Federal Judge Dismisses Governor Ducey’s Lawsuit to Keep COVID Funds for Maskless Schools

Federal Judge Dismisses Governor Ducey’s Lawsuit to Keep COVID Funds for Maskless Schools

By Corinne Murdock |

Last Tuesday, a federal judge dismissed Governor Doug Ducey’s lawsuit against the Biden administration’s attempt to recoup COVID-19 relief funds given to mask mandate-free K-12 schools. Arizona District Court Judge Steve Logan dismissed for failure to state a claim. 

Last August, Ducey applied the American Rescue Plan Act’s (ARPA) Arizona cut of the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund (SLFRF) to two programs: a $10 million one that would cover $7,000 of tuition or other educational costs at schools without mask mandates, and a $163 million one that made only mask mandate-free schools eligible for funds.

In the Ducey v. Yellen, et al. ruling handed down last week, Logan, an Obama appointee, rejected Ducey’s claim that his application of SLFRF funds were a valid use of addressing the COVID-19 pandemic’s negative economic impacts. Logan insisted that Ducey’s reading of the statute was “too narrow” and thereby neglected its greater context. The judge opined that Ducey’s encouragement of noncompliance with public health guidance worsened, not mitigated, COVID-19’s negative economic impacts.

“In line with the explicit purpose of the SLFRF […] the statute at least carries the possibility that SLFRF funding may not be used for programs with conditions that undermine public health guidance, as such programs would exacerbate rather than mitigate the pandemic’s fiscal effects,” wrote Logan. “This proposition is axiomatic: a program that addresses fiscal effects of the pandemic but contains a condition that would promulgate the spread of the virus prolongs the pandemic and its resulting fiscal effects — thereby failing to provide mitigation of either.”

Logan did agree with Ducey’s argument that the state has authority to decide how to use its SLFRF funds. However, Logan determined that Ducey’s application ran afoul of ARPA’s restrictions. Logan rejected Ducey’s argument that the USDF was too ambiguous when describing permissible uses of SLFRF funds. Rather, the federal judge agreed that the U.S. Department of Treasury’s (USDT) enumeration of permissible usage was sufficient.

In addition to USDT Secretary Janet Yellen, the named defendants in the case were USDT Acting Inspector General Richard Delmar and the USDT itself. 

Ducey first filed the lawsuit in January. 

In response to an October letter from the USDT informing the governor that Arizona’s usage of SLFRF funds weren’t permissible, Ducey accused the Biden administration of government overreach.

“Here in Arizona, we trust families to make decisions that are best for our children. It’s clear that President Bident doesn’t feel the same,” wrote Ducey. “He’s focused on taking power away from American families by issuing restrictive and dictatorial mandates for his own political gain.”

USDT began investigating Ducey’s two programs following a mid-August request from Congressman Greg Stanton (D-AZ-09), issued hours after Ducey first announced the two programs at the heart of this case. 

The governor filed an appeal to Logan’s ruling last Friday.

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

Governor Ducey Responds to DC, New York City Mayors’ Complaints of Migrants Bused In From Arizona

Governor Ducey Responds to DC, New York City Mayors’ Complaints of Migrants Bused In From Arizona

By Corinne Murdock |

Governor Doug Ducey told Democratic mayors of the nation’s capital and most populous city, respectively, that they shouldn’t complain to him about asylum seekers, but should petition their party since it bears ultimate responsibility. Since April, Texas and Arizona have sent over 4,000 migrants to D.C. 

Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser complained to CBS News that Ducey and Texas Governor Greg Abbott were “tricking” illegal immigrants seeking asylum into boarding buses headed for her city. Bowser said that these buses were overwhelming D.C.’s homeless shelters. 

“I fear that they’re being tricked into nationwide bus trips when their final destinations are places all over the United States of America,” said Bowser.

The D.C.-based news outlet, WUSA9reported that several asylum seekers were told by Texas and Arizona officials that they would be given further transportation to their final destinations after traveling to D.C. These accounts would corroborate Bowser’s claim.

However, Ducey asserted that Arizona only provided asylum seekers with voluntary transportation to Washington, D.C. Additionally, the governor insisted that the mayor was getting a taste of her party’s own policies. 

“Welcome to our world, @MayorBowser. Now work with your party, your Congress, and your President to do something about it,” stated Ducey. 

Ducey added that the only “trick” played on asylum seekers is one played by the Biden administration.

Ducey later tweeted that Bowser’s accusations were offensive to the homeless shelters and nonprofits of Arizona and other border states because they’re also overwhelmed.

In a statement to WUSA9, Ducey’s communications director, C.J. Karamargin, said that they were unaware of anyone misleading the asylum seekers.

