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.

Curfew order exempts businesses, specific activities

Phoenix Police stand in front of Phoenix Police Headquarters Saturday, May 30, in Phoenix, waiting for protesters marching to protest the death of George Floyd, a handcuffed back 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)
Phoenix Police stand in front of Phoenix Police Headquarters Saturday, May 30, in Phoenix, waiting for protesters marching to protest the death of George Floyd, a handcuffed back 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)

New details of the statewide emergency and curfew plan Gov. Doug Ducey announced today does not address whether it applies to peaceful assemblies, a constitutional right.

Ducey imposed the curfew soon and promised a more aggressive approach by law enforcement to contain the protests that engulfed major cities in Arizona and elsewhere in the country following the deaths of two African-Americans at the hands of police. Some protesters in Arizona destroyed property and looted stores. 

The Governor’s Office said the emergency declaration will not affect businesses, law enforcement, first responders or the media, while all others may not use, stand, sit, travel or be present on any public street or in any public place between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. every day for one week.

Doug Ducey
Doug Ducey

Ducey is not foreclosing the possibility of extending the curfew beyond June 8.

The curfew will also not affect those who travel to and from work or attend religious services; drivers of commercial trucks and delivery services; people who obtain food; those who care for a family member, friend, or animal; people who patronize or operate private businesses; and individuals who seek medical care or flee dangerous circumstances.

Those who violate the order will face a Class 1 misdemeanor, which means up to six months in jail and a $2,500 fine. It’s not immediately clear if the order exempts the homeless. 

Prominent GOP attorney Kory Langhofer said the order is narrowly-tailored and does not appear to be unconstitutional.  

“This seems to make it a misdemeanor to protest between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m., but rioting is the real concern and that’s already a felony,” Langhoder said. 

But the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona said the order “raises serious constitutional concerns.”

“Such actions restrict the rights of protesters and will undoubtedly lead to selective enforcement in Black and Brown communities,” the group said in a press release. “We urge the Governor and other elected officials across the state to seek a less restrictive approach and to meaningfully engage community leaders to address longstanding concerns with racist policing practices.” 

Representatives from the mayor’s office in both Phoenix and Tucson said they were unaware the order and curfew were coming and that they have mere hours to prepare to implement them. 

Annie DeGraw, the communications director for Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego, told the Arizona Republic, “We have not spoken to or heard from the governor on this or any other topic in a number of months.” 

Nathanial Sigal, a top official for Tucson Mayor Regina Romero, said Tucson officials also had not had contact with the governor or his team about this decision. 

As part of the declaration, Ducey expanded National Guard mobilization to “protect life and property throughout the state.” 

On Twitter, the governor wrote that the emergency declaration gives law enforcement an “additional tool to prevent the lawlessness we’ve seen here and in cities nationwide.”

Ducey said people who are “planning to riot, loot or cause damage and unrest” are subject to arrest. 

“The looting and violence we saw last night, especially in Scottsdale, simply cannot be tolerated. And it won’t be. Destruction of property does not qualify as freedom of expression,” Ducey said. 

It’s unclear how law enforcers will differentiate between a plan to protest and a plan to cause damage and “unrest,” a broad term that could encompass all kinds of activities, potentially including actions protected under the First Amendment. Interpretation of Ducey’s tweet could hinge on whether “cause damage and unrest” go hand in hand – meaning people plan to both cause damage and unrest – or whether planning “unrest” alone constitutes an arrestable offense.  

“Our office will continue to communicate with local law enforcement to provide whatever resources we can,” he said. 

Earlier today Ducey said he won’t tolerate looting and violence, and praised law enforcers’ “more aggressive approach” to confront the protests that erupted following the deaths of two African-American men at the hands of police.

In that earlier announcement he said he would consult with city leaders on a plan to move forward and this was that plan. 

“Now, more needs to be done, in more places around the state, to protect law and order and public safety. The looting and violence we saw last night, especially in Scottsdale, simply cannot be tolerated. And it won’t be,” he said earlier today. “Destruction of property does not qualify as freedom of expression.” 

The protests continue amid a pandemic that has resulted in more than 900 deaths so far in Arizona. Ducey said on May 28 that he does not plan to issue another stay-at-home order for COVID-19 reasons. But this is a different situation entirely. 

Democratic Senator seeks AG probe of prevailing wage ordinance

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A Democratic state senator has asked the Attorney General to investigate whether a Phoenix ordinance to force contractors on public works projects of more than $250,000 to match the wages of union workers in the area is lawful.

The Phoenix City Council on Wednesday rescinded what is known as a prevailing wage ordinance that a previous, more liberal council, passed in March.

Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego was displeased with Sen. Catherine Miranda intervening in the issue with what is known as a SB1487 complaint, which Gallego called a “bad tool” that will “always preempt cities.”

Catherine Miranda

She said Attorney General Kris Mayes is willing to discuss the ordinance with Phoenix without the SB1487 complaint.

An SB1487 complaint comes from a 2016 law that allows any legislator to have the attorney general investigate an action by a county or municipality if the legislator alleges it violates state law or the constitution. If a municipality or county is found in violation of the law, they have 30 days to fix their action, or they are at risk of losing a large chunk of their state funds.

Since the law passed, only Republicans have used it, usually to investigate liberal practices in Democrat-controlled cities like Tucson.

“We have a Democratic AG, Democratic governor, and we have to change the narrative. Prevailing wage is very important to my community,” Miranda said.

Although Miranda set the attorney general investigation into motion, she doesn’t oppose the ordinance.

She said before the city council meeting that she hoped the SB1487 complaint would urge the city council to hold off on their vote.

“Why try to undo it and then find out 30 days later that it’s illegal?” Miranda asked.

climate change, Gallego, Biden, drought, Colorado River, Center for Biological Diversity, extreme heat
Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego

Phoenix City Attorney Julie Kriegh said in March and again on Wednesday that the ordinance was potentially illegal because of the language and because it might have been enacted through improper procedure.

Gallego told audience members who spoke in support of the ordinance that they’ll benefit more if the city holds off on enacting the ordinance and making sure it is done properly.

Councilmembers Betty Guardado and Laura Pastor were not charmed by that sentiment.

Pastor mentioned the numerous times the council has discussed the issue and attempted to pass similar ordinances in recent years, pushing back against the idea that they need more time to consider it.

She adamantly opposed rescinding the ordinance.

“You’re gonna see right now, who really believes in prevailing wage, and who believes in the workers,” Pastor said before the vote. “My bottom line is … I put people over politics.”

Guardado also made her thoughts on the matter crystal clear.

“On March 22, a bipartisan majority of the Phoenix city council voted to pass the city’s first ever prevailing wage ordinance. We made history. But now that history is being repealed. People hide behind their concerns with the so-called process. The same process has led us to where we are today, with the country’s worst housing affordability crisis, and an astronomical rise in homelessness that anyone who drives on our city streets can see,” she said.

Guardado asked for this determination to be put in the attorney general’s hands and resolved in a month, not to have the ordinance repealed and reconsidered in December.

The motion to rescind passed 6-3 with council members Kesha Hodge Washington, Jim Waring, Ann O’Brien, Kevin Robinson, Debra Stark, and Gallego voting in favor of it. Council members Yassamin Ansari, Pastor and Guardado voted against it.

The council will reconsider the issue at their meeting in December. Guardado was reassured that union labor attorneys will be involved in the workshopping process.

The council has changed dramatically since March 22 when the ordinance was enacted. The ordinance passed with the support of Guardado, Ansari, Pastor and former councilmembers Carlos Garcia and Sal DiCiccio. Garcia was the most liberal member, DiCiccio the most conservative member.

In their place, the city elected Hodge Washington and Robinson, two much more moderate councilmembers who Gallego supported.

Dreamers benefit America, deserve protection


Since America’s founding, we have served as a safe harbor for countless generations of immigrants, offering the ability to work hard and pursue the American Dream. As a city, Phoenix encapsulates this tradition. Our community has enjoyed contributions from generations of immigrants as business owners, educators, and civic leaders.

