Arizona lawmakers push California to cut water usage

A bathtub ring of light minerals shows the high-water line of Lake Mead near water intakes on the Arizona side of Hoover Dam at the Lake Mead National Recreation Area on June 26 near Boulder City, Nev. Arizona state and federal lawmakers are pressuring California to cut its water usage from the Colorado River. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)

Arizona state and federal lawmakers are pressuring California to cut its Colorado River usage as the federal government is threatening to intervene after states failed to agree on a plan to limit what they take from the river.

The United States Department of the Interior announced on Oct. 28 that the Bureau of Reclamation will analyze the existing guidelines for operating the Hoover and Glen Canyon Dams. The dams hold the Lake Mead and Lake Powell reservoirs, both of which are fed by the Colorado River water. These dams must have high enough water levels to generate hydropower and get water to the basin states.

If water levels fall too low, not only is there a lack of hydropower, but large volumes of water can’t be moved to areas that need it.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly is pushing the river conservation effort with the federal government.

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Mark Kelly (Mamta Popat/Arizona Daily Star via AP)

“Other states have to do their part and when I say other states that means California,” Kelly said at a Valley Partnership event in Phoenix Oct. 28 before the bureau made its announcement. “We can’t let the river crash and we won’t. I expect that shortly you will hear something – maybe very shortly – you will hear something from Reclamation on this. … I’ve made it very clear with them that this cannot be on the backs of the people of Arizona.”

Tom Buschatzke, director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources, explained the mechanics of the water falling too low.

“With the power generation capability, you kind of have eight fire hoses to move water. Once you fall below the power generation capability; you have four garden hoses to move water,” Buschatzke said.

The public has until Dec. 20 to weigh in on the Bureau’s proposals and preferred course of action.

Tom Buschatzke
Tom Buschatzke

After two decades of drought, all states in the Colorado River basin are faced with low water levels – including Arizona and California, but California is not making water cuts that Arizona, Nevada and Mexico have already been forced to endure.

As the larger state in both population and land, California gets the largest allocation of Colorado River water at 4.4-million-acre feet and is the last to take mandatory cuts in the event of an emergency like the one now. An acre foot is about 326,000 gallons of water, considered enough to serve a typical family of two for a year.

“They have the biggest allocation and probably are doing the least to date in terms of cutting their water use to protect the system,” Buschatzke said.

Arizona had to cut its water usage by more than 500,000 acre-feet when the river levels fell into a Tier 1 shortage a few months ago. Greater cuts are likely to come.

“Typically, this is when you start getting fighting. Fighting is over the tier programs. There’s tier one, tier two, tier three and fourth priority water rights. Central Arizona Project is the lowest priority. And why is that?” said state Rep. Tim Dunn, R-Yuma.

The Central Arizona Project is an aqueduct that diverts Colorado River water into southern and central Arizona.

Tim Dunn

“In order to get the money from the federal government to build the Central Arizona Project; California said – basically it was political – you take a lower shortage than us, you’re the first shortage, and we’ll agree to fund it so you can take the water out of the river. And that was the only way we could get it funded,” Dunn said.

California has 52 congressional seats – the most of any state. It is far too well represented for other basin states to force California to take cuts. Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming only have 28 seats combined. Only the federal government can impose such a tall order.

“We have to acknowledge that California is in a stronger position than any of the other rest of the states that are relying on the Colorado River, and I’d love to gang up with the rest of the states on them, because our position relatively speaking isn’t great,” state Sen. J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, said in the Legislative District 13 debate. “California has 50-whatever members of Congress, so they have a lot of sway there. That’s why we need the rest of the states to kind of ban together.”

California is so well represented because it has the largest population of any state. Arizona only contains about 18% of California’s population.

Mesnard, Proposition 131, Brewer, Napolitano, Mecham, Mofford, Proposition 111, Proposition 100, governor, lieutenant governor
Sen. J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler

California is tentatively offering to slightly cut its river water usage in exchange for help with the Salton Sea – a drying lake that is quickly becoming toxic and environmentally hazardous. California needs the federal government to help fund a Salton Sea protection plan, but Kelly went on the offensive and wrote to U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland on Oct. 25 requesting that the federal government not assist California with the Salton Sea until the state comes to the table for a Colorado River discussion and agrees to some sort of plan with the other basin states.

“Unfortunately, four months have passed since drought discussions began and little progress has been made toward Basin-wide solutions. California, the largest water user on the Colorado River, only recently proposed to try to conserve up to nine percent of the state’s water allocation. That is not enough water to protect the Colorado River,” Kelly wrote. “Arizona, on the other hand, is forgoing more than 20 percent of its allocation beginning in January and is willing to conserve more. California’s offer also appears contingent on the federal government funding a state initiative to reduce dust pollution at the Salton Sea before any new conservation is guaranteed. I call on the Department to withhold federal funding for Salton Sea drought mitigation until California commits additional water for long-term conservation.”

Kelly is not the only lawmaker pressuring California. Congressman Greg Stanton, D-AZ, wrote to California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sept. 6, criticizing him for California’s monopolization of the Colorado River while Arizona suffers from mandatory cuts. “I am deeply concerned that California is failing to do its part,” Stanton wrote.

Arizona has been fighting against its smaller water allocation for decades, and the matter has been repeatedly settled in Arizona v. California court cases since 1931.

“California has a lot of power, also because we gave up some of our water when the CAP canal was planned,” state Rep. Jennifer Pawlik, D-Chandler, said in the Legislative District 13 debate. “Everybody needs to do their part. Everybody meaning the other states. So, if we go into conservation where they’re cutting the water in some states, we should cut it in California too.”

Reclamation Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton asked the seven basin states on July 14 to come together and agree on a plan for two-to-four-million-acre feet of Colorado River cuts in the next year. They were given 60 days to agree, but the August 16 deadline passed with no agreement. Buschatzke wrote to the Bureau on August 30 asking for, among other things, “proactive and aggressive federal leadership.”

The Bureau will publish a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement to the 2007 river guidelines. The SEIS will analyze three alternatives to handle the situation. The first is to take no action, the second is a “consensus based” alternative again asking states to work together. And the third and most extreme alternative is unilateral action by the department mandating water cuts.

“Between 1957 and 2019, our state’s population has grown from 1.1 million residents to 7.2 million residents. Meanwhile, our water use actually decreased from 7.1 million acre-feet per year to 6.9 million acre-feet per year- and our GDI increased from $13.4 billion to $299.8 billion at the same time,” Buschatzke wrote in his August 30 letter. GDI is “gross domestic income.”

When the river is full, there is only 7.5-million-acre feet to go around, meaning California gets more than half of the total amount of water. Arizona is allocated 2.8-million-acre feet and Nevada only gets 0.3-million-acre feet. Mexico receives 1.5-million-acre feet from the Colorado River as well.

