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Legislative roundup: new and old bills move through committee hearings

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Monday marked the deadline for the Senate to introduce new bills. A total of 524 Senate bills have been introduced this year in addition to 22 memorials and resolutions. Next Monday is the House and Representatives deadline for introducing new legislation. As of now 619 bills were introduced in the House along with 50  memorials and resolutions. The number is expected to increase next week. Last year’s session ended with a total of 1,251 bills, memorials and resolutions being introduced. The number signed and filed totaled 131. Autocycle bill roles through the House Jerry Pignolo, owner of Fun Times Rentals in Tempe, purchased the state’s first Polaris Slingshot for $27,000. The problem is he cannot rent it to customers without a Class M license and a motorcycle endorsement even though it operates like a car. HB 2248 would amend the current...

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Border Strike Force quick to brag, slow to share details

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Gov. Doug Ducey showcased the success of his new Border Strike Force Bureau at the State of the State address, but details of those operations prove hard to obtain. He reported, “The strike force has made over 300 arrests, taken down 14 cartel members, and seized 4,400 pounds of marijuana, 194 pounds of meth and 21 pounds of heroin.” Public records of those operations are not available despite an Arizona Sonora News Service’s public records request three weeks ago. The lack of openness raises questions about transparency and accountability if the Legislature gives Ducey $31.5 million to fire up the strike force full time. “It just came out of thin air,” said District 4 Rep. Charlene Fernandez, D-Yuma. “When you start off like that it gives you the idea there will not be transparency for the public when there is not...

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The San Pedro River Valley: An energy battlefield

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Cottonwoods shade a river where thousands of fish swim and millions of migrating birds stop. This green ribbon ebbs and flows through an otherwise charcoal brown valley. Dirt roads lead to farms and homes, cows graze and wind blows through desert trees and shrubs. Usually this area is quiet and peaceful, but recently this valley has been a place of unrest regarding a proposed power line that some say threatens the ecological purity of the land while others claim is needed to promote long-term economic development. On Wednesday the Arizona Corporation Commission approved a major permit for the proposed SunZia power line. This is one of the last permits the project needs before construction begins in Arizona. The $2 billion, 515-mile SunZia power line will consist of two high voltage lines that will run from central New Mexico down...

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Love for sale in Arizona

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Small, independent businesses make cookies with mesquite pod flour. Large candy factories sell chocolate handcuffs. When it comes to Valentine’s Day treats in the Grand Canyon State, why not buy locally produced treats? Americans will purchase about 36 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolate this February, according to the National Confectioners Association. There is no need for Arizonans, however, to buy their significant other a Whitman’s Sampler to proclaim their love. Take your sweetheart on a road trip around the state to get a taste of how Arizona says, “I love you,” locally. Start in Tucson at the Rillito Park Racetrack farmers’ market, which runs Sundays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and swing by a few booths that offer local Valentine’s Day treats. Esperanza Arevalo owns Tortilleria Arevalo, and she sells a variety of edible goods, including gluten-free mesquite tortillas,...

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Legislative roundup: lawmakers begin passing bills

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The pace at the Capitol quickened this week as lawmakers balanced time between assigned committee hearings and making sure their own bills survived the process.  Next Monday marks the last day for Senate bills to be introduced and the following Monday is the last day to introduce bills in the House. Senate News Two bills were passed revisiting the effectiveness of two agencies and calling for an eight year continuation of both. SB 1040 continues the Arizona Department of Administration and SB 1043 continues the State Personnel Board. District 23 Sen. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, had two bills of his own get passed to the House. SB 1010 removes the requirements for an annual report from the Director of ADOA to the governor and legislature about state agencies’ use of recycled materials. SB 1056 removes the requirement for state...

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Arizona looks to spend instead of save on prisons, corrections

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States across the nation save millions of taxpayer dollars by reducing sentences for non-violent felons while not increasing threats to public safety yet Arizona’s Republican-led legislature has mixed interests in doing the same. Instead, Arizona wants to spend an additional $31.5 million for corrections this year, including $17.6 million for 1,000 new prison beds.  Total spending on prisons and state corrections amounts to $1 billion annually. If the state would reduce non-violent sentencing by six months — as many other states are doing — it could save taxpayers $141 million per year. Since 2007, California — known for one of the highest incarceration rates in the nation — reduced prison populations by 25 percent saving the state $2 billion annually. New York and New Jersey also cut sentences for non-violent offenders by six months without showing any increases in...

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Legislative roundup: short week with big production

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It is back to business as usual as normalcy ensued at the Capitol following the MLK holiday weekend. The week kicked off with the 21st Annual Indian Nations and Tribes Legislative Day with members representing all of Arizona’s 21 sovereign tribes. Tuesday was also a big day for the Republican and Democrat Caucuses which met in the House and Senate in response to the Gov. Doug Ducey’s executive budget recommendations from last Friday.   21st Annual Indian Nations and Tribes Legislative Day  Leadership and members of Arizona’s 21 sovereign Native American tribes and nations joined lawmakers to participate in an exhibitor fair, listen to keynote speeches from tribal leaders and voice concerns to their district representatives. Governor Stephen Lewis of the Gila River Indian community and keynote speaker said, “We have the same issues as everyday Arizonans” such as education, water, social services and veteran...