Kate Gallego
Kate Gallego

In recent years, Phoenix has also served as a home to thousands of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program recipients. In fact, with 21,420 DACA recipients calling Phoenix home, we rank seventh in the nation for largest DACA population. These individuals are working hard and pursuing their dreams.

However, decisions at the federal level have jeopardized the future of our Dreamers. Over two years ago, the Trump administration rescinded the DACA program, despite the benefits the program and all that its recipients have brought our city and nation.

Since that decision, Dreamers have been caught in a seemingly endless game of legal limbo. Court injunctions have temporarily allowed protections to remain in place, but the future is uncertain. On November 12, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments regarding the legality of the Trump administration’s decision to rescind the program.

Our city and our nation are stronger when we embrace our diversity. We are also more economically robust. If DACA workers in Arizona were removed, it would cost our state over $1.3 billion in annual GDP. We would also lose their contribution to federal, state, and local taxes.

Dreamers are our students, teachers, neighbors, friends, and family. They are fellow Arizonans and fellow Americans.

Phoenix remains committed to our Dreamers, which is why we, along with 108 other cities, counties, and organizations, signed onto an amicus brief supporting our nation’s DACA recipients and objecting to the elimination of the program.

While we will do everything in our power here in Phoenix to protect our neighbors, ultimately permanent protections can only come from Washington. Instead of leaving DACA recipients in limbo at the mercy of the courts, Congress must pass a legislative solution.

Nearly nine in 10 Americans support protecting Dreamers. To abandon our DACA recipients now, in spite of who they are and everything they contribute, is to abandon so much of what has made our city, our state, and our country what it is.

Kate Gallego is the mayor of Phoenix.

Ducey announces completion of freeway that connects east, west valleys

Construction vehicles ride on the Ed Pastor Freeway in southwest Phoenix, which is set to open by the end of the year. (Photo courtesy Arizona Department of Transportation
Construction vehicles ride on the Ed Pastor Freeway in southwest Phoenix, which is set to open by the end of the year. (Photo courtesy Arizona Department of Transportation)

Gov. Doug Ducey announced the completion of the controversial 202 South Mountain Freeway decades in the making, but he couldn’t say when it will open.

The $1.7 billion project, the largest highway project in state history, was made possible by voters through the passage of Prop 300 in 1985 and Prop 400 in 2004. Construction finished three years early and saved taxpayers $100 million.

“As many more people choose Arizona we’re making sure our infrastructure remains some of the best in America,” Ducey said.  “The project was a massive undertaking that required decades of work for local, state, tribal, federal and private partners.”

The governor said he has budgeted an additional $6 million to hire new Department of Public Safety patrol officers to monitor the roadway, which is expected to have 117,000 cars a day. Department of Transportation Director John Halikowski said the freeway is expected to open by the end of the year after ADOT completes its last round of inspections.

The 22-mile freeway that connects the east and west valley, Ahwatukee Foothills and Laveen, is named after the late Congressman Ed Pastor, who made significant contributions to the state’s infrastructure.

Although it’s expected to open soon, it’s not finished. Some parts still need to be paved, an interchange at 32nd street needs to be built, as does a bridge for pedestrians and a walking and biking path in Ahwatukee.

Those final touches could cause parts of the freeway to be closed.

Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego highlighted the economic impact of the project and said that by better connecting the east and west valley, more people will be able to contribute to different parts of the area’s economy and give opportunities for more businesses to sprout up and benefit from the traffic.

“You will see benefits from this freeway whether you live in this section of Phoenix, or whether you’re coming from the east valley, or west,” Gallego said. “Whether you’re a pedestrian, a driver or a bus rider, you have something to celebrate in today’s bridge.”

The freeway stems from Interstate 10 in west Phoenix, and runs through parts of the Gila River Indian Community and communities nestled by South Mountain.

Ducey controls future of ‘dark money’ elections

Gov. Doug Ducey (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)
Gov. Doug Ducey (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)

Gov. Doug Ducey could upend elections in two major Arizona cities by effectively doing nothing.

Ducey has signed HB2153, legislation meant to undo an overwhelming March 13 Tempe vote that restricts “dark money” groups in city elections and a similar proposal many believe Phoenix voters will adopt in November.

But Ducey has yet to sign Tempe’s ballot measure, which would require independent expenditures over $1,000 to disclose their funding sources and which 91 percent of Tempe voters approved.

Tempe’s ballot initiative has been sitting on Ducey’s desk for several weeks awaiting his signature.

Tempe Councilwoman Lauren Kuby said before the ballot measure goes into effect, the governor must sign off on it, but it’s mostly a formality. His veto power does not extend to voter-approved initiatives.

However, there’s nothing stopping him from sitting on the measure until after the law goes into effect on August 3, or longer. And at that point, he could conceivably refuse to sign it because it conflicts with HB2153, an unprecedented move that would disavow the will of the voters, Kuby said.

Joel Edman, executive director of the Arizona Advocacy Network, said he doesn’t remember a governor ever refusing to sign an initiative. But he added that it took Ducey 14 months to sign a measure Tempe voters approved in 2016 that would reduce the amount an individual could give to a campaign. Opponents of that measure argued it conflicted with state law on campaign spending limitations.

“It’s not clear if that delay was just an oversight or if they were trying to find a legal reason to object it,” he said. “What’s interesting is that the Constitution does say that charter amendments have to be consistent with state law. But the area where charter cities have the clearest authorities to regulate and make their own local rules is in elections.”

Kuby said if Ducey refuses to sign the dark money measure, Tempe will probably challenge his decision. But she’s hopeful the city won’t have to resort to that.

“It’s rare that voters will come out 91 percent in favor of an issue. That shows that there is bipartisan support for this and for the governor to go against the people is something, especially in an election year, he likely doesn’t want to do,” she said.

Ducey spokesman Daniel Scarpinato said it’s too early to tell what the governor’s ultimate decision will be, adding that the governor will want to review the issue in detail and comb through the language of the voter-approved measure and HB2153 before making a decision.

However, even if Ducey does approve Tempe’s ballot measure, and later approves Phoenix’s, the two cities will likely still see themselves embroiled in a lawsuit.

But Edman said the question of whether the Legislature or cities have a final say in election matters could surface in a number of ways.

HB2153 would prohibit municipalities and counties from requiring that nonprofits in good standing with the Internal Revenue Service register as political action committees. It would also preclude nonprofits making independent expenditures in local elections from having to identify their funding sources.

Kuby said HB2153 should not apply to charter cities, like Tempe and Phoenix, because the Arizona Constitution gives the state’s 19 charter cities the power to regulate local elections, which the Arizona Supreme Court has ruled is a matter of strictly local concern.

Kuby said the city is ready to fight HB2153 in court.

“Democracy ain’t cheap and we will fight for the rights of our voters,” Kuby said. “I know that Phoenix will be right alongside us.”

Phoenix City Councilwoman Kate Gallego said the council’s decision to send the measure to the ballot was made knowing full well that if the Phoenix ballot measure is approved and Ducey signs it, it will conflict with state law. She said the city will also take the matter to court.

“That’s where we will continue the debate,” she said.

But Edman said a lawmaker could lodge a complaint under SB1487, which allows any state legislator to ask the Attorney General’s Office to investigate an ordinance enacted by a city to determine whether it complies with state law. The city has 30 days to come into compliance or risk losing state-shared revenue if the AG finds the ordinance violates state law.

And dark money groups that the cities are trying to enforce their laws against could also raise the question in court, he said.

“One way or another, I think the cities will win. It would be a real about face for the court to say that cities have a say in election matters, except in this instance,” Edman said.

