Monday, June 27, 2022

Posted By on Mon, Jun 27, 2022 at 7:45 PM

This August, Jana Suchy and Nadia Larsen are partnering to host a weekend retreat for breast cancer survivors filled with fabulous photos, friendship and lots of fun.

The Tucson Plastic Surgery Pink Ribbon Boudoir Project event has been an easy project for both Suchy and Larsen, because their visions match up very similarly.

Larsen’s non-profit, the Nadia Strong Foundation, supports and uplifts women surviving breast cancer through free photography sessions. Larsen, now six years cancer-free after enduring 28 radiation sessions for stage four cancer, is an advocate for holistic health and uses her knowledge through her journey to educate others. She is looking forward to talking to the other survivors at the event about their journey’s with breast cancer.

“I am actually very excited to meet all the women and connect with them and share experiences with them because that’s really the big emotional healing that takes place.” Larsen said.

After a double mastectomy, reconstruction, radiation, chemotherapy, and years of hormonal therapy, Larsen understand the important both physical and emotional healing. She will be documenting the entire boudoir photography session through her camera.

Larsen remembered getting a call from Suchy in mid November’s perfect Tucson weather, inquiring about a non-profit breast cancer organization to help her support the project. Suchy was on her third call of the day. As soon as she heard Suchy's vision, she was in for the long haul. “I remember telling her, let’s do it. It sounds great.” Strong said.

Both women’s missions for the project were to show women that they remain beautiful despite their breast cancer.

Seven nominated breast cancer survivors will get to enjoy an extravagant photoshoot from Suchy at a desert home in Tucson.They will be able to choose from different wardrobes, hair and nail stylists will be on hand, and and Suchy’s 70 pairs of Stiletto heels in all different sizes will be available. Suchy had surgery on her feet so she can not wear the high heels, but loves for the women to enjoy them.

“I know about self image and confidence and we’re raised in a supermodel America, and even the most beautiful among us are very self conscious about what we perceive as our flaws. And it just really, it can transform self image and self image with equal confidence.“ Suchy said.

Suchy will create an 8 by 10 photo book with a total of 25 photos for each of the women. Suchy likes to go through every photo with each woman on the platform, Lightroom, to make sure the absolute best photos are in the book.

Jennifer Tirado, a former client of Suchy’s boudoir photography who has been cancer free for 16 years, said that the photoshoot helped her gain a lot of confidence back and Jana made her feel comfortable throughout the process.

“It’s empowering for women just to feel different about themselves, We always get our picture taken, and sometimes we like it, sometimes we don’t.” Tirado said. “It makes you see yourself in a different light.”

Tirado suggests the nominees let loose and have an amazing time because they are going to love the result.

If you have breast cancer or know someone with breast cancer, be sure to nominate them for this event before June 29 online at Suchy’s website at, where she can be messaged via email.

Friday, June 24, 2022

Posted By on Fri, Jun 24, 2022 at 1:00 PM

click to enlarge ‘Just say the election was corrupt’: Trump pressure on Justice Department detailed
Photo by Chip Somodevilla | Getty Images
Witnesses told a congressional committee that former President Trump pressured the Department of Justice to help him subvert the 2020 election.

President Donald Trump sought to use the U.S. Justice Department to create the illusion of a legitimate investigation into the validity of the 2020 election results, the Jan. 6 committee and former Justice Department leaders said Thursday in the panel’s fifth hearing this month.

In the weeks between Election Day 2020 and Jan. 6, 2021, the date of the attack on the U.S. Capitol, the former president implored Justice Department officials to “just say the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and Republican congressmen,” according to former acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue.

Several Republican House members appeared willing to play the role Trump proposed for them, publicly endorsing the president’s unfounded claims of a stolen election and privately strategizing about how to overturn the result.

At least five, including Andy Biggs of Arizona, Matt Gaetz of Florida and Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, would later seek pardons for their roles in the scheme to overturn the election, a former aide to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said in a revelation at the end of the U.S. House panel hearing. Perry, who had been identified as a pardon-seeker at an earlier hearing, has denied he asked for a pardon.

The panel presented evidence that Trump mounted an intense pressure campaign against top officials at the Justice Department in late December 2020 and early January 2021, seeking to have them launch a public investigation into nonexistent voter fraud in key swing states.

Failing to get DOJ officials to act, Trump threatened a major shakeup to install an environmental lawyer with no criminal experience at the top of the department, solely to advance his claims of voter fraud.

Trump decided against that move at the last minute as it became clear it would not be effective.

“It was a brazen attempt to use the U.S. Justice Department to advance the president’s personal political agenda,” Chairman Bennie G. Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat, said in an opening statement.

Trump wanted the department to act because it would give legitimacy to his claims that the election was stolen from him, the panel said.

In a Dec. 27 call with acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and Donoghue, Trump was not interested in the actual results of a DOJ investigation, Donoghue said.

Rosen told Trump the department could not change the outcome of an election.

“He responded very quickly,” Donoghue said. “And he said, essentially, ‘That’s not what I’m asking you to do. What I’m asking you to do is to say it was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican congressmen.’”

The panel showed handwritten notes of Donoghue’s from the call that quoted Trump saying the same thing.

Georgia letter

Trump’s Justice Department meddling centered on a draft letter acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Clark wrote that was to be sent to legislative leaders in Georgia, said committee Vice Chair Liz Cheney, a Wyoming Republican.

Other letters were prepared for other states, she added, though she did not name them.

The letter claimed that a federal DOJ investigation found significant fraud, possibly sufficient to reverse Trump’s loss in the state. The letter urged state lawmakers to convene and approve a slate of fake electors who would then cast their votes for Trump instead of the actual winner of the state, Joe Biden.

“Had this letter been released on official Department of Justice letterhead, it would have falsely informed all Americans, including those who might be inclined to come to Washington on January 6, that President Trump’s election fraud allegations were likely very real,” Cheney said.