The federal government is using a mixture of threats and incentives to keep river levels high. The Bureau is offering a program to farmers and cities, offering money for cutbacks. Not many groups have taken them up on the offer, and Arizona’s farmers are already feeling the consequences of water cuts.

The federal government will implement further cuts in 2023 as planned in the 2019 Drought Contingency Plan if the drought continues to worsen.

“Either there has to be cuts or there has to be more users who are going to enter into the voluntary compensated conservation programs,” Buschatzke said. Though he said he hopes states will still be able to agree among themselves, time is of the essence. “We had lots of meetings over the summer. And we’re still having meetings with the other states in terms of a plan moving forward. But time is pretty short. And the situation is at least as bad as it was last Spring.”


Arizona needs new, innovative ways to produce energy


Arizona has a long history of innovation and entrepreneurship that has helped us grow from a Western outpost into a robust and thriving economy. While Covid has obviously had an impact, we are well-positioned for a strong recovery, in part because of the strength of Arizona’s clean energy, technology and innovation sectors. As we focus on our economic recovery efforts, it is essential that we identify and implement opportunities to support these sectors, which continue to diversify our state’s overall economy.  

Doran Arik Miller
Doran Arik Miller

With that in mind, last fall The Western Way partnered with the Arizona Technology Council to convene a group of stakeholders working at the forefront of technology and innovation here. Together, the group identified key policy priorities that, if implemented, can supercharge Arizona’s economic recovery and cement our state as a national leader in clean and renewable energy technology and innovation. Our joint report released in December 2020 gives policymakers a roadmap for incorporating the technology and energy innovation sector into Arizona’s economic recovery plan. We are so pleased to see two of our recommendations mirrored in bills currently before the state Legislature.  

 HB2153 sponsored by Rep. Tim Dunn, R-Yuma, goes a long way toward further incentivizing the adoption of clean and renewable energy technology in Arizona by providing an exemption from state and municipal taxes for machinery and equipment used directly for energy storage. Existing state law levies a tax on tangible personal property while providing an exemption for certain categories, including the retail sale of solar energy equipment and installation of solar energy devices. Dunn’s bill adds energy storage equipment to the list of exemptions. Further development and deployment of energy storage technology  and the jobs and economic development opportunities that come with it  is a critical component of our clean and renewable energy future. If passed, HB2153 would offer an important signal that Arizona is focusing on the future.  

Steve Zylstra
Steve Zylstra

Our report also recommended policies that support advanced manufacturing, including funding programs that enhance the talent pipeline from Arizona’s community college and state university systems into the clean energy and advanced manufacturing sectors. HB2017 sponsored by Rep. Michelle Udall, R-Mesa, provides an appropriation from the general fund to the Arizona Commerce Authority to administer a grant program intended to cultivate STEM workforce development opportunities.  

 Arizona’s clean energy and advanced manufacturing sectors are critical parts of our economy. They create jobs, support existing businesses and attract new ones to the state, and help ensure air quality and the environment are healthy for our communities. Investing in the advanced manufacturing and clean energy sectors by building a larger talent pipeline to support the growth of the advanced manufacturing and energy innovation sectors, as well as encourage new businesses to locate here, are essential if we are to continue to grow and innovate as a state. 

 As we look ahead to the future, we must find new and innovative ways to produce the energy we need to support our growing economy and the businesses and communities that call Arizona home. Fortunately, we have legislators prioritizing the clean energy, technology and innovation sectors by focusing on policy solutions that will have a real and positive impact on Arizona’s economy, both in the short-term as our economy recovers and for years into the future. 

Doran Arik Miller is Arizona director of The Western Way and Steven Zylstra is president and CEO of Arizona Technology Council 

House approves tax exemption for pesticides, fertilizers

The Governor’s Office is working to revamp the state’s water laws. In this photo, an irrigation ditch provides water for a farm in the East Valley near Recker and Williams Field roads. (Photo by Ellen O'Brien/Arizona Capitol Times)
Farmland in Gilbert. (Photo by Ellen O’Brien/Arizona Capitol Times)

State lawmakers voted Monday to exempt farmers from having to pay sales taxes on the pesticides and fertilizers they put on the crops grown for food in Arizona.

The 32-28 vote by the full House came following pleas from lawmakers representing agricultural communities that it’s unfair to require those who grow food for Arizonans and people across the country to pay taxes on items they need. And Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley, argued that the higher costs will be passed along to consumers, effectively making the tax paid by farmers a tax on the poor.

But the idea drew an angry reaction from several lawmakers who mentioned not just the loss of state tax revenues – potentially up to $19 million – but the idea that it would somehow reward farmers for the use of pesticides, insecticides, herbicides and fertilizers.

“We don’t want more chemicals in our food supply,” said Rep. Pamela Powers Hannley, D-Tucson, telling colleagues that one out of every 33 children born in Arizona has a birth defect. “I don’t want to encourage this.”

What’s behind HB 2275 sponsored by Rep. Tim Dunn, R-Yuma, who is a farmer, is a ruling in January by the state Court of Appeals in a bid by Wilbur-Ellis Co., a California company, to get a refund of more than $8.3 million in taxes collected on the sale of fertilizers, pesticides and seeds sold in the state.

Arizona’s sales tax is actually a “transaction privilege tax,” levied on the business that makes the sale, though the costs normally are passed along to customers.

Company lawyers first argued that state law does exempt the sale of “propagative materials” from taxes.

Appellate Judge James Beene, writing for the unanimous court, acknowledged there is no definition in the statute of what is “propagative.” But he cited definitions that say these are things that reproduce, like parts of a bud, tuber, root or shoot used to reproduce the original plant.

“Neither fertilizers nor pesticides reproduce or multiply plants,” Beene wrote, even though they do make propagating more efficient.

The appellate judges were no more sympathetic to the company’s argument that the chemicals were being sold to farmers for resale.

What’s behind that argument is a recognized principle in Arizona law only the final transaction is taxable. So if something becomes part of a product that is resold, like sheet metal that becomes part of an air conditioner, the sale of the sheet metal is exempt from taxes.

In this case, Beene said, the company argued that the farmers do not use and consume the fertilizers but instead convey the nutrients in the fertilizer to their customers.

“Simply because some of the nutrients in the fertilizers end up in the crops does not mean the farmers purchased the fertilizers for resale,” the judge wrote. “The farmers purchased the fertilizers for their own use in producing the agricultural products.”

HB 2275 seeks to redefine what’s taxable to specifically exempt a laundry list of chemicals from sales taxes ranging from fertilizers and insecticides to fungicides, soil fumigants, plant growth regulators and rodenticides.

But Rep. Mitzi Epstein, D-Tempe, said that goes directly against what the Court of Appeals ruled.

“We don’t eat the pesticides, the fungicides, the herbicides,” she told colleagues. Instead, Epstein said these chemicals are much more like light bulbs purchased by the owner of a factor.

“You need them to run the factory,” she said. “But they’re not a raw material.”

