Arizona Supreme Court Explains Voids of State Vaccination, Mask Ban Laws

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Arizona’s high court has elaborated on their decision to void additions to the most-recent state budget, saying lawmakers ran afoul of provisions in the state constitution meant to simplify legislation.

Justices released their unanimous opinion Thursday [January 6] in Arizona School Boards Association et al. v. State of Arizona. The ruling, initially announced in September, affirmed a lower court ruling that said the Legislature went against two parts of the Arizona Constitution.

The opinion nullifies the state’s ban on mask mandates in schools, laws shoring up local election security and other laws justices concluded had little to do with the state budget.

“Although the bills’ challenged sections may superficially relate to those subjects, this does not satisfy the requisite inquiry,” the opinion read. “Contrary to the State’s claim, a closer examination of the challenged sections manifests the disconnect between the titles and the substantive provisions.”

Justices ruled portions of House Bill 2898, Senate Bill 1824, Senate Bill 1825 and Senate Bill 1819 violate the title requirement.

Justices said the Legislature titled these bills as “appropriation” and “budget reconciliation” or “budget procedure” provisions but have sections that are entirely unrelated to those issues.

The constitutional “one-subject rule” requires legislation to stick to one realm of law. If a bill is struck down under this provision, the entire law is struck down. This is the challenge plaintiffs alleged the state was guilty of “log-rolling” several non-budgetary laws into one bill.

The court found SB 1819, which contained 52 different sections, was unconstitutional under this rule.

“Our conclusion is inescapable: SB 1819 contains an array of discordant subjects that are not reasonably connected to one general idea, and certainly not to budget procedures,” the opinion read.

The state warned that nullifying any of the provisions retrospectively could open the state to challenges regarding previous years’ budgets. Justices disagreed, saying the challenges wouldn’t stand up to long-spent funds.

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This article was published by The Center Square and is reproduced with permission.

‘We Will Cut Taxes.’ Ducey Lays Out His Final Arizona Budget Priorities

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Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey is reaffirming his commitment to lowering the state’s tax burden.

In his final budget address, the Republican governor took the podium in the joint session of the state Legislature on Monday to give special attention to his seven-year record of shrinking and streamlining government.

“We will cut taxes,” Ducey said. “It’s really not that complicated; it’s just basic common sense. Government takes in more than it needs to pay the bills, and the taxpayer should get to keep his or her hard-earned dollars.”

The speech marks Ducey’s eighth and final budget address. The two-term Republican is term-limited after the current year. Ducey boasted about the state’s historic tax cut that he signed but remained tied up in court, contrasting it with federal proposals to increase taxes.

“It all makes our commitment of returning money to the people more important than ever. Washington D.C. might have their eye on your paycheck – but at this Capitol, the only special interest on our mind is the taxpayer,” Ducey said.

If it withstands a legal challenge, Arizona’s progressive income tax that tops out at 4.5% would gradually flatten out to 2.5% with another cut for wealthy filers who must pay Prop. 208’s 3.5% surcharge for income over a certain amount.

Ducey highlighted Arizona’s economy, one of the few states fully recovered from the pandemic-related job losses. A report from Arizona’s Office of Economic Opportunity estimates the state will create an additional 700,000 jobs by 2030, many of which are in the technology sector.

In addition to educational programs to assist in learning loss, Ducey proposed a new push to educate Arizonans to take on technology jobs. Computer chip fabrication factories such as Intel, solar panel companies like Meyer Burger and others plan to expand in Arizona in the coming years. Ducey wants to provide the education needed to fill these high-paying jobs.

“Let’s invest in the worker, arming them with the skills they need for our growing semiconductor and advanced manufacturing industries,” he said. “So come June, we’re launching a summer camp with an emphasis on catching kids up in key areas: math, reading, and American civics. We will lead the way to eliminate learning loss.”

Despite pay increases in recent years, Arizona public school teachers remain some of the lowest-paid in the nation.

As of Jan. 1, Arizona is officially in a Tier 1 Colorado River water shortage. The change doesn’t affect residential Arizonans, but the nearly 18% reduction of water to the state will hit the agriculture industry. To address this, Ducey is proposing a $1 billion investment to “secure Arizona’s water future for the next 100 years.”

Ducey plans to submit his budget for legislative consideration on Friday.

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This article was published by The Center Square and is reproduced with permission.

Tucson Sets Homicide Record

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Arizona Daily Star January 9, 2021: A record-breaking year of homicides,Tucson police combat gun violence

The headline referenced above is about my hometown of Tucson setting a record for homicides in 2021:  93 homicides for a city of 542,629 people.  That comes to one homicide for every 5,834 people.  (Another half-million people live in the metro area outside of the city.)

