Arizonans for Voter ID Act Making Progress Getting on Ballot

People voting

A coalition of Arizona legislators and about 10 conservative groups launched an effort last month to get an initiative on the ballot that would combat voter fraud, the Arizonans for Voter ID Act. They began collecting signatures last week. Spearheaded by the Arizona Free Enterprise Club, the four-pronged plan would end the practice of voting without an ID — even for mail-in or dropped-off ballots. By requiring ID, ballot harvesting would become impossible. 

Scot Musser, president and executive director of The Arizona Free Enterprise Club, told The Arizona Sun Times that the response from people interested in helping has been tremendous. “At the Constitution Celebration event in Queen Creek this past weekend, there were long lines of people waiting to sign the petition or seeking to become petition circulators.” He said many politicians and others have reached out eager to join the effort.

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Two Arizona Lawmakers Resign in Single Day

Two state lawmakers in Arizona, one from each political party, resigned Wednesday.

“To my constituents & colleagues, I’m writing to inform you of my resignation, effective September 30th, from my House seat in Legislative District 11. It has been an honor and a privilege to serve with you, the Republican caucus, and the entire House,” Rep. Bret Roberts (D-AZ-11) announced on Twitter. 

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City of Tucson Joins Two Lawsuits Against Arizona Legislature over Masks, Vaccines, CRT, Police Review Boards, and a Ballot Audit Committee

Tucson City Hall

The City of Tucson is joining two lawsuits against the Arizona Legislature with amicus curiae briefs. The first is a lawsuit filed on August 12 by the Arizona School Boards Association, the Arizona Education Association and other education organizations and activists over HB 2898, SB 1824, and SB 1825, which prohibit mask and vaccine mandates, ban Critical Race Theory, and establish a legislative committee to review the findings of the state Senate review of the November 2020 election results in Maricopa County.

The second is a lawsuit filed by the City of Phoenix over HB 2893, which sets the qualifications for members of civilian review boards including requiring training. It also allows a legislator to submit a request to the Arizona Attorney General for an investigation of “any written policy, written rule or written regulation adopted by any agency, department or other entity of the county, city or town.”

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Arizona Democratic Legislator Responds to Defamation Lawsuit Filed by Gosar, Finchem and Kern over January 6 Remarks

Rep. Charlene Fernandez (D-Yuma) responded to a defamation lawsuit filed against her by three Arizona Republican leaders by asking the court to dismiss it. U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ-04), Rep. Mark Finchem (R-Oro Valley) and former Rep. Anthony Kern (R-Phoenix) filed the lawsuit against her due to a letter she sent on February 12 to the FBI and Department of Justice along with the rest of the Democrats in the Arizona Legislature asking the agencies to investigate the men about their role on January 6 at the U.S. Capitol protest. The three were at the Capitol that day but did not participate in the unauthorized entry of the building or aggressive behavior. 

Finchem told National File that “it’s been horrible” dealing with the accusations. “They’ve destroyed my character in the public eye. They’ve destroyed my reputation, and all of it is a big lie.”

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Pima County Republican Chair Calls for Arrest of Officials Mandating Vaccine or Masks

Shelley Kais

The chairman of the Pima County Republican Party is calling for the arrest of local officials who mandate the COVID-19 vaccine or masks. In that lower part of the state, the City of Tucson requires vaccinations and the Marana School District requires masks. 

Shelley Kais told the Arizona Daily Independent, “On September 29, any school board member, city councilman, or supervisor who requires masks or vaccines mandates and passports should be arrested ” She went on, “The power grab by our elected officials to play this ‘game of chicken’ is nothing more than political and follows neither science nor good public policy. We will continue to fight for our first responders, our teachers, and the children in Pima County.” 

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City of Phoenix Sues Arizona over New Laws on Police Review Boards and Broadening Attorney General’s Investigative Powers

The City of Phoenix filed a lawsuit against the State of Arizona on Tuesday, contending that new legislation regulating police review boards and expanding the Attorney General’s powers of investigation violates the state constitution. HB 2893 requires that the members of police misconduct boards be partially composed of police officers, but the City set up its own review board a month before the legislation was passed which says police officers or former police officers shall not sit on its police review board. 

Similarly, the City objects to the qualifications laid out in the law for civilian review boards; the City merely wants non-City employees serving on it, but the legislation requires that board members have some training. And finally, the City objects to a provision which states that when requested by a legislator, the Attorney General may investigate laws or rules passed by lower levels of government that appear to violate state law, and withhold state funding if a violation is found. 

