Feds Identify Phoenix as Best City for Afghan Refugees

A federal agency has named Phoenix the ideal location for Afghan refugees to resettle.

The U.S. government is assisting thousands of Afghans in finding new homes after they fled what’s now a Taliban-controlled country. Governors and mayors from New York to California expressed their desire to help these refugees.

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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 School Officials Pushing Mask Mandate Caught Not Wearing Masks

Some Arizona school officials are in a feud with Governor Doug Ducey and the Arizona Legislature over implementing mandatory mask policies, but some of those officials have been caught not wearing masks themselves. Arizona Superintendent of Schools Kathy Hoffman, a Democrat, was spotted not wearing one along with others at a baby shower. Not a single person present had a mask on or was social distancing. Amphitheater Public Schools, which mandated masks on August 16, posted a photo of their Communications Director Michelle Valenzuela, posing without a mask on, clearly standing within a couple of feet of the photographer. They deleted the tweet.

Ducey is confident the school mask mandates will not hold up in court. He said earlier in August, “COVID has been with us for well over a year and a half now, and Arizonans are educated about it. If they want to wear masks, they should absolutely do so. It’s an individual choice. No one and no law anywhere in Arizona is stopping anyone from wearing masks. Ultimately, these mandates are toothless, unenforceable and will not hold up in court.”

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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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Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar Introduces ‘Americans Not Aliens Act’

Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ-04) introduced the “Americans Not Aliens Act” on August 20, which would prevent the Department of Homeland Security from issuing work permits to migrants with deportation orders. These are generally illegal immigrants who have received hearings before an immigration judge who has declined to give them asylum, instead ordering their removal. 

“Providing work permits to aliens who have been ordered removed from the United States is the very definition of insanity,” Gosar said in a statement. “At a time when American citizens are struggling to find jobs, my legislation removes the incentives for aliens to ignore the rule of law and not return to their country of origin.” Under the current system, they can easily find jobs in America which they may not be able to find in their home countries. 

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Kari Lake Rally: ‘We Will Elect Arizona’s First Trump-Republican Governor’

Speaking to a packed crowd in Scottsdale Saturday night for her birthday, Arizona Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake declared, “We will elect Arizona’s first Trump governor!” Lake planned the huge birthday bash to include a live viewing of former President Trump’s speech at a campaign rally in Alabama. Afterwards, she gave a speech of her own to the well over a thousand who attended the Embassy Suites event.

Lake announced the results of a new poll taken by her campaign that showed her well ahead of the other Republican candidates. She came in at 37.4 percent, followed by Matt Salmon at 11.5 percent, Steve Gaynor with 2.7 percent, and Karrin Taylor Robson at 2.0 percent. She said one of her opponents also conducted a poll that showed her ahead in a “landslide.” She distinguished herself from the others, “I’m running against a bunch of swamp creatures.” 

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Biden Commends Phoenix School District That Violated Ban on Mask Requirements

Biden Commends Phoenix School District

President Joe Biden called the head of Phoenix Union High School District after the district implemented mask requirements that may be contrary to state law, praising Superintendent Chad Geston for the move. In a statement, Biden said he told Geston during his Friday phone call that he “did the right thing.” 

The issue is currently under litigation in Maricopa County Superior Court. Numerous state legislators asked Governor Doug Ducey a few days ago to take action against the school districts in violation, and Ducey responded on Tuesday with a directive financially penalizing the districts. They will not receive any of the $163 million that the state got through the American Rescue Plan to boost per-pupil funding. Students in those districts will receive vouchers to attend schools elsewhere.

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Arizona Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Calls for Executive Order Against School Mask Mandates

Republican gubernatorial candidate Steven Gaynor wants Gov. Doug Ducey to issue an executive order in response to local school mask mandates. 

Gaynor is a Republican businessman from Paradise Valley who announced his run to replace Ducey in 2022. He narrowly lost to Katie Hobbs in the 2018 race for secretary of state. 

In an Aug. 9 press release, Gaynor asked for an executive order to provide Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESA) to parents of students in school districts that enforce mask and vaccine mandates. 

