ACC’s Olson Seeks To Avoid Litigation While Giving APS Customers More Options

ACC’s Olson Seeks To Avoid Litigation While Giving APS Customers More Options

By Terri Jo Neff  |

On Tuesday, Justin Olson will call on his fellow members of the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) to move forward with providing Arizona Public Service Company customers with alternatives for procuring electricity, and in turn avoid possible litigation stemming from the agency’s failure to comply with state law.

Olson told AZ Free News there is a mandate in Arizona law, specifically ARS 40-202(B), which clearly states that “a competitive market shall exist in the sale of electric generation service.” In fact, about a dozen applications have been filed with the ACC over the years by companies interested in providing such service.

However, those applications have not been acted on, Olson said. 

“It’s time that the Corporation Commission complies with state law and authorizes competitive power companies to provide energy services to Arizona residents,” he said. “Customers deserve an alternative to the government granted monopoly.” 

The monopoly Olson is currently focused on is held by Arizona Public Service Company (APS), whose October 2019 rate increase request is slated to be discussed at the commission’s Oct. 26 meeting.  

APS, a for-profit owned by S&P 500 company Pinnacle West Capital, currently serves 2.7 million customers in 11 of Arizona’s 15 counties, from Coconino County in the north, Yuma County in the southwest, and Douglas in the southwest corner of Cochise County.  The majority of its customers, however, are in the Phoenix metropolitan area.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Olson will introduce an amendment to APS’ current ratemaking case to call attention to the lack of competition enjoyed by the company. The amendment would move the ACC toward compliance with the statutory competitive market for electric generation mandate while bringing hope to APS customers who told commissioners about being dissatisfied with the company’s rates and customer service.  

“My amendment frees captive APS customers and empowers them to choose what company will provide energy to their homes,” Olson explained. “This amendment will unleash the powerful forces of the marketplace to benefit all Arizonans.”

Even if his fellow commissioners vote down the amendment to the current APS rate case, Olson said he is committed to bringing the ACC into compliance with state law. Doing so is the right thing, he says, to bring more options and better service to Arizona’s electricity customers.

It will also ensure taxpayers won’t end up footing the bill if any of the stalled applicants initiate legal action.

“I will continue to advocate for the Arizona Corporation Commission to come into compliance with ARS 40-202(B) while doing what I can to improve options for all customers,” Olson said.

Olson has been on the ACC since 2017. He announced earlier this month that he has entered the race for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate.

Mark Brnovich’s Campaign Event Hosted By Accused Domestic Abuser Jailed For Nonpayment Of Child Support

Mark Brnovich’s Campaign Event Hosted By Accused Domestic Abuser Jailed For Nonpayment Of Child Support

By Corinne Murdock |

For his latest campaign event, Arizona Attorney General and Senate-hopeful Mark Brnovich enlisted the help of Steve Gill: a right-leaning radio host and former news site owner accused of domestic abuse and jailed over a week for neglecting to pay $170,000 in child support.

Brnovich’s campaign event occurred Monday in Gill’s hometown of Nashville, Tennessee. Guests could pay $100 for entry, or $300 for a host committee at the luncheon, which took place at a local restaurant called Jasper’s.

As reported by The Tennessean, the domestic abuse allegations came from Gill’s most recent ex-wife, Kathryn, while the delinquent $170,000 in child support came from a previous marriage. Gill was jailed 9 days for his failure to pay child support. No further reports on the domestic abuse allegations have occurred.

Kathryn accused Gill of both physical and emotional abuse: name-calling, pushing, grabbing, and threats. In response, the court issued an order of protection. Gill was prohibited from going near Kathryn, ordered to undergo a batterers’ intervention program, and prohibited from owning any firearms.

