On Friday, a group of Arizona legislators reached out to Governor Doug Ducey with an offer to work with him to address the “omnipresent border crisis.” In a letter to the governor, the legislators also inquire as to the level of funding provided to the Border Strike Force.
Led by Rep. Shawnna Bolick, the lawmakers advised the governor that they hope to work with him to “come up with a concrete plan to further allocate resources to complete portions of the Border wall and ensure Border Strike Force is fully funded.”
The lawmakers accuse the Biden Administration of not making “the public safety or health of Arizonans” a top priority, noting that it “took until today for Vice President Kamala Harris to see the invasion for herself in El Paso.”
“We applaud other governors answering your call for assistance to send some of their law enforcement as back up as the ongoing invasion continues along the southern Border,” write the lawmakers. “The problem is real. We wish you didn’t have to rely on other states to bail us out because the federal government has failed us, but illegal immigration affects every state.”
The lawmakers cite as a source of concern an incident that occurred earlier this year which was “highlighted in the local newspaper that the Department of Public Safety release two confessed human smuggler with just a traffic citation after stopping him along a valley freeway in April with a van full of illegal immigrants.”
“It was rather alarming to read that the illegal immigrants in the van were released into the Phoenix area even though it is a direct violation of state law to be in our state unlawfully. It is noted that the federal agents would not pick up this van full of illegal immigrants if they weren’t violent felons. If the Border Strike Force isn’t identifying traffickers along the southern Border and they are making their way into the Valley, is the Border Strike Force understaffed and underfunded?”
The lawmakers expressed a desire to “work together to further investigate why this human trafficker was let go.”
“We support trade relations with Mexico, but we do not want transnational crime rings bringing further ruin into our state. It is past time to plug the gaping holes on state land that buttress Mexico allowing traffickers to invade our state.”
The lawmakers argue that border security is a states’ rights issue.
Last week, Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced that Texas would build its border wall. Abbotts aid that the state will be soliciting donations from across the country to help fund the wall.
“When I do make the announcement later on this week, I will also be providing a link that you can click on and go to for everybody in the United States — really everybody in the entire world — who wants to help Texas build the border wall, there will be a place on there where they can contribute,” Abbott said on a podcast show called “Ruthless.”
As AZ Free News reported earlier this month, Ducey and Abbott urgently requested all U.S. governors to send available law enforcement resources to their states along the U.S.-Mexico border as illegal border crossings, apprehensions, and unaccompanied migrant children in federal custody increase.
The Customs and Border Protection apprehension numbers for May showed more than 180,000 illegal aliens were apprehended crossing the border over the course of the month, a 674% increase from the 23,237 illegal aliens apprehended at the border in May 2020.
In a joint letter from Ducey and Abbott, fellow governors were told: “In response to the ongoing surge of illegal border crossings, with the accompanying threats to private property and to the safety of our citizens, Governor Abbott has declared a disaster and Governor Ducey has declared an emergency.”
Bolick was joined in the letter by Reps. Becky Nutt, Tim Dunn, Walt Blackman, Brenda Barton, John Kavanaugh, Mark Finchem, Joseph Chaplik, Beverly Pingerelli, Leo Biasiucci, Judy Burgess, Frank Carroll, Quang Nguyen, John Fillmore, Jacqueline Parker, and Steve Kaiser.
Earlier today I wrote a letter to @dougducey addressing the #BorderCrisis & the need to work together to solve it. Many of my fellow legislators co-signed it. If the Fed’s aren’t going to finish building the wall, AZ should. ???? pic.twitter.com/DXbit71KP3
Arizona has joined a 16-state coalition pushing back against a Biden Administration initiative that would require companies to make policy statements unrelated to financial performance to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Arizona joins the West Virginia-led fight against what is seen as an attack on the freedom of speech.
The attorneys general of Alaska, Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah and Wyoming join in arguing that the initiative would require companies to make policy statements not related to financial performance to serves a political agenda.