Ducey could have sole discretion over a large pot of state, federal aid funds

FILE - In this March 23, 2020 file photo, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, right, and Arizona Department of Health Services Director Dr. Cara Christ, left, provide an update on the coronavirus during a news conference at the Arizona State Public Health Laboratory in Phoenix. Ducey is urging Arizonans to be understanding and reasonable as people and businesses face April 1 due dates for bills such as mortgages, rent, utilities and internet service. Ducey posted on Twitter that "the world has changed since March 1" and that bills previously paid routinely "are now a struggle for many people and small businesses." (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)
FILE – In this March 23, 2020 file photo, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, right, and Arizona Department of Health Services Director Dr. Cara Christ, left, provide an update on the coronavirus during a news conference at the Arizona State Public Health Laboratory in Phoenix. Ducey is urging Arizonans to be understanding and reasonable as people and businesses face April 1 due dates for bills such as mortgages, rent, utilities and internet service. Ducey posted on Twitter that “the world has changed since March 1” and that bills previously paid routinely “are now a struggle for many people and small businesses.” (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

The passage of a federal stimulus package to help state and local governments weather the COVID-19 pandemic gives Gov. Doug Ducey discretion over at least part of a $1.5 billion sum — adding to tens of millions he already had at his disposal as part of an emergency spending plan passed by the Legislature in March.

At that time, some state lawmakers on both sides of the aisle were uneasy over the size of the checks they were cutting to the governor with little direction on how to spend them. Now, the amount of money at Ducey’s disposal to help mitigate the fallout of the virus has increased significantly — and Arizona, like other states, will be in the dark about how this money can be used until late April, when the federal government allocates the funding.

Already, this has created some confusion. And while the state might have to wait the better part of a month for further instruction from the feds, nonprofits, schools and other organizations that stand to receive aid say the need for more resources is severe.

“We’re seeing double or sometimes triple the usual demand in some areas,” said Angie Rodgers, who heads the Association of Arizona Food Banks. “To sustain that demand every month is going to be a real challenge. We’re going to need the government to step in.”

The Governor’s Office declined to comment on their proposed spending priorities.


When state lawmakers worked a series of late nights in March in an effort to pass a pared-down budget and a pair of $50 million and $55 million appropriations to help the state fight the novel coronavirus, some on both the left and right questioned whether they gave Ducey too much discretion over emergency funds.

On March 12, Sen. David Livingston, R-Peoria, nearly derailed a fast-tracked bill that guaranteed the Department of Health Services continues to exist for another eight years and moved $55 million from the state’s rainy-day fund to an emergency fund Ducey or the department’s  director, Cara Christ, could use to pay for public health emergencies.

David Livingston
David Livingston

Although Livingston ended up voting for the bill, he objected strenuously to the idea that the Legislature would hurry late on a Thursday to authorize $55 million with few restrictions, other than requiring that it be spent on public health and that Ducey or Christ notify the Joint Legislative Budget Committee when they planned to spend the dollars.

“I’m literally reading this as we’re handing the governor and the director a $50 million checkbook, and (saying) ‘notify us if you’re going to use it,’” Livingston said on the Senate floor.

Democrats in the House, meanwhile, were skeptical of the second $50 million appropriation, a key portion of a bipartisan budget deal struck in the Senate. That $50 million was to be used for housing assistance, homelessness prevention, food banks and economic assistance for small businesses, but House Democrats said the budget language gave Ducey too much discretion and publicly griped about the willingness of their Senate colleagues to cut Ducey a check.

“I’m always concerned when it’s up to one person,” said House Minority Leader Charlene Fernandez, D-Yuma.

House Democrats wanted to prescribe specific uses of the fund, affixing a multitude of hostile amendments to the budget deal that would direct some of those millions to specific programs — the Housing Trust Fund, for example — and to help specific groups of people — small business owners, people who use food stamps, and so on.

Pamela Powers Hannley
Pamela Powers Hannley

“We’re getting up to the $100 million number with no plan behind it,” Rep. Pamela Powers Hannley, a Tucson Democrat, said at the time.

And now that number, at least in the aggregate, far exceeds $100 million. With the passage of the CARES Act, the third COVID-19 response package to come out of Congress, the state might have more than $1 billion at its disposal, according to a preliminary estimate from the Joint Legislative Budget Committee.

The state is estimated to receive $4.2 billion in total, JLBC predicts. According to the bill, that money can only be used for “necessary expenditures” related to the pandemic. That $4.2 billion will be divvied  among the state and local governments, agencies and other funds and grants.

When the feds distribute the money in late April, Ducey will have some amount of discretion over at least $1.5 billion of it, which must be spent on coronavirus relief, and $68 million as part of an education stabilization fund that he can distribute at will.

When Ducey spends that money, his office will have to keep receipts for an eventual federal audit. But for now, he and other governors don’t yet have directions from the federal government on how they can spend it.

Arturo Perez, director of state services for the National Conference of State Legislatures, said governors should expect definitive guidelines, rules and regulations from the feds on or before April 24, when monies are expected to be given to states. Perez said states have been given vague categories like health care infrastructure and facilities, medical and sanitation supplies and first responder overtime — and it’s as of yet unclear whether states can use that money to offset declining

That’s something the JLBC and other states are still working to clarify, as they could interpret “necessary expenditures” and costs incurred from the pandemic to include lost revenue that came as a result of it. Perez said if that coming federal guidance isn’t favorable to that interpretation, states dependent on general sales tax could suffer.

“There is nothing, nothing comparable to what’s happening,” Perez said. “No one knows what folks are spending it on or what they plan to spend it on.”


As he begins spending the money provided by the state and federal relief packages, Ducey has frustrated non-governmental organizations, local jurisdictions and even some in his own executive branch by not communicating ahead of time.

On the morning of March 30, the Arizona Housing Coalition was set to begin a conference call with representatives from the Department of Housing, the Department of Economic Services, landlords, homelessness advocates and other housing stakeholders on how best to use the       $50 million legislative appropriation.

Right before they began the call, they saw an announcement from Ducey’s office: $6.7 million of that $50 million was now off the table, allocated toward food banks and quarantine housing at homeless shelters. Nonprofit leaders who have been working on housing and food insecurity for years are frustrated by far-from-ideal coordination and transparency from the Governor’s Office, Arizona Housing Coalition Executive Director Joan Serviss said.

“We know that this $50 million has to do a lot of different things,” she said. “Fifty million dollars is a lot of money, but it has to go by so fast.”

Housing advocates would like to see more money available for the Department of Housing’s eviction prevention pilot program, which started with $2 million last spring to provide emergency grants and case management to families falling behind on their rent. Through a March 24 executive order, Ducey mandated a 120-day stay on enforcement of evictions for tenants who lose income or are forced to self-quarantine because of the pandemic.

But that order doesn’t prevent landlords from proceeding with evictions and charging tenants with associated legal fees. It just prevents constables and sheriff’s deputies from physically enforcing evictions.

“If there’s a moratorium on evictions, are we just delaying the impact for 120 days?” Serviss asked.

Nonprofit organizations serving people experiencing homelessness are seeking ways to expand temporary shelter space and ensure homeless Arizonans are able to get safe transportation to receive COVID-19 tests and treatment. Veterans Memorial Coliseum, which served as a temporary shelter for Hurricane Katrina refugees and hosts an annual resource fair for homeless veterans, could be an option if the Phoenix Suns and Mercury are willing to make exceptions in their contracts with the Coliseum.


On March 30, Ducey announced a $1 million appropriation toward food banks across the state. The $290,000 earmarked for southern Arizona just about covers the cost of shifting the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona’s five resource centers and one farmers’ market outside and complying with new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, but doesn’t come close to covering increased demand for food, CEO Michael McDonald said.

The largest resource center in southern Arizona usually helps about 9,000 households in a month. It’s now on track to exceed 18,000, and staff who keep a database of families seeking help report that they’ve never before seen nearly one-third of the people seeking food.

“They’ve never needed to show up before,” McDonald said.

Every single dollar the state or private donors can provide helps. The organization suspended its community food drives out of caution and is focusing on purchasing and distributing frozen food provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and fresh produce from Mexico.

