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Legislative roundup: Far from being done

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PHOENIX – The legislature passed its 100 day mark this week with still no budget – or solution to budget issues – in sight. The legislative session was scheduled to come to a close at the end of April, but an extra special session or two looks to be on the horizon if the budget can’t be delivered soon. Take some initiative Gov. Doug Ducey has been digging into initiative bills with fervor this session. Within the day that the legislature gave final approval to HBill 2244 and just two days after its renaming, Ducey signed the bill into law. HB2244 modifies the current standard for initiatives from substantial compliance to strict compliance. Basically, the bill will hold citizen-driven ballot measures to a higher legal standard and makes it more difficult for citizen-driven ballot measures to make it to the voters....

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High-speed internet access could reach half of Arizona rural schools

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PHOENIX – Another $8 million will be combined with Gov. Doug Ducey’s proposed $5 million to give rural schools access to high-speed internet – but even including the state funds by the corporation commission, around half of the schools in Arizona won’t be served. Utilizing data from the census and the Arizona Department of Education, of the 222 districts in Arizona, 70 are considered urban and 152 are rural. Map created by Chrisitanna Silva/ Arizona Sonora News Service. Red dots are districts with below average scores. Green dots are districts with above average scores. The ARSA and federal e-rate programs are working together with the government to create contracts that will show how much money it will take to give every rural school high-speed internet access. Most schools that do not currently have high speed internet will require some sort of construction...

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Legislative Roundup

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PHOENIX – This week was mostly playing catchup for last weeks marathon session. Last week, legislators pulled a total of eight hours for a single new bill that would bill that expands Empowerment Scholarship Accounts to allow students to take 90 percent of the state’s per-pupil funding and apply it private school costs. This week, the capitol was full of protestors and speakers voicing their anger that the bill passed so quickly, with such a small amount of public input. Let the Games Begin David Garcia, an Arizona State University professor, announced on Wednesday that he will be challenging Gov. Doug Ducey for the gubernatorial seat in 2018. He said he wasn’t planning on running, but the Empowerment Scholarship Accounts bill that passed last week made him feel like there had to be some changes.  Specialty License Plates There are more...

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Rural schools are struggling, and Ducey’s budget won’t fix it

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PHOENIX – Gov. Doug Ducey’s proposed $5 million in his budget and $8 million in state matched funds by the corporation commission to bring high-speed internet to Arizona schools — most of them rural — will only serve a portion of the schools and must be reauthorized for the next few years before those facilities are on equal standing. That issue, along with a proposed pay raise deemed mediocre at best, will do little to fix problems in Arizona’s rural school districts, experts say. Moreover, Arizona doesn’t have the teachers to utilize the increased internet access. “It’s kind of a joke as far as teacher retention money,” said Don German, executive director of the Arizona Rural Schools Association (ARSA). Without better high-speed internet and more teachers, rural school districts could continue struggling to improve test scores. The definition of rural schools varies...

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Legislative Roundup: blue lives matter and weed on campus

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  PHOENIX – The beginning of this week started slowly at the legislature, with lawmakers waiting patiently on the budget to appear. Word on the street is that we should be seeing it pick up next week with late night discussions about what the budget will mean for education, Gov. Doug Ducey’s main event. Public school money for private educations On Thursday, things started heating up. Both the House and the Senate heard Senate Bill 1431, a bill that expands Empowerment Scholarship Accounts to allow students to take 90 percent of the state funded per-pupil funding schools receive, which is about $5,500 but will being going down to $4,400 by the time this bill would go into affect, toward private school funding. It got pretty fired up and protestors made their voice known. Democratic legislators say it could be devastating to...

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Legislative Roundup: pets and bill signings

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PHOENIX – This week was the first week where legislators didn’t meet for committee hearings. Instead, their time was devoted to dozens of votes in the House and Senate and watching the governor’s pen for new laws all before working through the budget in the coming weeks. Speculative word around the watering hole is that the legislature will be taking a special section to really dig into that budget, and that we might start seeing some preliminary budget information. New Laws of the Land This week, Gov. Doug Ducey signed quite a few bills into Arizona law. Among them, he signed nine bills on Monday, five on Tuesday, including two bills sponsored by Democratic legislators, and a whopping 32 on Wednesday. Also this week in the governor’s office, Ducey signed tax cuts for airlines at the expense of Phoenicians. And...

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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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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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