evictions once a federal ban on ousting tenants expires at the end of the month.

The Department of Health Services on Tuesday reported 12,314 new cases. That’s a figure that hasn’t been seen since the beginning of the pandemic.

There also were 23 more deaths, bringing the Arizona total to 6,973.

The numbers reflect what was reported to the agency on Monday, a figure that could include a spike in tests over the weekend. And with delays in those reports, the agency eventually sorts the tests based on the actual date the test is administered.

But what cannot be denied is that even the department’s own day-by-day delayed analysis, after sorting the numbers by actual test dates, shows there were a record 7,645 cases actually reported for Nov. 30. That compares with the June 29 peak of 5,452, the day that the governor concluded he had made a mistake in allowing bars, gyms, water parks and movie theaters to reopen.

Doug Ducey
Doug Ducey

“We’re fixing it,” Ducey said at the time when asked if he had screwed up in allowing bars to reopen six weeks earlier.

Since that time, though, the governor has relaxed his restrictions, allowing businesses to operate, abeit some at reduced capacity and if they promise to follow certain health protocols.

Those restrictions, though, appear to not be working.

It isn’t just that there are more people testing positive. That could be seen as a result of wider testing.

There’s also the fact that the percent of positive tests also is up — sharply.

For the current week, 23% of those who were checked out were found to have the virus. That compares with 18% the past week and 14% the week before.

The latest spike in positive tests could have repercussions down the road.

At last count there were 3,157 patients in Arizona hospitals with positive or suspected cases of COVID. The last time the figure was that high was July 17.

There also are 744 intensive care beds in use, also the highest since July. And while they represent just 43% of ICU capacity, the number of available beds, including people hospitalized for other reasons, dropped this week as low as 143, which is within 8% of total capacity.

Other indicators point to things getting worse absent some change in conduct.

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation is predicting an average of 55 deaths a day by the end of the year, eventually reaching 73 by the third week of January. That’s even with a rapid rollout of vaccine to the highest risk individuals.

Joe Gerald (Photo by Kris Hanning/University of Arizona Health Sciences)
Joe Gerald (Photo by Kris Hanning/University of Arizona Health Sciences)

In his latest forecast, Joe Gerald, a doctor at the Zuckerman College of Public Health at the University of Arizona, predicted dire problems with access to critical care due to shortages of space, personnel and critical supplies.

“If not addressed within the next one to two weeks, this crisis will evolve into a humanitarian crisis leading to hundreds of preventable deaths,” he wrote. “At this point, only shelter-in-place restrictions are certain to quickly and sufficiently curtail viral transmission.”

And even the latest report about Arizona from the White House Coronavirus Task Force, one of the sources Ducey has said he has relied upon, urges Arizona to do more.

“Mitigation efforts must increase,” the report says. That includes “no indoor gatherings outside of immediate households.”

And Ducey’s reaction to all this?

“It’s clear the numbers are moving in the wrong direction and are having a tremendous impact on our health care system,” said press aide C.J. Karamargin. But he had no announcements of any changes in the current regulations.

Ducey does have other powers to deal with the pandemic above and beyond health precautions.

In March he imposed a moratorium on evictions of renters affected by COVID-19, whether due to themselves or a family member with the virus or simply by virtue of having lost a job because of the outbreak. He said this is health related because keeping people in their homes helps prevent the spread of the virus.

Ducey extended his order several times before allowing it to expire at the end of October. But the governor noted at that time there would be no immediate effect because the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had imposed its own moratorium.

That federal bar itself self-destructs at the end of this month. And on Tuesday, citing the rise in COVID-19 cases and that Dec. 31 expiration, Democratic legislative leaders called on the governor to once again protect tenants from losing their homes and apartments.

But Karamargin sad the governor has no plans to step up, saying it’s a federal issue.

“This issues underscores the need for Congress to act,” he said.

Karamargin acknowledged, though, that the governor did not wait for federal action earlier this year. But he said Ducey believes that this should be part of the discussion going on in Washington about the next step in federal coronavirus relief.

But there was no commitment from Ducey to act if there is no new federal moratorium by the end of the year.

Rep. Kirsten Engel, D-Tucson, said that makes no sense given that the governor has advised people that the safest place to be is at home.

“You can only stay home if you have a home,” she said.

The most recent survey by the U.S. Census Bureau shows about 14 percent of Arizonans said they were caught up on their rent. And about 56,000 said they are very or somewhat likely to lose their homes or apartments in the next two months.

