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Legislative Roundup

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PHOENIX – This past week at the Arizona Legislature was the final week committees met to hear and discuss bills, which fueled long hearings and late nights. As of March 20, there were 103 House bills and 79 Aenate bills awaiting hearings – and as of the end of the day on March 23, they were all heard. When does the session end? Officially, the end of April. But folks are still placing their bets. The sine-die pool is now open. Dive in by April 6 to predict when the Legislature wraps it up pic.twitter.com/SJ3oZ5wvy4 — Mary Jo Pitzl (@maryjpitzl) March 22, 2017 What’s Up, Gov? Gov. Doug Ducey got busy this week signing bills. On Monday, he signed House Bill 2268, introduced by Rep. Maria Syms, R-Phoenix, which requires all rape kits to be tested. The bill passed both the House and Senate unanimously. Ducey also...

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Sexism in Arizona politics might be here to stay

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PHOENIX – Arizona is doing well in regards to gender representation in the state Legislature, but it could take 30 years before the state reaches gender parity in its law-making body. Arizona is fourth in the nation for female representation in the state Legislature at 38.9 percent, behind Vermont, Nevada and Colorado, leaving 46 states with even fewer women in politics. Fifty percent of Arizonans are women, yet barely a third serve in elective office. And there’s more reason to have women in politics than simply representation of gender. “Women have a different leadership style than men do,” Sen. Kimberly Yee, R-Glendale, said. “And I think that is something we need to bring to the table.” Yee said, according to the Future Majority Project, a conservative group working toward gender and minority representation in U.S. politics, she is the highest-ranking female Republican...

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Arizona justice: Freeing the wrongly imprisoned

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In the fall of 2011, Khalil Rushdan walked out of prison a free man. Rushdan served 15 years of a 25-year sentence following his conviction for first-degree felony murder in 1997.  That year, Rushdan wasn’t alone when he became a free man. He was one of the 74 people exonerated in the U.S., according to the National Registry for Exonerations. His story, like so many others, is complex. In 1993, Rushdan worked as a middleman for drug dealers and sellers in Tucson. What started out as a regular deal quickly turned to violence. Rushdan had left the buyers and seller alone for the transaction and when he returned, one of the buyers had shot and killed the seller. “I come back to the house to lock up and make sure that nothing was left behind, to clean up,” said Rushdan. “And, I see them...

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Refugees get help planting new roots in Arizona

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    Somalian refugee Suleiman Arive carefully moves his foot farther up the tree branch to knock another grapefruit the size of a small basketball down to Bhutanese refugee Jasoda. She catches it, bringing a wide smile across her face. Arive laughed and politely asked me to retrieve his phone from his bag to Snapchat their teamwork as he reached for another unwanted grapefruit from a tree in a Tucson backyard. Arive and Jasoda are volunteering with a creative refugee network that gives those fleeing their conflict-stricken homes in Africa, Asia and the Middle East the opportunity to gain skills to better integrate them into their new home in Southern Arizona — all while saving them a trip to the grocery store by providing them with fruit and vegetables at no cost. Iskashitaa Refugee Network allows displaced people from over 30...

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Obesity continues to drop in Pima County

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Obesity continues to be a statewide problem in Arizona. In Pima County, 26.6 percent of adults are overweight or obese and high school students are more at risk of being obese because they are not getting enough physical activity and fruits and vegetables, according to the Centers for Disease Control division of community health reports. Certain ethnic groups tend to be significantly higher in the Pima County area due to not enough access to physical activity and healthy grocery stores. According to the CDC, 33.1 percent of Hispanics are obese. The national average is 30.6 percent. Obesity rates in Pima County are fairly high because of food insecurity among children and adults as well as low-income, elderly and children with limited access to a grocery store, according to Javier Herrera, community engagement program manager for the Pima County Board of Health....

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Adderall kickback proves more dangerous than users think

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Lilly has a morning routine that is a little different than many college students. She wakes up. She eats breakfast. But with her breakfast, she takes a small pill that helps her feel more focused and relaxed as she starts her day. Vyvanse, Lilly’s morning prescription drug choice, is used to stimulate the central nervous system and affect the chemicals in the brain often used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in which the patient finds it extremely difficult to concentrate. Although Vyvanse helps Lilly stay focused, it only does so for a short time. That’s why around 3 p.m. Lilly switches to another drug, one that usually keeps her alert, focused and motivated until she goes to bed and a drug that 1 in 5 college students regularly abuse, according to a survey released by the Partnership for Drug-Free...

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Eliminating NEA could be detrimental to Arizona communities

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            For small towns like Douglas, grants for the arts can be deeply influential. With the election of a new mayor in 2016, Douglas is looking at a future that thrives on arts and culture, and is using National Endowment for the Arts funding to bring back life to this troubled border town in Arizona’s southeast corner. Mayor Robert Uribe and his wife, Jenea Sanchez, have been working diligently to find a way to rebuild Douglas as a historic city that can be recognized as a cultural center and supporter of the arts. “For our state arts organization to come into our local community and contribute funds towards our arts refinement, it very much legitimizes the work that we have started on, and we are so grateful for that,” Sanchez said.   The Trump administration plans to eliminate...

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Immigrant possessions disappear during deportation

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On a warm day in September, a young man sits in a soup kitchen on the Mexican side of Nogales. He has just been deported from the United States without his belongings. Here at the comedor, he is surrounded by more than 30 others who have also been deported and are in need of assistance to get home. Luis, who was only willing to give his first name, is 24 years old and unsure of what awaits him when he returns to his hometown. Still wearing the identifiable prison release uniform, a light blue shirt and blue jean pants, Luis just finished serving almost 16 months in an Arizona prison. When he was released from detention and returned to Mexico, Luis was missing two smart phones, clothing, $200 and his Mexican identification card. The only money available to him...