In comments filed this week to SEC Chairman Gary Gensler, the attorneys general expressed concerns that the proposed climate change disclosures are unnecessary from a market protection standpoint, writing that “the Commission has an important and difficult mandate with respect to safeguarding public trading, but it is hard to see how it can legally, constitutionally, and reasonably assume a leading role when it comes to climate change.”
The attorneys general contend that to pass constitutional muster, “speech regulation must advance a constitutionally sufficient government interest, must be adequately related to advancing that end and may be required to use the least restrictive means,” the comments read.
On Monday, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich advised U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland that the Biden administration’s Department of Justice had no right to interfere with the audit of the Maricopa County 2020 General Election.
Brnovich accused Garland of giving in to the “hysterical” audit opposition.
“My office is not amused by the DOJ’s posturing and will not tolerate any effort to undermine or interfere with our State Senate’s audit to reassure Arizonans of the accuracy of our elections,” wrote Brnovich to Garland.
“My office looks for ways to work alongside the federal government to uphold our laws within the constraints of the 10th Amendment and the election provisions in Articles I and II.” Brnovich concluded, “As I have demonstrated several times, however, Arizona will not sit back and let the Biden administration abuse its authority, refused to uphold laws, or attempt to commandeer our state’s sovereignty.”
Garland has attacked the audit ordered by the Arizona State Senate. “Many of the justifications proffered in support of these post-election audits and restrictions on voting have relied on assertions of material vote fraud in the 2020 election that have been refuted by law enforcement and intelligence agencies,” Garland said last week.
The Arizona Board of Regents has agreed “with all the findings,” the Auditor General reached in a recent performance audit related to Arizona’s state universities’ failure to consistently follow its guidelines.
The Arizona Board of Regents also agreed that it failed to provide adequate oversight of the universities.
On Thursday, June 3 the Arizona Auditor General released the second in a series of three audit reports on the Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR) as part of the organization’s mandatory sunset review.
The audit looked at whether ABOR’s guidelines governing university-affiliated organizations, such as university foundations and alumni associations, were consistent with recommended practices and the extent to which the universities complied with these guidelines.
The bottom line, according to the Auditor General: “The universities have not consistently followed ABOR’s guidelines governing university relationships with affiliated organizations, limiting full transparency and accountability for some university resources provided to and the benefits received from these organizations, nor did ABOR regularly receive information on affiliated organization activities.”
The Auditor General’s report includes the following findings:
• ABOR defines affiliated organizations as legally separate nonprofit corporations that hold economic resources and carry out activities primarily in support of the universities; and the State’s 3 universities have established relationships with 19 affiliated organizations, including fundraising foundations, real estate organizations, and alumni associations.
• In fiscal year 2019, the universities’ affiliated organizations made $253.5 million in payments to benefit the universities for various purposes, including donations and scholarships, and the universities paid $102.8 million to their affiliated organizations for various purposes, including service fees, real estate debt service, and expense reimbursements.
• Universities lacked current agreements and complete documentation and disclosure of some transactions with some of their affiliated organizations, limiting their ability to demonstrate the public purpose of university resources provided to these organizations and hold them accountable for providing expected benefits and agreed-upon services.
• ABOR’s affiliated organization guidelines lack some requirements to ensure full transparency and accountability and ABOR has not explicitly overseen universities’ compliance with its guidelines.
• ABOR has not required universities to report information it needs to identify, monitor, and mitigate risks associated with affiliated organization activities such as mismanagement, investment losses, and fraud.
The issues of ABOR have been ongoing. In July of 2019, the Arizona Attorney General filed a lawsuit against ABOR and Arizona State University (ASU) alleging violations of Arizona’s constitutional gift clause, and in October of 2019, the Arizona Auditor General released an audit that describes similar issues.
The Arizona Attorney General alleged that ABOR and ASU violated Arizona’s constitutional gift clause when they gifted Omni Hotel almost 37 million dollars upfront in discounted property valuations, paying for a parking garage, and paying an additional $19.5 million to build a conference center where ASU was only contracted to use 7 days per year.