By contrast, New York City had one homicide for every 16,969 people.

The article that comes with the headline equates homicides with gun violence, as if murder by gun is a new phenomenon and that people had been killing each other with lances in previous years.

The article continues: “Hall [the chief of police] also said it is clear that the homicides disproportionately impacted minority communities. According to Hall, in Tucson in 2021, 26% of the victims were Black, 53% were Latino and 2% were Native American.”

The chief didn’t say that blacks are only 5.2% of the city’s population, and Latinos, 43.6%.  This means that the murder rate for blacks is five times higher than their representation in the city’s population. Curiously, the chief did not give the race, color, or ethnicity of the perpetrators.  Wouldn’t it be helpful to know who is killing so many blacks?  White supremacists?  Jews?  Asians?  Scandinavians?  Other blacks?

It also would be helpful to know how many murders are due to drug dealing, drug addiction, and/or gang activity.

By the way, years ago when I had a column in the Arizona Republic, I was invited to a presentation by the Scottsdale Police Department gang squad.  They said that young male emigrants from Mexico who emigrated alone without family members were committing a disproportionate percentage of murders and other crimes in metro Phoenix, as part of a gang initiation rite.  That had a familiar ring to this Italian because young male Italian immigrants used to commit crimes in New York and other big cities to become made-men in the Mafia. I wonder if it’s verboten today to make such points.

Arizona ‘election bible’ Stalls as Ducey Refuses to Sign Unfinished Work

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Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey will not take action in the dispute over a new Election Procedures Manual due to the lack of agreement between Attorney General Mark Brnovich and Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, Ducey said in a letter.

Hobbs submitted the 2021 version of the manual for approval on Oct. 1, 2021. Brnovich submitted his legal review of the EPM to Hobbs’ office on Dec 9, 2021, requiring several sections to be struck before he would approve the manual.

Brnovich said several provisions are inconsistent with state law, potentially exposing election officials to criminal charges.

“As Arizona’s Chief Legal Officer, I have a responsibility to assure that the EPM conforms to the law. As a reminder, election officials who violate its provisions (which are hundreds of pages long) are guilty of a class 2 misdemeanor,” Brnovich said in a Dec. 10 letter. “Through the red-lined document provided to you yesterday, I have provided clear direction on what changes need to be made to assure the EPM does not unnecessarily expose election officials and workers to criminal penalties.”

Some of Brnovich’s objections concerned how the two election integrity bills passed in the 2021 Legislative Session should be carried out.

The EPM would allow voters to cast ballots in precincts they do not live in. Hobbs said no statutory provision requires the current out-of-precinct policy, referencing the U.S Supreme Court’s decision in Brnovich v. DNC.

Hobbs said the lawsuit, which Brnovich won, only addressed the precinct requirement in the elections manual, not in the statute. As Hobbs is responsible for revising the manual every odd-numbered year, she argued she could change the out-of-precinct provision.

“General Brnovich has been a national leader on election integrity, most recently winning at the U.S. Supreme Court in Brnovich v. DNC. Our office cannot approve an Elections Procedures Manual unless it is consistent with Arizona law,” Katie Connor, spokesperson for the AGO, told The Center Square. “We decline to comment further because of the unprecedented bar complaints filed against our office.”

Hobbs said Brnovich’s suggestions would create inconsistent procedures and leave gaps in election procedures.

“In total, your demands slash close to a third of the Manual,” Hobbs said in a letter.

As the Dec. 31 deadline for the EPM has passed without Brnovich’s approval, Ducey cannot approve.

“The governor believes election integrity is paramount,” the letter from Ducey’s general counsel said. “An accurate and updated EPM ensures both consistency throughout our 15 counties and predictability for our electorate. However, given that the EPM carries with it the force of law, the first objective must always be compliance with the law by ensuring that the executive branch is not straying into the responsibilities of the legislature.”

The letter said the governor’s office was encouraged to see new security and ballot chain-of-custody procedures in the 2021 EPM draft, written by Hobbs in consultation with county elections officials statewide and after seeking feedback from the public.

The governor’s office encouraged the legislature to address policy matters that exist as a result of the 2021 EPM’s inability to pass in order to secure election integrity and support local election officials.

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This article was first published in The Center Square and is reproduced with permission.

Phoenix Six-Figure Job Growth Ranks Second Among Large U.S. Metros

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Phoenix has the second-highest percentage change in high-paying jobs out of a list of large U.S. metros, according to a Stessa report.

