Arizona Lawmakers Have Passed Key Bills to Prevent Future COVID Overreach

Arizona Lawmakers Have Passed Key Bills to Prevent Future COVID Overreach

The overwhelming majority of people are done with COVID restrictions. Just look at the reaction when mask mandates were put to an end on airplanes last month. Cheering. Celebration. Throwing masks away. There’s nothing surprising about this—unless of course you’re a member of the liberal media.

With a desire to tackle COVID overreach head on, our own state lawmakers got to work last year. And through a series of Budget Reconciliation Bills, they took important steps to protect Arizonans from more COVID mandates.

But then in November, some of the protections were thrown out in court on procedural grounds. Thankfully, the Arizona legislature didn’t ignore the problem and got back to work this year. Now, they have passed several significant bills that are officially signed into law to protect against future COVID and government overreach.

  1. HB2498

    Vaccines should always be voluntary and never be forced. That’s why Representative Jake Hoffman introduced HB2498. This bill prohibits governments from mandating COVID-19 vaccinations for any Arizonan, and it was signed into law by Governor Ducey late last month.

  2. HB2507

    During the early part of the pandemic, many churches and religious services were shut down and considered non-essential. But the U.S. Constitution protects the free exercise of religion, including the right to hold beliefs inwardly as well as the right to act on those beliefs publicly. That’s why House Republican Majority Leader Ben Toma sponsored HB2507.

    This critical piece of legislation defines a religious service as an essential service during a declared state of emergency. And it protects the fundamental right of the people of Arizona to exercise their religion freely during a time of crisis. Finally, it also protects religious organizations from discrimination when they seek to operate during a state of emergency. HB2507 was signed into law by Governor Ducey in April.

  3. HB2616

    One of the most heartbreaking parts of the pandemic was watching children be forced to wear masks with no study to back this up. That’s why Representative Joseph Chaplik sponsored HB2616. This bill puts the final say on masks in the hands of parents rather than school officials or other bureaucrats. Just like with the bills above, Governor Ducey signed it into law last month.

  4. HB2453

    Wearing a mask shouldn’t be a prerequisite for having access to the government. That’s why Representative Neal Carter introduced HB2453. This bill prohibits government properties from requiring masks, with the exception of areas with workplace safety and infection control measures that are unrelated to COVID-19. Governor Ducey signed HB2453 into law earlier this month.

  5. SB1009

    As you may recall, at times it felt like that the state of emergency due to COVID would last forever. It was only until this past March that Governor Ducey ended it—over two years after he originally issued it.

    That’s why Senator Michelle Ugenti-Rita introduced SB1009. This bill ensures that governors only have the authority to issue a state of emergency for public health emergencies for 30 days. After that, the governor is limited to extending that state of emergency for 30 days at a time with a limit of 120 days. From there, the state legislature has to consent to any new state of emergency.

    Governor Ducey signed SB1009 into law at the beginning of May.

In addition to signing each of these bills into law, Governor Ducey also took immediate action at the beginning of January to protect students and parents from more school shutdowns. As students headed back to school after their winter break, he made up to $7,000 available for families who may face financial or educational barriers due to unexpected school closures. This was a step in the right direction to make sure that families who met the income requirements had access to funds for childcare, school-coordinated transportation, online tutoring, and school tuition if their school was shutdown.

It’s certainly too bad that it ever came to this. While there’s no doubt that COVID was an issue that warranted some action, it never should have included trampling on the rights of the people—especially children. Thankfully, state lawmakers didn’t waste any time after last November’s court decision. And now, the people of Arizona are protected by law against schools, mayors, governors, and more who want to further restrict our freedoms due to COVID.

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The Scheme to Bring a Commuter Rail to the East Valley Shows the Lengths Government Will Go to Waste Your Dollars

The Scheme to Bring a Commuter Rail to the East Valley Shows the Lengths Government Will Go to Waste Your Dollars

If there’s one entity that specializes in giving people something they don’t need—or aren’t even asking for—it’s the government. So, naturally, while the country faces sky-high inflation and Arizonans make sacrifices in their family budgets, the Town of Gilbert saw fit to discuss a potential…commuter rail.

That’s right. At the end of April, the Gilbert Town Council announced that it’s considering a $289,000 consulting contract for a feasibility study on establishing a commuter rail. What this would accomplish—and why anyone thinks this would be good for Gilbert—remains a mystery.