Government funding usually makes up about 20% to 25% of the food bank’s funding, with charitable giving picking up the bulk of the budget. As the economy worsens, food bank administrators question whether they’ll receive additional government support.

“People are really stretching and giving us funds now, but will they still be here six months from now when the economic effects linger?” McDonald asked.

And there’s more than just a need for food, said Tyson Nansel, communications director for United Food Bank. At United, much of the money that Ducey authorized March 30 will be used to pay for transportation and refrigeration — and possibly even staffing.

“We’re doing this almost at max capacity,” he said. “If our staff comes down ill from this, we are looking at hiring temporary workers to help fill the slots, in case this gets more serious. But it’s hard to find a Class A driver to take a semi out to rural Arizona right now.”

While the March 30 appropriation will help with immediate needs, uncertainty about the long-term demand for food banks — which has been astronomical since the virus began its spread — means that more money will likely be necessary, said Rodgers, of the Association of Arizona Food Banks.

“We’re grateful for the support we’ve received,” she said. “There will be more cost in the supply chain that we will look to cover.”


And then there’s the matter of the education stabilization fund, around $68 million that Ducey can give to “local education agencies, higher education institutions, or other education-related entities,” according to JLBC.

That’s a broad list of recipients with no shortage of needs — schools are having to figure out how to maintain previous levels of education while delivering course materials in alternative formats, whether that means online or from school bus drivers dropping off packets to students’ houses.

Sylvia Allen
Sylvia Allen

Ducey should consider using at least of some of the $68 million in discretionary education spending he’ll receive from the federal stimulus package to pay for summer school, Senate Education Committee Chair Sylvia Allen said.

Allen, a Snowflake Republican, has been closely watching as schools in her northern Arizona district adapt to sending written packets and meals home to students, and as her grandchildren who live in the Valley begin taking classes online. It’s clear that at least some Arizona students will need extra instruction over the summer to keep pace during the next school year, she

“If you had a student that was behind to begin with, I’m sure this has been quite a shock to change how you learn,” Allen said. “I’m talking about full-blown come into school half a day and do core subjects.”

These fluctuations could aggravate the state’s achievement gap, a measure of the disparity in education achievement between wealthier and poorer students, said Rep. Reginald Bolding of Laveen, the top Democrat on the House Education Committee.

“A crisis like this will only increase the gap if measures aren’t taken,” Bolding said. “We should invest in technology for students, but also for teachers. We don’t want to take for granted that teachers have laptops and WiFi in their homes.”

There’s the additional challenge of ensuring that these alternative delivery methods are up to snuff, especially if they’re coming from third-party online education providers.

“The worst case scenario for us is to dump millions of dollars into a provider that’s going to produce inadequate results,” Bolding said.

The discretion Ducey holds over how to spend hundreds of millions of dollars particularly troubled Democrats who already fear that the governor isn’t taking the coronavirus criss as seriously as he

Fernandez, the House minority leader, drew a comparison between Ducey and the big-city mayors – Kate Gallego of Phoenix and Regina Romero of Tucson – who have emerged as some of the most vocal critics of the governor’s response to the

“Those mayors, they’re not making decisions based on political whims, they’re listening to experts, listening to the science,” said Fernandez, who agrees with Romero and Gallego that the governor’s response to the virus – whether that means allocating funding or shutting down businesses – should be more aggressive.

“I’d rather look back and say we did too much,” Fernandez said.

Ducey lifts Covid restrictions, but city officials object

Arizona Republican Gov. Doug Ducey arrives for a news conference to talk about the latest Arizona COVID-19 information Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, Pool)
Arizona Republican Gov. Doug Ducey arrives for a news conference to talk about the latest Arizona Covid information Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, Pool)

Declaring the Covid pandemic under control and the need for restrictions over in Arizona, Gov. Doug Ducey is abolishing all the limits that still remain on businesses and public gatherings.

And he is eliminating – and once again nullifying – the ability of local communities to maintain their own mask mandates.

In a new executive order March 25, the governor dissolved all the limits he had previously imposed on how businesses need to operate. That dissolves any remaining requirements to limit the number of customers to ensure social distancing and to require that staff and patrons wear masks.

Instead, everything that used to be a mandate is now simply a “recommendation.”

That means businesses can – but are not required – to have their own mask mandates and to refuse service to anyone who does not comply.

That also means that all the music venues and bars that have been closed are free to open their doors again. And here, too, while there is a suggestion to maintain social distancing and masks, that is no longer a requirement.

In issuing the new order, Ducey acknowledged that there have been nearly 940,000 cases of Covid in the state, including 16,874 deaths. But he also cited the fact that the number of new cases has been declining for 10 weeks and hospitalizations are at their lowest level since the end of September.

At the same time, he said, more than 1.9 million Arizonans have gotten at least one dose of the vaccine, with almost 1.2 million who are now fully inoculated. And he said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ranks Arizona as among the best states in getting the vaccine to those who are most vulnerable.

All that, he said, leads to his latest order.

“The measures put in place last summer allowed Arizona to fight back COVID-19,” the governor said in a prepared statement. “Today, we are in a different spot, and we also are a lot smarter.”

None of this affects schools, which have been reopening with requirements for teachers and students to wear masks. A spokesman for the Department of Health Services said those orders remain in effect.

That pleased state Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman.

“Masking is one of the top mitigation strategies for safe in-person learning as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” she said in a statement. But Hoffman was clearly less impressed than Ducey with the number of Arizonans who already have been inoculated.

“With only one in four Arizonans vaccinated, I encourage everyone to continue wearing a mask when in public spaces,” she said in a statement.

The decision to override local control got the predictable angry response from the mayors of the state’s two largest cities.

Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego said Ducey ignores the fact that the surge in June was curbed only when the governor relaxed his own opposition to masks and agreed to let communities impose their own mandates, many of whom did.

“To abandon precautions now is like spiking the ball on the 5-yard line,” she said in a prepared statement, pointing out the new variants of the virus.

“The risk of another surge is real,” Gallego continued. “The governor clearly cares a lot less about the people of Arizona than his political future.”

In Tucson, the governor’s move could lead to more than talk. An aide to Mayor Regina Romero said there already are discussions with City Attorney Mike Rankin about filing suit to allow the community to keep its own masking requirements.

This isn’t the first time Tucson has made that threat. In fact, it was only after Romero threatened litigation last year that Ducey relented and agreed to permit local options.

The new order does not strip cities of all of their rights. They maintain the ability to require the use of masks in public buildings and on public transit.

Ducey’s decision to lift restrictions comes as state lawmakers, many frustrated with the limits the governor imposed on individual activity – including at one time a stay-at-home order and the closure of all businesses he said were not essential – are moving to exercise their right to terminate the emergency entirely or, at the very least, amend the Arizona Constitution to limit how long future governors can impose emergency declarations without legislative approval.

Yet, while Ducey is lifting all the restrictions, he is not ending the emergency he declared slightly more than a year ago. That gives him the right to reimpose any of the restrictions any time he wants.

What that also does is preserve his right to preclude cities, towns and counties from imposing their own more restrictive requirements.

It also ensures continued flow of federal dollars for things like free vaccines and testing. And it also keeps in place an order shielding certain medical workers from lawsuits for mistakes made in diagnosing and treating Covid victims.

While businesses will no longer be at risk of being cited or shut down for not enforcing distancing and mask wearing, Ducey said he is confident people “will continue to practice the fundamentals and act responsibly as we gradually get back to normal.”

In fact, the state Department of Health Services clearly does not believe it is advisable for people and businesses to go back to life as it was before.

Hours after the governor issued his executive order, the agency put out its own recommendations.

For individuals, the health department still thinks that people should wear masks when they go out to restaurants, bars and nightclubs. There also is the usual advisory to wash hands often, especially after leaving, and, when possible, to use “touchless” payment methods.

The health department also wants businesses to provide physical separation between unrelated parties, whether by a barrier like plexiglass or six-foot distance and to limit large parties to no more than 10.