Clark wrote the letter with three signature lines: for himself, acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and Donoghue. Rosen and Donoghue refused to sign the letter, and it was never sent. They both also appeared before the committee Thursday to detail the pressure Trump and allies put on the department to create the illusion of wrongdoing in the election.

In a taped deposition with the committee, Clark invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination 125 times, committee member Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., said.

Installing Clark

In a “heated” Jan. 3 Oval Office meeting with Rosen, Donoghue, Clark, Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel Steven Engel and White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, Trump floated the idea of replacing Rosen with Clark because of Rosen’s unwillingness to legitimize his fraud claims.

Rosen had taken over from Attorney General Bill Barr, who investigated Trump’s fraud claims but found nothing substantive and argued with Trump about the claims’ validity. Barr resigned Dec. 23.

Clark had been angling for the job since around that time. He visited the White House with Pennsylvania’s Perry on Dec. 22.

Perry later told a local TV news station that Trump had asked him to introduce Clark to him. Clark is from Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Inquirer has reported.

The panel also showed texts from Perry, the leader of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, to Meadows, who held the same role as a House member from North Carolina before taking the White House job. In the texts, Perry appeared to advocate for elevating Clark within the department.

Clark’s sole qualification was that he would take orders from Trump to work to overturn the election, Kinzinger said.

“President Trump didn’t take no for an answer,” Kinzinger said. “He didn’t accept it from Attorney General Barr, and he wouldn’t accept it from Mr. Rosen, either. So he looked for another attorney general, his third in two weeks. He needed to find someone who was willing to ignore the facts.”

In the Oval Office meeting, Donoghue argued that Clark, an environmental attorney who had never tried a criminal case or led a criminal investigation, was not competent to hold the position. Clark objected, saying he had handled complex environmental litigation.

“And I said, ‘That’s right, you’re an environmental lawyer. How about you go back to your office, and we’ll call you when there’s an oil spill,’” Donoghue testified he said in the Oval Office meeting.

Cipollone also argued against sending the Georgia letter, calling it “a murder-suicide pact” because it would “damage everyone who touches it,” Donoghue testified.

Donoghue and Engel both threatened to quit if Trump replaced Rosen with Clark. They said other assistant attorneys general would as well and Clark would have no help leading the department.

In addition to what they said was improper ethically about the Justice Department taking orders from the president’s campaign, Clark lacked the credibility and experience to effectively lead the department, Donoghue argued. Clark could not close an effective fraud investigation in the three days before the election would be certified, Donoghue said.

Trump then decided against the plan, Donoghue said.

Pardons bombshell

Near the close of the hearing, the panel played parts of a taped deposition of Cassidy Hutchinson, who was an aide to Meadows. Hutchinson said GOP members of Congress reached out to the White House chief of staff seeking pardons related to planning to overturn the election.

Hutchinson named Biggs, Gaetz, Perry, Mo Brooks of Alabama and Louie Gohmert of Texas as having sought pardons directly from Meadows.

In a written statement, Perry flatly denied Hutchinson’s account.

“I stand by my statement that I never sought a Presidential pardon for myself or other Members of Congress,” he said. “At no time did I speak with Miss Hutchinson, a White House scheduler, nor any White House staff about a pardon for myself or any other Member of Congress — this never happened.”

The panel also produced a Jan. 11 email from Brooks to the White House asking that all members who voted against certifying Biden’s election victory be pardoned. Brooks said that Trump asked him to send the email and that it was “also pursuant to a request from Matt Gaetz.”

Eric Herschmann, a Trump White House attorney, said in a taped deposition that Gaetz sought an extremely broad pardon “for any and all things.”

Gaetz had been seeking a pardon since early December, Hutchinson said, adding she didn’t know why.

John McEntee, the former White House director for presidential pardons, said in a taped deposition that Gaetz told him he had sought a pardon.

Gaetz and Brooks both pushed for “a blanket pardon” for members involved in a Dec. 21 meeting, and “a handful of other members,” Hutchinson said.

Asked if the accounts of Gaetz seeking a pardon were true, a spokesman sent a tweet from Gaetz criticizing the committee but not addressing the pardon question.

U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, an Ohio Republican, inquired with Meadows’ office about the blanket pardon, Hutchinson said.

A tweet from the House Judiciary Republicans’ account, which Jordan leads, said Hutchinson’s testimony that Jordan “talked about congressional pardons, but he never asked me for one” was “100% fake news.”

Asked if U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green sought a pardon, Hutchinson said she had “heard” that the Georgia Republican sought a pardon from the White House counsel’s office, but didn’t contact Hutchinson about it.

“Saying ‘I heard’ means you don’t know,” Green tweeted following the hearing. “Spreading gossip and lies is exactly what the January 6th Witch Hunt Committee is all about.”

A spokesman for Biggs did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

The committee has not made any official statement about its upcoming schedule, but Thursday’s hearing was expected to be the last until after the July 4 holiday.

Future hearings, “in coming weeks,” will focus on Trump’s direction of violence toward the Capitol in an effort to stop the certification of the presidential election, Thompson said Thursday.

Posted By on Fri, Jun 24, 2022 at 12:00 PM

click to enlarge AZGOP Chairwoman Kelli Ward subpoenaed in connection with false elector slate
Jerod MacDonald-Evoy | Arizona Mirror
Arizona GOP chair Kelli Ward speaking at a 2019 press conference.

Arizona GOP Chairwoman Kelli Ward was issued a subpoena by the Department of Justice along with other Arizonans who signed onto a document that would have sent fake electors to Congress on Jan. 6.

Politico first broke the news of Ward and her husband Michael being subject of a subpoena, citing an unnamed source who was familiar with the case but could not speak publicly. Alexander Kolodin, the Wards’ attorney and an attorney for both the Arizona Senate and Cyber Ninjas, confirmed to the Arizona Republic that he was representing them in the matter.