While Ducey is unwilling to react to the numbers, legislative Democrats have shown no such reticence.

Some of what they want is not new, like a statewide mask mandate.

Reginald Bolding
Reginald Bolding

Reginald Bolding, the incoming House minority leader, does not dispute the governor’s assertion that most of the state already is covered by local ordinances. But he said that’s not enough.

“We believe that more Arizonans will accept and take that responsibility for themselves and their neighbors,” Bolding said, saying the current situation creates “mixed messages.”

Senate Minority Leader Rebecca Rios wants an absolute ban on gatherings of more than 25. The current state restriction is at 50, but with a provision that allows for a local waiver.

Ducey did add a requirement last week for local authorities to demand and enforce mitigation measures on such gatherings like masks and social distancing.

Rios, however, said that’s not enough. And, unlike Ducey, she would have no exceptions for religious services, political gatherings and other activities that the governor has carved out as protected by the First Amendment.

“The reality of the situation is, we’re in a crisis,” Rios said. “And if everybody wants to pick and choose who they think should be exempt, then it doesn’t work.”

It’s not just Ducey who won’t recommend changes in what Arizona individuals and businesses should and should not be allowed to do.

“The number of cases added to the dashboard today is concerning but not unexpected,” said Health Director Cara Christ on Tuesday.

She said the agency anticipated an increase two weeks after the Thanksgiving holiday, the normal incubation period for the virus, as families gathered in increased numbers. In fact, in anticipation of another spike after the December holidays Christ is urging people to take additional precautions and limit contacts beyond their immediate families.


Banner could begin restricting capacity as Covid surges

hospital  doctors620
(Deposit Photo)

A top doctor at the state’s largest hospital network said the facilities could begin to impose capacity restrictions at the rate Covid is multiplying in Arizona.

In a wide-ranging news conference Tuesday, Dr. Marjorie Bessel, chief clinical officer at Banner Health, said the 71 children admitted with the virus last month is double the figure from a month before.

The good news, she said, is most pediatric cases the hospitals have seen so far do not require treatment in an intensive-care unit. But Bessel said that may be only a temporary situation.

“This does not mean that the virus cannot have a serious impact on children,” she said, pointing out the experience in states like Louisiana, Florida and Texas where the number of children in ICUs has spiked. In New Orleans, all the pediatric ICU beds were full late last week.

Bessell also stressed that any child getting in-person instruction should definitely be masked but repeatedly sidestepped questions about whether schools should mandate their use.

“The way that we get to that is something that I will leave to others,” she said.

But Gov. Doug Ducey has no interest in allowing school boards to make that decision, saying the best solution to the problem is people getting vaccinated.

Spokesman C.J. Karamargin acknowledged Tuesday the vaccine is not available for anyone younger than 12. But he said his boss remains convinced that this decision should be made not by schools but by parents.

It isn’t just Banner dealing with a new spike of cases.

The state Department of Health Services on Tuesday reported 1,470 in-patient beds statewide occupied by Covid patients, the highest since Feb. 25, before the vaccine was available to most Arizonans.

There is a similar spike in Covid patients in intensive-care units.

What makes that significant is that Bessel said the typical Covid ICU patient ends up staying in the unit for more than a week. And that’s just part of the problem.

Marjorie Bessel
Marjorie Bessel

“They will be in our hospitals for quite a bit of time as they both receive intensive care as well as then recover before they go and be discharged,” she said.

The health department also reported another 2,582 cases on Tuesday, making it a full week of new illnesses over the 2,000 threshold. In fact, the agency, filling in data as reports come in, said the figure actually hit 3,117 last week.

There also were an additional 12 deaths reported Tuesday, bringing the statewide total to 18,400.

All that goes to concerns about what the future looks like.

“At this time we are operating without capacity constraints,” Bessel said. “But I will say with the surge that we’re beginning to experience and we’re reporting out here through the media we are concerned if that trajectory continues.”

Last year, as cases first spiked, the governor issued an executive order to limit elective surgeries to ensure there is sufficient space for not just Covid patients but others who need more immediate care.

That, in turn, created some financial problems for hospitals who depend on those procedures, like knee and hip replacements. In fact, the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association reported losses of 30% to 40% a month.

“At this time we are managing taking care of those who have Covid as well as those who have non-Covid,” Bessel said. “We would like to continue to do that for as long as possible and, hopefully, throughout this surge.”

Complicating matters is staffing.

Bessel said Banner is raising salaries in a bid to recruit and retain not just nurses but other support staff, including imposing a $15 an hour minimum wage. That compares with the $12.15 set in state law.

