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, toldKTAR 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 YouGov, Politico, and Harris indicated that voters largely had an unfavorable view of the former vice president. The latestpolling for 2024 presidential picks reflected that Pence falls behind Florida Governor Ron DeSantis with or without former President Donald Trump in the running.
Over Memorial Day weekend, Governor Doug Ducey traveled to Israel, in part, to visit a desalination plant holding a proposed solution to Arizona’s ongoing drought.
Desalination removes minerals from water, making water sources like seawater into a potable resource.
The Israel trip marked a continuation of Ducey’s proposed plan mentioned in his State of the State Address last summer. At that time, Ducey introduced the idea of a $1 billion investment into Mexico for desalination. The governor has his eye on the Sea of Cortez, or the Gulf of California, bordered by the west coast of Mexico and the Baja California peninsula.
Israel’s desalination plants not only reversed their drought — they created a water surplus. Their Sorek desalination plant alone provides enough drinking water for 1.2 million people a day.
Although, it would likely be years before Arizona reaps the benefits of desalinated water. Arizona Department of Water Resources Director Tom Buschatzke predicted to KTAR that it would be another decade before the state relied on desalinated water.
Arizona has been in a long-term drought for nearly 30 years. The National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) estimates that about 90 percent of Arizonans are impacted by drought, or 6.4 million people. The NOAA added that 2022 marked the state’s sixth driest year in its history.
The ongoing drought was exacerbated recently by the reclassification of the Colorado River, Arizona’s largest renewable water supply, to Tier One drought status. The federal government’s reclassification reduced Arizona’s water allotment.
Cities have adapted to heed the drought. In January, the city of Scottsdale asked residents to reduce their water usage by five percent. Resident compliance may not remain voluntary: city officials communicated that their next step would make water restrictions mandatory.
During his visit, Ducey also visited with Israel Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and toured their border wall as part of the other two focuses of his trip: trade and border security.
In his first veto of the 2022 legislative session, Gov. Doug Ducey unexpectedly shot down an election integrity bill introduced by Rep. Joseph Chaplik (R-Scottsdale) with overwhelming support of the House Republican caucus.
House Bill 2617 dealt with the removal of voters from each county’s voter rolls, focused on non-U.S. citizens and non-Arizona residents. But Ducey announced his veto in a letter to Senate President Karen Fann and House Speaker Rusty Bowers. on Friday.
“Our lawfully registered voters deserve to know that their right to vote will not be disturbed without sufficient due process,” Ducey wrote. “This provision leaves our election system vulnerable to bad actors who could seek to falsely allege a voter is not a qualified elector.”
Chaplik’s HB2617 mandated county recorders to remove voters from their rolls based on a “reason to believe” the voter is not a U.S. citizen or a resident of the county. Such removal could not occur until the end of a detailed process which ensured the voter in question had 90 days to present satisfactory evidence that the person is in fact qualified to vote in their registered county.
The bill also included new reporting requirements for all jury commissioners and the Arizona Department of Transportation to help identify people who may no longer be eligible to vote in a specific county or were never eligible to vote in Arizona.
However, Ducey’s veto letter pointed to several concerns with the legislation, including the level of proof threshold.
“The subjectivity of this provision, as well as a lack of guardrails against false claims, included in H.B. 2617 leaves voter registration susceptible to being canceled based on fiction rather than fact,” Ducey wrote to Fann and Bowers.
But Ducey’s criticisms did not sit well with supporters who saw Chaplik’s bill as a much needed and long overdue opportunity to establish confidence in the legitimacy of Arizona’s voter rolls.
AZGOP chair Kelli Ward called Ducey’s move “unAmerican” while Rep. Jacqueline Parker (R-Mesa) tweeted that the governor “apparently wants dead people to be able to vote again.”
Sam Stone, former Phoenix city staffer and current city council candidate, was “hugely disappointed” in Ducey’s veto and questioned the governor’s motives.
“Cleaning up our voter rolls is essential to secure elections,” Stone tweeted. “There is not one legitimate reason to leave people who have died or moved on our voter rolls, especially with automatic vote-by-mail.
Stone further suggested “the only reason to leave people who have died or moved on our voter rolls” is to commit voter fraud.
Ducey’s veto brought forth a more detailed rebuke from the Arizona Free Enterprise Club (AFEC).
“Contrary to what is stated in the veto letter, #HB2617 provides ample safeguards to ensure eligible voters do not have their registrations improperly cancelled,” AFEC tweeted after the veto was announced. “In fact, the bill stipulates that counties must confirm that the voter is ineligible, then requires the county to send a notice to the voter.”