Phoenix saw a 217.1% increase in six-figure jobs from 2015 to 2020, marking the second-largest percentage increase among the nation’s largest metropolitan areas.

More Phoenix workers made six-figure salaries in 2020 than the national average. Out of Valley workers, 180,740, or 8.6% of the workforce, made six-figure salaries in 2020, while only 7.9% of workers nationally made $100,000 or more. Only 57,000 workers in the Valley reported salaries of $100,000 or more in 2015. Phoenix’s percentage beats all but two of the study’s 15 largest metros, including first-ranked Nashville.

“We are leading the nation in high-wage industry growth, including semiconductors, electric vehicle manufacturing, biosciences, start-ups and more,” Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego’s office told The Center Square. “Our efforts to accelerate and strengthen the business operating environment in Phoenix and the greater region are reflected in this exciting job growth, a sign of our economic vitality.”

In response to the report, Gallego called Greater Phoenix a “national leader and top relocation destination for families, jobs, and businesses.”

Phoenix provides residents with more opportunities and a higher quality of life, Gallego said.

Tucson ranked eighth on the list with a 156.2% percentage change in six-figure jobs between 2015 and 2020.

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This article was published on January 1, 2022, and is reproduced with permission from The Center Square.

Arizona Republic Report Leaves Out Important Details and Context On Universal Licensing

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The Arizona Republic recently published a report entitled, “Universal Licensing: Arizona opened the doors to less qualified workers‐​the public bears the risk.” In its investigation of Arizona’s universal licensing recognition law enacted in 2019—a reform so successful and popular that it is being emulated by more than a third of other states—it mentioned irrelevant incidents and presented out‐​of‐​context data to malign this bold and enlightened reform.

The article begins and ends with a heart-wrenching story about a California‐​licensed veterinarian who received a temporary Arizona license, granted under a 1967 law, to work at a Mesa, Arizona clinic. She’s been accused of poor surgical technique while operating on a kitten brought to the clinic on death’s doorstep. The kitten died and the veterinarian was fired from the clinic. Her temporary license expired after 30 days, and she was never granted the permanent license for which she applied. Yet readers are expected to view this as an indictment of Arizona’s universal licensing law.

Universal licensing dilutes the authority of state occupational licensing boards, so it is no surprise that a spokesperson from an organization representing that constituency, the Federation of Associations of Regulatory Boards, would be quoted in the article criticizing universal licensing over the fact that Arizona grants licenses to workers from states with less onerous licensing requirements—providing their out‐​of‐​state licenses are in good standing for at least a year.

It is wrong to assume that more onerous requirements are better. In many cases, incumbent occupations lobby state licensing boards to make requirements tougher for new entrants, usually “grandfathering” those already licensed, to reduce competition. Thus, EMTs must complete, on average, 33 days of training and pass 2 exams to get a license while cosmetologists need 11 months of training and interior designers need 73.

When it comes to the medical profession, licensing requirements are virtually identical in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. They include graduating an accredited medical school, passing a standardized national licensing exam, and completing at least one year of postgraduate training. Yet few people realize that private third‐​party certification organizations do the heavy lifting when it comes to quality assurance.

For example, I am a general surgeon. As a licensed medical doctor, I can legally decide to switch my specialty to obstetrics and gynecology or dermatology, or even psychiatry and display it on my door. However, health care facilities will not grant me practicing privileges without proof I completed postgraduate training in the specialty and will likely require board certification. Specialty boards will not grant me certification unless I complete accredited specialty training and pass their exams. Health plans will not include me on their provider panels without proof I completed the specialty training, and I will be unable to get malpractice insurance coverage for the same reason. Note how many independent, private third parties provide information and protection to consumers of already‐​licensed physicians. These are the real guarantors of safety.

The Republic report implies to readers that malpractice is automatically a reason to deny or revoke a license. Oftentimes, when medical or other professional malpractice cases are settled, the defendants do not stipulate liability. Both settlements and convictions get reviewed by licensing boards. But unless convictions are repetitive or egregious, boards rarely restrict or revoke licenses. The same is true when boards investigate complaints directly lodged by customers or patients.

Yet the authors of the report infer that something must be amiss if an applicant receives a universal license from a licensing board when they have a history of a malpractice settlement in the state where they are already licensed. If every malpractice settlement justified denying or revoking a license, the entire country would have a desperate shortage of doctors, dentists, and other health care practitioners.

