State Rep. Jennifer Pawlik (D-LD13) announced on Tuesday that she won’t be seeking re-election. This means the district may experience a fresh slate of leadership come November 2024.
Pawlik stated that she needed to go in a different direction with her political career. Pawlik has also worked as a Chandler Unified School District (CUSD) teacher.
“It’s time to take my leadership and service in a new direction and to open the door for new candidates to run in this district,” said Pawlik.
District 13 incorporates Chandler, Sun Lakes, and Gilbert. Pawlik was elected to the legislature in 2019, defeating the mother of State Sen. J.D. Mesnard (D-LD13) for the seat.
That same district recently experienced another, different loss with the expulsion of their other state representative, Liz Harris. The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors is looking for a replacement for Harris.
The seat will likely be one of the more competitive ones heading into the 2024 election, a significant turning point for a closely-divided legislature where Republicans hold a bare majority. Pawlik was the first Democrat elected to the district.
Less than 24 hours after Pawlik’s announcement, former Republican state representative Jeff Weninger filed a statement of interest for reclaiming the seat. Another listed as running for a District 17 seat is Julie Willoughby, another Republican who filed last month and ran last year.
Pawlik earned 35 percent of the vote (47,166 votes); Harris, 32 percent (43,829); and Willoughby 32 percent as well (43,559). Pawlik ran uncontested in the Democratic primary last year.
Prior to Pawlik, the district was held by former Republican legislator Joanne Osborne and current Republican State Rep. Tim Dunn (R-LD25).
During her time in the legislature, Pawlik has only had one bill codified: HB2639 last year, declaring May to be Asian American/Pacific Islander Month.
Pawlik co-sponsored 14 bills that were codified, mainly relating to mental health and racial equity efforts. The co-sponsored bills signed into law were: HB2570 in 2019, establishing a study committee on murdered indigenous women; HB2646 in 2019, allowing Arizona Commerce Authority to review Rural E-Connectivity Pilot Program applicants; HB2672 in 2019, cracking down on “party house” short-term rentals; SB1468 in 2019, requiring the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System Administration to make suicide awareness and prevention training available and requiring educators to include suicide awareness and prevention training; SB1446 in 2020, requiring student ID cards to include contact information for suicide prevention resources, crisis centers, or emotional support services; SB1445 in 2020, requiring instruction on suicide awareness and prevention to be included in school counselor and social worker training programs; HB2098 in 2021, establishing reporting requirements for law enforcement agencies receiving reports of missing, kidnapped, or runaway children; HB2241 in 2021, requiring information about the Holocaust and other genocides to be taught at least twice between grades 7 and 12; HB2705 in 2021, allowing students belonging to a Native American tribe to wear their traditional tribal regalia or objects of cultural significance at a graduation ceremony; HB2787 in 2021, modifying criteria for an agency determination of whether a person’s criminal record disqualifies a person for a license, permit, certificate, or other state recognition; SB1097 in 2021, allowing students absent for experiencing behavioral or mental health issues to have an excused absence; SB1376 in 2021, includes mental health instruction in the health education course of study and competency requirements adopted by the State Board of Education; HB2083 in 2022, requiring the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System to cover the costs of up to 10 annual program hours of diabetes self-management training if prescribed by a primary care physician; and HB2309 in 2022, requiring a police officer to read juveniles their Miranda rights prior to questioning them in temporary custody.
The former secretary of state of Ohio has come to the defense of embattled GOP candidate Abe Hamadeh, claiming that not all legal ballots were counted in the 2022 election.
Hamadeh shared the remarks from the former Ohio official: Ken Blackwell, who currently serves as Center For Election Integrity chair for the America First Policy Institute (AFPI). Blackwell disputed Maricopa County’s claim in their recent report that all legal ballots were counted. Blackwell further called out Gov. Katie Hobbs for her work as secretary of state, claiming that she purposefully overlooked significant discrepancies revealed by the recount.