According to donation forms posted for the event by Gill, Brnovich is also receiving help from Lindsey Seitchik (nee Schauer): an Arizona-based political fundraising strategist. Some of the highlights from the Brnovich campaign flyers associated with the event emphasized his past election wins in 2014 and 2018. They also emphasized his background as the Arizona-born son of Yugoslavian refugees who fled communism, and his recent battles against the Biden Administration for election integrity, border security, and medical freedom concerning COVID-19.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

Healthcare Staff Shortages In Arizona Further Impacted By Dearth Of Recruiters

Healthcare Staff Shortages In Arizona Further Impacted By Dearth Of Recruiters

By Terri Jo Neff |

There has been much media coverage in recent months about Arizona’s nursing shortage. This summer, Phoenix-based Banner Health confirmed it was down nearly 1,400 nursing professionals at its 30 hospitals and associated medical offices across the country.

But even the prestigious Mayo Clinic—recognized as the top hospital in the United States for 2020-2021 by U.S. News & World Report—has learned that staffing issues extend far beyond the nursing ranks and into nearly every department.

As of Sunday, more than 375 jobs were advertised on the Mayo Clinic’s website. And those are only the company’s open positions in Arizona.

The reality of employment challenges facing Arizona’s medical community is forcing changes in how to attract medical professionals who may be looking to change jobs. And one hospital in Cochise County has found a creative way to garner the attention of prospective employees.

Canyon Vista Medica Center in Sierra Vista opened in 2015 as Cochise County’s only Level 3 trauma medical facility. Last week it released a recruitment video touting the wonderful work environment, although much of the video is spent showcasing Sierra Vista and Cochise County.

The video available on Facebook and LinkedIn draws attention to “the wonderful sceneries and opportunities” the region has to offer, according to CVMC spokeswoman Alexis Ramanjulu.

“Like all industries we have to be creative in how we attract new employees,” Ramanjulu explained to AZ Free News. “We hope by showcasing the place our business and healthcare heroes call home will attract medical professionals to our hospital and our part of the country.”

Such efforts are necessary despite the fact Gov. Doug Ducey announced $25 million to bolster hospital frontline staffing in November 2020, followed a few weeks later by another $60 million to address nursing shortages. The December funding pledge was matched by Ducey last month, but it could take weeks, if not months, to get that money into the hands of hospital administrators.

In the meantime, some smaller healthcare providers and medical offices have begun targeting workers at those larger companies in Arizona that are threatening to suspend or even fire medical professional for noncompliance of stringent COVID-19 vaccination mandates.

Yet hiring efforts across the state are not coming close to addressing the widespread staffing shortage. Part of the problem, according to one hospital administrator, is that such outreach efforts are often conducted by trained recruiters, which are also in short supply in Arizona.

Among those recently advertising for experienced recruiters in Arizona, are St. Luke’s Hospital (Tempe), Northwest Healthcare (Tucson), and Banner Health, which is Arizona’s largest employer.

Other companies with recruiter openings are Yavapai Regional Medical Center (Prescott), Envita Medical Center (Scottsdale), Mountain Vista Medical Center (Mesa), Northern Arizona Healthcare Corp. (Flagstaff), SpringBoard Healthcare (Phoenix), Havasu Regional Medical Center (Sacate), Tenet Healthcare (Phoenix), LifePoint Health (Lake Havasu City), Steward Health Care (Arizona City), and IASIS Healthcare (Mesa).

WATCH THE CVMC RECRUITING VIDEO:

Public To Have Opportunity To Attend Legislative Budget Roadshow

Public To Have Opportunity To Attend Legislative Budget Roadshow

By Terri Jo Neff |

Three of the people most involved in negotiating Arizona’s landmark Fiscal Year 2022 budget will take part in a Budget Roadshow next week across the state.   

Sen. David Gowan (R-LD14), Rep. Regina Cobb (R-LD5), and Matt Gress of the Governor’s Office are headlining the free events in Casa Grande, Sierra Vista, and Tucson to help citizens better understand the budget process, budget history, and look ahead to the next session which starts in January 2022.