The system currently has 1,057 bedside vacancies for registered nurses and 347 of what Bessel called nursing support role vacancies.

There also are plans to bring in about 1,500 “traveling nurses” to fill needs.

On one hand, she said, that is not unusual. Bessel said extra nurses are brought in every winter season to deal with seasonal respiratory diseases.

“But the magnitude of what we’re likely going to need due to the Covid surge, of course, is significant and concerning at this time,” she said.

On top of that is the possibility of resignations or firings as Banner staffers refuse to comply with a company mandate that they be vaccinated by Nov. 1. Bessel did not say how many or what percentage of staff have yet to meet the requirement but said “we still have a ways to go.”

Still, Bessel said, that doesn’t mean a bunch of workers will be gone at the end of October.

“We still have a large number of individuals that either are in the process of getting vaccinated or submitting their vaccine card to us,” she said.

Bar owners grill health director on end to closure


The state’s top health official testified October 8 she cannot say when the current COVID-19 health emergency will be over, the governor will rescind his orders, and Arizonans will be able to get their lives back to the way they were before.

In fact, Cara Christ said a decline to minimal levels in the benchmarks her agency created to determine the risk of spread won’t necessarily lead her to recommend to her boss, Gov. Doug Ducey, that he dissolve his orders and give up the emergency powers he assumed in March. She said there are other considerations.

But Christ also said that it won’t take the virus being gone for there no longer to be an emergency. She said it may be that Arizonans are just going to have to live with it.

What currently makes any disease an emergency is that it could overwhelm hospitals. That, Christ said, is why there was a declaration in March by Ducey, with the rapid spread of the coronavirus.

At some point, though, she said that won’t be the case.

“That would change with COVID-19 as we continue in this pandemic,” Christ said.

“And then it would just be like living with the influenza,” she continued. “At that point it wouldn’t be a public health emergency anymore.”

Ilan Wurman
Ilan Wurman

Christ’s comments came as she was being questioned in a hearing in Maricopa County Superior Court by Ilan Wurman.

He represents more than 100 owners of bars that remain unable to reopen and operate the way they used to due to the Ducey-declared emergency. And Wurman is trying to convince Judge Pamela Gates that the restrictions on bars make no sense, especially when other businesses, including restaurants that serve alcoholic beverages, are allowed to be open.

All that relates to when Christ thinks the emergency – and the restrictions on business operations, including bars imposed by Ducey – will or should go away.

“That’s hard to predict now because we learn new things every day,” she testified.

One issue in the case is how long Ducey can exercise his emergency authority.

Wurman said there are indicators. He pointed out the Department of Health Services has established “benchmarks” to determine the risk of spread of the virus.

These look at three issues: the number of cases per 100,000 residents, the percentage of tests for the virus that come back positive, and the percentage of patients showing up in hospital emergency rooms with COVID-like symptoms. Each of those can be listed as having a substantial, moderate or minimal risk of spread.

Wurman wanted to know at what point those benchmarks will get to a point when the emergency will be over.

“It’s a little bit difficult,” Christ responded.

“Those benchmarks weren’t established to determine an end to the public health emergency,” she said. “They were really established to set benchmarks for business to be able to reopen and schools to go back into session.”

That didn’t satisfy Wurman.

He told her to assume there will be no vaccine, no “therapeutic” to effectively treat the disease, and no “herd immunity” where enough people have contracted the virus, survived and now have antibodies. Given all that, Wurman asked Christ when she would be willing to recommend to Ducey that he rescind his emergency orders.

“If we were consistently at very, very low cases, if CLI (COVID-like illnesses) stayed low and the percent positivity remains low, below that 3%, we may make that recommendation,” she responded. But no promises.

“Again, it’s hard to predict,” Christ said.

Wurman pressed harder.

“If all three of the benchmarks established by your department indicated we had been at minimal transmission for eight weeks, would that be sufficient for you to recommend repeal?” he asked.

She never responded after attorneys for the state objected, saying she had already answered the question.

One thing Christ did say is that the emergency declaration really isn’t primarily about preventing people from getting sick and wiping out the disease.

“The public health emergency is really protecting our health care system, making sure we keep as few people from getting sick or dying and having access to those resources than it is just eradicating the disease,” she said.

Christ did concede that she could not say whether a single case of coronavirus had been traced to a bar in Arizona. But she said that’s not because none has happened.

“I’m not privy to the contact tracing investigation findings,” Christ said.