Finchem, however, said that ignores the role that these chemicals play in ensuring an adequate supply of food.

“The agricultural community has put everything they have into doing more with less,” he said. And Finchem said one of the ways farmers can do that is with fertilizers and pesticides, including natural ones.

“I actually see this as a direct attack on the individuals that have fewer dollars to spend for food in their homes,” he said.

And Rep. Bob Thorpe, R-Flagstaff, said 47 other states have similar exemptions from sales taxes.

But Powers Hannley said she sees the issue in more basic terms.

“I don’t want more chemicals in the food supply,” she said.

The measure now goes to the Senate.

This story has been updated to reflect the final House vote. 

House poised for new faces, new leaders

An old watchtower bell was mounted on the sidewalk in front of the state Capitol in Phoenix in 2021.  (File photo)

The next Arizona House of Representatives will look much different than it did in 2022 with many members losing their primary election races or moving to a different area of government. 

What likely won’t change is Republicans will hold onto majority control in the House and a speaker of the House seat up for grabs. Majority Leader Ben Toma, R-Peoria, is said to be a candidate for the seat although he hasn’t publicly confirmed he’s running. Rep. Joseph Chaplik, R-Scottsdale, announced he was running for the seat in a Turning Point Action rally in August.  

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Rep. Ben Toma, R-Peoria

Chaplik was critical of Speaker Russell Bowers, R-Mesa, at the rally, saying Bowers “refused to listen to the conservatives” and other Republican members of the Legislature to help pass a Democratic budget. 

“Arizona is aiming to make Florida jealous of our Legislature and how impactful we will be supporting Kari Lake,” Chaplik said. “We will rival Florida for the top spot in America, mark my words.” 

The Yellow Sheet Report, a sister publication of the Arizona Capitol Times, reported that activist groups campaigning for Chaplik and Sen. Warren Petersen, R-Gilbert, for Senate pro tempore have made leadership races unusual this year. Groups including EZAZ and FreedomWorks have become more open about campaigning for their desired candidates after becoming frustrated with current leadership, Yellow Sheet reported. 

House leadership positions in both the majority and minority caucus are determined by a secret ballot among each party’s elected legislators after the general election.  

Rep. Tim Dunn, R-Yuma, confirmed he was making a bid for majority leader, along with Reps. Leo Biasiucci, R-Lake Havasu City; Gail Griffin, R-Hereford; and Steve Montenegro, a former representative and senator running in Legislative District 29. 

Joseph Chaplik

“It’s important for us to work together as a caucus,” Dunn said. “I’m usually pulling people together and I’m willing to offer my skills to help do that and give up my committee assignment. If the caucus wants me, then I’ll offer my services,” Dunn said.  

Overall, 15 of the 31 Republicans in the House are up for re-election for House seats this November, including two of the party’s three leaders. Bowers lost his primary race for Senate in Legislative District 10.  

Democrats will have even higher turnover with 11 of its 29 current representatives up for re-election. Minority Leader Reginald Bolding, D-Laveen, lost his primary election bid for secretary of state and party Whip Domingo DeGrazia, D-Tucson, didn’t file for re-election.  

That leaves Assistant Minority Leader Jennifer Longdon, D-Phoenix, with a potential opening for Bolding’s seat, although she hasn’t publicly said anything on the matter. Rep. Andres Cano, D-Tucson, wrote in a text that several of his colleagues have asked him to consider running for minority leader but it’s not something he’s currently focusing on.  

“I am humbled to have their early vote of confidence, but right now, my focus is on protecting and expanding our seats in the State House this November,” Cano wrote. “Together, we’ll continue to connect with voters from all walks of life in (the) final stretch of the campaign and demonstrate our ability to turn the page at our State Capitol for the better.”  

Cano also wrote that “all” Democratic nominees are ready to lead in the next legislative session. 

Improvements urged to protect vulnerable adults

Hacienda Healthcare
This Jan. 25, 2019 file photo shows the Hacienda HealthCare facility in Phoenix. Years after an incapacitated woman gave birth at a Phoenix long-term care facility, a panel is calling on Arizona lawmakers and agencies to make policy changes to protect vulnerable adults from sexual abuse. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Correction: Corrects spelling of the name of Nikki Soukup throughout the story, starting in the ninth paragraph.

Four years after a nonspeaking woman was repeatedly raped and impregnated at the Hacienda HealthCare facility in Phoenix, legislators and advocates continue to propose actions to prevent a similar incident from ever occurring again.

The House Ad Hoc Committee on Abuse and Neglect of Vulnerable Adults adopted three legislative recommendations during a Dec. 19 meeting to try to improve the reporting and investigative processes for abused or neglected vulnerable adults.

“We knew that Hacienda was just one incident of many,” Arizona Center for Disability Law CEO J.J. Rico said during the meeting. “Abuse and neglect and especially sexual assault happen at higher rates to individuals with disabilities,” he added.

There has been some progress since the Hacienda incident. The 2022 Legislature passed HB 2865, which established a pilot project that designates the Center for Disability Law to oversee additional monitoring for group homes that provide services to clients with complex needs and authorizes the center to investigate quality-of-care complaints.

The center would like to see the pilot project be modified to improve investigative processes, Rico said. Currently, a state confidentiality statute doesn’t allow center investigators to look at state investigation files of a group home complaint and Rico said this leaves the center unable to thoroughly investigate and provide the best information.

Committee Vice Chair Rep. Tim Dunn, R-Yuma, acknowledged this point.

“Legislation is not perfect every time we come right out of the chute, but the goal is to make this a pilot project that works and then may be able to continue,” Dunn said.

One of the recommendations the committee adopted is to improve and enhance the methods of effective communication with all vulnerable adults to ensure equitable communication will meet their needs.

“When we’re discussing effective communication, it essentially means that individual is receiving an equitable communication experience that they need at that time,” Nikki Soukup, director of Public Policy and Community Relations with the Arizona Commission for the Deaf and the Hard of Hearing, told committee members.

Gaps or deficiencies in communication can lead to abuse or neglect because a vulnerable person may not be able to communicate their needs or share their experiences. This is exactly what happened in the Hacienda incident, Rico said.

“Without an interpreter or effective communication, (vulnerable people) can’t necessarily express what happened in an abuse or neglect incident,” Rico said.

Committee Chair Rep. Jennifer Longdon, D-Phoenix, said descriptions of people who are unable to communicate effectively as “nonverbal” are not adequate and often don’t represent what people are experiencing.

“It’s not a specifically descriptive term. It’s like saying ‘wheelchair user,’ right,” Longdon said. “I use a wheelchair for one reason and have one experience as a result of it and someone else may have something entirely different and to lump us all together other than a path of travel makes no sense at all.”

Committee members would also like to see a centralized hub with all stakeholders to design a “single point of entry” where people can file complaints of abuse and neglect for vulnerable adults.