The Washington Post also reported that Arizonans Nancy Cottle and Loraine Pellegrino, who signed the false elector document as chair and secretary, were also served subpoenas in the matter.

This is not the first subpoena that Cottle, Pellegrino or Ward have faced. All three have been issued subpoenas by the House Select Committee investigating the riot on Jan. 6 at the Capitol, with Ward’s phone records specifically being sought by the committee. The Wards have filed a countersuit on the initial subpoena by the committee in federal court in Phoenix, which is still pending.

The document at the heart of the matter, which led the DOJ to issue a subpoena, involves 11 Arizona Republicans who met at the state party headquarters to falsely declare themselves the state’s official presidential electors.

The document created a second set of electors for former President Donald J. Trump and included former and currently elected members of the Arizona legislature.

Rep. Jake Hoffman, R-Queen Creek, was one of those electors. Hoffman would later go on to own a business that looks and acts identical to the email campaign platform utilized by Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, to email 29 Arizona lawmakers asking them not to certify the election results.

Former Rep. Anthony Kern, who was at the Capitol on Jan. 6, was also one of the electors, along with Senate Candidate Jim Lamon and Turning Point Action head Tyler Bowyer.

The subpoena appears to be part of a larger investigation into Trump allies and associates and their role in the Jan. 6 riot.

Posted By on Fri, Jun 24, 2022 at 11:00 AM

click to enlarge U.S. Supreme Court overturns right to abortion in landmark decision
Photo by Jane Norman | States Newsroom
Demonstrators outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021. Justices inside heard arguments in a case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, about a Mississippi law that bans most abortions after 15 weeks that seeks to overturn Roe v. Wade.

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that established abortion as a constitutional right.

The decision by six of the Court’s nine justices will allow each state to set its own abortion laws, leading to a patchwork of access throughout the country. The result is expected to be an uptick in the number of women traveling out of state for abortions, as well as unsafe abortions in states where the medical procedure will now be banned or heavily restricted.

“We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote in his opinion, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. Chief Justice John Roberts filed a separate opinion concurring in the judgment.

“The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision, including the one on which the defenders of Roe and Casey now chiefly rely — the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment,” Alito continued.

“That provision has been held to guarantee some rights that are not mentioned in the Constitution, but any such right must be ‘deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition’ and ‘implicit in the concept of ordered liberty.’”

Justice Stephen Breyer wrote the dissent in the case for himself, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor.

“With sorrow — for this Court, but more, for the many millions of American women who have today lost a fundamental constitutional protection — we dissent,” he wrote.

The new status of abortion access on a state-by-state basis, Breyer wrote , “says that from the very moment of fertilization, a woman has no rights to speak of. A State can force her to bring a pregnancy to term, even at the steepest personal and familial costs.”

Breyer later added, “Whatever the exact scope of the coming laws, one result of today’s decision is certain: the curtailment of women’s rights, and of their status as free and equal citizens.”

Twenty-two states have laws that would restrict when and how a patient can terminate a pregnancy, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health and rights organization.

Arizona, Michigan and Wisconsin are among the 10 states that have pre-Roe abortion bans that are now expected to take effect. Thirteen states — including Idaho, Louisiana, Missouri and Tennessee — have laws enacted since Roe that will be “triggered” by the court’s decision.

In March, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed a bill that made it illegal for Arizona women to seek an abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy — even if they became pregnant because they were raped.

Under Senate Bill 1164, doctors are prohibited from performing the procedure, even if the patient was a victim of incest or rape. Doctors in violation face a class 6 felony and revoked license. A class 6 felony comes with fines, probation and possible prison time between months and up to 5 years.

“In Arizona, we know there is immeasurable value in every life — including preborn life. I believe it is each state’s responsibility to protect them,” Ducey wrote in a signing letter.

Courts, however, may have to decide exactly what happens in Arizona since there are technically two laws on the books. One is from the late 1800s, when Arizona was still a territory, and it calls for mandatory prison time for abortion providers. The new law did not explicitly revoke the old law. Ducey and sponsors of the new law argue that the 2022 legislation takes precedence, but some anti-abortion groups argue that the more stringent territorial law is still in effect.

Abortion rights activists in Arizona reacted quickly, saying they would try to qualify a constitutional amendment protecting abortion for the fall ballot. Arizonans For Reproductive Freedom said they hope to collect at least 350,000 signatures by the July 7 deadline, less than two weeks away.

“GOP state legislators will cut off access to abortions in Arizona in the coming session when Roe is overturned,” said Dr. Victoria Fewell, an OB-GYN and Chair of Arizonans for Reproductive Freedom. “They are out of sync with the vast majority of Arizonans who believe that the decision to carry a pregnancy to term belongs to individuals, not the state. This constitutional amendment will also proactively protect access to lifesaving reproductive healthcare and ensure medical providers will not risk imprisonment for treating their patients.”

Because of the huge size of the state, Arizona will be deeply affected by the Supreme Court decision, said Honest Arizona, a progressive advocacy group. Patients will need to travel long distances to access abortion services in other states.

The decision “is the result of elected Republicans placing their reactionary ideology over the well-being of those they were elected to serve. Women in Arizona already face life-threatening prohibitions to acquiring a medically necessary abortion,” the organization said in a statement after the court decision was released. “In a post-Roe Arizona, women, particularly women of color, will have to overcome the highest barriers in the nation to getting an abortion, the financial burden of (acquiring) care will rise, and their doctors will be made into criminals for providing medical care.”

A dozen states, including Maine, Maryland, Nevada and Washington, have laws that would protect abortion access up to the point of viability, usually 22 to 24 weeks into a pregnancy.

Colorado, the District of Columbia, New Jersey, Oregon and Vermont have laws that protect abortion access throughout a pregnancy, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

Thomas targets birth control, same-sex marriage

Justice Thomas wrote his own concurring opinion, arguing that since the court has overturned the constitutional right to an abortion, which was grounded in the 14th Amendment and the due process clause, other cases that have been rooted in the same right to privacy could all be reconsidered.