The Arizona Attorney General’s records also indicated that ASU valued the property, located at the corner of Mill and University, at $85 per square foot, yet across the street, the Hilton Canopy paid $212 per square feet.
The courts, though, rejected the Attorney Generals’ arguments on the matter.
In the most recent audit, the Arizona Auditor General states that still “Universities have not consistently documented and disclosed some affiliated organization transactions, limiting full transparency and accountability, and ABOR has not explicitly overseen university compliance with its guidelines.”
This is after a response from ABOR in October of 2019, stating that due to the policies being revised in December 2018, they had not had the chance to implement the new policies effectively. Now, with the new audit, ABOR has agreed to implement the recommendations by the Auditor General.
According to the 2019 audit, the Campus Research Corporation (CRC) spent an estimated $38.1 million without written approval due to the UA not being able to demonstrate written approval from the UA president for the CRC’s budget and, instead, relied on the CRC’s Board of Directors to approve its own budget. The CRC also, contrary to the master lease agreements, inappropriately advanced $3.9 million generated at one property to another property, including approximately $1 million that the CRC advanced to the other property in fiscal years 2017 and 2018 instead of paying rent to the UA.
In 2019, ABOR had entered into 3 master lease agreements with the CRC, a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization affiliated with UA to operate, manage, and sublease ABOR properties.
The UA also failed to retain records of its public activities related to overseeing ABOR’s master lease agreements with CRC, contrary to public records laws.
ABOR continues to lack comprehensive property information to independently oversee and manage the use of its properties. As of May 2019, ABOR did not maintain a complete list of all property that it owns, although its policy requires the universities to maintain some information on ABOR properties they use. A review of the Arizona county assessors’ and treasurers’ records identified 1,127 parcels in Arizona potentially owned by ABOR and compared this information to property listings the universities provided.
Findings indicate that NAU’s listing did not include a 23-acre parcel listed on the county assessor records as ABOR-owned and included 8 acres of property for which it could not demonstrate ABOR’s ownership; UA’s listing included 255 acres of property ABOR never owned and nearly 83 acres that ABOR had sold; and ASU’s listing was limited to its commercial properties, which is only a portion of ABOR properties ASU uses.
The Auditor General found that “Although the universities have developed processes for mitigating the risk of inaccurate property ownership information, ABOR’s lack of comprehensive property information limits its ability to oversee and manage the use of its properties.”
As COVID-19 vaccination rates drop sharply in Arizona, health officials are pivoting away from mass-vaccination sites to more community outreach efforts which include relying on pharmacies, doctors’ offices, community events, and mobile pop-up events.
State-run vaccination sites have already started to phase out with changes to days and times of operations. Saturday, June 5, will be the last day individuals can receive the first dose and have a second dose scheduled at a state-operated vaccine site before the final site at Gila River Arena in Glendale officially closes Monday, June 28.
After June 5, the first doses will still be administered, but patients will be given information on alternate locations to receive second doses of the Pfizer vaccine, which is administered at these sites.
State-run vaccination sites have administered 1.6 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine to nearly 900,000 individuals to date.
To date, 5,927,868 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered to 3,345,912 individuals, including 2,831,240 who are fully vaccinated. About 47% of Arizona’s total population has received at least one dose of vaccine, and 39% of the population has been fully vaccinated.
However, President Joe Biden insisted that 70% of the population had to be vaccinated for Americans to fully enjoy Independence Day. With Arizonans already acting fairly independently and enjoying the out-of-doors as well as shopping without the benefit of a mask or a vaccine, it is unlikely Arizona will meet Biden’s standard.
Still, Dr. Cara Christ, the Arizona Department of Health Services director, said in a briefing on Friday, “I am fearful with the decreased demand it’s going to be harder to reach that 70%, but I am hopeful Arizona will.”
Christ has promoted vaccinating children and teens even though there is no evidence that they are at serious risk from the disease.