Governor Ducey Joins 20 States to Petition Against Biden’s Military Vaccine Mandate

Governor Ducey Joins 20 States to Petition Against Biden’s Military Vaccine Mandate

By Corinne Murdock |

Governor Doug Ducey shared on Thursday that he and 20 other governors petitioned Congress to end the Biden administration’s military vaccine mandate.

The 21-member coalition, led by Tennessee Governor Bill Lee through the Republican Governors Association (RGA), urged congressional leadership in a letter to end the vaccine mandate implemented by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin last August. The coalition noted that more service members were leaving than were being recruited. 

“The Biden vaccine mandate on our military creates a national security risk that severely impacts our defense capabilities abroad and our state readiness here at home,” stated the coalition.

In October, the National Guard and Army disclosed that they missed their recruiting target by 10 and 25 percent, respectively. Last month, the Armed Forces revealed that they’ve discharged 8,000 members since implementing the vaccine mandate.

The governors warned that the falling National Guard forces would hinder natural disaster and emergency operations in their states. The coalition reminded the congressional leaders that President Joe Biden told 60 Minutes that “the pandemic is over” in September. However, multiple, anonymous White House officials attempted to walk back Biden’s statement through interviews with mainstream outlets favored by the administration like Politico and Washington Post.

READ THE RGA LETTER HERE

In addition to Ducey and Lee, Governors Kay Ivey (Alabama), Asa Hutchinson (Arkansas), Ron DeSantis (Florida), Brad Little (Idaho), Eric Holcomb (Indiana), Kim Reynolds (Iowa), Tate Reeves (Mississippi), Mike Parson (Missouri), Greg Gianforte (Montana), Pete Ricketts (Nebraska), Chris Sununu (New Hampshire), Doug Burgum (North Dakota), Kevin Stitt (Oklahoma), Henry McMaster (South Carolina), Kristi Noem (South Dakota), Greg Abbott (Texas), Spencer Cox (Utah), Glenn Youngkin (Virginia), and Mark Gordon (Wyoming) signed the letter.

Seven RGA members that didn’t sign onto the letter were Governors Brian Kemp (Georgia), Larry Hogan (Maryland), Charlie Baker (Massachusetts), Ralph Torres (Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands), Mike Dewine (Ohio), Phil Scott (Vermont), and Jim Justice (West Virginia).

Though Ducey issued support on this issue to end the military vaccine mandate, it’s unlikely it will be a priority for his successor. Governor-elect Katie Hobbs praised the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate last September in a statement to the Arizona Mirror. 

“Vaccines are our best path to defeat this pandemic and keep our economy open. This is the right move to protect Arizonans and our economic recovery,” stated Hobbs.

In mid-October, Hobbs indicated in a campaign press release that she was supportive of sweeping vaccine mandates. Hobbs’ campaign did so by highlighting excerpts from a CNN opinion piece denouncing her Republican opponent, Kari Lake, for opposing vaccine mandates.

However, just days later, Hobbs signaled neutrality on the subject of requiring the COVID-19 vaccine for K-12 attendance. Hobbs told C-SPAN that she hadn’t considered whether or not children should be required to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in order to attend school. 

In April, Ducey signed HB2498 into law, prohibiting state and local governments from mandating the COVID-19 vaccine.

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

Possible Changes Coming For Challenges To State Agency Decisions

Possible Changes Coming For Challenges To State Agency Decisions

By Terri Jo Neff |

The Arizona Supreme Court will issue a ruling in the next few months that could allow complaints to be resolved and enforced by state agencies even if the agency did not have authority to impose a penalty or sanction in the first place.

On Nov. 15, the justices conducted oral arguments in a dispute between Legacy Foundation Action Fund and the Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission over nearly $100,000 in penalties imposed in 2015 against Action Fund for alleged violations related to election finance reports and political ads.

The Legacy Foundation Action Fund unsuccessfully challenged the Clean Elections Commission’s authority during agency-level proceedings, including an argument that the Commission lacked subject matter jurisdiction. Subject matter jurisdiction is a legal requirement that a given court or government agency has the authority to hear the matter brought before it.

Attorneys for the Action Fund did not timely appeal the issue, waiting instead until 2018 to revive the jurisdictional issue when the Commission sought to collect the penalty.