Those include:

  • The Griswold v. Connecticut case from 1965 that said states couldn’t bar married couples from making private decisions about birth control use.
  • The Lawrence v. Texas case from 2003 that said states couldn’t criminalize consensual sexual relations between same-sex partners.
  • The Obergefell v. Hodges case from 2015 that legalized same-sex marriage.

“For that reason, in future cases, we should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell,” Thomas wrote.

Thomas also wrote of the Dobbs case that “The resolution of this case is thus straightforward. Because the Due Process Clause does not secure any substantive rights, it does not secure a right to abortion.”

Reaction pours in

The Center for Reproductive Rights, which brought the case to the Supreme Court, rebuked the Republican-nominated justices for ending the right to an abortion.

“The Court’s opinion delivers a wrecking ball to the constitutional right to abortion, destroying the protections of Roe v. Wade, and utterly disregarding the one in four women in America who make the decision to end a pregnancy,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights.

“Utter chaos lies ahead, as some states race to the bottom with criminal abortion bans, forcing people to travel across multiple state lines and, for those without means to travel, carry their pregnancies to term — dictating their health, lives, and futures. Today’s decision will ignite a public health emergency,” Northup continued.

Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, an anti-abortion group, celebrated the decision, while its president called for “an entirely new pro-life movement” to begin.

“Today’s outcome raises the stakes of the midterm elections. Voters will debate and decide this issue and they deserve to know where every candidate in America stands,” Marjorie Dannenfelser said in a statement. “Federal as well as state lawmakers must commit to being consensus builders who advocate for the most ambitious protections possible.”

Mississippi ban

The court heard two hours of arguments in December in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which arose after Mississippi enacted a law that banned the vast majority of abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth B. Prelogar, who argued on behalf of the federal government as a “friend of the Court,” said that the “real-world effects of overruling Roe” and the 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision that affirmed the right to an abortion “would be severe and swift.”

“Nearly half of the states already have or are expected to enact bans on abortion at all stages of pregnancy, many without exceptions for rape or incest,” Prelogar said. “Women who are unable to travel hundreds of miles to gain access to legal abortion will be required to continue with their pregnancies and give birth, with profound effects on their bodies, their health and the course of their lives.”

Mississippi Solicitor General Scott G. Stewart argued the nine justices should not only uphold Mississippi’s 2018 law, which had yet to go into effect, but overturn the two cases that have kept abortion access legal for nearly 50 years.

“Roe versus Wade and Planned Parenthood versus Casey haunt our country,” he said. “They’ve poisoned the law.”

Abortion rights history

The Supreme Court first ruled that a pregnant person has a constitutional right to abortion in the 1973 Roe v. Wade case that stemmed from a Texas woman being unable to access an abortion in her home state. The decision was 7-2.

Justice Harry Blackmun wrote that the right to an abortion stemmed from the right to privacy under the 14th Amendment. But the court ruled that a person’s fundamental right to terminate their pregnancy must be weighed against the government’s interest in protecting the person’s health and potential life.

The court established a trimester framework that determined when and how governments could impose regulations on abortion access.

In the 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey case, a 5-4 ruling, the court upheld a constitutional right to an abortion. But the decision overturned the trimester framework, instead setting viability, about 22 to 24 weeks into a pregnancy, as the line for government regulation.

The court said a person had a right to an abortion before viability without undue interference from the government. After reaching a point of viability, states can regulate abortion as long as it doesn’t affect a person’s health or life.

In the plurality opinion, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote that “Some of us as individuals find abortion offensive to our most basic principles of morality, but that cannot control our decision. Our obligation is to define the liberty of all, not to mandate our own moral code.”

In a dissenting opinion, Justice Thomas wrote for himself, Antonin Scalia and two others that they would have overturned Roe v. Wade, saying the issue in the case was “not whether the power of a woman to abort her unborn child is a ‘liberty’ in the absolute sense; or even whether it is a liberty of great importance to many women. Of course it is both.”

“The issue is whether it is a liberty protected by the Constitution of the United States. I am sure it is not,” he wrote.

Will court survive a ‘stench’?

During oral arguments in December in the Mississippi case the justices ruled on Friday, Justice Sotomayor expressed concern over how the court overturning cases that established abortion access as a constitutional right would impact its reputation.

“Now, the sponsors of this bill, the House bill in Mississippi, said we’re doing it because we have new justices. The newest ban that Mississippi has put in place, the six-week ban, the Senate sponsor said we’re doing it because we have new justices on the Supreme Court,” Sotomayor said.

“Will this institution survive the stench that this creates in the public perception that the Constitution and its reading are just political acts?”

Justice Kagan questioned whether the court overruling Roe and Casey would lead Americans to view the court as “a political institution that will go back and forth, depending on what part of the public yells the loudest or changes to the court’s membership.”

And Justice Breyer read from a decision the entire Supreme Court issued in Casey about when and how justices should overturn watershed cases to avoid a situation that “would subvert the Court’s legitimacy.”

“They say overruling unnecessarily and under pressure would lead to condemnation, the Court’s loss of confidence in the judiciary, the ability of the Court to exercise the judicial power and to function as the Supreme Court of a nation dedicated to the rule of law,” Breyer read.

The Mississippi law at the center of the argument allowed abortions after 15 weeks in cases of “severe fetal abnormality” or medical emergency, but it did not include exceptions for rape or incest.

At the time Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed the bill in March 2018, the 15-week threshold was the earliest abortion ban in the nation.

That has since changed, with several states enacting laws restricting abortion below that benchmark, including an Oklahoma law that makes abortion a felony punishable by up to 10 years in state prison, a maximum fine of $10,000, or both.

