You are the owner of this page.
A1 A1
top story
Legislator says prison inmates should be counted 'where their true residency is'
 mcowling  / 

FLORENCE — The town of Florence’s population is roughly 11,000 people, as most people understand the term. But officially, the population is 28,000 when everyone behind bars is included.

A Glendale-area legislator sees something wrong with this picture and believes inmates should be counted where their true homes are.

“Ideally, they should be counted where their home residence is before they were incarcerated,” Democratic Sen. Martin Quezada told PinalCentral in a phone interview. “Obviously most of these individuals are going to be released at some point as well, and they will be returning back home to those same communities. It makes sense, in my eyes at least, to count them where their true residence is.”

If it sounds like a paperwork nightmare, Quezada said a few other states are doing it, most recently Nevada and Maryland. A recent conversation he had with a Maryland legislator convinced him Arizona should try it, too.

Legislative District 8, home to Florence and Eloy, has the most prisoners. Conversely, at least one report indicates Quezada’s district has the most people away in prison, he said. Counting them at home “would heavily impact all the heavily minority and lower socioeconomic-status districts in the state,” he said. “Districts like mine … would all see some increase in population, if we were to enact this law.” He said he plans on making the rounds among state leaders and talking up the idea in the fall.

Rep. T.J. Shope, R-Coolidge, said he would use his own leadership position to make sure such a bill goes nowhere. He said it would nullify the state’s historic bargain with Florence, that if the town agreed to take the state’s only prison at the time, it should derive some benefit from it.

Shope further noted that local emergency responders and prosecutors respond to the prisons, and it costs the community to serve that population. He said Quezada believes his bill “would help the Democratic caucus increase their numbers in the Legislature.”

Quezada replied if this is so, “then wouldn’t the opposite also be true? That not changing the law benefits Republicans? And if that’s the case, I think there’s partisanship on his side more than my side, because they’re the ones benefiting from this rigged system.”

Serving the prisons

Florence pays for the prisons in several ways: Roads must be repaired more frequently because of traffic; utilities require regular maintenance and replacement; local police are called to investigate incidents and crimes at some facilities; the Fire Department responds to medical emergencies and fires at the prisons, Ben Bitter, assistant to the town manager, said.

Mayor Tara Walter added: “When 52% of the town’s general fund operations are funded by state-shared revenues received by the state of Arizona, as allocated by the population estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau each year, it is easy to see why this is such an important issue to Florence.

“If this misguided legislation were to pass, it would make our community less safe and dramatically decrease the high quality of life our residents enjoy,” Walter said.

Bitter noted similar impacts would be felt across the state in Globe, San Luis, Kingman, Safford, Eloy, Winslow and Douglas. As the town’s registered lobbyist, Bitter said he will attend every committee hearing and knock on as many doors as possible to ensure the bill’s defeat.

Eloy City Manager Harvey Krauss said he would likewise contact his legislators to make sure they actively oppose the bill. He called the idea “fundamentally unfair and unworkable.” His city’s population of 19,000 includes 7,000 inmates in CoreCivic private prisons.

Krauss said if there’s a demonstration or other problem at the prisons, they call Eloy police. He couldn’t immediately say how Eloy’s finances and services would be affected if Quezada’s bill became law.

Bitter added that inmates are arguably part of the community. Some of them do work for Florence Unified School District. Others pick up trash and weeds in the downtown area. More participate in the Wild Horse and Burro Program, the fish farm or the large alfalfa farming operations, Bitter said.

Shouldn’t Florence get something out of having the prisons?

“That’s not untrue. … That’s a fair concern,” Quezada said. “But counting individuals in their home districts doesn’t necessarily take away all of that ability to account for the contributions we make to society. There are always ways to alter state-shared revenue if we needed to do that,” he said, but added he’s not proposing that at this time.