“There is testimonial evidence of people who did not have their votes counted,” stated Blackwell. “And in a legal case brought by Arizona Attorney General candidate Abe Hamadeh, evidence shows that then-Secretary of State Katie Hobbs knew the recount showed discrepancies and failed to disclose those relevant facts to the court in a timely manner before the court made its ruling. This failure to do so is either gross incompetence or a cover-up.”
Blackwell also criticized Maricopa County for not troubleshooting their printers well enough prior to Election Day.
“Common sense and basic competence would dictate election officials assess the capability of the printers BEFORE Election Day. They didn’t,” said Blackwell.
The Maricopa County report characterized the problematic printers as “old printers.” However, age wasn’t the issue, but the original intended functionality of those printers. By the county’s own admission, a certain model of printers were retrofitted to be ballot-on-demand (BOD) printers. These retrofitted printers, the “Oki” model, had a heat setting that printed the ballot markings either too lightly or in a speckled manner.
The outsourced county report recommended replacement of the Oki printers, as well as reverting to shorter and lighter-weigh ballot paper.
Maricopa County launched the investigation into the printer errors in January. Poll workers testified in November, following the Election Day fiasco, that election machines were having issues prior to Election Day. These testimonies conflicted with the county’s reporting that their stress testing prior to Election Day didn’t reveal either tabulator or printer issues.
In several weeks, Hamadeh will present oral arguments in the Mohave County Superior Court to challenge the validity of the 2022 election results. Hamadeh has challenged the exclusion of thousands of provisional votes from the final tally, hundreds of which he has said he can definitively say should have been counted. Last month, Hamadeh stated that he had over 250 affidavits from allegedly disenfranchised voters.
He also claimed his team found 750 high-propensity voters whose registrations were canceled. Of those 750, only 176 reportedly showed up to vote last November.
There were also a majority of 269 voters who told Hamadeh that they checked in on Election Day with mail-in ballots, but their votes weren’t counted. 149 were Republicans, 53 were Democrats, and 67 were “other” voters.
Those claims, combined with an analysis of the uncounted provisional ballots, make a compelling case that Hamadeh overcame the 280 vote gap between him and Mayes. It’s possible more legal votes exist, considering the original vote gap between Hamadeh and Mayes was nearly halved following December’s recount.
The Arizona Supreme Court granted sanctions against 2022 Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, declaring that her lawyer issued false statements to the court.
Chief Justice Robert Brutinel issued the sanctions on Thursday in Lake v. Hobbs, totaling $2,000 for that improper conduct. Brutinel rejected Gov. Katie Hobbs and Secretary of State Adrian Fontes’ request for attorneys fees sanctions. He also remanded the unresolved issue of faulty signature verification to the trial court.
Lake alleged that Maricopa County violated A.R.S. § 16-550(A); she claimed that a material number of early ballots were transmitted in envelopes containing an affidavit signature that election officials accepted despite determining that it didn’t match the signature on that voter’s registration record.
This $2,000 in sanctions narrowly concerned the conduct of Lake’s attorney, specifically the claim that additional ballots were added into the final vote count.
The court called Lake’s claims of ballot chain-of-custody claims “colorable,” remarking that Lake continued to promote these claims despite the court’s rejection of them.
Brutinel noted that there was leeway for political rhetoric, but that upholding attorney ethics remained necessary. Brutinel noted that he was careful to approve punitive measures that would appear politically vindictive.
“Sometimes campaigns and their attendant hyperbole spill over into legal challenges. But once a contest enters the judicial arena, rules of attorney ethics apply,” wrote Brutinel. “Although we must ensure that legal sanctions are never wielded against candidates or their attorneys for asserting their legal rights in good faith, we also must diligently enforce the rules of ethics in which public confidence in our judicial system depends and where the truth-seeking function of our adjudicative process is unjustifiably hindered.”
In an April fundraising email, Fontes had called for Lake to be punished in such a way as others wouldn’t file similar legal challenges in the future.
“This [lawsuit] justifies the imposition of sanctions, or some kind of admonishment, so others will not follow suit,” stated the response. “If this Court sits silent in the face of what has occurred, then those who would due [sic] our union harm will continue to malign and erode the foundations upon which our great state stands.”