Salad bars and buffets also are again allowed, though the agency asks that these be limited.

And while dancing is no longer off limits, the agency wants to “encourage” those who get out on the floor to remain at least six feet from others.




Ducey vetoes statewide mask mandate

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 refused Wednesday to impose new restrictions or mandates on individuals even as his own health chief warned of an increasing number of Arizonans becoming infected with COVID-19.

The governor dismissed the idea of a statewide requirement for people to wear masks while outdoors, calling it unnecessary given various local ordinances. Nor did he clamp down on existing occupancy limits at bars, restaurants, gyms or movie theaters or seek to curb their hours of operation.

In fact, the one key announcement he made Wednesday was to provide $25 million to hospitals. But that is designed to allow them to hire more staff to care for those who become ill and give bonuses to existing employees.

And given the picture painted by Cara Christ, they will need it.

The health director said more than 10% of the tests conducted last week in 13 of the state’s 15 counties have come back positive for the virus, with only Pima and La Paz below that figure. And the rate of infection is above 100 per 100,000 residents throughout the state.

On top of that, Christ said, the number of COVID-19 patients in intensive-care units also is on the rise.

“These metrics are heading in the wrong direction,” she said.

So what works? Christ put in a plug for masks based on new research by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We know now that masks provide more protection than previously thought,” she said.

But Ducey said he has no intent of imposing a statewide mandate for people to wear masks when they are outside, even following pleas from state schools chief Kathy Hoffman and Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego.

“I want people to wear a mask,” the governor said, “Masks work.”

He said, though, a statewide mandate is unnecessary because local mandates already cover about 90% of the population. And Ducey said that the efforts by his administration to convince people to mask up “has got the maximum amount of compliance.”

Then there’s the issue of enforcement of a statewide mandate given the kickback from some communities and counties that have either rescinded their mask requirements or never put them in at all amid public opposition.

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

But the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation says just two thirds of Arizonans are masking up in situations where they are exposed to others.

And there’s something else.

IHME predicts that doing nothing — meaning no change in the law — will result in about 118 deaths a day by the end of January. By contrast, the researchers say that could be cut in half with a statewide mandate.

Ducey did announce he wants Christ and her department to work with officials at the state’s three main airports — Sky Harbor, Mesa Gateway and Tucson International — on what he called “inbound messaging” for passengers arriving from elsewhere “around the importance of wearing masks and information on where travelers can get tested.” He also wants the airports to set up on-premises testing sites available to travelers when they land.

But here, too, there are no mandates on visitors to get tested — or what happens if a test comes back positive. Instead, the governor said he anticipates that people will do the right thing on their own.

“We believe that if there’s testing that’s available and it’s easy with a rapid response, we’ll have more participation,” Ducey said.

“I have a lot of faith in Americans that if they realize that if they were positive or exposed to the virus in a significant way that they would quarantine,” he continued. “We just want to give them a way to know that.”

Ducey did agree with Christ’s assessment about things not getting better in Arizona any time soon.

“That’s not on the horizon,” he said, saying the state and the nation remain in a public health emergency. “And getting back to normal isn’t in the cards right now.”

Yet Ducey made another push for getting kids back into the classroom.

“I think children should be in school,” the governor said.

“I want parents to have options,” he continued. “And one of those options should be in-person learning.”

What it comes down to, Ducey said, is what he believes is in the best interests of children, even as schools have wrestled with how to provide instruction and keep the youngsters and staffers — and, by extension, their families — safe.

“Despite the best efforts of teachers and parents, no one can argue: Kids have already missed out on far too much learning due to this pandemic,” he said.

The governor said that having schools open for learning does not mean compromising safety.

“They’re already required to have mask policies,” he said. And Ducey said that Christ will be issuing an emergency directive designed to ensure those policies are followed not just in the classroom but also on school grounds and buses.

Christ also addressed the news on the national level about progress in developing a vaccine, saying she is anticipating having some available by the beginning of next year. But that, she said, will require navigating some logistical hurdles.

One is that this is going to be a two-dose series. That means whatever version someone gets the first time has to be the same version for a second shot anywhere from 21 to 28 days later.

And that, she said, will require the ability for her agency to call people back to remind them of the need for that second dose.

Governor, Phoenix mayor urge getting federally approved ID

Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego ‘fesses up August 29 to not yet having obtained an enhanced Arizona driver's license that will become necessary to board aircraft and enter federal buildings next year. But Gov. Doug Ducey said he already has his. (Photo by Howard Fischer/Capitol Media Services)
Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego ‘fesses up August 29 to not yet having obtained an enhanced Arizona driver’s license that will become necessary to board aircraft and enter federal buildings next year. But Gov. Doug Ducey said he already has his. (Photo by Howard Fischer/Capitol Media Services)

Gov. Doug Ducey says he already has his.

Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego admits she does not.

What we’re talking about is an enhanced Arizona driver’s license, one that will allow people to board aircraft after October 1, 2020.

That’s the last date the Transportation Security Agency will accept regular state-issued licenses and IDs to get to the boarding gates at airports. After that, those without the new identification cards, marked with a gold star in the upper right corner, will need a passport or military ID.

And it’s not just about being able to fly. Without identification the government considers acceptable, federal buildings also will be off limits.

The mayor’s admission she had not gotten around to it came August 29 as Ducey and Gallego gathered the media at Sky Harbor International Airport to remind them of the federal law. They also provided a road map of sorts of what it takes to get the new IDs.

But it’s more involved than simply dropping in at the local Motor Vehicle Division office.

The requirement is an outgrowth of the Real ID Act, enacted by Congress and the Bush administration after the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon by terrorists who hijacked aircraft. That law directed the Department of Homeland Security to come up with requirements for secure documents for everything from getting into certain federal buildings to boarding commercial aircraft.

The agency’s answer was to recognize driver’s licenses only from states that follow certain procedures, including verifying the documents offered by the applicant to prove identity to ensuring that the license itself cannot be altered.

Arizona has, to say the least, been slow to comply. In fact, state legislators, reacting to concerns about creating a national ID card, specifically voted in 2008 to bar the Department of Transportation from creating a Real ID-compliant license.

It took until 2015 and threats by Homeland Security to stop honoring Arizona licenses for lawmakers here to finally come around. The new licenses first became available in March 2016.

Getting one of the new licenses requires gathering up some documents, starting with a passport or birth certificate. But applicants also need something with a Social Security number and two documents with a home address, like utility bills or bank statements, to prove Arizona residency.

That last requirement can be a bit of a problem for those who get all their mail at a post office box and do not have utility bills with the service address.

The next step is to go to an MVD office or one of the third-party license providers. But walking in without an appointment, which can be made online, can lead to sitting around and a lot of waiting.

It’s also possible to fill out the forms online ahead of showing up.

Be prepared to pay an extra $25 for the enhanced license.

The other downside, if you will, is these new licenses are good for only eight years. By contrast, once someone gets a regular Arizona license it is good until the 65th birthday, though there is a requirement to get a new photo every 12 years.

And what of Gallego’s lack of action to date?

“I have been traveling with my passport,’’ she said. And a passport will remain a viable form of identification beyond October 1, 2020.

Ducey, for his part, boasted of already having his new ID.

“It took me 14 minutes and 38 seconds to receive it,’’ he said.

Actually, that’s not entirely accurate: While completing the application can be done in that short a time, especially with an appointment, it can take up to two weeks to actually get the new enhanced license in the mail.

For the moment, Arizonans have to take the governor’s word that he does, in fact, have the new ID, as he declined to pull it out of his wallet to prove it.

“I do not want you showing up at my house,’’ he quipped.

Groups weigh in on case to allow online petitions for ballot measures

The way the mayors of Tucson, Phoenix and Flagstaff see it, when the state’s founders required initiative petitions to be filed as “sheets,” they didn’t necessarily mean paper.

