Some Top County Election Officials May Have Violated Law In Pushing “No” On Prop 309

Some Top County Election Officials May Have Violated Law In Pushing “No” On Prop 309

By Terri Jo Neff |

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich has been asked to look into whether some of the state’s top election officials violated state law this week by issuing a statement opposing Proposition 309, which is on the Nov. 8 statewide ballot.

Prop 309 is before the voters to decide whether to amend several of Arizona’s current election laws. For an example, a “yes” vote would require voters to write their birthdate and government-issued identification number on the concealed early ballot affidavit, and for those who want to vote in-person they would be required to present an official photo identification at their polling place.

The Arizona Association of County Recorders (AACR) issued a statement Tuesday advocating a “no” vote which would leave in place the state’s existing laws about early ballot affidavits and voter identification. Among the duties of a county recorder is to conduct early voting, including mailing out early ballots and verifying signatures when early ballots are returned by voters.

Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer is the president of AACR and is the one who distributed the anti-Prop 309 statement on Tuesday. Yet according to election law expert Timothy La Sota, it appears Richer has violated two Arizona laws in connection with the statement, which was also posted to a website controlled by Maricopa County.

“Contrary to what Mr. Richer appears to believe, the County Recorder’s website is a publicly funded website, and using it as a vehicle to promote Mr. Richer’s political agenda is not only inappropriate, it is illegal,” attorney La Sota wrote, pointing Brnovich to Arizona Revised Statute 11-410(A) and 16-192(A). “This website is not at Mr. Richer’s disposal to use as a campaign website for his favored political causes.”

That first statute states a county “shall not spend or use its resources, including the use or expenditure of monies, accounts, credit, facilities, vehicles, postage, telecommunications, computer hardware and software, web pages, personnel, equipment, materials, buildings or any other thing of value” for the purpose of swaying an election outcome.

The second statute prohibits the state and “any public agency, department, board, commission, committee, council or authority” from spending or using public resources to influence an election, including the use of “computer hardware and software, web pages and personnel and any other thing of value of the public entity.”

La Sota pointed out that data associated with the document indicates the AACR statement -which includes the names of all 15 county recorders- was created by one of Richer’s employees during office hours, another “no no,” he told the attorney general.

“As a countywide elected official charged with various election related duties, Mr. Richer should know this,” La Sota added. “And his actions in placing his thumb on the scale illegally in this context do not auger well for maintaining a professional perception in other realms.”

During an interview Thursday morning, Amy Yentes of the Arizona Free Enterprise Club discussed why Arizona law expressly prohibits the government from electioneering activities in an effort to sway a particular race or contest.

“This is a protection for taxpayers,” Yentes told KFYI’s James T. Harris. She also supports La Sota’s request to Brnovich for an investigation into how the AACR’s anti-Prop 309 statement came to be created by a Maricopa County employee and posted to the county’s website.

“What is more disturbing is that Stephen Richer is an election administrator,” Yentes told Harris. “It is quite concerning that he can’t even follow basic election law and yet we’re trusting him to administer our elections.”

But that is not the only problem stemming from Richer’s distribution of the anti-Prop 309 statement, which he said on Tuesday afternoon was approved by AACR members by “unanimous voice vote (no nays, all ays).” Richer also tweeted that “14 of the 15 counties were present” for the vote, with only Apache County absent.

According to Cochise County Recorder David Stevens, the inference voters will make from the AACR statement and Richer’s social media comments is that all 15 county recorders are against Prop 309. In fact, Richer retweeted someone else’s comment that the vote was unanimous against the proposition.

That, Stevens says, is not true. In fact, he is an adamant supporter of Prop 309 and has demanded Richer correct the AACR statement and clear any misperception.

“Stephen, I was out of the office yesterday and did not see this email. I STRONGLY OBJECT to anyone assigning an opinion to me without my expressed consent. Silence is NOT acceptance. I do support prop 309 and kindly request you remove my name from this list and issue a retraction immediately,” Stevens wrote.

As of press time, Stevens had no contact from Richer about the Prop 309 issue. He was, however, included on a mass email the Maricopa County Recorder sent to his fellow recorders Wednesday evening.

“Good luck Recorders!” the subject line reads, before Richer wished everyone “the absolute best this early voting season.”

Major Agreement Signed For Railway Improvements At Nogales Border Crossing

Major Agreement Signed For Railway Improvements At Nogales Border Crossing

By Terri Jo Neff |

The cities of Nogales, Arizona and Nogales, Sonora signed a Memorandum of Understanding last week that will allow construction of a new international railway crossing and relocation of train tracks to a less urban area east of the current tracks.