But the health director said she remains convinced that the risk of spread is higher at bars than at other businesses.

Some of it, she said, has to do with lack of ventilation indoors.

“There are ways that that can be increased,” Christ said. “But alcohol does tend to affect one’s ability to physically distance and make good decisions.”

And then there’s the environment.

“They tend to have music,” she explained.

“It requires people to speak louder, projecting more droplets into the air, putting more virus,” Christ said. “It also requires people to lean in and get closer to individuals when they are talking because it’s going to be loud.”

Bars can’t convince Supreme Court to hear case on reopening

Rebuffed by the Arizona Supreme Court, more than 100 bar owners are now taking their claims against Gov. Doug Ducey to a trial judge.

In a brief order, Chief Justice Robert Brutinel said the bar owners “did not provide a compelling reason as to why this matter could not be initiated in a lower court.” Anyway, Brutinel said, having the case go to a trial court will flesh out the allegations by the bar owners that the action by the governor shutting them down violated their constitutional rights and denied them legally required due process.

In some ways the ruling is not a surprise. It is highly unusual for the state’s high court to consider any issue that has not already been through the normal trial process.

But the ruling also does not end the dispute.

Attorney Ilan Wurman already has filed a new lawsuit in Maricopa County Superior Court alleging that Ducey does not have the constitutional authority to shut down bars – or any other business for that matter.

In sending the case to a lower court, that raises the possibility that the Ducey-declared emergency could be over and business back to normal by the time there is a trial and then the likely appeals. Wurman said that is why he is asking Judge James Smith to grant a preliminary injunction to allow the bars to reopen while the case proceeds.

But even if that doesn’t happen, Wurman told Capitol Media Services that the case still needs to proceed. He said Arizona courts need to spell out clearly what powers not only this governor but future governors have over businesses the next time there’s an emergency.

“What happens when schools are back in session in September and UofA and ASU have been in session for a month and the (COVID infection) numbers go back up?” he asked.

“Who are the first people going to be the scapegoats?” Wurman continued. “The bars.”

And the new lawsuit has something not in the original version.

He is asking Smith to declare that Ducey, in shuttering the establishments, effectively took their property. And that, Wurman said, would require the state to pay compensation to the bar owners for what they lost while they were forced to close.

“But our objective is to get open,” he said.

At least part of Wurman’s arguments rest on his claim that the governor has unfairly and illegally singled out his clients for discriminatory treatment.

He points out that there are many different kinds of establishments that can legally serve alcoholic beverages. That includes places licensed as restaurants.

By contrast, his clients are licensed as bars.

The advantage is that they do not need to meet the same requirement as restaurants that at least 40% of their sales come from food. But Wurman said that, for all intents and purposes, the activities at restaurants, which can remain open – albeit at reduced capacity – are no different from those at places licensed as bars.

In fact, he said, some bars have spacious outdoor patios, table service and no dancing while some restaurants “often have cramped spaces, loud music, dancing, and no outdoor seating.”

No date has been set for a hearing.

Bars take Ducey to court


Bar owners from around the state are asking the Arizona Supreme Court to rule that Gov. Doug Ducey does not have the constitutional authority to shut them – or any other business – down.

Attorney Ilan Wurman is not contending that there is not an emergency due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

But Wurman, an associate professor at Arizona State University, said the law that gives Ducey the unilateral power to do things like close down certain businesses “unconstitutionally delegates the legislative power of this state to the governor. And he wants the justices to not only void the law giving the governor those powers but also declare that any orders Ducey already has made under that law are illegal and cannot be enforced.

The outcome of the legal fight would affect not just the owners of the 20 bars around the state that are challenging his authority over them but every other kind of business that Ducey has ordered shuttered or whose operations he has directed be curtailed. And it also could affect the governor’s future ability to impose a new stay-at-home order as well as any directives he issues about when schools can and cannot open.

There was no immediate response from the Governor’s Office.

Central to the case is the law that both allows the governor to declare an emergency and then gives him “the right to exercise … all police power vested in the state by the Constitution and laws of this state” to  deal with that emergency.

“Petitioners have suffered great harm from being unable to operate their businesses in pursuit of their lawful occupations and ordinary callings,” Wurman told the justices. “They have no idea when they will be able to reopen.”

The problem with the governor’s action, he said, is that the law approved by the Legislature which gave him that power is unconstitutional.

“The Legislature may not delegate its legislative power to another,” Wurman said. “Under the doctrine of ‘separation of powers’ the Legislature alone possess lawmaking power,” a power he said lawmakers “cannot completely delegate … to any other body.”