The U.S. Census Bureau says inmates, and other groups of people not living in typical housing, live in “group quarters.” Another category is military barracks. The men and women serving at Luke Air Force Base, near Quezada’s district, are counted there instead of their hometowns. Is that fair?

“I think that’s a fair issue to look at as well, to make sure we’re counting everybody fairly,” Quezada said. But he added there’s a big difference between an Air Force base and a prison.

“The bases typically get broad political support. The politicians that represent those areas are constantly reaching out, not only to the base itself, but to the members of the base” for their opinions and input. “They are a very valued constituency,” the senator said.

Meanwhile, “How often has Rep. Shope gone into one of the prisons and talked to the inmates about what their concerns are, what their values are? Or what types of law changes they need?” Quezada asked. “I’d guess it’s a very safe assumption that he has very rarely done that, if ever. … so we should count them in their home districts.” Quezada said Shope likely has contact with the prison administrators, who are biased in favor of lodging as many people as possible in their prisons.

Uphill battle

It’s been tried before; Sen. Juan Mendez, D-Tempe, proposed such a bill in the past. Quezada and others were co-sponsors. Republican leadership refused to even give it a hearing in committee. But Quezada said he’s not ready to give up.

As a registered Democrat in a Republican-controlled Legislature, “any bill I propose is going to have an uphill battle,” he said. “… But I think in terms of public support, and in terms of good public policy, I think the momentum is absolutely on my side. You look at other states that aren’t as divided in a partisan way as Arizona is, and other states that have worked in a bipartisan fashion to do what’s best for the people, they have looked at this issue and they’ve addressed it.

“… This doesn’t change at all the ability of any resident of Florence or any community in the state of Arizona to elect their leaders. … The only difference is the district lines may look a little different.

“… I think at the very least, it’s worthy of discussion,” Quezada said. “It’s worth us talking about the way we count people and if that system is fair or not. And whether it provides representation to the people of the state of Arizona in the way that it should. I think that’s a very healthy conversation that we should be having.”

featured top story
Pilot: Super dog takes care of Pinal crime victims in court proceedings
 jheadley  / 

FLORENCE -- There has never been a better judge of the human soul.

Pinal County has an incredible team to take care of the victims of crime, especially when they are young.

Debbie Boyle is a victim advocate for the Pinal County Attorney’s Office but she has a very special tool — his name is Pilot.

Pilot is an extremely smart and gentle 5-year-old golden retriever/Labrador retriever mix who has been professionally trained to be a courtroom service dog.

Pilot helps those who are victims of crimes emotionally get through their worst times. He works with sexual assault victims, victims of domestic violence and even comforts those who are left behind when one of their family members is murdered.

Pilot knows exactly what is happening in and out of the courtroom and he understands that sometimes people just need a hug or a friendly face that creates a smile.

There is just no one quite like Pilot, and he is an expert with people.

As an advocate, Boyle is a liaison between a crime victim and Pinal County Superior Court. She works with prosecutors and makes sure that victims are well informed about all of the hearings involved in their case.

“With Pilot, we have a whole spectrum of other things that we do,” she said. “We also go to the Family Advocacy Centers and he sits in on forensic interviews with kids and other victims of a crime. If they become actual cases, Pilot can start with the court orientation process with kids. That covers a whole spectrum of ages. It gets them used to being in court,” Boyle said.

Pilot often sits with crime victims in a victim services room or in court. He sometimes comforts a victim in the witness box when they testify in a case. He can be with a victim through all aspects of a case to ease their anxiety.

“It really makes a huge difference, not only with the kids but with adults, because it is very calming to have him there. It distracts them. He just has a huge calming effect on everybody that he works with,” Boyle said.

Pilot is a fully certified service animal and is credentialed as a “service dog” but he is also a “facility dog,” which allows him to go into court where regular therapy dogs are not allowed to go.

Pilot began his training from Canine Companions for Independence at 9 weeks of age. Canine Companions is the largest and oldest service animal organization in the nation.

