Today, Governor Doug Ducey is recognizing National Navajo Code Talkers Day, now an official state holiday, to honor the Navajo Code Talkers who answered the call to protect our nation.
“Arizona is proud and grateful for the incredible work of the Code Talkers,” Governor Ducey said in the video. “Their bravery and ingenuity was instrumental in helping the Allied Forces claim victory in World War II.”
Navajo Code Talkers Day celebrates the selfless sacrifice of these brave men, including Arizona’s remaining Code Talkers: Thomas Begay, John Kinsel Jr, Samuel Sandoval and Peter MacDonald.
Governor Ducey on March 29 signed legislation sponsored by Senator Jamescita Peshlakai that makes National Navajo Code Talkers Day a legal state holiday every year on August 14. Under the legislation, if National Navajo Code Talkers Day falls on a day other than Sunday, the Sunday following August 14 is to be observed as the holiday.
The United States government recruited and enlisted more than 400 Navajo men to serve in standard communications units. The Navajo Code Talkers used their unbreakable code to assist in every major operation involving the United States Marines in the Pacific theatre, including during the battle of Iwo Jima where they successfully transmitted more than 800 messages without error.
Navajo Code Talkers Day was established through a presidential proclamation by President Ronald Reagan on August 14, 1982. In 2014, Arizona passed legislation declaring every August 14 Navajo Code Talkers Day in Arizona.
Governor Ducey has issued five proclamations to honor the Code Talkers since 2017.
25 Arizona House and Senate Republicans led by freshman State Representative Jake Hoffman (R-Phoenix) called for Governor Doug Ducey to do something about the school districts defying state law with their mask mandates. The news release on Wednesday revealed that Republican legislators have urged Ducey privately to take action, to no avail. This public statement appears to be their next step in convincing Ducey to enforce the law.
It’s been over a week since the first school district called a mask mandate: Phoenix Union High School (PXU). Other schools followed suit soon after: most recently, Flagstaff Unified School District (FUSD). Ducey hasn’t taken action – though his spokespersons have relayed Ducey’s finger-wagging statements of disapproval in response to those school districts.
The legislators proposed that Ducey respond to the districts’ actions by withholding federal funding, authorizing temporary Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESAs) for families, inform families of the law, and take legal action.
Hoffman’s statement explained that the ban on mask mandates included a retroactivity clause that puts it in effect – contradicting school districts’ insistence that the law can’t take place until 90 days after the end of the legislative session, per Arizona statute. He noted that the school districts’ behavior undermined lawful government and bordered on anarchy.
“Under Arizona’s constitutional form of government, local governments do not have the authority or power to usurp state law simply because they disagree, yet that is precisely the kind of illegal activity in which many local governments are presently engaged. The Arizona legislature, with the Governor concurring, very intentionally enacted the laws at hand to protect Arizonans and Arizona children from the threat of government mandating them to wear a mask or be injected with a vaccine,” wrote Hoffman. “A resounding message must be delivered to any local government or subdivision of the state considering defying state law – lawlessness will not be tolerated.”
House Speaker Pro Tempore Travis Grantham (R-Gilbert) signed onto the statement admonishing Ducey. He told AZ Free News that he also supports law enforcement stepping in to enforce the law. Grantham hinted that this debacle sparked a legislative priority for next year – adding more teeth to legislation.
“It’s unfortunate that some of our government-funded schools have chosen to blatantly ignore state law and the will of the majority of Arizonans by instituting mandates regarding students wearing face coverings,” relayed Grantham. “I support executive action by the governor to include withholding of taxpayer dollars and expansion of school choice funding options giving more educational choices to parents. I also support any efforts by law enforcement to enforce state law and I encourage parents and teachers to follow state law when sending their children to school and when on school grounds. Next year I will make it a focus to hold those who violate state law accountable and ensure appropriate funding reductions are in place for districts that purposely violate the law.”
State Representative Joseph Chaplik (R-Scottsdale) also signed onto the statement. He reiterated to AZ Free News that disagreement with the law isn’t justification for violation of it. Chaplik wrote the legislation that effectively banned mask mandates in schools. He, too, asserted that the power to act is in Ducey’s hands.
“Just because some don’t agree with policy and law, we should not disrespect and violate it while also teaching children these illegal tactics,” said Chaplik. “We passed this policy due to the inconsistencies of results with mask use and the unknown long term health issues that can impair our children. We need to stop this madness. The legislature did its job and now the executive branch needs to enforce the law.”
As of press time, Grantham and Chaplik said that they haven’t seen or heard any responses from Ducey.
