Toma, Petersen Warn National AGs About ESG Investment Losses

Toma, Petersen Warn National AGs About ESG Investment Losses

By Daniel Stefanski |

Republicans at the Arizona Legislature are looking out for taxpayers’ interests, and one beleaguered group is in their sights.

On Wednesday, House Speaker Ben Toma and Senate President Warren Petersen sent a surprising and blunt letter to the Executive Director of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG), warning that litigation is “reasonably likely” over concerns that NAAG may not be “complying with Arizona public money laws.”

Toma and Petersen outlined some of the justifications for their concerns, including the recent reporting “that NAAG lost at least $37 million last year on a panoply of investments in things like private equity and foreign stocks. The legislative leaders also highlighted the reports “that NAAG utilized assets from public settlements to secretly support ESG-linked investments and to fly Attorneys General and their families on European holidays.”

According to the letter (which pulled from several press reports), “NAAG has amassed over $250 million in assets from public enforcement settlements, which include Arizona public monies.” Toma and Petersen assert that “NAAG is subject to the duties and liabilities set forth under Arizona law for custodians of public moneys, that public monies cannot be appropriated without legislative authorization, and that investments must comply with Arizona law.” Their letter states “it appears that NAAG has been operating outside the lines, and the result is millions in public money lost on ESG investments, foreign stocks, and trips to Europe, while millions still sit in the hands of an unaccountable bureaucracy in Washington, D.C.”

Toma and Petersen write, “The situation is unacceptable and not consistent with Arizona law. It is time that Arizona’s laws and regulations start applying to NAAG and that this unaccountable slush fund activity stop now.”

The letter from Toma and Petersen follows a series of actions taken against NAAG in the past two years – mostly by Republican Attorneys General. A handful of Attorneys General took steps to sever their state’s relationships with NAAG, while several other states highlighted their significant concerns with NAAG in attempts to force necessary change. Former Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich was one of the top cops running for the exit doors with NAAG, following Alabama, Texas, Missouri, and Missouri. Three former attorneys in the Arizona Attorneys General Office under Brnovich just recently became employed by the State Senate and House in the past few months.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall was the first officeholder to break away from NAAG back in 2021. He said at the time, “I can’t justify spending taxpayer dollars to fund an organization that seems to be going further and further left. With the money we will save, I can add a young lawyer to my consumer protection division and yield a far better return on the taxpayer’s investment.”

The Alliance for Consumers organization cheered Arizona’s latest move this week, tweeting, “Kudos to Arizona! The @NatlAssnAttysGn should be held accountable for recklessly spending taxpayer dollars on their woke agenda.”

After receiving the letter, NAAG had a short comment in response: “NAAG has received the letter from the Arizona Legislature. We are working with our Executive Committee of attorneys general on the matter and will present it to our membership.”

Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.

Republican Legislators Continue Focus On Parental Rights

Republican Legislators Continue Focus On Parental Rights

By Daniel Stefanski |

Republicans in the Arizona Legislature continue to advance bills that would increase parental choice, transparency, and involvement in their children’s education; and some of those proposals are being met with incredible opposition from Democrats and interest groups.

Last month, SB 1700, sponsored by Senator Justine Wadsack, was considered by the Senate Education Committee. According to the fact sheet provided by the Arizona Senate, SB 1700 “requires the Arizona Department of Education to maintain a list of books that public educational institutions may not use or make available to students, including books that are lewd or sexual, promote gender fluidity or gender pronouns or groom children into normalizing pedophilia.” The bill also “grants parents the right to request removal of school district or charter school library or classroom materials, extends public review periods for library materials and district textbooks and removes exceptions from district curriculum approval and school library access requirements.”

Debate on this bill in committee was fierce, and opponents railed against its eventual passage. One teacher, in particular, made national headlines when she compared the “advanced degrees” of Arizona teachers with the education and background parents may or may not have to “choose the curriculum and the books that our children are going to read.”

These comments caught the attention of Arizona Republican lawmakers, who used the rhetoric in the committee hearing to continue to make their case for parental choice legislation. Wadsack, the bill’s sponsor, tweeted, “And THIS is why I fight for Parental Rights! THIS right here. This was a Leftist Teacher speaking in my committee last week – You just can’t write this stuff.”