Soukup said many individuals that the Arizona Commission for the Deaf and the Hard of Hearing works with don’t know which agency they need to contact for information or to file a complaint.

“Often it’s been said there’s lots of finger pointing,” Soukup said.

The committee is also recommending petitioning incoming House Speaker Ben Toma, R-Peoria, to continue it for future work. The committee is set to disband at the end of this year and Longdon said Toma has already committed to continuing it.



Incumbent Mitchell loses LD13 Republican House primary

Rep. Darin Mitchell, R-Litchfield Park, said requiring Arizona Department of Corrections officers to be U.S. citizens would help ease unemployment in his district, which stretches to Yuma. (Cronkite News Service Photo by Juan Magaña)
Rep. Darin Mitchell, R-Litchfield Park. (Cronkite News Service Photo by Juan Magaña)

Incumbent Rep. Darin Mitchell fell short in his bid for a return to the Arizona House of Representatives.

Rep. Tim Dunn, R-Yuma, and Joanne Osborne defeated the Goodyear Republican and his running mate Trey Terry in the Aug. 28 GOP primary for the two House seats in Legislative District 13.

Mitchell, a realtor, was first elected to the House in 2013.

Dunn and Osborne will face off in the Nov. 6 general election against Democrat Thomas Tzitzura, who ran unopposed in the Democratic primary.

However, Tzitzura isn’t likely to pose a threat to either Republican in November. Republicans hold a healthy voter registration advantage in the district, which includes the northern part of Yuma County and the northwestern part of Maricopa County.

LD13 House By The Numbers

35,064 votes cast


Timothy “Tim” Dunn 37 percent

Darin Mitchell 21 percent

Joanne Osborne 24 percent

Trey Terry 19 percent


9,324 votes cast

Thomas Tzitzura 100 percent

It’s Maricopa vs. Yuma in LD13 GOP House primary

Rep. Tim Dunn (R-Yuma) (Photo by Paulina Pineda/Arizona Capitol Times)
Rep. Tim Dunn (R-Yuma) (Photo by Paulina Pineda/Arizona Capitol Times)

If Republicans in Maricopa County have their way, nobody from Yuma County will represent Legislative District 13 in the state House of Representatives.

Of the four candidates in the LD13 House GOP primary, Rep. Tim Dunn is the only one from Yuma County. The sprawling district includes parts of that rural area.

And though Dunn has raised the most money of the four candidates in the race, and he boasts the support of the business and farming communities, the Yuma Republican, who was appointed to fill expelled Yuma lawmaker Don Shooter’s House seat in LD13, faces a math problem.

In LD13, the total number of registered Republicans in Maricopa County outnumber the registered Republicans in Yuma County by almost 18,000. Yuma County’s GOP voters represent just one-third of LD13’s registered Republicans, and a third of all registered voters in the district.

Shooter, who is attempting a political comeback, also faces a tough primary contest against incumbent Sen. Sine Kerr, R-Buckeye, in the Senate, primarily because of the scandal that resulted in his expulsion from the House this year.

If both Dunn and Shooter lose their races, the interests of one of Arizona’s biggest farming communities would have zero representation at the state Legislature.

Already, Dunn’s seatmate and primary opponent, Rep. Darin Mitchell, R-Goodyear, is working to expose Dunn as a “campaign conservative,” just another RINO in the party, as he himself fights to get re-elected and jockeys for the speakership.

Political newcomer Trey Terry, who is running on a ticket with Mitchell, and Joanne Osborne, former vice mayor of Goodyear, are also seeking the GOP nomination in the House.

Capitol insiders say the four-way race is one to watch.

Republican political consultant Chuck Coughlin said while it’s hard to knock out an incumbent in a primary, Dunn finds himself in a tough spot because he was appointed to the seat, not elected, and he took over the role halfway through the legislative session.

His late appointment meant that he was unable to sponsor any bills himself, and like most freshmen lawmakers, he spent most of the session learning the ropes.

Still, Coughlin said Dunn used his time at the Legislature wisely, taking an active role in water policy discussions, a top issue affecting the district.

Coughlin said Dunn is well respected by the agriculture community, and as a lifelong resident of Yuma, is well-liked by voters there.

He also has a “great name.”

“Tim Dunn — it’s not a hard name to remember. And it’s simple things like that that will probably aid him in the end,” he said.

Like Dunn, Coughlin said Osborne also has a memorable name. She’s part of one of Arizona’s “first families” — her family owns a jewelry store called Osborne Jewelers, and she has been a political figure in the West Valley for more than a decade.

Coughlin said though Mitchell has served in the Legislature for six years, there is a fairly aggressive opposition campaign being run against him because of his interest in the speakership. And it’s not unprecedented for a candidate who is running for leadership to lose their bid for re-election, he said.

Of the four candidates, Coughlin said Terry appears to be “on the outside looking in.” Though he is running with Mitchell, he has raised relatively little money compared to Dunn, has never held political office and doesn’t have an established voting record like the three other candidates.

Political consultant Chris Baker, who is representing Mitchell and Terry, said neither of his clients are worried about the competition.

He said despite the large war chest and support, Dunn will struggle to return to the Capitol. Osborne, he said, is too moderate for such a red district, an allegation Osborne refuted.

Baker said Dunn’s biggest mistake is that he has billed himself as the “Yuma candidate,” and has largely ignored constituents in Maricopa County.

“Dunn has run ads saying he is the ‘Yuma candidate’ or that he’s ‘fighting for Yuma.’” Baker said. “I don’t know if he doesn’t realize we can see it all, but he has taken a lot of steps to try to establish himself as the Yuma candidate and I’m not sure the voters in Maricopa County are necessarily going to be enthusiastic about electing the Yuma candidate.”

Dunn knows he faces an uphill battle, but he took issue with Baker’s assessment that his campaign efforts have been focused on Yuma.

He said in a four-way primary, candidates can’t expect to coast to an easy win, they need to earn the support of their constituents, so he has spent the summer campaigning throughout the district.

“We’ve worked hard to understand the district, not just the Yuma County portion, but all of the district,” Dunn said. “I’m not just someone from Yuma. I’m not an outsider. I have businesses that are in the Maricopa County portion of the district, and a lot of the issues we face in Yuma are the same issues voters face in Maricopa County. And my job is to make sure during this primary that I let people know that.”

Lawmakers’ focus veers from Covid relief in 1st weeks of session

Covid 19 stock

After nearly four full weeks of session, none of the bills lawmakers sent to the governor’s desk deals with the Covid pandemic, a shift in emphasis that’s especially noticeable given lawmakers’ insistence to help residents and businesses survive the crisis.

Instead, the bulk of pandemic-related measures to clear committees so far seek to limit or overturn Gov. Doug Ducey’s emergency authorities.

Absent from the debate, for example, is the priority by Republican lawmakers to ensure businesses don’t face frivolous lawsuits. Also left to be tackled is House Speaker Rusty Bowers’ priority to accelerate the delivery of vaccines in the state. 