The agreement signed by Mayor Juan Francisco Gim Nogales of Nogales (SON) and Mayor Arturo Garino of Nogales (AZ) was witnessed by Heriberto Aguilar Castillo, the Sonoran Secretary of Infrastructure and Urban Development on behalf of the State of Sonora.

Business leaders on both sides of the border have been pushing for decades for improvements to rail infrastructure leading to and at the international crossing. Rerouting the tracks and upgrading the crossing has been a priority for Gov. Alfonso Durazo Montano of Sonora when he took office last summer.

Any financial commitments on the part of the two cities was not revealed during the signing ceremony, but Durazo previously suggested that $36 million (US) would be available from Mexican government entities.

Union Pacific Railroad operates the track from Nogales north to its East-West Sunset Route in Tucson. Heading southward from Nogales, Ferromex Rail serves customers along routes to Hermosillo, Guaymas, and Guadalajara.

In May, Durazo facilitated a meeting with Union Pacific, Ferromex, and other stakeholders to emphasize his support for the project. He pointed to public safety issues that have long plagued emergency responders on both sides of the border, and he noted there will be a significant increase in demand for expedient freight train service once the Port of Guaymas is upgraded.

An average of 70 northbound trains come into the U.S. through the Nogales Port of Entry each month, with traffic on pace to exceed 800 trains for the first time in more than six years. However, construction of the new crossing is a long way off, as both cities must undertake feasibility studies to identify the best location for the new international crossing and for the layout of the train tracks.

The Nogales rail project will complement Mexico’s $245 million (US) modernization of the Guaymas area championed by Mexico President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to expand the port, reinforce docks, and upgrade technology.

According to the UA Eller College of Management, Nogales has the oldest rail crossing of any border port of entry along the U.S. / Mexico border. Automobiles manufactured at the Ford Motors plant in Hermosillo, Sonora are shipped via rail to U.S. and Canadian markets through Nogales, as are bulk commodities such as cement and agricultural product.

“The dynamics of train crossings, and number of rail containers through the Nogales border port of entry reflect the composite effects of both trade between Mexico, Canada and the U.S., as well as between Arizona and Mexico,” according to the Eller College of Management’s Arizona-Mexico Economic Indicators.

Data provided by the UA Economic and Business Research Center shows more than $11.8 billion in U.S. exports went to Mexico in 2021 through U.S. ports of entry in Arizona. Nearly $10 million of that crossed through Nogales by either vehicle or rail.

Meanwhile, $17.6 million was imported across the U.S. ports of entry in Arizona from Mexico in the same period, with all but $3 billion coming through Nogales.

Hobbs Skips Debates And Skips Explaining Her History Supporting Higher Taxes

Hobbs Skips Debates And Skips Explaining Her History Supporting Higher Taxes

By Terri Jo Neff |

Katie Hobbs has her reasons for refusing to debate Kari Lake face-to-face in the race for Arizona Governor. But by doing so Hobbs is limiting the opportunities for Arizonans to hear her explain her history of supporting higher taxes while a member of the state legislature.

Hobbs, a Democrat currently serving as Arizona Secretary of State, has spent the last few weeks touting her promise to not raise taxes if elected. In fact, she is even promising to reduce taxes for many Arizonans even though it is doubtful that Democrats will control the legislature.

So with Hobbs making herself scarce for public questioning, voters are left to scrutinize her legislative history. And what can be found there casts doubt on her tax cut mantra.

Hobbs served in the Arizona State Senate from 2013 to 2019 and was Senate Minority Leader during much of that time. She also served one term as a member of the Arizona House of Representatives prior to the Senate.

In January 2018, Hobbs co-sponsored Senate Bill 1316 along with progressive Democratic Senators Juan Mendez, Jamescita Peshlakai, and Martin Quezada to eliminate the light class motor vehicle classification from Arizona’s fuel tax statutes.

But more importantly, SB1316 proposed to double the state’s per gallon motor fuel tax from 18 cents to 36 cents. The bill, which would have been one of Arizona’s largest tax hikes in state history, was so unpopular it was never heard by a Senate committee.

SB1316 is not the only time in Hobbs’ legislative history that she supported tax increases. In 2017, she was a fervent proponent of a sales tax increase that would have cost taxpayers between $500 and $600 million a year.

Also in 2018, Hobbs voted to impose an additional annual tax due when registering a vehicle. The new tax, set at $32 per vehicle, was so unpopular it was repealed by the legislature.

And back in 2015, Hobbs opposed critical legislation which was introduced to protect Arizonans from the effect of inflation on personal income tax brackets. The bill was eventually signed into law by Gov. Doug Ducey.