He was born in Santa Rosa, California, and went to a “puppy-raiser” in Utah until he was about 15 months old. He then attended college in Oceanside, California.

“He graduated with a degree,” Boyle said. “They don’t graduate until they go through team training. A lot of dogs don’t make it. There is a lot of criteria that he had to meet before he graduated. He had to be certified by Assistance Dogs International. He had to pass all the tests in team training successfully. If he doesn’t pass — he doesn’t graduate.”

Boyle said Pilot was tested in public while being trained in a car and was even tempted with food without taking any of it.

“If he would have taken some of that food, he would have flunked,” she said.

Pilot’s education started at 9 weeks old and continued until he was matched with an applicant at the age of 2, which was Boyle.

At just 5 years of age, Pilot seems to be a lot more mature.

“He looks old. He is an old soul and he’s a pretty wise guy,” she said.

Boyle and Pilot have been working with victims in Pinal County for the past year-and-a-half. They previously worked together in Douglas County, Colorado.

“We’ve been together since he graduated,” she said, which was three years ago.

“He’s more than a pet. When he goes home and takes off his vest, he’s just a dog. He likes to play and he sleeps. We have another dog and animals at home. He is well matched with all of them. He swims and plays out in the yard. He has a pretty good life but he has a few more talents than the other dog,” Boyle said.

When he’s working, Pilot wears an official state of Arizona sunrise-styled collar and leash as well as his official Pinal County Attorney’s Office vest.

“He is a member of the courthouse dogs foundation. They (the foundation) help the courts understand the use of courthouse dogs and they write legislation for the dogs to work in courts. They also do a lot of training,” Boyle said.

Pinal County has passed legislation that allows Pilot and other certified courthouse dogs access to victims in the courtroom.

“We actually have a statute that allows him to accompany a child in court and to the witness box, if the child wishes. That’s for any child up to 18 years of age. After 18, then it is up to the judge. The judges here are very open,” she said.

Pilot has been a part of around 200 forensic interviews and attended court hearings in at least 250 cases, according to Boyle.

Many of these cases are among the most heart-wrenching imaginable.

“It is satisfying to be able to have a resource like him to introduce to children that have been abused or sexually assaulted. There are kids that have had cases in court and they’ve said, ‘if Pilot is going to be there, I’ll come, but if he’s not going to be there, I’m not coming.’ We had one little girl that said she wasn’t going to come but if Pilot was going to be there, she would come. We asked her if she wanted to stay in the victims’ room or if she wanted to go into court. She asked if Pilot can come into court. We asked her if she wanted to sit in the back but she said no and she sat up front because he was with her.”

Boyle said Pilot sat next to the little girl as she held his leash throughout the entire hearing.

“It made a huge difference,” Boyle said.

Pilot is friendly with most everyone but it is still his choice. He has the ability not to engage with someone that he may not like, Boyle said.

“When it is a child or a victim, he seems to kind of hone in on that anxiety. He seems to sense it. When we’re working — he is working. He knows it and we try not to be social. I want him to stay with the person he is there to work with. He knows that. When we are done, he can socialize with other people,” Boyle said.

In many ways Pilot is a living pressure release valve.

“If they have him (beside them) — it’s not so bad. We can get through this. That is what make it worth it,” said Boyle.

She said that Pilot is still fairly young and she’s going to continue working with him for many years.

“He can work eight to 10 years. I will work with him as long as he is able to. Until he has to be retired, which they will do at an age limit or if he were to be injured or get sick. We will work as long as Pinal County will have us. He wants to be here,” she said.

Boyle is a full-time paid victim advocate for the County Attorney’s Office. The office also pays for many of Pilot’s needs like food and veterinary bills. Canine Companions for Independence covered the cost of his training as a special dog. It was very expensive to raise and train him.

“They give him to you to work with. If they match him with you, the only thing they require is that you maintain his health, his wellbeing and his medical needs. They just want you to take really good care of him and do what he is trained to do,” she said.