Indeed, the first measure the governor signed, plus the four others awaiting his signature, tackle non-Covid issues. 

The governor earlier outlined an agenda to confront the visus, which he hoped the Legislature would pass. 

In his state address. Ducey focused on Covid liability protections for businesses and expanding access to broadband internet, as well as offering laptops and wi-fi to students, a problem Covid magnified.

CJ Karamargin, Ducey’s communications director said, the governor’s office is “not going to legislate ourselves out of this pandemic,” a play on Ducey’s recent comments that the state can “vaccinate our way out” of the pandemic. 

“The legislative session is just getting underway. We’re confident they’re gonna deal with the governor’s agenda,” he said. 

To date, the virus has claimed the lives of nearly 14,000 Arizonans and infected more than 750,000. 

The only pandemic legislation to have gained any headway in the Legislature seek to chip away at the governor’s emergency authorities, which Ducey has deployed to manage the COVID-19 crisis.

Republicans and Democrats alike say they want to help Arizonans. 

Democrats want to raise the unemployment assistance cap of $240 and help Arizonans avoid evictions. Arizona’s unemployment benefits are the second-lowest in the country, and it was a hot topic throughout the summer months when federal assistance first expired and Ducey made no inclination to raise the state’s cap. He instead punted to Congress to act. 

Republicans, on the other hand, seek to protect businesses from lawsuits arising out of claims that an individual contracted the virus at a company’s premises, a priority for the majority party and an idea Ducey supports but which didn’t make it through last year.

Some, like Rep. Joseph Chaplik, R-Scottsdale, want to exempt businesses from following mask mandates. A measure from Sen. Nancy Barto, R-Phoenix, would prevent businesses from requiring employees to get the Covid vaccine as a condition to return to work. And Sen. Wendy Rogers, R-Flagstaff, wants to expand the definition of essential businesses to include those that sell firearms. 

Ducey said in an interview in early January that there’s a reason he never called the Legislature into a special session last year.  

“In a national emergency or a state emergency, action is required. And that is really not what the legislative process is famous for,” he told the Arizona Capitol Times

Absent legislation, Duecy’s administration is focusing on accelerating the delivery of the Covid vaccines. 

The state now operates two statewide vaccination sites. The second site, which opened on Feb. 1, already added 21,000 new appointments that were scooped up in a little under an hour.

The first legislation Ducey signed this session comes from Chandler Republicans Rep. Jeff Weninger and Sen. J.D. Mesnard, who introduced mirror measures at the behest of Attorney General Mark Brnovich to crack down on workplaces discriminating against pregnant women. Mesnard and Weninger also introduced the bill last year, but it died due to the pandemic. 

The other bills on the governor’s desk received bipartisan support, but none deals with the pandemic.

Among the bills lawmaker fast-tracked to Ducey’s desk is a proposal by Rep. Michelle Udall, R-Scottsdale, to close a “loophole” when disciplining non-certified teachers accused of misconduct. Sen. Paul Boyer, R-Glendale introduced the same legislation last year, but it did not make headway before the pandemic shut down the session. 

The state previously had no way to track or discipline non-certified teachers accused of sexual misconduct, allowing them to remain in schools. 

The three other bills from Rep. Gail Griffin, R-Hereford, Rep. Timothy Dunn, R-Yuma and Sen. David Livingston, R-Peoria, are also awaiting the governor’s signature.


Mesnard led in vetoed bills, Brophy McGee most prolific lawmaker in 2019

Sen. Kate Brophy McGee, R-Phoenix, passed the most legislation in 2019. Here she advocates for a bipartisan bill she sponsored to update the state’s non-discrimination laws to add protections for the LGBTQ community. The bill did not get a hearing. PHOTO BY ARIEL SALK/CRONKITE NEWS
Sen. Kate Brophy McGee, R-Phoenix, passed the most legislation in 2019. Here she advocates for a bipartisan bill she sponsored to update the state’s non-discrimination laws to add protections for the LGBTQ community. The bill did not get a hearing. PHOTO BY ARIEL SALK/CRONKITE NEWS

Sen. J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, knows how to get legislation passed. This year, he learned how to get it vetoed.

Mesnard, who led the Legislature with the most vetoes, went toe-to-toe with Gov. Doug Ducey on tax conformity and lost in February.

As they were still debating tax conformity in April – and Mesnard was making his case publicly – Ducey vetoed another of the senator’s bills, a proposal on distracted drivers.

Ducey, who wielded his veto power 11 times in 2019, rejected in June a third Mesnard bill, which would have altered the state’s sentencing code.

Mesnard said that disagreements are expected each year.

J.D. Mesnard
J.D. Mesnard

“Is it an honor?,” Mesnard said. “Obviously there was some big issues that the governor and I were on different sides of, and that’s just the way it goes.”

Mesnard said he wasn’t happy about the vetoes, but that he has been vetoed before and has moved on.

“I wasn’t happy about any of them. The distracted driving was probably the biggest surprise, just because I had been given indications that they were on board previously,” he said.

Many lawmakers avoided Ducey’s rejection this session, he signed 320 of the 331 bills passed, tied for his fewest vetoes since taking office.

Those who had the best “batting average” this session, which is the percentage of bills they sponsored that were signed by the governor, tended not to have proposed many pieces of legislation.

The top seven out of just 10 lawmakers with a batting average above 50 percent sponsored fewer than 20 bills, and Rep. Tim Dunn, R-Yuma, who had the best average this year – with 80 percent of his bills signed by Ducey – only sponsored five, four of which were signed into law.

Dunn said sponsoring only a few bills was not intentional, but that he focused on things he “knew needed to be changed.”

He also said that passing a large number of bills is not always the best way for the Legislature to function and that sometimes lawmakers need to “play defense.”

“We don’t need to make a bunch of new laws,” Dunn said. “Sometimes we just need to clean things up.”

Dunn also pointed out that his average should be 100 percent because a mirror version of his House bill allowing Hemp farming was signed by Ducey.

Sen. Kate Brophy McGee, R-Phoenix, was the most prolific lawmaker this session, with 27 of her 54 bills receiving Ducey’s signature.

Brophy McGee said her process involved a lot of help, but that ultimately her decision to sponsor bills came down to whether an issue needed to be tackled.

“I try not to propose bills that don’t need doing,” she said. Brophy McGee said she tries to propose bills that will have bipartisan support.

Sen. David Livingston, R-Peoria, could have tied Brophy McGee’s number of successes, but Ducey vetoed his per diem increase, leaving him one shy of the mark.

Even though Ducey signed 24 percent of the bills that were proposed this session, Republican lawmakers had a much higher chance of their legislation going through.

Republicans had batting average of 34 percent after 312 of their 915 bills made it into law, while Democrats saw eight of their 504 signed, or 1.6 percent. No Democrat passed more than one bill this session.