Abortion rights organizations have filed lawsuits to stop many of those new laws from going into effect on the basis that they violated the constitutional right to an abortion that the court undid this week.

Politico leak

The Supreme Court majority opinion released Friday is similar to a draft version, led by Justice Alito, that was leaked to Politico in early May.

The leak was broadly criticized by Republicans, who at the time didn’t want to talk about the implications of the court overturning Roe, while Democrats rebuked the conservative justices for the expected decision.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, held a floor vote in May on a bill that would have codified a nationwide right to an abortion.

That legislation couldn’t get past the chamber’s 60-vote legislative filibuster.

Maine Sen. Susan Collins and Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, both Republicans who expressed frustration with how the Trump-nominated justices portrayed their view of Roe as a settled precedent during their confirmation processes, voted against the bill.

West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin did as well.

Manchin said in a statement Friday that he was “deeply disappointed that the Supreme Court has voted to overturn Roe v. Wade.”

“I trusted Justice Gorsuch and Justice Kavanaugh when they testified under oath that they also believed Roe v. Wade was settled legal precedent and I am alarmed they chose to reject the stability the ruling has provided for two generations of Americans,” Manchin continued.

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Posted By and on Thu, Jun 23, 2022 at 9:30 AM

click to enlarge Bipartisan budget boosts school funding, state employee pay raises, transportation
Photo by Jerod MacDonald-Evoy | Arizona Mirror
State lawmakers worked overnight and passed a $15.6 billion budget in the early morning hours of June 23.

Republicans and Democrats joined forces early Thursday morning to pass a $15.8 billion budget that significantly increases K-12 funding and caps off a week of intense negotiations as state lawmakers scrambled to approve a spending plan and avert a state government shutdown on July 1.

After months of trying to craft a budget that could pass with just Republican votes, GOP leaders this week introduced a budget that aimed to peel off a small number of Democrats. But by Wednesday, they were negotiating in earnest with Democrats, and they announced a deal shortly after 11 p.m.

When the dust settled on the budget, it was education funding that persuaded Democrats. The budget has nearly $600 million in new, permanent funding for public schools, up from about $330 million in the original proposal. The added funding includes phasing in funding for low-income students — starting at $50 million in the upcoming fiscal year and growing to $100 million in three years — and special education.

And the budget includes another $200 million for school repairs and another $50 million for school safety initiatives.

“This was not an easy process but this is what a negotiated budget compromise looks like,” said House Minority Leader Reginald Bolding, a Phoenix Democrat.

That sentiment was echoed by Sen. Rick Gray, a Sun City Republican and the Senate’s majority leader, who said this was the first true bipartisan budget he’d been a part of during his legislative career.

“For me it’s encouraging that we have actually come together, and my hope is that the next term … will have that same consensus,” he said, adding that it shows compromise is possible.

In the budget deal, Democrats also were able to change how money given to schools for for capital costs like transportation, technology and textbooks. Instead of one rate for district schools and a higher rate for charter schools, the money will instead be distributed per student at identical rates.

And the minority party convinced Republicans to strip an expansion of the state’s school tuition organization program out of the budget. Republicans had sought to let parents use the scholarships to cover the entirety of a private school’s tuition instead of the 90% limit that has been in place since the program was created in the early 2000s.

The budget also includes nearly $1 billion that is earmarked for transportation projects across the state, particularly in rural Arizona.

And a separate bill spends $335 million to construct a border fence along 17 miles of the state’s border with Mexico.

In the House of Representatives, most of the budget bills garnered at least 40 votes in the 60-member chamber. Across the Capitol complex, most of the bills in the Senate won the approval of at least 18 of the 30 senators.

In moving to court Democratic votes, GOP leaders lost the votes of some Republicans.

Sen. Michell Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale, blasted the spending plan as “grotesque” and loaded with pork. Giving taxpayers their money back, especially as inflation soars, is the only truly conservative action, she said — but the Senate rejected two of her amendments to do that.

“Our priorities are so misplaced if we’re saying we are conservative,” she said. “We are overpaying. It’s excessive.”

In the House, fiscal conservatives railed against the new spending, particularly the money dedicated for highway construction projects.

“I believe this is the best Democratic, bloated-full-of-pork budget that our money could have ever paid for,” Rep. John Fillmore, R-Apache Junction, said in the early hours Thursday as he voted against the budget. He added that GOP leaders could have “achieved this pathetic budget about 60 days ago” instead of waiting until late June.

The budget also includes a provision that caps the revenue the state receives from sports betting at 10%, which Kingman Republican Rep. Regina Cobb said it was needed to keep the state competitive with states like Nevada. That view was not shared by some of her Democratic colleagues.

“I don’t think we have a competitiveness problem here in Arizona,” Rep. Kelli Butler, D-Paradise Valley, said, citing the $2.8 billion in sports bets made in the state since its implementation and the state’s meager tax collections. Butler and her colleagues worried about capping the state’s collection at 10% when there is “off-the-rails profit” coming from the industry, adding that they are concerned about rising gambling addiction rates.

The budget did include bipartisan measures for criminal justice reform, such as a revived measure that will create a new division within the Department of Public Safety to investigate use-of-force incidents and criminal misconduct by police officers.

“That is one provision I am glad to see in here,” Rep. Reginald Bolding, D-Phoenix, remarked, adding that Speaker of the House Rusty Bowers, R-Mesa, had been instrumental in getting the measure, which will allow agencies to request DPS to conduct independent investigations, into the criminal justice portion of the state budget.

Despite an eventual agreement on the budget, Democratic members tried but failed to introduce a number of amendments to budget bills to introduce a litany of policy changes such as same-day voter registration, upping penalties for price gouging and extending family and medical leave benefits.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Posted By on Wed, Jun 22, 2022 at 1:00 PM

A $15.6 billion budget that Republicans crafted won approval in the House Appropriations Committee only to come to a screeching halt in the Senate, where GOP leaders accused top House Republicans of breaking a deal to advance unrelated bills.