Hobbs’ legislative history on the subject of taxes is one reason organizations such as the Arizona Free Enterprise Club are encouraging voters to look at facts, not campaign speeches when it comes to Hobbs’ promise of tax cuts.

“Anyone who has followed Hobbs’ political career knows that this is just another outrageous lie,” AFEC posted Wednesday. “During her time in the state legislature, Katie Hobbs regularly opposed tax cuts for families while making it a habit to support multiple tax hikes….Hobbs has spent her political career trying to squeeze every possible dollar from your bank account.”

DoD And ADOT Fund $29 Million Improvements To US 95 In Yuma

DoD And ADOT Fund $29 Million Improvements To US 95 In Yuma

By Terri Jo Neff |

More than $13 million in federal grant money has been awarded to the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) for Phase Two of a long-awaited improvement to U.S. Highway 95 between the city of Yuma and the U.S. Army’s Yuma Proving Ground.

The U.S. Department of Defense awarded the funds to ADOT last month through the Defense Community Infrastructure Pilot Program intended to make travel safer, and more reliable, for military personnel and equipment near installations such as the Yuma Proving Ground where a wide variety of weapons systems are tested.

According to ADOT, the nearly $13.3 million will be used to widen about three miles of the two-lane US 95 northeast of Yuma into a five-lane roadway from Rifle Range Road to the Wellton-Mohawk Canal bridge. The project, which is slated to begin later this year, will include a new bridge over the canal.

Meanwhile, ADOT has already been at work widening a 3.6-mile section of US 95 between Avenue 9E and Fortuna Wash as part of Phase One of the improvement project which included a new Gila Gravity Canal bridge.

Overall, ADOT is spending about $29 million for the much-needed improvements to US 95, which is an important thoroughfare not only for military purposes but also for agriculture users and residents of the greater Yuma area.

Lane restrictions and delays along US 95 are expected for several months.

Arizona’s Personal Income Tax Is Being Slashed One Year Early

Arizona’s Personal Income Tax Is Being Slashed One Year Early

By Terri Jo Neff |

Arizona will have just one personal income tax rate of 2.5 percent instead of four rates as of Jan. 1, Gov. Doug Ducey announced last week. That is an effective date one year sooner than was originally expected when the governor signed legislation in 2021 for what was designed as a three-year phase in.

“It’s time to deliver lasting tax relief to Arizona families and small businesses so they can keep more of their hard-earned money,” Ducey wrote to Arizona Department of Revenue Director Robert Woods on Sept. 29. “This tax relief keeps Arizona competitive and preserves our reputation as a jobs magnet and generator of opportunity.”

It is Arizona’s thriving economy and record revenues which allows for full implementation of the flat tax now instead of January 2024, according to Ducey. The Joint Legislative Budget Committee and the Governor’s Office of Strategic Planning and Budgeting jointly informed the governor last week that Arizona’s General Fund revenues, excluding the beginning balance for Fiscal Year 2022, were at $16.7 billion.

This exceeded the statutory economic condition phase-in triggers written into the flat tax law in 2021. In addition, Arizona’s Rainy Day Fund is at its highest level ($1.4 billion) in state history and economists are forecasting Arizona will report at least a $4 billion budget surplus through 2024.

“It’s no secret that Arizona’s economy is booming,” Ducey added in his letter to Woods. “Over the last eight years, we’ve made responsible decisions to live within our means, reduce burdensome government regulations, lower taxes every year and ensure our state remains a great place to live.”

Arizona House Majority Leader Ben Toma was instrumental in getting personal income tax reform passed during the 2021 legislative session to eventually replace the state’s four-rate system of 2.59 to 4.5 percent with the 2.5 percent flat rate.

“I am happy to report that revenue thresholds have been exceeded one full year in advance, enabling the implementation of a single flat rate of 2.5% a year earlier, providing Arizonans with significant economic relief when they need it most,” he said in response to the governor’s announcement.

Several business groups and economic development organizations lauded the news, which will give Arizona the lowest flat tax in the country when it takes effect Jan. 1.

Americans For Prosperity – Arizona:

“This is a historic win for Arizona that couldn’t come at a better time,” said State Director Stephen Shadegg of AFP-Arizona. “Over time, Arizonans will continue to reap the benefits of more tax relief and the state will become even more attractive to businesses and investors, growing the state’s economy while letting hardworking taxpayers keep more of their paychecks.”

Common Sense Institute Arizona, a non-partisan research organization dedicated to the protection and promotion of Arizona’s economy:

Arizona Chamber of Commerce: