A bill that would expand voting access to those in Arizona detention facilities cleared a major hurdle this week, though it may need some help to get past the finish line.
HB 2325, sponsored by Representative Alex Kolodin, deals with voting procedures for electors in detention. According to the purpose of the legislation provided by the Arizona Senate, HB 2325 “allows a qualified elector in pretrial detention to make a written request to have a ballot personally delivered to a jail for voting and prescribes requirements and procedures for a qualified elector voting from jail.”
On Monday, the Senate Elections Committee took up the bill for consideration before giving it a “do pass” recommendation with a party-line 5-3 vote. Although the Democrats on the committee did not appear opposed to the overarching concept of the bill, they refused to support the legislation even after a significant amount of time asking questions of the bill’s sponsor.
Not all Republicans on the committee, however, were 100% sold on the bill. Senator T.J. Shope encouraged Representative Kolodin to sit down with Arizona counties and other entities responsible for implementing the provisions of the legislation to work through outstanding issues and concerns. He did express appreciation for the bill sponsor’s willingness to address this issue and bring this proposal forward in the Arizona Legislature. Fellow Republican Senator Ken Bennett was a little more direct with his comments, though he voted “aye” on the bill, telling his fellow members that he “was informed his amendments weren’t welcome in committee.” He voted to pass the bill “for now,” but he opined that HB 2325 needed more work – possibly implying that the improvements were needed before it gained enough votes for final passage in the Senate.
At the start of consideration over the bill, Jen Marson with the Arizona Association of Counties shared that there were “a lot of issues” with HB 2325. Some of those concerns included that counties already have a method for people voting from jail, that the bill only addresses people with pre-trial adjudication, that most people are booked into jail without an identification or that detainees are not allowed to keep their identification with them in jail, and that phones could be brought into Arizona jails by those helping to facilitate the voting.
Committee Chair, Senator Wendy Rogers, asked Marson if there was anything about the bill she (or the association she represents) liked, to which Marson explained that “the umbrella statement (that people eligible to vote in a jail environment could vote) we’re on board with” – but the details presented lots of challenges.
Answering a question from Senator Borelli, Marson admitted that her association did not offer an amendment to the legislation because “they (the counties and the bill sponsor) were too far apart” on resolving their differences.
Senator Anna Hernandez was one of three Democrats to vote against the bill in committee but expressed a sense of regret that she couldn’t get to a yes on the legislation. She highlighted her perception that there wasn’t “a lot of willingness to amend this bill,” mentioning the issues of identification and federal detention centers as starting points for changes in a hypothetical new draft that she might be comfortable with. Hernandez did state that she was very supportive of the overall issue addressed by Kolodin’s bill, but because of her outstanding concerns, she would not be on board with the current version.
Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.
For a number of years, the Grand Canyon State has been home to some of the most pro-life and pro-family lawmakers, officials, and advocates in the nation, giving Arizona a superior reputation for protecting life and parental rights. Even with a drastic change in values from the state’s new governor, some legislators are still seeking to augment their state’s pro-life standing.
Senator Jake Hoffman introduced SB 1146, which “requires the State Board of Investment to identify U.S. companies that donate to or invest in organizations that promote, facilitate or advocate for abortions for minors or for the inclusion of, or the referral of students to, sexually explicit material in grades K-12,” according to the purpose of the bill provided by the Arizona Senate. Hoffman’s legislation would require “the State Treasurer to divest from the identified companies.”
SB 1146 has eleven co-sponsors: two in the Senate (Senators Anthony Kern and Justine Wadsack), and nine in the House (Representatives Joseph Chaplik, Justin Heap, Rachel Jones, Alex Kolodin, Cory McGarr, Barbara Parker, Jacqueline Parker, Beverly Pingerelli, and Austin Smith). Earlier this month, it passed out of the Senate Finance Committee, chaired by J.D. Mesnard, with a party-line 4-3 vote. Senators Mesnard, Steve Kaiser (Vice Chairman), Janae Shamp, and David Gowan voted to approve the bill; while Senators Lela Alston, Brian Fernandez and Mitzi Epstein voted to oppose.
In an exclusive interview with AZ Free News on why he sponsored this bill, Senator Jake Hoffman said, “There is no excuse for Arizona taxpayer resources being used to prop up woke corporate oligarchs that are funneling their profits into far-left extremists groups working to undermine our state’s pro-life and pro-family policies. We are in a war for the minds and souls of our future generations, and we should not sit idly by while the ruling class ‘elites’ force feed them a radical agenda that is antithetical to the values of the majority of Arizonans.”
