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Busted!

Congressman Rick Renzi: You've been served! A federal grand jury in Tucson filed a 35-count indictment against Renzi, who represents Arizona's Congressional District 1, and two of his business associates.

U.S. Attorney for Arizona Diane Humetewa says Renzi stands accused of embezzling funds to finance his first congressional campaign from an insurance company he owns, and attempting to convince two separate entities to buy land from a business associate in exchange for his support on a land swap.

"Among the allegations contained in the indictment, Congressman Renzi misused his public office by forcing a land sale that would financially benefit himself and the business associate, and in so doing, he betrayed the trust of the citizens of Arizona," said Humetewa in a statement. "This indictment demonstrates a commitment by the Department of Justice to root out public corruption wherever it is found."

Renzi, who has been under investigation for more than a year, proclaimed his innocence and vowed to remain in office.

"I will not resign and take on the cloak of guilt, because I am innocent," Renzi said in a statement.

In other congressional news: Congressman John Shadegg announced he would not be retiring after all. Shadegg, a Republican first elected in 2004 to Arizona's District 3, had announced earlier this month that he would not seek re-election, but reversed himself after colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives urged him to change his mind.

Meanwhile, Democratic Congressman Raúl Grijalva announced that he would seek a fourth term this year. Grijalva faces a token challenge from Republican Gene Chewning.


Laws, Guns and Money

The Arizona state Senate Judiciary Committee voted 4-3 to advance a bill allowing people who have concealed-weapons permits to carry firearms on university and community college campuses. Lawmakers amended the legislation to remove a provision that would also allow guns to be carried on K-12 campuses. In other gun news: The state House Judiciary Committee voted 5-4 to approve a bill that allows people to wave their guns around if they feel threatened. Law enforcement representatives fear that the legislation will give immunity to gang members who point weapons at each other.

In other education news: The House K-12 Education Committee voted to advance legislation that prohibits schools from cutting arts and phys-ed programs to compensate for new math and science requirements.

Meanwhile, negotiations between lawmakers and Gov. Janet Napolitano over how to solve a projected $1.1 billion dollar shortfall in the current fiscal year remain stalled.

In light of the budget crunch, Napolitano ordered state agencies to enact a hiring freeze.

"Tightening our belt is a critical part of how we will manage through our current budget deficit," Napolitano said in a statement. "When revenues decline, it's common sense to target areas where you can spend less."


Going to Hell in a Handbasket

A whopping 22 percent of Arizonans are not members of an organized religion, according to the U.S. Religious Landscape Survey undertaken by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. That's above the national percentage of 16 percent.

The report notes that only 4 percent of U.S. citizens identify themselves as atheist or agnostic, with 12 percent saying they did "nothing in particular" in the way of religion. Guess what, nothing-in-particulars? You're still going to burn in hell according to the Bible, which is the infallible word of God.


Farewell to Evan

Former Arizona Gov. Evan Mecham died at age 83 after a battle with Alzheimer's disease. Mecham, who became known for canceling Arizona's Martin Luther King Jr. holiday and referring to black children as pickaninnies, was elected governor in 1986 and impeached in 1988 after the state Senate convicted him of improperly loaning his car dealership money from an inaugural fund.


Split Decision

The Arizona men's basketball team split another series while on the road last week, losing to Washington, 75-66, last Thursday, Feb. 21, but defeating Washington State, 65-55, two days later. Chase Budinger, Jerryd Bayless and Jordan Hill combined to score 55 of the Cats' 65 points in the win, which left Arizona with a 17-10 overall record, 7-7 in Pac 10 play. The question remains: Will the Cats be good enough for an NCAA tourney berth?

More by Jim Nintzel

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