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Why men often die earlier than women

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Death visits men before women. Men, on average, die about five years earlier than women. Men’s behavior plays a huge role in why they tend to die younger, said Ronald Levant, a professor of psychology at the University of Akron in Ohio. Some men who endorse and conform to “traditional masculine norms” have higher mortality rates. These norms include avoiding all things feminine, restricting the expression of emotions, dominance, extreme self-reliance and toughness. These “traditional” men also place a great deal of importance on sexuality and tend to have negative attitudes toward sexual minorities, Levant said. “The norms of masculinity are something every boy and man in our society has to contend with because they are out there, they are promoted,” he said. Baron Rogers, a Ph.D. psychology student at the University of Akron, recently completed a research study on African...

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Tucson based company has new home for exploring space

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By late 2018 Tucson-based World View Enterprises plans to fulfill the dreams of many by sending people into space.  World View Enterprises, a private company, is the only near-space exploration company in Arizona. For $75,000 customers will be taken to an altitude of roughly 100,000 feet, and stay up there for hours before gently coming back down. Andrew Antonio, director of marketing and communications for World View Enterprises, made it clear that the timeline to get people into space is fluid. “It’s hard to commit to a specific date for obvious reasons – safety is our No. 1 priority and we’re doing something that’s never been done before, which requires a lot of great research and development and learning along the way,” Antonio said. Initial plans from World View had the company sending customers up by 2017. “We won’t rush...

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Will wall stop resilient San Pedro River from crossing the border?

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The mighty San Pedro River in Southeastern Arizona and Northern Mexico has survived droughts, floods, fires and wars, but will the Trump Administration’s proposal to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border threaten one of the last undammed rivers in the United States? The river flows north out of Mexico and across the border into the United States near Hereford. The river has a rich cultural, ecological and historical record, and is the lifeblood to the small communities that have sprouted up along its banks. It also impacts a riparian area that is home to more than 250 migratory birds and more than 100 species of breeding birds, including the yellow-billed cuckoo. The riparian area of the San Pedro is also home to 84 species of mammals such as jaguars, coatimundi, beavers and bats. It is here in Southern Arizona where concerns...

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Arizonans share harm of racial profiling

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Racial profiling happens. It happens inside a classroom, at the market and in the streets. And to those to whom it happens, the hurt is real. Here are five stories. Chelsea Kiki With her husband driving, and the brand-new scent of the car freshener coming from the little tree hanging inside their car, Chelsea Kiki and her husband were having a quiet drive on the freeway. Chelsea Kiki, 25, is 5 feet 6 inches tall and is African American. She is from San Francisco and raises funds for the Arizona Charity Foundation. Kiki and her husband were on their way to Phoenix. She knew they were going the speed limit with their seat belts on. She was surprised when a policeman pulled them over. “They told my husband to get out of the car and took him to the squad car,” she said....

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Legislative Roundup: A retired justice, minimum wage and drunken hair cuts

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  PHOENIX – On Wednesday this week, Sen. Kimberly Yee, R-Glendale, brought former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor to the Arizona State Senate to speak about civics. Yee pointed out that O’Connor was the first female senate majority leader. Some 40 years later, Yee is the second. O’Connor also visited the Arizona House of Representatives later that day. Senate Minority Leader Sen. Katie Hobbs, D-Phoenix, introduced her guest on Wednesday as well: former state senator and minority leader Alfredo Gutierrez. Later on Wednesday, over at the House of Representatives, Rep. Bob Thorpe, R-Dist 6, gave a pretty weird apology on the House floor. In the beginning of the session, he publicly apologized for his treatment of a fellow lawmaker, saying “I overstepped my authority.” He didn’t name who he over stepped his authority with, but he asked Rep. Isela...

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Legislative roundup: Women, fake news and money

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PHOENIX – Wednesday was International Women’s Day and it was clear across the capitol who supported it and who didn’t. Some women across the world took the day to strike, wear red and blue, or not buy anything, while others kept their nose to the ground. Women packed both the House and Senate galleries. #AZLeg House gallery is packed with women for #InternationalWomensDay! #WomeninBlue pic.twitter.com/cNEdqvJRbb — Athena Salman (@athenasalman) March 8, 2017 The strike was labeled “A Day Without Women” and plenty of protestors shared their stories . Fake News On Monday, the House Education Committee met to vote on Senate Bill 1384. The bill passed through the Senate, committees included, without a single vote against it. And then it went to the House. Discussion got pretty heated as a bill aimed to expand Freedom of the Press protections for student journalists at...

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Lack of pay for Arizona teachers problematic

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  A decrease in teachers and shortage of money will have an impact in Cochise County as retention rates continue to plummet in Arizona. The state hosts a myriad of poor working conditions for teachers, ranking in the bottom five in the following categories nationwide, according to a statistical analysis by Wallethub: Lowest annual salary, fewest teachers per student and lowest public school spending — all with an overall ranking of 48th, ahead of only West Virginia and Hawai’i. About a half-million U.S. teachers either move or leave the profession each year — attrition that costs the United States up to $2.2 billion annually — according to the Alliance for Excellent Education. The high turnover rate disproportionately affects high-poverty schools and compromises the nation’s capacity to ensure all students have access to skilled teaching, the Alliance report says. The cost to...

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