Earlier this year, the Arizona Court of Appeals issued a split opinion which held in part that the “need for finality” with a decision of an Arizona administrative agency can be more important than whether the agency actually had authority to issue the decision in the first place.

The opinion also noted a judgment by a state-chartered agency such as the Clean Elections Commission is not a legal nullity if the party failed to raise the jurisdictional issue in a timely appeal.

However, a strongly worded dissenting opinion by Judge Cynthia Bailey noted that while Legacy Foundation Action Fund forfeited several appellate rights by not filing its appeal on time, “it did not, and could not, forfeit” its right to challenge the Commission’s subject-matter jurisdiction.

“Subject-matter jurisdiction can neither be waived nor conferred by stipulation. A court simply cannot hear a case over which it has no jurisdiction,” Bailey wrote, adding that “under Arizona statutes and rules, the potential injustice when an agency acts beyond its statutory authority outweighs any interest in finality and judicial economy.”

Bailey’s dissent opinion closely aligns with arguments put forth in an amicus (friend-of-the-court) brief filed with the Arizona Supreme Court by the Goldwater Institute’s Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation.

The Goldwater Institute is a nonpartisan public policy and research foundation whose priorities include the defense of individual rights against Arizona’s various state agencies which often operate outside the boundaries of evidentiary and procedural protections.

In the brief, attorney Timothy Sandefur cites prior court decisions in Arizona—some dating back to the 1920s—which have led to established case law that a judgment issued by a court, tribunal, or agency that lacks jurisdiction is void ab initio, or legally null.

“This has always been the rule in Arizona…and it should not be altered now,” Sandefur wrote, pointing out that Action Fund’s only opportunity to have its jurisdictional challenge heard was by the Commission itself, “which is not a judicial body, but a party to this dispute.”

And to elevate finality in litigation over validity as the court of appeals did “is to elevate form over substance and – alarmingly – efficiency over legitimacy,” the brief states.

Sandefur urged the Arizona Supreme Court justices to reject establishing a new legal standard for jurisdiction, especially in light of the burden it will create for people trying to defend themselves when agencies overstep their bounds, Sandefur wrote.

That burden “is likely to fall hardest on unsophisticated and unrepresented parties, particularly small business owners, workers, and entrepreneurs, who are often subjected to enforcement by regulatory agencies and often lack the wherewithal to obtain legal representation,” he added.

A decision from the Arizona Supreme Court is expected in Spring 2023.

Arizona’s Finances Continue to Flourish Under Treasurer Yee

Arizona’s Finances Continue to Flourish Under Treasurer Yee

By Corinne Murdock |

As the 2022 fiscal year closed, the Arizona Treasurer’s Office continued its positive years-long trajectory of the state’s finances.

Highlights of these year-end reports included a 2,126 percent increase in the Local Government Investment Pool (LGIP) total October earnings: over $13.4 million. Total LGIP assets were just under $5.7 million. 

Arizona operates four LGIPs. Pool 5 LGIP earnings were over $6.7 million, Pool 7 LGIP earnings were just under $5 million, Pool 500 LGIP earnings were over $1.2 million, and Pool 700 LGIP earnings were over $446,000. Total participant earnings reached over $40.1 million. 

The treasurer’s office also reported a 29 percent increase over the past three years in the Permanent Land Endowment’s market value: $7.1 billion. 

The Permanent Land Endowment Trust Fund (PLETF) issues funds for 13 beneficiaries, including the state’s K-12 education, universities, prisons, hospital, school for the deaf and blind, retirement home, and legislature. K-12 funding will receive a $402 million boost from this increase in this upcoming fiscal year. They are the largest beneficiary of the PLETF. 

These reports were issued during the Board of Investment (BOI) meeting on Tuesday.

Treasurer Kimberly Yee’s administration has yielded high dividends from the start. 

In Yee’s first 100-day report after taking office in April 2019, they reported in that quarter a $426 million increase (seven percent) in the PLETF, a $5 million increase (62 percent) in general fund interest income, a $10.2 million increase (65 percent) in state agency interest income, and an $8.1 million increase (69 percent) in local government interest income. The PLETF increase enabled a $369 million distribution to K-12 schools, a 6.5 percent increase. For the 2020 fiscal year, K-12 education received $342 million; a $21 million increase from the previous fiscal year. 