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Ducey’s new border force raises concerns from legislators, sheriffs

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Many questions remain unanswered regarding Gov. Doug Ducey’s new Arizona Border Strike Force and the money recommended to fund it. At the State of the State address, Ducey cautioned against big spending but later proposed a new $31.5 million police force that will expand state’s governments role in patrolling the border. He also is offering border counties $1.5 million to help cover their border expenses.  Some border sheriffs and state legislators question Ducey’s plan, asking why the state needs to expand its own powers instead of providing local law enforcement more funds to boost already established operations. He presented the border strike force as “a partnership between local, state and federal law enforcement” through the Department of Public Safety “in the fight against drug cartels and border crimes” calling for multiagency and multi-jurisdictional support in order to succeed. The current budget at DPS is...

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Ducey addresses big concerns with little financial details

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Gov. Doug Ducey’s State of the State address touched on concerns shared by both parties who now wait to see if he is going to offer up the cash. The question regarding funding will not be answered until his budget is released Friday. Ducey mentioned education, child safety, sexual assault, public safety and border security. “At the end of the day, it boils down to details and I did not hear a lot of details,” said District 27 Rep. Rebecca Rios, D-Phoenix, minority whip. “It was a lot of sound bites, cheesy jokes, overarching things and a lot of promises but at the end of the day if you aren’t actually providing details then it is all for not.” While Democrats questioned the lack of specifics in his address, Republicans showed optimism and support for Ducey’s agenda. The reaction of District...

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52nd Legislature preview: same stuff, different session

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Arizonans may be in store for another speedy legislative session similar to last year’s 81-day record breaker and again the topic on everyone’s mind is the state budget. “My fear is that this is going to be a session that is done at break-neck speed because you have folks who want to get out and start campaigning, which I think is a real disservice to Arizonans,” said District 27 Rep. Rebecca Rios, D-Phoenix, the minority whip. Time will tell as Gov. Doug Ducey plans to deliver his State of the State address on Monday outlining his agenda for the session followed by his 2016 budget report on Friday. If Arizona’s budget were a hypothetical pie, everyone is looking for a slice especially agencies and programs that received major cuts in state funding last year. “Almost always an issue that...

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Arizona dude ranches meet Hollywood

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Humans are notorious for their insatiable desire to ride off into the sunset. And there’s one vacation just over the hillside that gives greenhorns and tenderfoots alike the chance to and rope and ride for real. The guest ranches—also known as dude ranches—popped up during the Westward expansion days and have since become a refuge for vacationers from around the world looking to get a piece of the cowboy fantasy. And many dude ranches have a surprisingly long history in Hollywood, said Leah Bright, the administrative assistant for the National Dude Ranch Association. “It’s just a real-life experience of the movies,” said Bright. Circle Z Ranch in Patagonia is the oldest continuously operating guest ranch in Arizona and was the film set for “Red River,” filmed in 1948 and “Gunsmoke,” filmed in 1953. There are three types of dude...

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Public support grows for right-to-die

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On Sept. 1, Bisbee became the first city in the state to back a resolution supporting the right to die. Right to die is a discussion that needs to be started in Arizona,” said Councilwoman Joan Hansen. The move was in response to other states such as Oregon, California, and Vermont, all of which legalized right-to-die legislation. Bisbee joined a growing nationwide movement to let people die with dignity. Bisbee has always existed as a city that is counter to the mainstream culture of Arizona. It was the first city in the state to support same sex marriage despite the fact that many citizens and state politicians did not support it. Bisbee’s resolution to support right to die is another landmark first for the city, but is Bisbee’s support just another protest for a city that does not hold...

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Hot tamale: the labor of love

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I remember when I was about nine and playing catch with my dad in the front yard. He would always say “ah it’s a hot tamale, throw it quick.” I always thought my dad was talking about those bright red cinnamon flavored candies, but recently Laura Cecilia Barrera Coronado showed me what  “hot tamale” really means. The day began bright and early on a sunny morning in Tucson.  I met Coronado at the local market, where she began showing me how to pick out the freshest cornhusks to wrap the masa and tamale filling. She squeezed the packages until she found the most buoyant in the bunch. “These ones,” she said in Spanish.   Next was the meat, a vibrant red cut of beef, labeled ‘tamale meat.’ Coronado glided her finger over the packaging analyzing her options. She tells me to never use...

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The Chihuahua: Petite in size, popularity a husky among Arizonans

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Alaska has the Alaskan Malamute, Massachusetts the Boston terrier, North Carolina the Plott Hound, but Arizona has nothing to call its “official” state dog. Unofficially, however, the state dog of Arizona is the Chihuahua. For years, the announcer of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show introduced the Chihuahua by uttering, “the origin of the breed is a mystery.” Billy Miller, a long-time Chihuahua aficionado, says the announcer would go on to say, “It is believed the breed originated in Mexico.” Miller, 47, knows Chihuahuas. Fascinated by Chihuahuas as a young boy, Miller has gone from reading books about the smallest dog breed in the world, to serving as a board member and is the Judges Education Chair for the Chihuahua Club of America. As a historian of the Chihuahua breed, Miller says throughout his research and studies, most archeological...

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One size does not fit all: sheriffs disagree with Ducey’s border strike force plan

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Lack of communication, lack of transparency and lack of leadership seems to be the themes of how most county sheriffs feel toward the private course of action Republican Gov. Doug Ducey is taking with the new Arizona Border Strike Force proposal. Many believe Duceys’ plan is to keep a promise he made during his 2014 campaign, to close our “wide-open and unprotected border.” Now he is asking the Legislature to approve “tens of millions of dollars” in order to implement the Arizona Border Strike Force in the Department of Public Safety (DPS). He argues it will “deter, disrupt and dismantle criminal organizations responsible for smuggling drugs and humans into Arizona,” Ducey said. Of the border sheriffs in Arizona only one is happy with what Ducey is proposing while the others feel they have been left out of the loop....

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