Sen. Heather Carter, R-Cave Creek, sponsored the most bills this session, 72 in all, but only 18 were signed into law. Sen. Juan Mendez, D-Tempe, sponsored the most among Democrats with 71, none of which became law.

Mitchell primary loss opens door for Bowers’ run for speaker

Rep. Darin Mitchell, R-Litchfield Park, said requiring Arizona Department of Corrections officers to be U.S. citizens would help ease unemployment in his district, which stretches to Yuma. (Cronkite News Service Photo by Juan Magaña)
Rep. Darin Mitchell, R-Litchfield Park, said requiring Arizona Department of Corrections officers to be U.S. citizens would help ease unemployment in his district, which stretches to Yuma. (Cronkite News Service Photo by Juan Magaña)

A surprise loss in Legislative District 13 upended the speaker’s race in the Arizona House of Representatives.

Rep. Darin Mitchell will not be returning to the Legislature after losing in the August 28 GOP primary for the two House seats in LD13.

Rep. Tim Dunn and Joanne Osborne defeated the Goodyear Republican and his running mate Trey Terry and now move on to the November 6 general election.

Mitchell was one of two members in the running for speaker of the House and the loss leaves the chamber’s top position wide open for Rep. Rusty Bowers, R-Mesa, if Bowers is re-elected.

But the loss has also opened the way for other House members to jump into the speaker’s race.

Bowers said Majority Whip Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, and Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley, a member of the most-conservative Liberty Caucus, which rallied around Mitchell, have expressed interest in running for speaker. Finchem had previously announced he would seek the majority leader position after the 2018 elections.

In a text to the Arizona Capitol Times, Townsend said she was “exploring a run for speaker,” now that Mitchell was not advancing to the general election.

Rep. Anthony Kern, R-Glendale, another member of the Liberty Caucus, said Rep. Noel Campbell, R-Prescott, could also jump into the race.

But their candidacies are unlikely to pose a threat to Bowers, who announced his intention to run for the speakership late last year and has been campaigning for that leadership position ever since.

Bowers would not comment on whether it is too late for another candidate to jump into the race, but he said he feels confident about the support he has drummed up over the past couple of months.

“They’ll do what they think they need to do, but I feel very good about our position,” he said. “Now it’s time to double down and try to tie this up.”

Bowers said Mitchell has been a strong advocate for the Liberty Caucus and he will now work to gain the caucus’ support.

Mitchell’s loss in the primary was one of two surprises in the House, where incumbents were defeated by relative newcomers on the political scene.

While it is difficult to unseat an incumbent, there was a fairly aggressive opposition campaign being run against Mitchell this election cycle because of his interest in the speakership, said political consultant Chuck Coughlin.

Coughlin said it’s not unprecedented for a candidate who is running for leadership to lose their bid for re-election.

Political action committees and independent expenditure groups spent heavily in the race, pouring money into Dunn and Osborne’s campaign.

Responsible Leadership for AZ PAC, which is funded by the Arizona Association of Realtors, spent heavily against Mitchell, who is a Realtor himself. Mitchell’s consultant, Chris Baker, said the PAC’s spending was intended to influence the speaker’s race in Bowers’ favor.

The group launched ads shortly before the primary election describing Mitchell as one of several “very concerning candidates” in LD13, lumping him together with Terry and ousted lawmaker Don Shooter, who failed in his bid to return to the Legislature.

The ad also accused Mitchell of unpaid debts and a state income tax lien, and it drummed up an ethics complaint filed against him by House Democrats in 2016. It also hit Mitchell for supporting and sponsoring legislation that the Realtors opposed.

Neither Mitchell nor Baker immediately returned a request for comment.

Passing legislation requires moderation, tricks of the trade

Arizona state Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, left, R-Gilbert, and sponsor of the anti-human trafficking House Bill 2454, talks with Rep. David Stevens, R-Sierra Vista, at the Arizona Capitol on Tuesday, April 15, 2014, in Phoenix. The bill was unanimously passed by the Senate, and toughens penalties for trafficking adults and targets businesses such as massage parlors and escort services that advertise online, and increases the minimum penalties for a child-prostitution conviction to 10 years to 24 years in prison. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Arizona state Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, left, R-Gilbert, and sponsor of the anti-human trafficking House Bill 2454, talks with Rep. David Stevens, R-Sierra Vista, at the Arizona Capitol on Tuesday, April 15, 2014, in Phoenix. . (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

After 16 years in the Legislature, Rep. Eddie Farnsworth said he knows what it takes to get measures through both chambers and up to the Governor’s Office.

The Gilbert Republican attributed a large part of his success to understanding the legislative process. But his strategy also includes sponsoring legislation that addresses problems he or his constituents have observed, working within the confines and scope of the state Constitution, and working with others who are willing to go to bat for the bill, he said.

Farnsworth said the most important trick, however, is ensuring that the language is “good language.” He said the bill language has to be tight and should spell out exactly what the bill intends to do. It’s something he said he spent much of this year helping his colleagues with.

“I understand a comma in the wrong place changes the entire meaning of a bill,” he said. “You look at some of the bills that tend to be thrown together and it’s more difficult to get them through, and sometimes there’s unintended consequences if they pass. I really think having the right language is critical.”

And his methods have paid off.

Farnsworth had the highest percentage of his bills signed into law of any lawmaker. Seventeen of his 20 prime sponsored bills, or 85 percent, were approved by both chambers and signed by Gov. Doug Ducey.

Lawmakers passed 369 bills, 30.6 percent of the 1,206 bills introduced in the 2018 session. Of those 369 bills, Ducey signed 346, or 93.8 percent of all the bills that were approved. The governor vetoed 23 bills, about 6.2 percent of those sent to the Ninth Floor. However, 10 of the bills he vetoed were later re-introduced by the Legislature and he signed them.

They also introduced 122 memorials and resolutions, ranging from death resolutions to commemorations of holidays and awareness days to ballot referrals. Of those, 28 were sent to the Secretary of State’s Office, including two ballot referrals.

Five lawmakers tied for the second-highest batting average with 66.6 percent of their measures being signed by the governor.

The batting average is calculated by dividing the number of bills signed into law by the number of prime sponsored bills for a legislator.

Rep. TJ Shope (R-Coolidge) (Photo by Paulina Pineda/Arizona Capitol Times)
Rep. TJ Shope (R-Coolidge) (Photo by Paulina Pineda/Arizona Capitol Times)

One of those lawmakers, Rep. TJ Shope, R-Coolidge, had 10 of his 15 bills signed into law. The governor vetoed another. And Shope noted that while one of his bills, HB2482, which would have required the Arizona Board of Regents and community college districts to provide tuition waivers to Arizona residents who were in foster care, didn’t make it to the governor’s desk it was included in the budget.

Shope said he tries to run a moderate amount of bills each session, and he added that 15 was one of the “heftiest loads I’ve carried.”