More than 4 hours after the Senate Appropriations Committee took an unexpected recess after considering a single budget bill, Chairman David Gowan reconvened the panel and declared that its work was done for the day. 

Gowan, a Republican from Sierra Vista, accused House Rules Committee Chairman Travis Grantham of breaking a deal the House and Senate had struck to get some Senate bills out of Grantham’s committee so they could advance to the floor for consideration by the full body. Because that didn’t happen when the Rules Committee met in the early afternoon, Gowan said the House had “reneged on their agreements” and his committee wouldn’t act on the budget Tuesday. He noted that one was allowing the Arizona Board of Regents to operate past this year.

“We have a Rules (Committee) chairman over there who seems to be holding up the lot of what we’re doing,” Gowan said about Grantham. “The House has decided that they will not honor the deals we created together and move things forward.”

Grantham responded on Twitter, saying he didn’t know of any deal and insinuating that Gowan was acting to ensure passage of his own bills. Other senators and outside groups accused Gowan of holding the budget hostage to dislodge Senate Bill 1708, which would give $150 million in tax credits for film and television production in Arizona.

“(W)hy would we invite and pay an industry, with taxpayer dollars to come into our great state when they will ban, boycott and take away major meetings, corporations and events because of our Republican majorities and sound policies?” Grantham added.

Gowan fired back at his fellow Republican: “You know darn well what deals have been made! You may not have been in the deal making room, but as part of your leadership team, you’ve been in the know & it is disingenuous to say you knew nothing!”

That all leaves the fate of the budget uncertain, even as the state hurtles toward a July 1 government shutdown if no spending plan is in place.

The late-afternoon tumult capped off a day that started promising for Republicans. When the House committee began debating the budget, it quickly became apparent that it wouldn’t be a GOP-only spending plan. 

Rep. César Chávez, D-Phoenix, voted for the budget package, explaining that he was backing the budget to ensure there was no government shutdown on July 1, and that the Republican-crafted budget was better than no budget.

Republicans desperately need Democrats to support the budget, as several Republicans have publicly said they oppose it — and with a single-vote majority in both legislative chambers, that means GOP leaders must get at least some small amount of Democratic buy-in.

But even that prospect seemed dimmer only hours after Chávez joined Republicans in backing the budget during the Appropriations hearing.

In a statement on Twitter following the committee, Chávez seemed to backtrack, writing that he wasn’t committed to voting for the budget when it is considered by the full chamber — and that he would vote against it if common ground on education funding couldn’t be reached between the two sides.

“There is no reason as to why we can’t pass a budget that focuses on Arizona’s priorities. Today, we can accomplish that by working together. If we cannot reach a consensus to ensure that public education is amply equipped, I will vote in opposition to the #AZLeg budget,” he wrote.

The Republicans opposing the budget include Rep. Jake Hoffman, from Queen Creek, who voted against the budget package in the Appropriations Committee because he said it isn’t fiscally responsible to increase spending by some $2.2 billion over the current year.

“I think that this budget hurts our state,” he said. “We’re in the midst of what’s likely a sustained recession. We’re going to have serious economic destruction in our state.”

Hoffman chastised Regina Cobb, the Republican chairwoman of the committee, and other GOP leaders for failing to craft a budget that would win the support of all 31 Republicans in the state House and instead including provisions aimed at picking up a small number of Democratic votes.

And in the state Senate, Michelle Ugenti-Rita, a Scottsdale Republican, said she wouldn’t support increasing state spending.

“I can’t think of anything more fiscally irresponsible than spending recklessly on member pet projects while Arizonans struggle to keep up with crushing inflation,” she wrote on Twitter after the budget was released late Monday.

In a follow-up tweet, she compared the budget to the Build Back Better Act that President Joe Biden failed to push through Congress, labeling it the “Build Back Broke” budget. 

“You cannot spend your way out of a looming recession,” Ugenti-Rita wrote.

The budget includes new funding for K-12 education, pay raises for all state employees, increased spending on higher education, money to address a nursing shortage in Arizona and more. It also accounts for a separate bill that will spend $335 million on border security, including construction of a border wall.

But Democrats on the legislative panels complained about how the Republicans opted to spend the state’s record budget surplus — which budget analysts now peg at nearly $5.7 billion, up from $5.3 billion just a couple months ago — and pleaded with them to engage in earnest bipartisan negotiations.

Rep. Jen Longdon, a Phoenix Democrat and the assistant minority leader, repeatedly asked Cobb and the other Republicans to meet with Democratic leaders.

“A good budget is a good compromise. My caucus has not been brought to the table to be a part of that compromise,” she said. 

Rather than negotiate with Democratic leaders in either chamber, Republicans sought out individual Democrats they believed would be open to working with them and got their input, incorporating their priorities into the budget.

Rep. Michelle Udall, a Mesa Republican, told Longdon those conversations had been going on “for well over a month” and GOP leaders made a concerted decision to avoid bringing Democratic leadership into the fold because their demands wouldn’t have been reasonable.

Republicans are also hedging against the budget deal falling apart. In addition to the budget plan that would spend $15.6 billion, the committees also approved a “skinny” budget that would merely maintain current levels of spending. 

That roughly $12.5 billion package, which the House panel rejected in April, would spend none of the $5.7 billion surplus and is intended as a fail-safe to ensure government operations don’t cease.

“That’s why this is here,” Cobb told the committee.

***UPDATE: This story has been updated with additional comments from Sen. Gowan and Rep. Grantham, along with links to their social media posts.

Posted By on Wed, Jun 22, 2022 at 12:00 PM

click to enlarge Bowers: Trump efforts to overturn election devolved to ‘tragic parody’
(Photo courtesy Select Committee on Jan. 6)
Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers tells the House Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6 Attack that he repeatedly rebuffed Trump campaign efforts to reverse the 2020 election because doing so would violate his oath of office.