Historically, it has been the incumbent members of professions and occupations who lobbied state legislatures to license and regulate them—not the customers, clients, or patients. While incumbents promoted licensing under the guise of protecting the public, they were really protecting themselves by reducing competition from new entrants and, in the process, inflating prices for their services. The report’s authors cite another organization that represents the interests of incumbents, the Alliance For Responsible Professional Licensing, that defends occupational licensing by saying “licensing helps to solve problems of income disparity, boosting wages most at the bottom end of skill distribution.” But that doesn’t account for the innumerable people who are locked out of the opportunity to lift themselves from poverty by using their skills to make an honest living.

For example, at one time Arizona required African‐​style hair braiders to spend nearly one year and close to $10,000 to get a cosmetology license, which includes training to use chemicals to dye or treat hair, as well as hair cutting. They’re taught nothing about hair braiding. A lawsuit pushed lawmakers to end that requirement in Arizona, but such obstacles to hair braiders still exist in several other states. Louisiana florists “protected” the pubic from people who want to simply arrange flowers by successfully lobbying for a law that requires them to get a license. License requirements include passing a four‐​hour exam during which the applicant must arrange flowers while being judged by licensed florists. Louisiana is the only state that licenses flower arrangers. Does the Federation of Associations of Regulatory Boards criticize Arizona for having less onerous requirements on flower arrangers who relocate from Louisiana? The Republic’s reporters didn’t say.

The proliferation of occupational licensing laws, from interior decorators to fire alarm installers, may have boosted the income of those protected by a license, but they have prevented many people from lifting themselves out of poverty by entering such fields of endeavor. Indeed, in 2016 President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors issued a report detailing how licensing leads to higher prices and reduced opportunity. The Obama administration convinced Congress to appropriate grants to help states “enhance the portability of occupational licensing.”

In an earlier time, licensing laws were also used to exclude racial and ethnic minorities. The Cato Institute held a policy forum on this subject in November 2020 called “Race and Medical Licensing Laws.”

Furthermore, most state licensing boards deny licenses to people who have a history of a felony conviction. With nearly one‐​third of Americans these days having a record in the criminal justice system, licensing laws deny many people a second chance to better themselves. In May 2021 Governor Ducey signed into law HB 2067, which provides “Certificate[s] of Second Chance” to people convicted of certain felonies, which will help them obtain occupational and business licenses. The law does not apply universally to all crimes and convictions. For example, driving with a suspended license and criminal speeding are among the convictions excluded. Nevertheless, the new law at least helps some who’ve made mistakes in the past to clear the occupational licensing hurdle and forge a new and better life.

Arizona ignited a national trend in breaking down barriers to people of all backgrounds seeking to make an honest living while expanding options and choices for consumers. Universal licensing reform has bipartisan appeal. From blue states like New Jersey to red states like Missouri, lawmakers are uniting around the goal of removing the barriers to upward mobility that occupational licensing laws erect. Sadly, by citing irrelevant narratives, cherry-picking data, and failing to provide adequate context, the Arizona Republic article did this reform a great injustice.

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This article was published on January 2, 2022, and is reproduced with permission from The CATO Institute.

Arizona Joins 24-state Coalition Against Biden Head Start Mandates

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Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich has joined 24 other states in filing a lawsuit against President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 mask and vaccine mandates for staff and volunteers in Head Start programs.

Head Start programs provide children ages 3 to 5 and their families at or below the federal poverty level with early childhood education and resources. The Biden Administration’s mandates, which require vaccinations for teachers, contractors, and volunteers in Head Start programs by Jan. 31, will cost jobs and programs and “ultimately hurt children,” the Attorney General’s Office Dec. 21 news release said.

“The Biden Administration continues to expand efforts to impose illegal mandates on Americans, this time targeting young children and the people who serve them,” said Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich. “I have and will continue to challenge this misguided federal overreach and stand alongside our most vulnerable.”

Filed in Louisiana on Dec. 21, the suit says the Head Start Mandate is “beyond the Executive Branch’s authority, contrary to law, and arbitrary and capricious.”

The coalition of states is also seeking a preliminary injunction to prevent the mandate from going into effect. This is the fourth lawsuit the Arizona AGO has filed against “unconstitutional” COVID-19 vaccine mandates, the news release said.

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This article was published on December 28, 2021, and is reproduced with permission from The Center Square.

Covid Vaccination Incentives Could Cost Phoenix $29 Million

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The city of Phoenix will offer bonuses up to $2,000 to vaccinated city employees, costing the city between $25 million to $29 million.

The Phoenix City Council voted, 6-3, this week to approve the bonuses, which will go out to full and part-time employees by Jan. 18. City employees who do not have the option to work remotely already were set to receive $500 bonuses from American Rescue Plan Act funds.