Even before COVID, public transit usage has been on the decline. And that’s only worsened since. The federal Government Accountability Office reported that suburban commuter rails across the U.S. have seen a 79% drop from pre-pandemic levels. But if you don’t believe the data, then just take a look with your eyes. Next time you’re driving around in the East Valley and see a Valley Metro bus, count the number of people you see inside. It won’t take you long…because there’s nobody on it!

With the demand for public transportation at an all-time low, it seems the only thing commuter rails may be good for at this point is increasing crime. Transit crime rates have reached an all-time high in areas where they have the most use like New York City, San Francisco, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles. You’d have to be taking crazy pills if you think the people in the East Valley want to be a part of that list.

And that’s if the residents of Gilbert even realize this is being discussed. Councilwoman Yung Koprowski, who just so happens to own a transportation planning and civil engineering firm, insists that the community knows about this potential project because the town published it in documents it made available to residents. That’s probably how most people spend their time, right? Sitting around reading government planning documents they weren’t involved in.

The reality is, until AZ Free News covered the story and the Gilbert Sun News followed several days later, only those in the inner bubble knew about it. And that’s by design. The goal of this $289,000 study isn’t about establishing feasibility. It’s a scheme to whip up something with pretty pictures that distracts from the facts behind commuter rails and inspires public support. After all, that’s the only way to try to squeeze even more money from taxpayers who will be forced to foot the bill for this boondoggle.

Rest assured that Gilbert residents aren’t the only ones who will be on the hook. Commuter rails often require a local sales tax in addition to state subsidies. And you can be certain that Build Back Bankruptcy dollars from the federal government will also be in the mix. That means every taxpayer in the state will be affected in some way.

If the goal is to turn Arizona into the next California, this is a good place to start. But we’ll go ahead and save Gilbert $289,000. A commuter rail in the East Valley is unfeasible—and it would be a complete nightmare.

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Schools That Require Teachers to Attend Grooming Training Must Be Held Accountable

Schools That Require Teachers to Attend Grooming Training Must Be Held Accountable

Once upon a time, teachers were measured by their ability to teach reading, writing, and arithmetic. And schools did everything they could to ensure that the teachers they hired were trained properly in these critical subjects.

But now, too many school districts have refocused their priorities, opting to indoctrinate our kids with diversity, equity, and inclusion. We’ve certainly seen it with the cleverly disguised Marxism inherent to Critical Race Theory. But this isn’t the only avenue the left is using to come after students.

Pushing gender and sexual identity have also become popular. One Arizona school district has even gone so far as to encourage children to replace their “deadname”—the birth name that individuals reject upon transitioning genders—with their preferred name on their school ID. And now, a school in that same district, Scottsdale Unified School District (SUSD), has required middle school teachers to attend grooming training.

As reported by AZ Free News, Cocopah Middle School Principal Nick Noonan required teachers at the school to attend a training on how to affirm LGBTQ+ ideologies in children. The two-hour training, called “Safe Spaces,” was conducted by the Phoenix chapter of the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN) for a fee of $500. (Your tax dollars hard at work…)

According to GLSEN’s “Safe Space Kit,” this training:

    • Asks teachers to assess their personal beliefs to dismantle internalized homophobia and transphobia.
    • Teaches educators to ignore science in favor of concepts like “gender identity” and the idea that sex is fluid.
    • Instructs educators to make it known that they support LGBTQ+ children by posting LGBTQ+ materials like stickers and posters in their classroom or office or wearing LGBTQ+ buttons or wristbands.
    • Encourages teachers to avoid using proper English pronouns like “he” or “she” in favor of the word “they” to describe a singular person.
    • Recommends educators incorporate LGBTQ+ ideologies in their curriculum and activities.
    • Instructs teachers to hide the information a student discloses to them about their sexual orientation or gender identity from that students’ parents.

None of this belongs in our schools. And it certainly doesn’t belong as part of a training for teachers who instruct students ages 12-14. But as concerning as every aspect of this training is, that last one in particular is outrageous. Schools should never be working to actively hide information from a student’s parents—especially when it comes to issues of sexuality. That is the very definition of “grooming.” GLSEN and Cocopah Middle School are literally instructing teachers to build trust, dependency, and other emotional connections with students on issues of sexuality while keeping it from their parents! This can’t be allowed.

Thankfully, the Arizona legislature took a step in the right direction by passing HB2161. The bill prohibits state employees, political subdivisions, governmental entities, or any other institution from withholding a minor’s records from parents, and it currently awaits Governor Ducey’s signature before becoming law. In the meantime, schools like Cocopah must be held accountable for requiring teachers to attend grooming training. Issues of sexuality are matters that should be handled between a parent and child. And teachers should be focused on teaching the three Rs—along with proper English and actual science.

