A bill to increase the age for when Arizonans can legally smoke, vape, and use other non-medical nicotine products was stubbed out in the Senate on Monday, although it could be revived before the legislative session is over.
House Bill 2505 has been amended in an attempt to raise the legal age from 18 to 21 to buy, possess, or use a wide range of tobacco, vaping, or alternative nicotine products. Among its provisions is language to change the definition of retail tobacco vendors and expand the definitions of which tobacco, vaping, or alternative nicotine products fall under Arizona’s criminal code.
HB2505 also makes it easier for prosecutors to convict a person of any age of a petty offense for selling or giving such products to someone under 21. There would be no defense allowed for unknowingly violating one of the provisions, nor can a person argue that they were shown a seemingly legit identification card.
The American Heart Association – Arizona Chapter opposed HB2505, arguing the legislation “creates loopholes for the tobacco industry” while penalizing youth instead of protecting them. The legislation split the Republican Senate caucus leading to a 13-14 loss, with 3 Democrats not present to vote.
Among the 12 Republicans joining Minority Leader Rebecca Rios (D-LD27) in voting aye were Sens. Wendy Rogers, Nancy Barto, and David Livingston. The other 4 Republicans -Sens. Paul Boyer, Rick Gray, Michelle Ugenti-Rita, and Kelly Townsend- voted no.
Townsend and Ugenti-Rita rejected the bill, calling it government overreach.
Boyer had previously expressed opposition to the bill put forth as a strike-everything amendment by Sen. Vince Leach. He argued the bill would allow Big Tobacco to market to minors while allowing retailers to operate closer to schools.
Gray made a motion for reconsideration after HB2505 fell short of the needed votes. The motion passed, meaning Leach’s legislation could be revoted on in the future.
Maricopa County Supervisor Steve Chucri resigned after admitting in a leaked audio recording that Maricopa County election officials privately shared their constituents’ concerns over the 2020 election. Specifically, Chucri said he and the other election officials doubted the validity of their hand-count audit, as well as the security of Dominion Voting Machines.
According to Chucri, other board members reportedly knew the county audit wasn’t sufficient, but didn’t want to conduct a full-scale audit because they feared they’d actually lost their races. Instead, the county went ahead with an audit of only two percent of the vote. This totaled around 47,000 ballots out of nearly 2.1 million. With that, the board claimed that the sampling was sufficient to prove election integrity.
In another recording, Chucri questioned whether Dominion’s software had serious security issues. He said it was a “screw up” for Arizona to use Dominion after Texas rejected them due to critical security concerns.
According to Chucri, County Recorder Stephen Richer agreed with those concerns. However, Richer has asserted publicly that he’s never doubted the validity of Dominion’s election equipment.
Richer fired shots at Dominion doubters as recently as Tuesday afternoon. He remarked on a topic trending on Twitter at the time, “Dominion.”
“The world is learning it was all a lie done at the expense of a few private, job-producing, for-profit companies (something I thought we celebrated) and individuals who did nothing wrong,” wrote Richer. “Fortunately, @dominionvoting is going to bankrupt some liars as a result.”
After the audio recordings were leaked that depicted Richer as privately sharing county concerns over the Dominion software, he deleted the tweet.
In a letter explaining his resignation, Chucri chalked his remarks up to “turbulent times” and emphasized that they weren’t indicative of any wrongdoing or cover-up by the county regarding the 2020 election. His resignation will be effective November 5.
Unfortunately, the political landscape changed for the worse this year. The environment is wrought with toxicity – and all civility and decorum no longer seem to have a place. The fixation with the 2020 election results and aftermath have gotten out of control. In recent days it has come to light that I was secretly recorded in conversations regarding differences with some of my colleagues about an audit of the 2020 election. The comments I made were during a very turbulent time. My colleagues have every right to be both angry and disappointed with me. I should not have made such statements and offer my colleagues heartfelt apologies.
I do not want to perpetuate the very problem I ran to eliminate several years ago. While I have had my differences with my colleagues, I have known them to be good, honorable and ethical men. The picture some individuals are trying to paint about a cover-up, scam and other nonsense about my colleagues and myself is simply false. There was no cover-up, the election was not stolen. Biden won.
The leaked audio came from a March conversation between Chucri and We the People AZ Alliance, an activist election integrity group. Gateway Pundit obtained the audio recording. In it, Chucri admitted that those too concerned for their races to speak out against the audit were fellow supervisors Jack Sellers and Clint Hickman.
“[Hickman] wanted to have a conversation about an audit,” explained Chucri. “He just didn’t have the guts to do that at the end of last year, after I’d been asking for something.”
The woman asked if Hickman had his feelings hurt. Chucri said yes. He said it’s “just politics,” and agreed with the woman that Hickman needed to “suck it up.” Chucri said he regretted believing other supervisors when they claimed they were only capable of auditing two percent of the votes.
“This is a blood sport. [He said] I’m not going to kiss your a**, I’m not going to suck up for your vote – I want to earn your vote,” said Chucri. “Whereas those guys want to suck up and kiss up for your vote, and my biggest mistake […] was that I should’ve never believed what I was being told about ‘We couldn’t do more than two percent of an audit before we certified the election.’”
Sellers barely won his election – he received .08 percent more of the vote than his Democratic opponent, Deedra Abboud.
Chucri won comfortably, earning nearly 19 percent more of the vote than his opponent, Democrat Jevin Hodges. As did Hickman – he won by over 16 percent.
Although Supervisor Bill Gates’ win wasn’t as close as either Sellers’, his opponent only lost by less than two percent of the vote.
Chucri went on to say that he should’ve listened to Congressman Andy Biggs (R-AZ-05) about that matter. Chucri admitted the county knew that they could’ve audited any percentage of the vote they desired.
“My biggest mistake was listening to that. I should’ve listened to Andy Biggs and I think even Brnovich said you could do 30 percent, you could do 60 percent,” said Chucri. “They went and screwed up there because I didn’t know about it until it was too late.”
Neither Hickman or Sellers responded to inquiries from AZ Free News by press time.
Maricopa County asserted in May that their audits were extensive enough to be considered accurate. They included a thread of 23 tweets with evidence that the Senate audit wasn’t being conducted with the protocols or professionalism of a true audit. Cyber Ninjas is the company contracted by the Senate to conduct the audit.
“Our elections were run w/ integrity, the results certified by the county & state were accurate, & the 2 independent audits conducted by the County are the true final word on the subject,” stated the county. “We know auditing. The Senate Cyber Ninja audit is not a real audit. #azsenateaudit[.]”
The 2020 elections were run w/ integrity, the results certified by the county & state were accurate, & the 2 independent audits conducted by the County are the true final word on the subject. We know auditing. The Senate Cyber Ninja audit is not a real audit. #azsenateaudit