Representative Jacqueline Parker added, “Wow! Sickening.”

The Arizona Department of Education also weighed in on the teacher’s outburst in the Senate Education Committee: “Superintendent Horne will always empower parents because they should be in charge of their children’s education. #EducationForAll”

Despite the backlash against the bill, Republican Senators held their ground and successfully cleared SB 1700 from the Education Committee. Senators Steve Kaiser, Anthony Kerr, and Chairman Ken Bennett joined Senator Wadsack in fending off three Democrat Senators.

Representatives from the Arizona Association of County School Superintendents, the Arizona Education Association, the National Association of Social Workers – Arizona Chapter, Save Our Schools Arizona, the Arizona Charter Schools Association, Arizona National Organization for Women (NOW), Arizona Library Association, and Equality Arizona all opposed the bill.

Representatives Rachel Jones and Cory McGarr were co-sponsors of this bill.

SB 1700 has not been considered by the Rules Committee, nor by the entire Senate chamber.

Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.

Biden Admin Gives Tucson $900k For Equity-Focused Bike And Pedestrian Bridge

Biden Admin Gives Tucson $900k For Equity-Focused Bike And Pedestrian Bridge

By Corinne Murdock |

The Biden administration gave the city of Tucson $900,000 to build a biking and pedestrian bridge. The city’s initiative is one of 45 projects nationwide to receive a portion of $185 million in funds, the only one in Arizona to receive this round of funds.

The bridge would provide a pathway over the I-19 highway to Nebraska Street, as part of the Atravessando Comunidades Project. The funds will cover approximately 56 percent of the total project cost: $1.6 million in total. 

The funds come from President Joe Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) funds allocated to the Department of Transportation (DOT) Reconnecting Communities Program (RCP). In a press release issued on Tuesday, the DOT revealed that it prioritized projects it perceived as benefiting economically disadvantaged communities, as well as engaging in equity and environmental justice. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) assisted DOT in selecting which projects should get federal funding. 

10 other Arizona cities, counties, and one nonprofit were denied the IRS funds. 

The city of Winslow petitioned for $377,200 for a transportation study on railway-created barriers to mitigate lack of access and opportunities for impacted communities; the city of Eloy petitioned for $400,000 to plan for the revitalization of the Sunland Gin Corridor; Apache County petitioned for $1.28 million to reconstruct Stanford Drive (County Road 8235); Native Promise, a tribal advocacy nonprofit, petitioned for over $1.75 million to reconnect Navajo relocatees through the Pinta Project; the city of Buckeye petitioned for $420,000 for an overpass at Durango Street, over $1 million for road and bridge construction along Watson Road, and $724,000 to plan for Rooks Road and Baseline Road; the city of Bullhead petitioned for $1.6 million to improve a multimodal parkway; the city of Phoenix petitioned for over $5 million for a “cultural corridor”; the city of Kingman petitioned for over $40.8 million for a Rancho Santa Fe Parkway traffic interchange; and the city of Eloy petitioned for over $24.3 million for Sunland Gin Corridor construction.

The DOT explained that Tucson received the funding because of the project’s focus on equity. The project description stated that the predominantly Hispanic neighborhoods of South Tucson were cut off from the Santa Cruz River and the rest of Tucson by the I-19 highway in the early 1960s. The DOT claimed that these neighborhoods experienced over 60 years of air and noise pollution, surviving a food desert, and struggling from more limited economic opportunities. 

This isn’t the first round of funding Tucson has received for a bridge. The Biden administration awarded the city $25 million to rebuild the 22nd Street bridge last August. 

Last August, Buttigieg used the city of Tucson as the location for his major reveal of $25 million in funding through Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) grants. At the time, Buttigieg also cited equity as a reason for choosing Tucson as the recipient of these exclusive funds.

“It’s also important from an equity perspective because it connects the downtown Tucson and the communities and opportunities there to historically underinvested in communities to the east,” said Buttigieg.

Phoenix also received RAISE grants last year: $25 million for a bridge over the Rio Salado river connecting downtown Phoenix and South Phoenix, spanning along the river from Central Avenue  to State Route 143 near the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. 