Canine Companions can repossess an animal if the owner is not properly taking care of it. He also has to be certified every three years after passing the first two years. Pilot is scheduled to be recertified in 2020.

Canine Companions is an important support system for both Boyle and Pilot with monthly regional meetings as well as a national office in California that is always available.

“He teaches me. In college, he knew what he was doing and I think he trained me. I had to learn how to give the commands and what to do with the leash. He already knew it and he had to teach me,” she said.

Another courtroom trained service dog will be coming to Pinal County soon. His name is Kirby and he will be headquartered at the Family Advocacy Center in San Tan Valley. Kirby is a hypoallergenic Labradoodle.

Pilot will be working at the Pinal County Courthouse all of the time when Kirby begins his new career.

“I have always felt honored to have Pilot because of what he can do and how smart he is. The people who trained him — it is an absolute science when they work with these dogs. They don’t all graduate. They are such special dogs,” she said.

Boyle said that Pilot is the largest dog that has ever graduated the Canine Companions program.

“He is a big boy and the puppies love him. They climb all over him and he is just so gentle. He is a big gentle giant,” she said.

featured top story
Eloy school, emergency staff run through active shooter drill
 mvasquez  / 

ELOY — It was a busy Friday morning for a couple members of the Eloy Police Department and the Eloy Fire District as they assessed local schools in an active shooter lockdown drill.

“It’s not just our responsibility anymore,” Eloy Elementary School District Superintendent Ruby James said. “I have to have involvement from you all, it’s important that we talk and dialogue when we have these meetings or when we have these lockdowns, it’s good for you to come in because I’m not the expert. I’m going to go to a whole other level of anxiety, stress, concern and worry, I’m going to be almost like the parents, but I know how to control myself in the situation and I’m going to depend on you all because you’re truly the first responders.”

All three principals and staff at Curiel Primary School, Eloy Intermediate School and Eloy Junior High School participated in active shooter lockdown training as police officers and firefighters roamed through the hallways pinpointing areas that needed to be modified and what the strengths were.

The district gave each principal a lockdown checklist that should be used each time the school practices the drill, so students and staff know what to do in order to stay safe.

Since EESD does not have school on Fridays, only staff was available for the lockdown drill.

During the drill, school staff followed protocol to close and lock all doors and windows as well as turn the lights off and remain quiet.

James also roamed the school hallways trying to trick staff into opening the door, which she did manage to accomplish on more than one occasion at different schools.

“If the voice is recognizable, do not open the door,” James said to Eloy Junior High Principal Danny Rogers. “It could be somebody who has me at gunpoint to get into a room.”

Cpl. Calvina Singleton noted that each school should get into the habit of notifying the Police Department when they are having the lockdown drill.

Detective David Crane also pointed out that some of the doors at one of the schools could be opened by easily picking the lock.

All the first responders who participated in the drill agreed that the junior high’s efforts were spot on.

Crane pointed out that the junior high was the only school that had the classrooms marked with a system that alerted them whether or not emergency assistance was needed by hanging up a green or red card.

Some aspects the schools can still work on is making sure that the restrooms are cleared when students are present during a drill and having a designated safe place as a last resort for those who can’t make it to their classroom.

There should also be a line of command established in case the principals or James are at a meeting outside of the area when something happens.

“One of the things to keep in mind and it becomes one of the hardest things to do especially because we’re all so small and we’re all so busy,” Eloy Fire District Chief Kelly Weddle said, “if an incident happens where it’s more than just the first two minutes and there’s actually an incident, we come together as a unified staff so there’s a fireman, there’s a policeman and there has to be a school representative that’s not doing all this other stuff. It has to be someone who’s glued to the hip of police and fire in that command thing because we may need to ask questions about that room or that person or that something.”

