Profits of Policing

Civil asset forfeiture laws let Arizona police seize tens of millions of dollars in cash and property each year, even if suspected criminals aren’t convicted, and with little oversight of how the proceeds are spent.

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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.

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


State election chief seeks new funds for hobbled campaign finance website overhaul

Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan campaigned on making it easier for people to see how money flows into political campaigns, and she has a plan for a website that will help.

But after spending $494,000 in 2015 and 2016 to create a new campaign finance reporting website that never saw the light of day, her office is now asking the Citizens Clean Election Commission to pay $200,000 of an estimated $462,000 cost to develop a new campaign finance website, plus $50,000 per year in maintenance.

County recorders call relationship with Secretary of State ‘dire’

Arizona’s 15 county recorders this week delivered a letter to Secretary of State Michele Reagan in which they said communication between their offices and hers are “in a dire state” because state Election Director Eric Spencer has been “ineffective and disrespectful.”

Secretary of State floats election law overhaul

Secretary of State Michele Reagan has begun circulating a memo detailing a proposed overhaul of the laws governing virtually every aspect of how elections are conducted in Arizona, from data protocols and recount procedures, to “sore loser” candidates and voter fraud investigations.

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.

POLITICS


Ex-regulator Pierce, lobbyist Norton, utility owner Johnson charged with conspiracy, bribery, fraud

Federal prosecutors on Tuesday charged former Arizona Corporation Commissioner Gary Pierce, his wife, prominent lobbyist Jim Norton and utility owner George Johnson with conspiracy, bribery, mail fraud and wire fraud, over what prosecutors lay out as a scheme to pay off Pierce in return for favorable regulation by the Corporation Commission surrounding a special $18 million wastewater plant deal.

The cost of cuts: Arizona tax carve-outs last year hit $13.7B

In fiscal year 2016, state law allowed $13.7 billion in taxes to go uncollected through a litany of exemptions, deductions, allowances, exclusions or credits.

According to data compiled by the Arizona Department of Revenue, more than half of all state taxes haven’t been collected for at least the past ten years. Called “tax expenditures,” they amount to $136.5 billion since fiscal year 2007 – roughly equivalent to sum of state budgets spanning the past 15 years.


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