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Now Is Not the Time for a Legislative Pay Raise

Now Is Not the Time for a Legislative Pay Raise

Inflation is through the roof, gas prices are higher than ever before, out-of-state money was being used to put historic tax cuts on hold, and now lawmakers want a pay raise. Yes, while the Bidenflation tax is cutting deeply into the pockets of hardworking Arizonans and small businesses, lawmakers want their pockets deepened—to the tune of a 137.5% pay increase. That is what is being proposed in SB 1180 and SCR 1018.

Under Arizona’s constitution, any increase in the salary of state lawmakers must be approved by voters. In the past 50 years, legislators and the AZ Commission on Salaries have sent a pay raise to the ballot 18 times. All but two of them have been shot down by the voters. The most recent referral, in 2014, to raise legislative salaries to $35,000 was rejected 68%-32%.

Interestingly enough, lawmakers actually gave themselves a pay raise just last year, sidestepping the constitution and voters in the process. They accomplished this by increasing their per diem pay from $60 per day to over $200 and locked it in to be adjusted annually for inflation. As a result, lawmakers outside of Maricopa County are now eligible to receive over $50,000 in annual compensation, more than double the amount approved by voters.

Under SB 1180, legislative compensation would surge to over $80,000 a year. And this wouldn’t be just a one-time pay raise. Tired of the voters refusing a salary increase at the ballot time and time again, they would rather just have the voters tie their pay to 60% of the Governor’s salary. That way, when the Commission on Salaries (not the voters) decides to increase the Governor’s pay, lawmakers will benefit too.

In their defense of Senate Bill 1180, the measure’s sponsor lamented that lawmakers are working hard to negotiate a multibillion-dollar budget while making as much as minimum wage dishwashers. Some lawmakers believe they are very important people, doing very important work. And surely, they should not have to have their salaries determined by those pesky dishwashers at the ballot ever again.

And if increasing their pay wasn’t enough, the proponents of the bill found time to stick sweeping changes to legislative term limits into the package as well. SB 1180 would have increased the length of time a member may serve in the House or Senate from a total of 8 to 12 years and would have increased the length of a single Senate term from 2 years to 4.

Unlike most other major pieces of legislation, this pay/term limit plan wasn’t introduced at the beginning of the legislative session as a standalone bill with an accompanying ballot referral. No, both were pushed as strike everything amendments to completely unrelated bills, during the last week of committee hearings on a jampacked agenda.

It was obvious that the goal was to ram this through quickly and with as little scrutiny as possible from the public. And thankfully the plan didn’t work. SB 1180 failed 5-8, with five democrats and three republicans voting “No” and five republicans voting “Yes.”

Unfortunately, as one Republican who voted for the bill noted in his vote explanation, bad ideas never truly die at the legislature. With sine die and a budget deal a long way off, there is still plenty of time for a pay raise revival. So, taxpayers will have to be prepared if/when this pay raise package finds its way back—hopefully to help it fail again.

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Arizona Should Conduct an Audit on Mesa Public Schools’ Hidden Spending

Arizona Should Conduct an Audit on Mesa Public Schools’ Hidden Spending

For years now, we’ve heard the same old talking points from the left when it comes to our state’s schools. It always goes a little something like this:

    • Education is underfunded in Arizona…
    • Teachers aren’t paid enough…
    • We need to raise taxes to pay our teachers more…

Do these lines sound familiar? They should. Anytime a new proposition is rolled out to voters, teachers’ unions and other liberals push this same narrative. We heard it when they campaigned for Prop 208 a couple years ago. And despite the fact that the Arizona Supreme Court struck down Prop 208 because Arizona is already funding schools at historic levels, we continue to hear it from Red4Ed and others as they target the state’s $1.8 billion tax cuts.

That’s what makes the latest news out of Mesa Public Schools (MPS) even more outrageous. Earlier this week, AZ Free News reported that MPS won’t explain where more than $32.3 million of their federal emergency funds slated for COVID expenses went. The investigation came after reports that MPS teachers were asking parents to donate basic school supplies they were running out of because the district wouldn’t cover them.

But instead of having a clear explanation for the money that was buried under expenses listed as “other,” “indirect costs,” and “etc.,” MPS officials repeatedly dodged the question and mentioned that no records exist for those categories.

So, while their teachers are begging parents for reams of paper to finish out the school year, MPS is content to let them struggle for the sake of all these “other” expenses that are apparently too important to disclose. And all the while, Red4Ed continues to push the underfunding myth.