By the end of her first year in office, Yee announced a number of record highs: investment earnings of $567 million, a PLETF total of $6.23 billion, assets under management total of nearly $18 billion, state operating balance total of $3.75 billion, and distributions to K-12 schools and government totaling $567 million.

The pandemic didn’t hinder these positive performances. By the end of 2020, Yee raised the endowment to a then-record high of $7.1 billion. The treasurer’s office also reported a record distribution of nearly $400 million to PLETF beneficiaries; an increase of nearly four percent, namely for K-12 schools. In October 2020, the treasurer’s office also took on oversight of the AZ529 Plan, or Arizona Education Savings Plan (AFCSP).

Last March, the PLETF outperformed the long-term average returns of the largest university and college endowments in the country. 

By the end of last year, the treasurer’s office achieved more record highs. Total assets under management increased to $26.1 billion, the state operating fund balance reached $7.7 billion last June (excluding federal pandemic aid), and the PLE reached nearly $8 billion with a one-year return of 27.5 percent. 

The treasurer’s office also distributed $448.5 million to K-12 schools, state agencies, and local governments; a total of $1.57 billion in three years. That included an expansion of distributions to K-12 schools for this year, totaling $372 million. Yee’s administration also increased the LGIP assets by over 19 percent; a total of over 59 percent since Yee took office. 

Yee has emphasized that her approach to treasury management focuses on less costs for taxpayers consistently. At the end of her first year in office, Yee shared that her management philosophy focused on reducing taxpayers’ burden.

“The more we earn, the less Arizonans have to pay in direct taxes,” stated Yee. “Each investment dollar we earn is one less dollar that has to be collected from taxpayers while staying committed to our investment philosophy of ‘safety, before liquidity, before yield.’”

In recent months, Yee implemented safeguards to prevent non-pecuniary factors from influencing, and potentially hindering, state investments. In September, the BOI modified its investment rules to prevent Environmental, Social, Governance (ESG) ratings from being factors of consideration when investing

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

Longtime Phoenix Councilman Updates Citizens Daily on Police Work

Longtime Phoenix Councilman Updates Citizens Daily on Police Work

By Corinne Murdock |

Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio has been posting daily updates on police reporting since September. It’s part of the outgoing councilman’s efforts to apprise citizens of their local law enforcement’s work on a daily basis.

These daily police reports offer details on crimes happening in the community. DiCiccio’s posts offer a small glimpse into their daily work — he doesn’t include the entire report.

DiCiccio’s latest report detailed an aggravated assault on an officer, two robberies, arson, several assaults, a school shooting threat, several misconduct weapons incidents, and several accident investigations.

DiCiccio has also informed constituents of the monthly district crime reports.

Last year, DiCiccio would share these reports as well as updates on police staffing to advise citizens of the rising crime rates combined with staffing shortages. 

DiCiccio also informs the community about breaking crime issues, such as a homicide that occurred Monday.

In addition to crime and police-related content, DiCiccio posts about community events like park openings and lifeguard certification classes, dog adoptions, and school board updates.

DiCiccio posts constituent-focused content far more frequently than his fellow council members. The others tend to rely on their monthly district newsletter to inform constituents, with the exception of Councilwoman Yassamin Ansari, who posts more frequently at the rate of several times per week about community events pertaining to her office.

As of this report, Mayor Laura Pastor informed constituents last week about a toy and clothing drive last week, Councilman Jim Waring last tweeted thanks to his voters for reelecting him two weeks ago, Councilwoman Betty Guardado advised constituents to read her district newsletter two weeks ago, Councilwoman Ann O’Brien last retweeted a fire escape plan notice in mid-October, Councilwoman Debra Stark last retweeted in April about her appearance at the Phoenix Fire Department, and Councilman Carlos Garcia last tweeted last November about Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport hiring.

Several council members are more active on Facebook. Their posts mainly reflect community events rather than major updates. 

O’Brien encouraged constituents to vote, wished constituents a happy Thanksgiving, and updated constituents on the council’s approval of Metrocenter Mall’s redevelopment.

Waring last posted in October to encourage constituents to vote. 

Stark shared her appearances with different groups, recent toy drive involvement, and a call to action for upcoming Habitat For Humanity home repair projects.

Pastor posted about several events: the toy and clothing drive, and an Alzheimer’s benefit. 

Guardado posted videos of her attendance at a festival, and involvement in a tree donation event at a park. 

Garcia posted an update about their quarterly Laveen Community meeting last week.

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