At best, he said, lawmakers can allow another branch of government “to fill in the details of legislation already enacted.”

Here, Wurman said, the Legislature went far beyond that in giving Ducey complete police powers.

“The ‘police power’ of a state is, in effect, its legislative power: its power of the health, safety, welfare, and morals of the people,” he wrote.

The law that Ducey is using, Wurman said, is “a naked delegation of the state’s legislative power to the governor and is therefore unconstitutional.

“There are no standards whatsoever,” he said. “There is no sufficient basic standard, no definite policy and rule of action which will serve as a guide for the governor.”

And what that means, Wurman told the court, is that the law gives Ducey unfettered authority.

“Can he permit only takeout? If he wants to,” he said.

“Can he leave restaurants open but close down bars and gyms? If he wants to,” Wurman continued. “Can he close down bars but not gyms, or gyms but not bars? If he wants to.”

And what that also means, he said, is that Ducey could order students to attend school only every third day.

“There is, in short, literally no standard by which to judge the governor’s actions under the statute, and it therefore must violate the nondelegation doctrine,” Wurman said.

He said none of his clients are arguing that government cannot close down their businesses in “appropriate circumstances.”

“The question is who within our constitutional system of government has that power,” Wurman said.

“That person is not the governor,” he continued. “The state legislators have that power.” Wurman said they cannot constitutionally delegate to the governor.

Wurman acknowledged that the laws allowing the governor to declare an emergency also give the Legislature the authority, with a simple majority vote of each chamber, to declare it over. But he said that does not overcome the legal issue of lawmakers having given the chief executive unlimited police powers in the first place.

He also told the court that declaring the state’s general emergency powers statute unconstitutional would not leave Ducey or future governors without the power to deal with emergencies, including the pandemic. He pointed out – and is not challenging – various other laws giving governors powers to deal with public health emergencies, laws that even allow a governor or the health department to quarantine people without court order, require vaccinations and even permit the use of the National Guard to enforce those orders.

But those powers, Wurman said, are limited.

“Nothing in (health law) authorizes the governor to close down petitioners’ businesses,” he said.

Wurman conceded that there is a section law that allows cities and counties – but not the governor – to close any business during a state of emergency. But even here, he said, that is only as necessary “to preserve the peace and order of the city, town or unincorporated areas of the county.”

The lawsuit also raises an equal protection argument, saying Ducey cannot decide that some businesses are permissible while others are not.

“If the purpose of the governor’s order is to mitigate the spread of a pandemic by ensuring that businesses follow particular sanitary measures, then the governor must permit all businesses to operate who can meet those standards,” he wrote.


List of Petitioners and their business establishments:


