Fury Follows Biden Action On Grand Canyon Monument Move

Fury Follows Biden Action On Grand Canyon Monument Move

By Daniel Stefanski |

Arizona Legislative Republicans are furious over President Joe Biden’s announcement about the Grand Canyon.

During his visit to Arizona on Tuesday, President Joe Biden established the Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni – Ancestral Footprints of the Grand Canyon National Monument. In his signed proclamation, Biden stated, “Protecting the areas to the northeast, northwest, and south of the Grand Canyon will preserve an important spiritual, cultural, prehistoric, and historic legacy; maintain a diverse array of natural and scientific resources; and help ensure that the prehistoric, historic, and scientific value of the areas ensures for the benefit of all Americans.”

Arizona Republicans were quick to oppose the president’s action in their state. Senator Frank Carroll said, “Halting uranium mining in this region will only promote our country’s dependence on communist China for the minerals needed every day to support our energy supply. Even the FBI has sounded the alarm that China is the greatest long-term threat to our nation’s ideas, economic security and national security, yet President Biden is welcoming a greater reliance on this government with this action.”

Senator David Gowan also issued a statement: “There was entirely inefficient notice from the Biden Administration to the residents, business owners and elected officials of Mohave County. This is not how government should conduct itself within Arizona or within the United States. We don’t need the federal government coming in and dictating to Arizonans how to protect Arizona. We’ve been doing a fine job of conserving our precious resources and will continue to do so. This federal overreach is unacceptable and unconstitutional.”

Last week, Arizona House Majority Leader Leo Biasiucci and Senate Majority Leader Sonny Borreilli requested that an emergency, joint committee hearing be convened in Kingman in order to “hear testimony on President Biden’s radical proposal to circumvent Congress and unilaterally declare a new 1.1 million acre ‘national monument’ near the Grand Canyon in Mohave and Coconino Counties.”

The plea was directed to the Chairs of the House and Senate Committees on Natural Resources, Energy and Water (Rep. Gail Griffin and Sen. Sine Kerr) and the Chair of the House Committee on Land, Agriculture and Rural Affairs (Rep. Lupe Diaz).

The call for the emergency meeting was adhered to by the Chairs of the legislative committees, where Republicans met Monday night in Kingman and “voted to formally oppose the move that promises to adversely impact the state’s economy and our national security by devastating critical industries like mining and cattle ranching.”

Republican Representative John Gillette also chimed in, posting, “Arizona Democrats refuse to show up for public input on the Biden Land Grab. As Biden is planning to designate 1.1 million acres of AZ people land to build wind and solar via executive order 14008. Democrats call public comments a sham. We must vote them out!”

Senate President Pro Tempore T.J. Shope was at the hearing and shared his support for his fellow Republicans’ efforts to highlight this issue, writing, “Excited to be in Kingman today to discuss my strong opposition to the over 1 Million Acre land-grab in Northern Arizona that President Biden is expected to announce in the coming hours.”

After Biden’s establishment of the National Monument, Shope issued another statement, saying, “The Biden Administration is determined to halt mining across our country and here in Arizona, crippling our ability to meet demands. We must immediately open up mining in Arizona and address other national security risks here locally that are associated with China’s influence. Shame on President Biden for putting our citizens, our resources and our economy at risk.”

Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.

Why Proposed Rural Groundwater Control Legislation Is Bad For Arizona

Why Proposed Rural Groundwater Control Legislation Is Bad For Arizona

By Rep. Gail Griffin |

There has been a lot of talk recently about rural groundwater bills not getting a hearing at the Arizona State Legislature.

Over the years, proposed legislation has gone by many names, including “Groundwater Conservation Areas,” “Special Management Areas,” “Rural Management Areas,” and “Local Groundwater Stewardship Areas.” It also includes “Sustainable Groundwater Management Plans.”

Regardless of the name, the concept is the same, and all are bad.

While the idea of “local control” might sound good, the actual provisions are far from local or voluntary.

Instead of requiring a local vote of the community, these bills would allow as few as two people in some counties to establish irreversible groundwater control districts throughout the county.

Instead of being elected by the people, the members of these districts would be appointed by the Governor.

Instead of requiring a unanimous vote of county supervisors to adopt the most stringent assured water supply regulations in the nation, these bills would require only a simple majority.

Instead of applying equally across the entire watershed, these bills would allow only “portions” to be designated, meaning that individual properties could be singled-out for their water use, such power plants, farms, mines, hydrogen production facilities, or any business.

Instead of reducing the size of government, these bills would create new layers of government and give additional taxing, zoning, planning, and condemnation authority to a small group of unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats to decide the community’s economy and tell you what you can and cannot do with your private property.

Instead of voluntary conservation requirements, these bills would allow mandatory reporting requirements, groundwater supply rations, and groundwater withdrawal fees (taxes).

Instead of holding government officials accountable for public funds, these bills would allow the Governor to give up to $50 million each year to any non-profit organization or Indian tribe, regardless of geographic location, political ideology, or conflict of interest.

Instead of respecting the right to privacy, these bills would intrude into the personal lives and affairs of rural Arizonans and require active monitoring devices on private wells, including ranchers and farmers litigating water rights in ongoing stream adjudications.

Instead of authorizing temporary measures to help restore aquifer health, these groundwater control districts would be forever.

Instead of limiting absolute power, these bills would allow the unelected members of the board to essentially rule by fiat by establishing “local management goals” that would allow them to do whatever they want as the board.

Instead of requiring water to be put to “beneficial use,” these bills would open the door to “water markets” wherein water could be turned into a “commodity” and sold to the highest bidder, hoarded, and exported out of the district to big cities, environmental non-profits, and private corporations.

Instead of narrowly tailoring government power to prioritize human life and prosperity, these bills would allow the board to expand the definition of an “assured water supply” to require not only enough water for human activity over 100 years, but also enough water to protect endangered species, streams and rivers, and fish and wildlife habitat for 100 years (or longer). In other words, no water for people; only for the environment.

All of these are fraught with abuse and are unworkable for Arizona.

Thus, “local control” (in this context) is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, designed to trick voters into thinking the bills do something other than what they actually do.

We must do everything we can to identify bad legislation before it gets a hearing. And we must find solutions that make sense for Arizona and help strengthen our responsible use and management of water and natural resources.

We do have solutions moving forward, and we will continue to explore additional solutions that can help to address rural groundwater in Arizona.

As an elected official, I am committed to working with anyone who is willing to work with me and others to find reasonable solutions.

Until then, I will continue to fulfill my duty to the public to support good legislation, and oppose bad legislation, on rural groundwater management in our state.

Gail Griffin is a Republican member of the Arizona House of Representatives serving Legislative District 19, which includes areas of Greenlee, Graham, Cochise, and eastern Pima Counties. Griffin chairs the House Natural Resources, Energy & Water Committee and is co-chair of the Joint Legislative Ad Hoc Committee on Water Security.

Arizona Legislators Fight For Future Water Security

Arizona Legislators Fight For Future Water Security

By Daniel Stefanski |

Arizona Republican legislators made sure that water investments received sizable contributions in the recently negotiated budget deal for the state.

In a press release issued last week, Representative Gail Griffin, the Chair of the House Committee on Natural Resources, Energy & Water highlighted a realized commitment to strengthen “Arizona’s water resources by directing over $360 million of state general fund dollars to be allocated to projects and programs that help to promote the conservation, development, and enhancement of water in Arizona.”

Griffin lauded Republicans’ efforts to include this funding for the state’s water security and future, saying, “Never before in our state’s history has water been as important to our state’s economic prosperity and individual liberty as it is today. As Republicans, we will continue to find solutions to Arizona’s most pressing issues, from water security to housing availability. We will continue to make investments in Arizona’s long-term water future.”

The release listed several areas where funds were invested: Water infrastructure projects, Reconstruction of a levee, Design and construction of a recharge basin, Installation of new irrigation systems and xeriscaping, Water project assistance for cities, towns, and irrigation districts in rural counties, Wastewater system improvements, Construction of groundwater delivery infrastructure, Brackish groundwater recovery pilot program, Statewide water resources planning, Water supply and demand assessments, Assured and adequate water supply administration, Stream adjudication support, Rural water studies, Water protection fund for projects that address conservation and watershed improvement, Conservation and drought program, Brackish groundwater study, Water conservation projects, On-farm irrigation efficiency projects, Water quality fee fund, PFAS mitigation, Safe drinking water program, Direct potable reuse of treated wastewater, Water infrastructure and commerce grants, Long-term water augmentation, Rehabilitation and drilling of new water wells.

Earlier this session, Representative Griffin was named as a co-chair of the Joint Legislative Study Committee on Water Security, which was formed by Arizona House Speaker Ben Toma and Senate President Warren Petersen to “convene and solicit information from water users, stakeholders, and the public regarding state solutions to address water security in Arizona.”

When announcing the formation of this committee, Speaker Toma said, “The availability of water for the success of all industries in our state is critical to our economy. Strengthening our existing water resources while we secure our future water supply is a top priority as we work to achieve common-sense solutions for our state. His counterpart in the Senate, Petersen, also stated, “From the 1980s Groundwater Management Act to last year’s historic investment in WIFA, the Legislature has led and will continue to lead the water policy solutions that require legislative action to implement.”

Water policy will most certainly be an issue of contention in a divided government in the years ahead. Republicans in the state legislature and Democrat Governor Katie Hobbs have already proven that they have varying opinions about how to lead the Grand Canyon State forward in this critical area. Democrat Attorney General Kris Mayes has also weighed in with her perspectives on Arizona’s water security, attempting to make sure that her office has a seat at the table for future actions.

Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.

Griffin Bill Clarifies Ballot Hand Count Authority

Griffin Bill Clarifies Ballot Hand Count Authority

By Daniel Stefanski |

A bill meant to add transparency to Arizona’s elections is approaching its final hurdle in the Legislature.

HB 2722, sponsored by Representative Gail Griffin, “authorizes the officer in charge of elections, the county recorder or any person who is designated by the county board of supervisors to count all or any portion of the ballots in an election by hand” – according to the purpose provided by the Arizona Senate.

In a statement to the House Municipal Oversight & Elections Committee, Representative Griffin explained the purpose of her legislation: “It’s a simple bill. It allows the counties to do a hand count. We believe that they already have the authority to do it, but this clarifies it.”

Last month, Griffin’s bill cleared the Arizona House by a party-line 31-28 vote – with one member (Representative Shah) not voting. Before the action from the full chamber, HB 2722 passed the House Municipal Oversight and Elections Committee with a 6-4 tally; all Republicans voting in favor of the legislation and all Democrats in opposition).

After the House transmitted this bill to the Senate, it was assigned to the Elections Committee, chaired by Senator Wendy Rogers. Rogers recently brought HB 2722 up for consideration, and it passed out of her committee with another party-line vote of 5-3.

During the committee hearing, Representative Griffin stopped by to testify for her bill. She told the members of the committee that she had worked with the Cochise County Recorder David Stevens on the bill’s language.

Democrat Senator Anna Hernandez had some harsh words for the bill sponsor before voting against the bill in the Senate committee: “I’m not inclined to support any legislation that is being pushed by someone who runs an institute that posts conspiracy theories…around elections.” Another fellow Democrat on the committee, Senator Mendez, added, “Advocates, policy advisors – everyone has noted to us that hand counts only produce inaccurate results, confused voters, and consume extensive time, money, and labor…We should not be inviting all of this chaos and pretending as if this is going to solve our problems.”

Senator Rogers had the final word on the bill before it officially passed her committee, saying, “Whatever it takes to get accurate, reliable results – because 250 years of blood and treasure have been spilled for our sacred vote.” She also read a 2019 quote from then-U.S. Senator Kamala Harris, which stated: “This shouldn’t be a controversial statement: The United States must embrace hand-marked paper ballots.”

Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.

Hobbs Veto Spree Continues, Kills Bill That Would Protect Pregnant Women From Abuse

Hobbs Veto Spree Continues, Kills Bill That Would Protect Pregnant Women From Abuse

By Daniel Stefanski |

As more bills make their way to Democrat Governor Katie Hobbs’ office, the rate of usage for her veto stamp has accelerated.

On Monday, Governor Hobbs vetoed four pieces of legislation that were recently transmitted from the Legislature to her office, giving her a total of 24 vetoes for this session.

The bills that Hobbs vetoed were HB 2427 (sponsored by Representative Matt Gress), HB 2440 (sponsored by Representative Gail Griffin), HB 2472 (sponsored by Representative Steve Montenegro), and HB 2056 (sponsored by Representative Lupe Diaz).

HB 2427 would have classified, “as aggravated assault punishable as a class 3 felony, assault against a pregnant victim if the person knows or has reason to know the victim is pregnant and circumstances exist that classify the offense as domestic violence.” In her veto letter, Hobbs pointed to “Arizona’s leading advocacy organization for victims of domestic violence” saying that the bill “will do nothing to deter domestic violence offenses or support pregnant victims.”

This bill garnered the most outrage out of the four Hobbs vetoed Monday. Bill sponsor, Matt Gress, responded on Twitter, saying, “Regarding HB 2427, I’ll never apologize for toughening penalties on abusers who assault pregnant women.”

The Arizona Freedom Caucus tweeted, “Hobbs vetoed a bill requiring harsher punishments for people convicted of domestic violence of a pregnant woman.”

However, as expected, Legislative Democrats cheered the governor’s veto of this bill immediately following the announcement from her office. Senator Anna Hernandez said, “This veto was crucial for protecting Arizonans from an underhanded attack on reproductive justice. Representative Gress and the Joint Republicans Caucus’ continued assault on our rights to safe and accessible abortion indicate that their ‘pro-life’ stance has always been about control not care.” And Representative Analise Ortiz added, “The Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence agreed that HB 2427 did nothing to protect survivors. To prevent domestic violence, we must invest in real solutions by expanding access to counseling, housing, childcare, and economic stability.”

HB 2440 would have required “public power entities and public service corporations to prioritize reliable and affordable electric service when conducting infrastructure planning and investments.” Hobbs justified her decision by writing that the bill “is unnecessary and creates regulatory uncertainty in instances where affordability and reliability may be at odds.”

HB 2472 would have prohibited “the State of Arizona from requiring a bank or financial institution to use a social credit score when the bank or financial institution evaluates whether to lend money to a customer.” Hobbs explained that she believed “this bill is overly vague and should not be codified into law,” in part, because “it does not define ‘social credit scores’ – nor do those systems exist anywhere in the United States.”

HB 2056 would have exempted “a dry wash, arroyo, swale, gully or rill or other similar erosional feature that is characterized by low volume, infrequent or short duration flows from the Dredge and Fill Permit Program.” Hobbs argued that this bill created “regulatory confusion and uncertainty by forcing an unnecessary conflict between state law and the federal determination of Waters of the United States.”

House Speaker Ben Toma addressed the pattern of vetoes from the Ninth Floor of the Arizona Executive Tower, stating: “Issuing vetoes is easy. Actual leadership requires hard work, and Republicans in the legislature will continue to pass good public policies that make the state better for working Arizonans and families.”

Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.