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The Daily Agenda: A wonky battle with big implications
OSHA wants to take over for the state ... Bennett is still in the audit business ... And the pets are getting divorced now, too.
The federal government is threatening to take over workplace safety in Arizona, saying Gov. Doug Ducey has refused to implement President Joe Biden’s emergency safety regulations aimed at protecting workers from COVID-19.
Officials with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration may revoke Arizona, South Carolina and Utah’s ability to implement and enforce their own workplace safety plan and would instead send in federal officials to do workplace inspections.
The issue may seem a little in the weeds, but the move represents a real threat to Ducey’s “open for business” agenda. The federal intervention would not be limited to COVID policies, but would include everything from construction site safety to office safety. And it sure won’t make the Chamber types, Ducey’s biggest supporters, very happy.
The threat appears aimed at putting states on notice that Biden is not messing around with his vaccine mandate, which OSHA is preparing to release, and which Ducey and Attorney General Mark Brnovich have already vowed to fight.
Ducey panned the threat as “a political stunt and desperate power grab” but the meat of his response was actually more nuanced.
He said Arizona told OSHA it had already complied with some provisions and asked for a waiver on some others, and that after the feds rejected the request for waiver, the Industrial Commission of Arizona started a stakeholder process to get public input on the rules.
Whether that’s simply a delay tactic or an earnest attempt to give citizens a say in the policy, we can’t be sure. But Ducey has been nothing if not obstructive against government attempts to mandate vaccines and other anti-COVID measures.
Which brings us to southern Arizona, where Arizona Daily Star reporter Nicole Ludden is pulling double-duty covering Tucson and Pima County’s vaccine mandates. The county went with the watered-down version we mentioned yesterday that only mandates vaccines for those who work with vulnerable populations (the county still has to determine which positions qualify), while the city went with the hardline version that will fire employees who refuse to get vaccinated (right before Christmas!).
“As far as the timing before the holidays, it’s also right before the holidays for people who might wind up contracting COVID because of some of the unvaccinated people who get it. So let’s remember that there is another side to this,” Tucson City Council member Steve Kozachik said.
Phoenix, meanwhile, is trying the carrot approach, offering $100 gas or grocery gift certificates to the first 1,000 citizens who get vaccinated at a city site. (No rewards for us early adopters.)
Finally, Ducey is among a handful of Republican governors facing fire for his “anti-science” approach to combating the COVID-19 pandemic from a political group backed by scientists who have $10 million to spend in six states.
The first Arizona ad from 314 Action calls on Ducey to denounce the “fanatical protesters wreaking havoc” on school boards based on anti-mask rhetoric backed by the GOP, the Arizona Mirror’s Jerod MacDonald-Evoy reports.
You’ll never hear us say we’re spending $10 million on political ads. For one, we’re journalists, and for two, we don’t have that kind of money. But if you want to support our work anyway, you can pay $70 per year to become a paid subscriber. Some of our work is going behind a paywall very soon!
Ken Bennett took his traveling audit revisionist history tour on the road to Tucson yesterday in an event hosted by an election-denying, insurrectionist-supporting, Nazi-promoting group run by grifter and former Trump staffer Matt Braynard, who’s trying to raise money for his own audit.
It was exactly as bad as you’d imagine.
Gone are the days of Bennett using Kleenex boxes to break down the intricacies of the state budget. Instead, Bennett has gone full Arizona Shire on us, continuing to cast doubt on the election via already debunked conspiracies and innuendo.
The fanatics in the small crowd lapped it up, even as Bennett has become public enemy number one in some of the most ardent decertify circles.
For nearly a year, we’ve been holding out hope that once it became clear this thing was a farce through and through, Bennett would have a Sister Souljah moment and denounce all the damage he did as liaison to the fraudit. That was naive on our part.
Instead, Bennett used the event to rant to his fellow believers about the need for more audits while distancing himself from the decisions the audit made. He insisted that the audit isn’t finished while insinuating that maybe the next report will be the one that really finds some fraud.
Either way, he’s calling for state lawmakers to beef up so-called election integrity laws, including mandating audits before certification of an election.
It’s worth noting, once again, that counties are already required to conduct legitimate machine and hand-count audits that were good enough for the dozen or so elections that Bennett won (and several that he lost) since he was first elected to the Prescott City Council in 1985, as well as the three statewide elections he oversaw as secretary of state.
But what about Ron Watkins wanting to run against Tom O’Hooligan?: The map-drawing process at the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission continues, and districts are starting to take shape. The Arizona Mirror’s Jeremy Duda has two pieces from yesterday’s redistricting meeting: how a potential new district could put two incumbent Congressmen, U.S. Reps. Tom O’Halleran (a Democrat) and Paul Gosar (a Republican) in a battle against one another, and how Latino voting rights could play into the process for state legislative districts.
Musical chairs: One of the open seats in the legislature was filled yesterday, but it just created another opening. Arizona Rep. Stephanie Stahl Hamilton was selected as the replacement for Legislative District 10’s Senate seat, vacated by former Sen. Kirsten Engel, who is running for Congress.
Set aside time to read these stories: Forty years ago, a landmark lawsuit, Arnold v. Sarn, decided that the state needed to do more to help people with serious mental illnesses. Journalist Amy Silverman follows up now in a series for the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting, finding the state is still failing people who need its help.
Don’t injure your teacher or destroy your school: We mentioned TikTok challenges last week in the morning email, wondering whether the goofy, illegal monthly challenges were even real. We guess so! Area schools say they’re seeing more vandalism that they believe is related to these challenges, but it’s mostly not resulting in criminal charges, the Republic’s Yana Kunichoff reports. This story intersects with First Amendment issues, school discipline and teacher stress, too.
Roe v. Wade is still in effect: A new abortion law put on hold by a lawsuit over its legality is still on hold, despite Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s efforts. The law bans abortions for genetic abnormalities, and the judge who put the law on hold last month said it is likely unconstitutional because it makes the ability to receive an abortion much more difficult.
Gilbert is on it: Gilbert’s mayor wants to investigate Gilbert after Judicial Watch filed a records request in a letter that included a lot of innuendo about left-wing politics infiltrating the city. Mayor Brigette Peterson, who was herself at the center of a recent ethics inquiry, said the right-wing group asked for records about diversity efforts, employee targeting based on politics and the use of town resources for personal political posts on social media, the Republic’s Joshua Bowling reports. What’s next? A ban on clapping?
Add immigration to the long list of inaction: People who support immigration reform expected to see a lot more from the Biden administration on that front. Instead, their situations remain about the same as they did with Trump in the White House, the Republic’s Rafael Carranza reports. To be fair, Democrats and Biden supporters expected to see a lot more action on any number of things than they’ve seen so far from the administration — in part because Arizona’s senior senator has blocked key Democratic priorities.
“The frustration is that there’s this expectation that it was going to happen this year. And a lot of people came out in 2020, volunteered a lot of hours, and made calls, put a lot of things on hold so they can make sure to have this opportunity. Now it feels like it's gone and we didn’t actually get a vote. And we didn’t get an opportunity. So it’s like it was sort of a lie,” José Patiño, the director for education for Aliento, told the Republic.
In other immigration news: The backlog for citizenship applications got substantially worse in the past five years, increasing 85%, the Arizona Mirror’s Laura Gómez Rodriguez reports. That means people in Phoenix are sometimes waiting more than a year for their paperwork to be processed, and more than 11,000 in Arizona are stuck in the citizenship backlog.
While we’re on the topic still: Tucson Police Chief Chris Magnus, Biden’s nominee for the top job at U.S. Customs and Border Protection, made it to the big leagues, testifying before the U.S. Senate Finance Committee in a hearing yesterday to talk about how he’d handle the border if he gets the job. He needs the committee’s vote and approval from the full U.S. Senate. NPR said Magnus “faced tough questions,” while Arizona Daily Star columnist Tim Steller called it “shockingly bland questioning.”
Love to pay taxes for things like this: An old man who’s running for mayor of Fountain Hills just cost Maricopa County another $5 million. Joe Arpaio, the former “toughest sheriff” whose tough tactics were often just illegal racial profiling, raided Uncle Sam’s restaurants in 2013, which resulted in the latest settlement the county had to fork over, using some its own funds and some from insurance. In total, he’s responsible for more than $300 million in civil suit and settlement payouts, 12 News’ Brahm Resnik points out.
Phoenix is out, Florida is in: A regular ranking of retirement destinations by U.S. News & World Report shows Phoenix isn’t the retirement destination it once was, probably because retirees can’t afford to live here and the air sucks, the Republic’s Russ Wiles reports.
Leave our pets alone: There’s more divorces, and more people got pets during the pandemic, so, just doing the math here, there’s more pet custody arguments in divorces. KJZZ’s Christina Estes reports on the expected pet battles.
Ducey wants to create a “Business One Stop,” where people can find and complete all necessary forms related to a business. The budget this year allocated nearly $8 million to start the first phase of the project, but it’s hitting some regulatory snags already. A brief report on the project mentions some issues with the Department of Revenue that are risks to the project. The project is set to be discussed at the Information Technology Authorization Committee meeting today at 1 p.m., which you can watch online.
The Joint Legislative Psychiatric Hospital Review Council meets today at 1 p.m. and will discuss, among other things, the Arnold v. Sarn case at the center of the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting story we mentioned above. You can find the agenda here, and watch it online at this link.
The Glendale Union School District’s Governing Board meets today at 7:30 p.m. at 7650 N. 43rd Avenue in Glendale. The agenda is here.