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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 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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Arizona’s Gov. Doug Ducey and Attorney General Mark Brnovich Join SCOTUS Suit to Overturn Roe v. Wade

Both Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich joined separate amicus curiae briefs with other governors and attorneys general in an abortion case out of Missouri that would gut Roe v. Wade by banning most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Ducey joined 11 other governors led by South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization to demand that the Supreme Court uphold the state law and undo Roe v. Wade. Brnovich signed on with 23 other attorneys general led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to ask that the court overrule Roe v. Wade because it is “erroneous, inconsistent, uneven, and unreliable.”

Ducey said in a statement, “The Constitution preserves the rights of the states by specifically enumerating the authority granted to the federal government. Unfortunately, almost 50 years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court decided to ignore the Constitution and created policy which has led to the over-politicization of this issue for decades.” 

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Lawsuit Filed Against Referendums That Attempt to Reverse Arizona’s Historic Tax Cuts

The Arizona Free Enterprise Club filed a lawsuit recently against Invest in Arizona over the organization’s attempt to get three referendums on the Arizona ballot that would reverse Arizona’s recently passed tax cuts. The lawsuit contends that since the tax cuts “provide for, and directly relate to, the generation of revenues that are remitted to the general fund and appropriated to various agencies, departments and instrumentalities of the state government,” they cannot be the subject of a referendum and are unconstitutional.

AFEC President Scot Mussi, who is one of the plaintiffs, said, “All three bills directly provide for the support and maintenance of the state, were key aspects of the state’s budget, and therefore are not referable by Invest in Arizona.”

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COVID-19 Cases Barely Pass 1,000 Per Day in Arizona

Despite fears that COVID-19 cases are surging in Arizona due to the state’s low vaccination rate and the emergence of the delta variant, new cases barely exceed 1,000 per day. The most recent data from Worldometer, which is cited by reputable organizations and governments around the world, shows the number of new daily cases was 1,043 on July 21. The number of new cases has stayed generally between 500 and 1,000 since the beginning of March.

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Criminal Justice Reform Champion Rep. Walt Blackman Jumps into Arizona Congressional Race

Rep. Walt Blackman (R-Snowflake) is running for Congress in Arizona’s first Congressional district. The seat, which encompasses much of the northeast part of the state, is currently held by Tom O’Halleran, a former Republican turned moderate Democrat.

“We need to get back to the rule of law of Arizona to protect its people,” the Arizona legislator said in a video discussing his run on July 18.

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Ducey Invests Millions of Federal Dollars to Start Visit Arizona Initiative

Three people on bikes in Arizona during sundown

Gov. Doug Ducey is investing $101.1 million from the federal American Rescue Plan funding to launch the Visit Arizona Initiative to increase tourism spending in Arizona and expedite its economic recovery. 

“Tourism is essential for Arizona’s booming economy and job growth,” Ducey said in a release. 

He said that when tourists stay at Arizona hotels, eat at restaurants, buy Arizona products, and partake in the state’s recreational activities, Arizona’s economy booms.

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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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Arizona Gov. Ducey Signs Bill Banning Critical Race Theory in Government

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey signed HB 2906 on Friday, banning government agencies from requiring critical race theory, known as CRT. The budget bill he signed last week, HB 2898, banned critical race theory in schools. Ducey also signed 22 other bills, including one restricting sex education in schools, HB 2035. He has until Monday to sign or veto 11 remaining bills. 

“I am not going to waste public dollars on lessons that imply the superiority of any race and hinder free speech,” Ducey declared. The law prohibits the state, cities and counties from requiring employees to participate in orientation, training or therapy that suggests an employee is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously. 

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New Arizona Law Aims to Improve Civilian Review Boards on Police Misconduct

One of the bills passed this year in the Arizona Legislature and signed by the governor, HB 2567, adds rules for independent community oversight of Arizona police departments. Although Arizona isn’t plagued like some states by high-profile incidents involving law enforcement, overall community concern led to the legislation.

John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, who comes from a law enforcement background and sponsored the bill, said, “I’m not throwing cops to the wolves, especially politically motivated wolves.

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Progressive Groups Seek to Reverse Historic Arizona Tax Cuts

A coalition of progressive groups filed a request with the Secretary of State’s office on Friday for a voter referendum that would block historic tax cuts that were passed by the state legislature and enacted by Governor Doug Ducey.