Michael Beaver

The Beaver Bar

11801 N. 19th Avenue

Phoenix, Az. 85029


Jacquelyn Bendig

Chad Newberry

1881 Spirits

144 S Montezuma St

Prescott, AZ 86303


Matt Brassard

Matt’s Saloon

112 S. Montezuma St

Prescott, AZ 86303


Craig Denny

Pudge and Asti’s Sports Grill

721 6th St

Prescott, AZ 86301


Patricia Dion

Louie Fernandez

Douglas Landreth

Jester’s Sports Lounge

877 Hancock Rd

Bullhead City, AZ 86442


Mistie Green

Larry’s Cocktails

20027 N Cave Creek RD

Phoenix, AZ 85024


Darel & Tamie Harrison

Music Box Lounge

6951 E 22nd Street

Tucson, AZ 85710


Brad Henrich

Shady’s Fine Ale and Cocktails

2701 E Indian School Rd

Phoenix, AZ 85016


Charles Jenkins

Office Sports Bar

330 S. Gilbert Rd. #3

Mesa, AZ 85204


Ian Juul

Mooney’s Irish Pub

671 AZ-179

Sedona, AZ 86336


Colleen Kendall

The Windsock, LLC

1836 Timber Cove Ln

Prescott, AZ 86305


Alan Kowalski

Clicks Billiards

3325 N 1st Ave. #100

Tucson, AZ 85719



Josh Makrauer

Jersey Lilly Saloon

116 S Montezuma St

Prescott, AZ 86303


Bruce Reid

Barefoot Bob’s Billiards

8367 E Pecos Dr Suite 2

Prescott Valley, AZ 86314


Russell Roberts

Lyzzard’s Lounge

120 N Cortez St.

Prescott, AZ 86301


Wes & Rebecca Schemmer

Vino di Sedona,

2575 West SR 89A

Sedona, AZ 86336


Peter Sciacca


201 S Washington St

Chandler, AZ 85225


Sheri Shaw

The Back Alley Wine Bar

156 S Montezuma St.

Prescott, AZ 86303


Heather and Justin Ward

Monkey Bar

1120 S Wilmot Rd

Tucson, AZ 85711


Cheri Wells

Aint Nicks Tavern

6840 N. 27th Ave

Phoenix, AZ 85017

Behind the Ballot: Big left turn


Democratic candidate for governor David Garcia speaks with a voter June 10 as he canvassed a west Phoenix neighborhood. (Photo by Carmen Forman/Arizona Capitol Times)
Democratic candidate for governor David Garcia speaks with a voter June 10 as he canvassed a west Phoenix neighborhood. (Photo by Carmen Forman/Arizona Capitol Times)

David Garcia says he’s the same candidate he’s always been, but political observers have seen him take a big left turn and embrace a more progressive message than ever before.

And that approach may cost him.

As a candidate for superintendent of public instruction in 2014, he won the support of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and some Republican voters found something to like in him that year.

Now, he cannot expect to draw those voters back to him. But that’s not stopping his progressive agenda.

He still has a primary election to get through before he’ll his shot at Gov. Doug Ducey. But Ducey cannot rest easy until November. He’s facing a primary challenge that could leave him more vulnerable come the general election.

Don’t forget to subscribe to The Breakdown on iTunes.


Music in this episode included “Little Idea,” “Funky Element” and “Energy” by Bensound.

Behind the Ballot: It ain’t over til it’s over


Voters wait in line at dawn to cast their ballot in Arizona's presidential primary election, Tuesday, March 22, 2016, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Voters wait in line at dawn to cast their ballot in Arizona’s presidential primary election, Tuesday, March 22, 2016, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

The final countdown to primary election night has begun. It’s been a challenging election cycle, complete with a swath of political newcomers, familiar faces with new baggage and a fervent call for change in more than one office. 

Soon we’ll know who the voters favor to get the job done.

But it’s not over until it’s over. The candidates who emerge victorious next week still have tough battles ahead leading up to the general in November. In this final episode of our summer series, our team spotlights the hottest races and predicts which candidates will come out on top. 

EDITOR’S NOTE: Upon review, reporter Paulina Pineda determined a statement she made regarding the relationship between Kathy Petsas and Rep. Maria Syms was not entirely accurate. She had said both candidates have been adamant that they do not support each other; however, Petsas has said that while she does not condone Syms’ effort to undermine Sen. Kate Brophy McGee’s candidacy, she will support an all-Republican ticket in LD28 and has signed the GOP’s “Unity Pledge,” promising to support Syms if the incumbent wins in the general election.

Don’t forget to subscribe to The Breakdown on iTunes and Stitcher.


Music in this episode included “Creative Minds,” “Funky Element” and “Energy” by Bensound.

Behind the Ballot: Nerd alert


FILE - In this June 5, 2017, file photo, Arizona state Sen. Steve Farley speaks during a news conference in Tucson, Ariz. Two Democrats looking to unseat Republican Gov. Doug Ducey are officially going to battle it out in the primary. On Tuesday, May 29, 2018, David Garcia and Farley filed signatures to run in the Democratic gubernatorial primary. (Ron Medvescek/Arizona Daily Star via AP, File)
In this June 5, 2017, file photo, Arizona state Sen. Steve Farley speaks during a news conference in Tucson, Ariz. (Ron Medvescek/Arizona Daily Star via AP, File)

As was recently observed in the Arizona Capitol Times, Steve Farley can rattle off budget details until your eyes glaze over.

He’s hoping that attention to detail will earn him the governor’s seat. But will wonkiness actually win the day for Arizona’s highest statewide office?

He still has to face off against David Garcia before he’ll get his shot – presumably – at the incumbent; Gov. Doug Ducey is expected to win the Republican nomination over challenger Ken Bennett.

This isn’t the first time you’ve tuned in for a story focused on the gubernatorial race. Today, we’ll break down why it’s especially important in this election cycle.

Don’t forget to subscribe to The Breakdown on iTunes.


Music in this episode included “Creative Minds,” “Funky Element” and “Energy” by Bensound.