In a new legal filing, the attorney for the mayors is telling the Arizona Supreme Court that nowhere in the Arizona Constitution does it require that signatures be gathered on something people can hold in their hands. And attorney Shawn Aiken said what that means is that the court is free — and his clients believe should — give the go-ahead for groups seeking to put issues on the November ballot to use an electronic system for collecting signatures.

The mayors aren’t the only ones urging the justices to permit online signature gathering, at least during the pandemic.

Regina Romero
Regina Romero

In a separate legal filing, the attorney for the Professional Fire Fighters of Arizona and others is arguing that requiring petition circulators to make face-to-face contact with would be signers both endangers the firefighters and paramedics who might be called on to treat these people if they contract COVID-19. And if nothing else, Danny Adelman said if circulators decide to try to continue making personal contact they will be using up gloves and masks that are in short supply for the first responders who need them.

For the moment, the question of the future of initiative campaigns this year rests with the state’s high court. That’s because the only other challenge to the requirement for in-person petition circulation was tossed April 17 by a federal judge, though an appeal is planned.

Central to the case is the constitutional right of voters to propose their own laws and constitutional amendments.

Putting issues on the ballot requires the valid signatures of a certain number of voters, with the total based on the turnout in the last gubernatorial election. This year that figure is 237,645 for statutory changes and 356,467 for constitutional amendments.

None of that is in dispute. Nor is the July 2 deadline for submission.

What is in dispute is the form of those petitions given the problems in the traditional face-to-face methods of collection.

The Arizona Constitution requires “each sheet” containing signatures to be attached to a full and correct copy of the proposal. It also says that “every sheet of every such petition” must be verified by the person who circulated it.

Coral Evans (Photo by Jenna Miller)
Coral Evans (Photo by Jenna Miller)

Aiken, representing Tucson Mayor Regina Romero, Kate Gallego of Phoenix and Coral Evans of Flagstaff, said there is no mention of the word “paper.”

What makes that significant, he told the justices, is that the framers of the Arizona Constitution did, in fact, use the word “paper” when setting out the requirements for recall petitions.

“Where, as here, different language is used in different constitutional provisions, we must infer that a different meaning was intended,” Aiken wrote. “Under a straightforward reading of the text …therefore, the constitution permits initiative signatures on both electronic and paper ‘sheets.’ ”

Aiken does not argue that the people who crafted the constitution when Arizona became a state in 1912 foresaw the internet. But he said it would be wrong to interpret the requirement for petitions on “sheets” to mean on a piece of paper someone can hold.

Kate Gallego
Kate Gallego

“I think that’s over-reading the text” of the constitution,” Aiken told Capitol Media Services.

“A sheet in front of me — and I’m looking at a PDF document in front of me right now — is something physical,” he said “It’s bits and bytes.”

Aiken said his reading makes the most sense.

“The court has always said we’re supposed to liberally construe the right to initiative,” he said. “And it would be cramped and antiquated to say that today it has to be paper when they didn’t use the term ‘paper.’ ”

He said it’s no different than federal courts concluding that when the U.S. Constitution guarantees freedom of the press that the founders also intended to cover things that didn’t exist at the time, like TV and radio.

That isn’t the way the state sees it.

In his own legal filing, Assistant Attorney General Drew Ensign told the justices that the Arizona Constitution means what it says: that every sheet of every petition must be verified by the person who witnesses the signature, with the circulators swearing that each name “was signed in the presence of the affiant.”

And Ensign said while the right to propose initiatives is important, that doesn’t mean the justices should — or could — allow for electronic filing of signatures when the constitution mandates the use of physical sheets.

“This court has recognized the critical importance of this provision, and further explained (in another case) that if it becomes too inconvenient for present-day operation, the remedy is to amend it — not to ignore it,” he wrote.

Attorney Timothy LaSota, filing a legal brief for the Arizona Free Enterprise Club, sided with Ensign, telling the justices that granting the petition by initiative groups to allow online signatures would mean the court would be “invading powers properly reserved for the legislative branch.”

And attorney Dennis Wilenchik, repeating an argument he made in federal court on behalf of the Arizona Republican Party, said the E-Qual system used by candidates to get their signatures “has grave security problems.”

Adelman, in siding with initiative circulators who want to use that system, approaches the issue from a different perspective: the fact that COVID-19 has required social distancing and limiting person-to-person contact.

“It is known and accepted that this is the only way to ‘flatten the curve,’ to avoid inundating our healthcare system, and to save lives,” he wrote on behalf of not just the Professional Fire Fighters but also Bradley Cohen, the battalion chief of the Arizona Fire & Medical Authority which provides fire and emergency services for Sun City West, Sun Lakes, Tonopah and Wittman.

Adelman also represents former state Health Director Will Humble who now is executive director of the Arizona Public Health Association.

He said his clients recognize that some essential operations will continue and that first responders and health care providers will continue to be exposed to COVID-19 at a far greater rate than other professions. But Adelman told the justices they can do something about that by granting the petition of initiative groups to permit online signatures.

“It is simply a fact that requiring in-person circulation of petitions cannot occur while at the same time practicing effective physical distancing,” he wrote. “When there is a readily available system that would enable petitions to be signed online, it would be unconscionable to expose these individuals — and their families — to increased risk.”


Old tactics, new territory as lawmakers embrace partisan COVID-19 framing

From left in this photo from Rep. Anthony Kern’s Twitter account are Kern, R-Glendale, Sen. David Gowan, R-Sierra Vista, Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley, and Sen. Sonny Borrelli, R-Lake Havasu City, as they point towards a clock at a Phoenix restaurant to mock a Phoenix order for restaurants to close at 8 a.m. to lessen the spread of COVID-19.
From left in this photo from Rep. Anthony Kern’s Twitter account are Kern, R-Glendale, Sen. David Gowan, R-Sierra Vista, Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley, and Sen. Sonny Borrelli, R-Lake Havasu City, as they point towards a clock at a Phoenix restaurant to mock a Phoenix order for restaurants to close at 8 p.m. to lessen the spread of COVID-19.

In any other week, Rep. Anthony Kern’s dinner choices wouldn’t have mattered to anyone but the most fervent crusader against lobbyist influence. This week, depending on who you ask, he’s either a hero fighting government overreach or the face of irresponsibility. 

The Glendale Republican and the lobbyist who bought his dinner on Tuesday night, former House staffer Brett Mecum, headed over to the Capital Grille to meet up with three other Republican lawmakers: Rep. Mark Finchem of Oro Valley and Sens. David Gowan of Sierra Vista and Sonny Borrelli of Lake Havasu City. 

The four crowded close, grinned broadly and pointed up at a row of clocks showing the time: 8:15 p.m., 15 minutes after Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego had ordered all restaurants to close to diners to alleviate the spread of COVID-19.

“It’s 8:15 p.m……. Do you know where Phoenix Mayor @KateWGallego is?” Kern tweeted, adding hashtags for “resist” and “freedom of assembly.” 

Anthony Kern
Anthony Kern

Kern has since deleted the tweet, which encapsulates the diverging political philosophies at the Capitol that have made governing in the era of coronavirus so difficult. The GOP-led House and Senate consider the virus serious enough that the House suspended its rules to allow remote voting and both chambers are hurrying to pass budget bills this session.

But Republican lawmakers, including some in leadership, have also dismissed calls to close schools as “pure politics” and orders to shut restaurants as government overreach, theorized that the illness will disappear once the weather warms up and shared conspiracies that the “deep state” is using the coronavirus to expand government’s power. 

“Lighten up guys, it’s a little humor,” Kern said. “It’s 8:15. What, the virus only comes out after 8 o’clock? I mean, come on.”

During floor debate in the House on Wednesday, Rep. Travis Grantham, R-Gilbert, referred to the small number of people in Arizona who have tested positive for the virus so far, expressing that figure as an infinitesimal percentage.  

So far, only 15 people have tested positive in the state — but more than 100 tests are pending, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services. And that doesn’t capture all the people who might need tests but can’t access them, for any number of reasons.  