Democrat Senator Mitzi Epstein strongly disagrees with this legislation, saying, “It would violate people’s First Amendments; their various rights to have an abortion, which is legal in Arizona or their various rights to learn about things from places that provide those materials. The Senate Democrat Caucus also warned about this bill before the Finance Committee took it under consideration this week, tweeting, “SB 1146 interjects politics into our money management where there is currently no problem. Further demonizing age-appropriate sex education and abortion care is not popular policy. We cannot afford more Republicans games.”
Should this bill pass both chambers of the Arizona Legislature, it would likely find an open door on the Ninth Floor for an expedient veto from Governor Hobbs, who made abortion rights one of the themes of her State of the State address to the Legislature in January.
Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.
Katie Hobbs certainly seems to like power. That’s probably why she was so giddy with laughter and excitement during her swearing-in ceremony last month. Now, she’s gotten to work. And despite her claims that Republicans and Democrats will have an open door to her office to get to work on bipartisan compromise, her preferred method appears to be executive action.
In just over a month since beginning her reign as governor, Hobbs has already signed seven executive orders. And there’s no sign that she’ll stop there. Her first executive order, prohibiting gender identity discrimination in state employment and contracts, was particularly eye-opening. Consider it a small taste of the woke agenda Hobbs is looking to implement over the next four years. And while it’s good to see that groups like the Arizona Freedom Caucus are planning to file a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of such an order, it will take more than that to stop Hobbs from overstepping her authority…
Republican state legislators representing Scottsdale condemned a local superintendent for racist remarks that recently made national headlines. Scott Menzel, the Scottsdale Unified School District (SUSD) superintendent, called the white race “problematic.”
Republicans representing District 3 — State Reps. Joseph Chaplik and Alex Kolodin, along with State Sen. John Kavanagh — urged Menzel to issue an apology and resign.
“The racist words and sentiments Menzel publicly expressed have no place in Scottsdale schools,” stated the trio. “Menzel’s racist views not only compromise his ability to lead, but he has made himself the center of a controversial spotlight that will only distract from learning.”
The three legislators also asked the SUSD Governing Board to remove Menzel. They noted that SUSD has faced mounting criticism in recent years over its incorporation of various progressive ideologies, such as on gender and race.
Menzel issued the remarks in a 2019 interview while working as a superintendent in Michigan. He said that white people, including children, needed to feel uncomfortable about themselves due to their race. Menzel further claimed that meritocracy was a myth.
“[W]hite people have racial identity as well, and in fact problematic racial identity that we typically avoid,” said Menzel. “[White people] should feel really, really uncomfortable, because we perpetuate a system by ignoring the realities in front of us, and living in a mythological reality.”
Menzel went on to celebrate public chaos as an opportunity for social reform.
“[White supremacy is] in the very fabric of the way this country was established, and we’ve never righted the wrongs of the genocide of the indigenous population, and the enslavement of a population from Africa on which the wealth of this country was built,” said Menzel.
At the time of the 2019 interview, Menzel had received numerous awards, honors, and recognitions for his leadership, and was a frequent featured panelist and guest speaker for local and state events. During the Obama administration, the White House named Menzel a YMCA Champion of Change in 2013. The next year, the Michigan Department of Education named Menzel to their advisory council on early childhood education.
SUSD hasn’t addressed this latest controversy from Menzel.
Under Menzel’s leadership the divide between parents and the district has only grown. Last year, the district adopted a controversial policy in which they posted the names of individuals submitting records requests, yet they would redact staff members’ names in response to those requests.
Menzel has also defended staff members that discussed gender ideology with kindergarten and elementary students without parental knowledge. He claimed those parents opposed to these discussions were in violation of Civil Rights law, insisting that the staff member in question was attacked because of her identity. Menzel further informed parents that the district wouldn’t punish employees over such behavior.
“To target an individual publicly for their personal identity — in this case the individual against whom this complaint was filed does not identify as either male or female — is overt discrimination and inconsistent with state and federal law as well as school district policy,” said Menzel.
In a separate incident in 2021, Menzel admonished parents and community members opposed to clubs focusing on children’s gender and sexuality. Menzel called them bullies.
Last April, SUSD’s social justice professionals promoted a drag queen storytime.
As the Arizona Daily Independent reported recently, the district falsely denied the existence of an official transgender support plan for nearly a year. The support plan, labeled “Confidential” by the district, noted that caregivers should be included in the completion of the document — not “must.” The district also considered ways to implement a gender support plan if the student’s parents or guardians weren’t supportive of such a plan.