Behind the Ballot: Show me the money


With law enforcement and seized weapons in the background, Gov. Doug Ducey on Wednesday details for invited media -- and campaign photographers -- the success of the Border Strike Force. (Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer)
With law enforcement and seized weapons in the background, Gov. Doug Ducey on Wednesday details for invited media — and campaign photographers — the success of the Border Strike Force. (Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer)

It’s campaign season again – surprise – and that means there’s a slew of candidates hitting the pavement for campaign contributions.

But not everyone has been entirely honest about how they came to be on the campaign trail this year, and an alarmingly high number of signatures gathered by some candidates don’t even seem to be legit.

Meanwhile, some of the higher ticket offices hold no surprises for politicos as at least one incumbent appears to be cruising toward victory – at least as far as his finances are concerned.

Don’t forget to subscribe to The Breakdown on iTunes.


Music in this episode included “Creative Minds,” “Funky Element” and “Energy” by Bensound.

Behind the Ballot: Spread thin


Stacks of voters' signatures were delivered to the Arizona Secretary of State's Office on Aug. 8 after Save Our Schools Arizona collected more than 110,000 signatures in three months. If it survives legal challenges, the referendum will appear on the 2018 general election ballot as Proposition 305. (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)
Stacks of voters’ signatures were delivered to the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office on Aug. 8, 2018, after Save Our Schools Arizona collected more than 110,000 signatures in three months. (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)

Arizona voters will be asked to decide the fate of multiple high-profile ballot initiatives on the November ballot.

At the same time, a slew of high-priority races for elected office are vying for their attention – and their money.

If donors are asked repeatedly to open their wallets for both the candidates and the causes they care most about, will the available dollars be spread too thin?

There may be one campaign that they can sit out, at least, as the debate over school choice takes an unexpected turn toward common ground.

Don’t forget to subscribe to The Breakdown on iTunes.


Music in this episode included “Creative Minds,” “Funky Element” and “Energy” by Bensound.

Behind the Ballot: The comeback kids?


Charles Loftus, Don Shooter and Tim Jeffries
Charles Loftus, Don Shooter and Tim Jeffries

Three men running for the state legislature are seeking much more than your votes – they want retribution.

Tim Jeffries and Charles Loftus are already suing the state to clear their names after being removed from the Arizona Department of Economic Security. And Don Shooter is contemplating a suit of his own after departing the Arizona House of Representatives in disgrace, expelled by the vast majority of his colleagues.

These candidates insist their cases against the state will have no impact on their capacity to serve as elected officials, and they’re confident their histories with the current powers that be won’t be enough to deter voters.

Don’t forget to subscribe to The Breakdown on iTunes.


Music in this episode included “Little Idea,” “Funky Element” and “Energy” by Bensound.


Behind the Ballot: Toxic


toxicArizona is no stranger to legislative candidates with baggage, but this election cycle stands out for the number of candidates, namely Republicans, who are seeking office despite their tarnished reputations.

Candidates like Don Shooter who was expelled from the state House just this year and Representative David Stringer who made comments widely condemned as racist want a second chance.

And in a year when promises of a blue wave were already being made, Democrats are practically salivating at the chance to flip the seats these toxic candidates seek.

Don’t forget to subscribe to The Breakdown on iTunes and Stitcher.


Music in this episode included “Creative Minds,” “Funky Element” and “Energy” by Bensound.

Bennett lacks campaign funds, criticizes Ducey in Clean Elections forum

Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett (AP Photo/The Arizona Daily Sun, Jake Bacon)
Ken Bennett (AP Photo/The Arizona Daily Sun, Jake Bacon)

Ken Bennett compared his campaign against Gov. Doug Ducey to Donald Trump taking on the GOP establishment during the 2016 presidential race.

Bennett, a Republican gubernatorial candidate, likened himself to Trump and lashed out at Ducey on education, taxes and the governor’s record in a televised question-and-answer session August 1 on Arizona PBS.

In the half hour interview with “Arizona Horizon” host Ted Simons, the former secretary of state and Arizona Senate president dismissed the idea that he was ever an establishment Republican.

Bennett, who used to be seen as a folksy and well-liked character within the Republican Party, has taken a hard-right turn as he takes on Ducey in the August 28 primary.

He copied a tactic out of Trump’s playbook as Arizona GOP leaders have urged Bennett to exit the race.

“President Trump beat the Republican establishment and I’m offering myself as a similar option,” he said.

In the interview, Bennett called out his opponent for not cutting income taxes — a pledge Ducey made on the campaign trail in 2014. He also criticized Ducey for raising taxes this year.

Specifically, Bennett was talking about a new car registration fee that will cost all Arizona motorists approximately $18 per year. Some legislative Republicans also cried foul when it passed the Legislature, labeling it a tax. Ducey has disputed claims that the new, annual fee is a tax.