“I’m not a big fan of running a lot of bills. If I’m going to run something I want it to be meaningful and I want to be able to get it passed,” he said.

One bill he’s especially proud of, he said, is HB2154 because of how difficult it was to get across the finish line.

Shope said he worked with the Attorney General’s Office on the bill, which made several changes to statutes relating to data security breaches. He said there was initial opposition from the business community and he had a hard time bringing everyone to the negotiation table to discuss the bill.

“It’s by far the most difficult bill I’ve brought forth in my time down here,” he said. “There were many, many times where I thought this thing was dead.”

Rep. Heather Carter, R-Cave Creek, and Sen. Gail Griffin, R-Hereford, tied for the most prime sponsored legislation, each introducing 65 measures, almost 10 percent of all bills, memorials and resolutions introduced. Of the bills introduced, Ducey signed 32 Carter bills and 29 Griffin bills.

Carter said as chairwoman of the House Health Committee, several of the bills she introduced sought to clean up bills from prior years, extend the life of various agencies, and update state statute to conform with new federal laws.

She also introduced several education-related measures, like a bill that would clean up teacher certification requirements for teachers working in Arizona on a visa, one dealing with teaching certificates for substitute teachers, and another that would require schools districts to disclose to parents when a student is bullied, intimidated or harassed and by whom.

She noted that in her first year in office she ran four bills and all four were signed into law.

“I was so proud and everybody was like, ‘That’s not a big deal,’” she said. I thought you introduced bills and they all got signed into law.”

She quickly learned that’s not the case and that it takes a lot of effort to get a bill across the finish line, which is why she tends to introduce bills that seek to solve problems brought to her by a constituent or issues she’s noticed herself as a parent and former educator, she said.

Twenty-nine lawmakers were unable to get a single bill up to the Governor’s Office, including two House Republicans, Reps. Becky Nutt, of Clifton, and David Stringer, of Prescott.

Reps. Macario Saldate, D-Tucson, and Tim Dunn, R-Yuma, didn’t introduce any bills this year. Dunn was appointed to the Legislature after the deadline to introduce bills in the House had passed.


Ducey’s 2018 veto count comes with asterisk

By Carmen Forman

In the last year of his first term, Gov. Doug Ducey wielded his “veto” stamp more liberally than he had during previous legislative sessions.

Part of that stems from Ducey taking a scare tactic approach to force lawmakers to finish the budget. Ducey vetoed 23 bills this session — a record high for the Republican governor. But that number takes into account 10 House GOP bills Ducey swiftly vetoed one afternoon, believing House Republicans were dragging their feet on the budget.

The message included in each of the 10 veto letters read the same.
“Please send me a budget that gives teachers a 20-percent pay raise by 2020 and restores additional assistance,” Ducey wrote. “Our teachers have earned this raise. It’s time to get it done.”

After Ducey’s veto rampage, lawmakers reintroduced the bills toward the end of session and successfully got them across the finish line. On the last day Ducey could take action on this session’s legislation, the governor approved all 10 of the reintroduced bills.

While on paper, Ducey vetoed more bills this session than any of his previous three sessions, some of the vetoes were temporal and meant only to pressure lawmakers into passing his teacher pay raise plan, not to strike down legislation he opposed.

Realtors assail Rep. Mitchell despite membership in group

Rep. Darin Mitchell, R-Litchfield Park, said requiring Arizona Department of Corrections officers to be U.S. citizens would help ease unemployment in his district, which stretches to Yuma. (Cronkite News Service Photo by Juan Magaña)
Rep. Darin Mitchell (R-Litchfield Park) (Cronkite News Service Photo by Juan Magaña)

The Arizona Association of Realtors is campaigning against one of its own members with negative ads attacking Republican Rep. Darin Mitchell.

The ads, launched by the Responsible Leadership for AZ PAC, blast Mitchell, a Realtor from Goodyear, as one of several “very concerning candidates” in Legislative District 13, where Mitchell is running for re-election to the House of Representatives.

That claim in the ads lumps Mitchell together with Republican Trey Terry, who’s running on a slate with Mitchell for the district’s two House seats, and with ousted lawmaker Don Shooter, who’s running for the state Senate. The ads, and the website, go on to accuse Mitchell of unpaid debts and a state income tax lien, and drum up an ethics complaint filed against him by House Democrats in 2016.

Beyond the low-hanging fruit of election attacks, the website created by Responsible Leadership for AZ – darinmitchelltooliberal.com – also hits Mitchell for supporting and sponsoring legislation that the Realtors opposed.

The Arizona Association of Realtors is the sole funder of Responsible Leadership for AZ, to the tune of $500,000 since December 2017.

The attacks have drawn the ire of another Realtor-slash-lawmaker, Rep. Mark Finchem. He, too, was snubbed by the Realtors’ endorsements.

And Mitchell’s campaign consultant claims the Realtors are trying to drum up reasons to attack Mitchell to influence an intra-party race for speaker of the House.

Nicole LaSlavic, vice president of government affairs at the Association of Realtors, said such claims are “purely speculation,” and don’t reflect the association’s decision to back a GOP challenger over Mitchell in LD13.

The Realtors instead endorsed Rep. Tim Dunn, R-Yuma, and GOP challenger Joanne Osborne.

“I know that neither (Mitchell nor Finchem) necessarily agree with it because they’re taking the position that they’re incumbents. But the reality is, there’s an impact on their votes,” LaSlavic said. “Just because they’re a member of our association doesn’t mean that we fall in line, necessarily, with backing them every time.”

Of chief concern for the Realtors is a bill Mitchell sponsored earlier this year. HB2507 would have barred homeowners from obtaining attorney fees if construction defects arise in a new home. The Realtors opposed the bill, which was never given a vote on the House floor.

LaSlavic said it’s only the latest example in a series of legislative efforts that Mitchell, though a Realtor, has supported despite the Association of Realtors opposition.

“I would say that for any member of the Legislature, if they’re going to sponsor legislation or vote for legislation that we do not agree with, the likelihood is that we’re not going to respond favorably to that,” she said. “Their membership doesn’t buy an automatic endorsement.”

Chris Baker, a campaign consultant for Mitchell, said the Association of Realtors is trying to find reasons to hide its true intentions. The Realtors were neither for nor against a similar bill Mitchell introduced back in 2015, Baker said.

“This is about the Realtors Association putting their thumb on the scale in the speaker’s race,” Baker said.

Mitchell is one of two Republicans vying to be the next speaker of the House. The other, Rep. Rusty Bowers of Mesa, was endorsed by the Realtors.

The Association of Realtors may have been neutral on Mitchell’s bill in 2015, but they were registered as opposed to it in 2018, when LaSlavic described it as the “most recent and probably the most concerning (bill) that we’ve had in the last few years.”

And while the Realtors may have backed Mitchell in the past, “people can change,” LaSlavic said.