WASHINGTON – Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers told lawmakers investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection Tuesday about the Trump campaign’s persistent, and increasingly questionable, efforts to pressure state officials into overturning the 2020 elections.

But Bowers testified that he repeatedly rebuffed Trump campaign officials, who he said were never able to produce evidence for the claims they were making and that he refused to violate his oath of office by interfering with a legitimate election.

“You are asking me to do something that is counter to my oath when I swore to the Constitution to uphold it,” Bowers said he told Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney. “And I also swore to the Constitution and the laws of the state of Arizona.”

His hourlong testimony was followed by Georgia election officials, part of a carefully orchestrated hearing before the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack.

The committee used the hearing to lay out former President Donald Trump’s efforts to pressure state officials to overturn the election, through now-discredited claims and legal theories from shortly after the election right up until Jan. 6. Those claims, amplified by Trump, often led to harassment and threats, the witnesses said.

For Bowers, at least, the discredited claims continued right up until the start of Tuesday’s hearing, when Trump released a statement attacking Bowers’ decision to “play along with the Unselect Committee” and claiming that Bowers told him in November 2020 that “the election was rigged and that I won Arizona.”

Bowers flatly denied the claim when asked by Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif.

“Anywhere, anyone, anytime has said that I said the election was rigged, that would not be true,” he said.

In response to questions from Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., Bowers, who has called himself a conservative, pro-Trump Republican, said he voted for Trump in 2020 and wanted him to win.

But Bowers also said that President Joe Biden won Arizona in 2020.

Other witnesses included Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, whom Trump asked in a now-infamous call on Jan. 2, 2021, “to find 11,780 more votes,” one more than Biden’s margin of victory in Georgia.

For Bowers, the calls with Giuliani and Trump included claims that hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants and thousands of dead people had voted in the election. Bowers said he repeatedly asked for any proof of those allegations, and Giuliani repeatedly promised to provide it, but “no one provided me with such evidence.”

Bowers said those claims of election fraud were repeated at an unofficial meeting between state GOP lawmakers, Giuliani and another Trump attorney, Jenna Ellis. Bowers said he and other lawmakers, some of whom “aggressively” questioned Giuliani’s allegations, again demanded evidence, but the Trump lawyers were not able to provide it.

“He (Giuliani) said we’ve got lots of theories, we just don’t have the evidence,” Bowers told the committee.

Even without the evidence, the Trump White House still pressed Arizona lawmakers to move to remove the electors for Biden and replace them with Trump electors, claiming legal authority that Bowers said was “totally foreign” to him. He said he “would never do anything of such magnitude without deep consultation with qualified attorneys.”

After that meeting, Bowers released a statement in December maintaining his refusal to overturn Arizona’s election, saying he “cannot and will not entertain a suggestion that we violate current law to change the outcome of a certified election.”

But that was not the end of the effort. Another Trump adviser, John Eastman, called Bowers to argue that the Legislature had the authority to decertify the slate of Biden electors “and let the courts sort it out.”

A group of Arizona Republicans, including GOP Party Chairwoman Kelli Ward and Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Tucson, eventually tried to claim that they were alternate electors from the state, and sent bogus documentation to Washington claiming as much. Both Ward and Finchem were subpoenaed by the committee this spring for their role in the insurrection and the fake electors scheme.

Bowers also testified Tuesday that he was contacted by Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, on the morning of Jan. 6 – the day Congress was set to certify the Electoral College vote for Biden. He said Biggs asked him to sign a letter and/or support decertification of Arizona electors, which he said he would not do.

A request for comment from Biggs’ office Tuesday was not immediately returned.

Bowers told the committee he was not aware that the fake electors had met in Phoenix on Dec. 14 to cast votes for President Trump, after a video about that meeting was played. Asked for his reaction, Bowers said, “Well, I thought of the book, ‘The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight.’ And I just thought, this is a tragic parody.”

Bowers, like the other witnesses, said his family and his staff have been subject to harassment and threats in the face of Trump’s attacks on them. He said his office was unable to function because it was “saturated” with tens of thousands of emails, voicemails and texts, and protesters regularly appear at his house with panel trucks “proclaiming me to be a pedophile, a pervert and a corrupt politician” and threatening neighbors and him.

But Bowers also read a journal entry, in which he said that while it has been painful to have friends turn against him, he “would not take the current situation in a light manner, a fearful manner, or a vengeful manner.

“I do not want to be a winner by cheating, I will not play with laws I swore allegiance to,” he said.

For more stories from Cronkite News, visit

Posted By on Wed, Jun 22, 2022 at 11:00 AM

Interfaith Community Services will host the in-person fundraiser of “Rise - A celebration of Empowered Women” at Sheraton Tucson Hotel and Suites, 5151 E Grant Road, on Saturday, June 25, to support the Single Mom Scholars program.

The Interfaith Community Services (ICS) breakfast fundraiser begins at 10 a.m. and features speaker Tiffany Nakatani, founder and creator of Love In A Cup Tea Blends and Boss Women Unite.

The Single Moms Scholars Program is a scholarship program that supports low-income single mothers and pledges to lift them out of poverty. The program is based on need and can be used towards furthering a single mother’s education.

Featured speaker Nakatani was raised by a single mother and became a single mother herself for a period. Nakatani formed Love In A Cup after going through health complications related to her thyroid condition.

“But I needed help because I had no idea of how to start a business,” Nakatani said. “It was kind of a challenge for me in the sense (that) there was just a lot of spaces where it seems a little bit cliquish, or it was hard to ask people for help.”

When Nakatani tried to lift her small business off the ground she hit barriers put up, surprisingly, by other small businesses. This experience led Nakatani to found Boss Women Unite, a business platform for women to network to support each other. There are no barriers in place to exclude women.

“What I found in my research is that women experience more closed doors, and they see a lot of obstacles when they're trying to start a business,” Nakatani said.