“If anyone is being misled, we certainly want to know about it,” stated Karamargin. 

Abbott spokespersons also declared to WUSA9 that they didn’t mislead the asylum seekers. 

Ducey also dismissed New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ claim that Arizona sent migrant families to New York City, saying that Arizona only sent them to D.C.

“President Biden created the crisis at the border — he’s failed to respond to calls for action and refuses to even visit the border, so we’re bringing the issue a little closer to home for him,” tweeted Ducey. “The President’s policies have placed overwhelming burdens on Arizona communities. It’s convenient that these liberal mayors are finally speaking up on this humanitarian crisis once it affects their communities, even though our program does not charter to New York City.” 

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

State’s $1 Billion Investment In Water Security Expected To Be Game Changer

State’s $1 Billion Investment In Water Security Expected To Be Game Changer

By Terri Jo Neff |

In January, Gov. Doug Ducey pledged that securing Arizona’s water future would be a priority during his last year in office, and on Wednesday he delivered a $1 billion investment toward projects that will bring additional water to the state on a long-term basis and change Arizona’s future.

Ducey signed Senate Bill 1740 during a ceremony attended by several lawmakers and stakeholders. The bill, which the governor’s office called “historic legislation,” will allow Arizona to make significant strides in water conservation and innovative technologies such as desalination. It will also provide state officials the opportunity to identify and develop new innovative long-term water sources.

“This legislation is crucial for our continued growth and prosperity,” Ducey said. “As we’ve done over the past seven and a half years, we came together, brought everyone to the table and delivered for the people of this great state. And by doing so, we are leaving Arizona better and stronger than we found it

SB1740 appropriates more than $1 billion over three years to the Water Infrastructure Finance Authority (WIFA) while expanding the agency’s responsibilities to provide loans and grants to water providers and entities. The funding is earmarked to support importation of water into Arizona, conservation, efficiency and reuses, and new technologies.

During the signing ceremony, Ducey recognized Sen. Sine Kerr (R- Buckeye) and  Rep. Gail Griffin (R-Hereford) for chairing their respective chamber’s natural resources committee this session.

The governor also lauded Senate President Karen Fann, House Speaker Rusty Bowers, and minority leaders Rep. Reginald Bolding and Sen. Rebecca Rios for ensuring strong bipartisan support, as only two nay votes were cast against SB1740.

Fann noted that Arizona already had a strong commitment to obtaining water security, but acknowledged the state needed to step up its water conservation, efficiency, and reuse projects.

“Arizona’s economy is booming and in order to sustain that growth, we need to look ahead,” she said after the signing. “This water package does just that.”

Sine, who sponsored SB170, sees the signing of the bill as setting in motion a pathway toward reliable future water sources. “Today we celebrate our action to address the water issues our great state faces,” Kerr said.  “All Arizonans now and in the future will benefit from this legislation.”

Water legislation has been a longtime priority for Griffin, who saw passage of SB170 as a collaborative effort among multiple stakeholders. “This critical legislation just makes sense. It’s fair and forward-looking,” Griffin said. “I’m glad we’ve come together to find a solution for our water future.”

One of those vital stakeholders was Arizona Farm Bureau.

“More than most, Arizona’s farmers and ranchers know the value of water,” said AFB President Stefanie Smallhouse. “This forward-thinking legislation will be counted among Arizona’s other great successes in water management, and the Arizona Farm Bureau is thankful to the Governor, leadership and staff in the House and Senate, and all those who came together to make this bipartisan bill a reality.”

Another key stakeholder who supported SB1740 was the Arizona Municipal Water Users Association, which has been outspoken about the worsening conditions on the Colorado River which supplies water to much of Arizona.

“This is an important starting point to ensure continual planning and financing of water augmentation, reuse, and conservation,” said Warren Tenney, AMWUA’s executive directors. “Now, we must work together to maximize this historic investment in the wisest ways possible to benefit Arizona now and in the future.”

Ducey Vetoes Maricopa County Transportation Tax Measure

Ducey Vetoes Maricopa County Transportation Tax Measure

By Terri Jo Neff |

Gov. Doug Ducey vetoed a bill Wednesday which would have allowed Maricopa County voters to decide next year whether to extend a 2004 voter approved one-half cent transportation tax for another 25 years.

Ducey explained in his veto notice that his action was not about whether the 20-year voter approved Proposition 400 tax set to expire in December 2025 should be extended. Instead, he determined lawmakers approved House Bill 2685 with ballot language that was not responsible nor transparent.