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

Arizona Senate Passes Bill Requiring Transparency Of Inaugural Funds On Unanimous Vote

Arizona Senate Passes Bill Requiring Transparency Of Inaugural Funds On Unanimous Vote

By Daniel Stefanski |

Republicans and Democrats might have had different motives for supporting a bill that would require Arizona governors to operate with more transparency with their inaugural funds, but they managed to come together to overwhelmingly pass the new policy out of the Arizona Senate.

SB 1299, which was sponsored by Senator Wendy Rogers, passed the State Senate on Monday with a 29-0 vote – with one Democrat not voting (Eva Diaz). Senator Diaz had previously voted for the bill when it unanimously passed the chamber’s Government Committee earlier in the month.

Senate Republicans were extremely pleased with the progress of the legislation. Soon after the bill’s passage in his body, President Warren Petersen tweeted, “Democrats and Republicans just voted out unanimously that the Governor needs to be transparent with her inauguration funds!”

The Arizona Senate Republican Caucus victoriously stated, “In an effort to address the shady practices of @GovernorHobbs with regards to her handling of her Inauguration Fund, @WendyRogersAZ sponsored SB1299, which would require the Governor’s Office to publish on its website, within 15 days after the inauguration ceremony, information detailing each organization that organized, supported or funded the ceremony.” The Caucus also touted the bipartisan support for the bill.

Bill sponsor, Senator Wendy Rogers, tweeted, “Proud to sponsor this vital bipartisan SB 1299 bill promoting #TRANSPARENCY.”

Democrats had no choice but to support a bill aimed both at transparency and at their same-party chief executive, whose actions around the fundraising, reporting, and future use of her Inaugural Fund generated red flags and questions around the state since the start of the year. Legislators in both chambers have sent letters to Hobbs about her Inaugural Fund – most recently about what her intentions might be when it comes to spending the massive amount of excess funds not used from the early-January inauguration events.

The headlines have not been gentle when it came to Hobbs’ actions (or lack thereof) with her Inaugural fund. On January 5, Laurie Roberts of the Arizona Republic wrote an opinion piece entitled, “Katie Hobbs keeps donations secret. Is this what she calls ‘transparency’?” And on February 2, Roberts wrote another opinion piece with the headline, “Gov. Katie Hobbs still hasn’t come clean on her inauguration fund.” Roberts wrote, “While governors always have raised money to help defray the cost of their inaugurations, Hobbs is the first to keep the leftover cash. Usually, it’s transferred into a public protocol fund, to be used for public purposes. Hobbs, instead, established a nonprofit account where the money can be used to fund political campaigns. A state government website was employed and now mum’s the word on how she intends to spend the $1.6 million or more in leftover funds…. Hobbs promises to be a ‘champion for everyone’ but my guess is that, as with all politicians, some ‘champions’ will have more access and influence than others.”

SB 1299 now heads to the Arizona House for consideration before a potential showdown with the inspiration for the bill herself: Governor Katie Hobbs.

Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.

Toma, Petersen Try Again To Reach Accord With Hobbs

Toma, Petersen Try Again To Reach Accord With Hobbs

By Daniel Stefanski |

Legislative Republicans continue to search for avenues to reach an accord with the Governor’s Office on the new fiscal year budget, and on Tuesday, the leaders of the House and Senate took a new approach to bring Arizona’s chief executive to the negotiating table.

House Speaker Ben Toma and Senate President Warren Petersen sent a joint letter to Governor Hobbs, requesting a meeting with the Ninth Floor over the stalled budget negotiations. After receiving the Governor’s budget proposal in January, both the House and Senate passed a budget that was then vetoed by Hobbs.

Toma and Petersen’s letter references the vetoed budget and the Governor’s actions to bring Arizona dangerously close to a shutdown: “The Legislative Budget you vetoed on February 16th represented shared, ongoing funding priorities. That budget would have prevented a government shutdown, while leaving the available one-time funds untouched for executive and legislative negotiation of priorities. Our budget was the responsible approach to governing in a time of economic uncertainty.”

The legislative generals struck a balanced and reasonable approach in their letter to Governor Hobbs, highlighting an alleged unwillingness to negotiate by her office: “In our first and only meeting to discuss the budget, your office stated it was unwilling to receive feedback or take questions. Obviously, we need some level of agreement to pass a budget. We believe we can achieve most of our priorities and include yours that are reasonable. For example, we have several members who support additional funding for School Facilities Building renewal, the Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD), and transportation projects.”