And although Nakatani had to step back from Boss Women Unite for the past year to focus on her family and her business, she still keeps the community open for conversation and connection through social media. Nakatani said she fell into a trap that most women, especially single moms, fall into. She was putting more effort into supporting other women than herself.

Single mothers often find themselves putting their children’s success and happiness over themselves.

“Although that's taking me far, it hasn't taken me far because when we adapt to that hustle mentality, I gotta do all the things, right?” Nakatani said.

The hustle mentality that single mothers develop can be a double-edged sword, as Nakatani puts it. It can help mothers stay focused on their children, but it can also come as a detriment.

“I know that especially as a single mom, we hold the guilt of ‘What am I not enough for my kids?’ because we're damned if we do, we’re damned if we don't,” Nakatani explained. “We want to spend all this time with our kids, but we can't because we have to get an education.”

Nakatani said the decision for moms to put themselves first results in a better life for their children. The ICS Single Moms Scholars program financially assists single moms in making this choice. They provide funding for single moms to obtain their bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Single Mom Scholar Courtney Whitney said it's difficult to find programs that offer to fund bachelor's and masters.

“It was like I won the lottery,” Whitney said.

Whitney will be graduating from the Single Moms Scholars program this year. She recently graduated from the University of Arizona Eller College of Management with a bachelor’s and master’s in finance. She said Single Moms Scholars financially assisted her for the last two and a half years.

Not only was the program there for her education finances but her family finances. Whitney said ICS supported her children in extracurricular activities, like sports. This was huge for her and she said she couldn’t have put them through sports without their help.

“So they filled the gap of education, like, ‘We'll support you through your bachelor's and your master's,’” Whitney said. “No other program does that, for others, you get it up to an associate's (degree) and they're like, ‘Oh, you need to go work now.’”

Whitney is already preparing for her new role as a research analyst for an investment firm. This is a complete lifestyle change from where she began. Before going back to school, Whitney suffered from meth addiction and survived domestic violence before deciding she needed to be financially independent for her three kids.

“CPS (Child Protective Services, now the Department of Child Safety) was like, ‘Well, it's not you and you need to get away,’” Whitney said. “So I'm in the DV shelter and I was angry. I could not support my kids with associate's degree right now so I went all the way.”

Whitney pushed through her degrees with success. She said she couldn’t have achieved everything without the help of Single Moms Scholars.

Purchase tickets to attend the RISE event and support Single Moms like Whitney at, tickets are $30.

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Posted By on Tue, Jun 21, 2022 at 11:15 AM

With the state only 10 days away from the end of the fiscal year, Republican leaders on Monday released a proposal for a state budget they hope will garner bipartisan support and avert a government shutdown.

Lawmakers are set to meet first thing Tuesday morning to consider the bills in committee. If they win approval there, the next stop will be consideration by the full House and Senate — assuming the budget has the votes to pass.

The $15 billion spending plan increases spending for K-12 education by about $570 million, funds pay raises for all state government employees and commits to a host of transportation projects. It also accounts for $350 million in a separate bill to fund border security, including money to build a border fence.

One thing the budget wouldn’t do is spend all of the roughly $5.3 billion in surplus cash: Nearly $1.1 billion would be left over, including more than $615 million in ongoing revenue.

It also includes a number of provisions that seem aimed at winning Democratic votes, including rural highway improvements and allowing new money for school safety to be spent on counselors and social workers instead of only on police officers. And that may be needed, as at least one Republican senator has declared that she won’t vote for the budget.

Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, a Scottsdale Republican, said she wouldn’t support increasing state spending.

“I can’t think of anything more fiscally irresponsible than spending recklessly on member pet projects while Arizonans struggle to keep up with crushing inflation,” she wrote on Twitter.

In a follow-up tweet, she compared the budget to the Build Back Better Act that President Joe Biden failed to push through Congress, labeling it the “Build Back Broke” budget. 

“You cannot spend your way out of a looming recession,” Ugenti-Rita wrote.

Monday, June 20, 2022

Posted By on Mon, Jun 20, 2022 at 11:36 AM

click to enlarge High school graduation will be tied to learning about the evils of communism
Photo by Cuito Cuanavale
A statue of Vladimir Lenin near Weimar, Germany, is covered in graffiti in this 2009 picture.

High school students in Arizona will soon have to learn how communism and totalitarianism conflict with the American “principles of freedom and democracy” before they can graduate.

House Bill 2008, signed into law Friday by Gov. Doug Ducey, directs the State Board of Education to update its high school social studies academic standards to include a “comparative discussion of political ideologies, such as communism and totalitarianism, that conflict with the principals of freedom and democracy that are essential to the founding principles of the United States of America.”

The bill’s sponsor, Prescott Valley Republican Rep. Quang Nguyen, fled communist Vietnam as a child and cited his upbringing in the country as a major factor in pushing the change to high school curriculum.

“Having grown up in Vietnam and survived three communist invasions, I have a deep love and appreciation for the United States and its freedoms, which are guaranteed to all,” Nguyen said in a press release on the bill’s signing. “This civics standards update will help ensure that our students are taught the brutal facts of oppressive communist systems and how they are fundamentally antithetical to America’s founding principles.”

The bill is similar to a bill passed in Florida last year that was among a litany of other bills in the Sunshine State targeting socialism, communism and civic literacy. Nguyen pushed similar legislation last year, but it failed to win enough support to become law.

The new requirements won’t affect students right away: The standards will have to first be developed by the State Board of Education, which will give parents and the public the opportunity to weigh in.

When the House first took up the bill in February, Nguyen said he had spoken with the State Board of Education about how the standards could be implemented, though he admitted he had not looked at what the current social studies standards currently are.

The bill also creates an oral history library to be used for civic education called “portraits in patriotism” that would be “based on first-person accounts of victims of other nations’ governing philosophies who can compare those philosophies with those of the United States.”