Model Government

Arizona lawmakers outsource legislative ideas

At least a handful of the 1,361 bills introduced in Arizona this year match bills introduced in other state legislatures, according to an AZCIR analysis comparing Arizona legislation to more than 500,000 bills, proposed in other states over the past eight years.

Nearly identical legislation introduced in multiple states, or “model legislation,” comes from national or regional industry associations, individual companies, or policy think-tanks and advocacy groups.

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Sonora River: Massive mine spill continues to impact Sonora River Basin

It’s been more than a year since the Buenavista del Cobre copper mine, owned by mining conglomerate Grupo México, spilled 11 million gallons of toxic chemicals into the Bacanuchi and Sonora Rivers. The mine is in Cananea, a city in northern Sonora, which is also the headwaters for Arizona’s San Pedro River. The mine and authorities from the Mexican government claim the water is now clean, but people with illnesses related to heavy metals contamination continue to emerge.

Part I: Sonora River 1 year later

ArmandoEnriquez-01-webIt’s been more than a year since a toxic mine spill, dubbed as the worst environmental disaster in Mexico’s history, contaminated the Sonora River. The toxic metals reached nearly 200 miles and impacted seven municipalities. Communities are now pushing back against the mine and the government to protect their families and the lands they call home.

Part II: A community still healing

Since a toxic mine spill in 2014 impacted nearly 25,000, Mexican authorities say the Sonora River is clean. The government has identified nearly 400 people with illnesses tied directly to heavy metal contamination. As new cases continue to emerge, experts warn that the problem could be much greater than the government admits.


ELECTIONS


AZDarkMoneyBot

An explosion of “dark money” spending dominated Arizona’s 2014 election cycle, when groups that don’t disclose their donors spent millions, mostly to help elect now-Gov. Doug Ducey, two utility regulators and a handful of lawmakers.

A new law passed during this past session gives further protection to the groups that spend in elections but don’t report where it comes from. And keeping track of dark money expenditures in Arizona hasn’t been quick or easy.

That’s why AZCIR decided to build @AZDarkMoneyBot.

Less is more: Dems run fewer Corp Comm candidates for better odds

This fall, Arizona voters will choose three utility regulators, and while one might expect that each of the main parties would run a full slate of candidates, Democrats are only running two.

The strategy of running two Democrats instead of three for the Arizona Corporation Commission makes the state’s underdog party counterintuitively more competitive to win at least one seat, while ruling out the possibility of winning three.

Dark money group leads last-minute effort to speed up campaign finance changes

Arizona is already poised to relax rules regarding so-called “dark money” groups starting next year, but a last-minute amendment proposed on the Senate floor could make the changes go into effect in less than a month.

The proposal to accelerate the dark money regulation changes came late Thursday, as an amendment to HB 2296, and originated with the Arizona Free Enterprise Club, a dark money group that spent about $1.7 million during the 2014 election cycle.

The amendment directly borrows language regarding the requirements for a 501c(4) organization to register as a political committee from SB1516, which was passed and signed by Gov. Doug Ducey earlier this year.

Signature effort aims to derail solar ballot measure

The California-based solar panel company, SolarCity, has committed to spending at least $3 million to put a measure on Arizona’s November ballot that would require paying retail rates for rooftop solar net metering, and prevent new fees or demand charges the solar industry claims are prohibitive. But millions more are flooding into a signature gathering sleight-of-hand that aims to prevent the measure from ever making it to the ballot.

EDUCATION


Arizona school data shows uneven distribution of ethnic groups

PHOENIX — Two decades after Arizona helped pioneer the charter school movement, enrollment data show the schools don’t match the school age demographics of the state and, in many cases, their neighborhoods. White – and especially Asian – students attend charter schools at a higher rate than Hispanics, who now make up the the greatest portion of Arizona’s school age population.

Hispanic students account for 44 percent of all students in Arizona, but they make up just 36 percent of charter school students. White students, who make up 40 percent of the school age population, account for 48 percent of all charter students.

While there are exceptions, when charter schools are compared to their neighborhoods and to other nearby schools, data shows that they are more likely to be whiter than the surrounding area, while district schools tend to over-represent Hispanic students.

ENVIRONMENT


Federal report recommends overhaul of U.S. chemical safety oversight

A federal task force identified sweeping shortfalls in the oversight of hazardous materials in the U.S., showing that short and long-term challenges exist to protect communities from the toxic and explosive chemicals stored at facilities across the nation and in Arizona.

U.S. oversight of ammonium nitrate insufficient, GAO says

Government agencies across the U.S. can’t regulate ammonium nitrate, the hazardous chemical compound that detonated in West, Texas, killing 15 people and injuring hundreds more, a congressional investigation has found. Emergency management agencies at the local, state and federal levels don’t know how many facilities in the U.S. store the hazardous chemical. A patchwork of outdated regulations, lack of communication between agencies, and a series of exemptions exist for reporting storage of ammonium nitrate, the U.S. Government Accountability Office report stated, which was publicly released May 21. These findings mirror a recent AZCIR and ABC15 investigation into Arizona oversight of ammonium nitrate.

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POLITICS


Dark money group leads last-minute effort to speed up campaign finance changes

Arizona is already poised to relax rules regarding so-called “dark money” groups starting next year, but a last-minute amendment proposed on the Senate floor could make the changes go into effect in less than a month.

The proposal to accelerate the dark money regulation changes came late Thursday, as an amendment to HB 2296, and originated with the Arizona Free Enterprise Club, a dark money group that spent about $1.7 million during the 2014 election cycle.

The amendment directly borrows language regarding the requirements for a 501c(4) organization to register as a political committee from SB1516, which was passed and signed by Gov. Doug Ducey earlier this year.

Signature effort aims to derail solar ballot measure

The California-based solar panel company, SolarCity, has committed to spending at least $3 million to put a measure on Arizona’s November ballot that would require paying retail rates for rooftop solar net metering, and prevent new fees or demand charges the solar industry claims are prohibitive. But millions more are flooding into a signature gathering sleight-of-hand that aims to prevent the measure from ever making it to the ballot.


Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting
P.O. Box 3665
Phoenix, AZ 85030-3665