Fontes celebrated the $2,000 sanctions against Lake, though they fell far short of the initial ask by his and Hobbs’ teams.
Lake’s team has continued to claim as an “undisputed” fact that over 35,500 ballots were added or “injected” at Runbeck Election Services’ processing, the third-party vendor. The court stated that this wasn’t true because election officials have disputed her claims.
“Not only is that allegation strongly disputed by the other parties, this Court concluded and expressly stated that the assertion was unsupported by the record, and nothing in Lake’s Motion for Leave to file a motion for reconsideration provides reason to revisit that issue,” stated the court. “Although Lake may have permissibly argued that an inference could be made that some ballots were added, there is no evidence that 35,563 ballots were, and more to the point here, this was certainly disputed by the Respondents. The representation that this was an ‘undisputed fact’ is therefore unequivocally false.”
Lake championed Tuesday’s ruling as an overall win, focusing on the court’s order to review her claims of faulty signature verification processes.
Attorney General Kris Mayes has issued another challenge to keep accessibility of the controversial abortion drug mifepristone.
In a press release issued Tuesday, Mayes announced that she’d joined an amicus brief against the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas ruling blocking the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of mifepristone. Mayes accused Texas federal judge Matthew Kacsmaryk of being an “extremist” opposing medical consensus.
“We cannot allow anti-abortion activists and an extremist judge to undo over two decades of medical consensus. Mifepristone is safe and effective and has been used by millions of Americans over the past two decades,” said Mayes.
The efficacy and safety of mifepristone remains dubious. In the ruling challenged by Mayes, Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. FDA, Kacsmaryk noted the hundreds of known cases of infections and deaths arising from the drug’s usage. Kacsmaryk cited a 2006 hearing and report by the U.S. House Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy, and Human Resources, which noted at least 8 women’s deaths, 9 life-threatening illnesses, 232 hospitalizations, 116 blood transfusions, and 88 cases of infection; overall, over 950 adverse event cases from the drug out of 575,000 prescriptions.
Kacsmaryk also noted that the FDA took nearly 14 years to reject a petition from multiple medical professional coalitions challenging their approval of the drug. The judge further noted that, on the same day of their rejection of the petition, the FDA expanded allowed usage for the abortion drug, changed the dosage, reduced the number of required in-person office visits, allowed non-doctors to prescribe and administer the drug, and eliminated the requirement for prescribers to report non-fatal adverse events from the drug.
In the ruling, Kacsmaryk shared that there are likely far more than the known 4,200 adverse events from chemical abortion drugs due to the FDA’s rule change eliminating non-fatal adverse reporting requirements and emergency rooms miscoding over 60 percent of women’s emergency room visits for adverse abortion drug reactions as miscarriages.
What’s more, Kacsmaryk rejected the main justification for the FDA’s approval of the abortion drug: reclassifying pregnancy as a “serious or life-threatening illness” and therefore justifying mifepristone as a “meaningful therapeutic benefit.”
“Pregnancy is a normal physiological state most women experience one or more times during their childbearing years — a natural process essential to perpetuating life,” stated Kacsmaryk. “Nothing in the [FDA] Final Rule supports the interpretation that pregnancy is a serious or life-threatening illness.”
Kacsmaryk also pointed out that the FDA had neglected to apply its logic to expedited treatments for other, less politicized ailments.
“[C]ategorizing complications or negative psychological experiences arising from pregnancy as ‘illnesses’ is materially different than classifying pregnancy itself as a serious or life-threatening illness,” stated Kascmaryk. “Tellingly, [the] FDA never explains how or why a ‘condition’ would not qualify as a ‘serious or life-threatening illness.’ Suppose that a woman experiences depression because of lower back pain that inhibits her mobility. Under FDA’s reading, a new drug used to treat lower back pain — which can cause depression, just like unplanned pregnancy — could obtain accelerated approval [per the FDA’s rationale].”
