Arizona House Republicans took a novel approach to informing constituents with a new short video series, “Under the Copper Dome,” delivering information in an entertaining fashion.
The GOP caucus’ debut two-minute clip followed Majority Whip Leo Biasiucci (R-Lake Havasu City) as he reenacted discussions of HB2696, a bill increasing prison time for those who sexually abuse, smuggle, or traffic children.
The video depicted Biasiucci explaining his bill to several state representatives, including John Kavanagh (R-Fountain Hills), who gave enthusiastic support. A group of GOP legislators walked together with Biasiucci into the Arizona State Capitol, with upbeat music playing in the background. The video concluded with Biasiucci addressing the viewers directly to discuss HB2696. He thanked Arizona law enforcement for working to end crimes against children.
“[My bill] will bring the hammer down on these heinous crimes and ensure a safe Arizona for everyone,” said Biasiucci. “With this law, and another I sponsored last year toughening punishments for child sex traffickers, Arizona is leading the fight against trafficking and smuggling.”
The caucus’ efforts earned the approval of Congressman Paul Gosar (R-AZ-04). Gosar’s social media team puts out information with an entertainment edge, sometimes perceived by political opponents as controversial. Gosar was punished for a meme video parodying several Democratic members of Congress as villains in the intro from the cult classic anime “Attack on Titan,” with him parodied as the hero.
The caucus drew from Gosar’s short video series, the Gosar Minute, as inspiration. One of the principal creators behind the video series, State Representative Teresa Martinez (R-Oro Valley), has served as Gosar’s Hispanic Outreach and Coalitions Director.
Twitter shadowbanned the Gosar Minute hashtag for those with the “hide sensitive content” search filter turned on.
A municipality’s mayor or the chairperson of a county’s board of supervisors would not have the authority to order any business closed during a declared local emergency, if a bill introduced by House Majority Leader Leo Biasiucci is signed into law.
“Government should never have their hand in telling who can stay open, and picking winners and losers,” Biasiucci (R-LD5) recently said in support of House Bill 2107, which passed the House on Feb. 17 and was transmitted the next day to the Senate.
On Wednesday, HB2107 cleared the Senate Commerce Committee and now awaits further action in the Senate.
Under current state law, a mayor or county board chairperson has authority to declare proclamations in response to a local emergency, such as from fire, flood, earthquake, explosion, war, bombing, acts of the enemy or other natural or man-made disaster or by reason of riots, routs, affrays or other acts of civil disobedience that endanger life or property.
Once a local emergency is declared, the mayor or chairperson may then impose “all necessary regulations” to preserve the peace and local order through curfews; closing of streets, public places, and build facilities; and utilization of law enforcement agencies. The forced closure of businesses is also currently allowed under state law.
HB2107, however, would amend state law to repeal the authority of local government officials from ordering business closures. The bill is opposed by some cities and towns as well as the County Supervisors Association of Arizona, but many business groups and associations are calling for its passage due to the financial impacts of having to comply with local emergency declarations.
Among the issues is the fact many communities saw small businesses and locally owned businesses forced shut while national corporate businesses like Walmart and Home Depot were allowed to stay open.
Several state lawmakers spent last Wednesday afternoon attending the 2022 Arizona Farm Bureau AgFest on the lawn of the House of Representatives.
The Arizona Farm Bureau is the state’s largest farm and ranch organization, and serves as the industry’s voice. The Jan. 19 event showcased the state’s $23.3 billion agriculture industry to legislators.
Among those attending was Sen. Sine Kerr, who chairs the Senate Committee on Natural Resources, Energy, and Water.
Kerr is no stranger to the Ag business. She grew up in rural Buckeye and with her husband now owns a large dairy farm.
“Agriculture is essential to Arizona’s prosperity,” Kerr said at the event. “We all depend on the work our ranchers and farmer are doing for our state and country, and I will do my absolute best to always advocate for them at the state legislature.”
Some of the other lawmakers who attended AgFest were House Speaker Pro Tempore Travis Grantham, as well as Reps. Leo Biasiucci, Frank Carroll, David Cook, and Joel John. Senate President Karen Fann was also on hand, as well as Sen. TJ Shope.
Members of the University of Arizona Collegiate Young Farmers and Ranchers, which has its own Arizona Farm Bureau chapter, also took part in the event.
In other Arizona Farm Bureau news, it was announced earlier this month that the organization earned the American Farm Bureau Federation’s New Horizon Award, which honors the most innovative new state Farm Bureau programs.
The New Horizon Award recognized the Arizona Farm Bureau’s partnership with the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service last year to launch a conservation agriculture mentoring program. Stefanie Smallhouse, president of Arizona Farm Bureau, accepted the award during the Federation’s annual convention in Georgia.
Arizona Farm Bureau also won in all four Awards of Excellence categories for demonstrating outstanding achievements in Advocacy, Coalitions & Partnerships, Engagement & Outreach, and Leadership & Business Development.
On Friday, a group of Arizona legislators reached out to Governor Doug Ducey with an offer to work with him to address the “omnipresent border crisis.” In a letter to the governor, the legislators also inquire as to the level of funding provided to the Border Strike Force.
Led by Rep. Shawnna Bolick, the lawmakers advised the governor that they hope to work with him to “come up with a concrete plan to further allocate resources to complete portions of the Border wall and ensure Border Strike Force is fully funded.”
The lawmakers accuse the Biden Administration of not making “the public safety or health of Arizonans” a top priority, noting that it “took until today for Vice President Kamala Harris to see the invasion for herself in El Paso.”
“We applaud other governors answering your call for assistance to send some of their law enforcement as back up as the ongoing invasion continues along the southern Border,” write the lawmakers. “The problem is real. We wish you didn’t have to rely on other states to bail us out because the federal government has failed us, but illegal immigration affects every state.”
The lawmakers cite as a source of concern an incident that occurred earlier this year which was “highlighted in the local newspaper that the Department of Public Safety release two confessed human smuggler with just a traffic citation after stopping him along a valley freeway in April with a van full of illegal immigrants.”
“It was rather alarming to read that the illegal immigrants in the van were released into the Phoenix area even though it is a direct violation of state law to be in our state unlawfully. It is noted that the federal agents would not pick up this van full of illegal immigrants if they weren’t violent felons. If the Border Strike Force isn’t identifying traffickers along the southern Border and they are making their way into the Valley, is the Border Strike Force understaffed and underfunded?”
The lawmakers expressed a desire to “work together to further investigate why this human trafficker was let go.”
“We support trade relations with Mexico, but we do not want transnational crime rings bringing further ruin into our state. It is past time to plug the gaping holes on state land that buttress Mexico allowing traffickers to invade our state.”
The lawmakers argue that border security is a states’ rights issue.
Last week, Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced that Texas would build its border wall. Abbotts aid that the state will be soliciting donations from across the country to help fund the wall.
“When I do make the announcement later on this week, I will also be providing a link that you can click on and go to for everybody in the United States — really everybody in the entire world — who wants to help Texas build the border wall, there will be a place on there where they can contribute,” Abbott said on a podcast show called “Ruthless.”
As AZ Free News reported earlier this month, Ducey and Abbott urgently requested all U.S. governors to send available law enforcement resources to their states along the U.S.-Mexico border as illegal border crossings, apprehensions, and unaccompanied migrant children in federal custody increase.
The Customs and Border Protection apprehension numbers for May showed more than 180,000 illegal aliens were apprehended crossing the border over the course of the month, a 674% increase from the 23,237 illegal aliens apprehended at the border in May 2020.
In a joint letter from Ducey and Abbott, fellow governors were told: “In response to the ongoing surge of illegal border crossings, with the accompanying threats to private property and to the safety of our citizens, Governor Abbott has declared a disaster and Governor Ducey has declared an emergency.”