Gov. Doug Ducey wants to remind the more than 50,000 military veterans living in Arizona that he signed legislation which now fully exempts military pensions from state income taxes.
“Veterans put the safety of our great nation first. We should honor their service, not tax it,” Ducey tweeted this week.
Arizona’s tax code previously exempted only $3,500 of a veteran’s military pension. Getting it to a full exemption was something Ducey announced as a priority during his January 2020 State of the State speech, but then the COVID-19 pandemic shut down all but priority budget considerations.
When the new legislative session convened in January 2021, the governor once again made tax relief for veterans a priority. It took until the last week of June, but the full exemption passed and Ducey signed the legislation.
“Our nation’s greatest heroes will no longer pay taxes on their retirement pay. This saves the average veteran an additional $650 a year,” Ducey said after signing the bill.
In addition to the pension income tax exemption, the Fiscal Year 2022 budget package signed by the governor includes $25 million for construction and operation of a State Veterans Home in northwestern Arizona. Additional funds were appropriated for operating State Veterans Homes recently opened in Flagstaff and Yuma.
Nearly $775,000 was appropriated to ADVS for the hiring of 12 additional Veteran Benefits Counselors, and the budget includes $100,000 earmarked for distribution to a charitable organization located in southern Arizona to work with regional Veterans organizations to improve services which can reduce Veteran suicides.
Ducey also signed SB1802 which establishes the date every August when Arizonans will recognize National Navajo Code Talkers Day.
Among those getting the word out to veterans is Col. Wanda Wright, director of the Arizona Department of Veterans’ Services (ADVS).
“This budget is a real win for Arizona Veterans,” Wright posted to the ADVS website. “It further proves that here in Arizona, we honor and support service members, Veterans and their families.”
Last week the Arizona Republic published a five-part series by news reporter Craig Harris which suggested something improper occurred when Gov. Doug Ducey’s office was consulted about a tax challenge filed by Carter Oil with the Arizona Department of Revenue (ADOR).
CJ Karamargin, for one, was not impressed.
Which matters, because Karamargin is Ducey’s director of communications. He is also a former journalist, having worked for the Arizona Daily Star and Tucson Citizen.
So when Karamargin took to Twitter on Sunday with a 10-part critique of Harris’ series, people listened. The critique used words such as conjecture and innuendo. And that was among some of his nicer comments.
“No one I’ve talked to can understand the story or reporting. Probably because it doesn’t make sense and doesn’t get basic facts right,” Karamargin wrote in tweet #1. One of those incorrect facts, he tweeted, is that someone named in the article as being a former employee had never worked for Ducey.
“When a reporter can’t even get names right, you’ve got a problem,” he wrote in tweet #3.
Karamargin also points out that some of the former public servants who provided information to Harris were in fact “disgruntled former employees” of the state whom the newspaper had previously reported about.
Once he got to tweet #5, Karamargin was on a roll.
“The accusations are false,” he wrote about suggestions in the articles that state officials considered a settlement in the ADOR tax challenge because someone connected to the matter could potentially be helpful to Ducey in a possible presidential run.
“Losing the case in court would have caused a ripple effect, impacting many more industries and businesses,” Karamargin wrote. “This would not only have had a significant impact on these businesses — it would have had a much more significant impact on state revenue than settling.”
In the end, there was no settlement with Carter Oil because the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the state.
“So this story is about something that did not happen,” tweet #8 says. Then Karamargin did a little explaining about how things work in the executive branch of state government.
“Our office does not lobby state agencies; they report to us. Agency directors aren’t free agents…And they do not make decisions that have potentially 100s of millions of $ in impact to the state without consulting us.”
One of those named throughout Harris’ series is Carlton Woodruff, who was removed by Ducey as ADOR’s director in December. Woodruff’s departure amid a disagreement with the governor’s office over how to respond to a court challenge to Prop 208, the Invest in Education Act. The only comments at the time came from Karamargin.
“The role of state agencies is not to take policy positions but to implement the law,” he said, adding that Woodruff’s removal was “unrelated” to how the Carter Oil tax challenge was handled.
On Friday, Governor Doug Ducey called on Arizona’s congressional delegation to urge the Biden-Harris administration not to lift Title 42 border protections. In his letter to delegation members, the Governor expressed Arizona’s grave concern about reports the Biden administration plans to roll back Title 42 border protections imminently.
“I am writing to you today to share details of the impact this dangerous and misguided idea would have on Arizona and to request your assistance on behalf of the people of Arizona in urging the Biden administration to maintain these critical protections,” the Governor wrote to Arizona’s two U.S. Senators and nine U.S. Representatives.