It is only after the registered voter fails to respond to the notice within 90 days that the registration would be cancelled, AFEC pointed out.
“A broad coalition of local and national election integrity leaders signed onto a letter urging Governor Ducey to sign HB2617, and explained in great detail the need for the enhanced voter roll maintenance requirements and the safeguards contained in the measure,” AFEC further tweeted.
The letter referred to by in the tweet was signed by AFEC President Scot Mussi along with representatives of Heritage Action for America, America First Policy Institute, Election Transparency Initiative, Honest Elections Project Action, FreedomWorks, Amax ACTION, and the Foundation for Government Accountability.
Ducey noted he would consider signing a new voter roll bill with revised language if Chaplik and the rest of the Legislature wants to consider his feedback.
FreedomWorks activist Merissa Hamilton is among those hopeful Chaplik will consider the governor’s criticisms and reintroduce a new version of HB2617 this session. She said a path to clean voter rolls is “needed to secure our Arizona elections.”
On Tuesday, half of America’s governors launched a strike force to control the ongoing border crisis. The American Governor’s Strike Force was modeled after Governor Doug Ducey’s Arizona Border Strike Force, established in 2015.
“If our entire southern border isn’t secure, our nation isn’t secure,” said Ducey. “As dangerous transnational criminal organizations continue to profit from holes in the border and fill our communities with drugs, it’s no coincidence that we’re seeing historic levels of opioid-related deaths.”
The American Governor’s Strike Force aims to improve intelligence on state crimes traceable to the border, cybersecurity, as well as tracking of drug trafficking and human smuggling.
The coalition of 26 governors launched the strike force in an effort to precede the Biden administration’s plan to lift Title 42 at the end of May. The policy allows expedited deportation of illegal immigrants from the country. Title 42 came into play in early 2020 under former President Donald Trump through the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as an effort to control the COVID-19 spread.
As of the latest Customs and Border Protection (CBP) data, there have been nearly 2.6 million encounters/apprehensions on the southern border since President Joe Biden took office. That doesn’t include “getaways,” estimated to be tens to hundreds of thousands of times more.
By comparison, there were over 2.4 million encounters/apprehensions under Trump’s entire tenure.
2021 under Biden didn’t only reflect record highs in illegal immigrant apprehensions and encounters. Last year, transnational criminal organizations brought in around $3 billion from human smuggling. Additionally, fentanyl overdoses accounted for a record high of more than 77 percent of adolescent deaths in Arizona, as well as resulting in the leading cause of death for individuals aged 19 and younger.
Ducey and Texas Governor Greg Abbott teamed up last December to form the governors’ coalition. The pair recruited 24 other governors: those representing Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
In January, Ducey promised the strike force in his State of the State Address. Ducey characterized the strike force as a solution to the Biden administration’s lack of progress on controlling the border crisis.
“Texas Governor Greg Abbott and I are teaming up to form the American Governors’ Border Strike Force: a commitment between states to do what the Biden administration is unwilling to do: patrol and secure our border,” said Ducey.
Ducey and Abbott’s initiative came after months of negotiations and proposals with the Biden administration to mitigate the crisis. Ducey cataloged those efforts in his latest press release announcing the strike force.
Residents living in unincorporated communities across Arizona have a streamlined process for seeking to become a city or town, now that Gov. Doug Ducey has signed House Bill 2455 into law.
Under HB2455, the process will require those seeking incorporation to provide public notice at least six months prior to formally publishing a Petition to Incorporate. The requirements for making that notice are also detailed in the new legislation which Ducey signed April 6.
Another important change related to HB2455 is the ability to include “large areas of uninhabited, rural or farm land” into the incorporation plan under certain circumstances. But the biggest change is that those directly impacted by an incorporation plan can still object and be removed from the boundaries, but it is harder for them to outright kill the effort.
The change is intended to allow affected local qualified electors to vote on the proposed incorporation without having their interests overshadowed by others.
HB2455 was introduced by Rep. Neal Carter who represents parts of Gila and Pinal counties. He lives in San Tan Valley, where residents have tried three times in the last 12 years to incorporate the area which is home to nearly 97,000 people in northern Pinal County.
“Each time, the effort has failed without ever going to a ballot because of objections from outside interests,” Carter said after his bill was signed into law. “I believe people who live within a community should have a chance for their voices to be heard on matters of local governance. Any decision of whether a community becomes a town or city should be made by its residents, not by out of area interests.”
Carter was appointed last fall by the Pinal County Board of Supervisors to fill the remainder of Rep. Frank Pratt’s term following Pratt’s death. HB2455 was the first bill Carter introduced which the governor has signed into law.
HB2455 takes effect 90 days after the end of this legislative session.