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Arizona Republican State Legislators Ask Governor to Take Action Regarding School Districts Violating Law on Mask Mandates

Doug Ducey and Jake Hoffman

Twenty-six Republican members of the Arizona Legislature signed onto a letter drafted by Rep. Jake Hoffman (R-Queen Creek) asking Arizona Governor Doug Ducey to take four steps of action in regards to several school districts that appear to be violating state law by imposing mask mandates in schools. A high school biology teacher recently filed a lawsuit over the mandate implemented by Phoenix Union High School District. The school districts contend that the law, A.R.S. 15-342.05, doesn’t apply yet since bills do not go into effect until 90 days after the end of the legislative session, but the bill contains a retroactive clause. 

“It borders on anarchy and destabilizes the very foundation of our society to have local governments effectively refusing to comply with the law. It must not be allowed to stand,” the legislators said. “Any local government that willfully and intentionally flaunts state law must be held accountable.”

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Arizona Ranks First in Nation for Small Business Growth

A new report from the payroll company PayChex ranked the states in order of small business job growth and Arizona came out No. 1, with nearly 6% growth over the past year. Phoenix ranked third among the country’s 20 most populated cities. The Arizona Legislature released a report shortly before that showing Arizona is in great condition, breaking records. The state passed historic tax cuts this year, preventing a 77% increase on small business taxes, reducing small business property taxes by 10%, and capping the maximum tax rate on businesses at 4.5%.

Frank Fiorelle, vice president of risk, compliance and data analytics at Paychex, explained that a lot of the job growth is due to the pandemic ending. “A lot of those restaurants are coming back online, opening the doors and turning on the lights, he said. He added that states which reopened their economies earlier have higher job creation rates.

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Arizona Legislative Report Reveals ‘Extraordinary’ Fiscal Growth in State

A new report from the Arizona Legislature’s Joint Legislative Budget Committee shows Arizona is in great economic condition, breaking records. Revenues from taxes are high or better than projected, with significant gains expected in the future, and personal income is growing at the fastest pace since 1985. It comes after Arizona passed historic tax cuts, reducing the personal income tax to the lowest flat tax in the country at 2.5%. However, some of the rosy picture is due to COVID-19 relief.

Governor Doug Ducey issued a statement about the report, “It paints a picture of a state economy that has emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic not only in great shape, but poised to achieve even greater accomplishments in the years ahead. The ‘extraordinary growth’ Arizona saw in Fiscal Year 2021 is positive news for every Arizonan. We are leading the way in the nation’s economic recovery.”

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Warren Petersen, Shawnna Bolick Top Republican Liberty Caucus of Arizona’s 2021 Scorecard

Warren Petersen and Shawnna Bolick

The Republican Liberty Caucus of Arizona released its 2021 scorecard rating Arizona legislators this session, with just two legislators receiving perfect scores — and one of them actually scored 102 due to bonus points. Sen. Warren Petersen (R-Mesa) received an extra two points for his efforts on SCR 1001, a Senate Concurrent Resolution to terminate Governor Doug Ducey’s declaration of emergency on COVID-19. The resolution was highly critical of Ducey, observing that “Governor Ducey has subjected individual citizens to criminal sanctions for noncompliance with the stay-at-home orders.” It did not make it through the legislature.

Rep. Shawnna Bolick (R-Phoenix), who is running for Arizona Secretary of State, was the only representative to receive a perfect 100. Rep. Jacqueline Parker (R-Mesa) received the Rookie of the Year award as the highest scoring freshman legislator, with 94. Petersen, Bolick and Parker were among seven legislators to receive perfect scores earlier this month from the Arizona Free Enterprise Club for their voting. 

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Seven State Legislators Score 100 Percent in Arizona Free Enterprise Club Rankings

The Arizona Free Enterprise Club gathered in a conference room

The Arizona Free Enterprise Club completed its rankings of how Arizona legislators performed during the 2021 legislative session, and one Senator and six House members scored a perfect 100%. AFEC ranked them based on election integrity, income tax policy, “regulatory relief and ongoing government overreach from the covid-19 pandemic, banning critical race theory in our taxpayer-funded institutions and school choice.”

The seven legislators with a perfect score are Sen. Warren Petersen (R-Mesa) and Reps. Jacqueline Parker (R-Mesa), Jake Hoffman (R-Queen Creek), John Fillmore (R-Apache Junction), Joseph Chaplik (R-Scottsdale), Shawnna Bolick (R-Phoenix), and Travis Grantham (R-Gilbert). 