“It takes an immense amount of privilege to minimize how devastating coronavirus is,” Rep. Athena Salman, D-Tempe, said to Grantham. 

Senate Minority Leader David Bradley put it differently. 

David Bradley
David Bradley

“They’re nuts,” he said. “Put that down. It’s sad that science has no standing with some of these people.” 

The partisan dimensions of the issue go beyond Twitter. Despite the high stakes and repeated pleas for bipartisanship, negotiations over a spate of emergency bills to help Arizonans respond to the virus are familiar, if not downright routine: Democrats make demands and take advantage of brief political opportunities, Republicans brand those demands as unreasonable, a clash ensues, the dust settles and the cycle repeats. 

 “Is there bipartisanship? Absolutely not,” said House Minority Leader Charlene Fernandez, D-Yuma. She said that Republicans have brushed aside a list of Democratic policy prescriptions that bolster social safety nets. 

“They’re calling this ‘pork.’ I know what pork is, and this is about our constituents, human lives,” Fernandez continued. 

The playing field appears more level in the Senate, a rare feat. In the upper chamber, two Republican senators have pledged not to return for the duration of the outbreak, opening a window for Senate Democrats to push their demands and for Republican leadership to embrace a spirit of bipartisanship. 

Senate President Karen Fann, R-Prescott, appealed to Senate Democrats and Republicans to put politics aside in the face of an impending crisis, coming together as a Senate to pass a strong budget that includes some requests from Democrats. In that light, she introduced a bill to address one request from Democrats: allowing workers to receive unemployment benefits if their working hours are slashed but they’re not formally laid off. 

“I’m hoping that our Senate members, Rs and Ds alike, are going to step up, show some leadership, show responsibility and get something good together,” she said. “If it’s different than what they have (in the House), we can get it out of here and send it over there and say ‘OK, here’s what we’ve got.’” 

But the partisanship of normal budget negotiations doesn’t just go away, even in extraordinary situations. Senate Republicans returned to the floor on Wednesday to adjourn for the day while their Democratic colleagues were still in a caucus meeting receiving a briefing on budget bills, which most rank-and-file members — and Democratic policy staff — hadn’t had a chance to read. 

Senate Republicans including Sen. J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, questioned the need to even wait for Democrats to consent to the bills proposed Wednesday. If the minority caucus isn’t on board by the end of the week, Republican leadership should just put the bills up for votes and let them fail if they’re going to fail, he said. 

“Then hit pause,” he said. “And they can go explain to their constituents why they voted to let government shut down. People need a government.” 

– Yellow Sheet editor Hank Stephenson contributed to this report



Police educate, not coerce, enforcing stay-at-home order

Blue flashing sirens of police car during the roadblock in the city
Blue flashing sirens of police car during the roadblock in the city

Some of the state’s largest police departments have received hundreds of calls relating to potential violations of the state’s now-extended stay-at-home order in the past month, but all have taken a hands-off approach to enforcement, according to a review of records from several departments and interviews with their representatives.

Despite a flood of calls to police operators – and threats of jail time for violators from the governor himself – these departments say that their enforcement of an executive order barring most businesses from operating and most citizens from leaving the house has been educational in nature, not coercive.

In fact, neither the police departments in Phoenix nor Mesa have issued any citations or made any arrests relating to the order. The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office has also responded to a bevy of calls about potential scofflaws, but has only cited one business – a pizza shop in Fountain Hills.

It’s an approach that shines a light on the delicate balance between public health in the era of COVID-19 and an individual’s right to public space and personal liberty, one that comes as a relief to activists who were concerned that enforcement of the stay-at-home order could disproportionately impact the working class communities that often have little luxury to skip work and hunker down.

The education-first approach in part illustrates Arizona’s approach to the virus as a whole – one characterized by lax measures and broad definitions in comparison to other states.

“Local police count very heavily on maintaining public support for their ability to be effective,” said Michael Scott, a professor at Arizona State University’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice. “Notwithstanding what the law says they may do, police always have to take into consideration what is prudent to do.”

Gov. Doug Ducey discusses COVID-19 and the state's response at a press conference last week. (Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer)
Gov. Doug Ducey discusses COVID-19 and the state’s response at a press conference last week. (Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer)

Gov. Doug Ducey’s long-awaited stay-at-home order came March 30. It held that Arizonans could leave their places of residence “only for essential activities, to participate in or receive essential government functions, or to participate or fulfill essential functions.”

Tucked into the language of the order was one line about enforcement, encouraging police to notify violators and give them an opportunity to comply with the order before slapping them with a Class 1 misdemeanor.

In short, local police had options.

“If we receive a complaint about a business, we first determine if it’s a valid complaint – if the business is actually open and if it has been deemed an essential business based on Governor Ducey’s executive order,” said Mesa Police Department spokesman Jason Flam. “If it’s not an essential business, our direction from Chief Ken Cost is ‘education first,’ where we attempt to gain voluntary compliance. We do the same for any calls regarding residents who may not be following the executive order.”

Flam said the department received 321 calls for service related to COVID-19 between March 30 – when Ducey handed down his executive order – and April 20, but not one resulted in a citation or arrest.

In some instances, callers told the department that a local business was violating the order – often, the calls came from other disgruntled business owners frustrated that they had to close their doors while others ignored public health guidelines. Others had more to do with personal behavior.

On April 10, for example, Mesa police went to a Home Depot where an individual had allegedly harassed employees for trying to direct the flow of traffic in the store, leading to a confrontation with a fellow customer in which the suspect “coughed in his face and said he had COVID-19,” according to police. The individual fled before police arrived.

While Flam said there was no single script that police followed, the approach was the same: educate, not prosecute. Generally, he said, Mesa residents were receptive to the guidance.

Similar scenarios played out in Phoenix.

Police in the city had handled roughly 300 calls related to the executive order as of April 20, according to a spokeswoman for the city’s Police Department. But, like Mesa, none of those calls resulted in a citation or arrest.

“The executive order is directed at businesses, not individuals,” said Phoenix PD spokeswoman Mercedes Fortune.

And unlike Mesa, city officials in Phoenix – namely Mayor Kate Gallego – have been critical of the governor’s order, regarding it as a half-measure that doesn’t go far enough to limit which businesses can stay open.

Kate Gallego
Kate Gallego

Gallego even directed residents to the police non-emergency line if they had concerns about violations of the order, provoking blowback from conservatives – some of whom went as far as to call her a fascist – and from criminal justice activists who worried that she would be directing police to vulnerable people who had no choice but to work.

“As awful as it is for people to be gathering in large groups, we do not support the idea of a police response in a public health crisis,” said Analise Ortiz, an organizer with the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona, at the time. “We know the [police department] has a long history of violence, especially in communities of color. I think this thing will only lead to more criminalization and even more confrontation with law enforcement.”

Indeed, police in Phoenix – especially in recent years – have been increasingly violent. Similarly, police in Mesa have been mired in controversy over several high-profile instances of police violence, especially in 2018.

But the controversy over Gallego’s statement obscured the difficult situation that COVID-19 has put cities in, said mayor’s office spokeswoman Annie DeGraw.

“If you are going to put policy forward, it’s important that that policy has teeth,” she said. In other words, the city can’t say it’s going to comply with the stay-at-home order and then not actually enforce it.

And pointing to the non-emergency line, DeGraw said, was a way to give the policy teeth without treating a potential infraction of the order as something that justifies a 911 call – ensuring that emergency operators have the bandwidth to deal with actual emergencies, COVID-19 or otherwise.

Regardless, Phoenix police have yet to issue any citations for violating the order, and Ortiz and others skeptical of the role of police in enforcing the order have acknowledged that they’ve heard no reports of law enforcement anywhere in the state using force on calls related to the executive order. Among Valley police agencies that responded to requests for information, only the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office has actually issued a citation, a spokesman said.

That incident occurred on April 6, when police contacted the owner of a restaurant in Fountain Hills that had yet to shut its doors.