“The language is not only biased, but it fails to include any mention of the increase of 20 to 25 years nor the changes to distribution for state highways, local roads and public transit,” Ducey wrote, pointing out the proposed ballot measure also does not take into consideration passage of the Investment in Infrastructure and Jobs Act.

As a result, Ducey noted that what voters would have been asked to approve “does not properly account for the opportunity to properly leverage state dollars for federal transportation infrastructure funding.”

HB2685 passed the State Senate with only 7 aye votes from the 16 members of its Republican caucus, while the bill received support of only 10 of the 31 House Republicans on the final vote. It was introduced in March to replace Senate Bill 1356 which did not make it out of the House Rules Committee.

Ducey’s veto notice did not have much good to say about HB2685, but he gave a shout out to Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita for introducing various amendments to both bills to address several concerns the majority of Republican lawmakers had with the language of the ballot measure.

The amendments offered by Ugenti-Rita (R-Scottsdale) would have ensured a fairer ballot description narrative, Ducey explained, as well as provide more strategic insight into how the transportation and infrastructure tax dollars would be spent.

“Unfortunately, none of these amendments were adopted,” Ducey wrote, adding that asking voters to approve the extension as proposed “is not the way to address the needs of our growing state.”

Reaction to Ducey’s veto was swift, including a statement from the Arizona Free Enterprise Club which called the veto “well-deserved” to avoid allocating transportation dollars for bike lanes, trollies, and “little used transit” at the expense of critical freeway maintenance. 

“We commend the Governor for this wise decision and for hearing the concerns brought up by opponents throughout the process as well as thousands of Arizona taxpayers who expressed deep concerns over the poorly drafted legislation,” the AFEC statement reads. “The real victors of course are the taxpayers themselves who deserve common sense transportation policy and accountability for their tax dollars.”

Also complimenting Ducey’s veto was the Arizona Chapter of the Republican Liberty Caucus.

However, Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego tweeted that she was profoundly disappointed by what she called Ducey’s shortsighted, anti-economic development, and “out of touch” veto.

One thing Gallego’s six-part missive did not mention is there is nothing in Ducey’s veto to prevent legislators from drafting a sounder bill next session and get it before voters in plenty of time to be decided before the one-half cent tax expires.


Governor Ducey Announced COVID Positive Hours Before Border Tour With Pence

Governor Ducey Announced COVID Positive Hours Before Border Tour With Pence

By Corinne Murdock |

Hours before a scheduled appearance on Monday with former Vice President Mike Pence, Governor Doug Ducey’s office announced that he’d tested positive for COVID-19. Ducey’s communications director, C.J. Karamargin, told KTAR News that the governor was asymptomatic and “feeling well.”

Originally, Ducey was to accompany Pence on a tour of the southern border, followed by attendance at a border security speech by the former vice president at the Arizona Commerce Authority in Phoenix.

During his speech, Pence argued that the Biden administration was exacerbating the border crisis. 

“[This border crisis] can be ended almost overnight, if President Biden will just put back the policies the Trump-Pence administration put into effect that reduced illegal immigration by 90 percent,” said Pence. 

Pence also lauded Ducey for his leadership and wished him a speedy recovery from COVID-19. In April, the governor coordinated with half of the country’s governors to launch a strike force modeled after his 2015 state-level initiative to address the border crisis.

“Let me say: how fortunate the people of Arizona are to have a leader so principled and devoted to securing the border and keeping our families and our neighborhoods safe,” said Pence.

Among those that met with Pence on Monday were Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels and his department, along with Arizona Department of Homeland Security Director Tim Roemer.

According to the latest Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) data, there have been nearly 1.3 million border encounters since last October. 

The Biden administration’s attempt to rescind Title 42, policy under former President Donald Trump to expedite expulsion of illegal immigrants, failed last month. The program was slated to end on May 23, but a federal court in Louisiana issued a temporary restraining order preventing the Biden administration from ending the policy. 

Ducey contracted the virus despite being fully vaccinated and boosted; he has advertised the vaccine as “safe, effective, and free” repeatedly.

Ducey credited the senior advisor on the pandemic and lead for statewide vaccination efforts, Dr. Richard Carmona, for ensuring that the vaccine was the best tool to fight COVID-19. As AZ Free News reported, Carmona serves on the board of directors for a major distributor of the COVID-19 vaccine, McKesson.

From home, Ducey provided commentary on the former vice president’s visit.

Favorability polls conducted last week through YouGovPolitico, and Harris indicated that voters largely had an unfavorable view of the former vice president. The latest polling for 2024 presidential picks reflected that Pence falls behind Florida Governor Ron DeSantis with or without former President Donald Trump in the running.

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