Bennett — who came in fourth in the six-way gubernatorial primary that Ducey won in 2014 — cited the new fee as one of the accounting “tricks and gimmicks” Ducey used to pay for lofty teacher pay hikes spread out over the next few years.

Ducey’s plan for teacher pay raises is what incited Bennett to jump into the gubernatorial race.

In the televised interview, Bennett said Ducey “caved” to the “Red for Ed” movement by offering teachers pay bumps after saying the state could not afford such hefty raises for months prior.

“On April 12, he was saying one thing and on April 14, all of a sudden he says something totally different,” Bennett said. “My question was: ‘How are we going to pay for it?’”

Bennett also doubled down on false statements that Ducey told Sen. John McCain to oppose the so-called “skinny repeal” of the Affordable Care Act, which caused the ailing senator to cast a decisive vote against the bill.

He also expressed no remorse for tweeting that Ducey should not appoint Cindy McCain to her husband’s U.S. Senate seat should he vacate the position, which rankled Republicans across the state. Bennett’s tweet was based off unverified reports.

“I think the people of Arizona want transparency from our governor as to who’s on his list,” he said.

Bennett appeared on Arizona PBS as part of a Clean Elections Commission forum. What was initially billed as a debate turned into a question-and-answer session between Bennett and Simons, the host, when Ducey declined to participate.

Candidates seeking public financing for their campaigns are required to participate in the televised Clean Elections forums. With less than a month until the primary election, Bennett still has not turned in enough certified $5 contributions to qualify for $839,704 in public financing he could use in his primary race.

Bennett’s campaign must provide a status report on his contributions to Clean Elections by August 6.

Bennett loses court bid to get public financing for gubernatorial campaign

Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett certifies the 2014 primary election canvass on Sept. 8, 2014. (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)
Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett certifies the 2014 primary election canvass on Sept. 8, 2014. (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

A judge has rejected the latest bid by Ken Bennett to get public financing for his failed gubernatorial bid — or at least reimburse himself for the money he spent.

In a new ruling, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Teresa Sanders acknowledged that Bennett said he really did have enough valid signatures on $5 donation forms to qualify for $839,704 which was available for candidates in the Republican primary for governor earlier this year.

Bennett said that he fell short only because some county election officials incorrectly classified some of them as invalid. More to the point, he said he could prove that with things like affidavits from some of those disqualified donors to push him up over the top.

But Sanders said that really doesn’t matter.

The judge said there is nothing in Arizona law that provides an opportunity for a candidate to “rehabilitate” previously disqualified contribution slips. Put simply, Sanders said there is no legal remedy for him.

Bennett, however, told Capitol Media Services he is unlikely to leave it there and is weighing an appeal.

He conceded that there is, in fact, no law specifically authorizing what he hopes to accomplish, or even any legal precedent. But that, he said, does not mean what he wants is prohibited either.

Arizona law allows candidates for statewide and legislative office who agree not to take private donations to qualify for state dollars for their campaigns. Contenders also have to submit sufficient $5 contributions from backers to prove they have at least some modicum of support.

In the case of a gubernatorial candidate, that figure is 4,000.

Bennett, seeking to defeat incumbent Doug Ducey in the Republican gubernatorial primary, did not reach that goal by the deadline. But he convinced Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Connie Contes to give him more time after the online site for contributions was shut down several hours early.

That enabled him to reach the goal. But a random check of the contributions concluded some were invalid, leaving him short.

That resulted in this new lawsuit contending that the county officials had erred and asking that he be given a chance to prove that the signatures they disqualified are legitimate.

Sanders said there are procedures in state regulations for someone who has come up short to provide additional qualifying contribution slips. But that, she said, has to be by the deadline, which is long since passed.

“There does not appear to be a procedure for rehabilitating previously disqualified contribution slips and contributions,” the judge said. And that, said Sanders, leaves her legally powerless to give Bennett what he wants.

What’s at stake actually is far less than the $839,704. That’s because with the Aug. 28 primary long since over there is no way he could spend that now on his campaign.

But what Bennett wants is the $54,800 he loaned to his own campaign for the race.

Bennett told Capitol Media Services that what he wants — even if unprecedented — should be granted.

He pointed out that such a procedure already exists in cases when a signature on a mail-in early ballot does not match what county election officials have on file. Those voters are given a certain number of days, even after Election Day, to go to county offices to “rehabilitate” their signa