New state laws take effect ranging from lemonade to shampoo use

PHOENIX — Come Tuesday you’ll be able to get your hair shampooed and blow dried by anyone you want.

You’ll be able to take your nunchucks out of the closet where you’ve been hiding them and actually use them in public.

And when you have a sip of lemonade, you’ll now be imbibing in what Arizona legislators have designated the “official state drink.’’

Tuesday is the day when most of the 321 measures approved by the Legislature take effect.

Not all of them.

Some were approved as emergency measures, like the drought contingency plan, which became law on the signature of Gov. Doug Ducey. And some of what was approved this year won’t happen for awhile, like a requirement for the testing of medical marijuana which becomes mandatory next year.

But that still leaves a grab-big of issues that Arizona legislators found significant enough to create new laws and restrictions, some with broad effects and some much narrower.

Consider a new law designed to help provide some limited privacy for those who have been arrested.

The statute is aimed at companies that gather booking photos and then put them on a commercial web site where people can pay to find records.

But that’s only half the money-making scheme. Those same companies sometimes agree to take down the pictures and criminal history information — for a fee.

The new law makes it illegal to publish criminal justice information on a publicly available website for commercial purposes, including requiring payment of a fee for removal. It also allows anyone whose information is published this way and is “adversely affected’’ to sue to recover any actual damages, along with penalties of $100 a day for the first 30 days of violation, $200 daily for the next 30 days and $500 a day after that. Oh, and the news media is excepted.

Speaking of privacy and the media, lawmakers voted to give those who win at least $100,000 in the Arizona Lottery the power to keep their names out of the papers — and confidential from everyone.

But on to broader things.

The state pushed forward on multiple fronts in deregulating some professional services.

One measure spells out that people with certain licenses from other states are free to ply their trade if they move here.

That’s an extension of rights already given to the spouses of those in the military who are transferred here. Now, pretty much anyone who is licensed or certified in at least one other state for at least a year, they can do the same work here.

There are some restrictions, including that the person does not have pending complaints and pays all applicable fees. And if Arizona already requires an exam of residents to test on knowledge of this state’s laws that same requirement applies to those coming here from elsewhere.

But another law eliminates at least one licensing requirement entirely.

It will now be permissible for someone to hang out a shingle as a hair stylist. That means giving a customer a shampoo and blow dry without having to be certified as a cosmetologist.

There are limits, including the inability to dye hair or use other chemicals. Stylists also will be required to complete a class on sanitation and infection protection.

And they will have to put up a sign informing would-be customers that they’re not regulated.

Lawmakers also voted to ease up, but just a bit, on the use of “consumer fireworks.’’

Right now the list is restrictive. Pretty much anything that explodes or fires into the air is off limits.

And even the days people can light sparklers and similar devices is limited to things like Independence Day and New Year’s Day.

Now in the state’s two largest counties people will be able to light up around Cinco de Mayo and the festival of Diwali, a five-day festival celebrated in India and by those from the subcontinent.

And “snappers,’’ those things that explode when you throw them on the ground, also will be legal.

Several education-related measures also are taking effect.

Trained school officials will now be allowed to administer certain medications without parental authorization in cases of emergency.

High school teachers will be able to get incentive bonuses in certain schools where students pass and get college credits for courses.

The Board of Education is being directed to require at least a one-half credit course in economic to graduate from high school, a program that must include financial literacy and personal financial management.

School districts have to adopt policies to report certain suspected crimes and threatening conduct to authorities as well as to notify the parents of the students involved.

And there will be a State Seal of Arts Proficiency to recognize students who have attained a high proficiency in the arts and graduated from a participating high school.

At the higher education level, lawmakers sought to clarify existing laws that prohibit universities and community colleges from restricting a student’s right to speak, hold a sign or distribute fliers.

The new language allows certain “time, place and manner’’ restrictions which are “reasonable,’’ occur without referring to the content of the speech and leave alternative channels for communication of information. There also have to be provisions for “spontaneous assembly and distribution of literature’’ without having to first get a permit.