They will also discuss notable -and some not so notable- budget accomplishments from the recent legislative session and take part in a Q&A session.

The Thursday, Oct. 28 event at Casa Grande City Hall begins at 10 a.m. with a meet and greet, followed by the presentation at 10:30.  It will be followed that afternoon at the Cochise College – Sierra Vista Campus at 3:30 p.m.

Then on Friday, Oct. 29, the trio will take their presentation to the Pima Community College – Downtown Campus Auto Center at 10:30 a.m. followed by a meet and greet at 11:30.

The three participants are well-suited for the event, as Gowan is the Senate Appropriations Chairman, Cobb is the House Appropriations Chairwoman, and Gress heads up Gov. Doug Ducey’s Office of Strategic Planning and Budgeting.

The meet and greets are being hosted by several Chambers of Commerce, including Benson / San Pedro, Greater Casa Grande, Green Valley / Sahuarita, Greater Vail Area, Marana, Oro Valley, and Sierra Vista Area.

More information about the Budget Roadshow, including how to request a presentation in a specific community, is available by calling Cobb’s office at (602) 926-3126 or Gowan’s office at (602) 926-5154.

State Grand Jury Issues Another Indictment Related to Illegal Voting

State Grand Jury Issues Another Indictment Related to Illegal Voting

By Terri Jo Neff |

Victor Manuel Aguirre is charged with one count of False Registration and one count of Illegal Voting related to steps he allegedly took to register to vote and then cast a ballot in the 2020 General Election.

The Arizona Attorney General’s Office confirmed to AZ Free News on Friday that a state grand jury indicted a Sahuarita man several weeks ago on two felonies related to illegal voting.

According to the AGO, 46-year-old Aguirre is alleged to have falsely completed a voter registration form on or about Sept. 30, 2020. He is alleged to have noted on the form that he had not been convicted of a felony or that his civil rights had been restored. 

However, Aguirre had multiple felony convictions dating back to 1999. Most recently he had convictions for a 2006 criminal trespass, unlawful flight in 2008, unlawful use of means of transportation in 2010, identify theft in 2012, and weapons misconduct in 2017.

Because of the number of Aguirre’s past felonies, he would have had to apply to a superior court judge to have his civil rights restored. But despite that, Aguirre cast a ballot while in the Pima County jail, which would have been legal if he had actually been eligible to vote.

Aguirre’s indictment by a state grand jury on Aug. 2 resulted in a statewide arrest warrant which was served in late September. He paid a $1,000 bond earlier this week to get out of the Pima County jail pending trial and has been ordered to appear before Judge Javier Chon-Lopez for a pre-trial conference on Nov. 17.

The question of whether Aguirre’s voter registration was valid was investigated by Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s Election Integrity Unit. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Todd Lawson.  In confirming Aguirre’s indictment, the AGO noted that all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

The charges against Aguirre are among several pursued in recent months by Brnovich’s election team. Most of the prosecutions have involved one or two low level felonies, although a San Luis woman is charged with four felonies in connection to an alleged conspiracy to collect several early ballots for the August 2020 Primary Election in Yuma County.

Although some critics argue Brnovich should not be pursuing individual voter misconduct, one election integrity advocate says such investigations and prosecutions are critical to maintaining confidence in Arizona’s elections.

“Legitimate voters deserve to know that when they vote their vote counts,” said Merissa Hamilton, of Strong Communities Action. “We need to make it easy to vote but hard to cheat.”

Hamilton added that vigilance is needed to ensure election laws are respected, otherwise it will encourage others to commit election fraud. 

“Each and every instance of election fraud serves to raise doubt for voters,” she said.  “That is why we can’t ignore the fraud.”

It is a position Attorney General Mark Brnovich agrees with, according to his spokeswoman.

“General Brnovich takes all election related complaints seriously,” said Katie Conner. “Free and fair elections are the cornerstone of our constitutional republic. We must do everything we can to protect the electoral process.”