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In a Reversal, Gov. Ducey Tells Two School Districts Their Quarantine Policy for Unvaccinated Students is Illegal

An advisor for Governor Doug Ducey sent letters Wednesday to two Arizona school superintendents letting them know their policies of requiring unvaccinated students exposed to COVID-19 to quarantine is illegal. Education policy advisor Kairlin Harrier told the superintendents of Peoria Unified School District and Catalina Foothills School District their policies violate a new law, HB 2898, which states, “A school district or charter school may not require a student or teacher to receive a vaccine for covid-19 or to wear a face covering to participate in in-person instruction.” 

Harrier went on, “The policy must be rescinded immediately.” She pointed out that children under age 12 haven’t even received approval from the federal government to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Children ages 12-15 only received approval for the vaccine in May.

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Hobbs’ Campaign Manager Calls Vietnamese-American State Legislator a ‘White Nationalist’ for Opposing CRT

Arizona State Rep. Martin Quezada (D-Maryvale), who is also the campaign manager for Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, tweeted on July 9 that fellow legislator, Vietnamese-American Quang Nguyen (R-Prescott), is a “white nationalist” for tweeting Governor Doug Ducey’s announcement of Arizona’s new law banning critical race theory. Nguyen, who is Vietnamese, fled Vietnam with his brother during the Vietnam War as a refugee, living in refugee camps until they were reunited with their parents four months later. 

Nguyen tweeted a news release from the governor’s website, “Governor Ducey, Legislature Take Strong Action to Stop Critical Race Theory” with a link. Quezada copied the tweet and wrote, “This is what #WhiteNationalism looks like,” with an arrow pointing at Nguyen’s tweet. 

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Five Voting-Related Ballot Proposals Seek to Make Arizona 2022 Ballot

Five ballot proposals addressing voting may be on this fall’s ballot if their sponsors collect enough signatures. Three of them, known as referendums, seek to stop legislation from becoming law, requiring 118,823 signatures each. The other ballot initiatives need 237,645 signatures each. Even if all the signatures are collected, a successful legal challenge could keep them off the ballot.

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Court Issues Mixed Opinion on Former State Rep Shooter’s Defamation Suit: Mesnard Immunity Does Not Cover the Press Release

Don Shooter

The Arizona Supreme Court issued an opinion Wednesday dismissing part of a defamation lawsuit by expelled Arizona legislator Don Shooter against Sen. J.D. Mesnard (R-Chandler) on Wednesday, while allowing the remaining part of the case to proceed.

Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita (R-Scottsdale) complained in 2017 when she was in the state House that Shooter, a Republican from Litchfield Park, sexually harassed her, resulting in the legislature removing him in 2018. He sued then-House speaker Mesnard, who introduced a bill to remove Shooter, over a press release and 82-page investigative report Mesnard issued about the expulsion. Shooter accused him of defamation and materially altering the investigative report.

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Arizona Legislature Wraps up Session for the Year

The Arizona Legislature wrapped up this year on Wednesday with a nearly record-long session, reaching 171 days. Lawmakers came to an agreement on most of the budget last Friday that contained historic tax cuts. Governor Doug Ducey signed that bill, HB 2900, also on Wednesday.

During the last few hours, the legislature approved the education budget bill, HB 2898, which included an expansion of the school voucher program. It reduces the length of time children must attend a public school before they are eligible for vouchers to use at a private school. Low-income children who live near poorly-rated schools will be eligible immediately, and others will only have to spend 45 days in the school, down from 100 days.

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Arizona House Passes Sentencing Reform Bill, But Passage in the Senate Remains Uncertain

The Arizona House of Representatives passed a sentencing reform bill on Monday, but due to a Senate committee chair failing to bring a similar bill up for a vote in the Senate earlier this year, SB 1064, it’s not clear whether it will make it through the Senate. SB 1064 would relax sentencing laws, which are some of the strictest in the nation. According to Arizona Prison & Sentencing Reform, the state has the fourth highest incarceration rate. Inmates are currently required to serve 85% of their sentences, but the bill would reduce that to as little as one third of their sentences. Inmates who complete self-improvement programs such as substance abuse treatment and maintain good behavior while in prison can receive time off their sentences.

The bill received overwhelming bipartisan support in the House, with legislators voting 50-8 in favor. The previous version of the bill, HB 2173, didn’t get very far in the Senate, since Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Warren Petersen (R-Gilbert) declined to hear the legislation in his committee. The sponsor of the bill, Rep. Walt Blackman (R-Snowfake), decided to get around Petersen with the new legislation by using a strike-everything amendment. He amended a bill that had already passed out of the Senate, so it can go straight to the Senate floor for a vote. However, it is up to Sen. President Karen Fann (R-Prescott) to bring it up for a vote. There is little time left, since the legislative session will likely end this week, according to the AZ Mirror. 