Bolick was joined in the letter by Reps. Becky Nutt, Tim Dunn, Walt Blackman, Brenda Barton, John Kavanaugh, Mark Finchem, Joseph Chaplik, Beverly Pingerelli, Leo Biasiucci, Judy Burgess, Frank Carroll, Quang Nguyen, John Fillmore, Jacqueline Parker, and Steve Kaiser.
Earlier today I wrote a letter to @dougducey addressing the #BorderCrisis & the need to work together to solve it. Many of my fellow legislators co-signed it. If the Fed’s aren’t going to finish building the wall, AZ should. ???? pic.twitter.com/DXbit71KP3
Arizona Democrats opposed a bill allowing judges the option to order community service in lieu of court fines for low-income individuals. Their contention was that the legislation took money away from the Arizona Clean Elections Commission. The commission derives its money from speeding tickets.
Under the bill, the community service would be credited per hour at minimum wage rates to make up for the fine, and rounded up to the nearest dollar. This would extend to any monetary obligations sentenced by the court, including civil penalties, surcharges, or any assessments or fees. Time payment fees would be exempted from this bill.
On Thursday, the Arizona House passed the bill 32-27. Only one Democrat voted in favor of the bill: State Representative Alma Hernandez (D-Tucson). No Republicans voted against it. It took over 10 minutes to complete the vote, and no discussions took place.
Likewise, all Democrats except for one voted against the bill in the Senate. Assistant Minority Leader Lupe Contreras (D-Avondale) voted for the bill.
The bill was introduced by Majority Whip Leo Biasiucci (R-Lake Havasu City). He explained during the House Transportation Committee that the idea for the legislation was borne out of his difficulties with a traffic citation. He learned that individuals must fork over more to set up a payment plan in the first place.
That’s not to mention any other fees, like those required for an appeal.
Biasiucci said that people shouldn’t be punished for not being able to afford a ticket. He described it as a “win-win” for the community and for individuals facing the fines.
State Representative Richard Andrade (D-Glendale) asked why the bill didn’t include Prop 105 language to exempt the clean elections commission.
Biasiucci responded that there are just under twenty other government agencies that also derive their money from speeding tickets. He also reminded Andrade that those who would qualify to do community service rather than pay the fine under this bill would be low-income individuals – not all individuals.
“[T]his is going to be such a small window of people – I mean, you’re talking about people who can’t afford it. And the judge has to approve it,” said Biasiucci. “This is not something that’s just going to impact other areas so much, and I firmly believe you shouldn’t be picking an agency over trying to help the people who can’t afford this. That’s why I decided I’m not going to pick one to exempt.”
According to Biasiucci, the clean elections commission has around $30 million in their account. They only spent $4 million last year. He noted that the idea that this commission would be hurt by this, when they’re rolling over nearly $27 million every year, doesn’t make sense.
“Bottom line is: this is good for the people that are needing it the most,” said Biasiucci. “I don’t care what agency’s being impacted – I support the border protection, I support a lot of things speeding tickets go to. I don’t like the fact that you have organizations that are being funded solely from tickets – I mean, that to me is ridiculous that we’re banking on speeding tickets to fund these groups, whether it’s approved by the voters or not.”
Currently, the commission gets 10 percent of each ticket.
The bill is timely. The legislature recently passed a bill that will increase speeding ticket fines for certain infractions.
For failing to yield right-of-way to emergency vehicles or slow down before stationary vehicles, the current maximum fines sit at $250. The newly-proposed fines come at three levels: $275 for the first violation, $500 the second, and $1,000 for all subsequent violations.
The bill allowing community service in lieu of speeding tickets was transmitted to the governor on Thursday.
Corinne Murdock is a contributing reporter for AZ Free News. In her free time, she works on her books and podcasts. Follow her on Twitter, @CorinneMurdock or email tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.