But maybe, just maybe the problem with education funding and teachers’ salaries isn’t a question of how much money districts have, but how districts are, you know, spending that money. Because it feels like $32.3 million in hidden expenses could go a long way toward fixing the issue. And this is just in one school district. What could this say about the rest of the school districts in our state?

Naturally, Arizona’s corporate media decided to sit this one out. They spill gallons of ink writing about charter schools and how they spend their cash. But when it comes to holding their beloved public schools accountable, they show no interest. After all, corporate media largely ignored the Higley Unified School District scandal when former superintendent Dr. Denise Birdwell was indicted on 18 felony counts related to procurement fraud, misuse of public monies, fraudulent schemes and practices, and more. And they were late to the party to report on the secret dossier on parents in the Scottsdale Unified School District back in November.

Would we expect anything else with this new situation in Mesa? Of course not. Because local news anchors don’t exactly win awards from teachers’ unions when they call into question their spending habits.

If corporate media is content to ignore this story again, at least we have some good independent media in Arizona willing to call it out. Now, our public school districts need to be held accountable when it comes to spending your hard-earned tax dollars. And if MPS won’t disclose where that $32.3 million is going, then it’s time for the State of Arizona to conduct an audit and find out how that money is being spent.

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California Ran Out of One-Way U-Hauls Last Year Thanks to Its Woke Policies

California Ran Out of One-Way U-Hauls Last Year Thanks to Its Woke Policies

People are waking up. And you don’t need to look for proof much further than the amount of people who have left California recently. In fact, the migration from our neighbors to the West got so bad that the state lost a congressional seat, which also shrinks its number of votes in the Electoral College.

Instead of California dreamin’, people are California leavin’. And when you look at the state’s vast array of woke policies, who can blame them? It’s almost hard to believe that more people haven’t left. But perhaps there’s a reason for that. They can’t find a moving truck….

U-Haul’s top state for out-migration

At the beginning of the year, U-Haul, the nation’s largest renter of do-it-yourself trucks, reported that its outlets in California actually ran out of one-way trucks for most of 2021. That puts the Golden State, once again, in U-Haul’s top spot for out-migration. And while California’s net loss of trucks wasn’t as high as in previous years, U-Haul admits that this is partially attributed to the fact that the company ran out of inventory to meet customer demand.

So, which states top U-Haul’s list for in-bound trucks? You’ll probably be shocked to find that Texas and Florida ranked #1 and #2, respectively, with Tennessee coming in at #3, South Carolina at #4, and our home state of Arizona at #5. Do you sense a theme here?

It’s almost as if people are sick and tired of paying exorbitant taxes while having wokeness shoved down their throats. And yet, California’s leaders still don’t seem to care.

A proposal that would double tax collections

At the beginning of January, a group of Democrat legislators in California proposed a package of bills in order to create a universal health care program. Isn’t that so thoughtful?

Democrats say that they are all about making health care affordable, so this proposal couldn’t possibly stretch the wallets of the state’s residents any more than they already are, right?

Nope.

To pay for the single-payer health care system, California is considering nearly doubling its tax collections through a constitutional amendment. If that happens, it will increase taxes by $12,250 per household!

For a state already known for its ridiculously high taxes, this is insane. (You can almost hear the U-Haul team trying to find ways to get more one-way trucks out to California.)

But higher taxes are just one part of California’s problem.

Woke policies are destroying the state

In 2014, California passed Prop 47. One of the key aspects of this criminal justice “reform” moved the felony threshold for petty theft and shoplifting from $400 to $950.

So how has that worked out?

The state has been slammed with a wave of smash-and-grab robberies that have cost businesses millions of dollars. But that’s what happens when you tell people they’ll no longer be held accountable for theft.

Of course, Governor Newsom still continues to defend Prop 47, but at least some Democrats have realized what a failure this legislation has been. And now they are beginning to call for a repeal of parts of the law.

While they’re at it, they might as well look at the how their policies led homelessness to rage out of control too. In 2016, California adopted Housing First. This policy provides the homeless with lifelong, permanent housing.

The result? (You can probably see where we’re going here.)

California homelessness increased by 16.4% in 2019, which was the second largest increase of any state! And that’s while they were giving homes to homeless people and throwing billions of dollars at the problem!

It’s amazing that people still live in the Golden State. And the only logical explanations at this point are that there just aren’t enough moving trucks, or California must really know how to party.

But if recent history shows us anything, the migration from California will not end anytime soon. Now these people need to remember why they left. We’re happy to take them in Arizona—as long as they make a commitment to leaving their Blue-state ideas behind.

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