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Historic Income Tax Overhaul Reduces Burden by 13 Percent for Most Arizonans

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey is expected to sign a budget bill the Arizona Legislature sent to him on Friday that includes a historic tax reform package. HB 2900 implements the lowest flat tax in the country, 2.5%. The average Arizona family will see a 13% income tax reduction, about $350 per year. According to the nonpartisan Tax Foundation, Arizona previously had one of the highest marginal income tax rates in the country. 

The budget bill also eliminates taxes on veterans’ retirement pay and prevents a 77% increase on small business taxes. It reduces property taxes by 10% on small businesses and job creators by 10%, capping the maximum tax rate on businesses at 4.5% and reducing commercial property taxes. According to a report by Ducey, 43% of Arizonans in the private sector work for small businesses. HB 2900 increases the homeowner’s rebate so the state covers half of homeowners’ primary property taxes.

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Arizona Legislature Bans Vaccine Passports

Passport

PHOENIX, Arizona – Last week, the Arizona legislature banned the state from mandating COVID-19 vaccine passports. These were provisions packed into legislation concerning the budget – a version of which was passed by the House on Friday.

The legislation banning COVID-19 vaccine passports applies to the state and all cities, towns, and counties – it passed along party lines. That legislation also bars government entities from requiring businesses to obtain proof of vaccination in order to allow patrons to enter. An amendment adopted onto that bill also specifies that emergency use authorization (EUA) vaccines may not be required for school attendance, and obligates employers to accommodate employees who decline the COVID-19 vaccine based on religious beliefs, practices, or observances.

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Arizona Legislature Overrides Ducey’s Veto

Doug Ducey

The Republican-controlled Senate voted 25-5 Thursday to override Governor Doug Ducey’s veto of a bill that made technical corrections to previously enacted laws. Ducey vetoed SB1635 along with 21 other bills a month ago, following through on a threat he’d made in May over the legislature’s failing to send him a budget. It was the first time in 40 years, the Arizona Senate has overruled the governor.

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Arizona House Passes Tax Reforms Adopting Flat Rate, Reduced Income Tax

PHOENIX, Arizona – Thursday, the Arizona House passed tax reforms to implement a flat tax rate and reduced income tax during the ongoing debate over the budget. With it, they ushered in a $1.9 billion tax cut and lowered taxes to about 2.5 percent.

House Republicans announced their victory early that afternoon.

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Arizona House Adopts Rule Change to Shut Down Prolonged Debate on Budget; Democrats Livid

PHOENIX, Arizona – In an effort to speed along passage of the budget, Arizona House Republicans pushed through a rule change to limit debate on bills to 30 minutes. After that, amendments on that bill would be moved, explained, and voted on without debate, explanation of vote, or questions. Additionally, all protests were directed to be made in writing and submitted to the chief clerk.

The rule change passed along party lines, 31 to 29.

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Arizona House Democrats Stage Walkout After Allegedly Promising Republican Leadership They’d Stay

PHOENIX, Arizona – In a move mirroring the Texas House Democrats last week, the Arizona House Democrats walked out of the budget hearing on Tuesday. House Minority Leader Reginald Bolding (D-Laveen) and House Minority Whip Domingo DeGrazia (D-Tucson) reportedly committed to Republican House leadership that they wouldn’t stage a walkout.

In an interview with The Arizona Sun Times, State Representative Jake Hoffman (R-Gilbert) asserted that the Republican side of the House showed up willing to listen to and discuss the Democrats’ amendments. He said that this latest stunt was an indicator of who had the people’s best interest at heart.

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Arizona Lawmaker Introduces First-Ever Resolution Against Court-Packing

A newly-elected member of the Arizona House of Representatives Tuesday announced a resolution calling for a Constitutional amendment against court-packing.

“Democrats’ stated intentions to abuse our nation’s constitutional separation of powers by packing the Supreme Court are not merely an assault on the rule of law, they are a blatant attempt to politicize the world’s most respected legal body,” State Representative-Elect Jake Hoffman (R-AZ-12) said in a press release. “Protecting the independence and integrity of the United States Supreme Court is an ethical and moral imperative that rises to a level of public policy importance rivaled by few other issues.”

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Giuliani: Arizona GOP Will Attempt to Certify Trump the Winner of 2020 Election on Wednesday

President Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani said Tuesday morning that the Arizona legislature will attempt to pass a resolution this week demanding a joint session to certify President Trump as the winner of the 2020 election.

During an interview on Steve Bannon’s “War Room: Pandemic” podcast, Giuliani noted that Arizona lawmakers did not have the votes to declare Trump the winner on Monday, but was hopeful that they would be able to do it on Wednesday.

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