Legislators also voted to require any doctor or health care institution planning to close to surrender each patient’s records to that person or a third-party provider.

That measure followed complaints by patients after a Phoenix area hospital closed, leaving patients in the middle of treatments without access to their records. Violators are subject to fines of up to $10,000.

Elsewhere on the medical front, in the age of and 23AndMe, lawmakers also moved to address privacy concerns.

The new measure expands on laws to spell out that any genetic testing and information obtained are confidential and considered privileged to the person tested. More to the point, these results can be released only as authorized by state and federal laws.

And, speaking of testing, another new law sets the stage for testing of medical marijuana for contaminants.

Lawmakers also paid some attention to traffic, both on and off the streets and the sidewalks.

One involves those increasingly popular stand-up scooters.

The new law spells out that operators have the same rights — and same duties — as someone riding a bicycle. That means the ability to ride them wherever bicycles are allowed.

But the same law gives local authorities the power to implement their own regulations when considering everything from environmental and traffic issues. And it will be easier to identify scooters and those who are using them with a requirement for each one to have a unique identification number that is visible from a distance of at least five feet.

Another bill gives permission for people to operate “personal mobile cargo carrying devices’’ weighing up to 80 pounds — plus whatever they are holding — on sidewalks up to 12 miles per hour. These might be considered self-powered suitcases, controlled by radio to stay within 25 feet of the owner.

Another new law requires the Department of Transportation to either suspend or restrict the driving privileges following an accident resulting in serious injury or death, even if it is only a first-time violation.

ADOT will now be required to suspend or revoke the license of someone who does not comply with an order to attend and complete traffic survival school. Until now that has only been optional.

And police officers no longer have to write out a full report of a motor vehicle accident unless the damage reaches $2,000. That is double the current threshold.

And on the crime front, possession of nunchucks will no longer put you at risk of 2.5 years in state prison.

Elsewhere in the statute books, would-be timeshare owners also got a few new protections, starting with the ability of a buyer to cancel within 10 days, up from seven. There also are some new disclosure requirements ranging from first-year financial requirements to a clear statement that “timeshares are not investments.’’

And while lawmakers have so far refused to tighten up on the deregulation they did several years ago of vacation rentals, it will now be illegal for people to rent out homes for any non-residential purpose, meaning no special events, parties, banquets or retail spaces.

On the elections front, candidates will no longer be allowed to collect nominating signatures until they first register with the secretary of state or applicable local filing official. That was designed by some lawmakers to prevent “surprise’’ candidates from filing against them at the last minute.

There also are new requirements for circulators of initiative and referendum petitions to first register with the secretary of state.

Voters in cities and towns will now be empowered to enact term limits on mayors and council members.

Write-in candidates for local elections will not get on the general election ballot unless they get as many write-in votes as the number of signatures they otherwise would have needed to put their names on the ballot.

It will become a Class 2 misdemeanor to knowingly remove, alter, deface or cover any campaign signs for ballot measures.

And in a related local control measure, cities, towns and fire districts cannot impose residency requirements on peace officers or firefighters as a condition of employment.

Finally, not everything legislators did expanded the size of the law books. They did repeal a 1927 law — one apparently never used — that allows cities to levy a tax to create and finance a municipal band.

Other odds and ends from this year’s Legislature include;

  • Increasing the penalty on those who intentionally or knowingly subject a domestic animal to cruel mistreatment;
  • Expanding the tax credits now available for those who contribute to public schools to allow the dollars to be used for things like community school meal programs and capital items;
  • Eliminating criminal penalties for those who drill a well into a subsurface flow and tap water that does not belong to them;
  • Prohibiting life, disability and long-term insurance companies from unfairly discriminating against people solely because they are living organ donors;
  • Allowing landlords to accept partial payment of a tenant’s rent from a housing assistance program without giving up the right to evict the tenant.