The groups will now have 90 days to collect a minimum of approximately 120,000 valid signatures from residents of the state — a move that would prevent the tax cuts from taking effect until all voters could decide on the measure in November 2022.

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Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine to Send National Guard to Help with Border Crisis

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine will send 185 National Guard troops to the U.S. Southern border in an attempt to curb the dramatic increase in illegal immigration.

The members of the National Guard will assist border patrol agents in a non-law enforcement capacity during their time there.

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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 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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Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee Won’t Say Whether He’ll Send Resources to Protect the U.S.-Mexico Border

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee and members of his staff would not say Thursday whether they will dispatch resources to Texas and Arizona to help guard the U.S.-Mexican border. The Tennessee Star made repeated attempts Thursday to contact Lee’s Communications Director Laine Arnold — by email, phone, and text. Arnold did not return our messages before Thursday’s stated deadline.

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DeSantis Sending Florida Law Enforcement to Texas and Arizona to Help with Border Crisis

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is sending members of various law enforcement agencies throughout the state to Texas and Arizona to help combat the crisis at the Southern border.

“Governors Abbott and Ducey recently sent out a call for help to every state in the nation, needing additional law enforcement manpower and other resources to aid with border security. I’m proud to announce today that the state of Florida is answering the call. Florida has your back,” DeSantis said of his decision.

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Bill Introduced by Rep. Harshbarger Would Ban Federal Vaccine Passports

Congresswoman Diana Harshbarger (R-TN-01) introduced a bill in the House of Representatives on Tuesday that would prohibit the federal use of a COVID-19 vaccine passport or any other similar required proof of vaccination.

“Vaccine passports are a restriction on individual liberties, period,” Harshbarger said of the attempts by some governments to require proof of vaccination in certain circumstances. 

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Embattled Arizona Secretary of State Announces a Run for Governor

Embattled Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D) announced Wednesday that she will launch a campaign for Governor of Arizona. 

The theme of her campaign focuses on “getting things done,” according to the video announcing her candidacy. In reference to the November 2020 election, Hobbs said, “We did our job.”

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Nashville Hosts Republican Governors Association Meeting

Republican Governors from across the country traveled to the Volunteer State this week for a series of multi-day meetings and presentations. 

The Nashville event has allowed hundreds of people to attend the conference, as this is the first major event the organization has held since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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Mike Lindell Reportedly Kicked Out of Republican Governors Association Event in Nashville After He Promised to Confront Georgia, Arizona Governors About Election

On Tuesday, the Republican Governors Association (RGA) reportedly ejected MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell from their spring conference in Nashville.

Lindell claimed that he’d been invited to the event; his spokespersons didn’t respond to The Star about these claims. Earlier that same day, Lindell announced publicly on Steve Bannon’s show, War Room Pandemic, that he would confront Arizona Governor Doug Ducey and Georgia Governor Brian Kemp over the election.

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Arizona House Passes Bill Banning Abortions Based on Genetic Abnormality

Susan B. Anthony List State Policy Director Sue Liebel

The Arizona House passed a bill Thursday that bans abortions based on diagnosis of genetic abnormality, such as Down syndrome.

S.B. 1457 states that the rights of “an unborn child at every stage of development” must be acknowledged and prohibits abortions based on the sex, race, or genetic abnormality of the child. The bill makes exceptions for medical emergencies.

“A person who knowingly” performs such an abortion “is guilty of a class 3 felony,” according to the legislation.

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Ducey Removes Arizona’s COVID-19 Restrictions on Businesses

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has rescinded the business restrictions he put in place last year to stem the spread of COVID-19. 

Ducey’s latest executive order, which he signed Friday, removes the capacity limits on businesses he had put in place July 9, effective immediately. 

“We’ve learned a lot over the past year,” Ducey said. “Our businesses have done an excellent job at responding to this pandemic in a safe and responsible way. We will always admire the sacrifice they and their employees have made and their vigilance to protect against the virus.”

Ducey said Arizona, unlike many other states, never shut down.

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Arizona Drops Nike Investment After Betsy Ross Shoe Is Scrapped

by Molly Prince   Republican Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey revealed Tuesday that the state of Arizona will withdraw all of the financial incentives provided to Nike following the company’s decision to pull an American flag-themed sneaker it deemed offensive. “Today was supposed to be a good day in Arizona, with…

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