The FDA approval took place during the Clinton administration. Similar to Kacsmaryk, the Governmental Accountability Office (GAO) noted in 2008 that medical professionals critical of the abortion drug’s approval questioned the reclassification of the abortion drug as warranted.
“Critics have argued that unwanted pregnancy should not be considered a serious or life-threatening illness.”
The Texas federal court ruling doesn’t impact Arizona at present; it may later on, based on pending future rulings in higher courts.
SCOTUS agreed to an application for a stay by the FDA of the Texas district court ruling, filed early last month. SCOTUS issued the stay late last month, allowing mifepristone to be made widely available while the appeals process plays out in the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.
Joining Mayes in the amicus brief are the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawai’i, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia.
Scottsdale Unified School District (SUSD) voted Tuesday to halve its public meetings for the upcoming school year, reducing special meetings to every other month. The reduction results in a five-meeting difference from this year to the next.
Superintendent Scott Menzel said that the changes arose after several board members had indicated that their meetings required more work than the board should have to handle, and that public meetings ran too long. Menzel said he initially opposed proposed reductions to the calendar. However, Menzel said he countered with the currently-adopted calendar: a “hybrid” solution that took away five public meetings.
“I didn’t think it would be possible to go to one meeting a month, for multiple reasons. One reason is that there are statutory deadlines that we would miss if we only had one meeting a month,” said Menzel.
Vice President Carine Werner opposed the measure. She said it saddened her that there were complaints from her fellow members about the amount of work they had to do, and that the proposed changes hurt transparency. Werner pointed out that they haven’t even discussed all of the work they needed to do under the current schedule with more meetings.
“I understand it’s a lot of work, but it’s also part of everyone’s jobs, just like it’s our jobs to be here to do the work that our governing board does,” said Werner.
Transparency has been a hot-button issue for the SUSD community over the last few years. Just last summer, the district opted to publish the names of those who file public records requests, but redact educators’ names. The push for greater transparency has come in the wake of discoveries that SUSD allowed and defended educators promoting sexualized and race-focused agendas in the classroom.
Werner added that she found it interesting that fellow board members wanted to reduce meetings, yet was willing to add meetings for the academy attended by administrators.
“I can only imagine the amount of work that’s gone into creating the academy and then fulfilling the work for the 40 applicants that get elected to participate in the program,” said Werner.
Werner also noted that parents and community members had expressed grievances over the proposed calendar change.
Board member Amy Carney pointed out that, by that point in Tuesday’s meeting, they’d been there two hours discussing key issues — an opportunity not possible in the adopted schedule with fewer meetings.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do. I can’t understand how we can cut meetings,” said Carney. “One of the critical places for school boards to work, to retain informed trust of the communities is the conduct of meetings.”
Carney asked whether SUSD had ever cut meetings this drastically. Menzel said he wasn’t aware, deferring to Board President Julie Cieniawski. Cieniawski said that, in the past, the board had held more non-public meetings.
Cieniawski also claimed that the addition of town halls were sufficient for the reduction of public meetings.
“This isn’t anyone’s voice being limited or taken away,” said Cieniawski.
Cieniawski contended with Carney’s insistence that the changes would erode community trust, and claimed that community trust came from engagement with local schools, not the board.
Carney attempted to respond to Cieniawski, who ignored and spoke over her and filed a motion to vote on the calendar. Board member Libby Hart-Wells, who appeared remotely for the meeting, seconded Cieniawski’s motion.
Menzel said that regular meetings should concern core business of the district, and that this calendar would free up the board to voluntarily call special meetings with at least 24-hour notice to focus on specific issues as needed. Menzel noted that he didn’t believe special meetings should take place every month, either.
“I don’t see the calendar as taking away from being able to conduct the work of the district, I think it actually enhances and keeps us focused in a way that the current calendar drifted away from, with the way the schedule is at the present time,” said Menzel.
Hart-Wells said she hadn’t heard any concerns from the community about the meeting restructuring.
Arizona law only requires school boards to have a minimum of one meeting per month.
Watch discussion of the board meeting reduction here: