ACLU, Mainstream Media Sue Arizona Over Police Recording Ban

ACLU, Mainstream Media Sue Arizona Over Police Recording Ban

By Corinne Murdock |

On Tuesday, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and 10 media companies and nonprofits sued the state over its new ban on recording police within 8 feet. The groups argued in their lawsuit that the ban violates the constitutional rights to free speech and a free press.

The law, HB2319, requires observers to obtain an officer’s permission in order to film within that distance while officers are questioning, arresting, or handling disruptive or otherwise abnormal behavior. If not, the filmer may be charged with a misdemeanor. 

However, individuals personally approached or stopped by police may record within 8 feet — so long as they’re not being searched, arrested, or tested for sobriety — as well as bystanders in an enclosed structure of private property where the law enforcement activity is taking place, so long as officers don’t ask the bystander to leave. 

The organizations filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for Arizona. Those named in the suit were Attorney General Mark Brnovich, Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell, and Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone. A spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office told AP News on Tuesday afternoon that they hadn’t received the complaint, and therefore couldn’t comment. 

Media companies joining the ACLU in the lawsuit are: Phoenix Newspapers (Arizona Republic); Gray Media Group (AZFamily and KOLD); Scripps Media (ABC15 ArizonaCW61 ArizonaKGUN9CW Tucson); KPNX-TV (12News); Fox Television Stations (Fox 10 PhoenixTucson News NowYour TV Family); NBCUniversal Media (NBC News, MSNBC, CNBC, Telemundo Arizona); Arizona Broadcasters Association; States Newsroom (Arizona Mirror); Arizona Newspapers Association (represents 84 newspapers); and the National Press Photographers Association.

The plaintiffs recounted in the lawsuit how their lobbying efforts to defeat HB2319 failed in the past legislative session.

The lawmaker who came up with HB2319 was State Representative John Kavanagh (R-Fountain Hills), a former New York Police Department (NYPD) officer. In a March opinion piece defending the ban, Kavanagh explained that individuals filming within 8 feet of an officer posed a potential danger to active investigations and arrests.

“Police officers have no way of knowing whether the person approaching is an innocent bystander or an accomplice of the person they’re arresting who might assault them,” wrote Kavanagh. “Consequently, officers become distracted and while turning away from the subject of the encounter, the officers could be assaulted by that subject or that subject could discard evidence or even escape.”

Kavanagh introduced the bill in response to requests from Tucson police officers who experienced bystanders videotaping as close as one foot behind them, even during arrests. 

Governor Doug Ducey signed Kavanagh’s bill into law last month. The ban goes into effect on September 24. 

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

At Least 24 Percent of Arizona Legislators Funded By 50 Percent or More PAC, Lobbyist Money

At Least 24 Percent of Arizona Legislators Funded By 50 Percent or More PAC, Lobbyist Money

By Corinne Murdock |

AZ Free News sampled 46 legislators’ latest campaign finance reports of the state legislature and found that 22 of 47 legislators sampled received 50 percent or more of their campaign contributions from either lobbyists or PACs. 

PACs and lobbyists have significant footing in the legislature. That would explain why the first week of January is known as “hell week” within the legislature — not because they’re in preparation for the new session kicking off, but because lobbyists are scrambling to fundraise for legislators. Arizona law prohibits legislators from receiving lobbyist campaign contributions while in regular session. 

The following are state legislators that receive 50 percent or more of their campaign funds from PACs and lobbyists combined: 

In the House, Richard Andrade (D-Glendale), about 51 percent; Ben Toma (R-Peoria), about 56 percent; Lorenzo Sierra (D-Avondale), about 62 percent; Steve Kaiser (R-Phoenix), about 64 percent; John Kavanagh (R-Fountain Hills), about 64 percent; Rusty Bowers (R-Mesa), about 64 percent; Diego Espinoza (D-Tolleson), about 66 percent; Joanne Osborne (R-Goodyear), about 74 percent; David Cook (R-Globe), about 75 percent; Justin Wilmeth (R-Phoenix), about 79 percent; John Fillmore (R-Apache Junction), about 83 percent; Tim Dunn (R-Yuma), about 87 percent; and Kelli Butler (D-Paradise Valley), about 96 percent. 

In the Senate, Vince Leach (R-Tucson), about 53 percent; T.J. Shope (R-Coolidge), about 56 percent;  David Gowan (R-Sierra Vista), about 71 percent; Rosanna Gabaldon (D-Sahuarita), about 73 percent; Lupe Contreras (D-Avondale), about 75 percent; Sonny Borrelli (R-Lake Havasu City), about 79 percent;  Tyler Pace (R-Mesa), about 82 percent; Sine Kerr (R-Buckeye), about 90 percent; and David Livingston (R-Peoria), about 91 percent.

Of note, all of Gowan’s 32 contributions came from outside of his district — 28 came from Maricopa County. Additionally, $5,000 of Gowan’s $8,950 non-lobbyist contributions came from Phoenix Coyotes owner Alex Merulo.

Butler received over $10,000 from the Tucson branch of one of the largest labor unions in the country: the United Food and Commercial Workers (UCFW). Her PAC contributions totaled $13,000, and $150 of her individual contributions were from lobbyists. There were several inactive lobbyist donors among the individual contributions totaling $250. In all, Butler’s total contributions were over $13,700.

Wilmeth’s ten non-lobbyist donors included three inactive lobbyists and one wife of an inactive lobbyist. 

Five legislators sampled reportedly received less than 10 percent of funds from PACs and lobbyists: Morgan Abraham, about 4 percent; Quang Nguyen, about 7 percent; Judy Burges, about 7 percent; Amish Shah, about 7 percent; and Joseph Chaplik, about 8 percent.

There were several legislators sampled that we couldn’t review because their reports haven’t been filed yet — even though they were due well over two months ago.

State Representative Alma Hernandez (D-Tucson) still hasn’t filed her campaign finance report due April 15. Hernandez has been late consistently since her first year in office (2018), accruing $3,500 in fines altogether. Her latest campaign finance report, which she has yet to file, is 76 days late and she owed $1,675 currently — her highest single fine to date. It took Hernandez 69 extra days to file her 2021 cumulative finance report: it was due January 15, but she filed it March 25. 

Just over half of Hernandez’s individual donors from her last report, the cumulative one for 2021, were from out of state and made up the majority of those contributions: $5,980 versus the $3,920 from Arizona. Among them were several prominent figures in the Jewish community including acclaimed author and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel’s son, Elisha Wiesel, as well as Broadway star Jonah Platt.

State Senator Stephanie Stahl Hamilton (D-Tucson) did file her report on time — but like Hernandez, over half of the individual contributors on her latest campaign finance report were from out of state. 

It appears that the Hernandez siblings are alike when it comes to campaign finance reports. Since the year his sister took office, Hernandez grew increasingly tardy with filing the reports. For two separate 2020 reports, he accrued over $5,100 in fines. His 2021 cumulative report was filed late by 67 days, and he was fined $1,450 for that. Both the Hernandez siblings are 76 days late on their first quarter report.

Another perennially tardy filer is State Representative César Chávez (D-Maryvale). Like Hernandez, he is 76 dates late and owes $1,675, but for his senate campaign’s first quarter report. Chávez was also late by 58 days to file his senate campaign’s 2021 cumulative report, owing $1,225. 

Similarly to Hernandez, Chávez has a history of late filings, the highest of which were 121 days late to file his 2020 pre-general election filing, 163 days late to file his 2016 pre-general election report, and 953 days late to file his 2016 first report for the fourth quarter and post-general election report.

One interesting campaign finance report came from State Senator Wendy Rogers (R-Flagstaff). The report totaled nearly 600 pages, with 586 dedicated to individual contributions alone that totaled nearly $360,000. No lobbyists could be discerned among the over 7,000 contributors, and over 1,600 of them were Arizonans. A vast majority were retired, nearly 4,500 of them, bolstered by the self-employed and small business owners.

Only one PAC donated to Rogers: the Save America PAC gave one contribution of $5,000 in January.

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

Free Speech Protections in Condominium, Homeowner Associations Passes Senate

Free Speech Protections in Condominium, Homeowner Associations Passes Senate

By Corinne Murdock |

On Monday, the Senate approved legislation protecting the First Amendment rights of homeowners in the face of attempted restrictions from condominium unit owner’s associations (COA) or homeowner’s associations (HOA). 

HB2158 protects a homeowner’s ability to display association-specific political signage, assemble peaceably in common areas, post notices about assemblies, and invite a political candidate or guest to speak at an assembly. The bill now heads to the governor for final approval. 

The Senate passed the bill without any remarks, done so unanimously as did the House last month. 

Specifically, HB2158 would bar COAs and HOAs from prohibiting or limiting association-specific political signage during distribution of ballots until three days after the election, as well as regulating the manufacture of the signage.

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

Arizona House And Senate Pass Bills To Finish Border Wall

Arizona House And Senate Pass Bills To Finish Border Wall

By Corinne Murdock |

Both the Arizona House and Senate passed bills this week to supply hundreds of millions for Arizona to finish construction on its portion of the border wall. 

On Wednesday, the Arizona House passed along party lines State Senator Wendy Rogers’ (R-Flagstaff) SB1032, appropriating $700 million. Rogers estimated during the Senate Appropriations Committee that the amount would cover the approximately 17 miles of construction that remains.

“This is our chance to continue to protect ourselves because we aren’t having this built by the federal government and since we have purview over approximately 17 miles of the wall, this money would be appropriated to build that,” said Rogers.

Then on Thursday, the Arizona House passed its version, HB2317, along party lines on Thursday. State Representative John Kavanagh’s (R-Fountain Hills) bill appropriates $150 million in 2023 to finish the border wall. Kavanagh relayed during the House Appropriations Committee hearing some data given to him by Border Patrol: the number of crossings reportedly quadrupled over the last year. 

“The border is in chaos and it’s out of control. The Border Patrol, besides needing more personnel, would be helped by some physical barriers which do in fact stop crossers, or at least funnel them, making the area that needs to be patrolled smaller,” said Kavanagh. “I think it’s a reasonable investment in Arizona’s security and safety.” 

Passage of the bill comes weeks after the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) projected that the border crisis would only worsen this year. This prediction concurred with the latest data on border crossings from Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

According to a report from AZ Free News this week, border patrol encountered almost 154,000 illegal immigrants crossing the border in January — the highest in over 20 years — with a low estimate of over 504,600 “gotaways” since President Joe Biden took office. 

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

Club Sexualizing Children Influenced Scottsdale School District to Allow Students to Drop ‘Deadnames’

Club Sexualizing Children Influenced Scottsdale School District to Allow Students to Drop ‘Deadnames’

By Corinne Murdock |

Scottsdale Unified School District (SUSD) allows students to replace their legal birth names, called “deadnames,” on their IDs with their preferred names. The district folded to a push from a Gender & Sexualities Alliance (GSA) chapter at Cocopah Middle School: these clubs are part of a national network pushing a hyperfocus on a child’s sexuality while engaging them in social justice activism. 

One GSA middle schooler revealed SUSD’s “deadname” policy during a testimonial video featured at the latest annual fundraising award ceremony hosted by the Phoenix chapter of the Gay, Lesbian, & Straight Education Network (GLSEN, pronounced “glisten”: an activist organization pushing for comprehensive LGBTQ+ sex education and other social justice activism), called the Sparkle Glitter GLSEN Remote Fundraiser and Respect Awards. Arizona Daily Independent first reported on the video. The mother of the anonymous student was also present; her daughter revealed that her GSA club pushed SUSD to create a “deadname” policy. The young students were instigated and aided by a teacher serving as their club sponsor, Laynee Langner, whose efforts helped them cinch the award “GSA of the Year.”

“One of my friends, who is trans, had their deadname on their ID and we thought that was kind of unfair because everyone was calling them by their deadname,” complained the middle schooler. “We took it to district board level and got it changed for the entire district so that the entire district’s students could have their proper names on the ID.”

Langner explained that the students do what they want, when they want in their GSA. She further explained that school policy forbade students from using chosen names on their ID for proper identification reasons.

“Every single student has to wear their ID all day every day, and these have their ‘deadnames,’ and they wanted that changed. The consensus is that we can’t because it’s their legal names, and we need to have their legal names on their IDs. And I came back and told the students and they were so upset,” said Langner. “I haven’t seen such joy on the face of a child when I told them they didn’t have to have their ‘deadname’ on their ID, that they could have their chosen name on their ID. It was just euphoria, and it brought – it’s just bringing tears to my eyes right now.”

“Deadnames” are the birth names that individuals reject upon transitioning genders. The lack of a space between “dead” and “names” wasn’t an oversight – that’s the spelling recognized by activists, and even Merriam Webster. Activists also use the verb “deadnaming” to refer to the accidental or purposeful practice of using an individual’s legal birth name.

GSAs originated with GLSEN in the late 1990s. GLSEN, established in 1990, not only promotes the sexualization of children, it intertwines the tenets of Critical Race Theory (CRT) in its messaging. In guidelines for promoting inclusivity through a GSA, GLSEN wrote that having black representation in GSA leadership was necessary, and touched on topics like intersectionality, solidarity, centeredness, anti-racism, and white supremacy. It also insisted that GSA engage in social justice activism. 

“If you’re discussing gender identity, talk about the gender binary as a white supremacist concept, and share information about some of the many African and Indigenous tribes that have embraced gender outside of the binary for decades,” read the post. “Have in-depth conversations in your GSA about intersectionality, solidarity, and anti-racism. These conversations are incredibly important, but you must also ensure that you do not place any undue burden on Black club members to share their trauma or to teach non-Black club members about racism. Provide space for Black people to process during or after these conversations, if needed, and make sure students know that they can step out at any point if they’re uncomfortable or triggered.”

Last year’s GSA Summit focused on a partnership with Black Lives Matter (BLM). The National Education Association (NEA) was also involved.

The club has caused deep divisions on campus in its short existence within SUSD, also mentioned during the Sparkle Glitter GLSEN Remote Fundraiser and Respect Awards testimonial video. The anonymous mother-daughter duo who revealed that the GSA sixth graders pushed SUSD to create a “deadname” policy described the divide their GSA caused at Cocopah Middle School. The mother said that their activism caused “a whole lot of problems” and said that some parents threatened to leave their middle school while others brought GSA cake to thank them. 

“There was a very clear divide in the sixth graders. Those who participated were called ‘gay’ and those who didn’t participate were called ‘homophobic,’” said the middle schooler.

This is the same district formerly led by Jann-Michael Greenburg, the SUSD board member removed from presidency over his connection to a dossier on political and parental opponents created by his father.

One legislator, State Representative John Kavanagh (R-Fountain Hills), promised to intervene with a bill to require parental consent before a student can join a school club involving gender, gender identity, and/or sexuality, as well as require schools to give parents detailed information about those types of clubs. The representative asserted that the backdoor approach to sneaking in curriculum through clubs must come to an end. 

“School districts should be serving the needs of families and students and not replacing their own ideologies with the beliefs of the parents. My bill would close a loophole that school districts have found in the state law that requires parental approval before students receive sex education,” explained Kavanagh. “They’ve taken LGBTQ+ politics out of the classroom and into the clubs to circumvent the law. My bill will require that parents consent to their child joining any kind of gender sexuality, or gender identity club before the students can join and the school will also have to send parents information about the club’s bylaws, rules, goals, and purposes.”

Jill Dunican, a Desert Mountain High School parent, told AZ Free News that it took her almost four months before she could get someone at her child’s school to tell her what GSA was all about after her high schooler told her about a “sexuality club” on campus. Dunican said that she recognized the harm posed by GSA immediately after obtaining more information on it. 

“At first, the principal confirmed there was a Genders Sexuality Alliance, which she framed as a mere support group. However, it took almost four months before I was put in touch with the teacher who leads the GSA who was able to provide details about the agenda and source of curriculum,” said Dunican. “After reviewing the GLSEN website, it became clear how divisive the content is. These lessons are not something I want my children exposed to. Essentially, they ask kids to label each other based on skin color, gender and sexual identities in an effort to stack rank themselves into victim groups to establish the oppressors and the oppressed. I just don’t see how that helps any child.”

“Another concerning finding,” said Dunican, “was GLSEN’s instruction that teachers encourage students to become social activists for the abolishment of police, including school resource officers. In fact, GLSEN even promotes policing as a white supremist concept. In our home, we support police and first responders and value their contributions to the Scottsdale community.”

Dunican expressed that she’s not against providing emotional support to LGBTQ+ individuals or any children. Rather, Dunican has concerns that the GSA programming is indoctrinating children with a victimhood mindset and sexualized content that does not seem age appropriate, all without parental consent.

“I’ve heard others attempt to frame any criticism of the GLSEN indoctrination as anti-LGBTQ+. That’s simply not the case. If there was a Gay-Straight Alliance that truly promoted alliances and provided support, and didn’t push a sexualized ideology, I would be all in. Every child should be treated with kindness and respect, regardless of who they are. What GLSEN is pushing on our community and children is completely inappropriate.”

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