As for Finchem, the Oro Valley Republican said he was livid that the Realtors Association would go negative on one of its own members, particularly when the money funding the attack ads comes from the Association of Realtors’ political action committee, known as RAPAC, which Realtors make contributions to.

FInchem demanded a refund from RAPAC and an apology for going after Mitchell with made up “innuendo and unproven accusations,” though the website attacking Mitchell provides documentation supporting those accusations.

The ad against Mitchell, Finchem wrote in a letter to the association, “would destroy the working relationship that Realtors have enjoyed with members of the House and Senate and would forever change the reputation of the Realtor community.”

Baker said the Association of Realtors had singled out Mitchell, and isn’t going after other candidates who have sponsored legislation the organization opposes. For example, Finchem may not have drawn Realtors’ endorsement in LD14, but unlike in Mitchell’s race, they endorsed no one, not even his GOP primary opponent.

Both Mitchell and Finchem have even cosponsored bills that the Association of Realtors supported, though Finchem voted in committee for HB2507.

“They’re going to try to make this about specific pieces of legislation,” Baker said. “The bottom line is if they were in the business of going after people off random pieces of legislation, they would be going after a lot of other Republican members. They are not.”

LaSlavic reiterated that being a Realtor does not ensure the association’s support.

“Darin Mitchell and Mark Finchem supported and voted for legislation that our trustees adamantly opposed, and because of that, based off their voting record, that’s why the position is not in their favor,” LaSlavic said.

Tim Dunn: Invested in farming, barbecue and men’s hairstyling

Rep. Tim Dunn (R-Yuma) (Photo by Paulina Pineda/Arizona Capitol Times)
Rep. Tim Dunn (R-Yuma) (Photo by Paulina Pineda/Arizona Capitol Times)

A third generation farmer, Republican Tim Dunn hopes to bring some of that experience to the Arizona Legislature where he was recently appointed to represent Legislative District 13 in the House of Representatives, succeeding ousted Don Shooter.

Born and raised in Yuma, 52-year-old Dunn said his two weeks at the Capitol have been a whirlwind, learning about the legislative process, being briefed on bills and being appointed to committees that will soon hear Senate bills. However, Dunn said despite his lack of political experience, he’s in tune with the needs of his constituents, not just those in Yuma but across oddly shaped LD13.

Cap Times Q&AAside from farming, you also own several businesses, right?

I have my own farming operation that I own with my wife Eileen. I also own Dunn Grain Co., which my father and I started 22 years ago. My father just retired out of that and my son who is 25 just came into the business and is helping us with that. But since this transition, my dad offered to come back and help take care of some stuff so I’m able to be up here. … The grain company trades durum wheat, primarily, but we do a lot of seed crops and we clean and process those seed crops and export some of them out of the country. Some are for local consumption. … We also bought into the franchise system, Sports Clips, a couple of years ago. We have two in Yuma and then we have two up in the Buckeye and Goodyear area.

LD13 spans two counties. How do you plan to represent the interests of all your constituents?

When you look at it, you think the district is oddly shaped, but then when you get into what actually makes up the district, there’s a lot of commonality. The military is a big thing, Luke Air Force Base, the Yuma Marine Corp Station, the proving ground. … Growth. Yuma has been growing, we have a lot of winter visitors, and so we have a lot of growth, and so is the northern part of the district.

What issues will you be tackling this session?

We’re not putting any bills out because we came in in the middle of the session, but as a business owner, I was just appointed to the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Land-ag and Transportation, so those are the big three things that affect rural areas.

Water is another issue you’re familiar with.

Timing is everything and it just so happens that we’re right in the middle of (discussing water policy). … It’s a complicated issue, but having had farms in central Arizona, I understand the issue. We know what the farmers are going through and we can take up the discussions and be right in the middle of these discussions and understand them as opposed to having to be educated on it. So the timing is good. We can help negotiate and navigate solutions. They’ve done a good job so far, we’re not quite there yet, but we’re going to help push that forward.

Is it a tough transition from businessman to politician?

You have to have politics in your blood. … Even though I wasn’t in elected office before, I’ve always been interested in what’s right for our citizens and our community, and so you have to have that instinct or that drive to sit through meetings and testify before committees or boards. … I don’t have a problem sitting down with a senator, whoever it is, national level, as long as we’re talking about moving things forward. That’s kind of in my blood. But there’s a lot to learn. It has been like drinking water from a firehose.

How will you spend your time after the session ends?

We’ll be harvesting and working … but we’ll also be setting up our committee work and going out to meet people. We’re committed to run and we’ve already filed our Secretary of State application, the process to start that. It’ll be a busy election cycle. We’ve helped other campaigns in the past, but it’s different when it’s your own. You’re going to have to do more walking the streets.

What’s something most people don’t know about you?

Most people don’t know that I’m a competition barbeque cook. I don’t get to do that as often as I’d like. But the Kansas City Barbeque Society remembers me and I do have my own little competition trailer. I’ve only done a couple, but I have my own recipes and my own little rubs. It’s fun. My team is called BBQs Dunn (As in BBQ’s done–get it).

Another side note that catches people’s eyes, and I mentioned it the other day when I was introduced to someone, is that I met Eileen, my wife, at the Phoenix Open 18 years ago. So we’re one of those that meet at the Open and get married, and I imported her to Yuma. She’s an accountant, CPA by trade, so she does our back office. … She’s originally from Phoenix. Her mother’s up on 32nd and Shea, so we’ve been able to stay at her mother’s. I get breakfast before I leave every morning. It’s kind of like a little bed and breakfast. She’s loving the fact that we’re here.

Yuma BOS chooses farmer to fill seat vacated by Don Shooter

Don Shooter awaits a vote by the state House on whether to expel him on Feb. 1, 2018. He was later removed from office by a vote of 56-3. (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)
Don Shooter awaits a vote by the state House on whether to expel him on Feb. 1, 2018. He was later removed from office by a vote of 56-3. (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)

The Yuma County Board of Supervisors today appointed Tim Dunn to replace former state Rep. Don Shooter in Legislative District 13.

Shooter was expelled from the House of Representatives by a 56-3 vote after a harassment investigation found that he had violated the chamber’s harassment policy and created a hostile working environment.

Dunn, a farmer and businessman who is president of Dunn Grain Co. Inc., edged out Paul Brierley, director of the University of Arizona Yuma Center of Excellence for Desert Agriculture, and Cora Lee Schingnitz, secretary of the Colorado River Tea Party, whom LD13 precinct committeemen also nominated last week to replace Shooter.

“I’m very honored and humbled to be able to represent Yuma County and we look forward to being involved in the Legislature,” Dunn said.

Dunn, who had not filed to run for election in the House, said one of the reasons he put his name forward for the nomination was to ensure that Yuma County residents in LD13 are represented at the Legislature. He added that he now plans to launch a campaign for the House seat.

He said he will be driving to Phoenix today and will be sworn in Tuesday morning.