“Sheriff Penzone’s approach was always meant to be educational,” said spokesman Joaquin Enriquez.

Other useful examples include the small number of protests against the executive order that have taken place outside of the Capitol.

At the so-called “Patriot’s Day” rally on April 20, a spokesperson for the Department of Public Safety said state troopers would be on hand to “make sure [the rally] remains peaceful,” just as any other.

In other words, the department wouldn’t be citing the roughly 200 people at the protest for violating health and safety guidelines, flooding the lobby of the Executive Tower until they were packed closely together.

Perhaps that was the right philosophy, Scott, the criminal justice professor, said. He called the protest a “delicate matter” in which enforcement could well have looked like “overreach,” even if police had the authority to treat the gathering as unlawful.

“You sometimes hear protestors saying it’s unconstitutional for the government to tell us what we can and cannot do. That’s flatly wrong,” he said. “The government has that moral and legal authority. Peoples’ lives are at stake.”

The irony, Scott said, is that a moderately sized gathering like the rally in question carries with it just as much health risk as serving a small number of customers at a business.

“A lot of people do have this very deep-seeded belief that the First Amendment does protect our right to get out in public and protest government action,” he said. “Nobody really associates doing business as a constitutional right.”

Additionally, Scott said it makes more sense to target businesses over individuals, as closing a business “regulates the behavior of all potential customers of that business.” In short, it’s a more effective use of resources.

Now, thanks to Ducey’s extension of the order, police have another two weeks – at a minimum – to hone their strategy.

Jared Keenan
Jared Keenan

And though police have shown little inclination to target individuals, which their counterparts in other states have done in enforcing stay-at-home orders far more often than here, there’s still reason for concern, said Jared Keenan, president of Arizona Attorneys for Criminal Justice.

“Any time you increase the reasons for police-citizen interaction, you’re going to increase the times that police are going to arrest you for things that aren’t related for the reason for initial contact,” he said. “Even if the police are generally doing educational outreach, there’s always that potential that it’ll lead to something else.”

And Ducey, typically a diplomatic politician whose desire to satisfy dozens of competing interests often steers him away from strong messaging, has ramped up his rhetoric. At a press conference April 29, he threatened business owners who chose to flaunt the order with jail time and fines, and told bar operators they’d be “playing with [their] liquor license” if they didn’t comply.

“I expect more regulation and stronger messaging to be coming,” said Viri Hernandez, executive director of Poder in Action, an activist group.

Like Keenan, she hasn’t heard of specific instances of police overreach or misconduct. But it’s something Poder is monitoring.

She said that many Arizonans – especially the working class, people of color and the unhoused – are at a risk of disproportionate enforcement. And these are the same people who have the least ability to stay at home, either because they don’t have one or they have to work, even if they’re educated on the public health risks.

“Immigrant communities, undocumented communities are some of the key workers who are keeping the city running at this moment,” Hernandez said. “There’s a potential for them being stopped because they’re out doing our job to keep our state going. When police come, one of the first questions they ask is for their ID.”

Scott, himself a former police officer, acknowledged that the policing of the public health crisis raised alarm bells even for

“We do have that tendency in society, whenever we have a new problem, we reflexively turn to the police and say, here, you have a law, you enforce it,” he said.

Supreme Court upholds Sky Harbor’s Uber, Lyft fees

FILE - In this Dec. 18, 2019, file photo passengers find their rides at the Ride Share point as they exit Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix. A new $4 fee on Uber and Lyft rides to and from the Phoenix airport is "very likely" unconstitutional, the state attorney general said Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020, upping the ante in the showdown that has led the ride-hailing giants to threaten to abandon the airport service. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)
FILE – In this Dec. 18, 2019, file photo passengers find their rides at the Ride Share point as they exit Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix. A new $4 fee on Uber and Lyft rides to and from the Phoenix airport is “very likely” unconstitutional, the state attorney general said Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020, upping the ante in the showdown that has led the ride-hailing giants to threaten to abandon the airport service. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

Arizona’s high court on April 2 upheld a $4 pickup and drop-off fee that led Uber and Lyft to threaten to stop serving Sky Harbor International Airport, one of the busiest in the nation. 

The Arizona Supreme Court unanimously rejected a challenge by the state’s attorney general who said the fees were unconstitutional.

The city currently charges $2.66 for each pickup but doesn’t charge for rider drop-offs. The $4 fee was put on hold while the court evaluated it. Airport officials are evaluating how long it will take to implement, said Annie DeGraw, a spokeswoman for Democratic Mayor Kate Gallego.

“This ruling will allow all companies that do business at the airport to equally participate in its financial recovery from COVID-19,” Gallego’s office said in a statement. 

Attorney General Mark Brnovich, a Republican, said the fee increases violate a 2018 constitutional amendment that banned new fees on services. Lawyers for the city argued the higher fees are not taxes on services, but rather permissible charges for businesses to use the city-owned airport, one of the largest U.S. airports serving about 44 million passengers a year. 

Phoenix runs the airport independently, primarily using revenue from passenger tickets and the companies that operate there. City officials likened the ride-hailing fees to rent and landing fees charged to restaurants and airlines. 

A city aviation commission had recommended the fee increase after a study showed airports in many other cities charge ride-hailing companies more to drop off and pick up passengers. 

The justices did not explain their decision but said a written opinion would be released in the future. 

“We’re always going to err on the side of the taxpayers and we wouldn’t have litigated the case if we didn’t think there was some merit to claims,” said Ryan Anderson, a spokesman for Brnovich.

The fight over the fee increases is not over. Several lawmakers have introduced legislation that would block them. The legislative session is on hold due to the coronavirus outbreak, but the bill could be revived when lawmakers return. A group of airlines, airport construction companies and others who operate at Sky Harbor have started an advertising and lobbying campaign to stop it. 

An Uber spokeswoman said the company is evaluating its next steps. Lyft officials did not respond to a request for comment.

Tucson to close some businesses, sets up possible showdown with Ducey, Legislature


The City of Tucson is ordering all businesses not considered “essential” by Gov. Doug Ducey’s recent “essential services” executive order to close starting Saturday morning.

Tucson Mayor Regina Romero signed a proclamation, ordering those businesses remain closed until at least April 17, which Romero could extend. Romero’s proclamation also strongly advises hair and nail salons, spas, barbershops and other “personal hygiene services” defined in Ducey’s order also close because they conflict with guidance from the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention on social distancing.

Regina Romero
Regina Romero

This comes after Flagstaff Mayor Coral Evans extended business closures Thursday, an act of apparent defiance against Ducey’s order, which forbade anyone other than him from prohibiting the function of “essential” things.

In a statement, Romero called the action necessary “in the absence of clear statewide action” from Ducey and that Tucson “cannot afford to wait any longer.”

If Governor Ducey is unwilling to take decisive action at the state level, then he needs to untie the hands of local jurisdictions and allow us to make decisions that are best for our individual communities,” Romero said. “Although these are painful decisions, we have a moral obligation to do what is in the best interest of our residents and protect public health.”

The Governor’s Office did not immediately return a request for comment. However, on Thursday Ducey’s Spokesman Patrick Ptak said, in regards to Evans’ action, that “the law is clear,” but did not directly say that the order was in defiance with Ducey’s order.

 “Under the emergency declaration, the state’s guidance supersedes other directives,” Ptak said.

Romero also called for Ducey to issue a stay-at-home order to restrict travel to those businesses deemed “essential” under his order, a list she, Evans and Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego have criticized for being too broad.

On daily, now turned bi-weekly, conference calls between mayors and the Governor’s Office, Gallego said she has asked for a narrower list of businesses that would remain open in the event the situation which warrants a stay-at-home order worsens. She and other mayors said they have also asked for a list of “non-essential services” ever since Ducey declared a state of emergency to better prepare for a possible stay-at-home order, and while their request has continuously been “noted” by staff, it has not been fulfilled.