Councilmembers decided to grant an additional premium bonus to those same employees if vaccinated.

The approval allows the city to give an additional $1,500 bonus to full-time employees and a $750 bonus to part-time employees who are fully vaccinated by Jan. 18. The city of Phoenix will use the remaining $198 million from ARPA to fund the bonuses.

Councilmember Betty Guardado, who voted in favor of the measure, hopes the incentive will increase vaccination rates.

“This is money that is going to come very handy to a lot of people that are out there that continue to keep us safe,” Guardado told Fox 10.

Councilmembers Ann O’Brien, Jim Waring and Sal DiCiccio voted against the measure.

DiCiccio accused the council of “politicizing” the COVID-19 vaccine in his statement at the formal meeting.

“While certain leaders were cowering in their homes, hiding from COVID, brave men and women, primarily from police and fire, were out there protecting us,” he said.

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This article was published on December 17, 2021, and is reproduced with permission from The Center Square.

Ducey Quietly Bans All Public Worker Vaccination Mandates

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In an unannounced executive order regarding enhanced monitoring of COVID-19 metrics, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey banned public employers from requiring a COVID-19 vaccination as a condition of employment.

The order, signed Wednesday, primarily reactivates the state’s “enhanced surveillance advisory,” which requires most hospitals to provide consistent updates on ventilators, ICU beds, inpatient beds, ED beds, number of patients pending transfer out of hospitalization, as well as more detailed COVID-19 patient data.

One line stands out.

No person shall be required by this state, or any city, town or county, to obtain a COVID-19 vaccine but a health care institution licensed pursuant to A.R.S. Title 36, Chapter 4 may require the institution’s employees to be vaccinated,” the order reads.

Ducey’s office commented on the measure Thursday evening, saying the governor has been clear and consistent — he’s pro-vaccine and anti-vaccine mandate.

“The executive order issued Wednesday is an extension of an order that has been in place throughout the pandemic. It is not new and its primary purpose is to allow the Arizona Department of Health Services to gather data essential to combating the public health challenges confronting our state,” a spokesperson said. “Critical information about hospital capacity, for example, would not be available without the collection of reliable real-time data.

“The section of the order concerning the banning of vaccine mandates has been in place since the vaccine became widely available in January. Again, this is not new.”

Ducey’s office said COVID mandates of any kind – whether they concern masks or vaccines – have proven to be divisive and counterproductive and that he believes Arizonans can and should make their own decisions about their healthcare, not an overreaching federal or city government.

Will Humble, director of the Arizona Public Health Association and former top doctor under Ducey, said the governor is misusing his executive powers.

“I would say ‘unbelievable’ but it’s totally believable,” he said Thursday.

Arizona House Democrats said Ducey is making the pandemic more severe.

“Tying the hands of local governments that want to take steps to prevent the spread of #COVID19 just deepens and prolongs the pandemic,” the caucus tweeted Thursday.

The order means the City of Tucson, which in August voted to require its 4,000 employees be vaccinated by Dec. 1, could be in for another court battle.

The city won various legal challenges from Republicans and even its police union to maintain its vaccination mandate. As of Dec. 1, Nearly 100% of employees are either vaccinated or have been granted an exemption.

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This article was published on December 17, 2021, and is reproduced with permission from The Center Square.

Ducey Eases Commercial Driver’s License Requirements

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It is now easier for Arizona drivers to obtain commercial driver’s licenses under a new order from Gov. Doug Ducey.

Ducey and the Arizona Department of Transportation hope to “alleviate stress” on the transportation system and address the nationwide supply chain crisis, the news release said.

“We are working to make sure commercial drivers and Arizona families have the support they need this holiday season,” Ducey said. “Prices are rising and commercial drivers are under an incredible amount of stress as they transport goods.”

The executive order extends the validity of the commercial learners’ permit from six months to one year to give students additional time to complete training requirements. It also temporarily allows commercial drivers to keep their CDLs past the date the person’s medical certification is required until Feb. 28, 2022, and moves toward opening commercial driver license services to authorized third-party providers.

Ducey and ADOT also reopened two rest stops until Jan. 22 so commercial drivers have additional opportunities to rest. The state will launch the Arizona Transportation Consultancy Project to enable ADOT to help other states adopt similar improvements.

ADOT communications director Doug Nick said in a news release the executive order would help ADOT serve Arizona drivers.

“In this case, keeping vital economic corridors open and using safe and commonsense ideas to allow commercial drivers to do their jobs efficiently are ways we can be part of the solution,” he said.

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This article was published on December 14, 2021, and is reproduced with permission from The Center Square.
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