In a 2015 equity panel hosted by Menzel’s former employer, Menzel proposed a “cradle to career education continuum” that resembled the controversial “cradle to grave” approach proposed by former President Barack Obama for lifelong government involvement.
The district only went so far as to remove the former board president, Jann-Michael Greenburg, from presidency after the 2021 discovery of his involvement in a dossier on parents and alleged political enemies within the district. Court cases concerning this dossier are ongoing.
Scottsdale Mayor David Ortega has refused to allow Rio Verde citizens to use canal space to transport their water, effectively forcing them to go without, pay thousands in water bills, or leave their homes.
The Scottsdale canal route would be the short-term solution to save Rio Verde residents time and money until a proposed long-term solution, a stump pipe, can be worked out. In the meantime, Rio Verde residents must be frugal with what water they can obtain. Some have come to rely upon rainwater — a nonviable solution come summer. The trucks that reliably delivered affordable water for years are now expensive: per their 2021 drought plan, Scottsdale prohibited water haulers from taking water from its tanks, forcing truckers to trek through the Valley in search of water. Rio Verde residents face water bills of around $1,000.
During a House Natural Resources, Energy, & Water Committee meeting last week, Rio Verde’s representative, State Rep. Alex Kolodin (R-LD03), questioned Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) Director Tom Buschatzke about Rio Verde residents’ predicament. Kolodin shared that EPCOR, a utility company, had offered to route water to the residents via a stump pipe, but in the meantime must transport it by truck.
Buschatzke said that, to his understanding, Scottsdale cut Rio Verdes’ water access off for preservation efforts. He said ADWR was willing to help as much as they could in obtaining groundwater for those residents via a stump pipe.
“[The city of Scottsdale] thought because of what’s happening on the river with those supplies, they needed to take that action to protect their customers and their own city,” said Buschatzke. “[Rio Verde residents] don’t have groundwater of their own to access, and that’s a big part of the problem.”
Kolodin asked why water purchased and transported from the Harquahala Valley wasn’t a viable idea. Buschatzke responded that EPCOR wasn’t eligible to use that water since they’re a private company, and because that water was considered a “non-groundwater source” under the law.
Kolodin told AZ Free News that EPCOR has had to undertake the costly endeavor of transporting the water by truck because the city of Scottsdale refused to allow access to their canal. Kolodin remarked that he doesn’t understand Ortega’s resistance to helping these communities, which he said was well within Ortega’s ability.
“I get why the city of Scottsdale doesn’t want to give them their water. I don’t understand why the city won’t let them transport other water through their canal until EPCOR can build the stump pipe,” said Kolodin. “I get it. You’re the mayor of Scottsdale, you want to circle the wagons. Why not let them move their water through your canal? That’s pure twisting their arm.”
Kolodin also questioned why Ortega wouldn’t opt to rent canal space for two years. He claimed that Ortega wasn’t happy that Rio Verde residents haven’t set up a water regulation structure yet continue to develop land, chalking it up to a “liberal agenda” of Ortega’s. Ortega was a longtime Democrat before becoming an independent.
“To me, that’s a sign of Mayor Ortega’s liberal agenda. He cares so much about forcing these people into groundwater regulation that he’s willing to hurt thousands of people just to teach them a lesson,” said Kolodin. “He wants to impose his liberal agenda on water regulation on them. He doesn’t like that they don’t live with a governmental structure. In his mind everyone should be regulated.”
Scottsdale has pushed its own citizens to reduce water usage due to the worsening drought over the past few years. The Bureau of Reclamation reclassified the Colorado River’s drought status worsened from Tier 1 last January to Tier 2a. While this would normally mean the city remains in Stage One of its Drought Management Plan issued 2021, the city warned residents that it was anticipating cuts from the federal government. In this first stage, the city issues recommendations and potentially restrictions, as well as shutting down or restricting commercial and residential fill stations.
Time is running out for these Rio Verde residents. In the meantime, Kolodin has busied himself arranging meetings between Rio Verde residents, EPCOR, Scottsdale City Council, the Arizona Corporation Commission, and even Freeport-McMoran for potential solutions.
Few others who speak publicly on the issue seem to empathize with the Rio Verde citizens’ plight. The Arizona State University (ASU) director of the Kyl Center for Water Policy, Sarah Porter, indicated to The New York Times that the homeowners bore some burden for their struggles since they bought an unincorporated area.
“It’s a cautionary tale for home buyers,” said Porter. “We can’t just protect every single person who buys a parcel and builds a home. There isn’t enough money or water.”