Tuesday’s letter is the latest salvo in a continuing saga between the two sides on the budget negotiations. Both parties remain far apart on key details needed to forge an agreement before the June 30th deadline.

Daniel Scarpinato, one of former Governor Doug Ducey’s Chiefs of Staff, responded to the allegations of Hobbs’ refusal to negotiate with Republican legislators: “I cannot imagine inviting legislators up to the 9th floor and refusing to take questions. We always took questions from Republicans, Democrats and the media. They didn’t always like the answers – but I just can’t imagine saying something like this to elected leaders.”

In a press conference shortly after the receipt of the letter, Governor Hobbs was asked about the request for enhanced negotiations and what her response would be to President Petersen and Speaker Toma. The governor inferred that her office had, in fact, reached out to legislative leadership after her veto of the budget, saying that she saw the letter “as a response to (her office) reaching out,” and that she was “encouraged that we can move forward on a process of negotiating a budget that we can all agree on.”

Hobbs’ characterization of her office reaching out to Republicans in the state legislature appears to correspond with a line in Petersen and Toma’s letter that outlines “a request from (Hobbs’) office to discuss priorities and identify differences to avoid a government shutdown.” However, as the letter highlights, this request came one day after Hobbs “created and committed funding to her ‘Flip the Leg Fund,’” which took place on the heels of unanswered legislative questions about her controversial Inaugural Fund. This announcement from Hobbs’ political operation left Republicans in no mood to work with a governor who is simultaneously financing election challenges to vulnerable legislators at the state capitol.

Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.

Gilbert Leaders Apologize For ‘Enemy List’ Ranking Residents

Gilbert Leaders Apologize For ‘Enemy List’ Ranking Residents

By Corinne Murdock |

Last Wednesday, the town of Gilbert apologized for creating a document ranking residents based on their support or opposition of a road widening project. 

Maricopa County island resident Rich Robertson presented the document to the Gilbert Town Council during last week’s meeting item discussing the project. The document listed the affected homeowners, their parcel, their address, the landowners’ stance on the project, and a “vocal level” of 1-4. A rating of “1” indicated the resident was among the most vocal in opposition, while a rating of “4” indicated that the resident was reasonable.

“The town of Gilbert has created, effectively, an enemies list,” said Robertson. “Why are we as residents — who are trying to exercise our rights — being ranked by your staff on how compliant we are with you? This is, I suspect, not how the council really wants its residents to be treated. I think it’s outrageous.”

The city issued an apology statement last Wednesday from Public Works Director Jessica Marlow. 

Marlow apologized for using the “vocal level” category, and said that the intent wasn’t to label anyone. She explained that the intent was to prepare city leaders for meetings with affected homeowners last October. Marlow admitted that the document should’ve been named differently, in hindsight. 

“It was meant to help staff better understand how to address concerns ahead of the meetings,” wrote Marlow.

Awareness of the issue was made possible due to three freshman council members who placed the item on last week’s agenda: Jim Torgeson, Chuck Bongiovanni, and Bobbi Buchli. The trio and Mayor Brigette Peterson vocalized their dismay over the document. The mayor noted that she wasn’t aware of the document before the meeting, and apologized.

“I don’t know anything about it, and I am just appalled that something like that might be going around,” stated Peterson. “I do believe that you don’t deserve any of that. I apologize for that.”

Robertson, who was rated a “2,” rejected the city’s claim that the classification wasn’t intended as a list of enemies.

“I think that’s what leads to those kinds of characterizations,” said Robertson. “It certainly wasn’t inadvertent. It was clear that it (the document) was intended to identify the people who were problems and to steel themselves against those people.”

Robertson speculated that he received the “2” ranking due to writing letters frequently to the council. 

The project that inspired so much controversy about residents intended to widen Ocotillo Road into a 110-foot right-of-way. The expansion would require several new bridges to span a section of missing roadway. It was included in the FY2023-2032 Capital Improvement Plan, with funds from 2022 General Obligation (Transportation) Bonds.

Watch the discussion of the “vocal level” controversy below:

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