The Governor’s letter to the delegation comes after he urged Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle P. Walensky on Tuesday not to lift Title 42.
“Lifting Title 42 now would prohibit the vast majority of those expulsions and result in hundreds of thousands of additional migrants entering the United States and being permitted to stay, without a plan to test or vaccinate those that may spread not just COVID-19 but also the numerous variants that are beginning to spread throughout the world and are deadlier than COVID-19 itself,” Governor Ducey states in the letter. “It is clear that the Biden administration does not have a plan, the resources, the facilities, or indeed the ability to deal with the unaccompanied minors and families currently being permitted to cross.”
Governor Ducey recently signed into law more than $55 million in funding for the Arizona National Guard border mission and assistance for local law enforcement with border security operations. Governor Ducey and Texas Governor Greg Abbott asked all U.S. governors to send available law enforcement resources to Arizona and Texas to assist with border security efforts. Governor Ducey and 19 fellow governors also wrote a letter calling on President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris to reverse their destructive policies that have created the crisis at the southern border.
Dear Members of Arizona’s Congressional Delegation,
This week I sent a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky expressing Arizona’s grave concern about reports the Biden administration plans to roll back Title 42 border protections imminently. I am writing to you today to share details of the impact this dangerous and misguided idea would have on Arizona and to request your assistance on behalf of the people of Arizona in urging the Biden administration to maintain these critical protections.
Should the Biden administration choose to end these protections, they would be causing nothing short of a catastrophic surge of both illegal immigration and COVID-19 disease along our southern border. As Arizona continues to deal with the man-made crisis at our border, ending Title 42 will threaten the health and safety of not only Arizonans, but all Americans, and our already broken border will explode, overwhelming border patrol, law enforcement, non-profits and health care professionals. By lifting this policy, the Biden administration will be responsible for not only exacerbating our border crisis, but in effect, proactively and knowingly importing COVID-19 variants into the United States, starting in border states like Arizona.
Under Title 42, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may prohibit the entry of individuals into the country when “there is a serious danger of the introduction of a communicable disease into the United States.” Since the implementation of the Title 42 order, we have all seen that other countries — especially those south of the United States — have had difficulty in managing the COVID-19 pandemic and continue to struggle with testing and vaccination of those in their countries.
Title 42 has ensured that the risk posed by migration to the United States of those to our southern border is mitigated to protect our citizens. In March, April, and May of this year alone, Title 42 has allowed Customs and Border Protection to swiftly expel over 329,000 individuals who had crossed into the United States without legal authorization to do so. Lifting Title 42 now would prohibit the vast majority of those expulsions and result in hundreds of thousands of additional migrants entering the United States and being permitted to stay, without a plan to test or vaccinate those that may spread not just COVID-19 but also the numerous variants that are beginning to spread throughout the world and are deadlier than COVID-19 itself.
It is clear that the Biden administration does not have a plan, the resources, the facilities, or indeed the ability to deal with the unaccompanied minors and families currently being permitted to cross. In fact, the administration has resorted to using hotels and motels with little monitoring to house these unaccompanied minors and families due to the lack of infrastructure available to support such an influx of migrants. Adding hundreds of thousands of single adults will only exacerbate the problem.
The Biden administration has stated that “now is not the time for migrants to come to the US Border,” but revoking Title 42 is tantamount to issuing a cordial invitation and will certainly be used as such in communications by the cartels and human smugglers that entice people in Central America to make the dangerous journey north in order to turn a profit. These organizations have very little concern for the well-being of those being trafficked let alone those in the United States.
An open-borders strategy is never wise, but it is an even worse idea right now, as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to climb in many countries south of our border. Title 42 is one of the only measures remaining in place which allows not only the federal authorities but also state and local public health professionals to maintain public health that they have worked so hard for over the past 17 months of this pandemic. To continue to ensure the safety and security that we have achieved in this country following the COVID-19 outbreak, our borders cannot withstand a surge in migration that the lifting of Title 42 will cause.
With legal travel still limited between the United States, Mexico and Canada due to the pandemic, and the administration continuing to advocate for federal, state and local restrictions on schools and private businesses, lifting Title 42 would be nothing short of outrageous and an insult to all Americans who have been forced to deal with these restrictions.
I am strongly urging the Biden administration to keep the Title 42 order in place until all other COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted and the United States has some assurances that those countries to our south have implemented strategies to protect against its spread.
I respectfully request your assistance and advocacy on this critical matter. Thank you for your consideration of these issues and please let our office know if there is anything we can do to assist as you are representing our state in Washington D.C.
Douglas A. Ducey
State of Arizona