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Ducey unapologetic about vetoes, stand on budget
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PHOENIX — Senate President Karen Fann said the decision by Gov. Doug Ducey to veto bills because he hasn’t seen a budget will only make it harder to reach that goal.

Fann told Capitol Media Services it’s bad enough that the governor seems to be ignoring the fact that Republicans do not have a lot of wiggling room to line up the votes.

That’s because it will take all 16 Senate Republicans and 31 in the House to approve any spending and tax-cut package. And that, in turn, empowers each GOP legislator to hold out for his or her priorities.

“One person can hold things up,’’ Fann said.

But what’s worse, she said, is that many of the 22 bills he vetoed on Friday were crafted and sponsored by lawmakers who were the most supportive of the $12.8 billion spending plan and $1.9 billion in tax cuts. And all Ducey managed to do is annoy his friends.

“Many of these members are the ones that have been team players with getting the budget together,’’ Fann said, trying to get other Republican holdouts on board.

“So to veto their bills to try and send a message just was not fair,’’ she said. “I don’t know what they were thinking,’’ she said.

Fann isn’t alone in that sentiment.

“I don’t think the governor’s move helped us especially,’’ said House Speaker Rusty Bowers of his efforts to line up the votes for the plan.

But Bowers told Capitol Media Services he remains confident that a deal can be cobbled together that will get the necessary votes, even if they’re not happy with everything in the package.

“We get agreements, we get close,’’ he said.

“We ask people to hold their nose,’’ Bowers continued. “There are things that everybody doesn’t like.’’

And Bowers had an interesting take on how the decision by Ducey to veto 22 bills — all but three of them sponsored by Republicans — actually could help bring about some consensus at least within the GOP caucus, if not with Ducey.

“It kind of unifies people in one way,’’ he said. “It makes them uniformly mad.’’

For his part, Ducey is unapologetic about quashing those 22 bills.

And press aide C.J. Karamargin denied that the move blindsided legislative leaders even as they were working to put a package together. He said the vetoes were designed to send a message.

“The governor believes the legislature should do its job,’’ Karamargin said. “Our hope is that a message like this will enable them to do so.’’

Much of the push, he said, is because the new fiscal year begins in only about a month. That, said Karamargin, does not give a lot of time to finish the plan.

Only thing is, the details of the package were not finalized and announced by the governor until less than two weeks ago. More to the point, it wasn’t until the package was ready to unveil that the fine details — the things that people wanted in the plan to get their votes — were available for legislators to see.

But Karamargin denied that Ducey shares some of the blame for the time crunch.

But that’s only part of Ducey’s frustration.

Last week legislative leaders announced a two-week recess. They are scheduled to return on June 10.

And at least part of the reason for that was that several legislators — Fann included — had vacation plans, some of which had been in the works for months.

That clearly miffed the governor.

“They knew that the deal was in the process,’’ Karamargin said. “So, knowing that, would you pick that time to go on vacation?’’

Fann said that ignores the record, starting with the fact that lawmakers began the session in January.

“We have all been here willing to work every day,’’ she said.

And Fann said it’s not like people being away from the Capitol brings everything to a halt.

She said negotiations continue.

“We’re still working every day,’’ Fann said.

Bowers said that, with or without the help of the governor, efforts continue to line up that elusive majority.

He said he took the weekend to invite people to his ranch to chat and “have a hamburger.’’

And that, Bowers said, occurs one vote at a time.

“I talked one person off the cliff today,’’ he said, with “a reasonable discussion and a reasonable outcome.’’

“We do what we’ve got to do to have a budget,’’ Bowers said.

Fann also pointed out that if a deal is struck before June 10 the Senate has set up procedures to actually allow members, who may still be on vacation, to vote via Zoom from wherever they are located.

Anyway, she said, it made no sense to keep the session active — and demand that all lawmakers come to the Capitol each day — until there is a deal with the necessary votes to approve.

“I can’t have them come in every single day and sit around while everybody is still trying to convince one person to vote on the budget,’’ Fann said.

And there’s something else she wants the governor to remember as he is lashing out at Republicans for failing to line up and agree to a deal: The alternative is approaching the Democrats for the necessary votes.

“Do you think the governor’s going to like it if we have to negotiate with other members that are totally against his tax package?’’ Fann said.

“Is that what he’s doing, forcing us to have to negotiate to get 16 (Republicans) on, if we’re going to have to find a different 16?’’ she said. “And that different 16 is not going to be in favor of what he wants.’’

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Crowd gathers in Casa Grande to remember fallen heroes
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CASA GRANDE — A crowd of hundreds gathered at Mountain View Cemetery Monday morning to remember those who died serving in the U.S. military.

The annual Memorial Day ceremony began with a special flyover featuring antique airplanes.

Several area veterans were honored during the event. They included:

  • Manuel Acuna, who served in the Korean War in the Marine Corps and then in the Army for two tours in Vietnam. He lived in Casa Grande after military retirement and served the community in the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Marine Corps League Casa Grande Detachment 901 and as a Mason. Exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam, he died in 2011 of congestive heart failure.
  • Orin Allred, a Casa Grande Union High School graduate who joined the Army at age 18. He died when he was aboard a helicopter conducting medical evacuations in Vietnam, with the 3rd Platoon, 498th Medical Company, 58th Medical Battalion when it was hit by hostile fire and crashed in 1965.
  • William Cates, of Stanfield and a Casa Grande Union High School graduate. He joined the Army in 1953 and died in the Battle for Dak To Hill 875 on Nov. 23, 1967.
  • William Wesley Patterson, a 1964 graduate of Casa Grande Union High School who joined the Marine Corps as a combat engineer. He died in hostile action in March 1967 in Quang Ngai province.
  • Guadalupe “Doc” Rendon, a Casa Grande Union High School graduate who joined the Navy in 1965. He was fatally injured in a blast on June 9, 1967, as a medical corpsman attached to the Marines.
Memorial Day Ceremony

At the ceremony, Col. Wanda Wright, director of the Arizona Department of Veterans’ Services, awarded the Arizona Gold Star Military Medal to the families or representatives of Allred, Patterson, Rendon and Cates.

Created in 2016, the medal honors those who died serving their country and their families.

“I’m honored to be here to remember those who left home at the age of 18 and didn’t return home,” Wright told attendees.

The event also featured a special tribute to David Snider, who for 16 years helped organize the event and served as master of ceremonies.

His life partner Merrilyn Ridgeway and brother Myk Snider were on hand to receive a special plaque in his honor.

“David had so much love and gratitude for this community,” Myk Snider told the crowd. “His gratitude is why he helped start this event.”

Casa Grande Mayor Craig McFarland also addressed the crowd, saying “every loss tears a hole in the fabric of our community.”

“Memorial Day is the most important day we have in the nation,” McFarland said. “We remember those who died defending our nation and the loved ones they left behind.”

The ceremony, which was livestreamed and is available on the J. Warren Funeral Services Facebook page, also included the singing of the national anthem by Casa Grande Union High School employee Brad Kepler.

Longtime area musician Jim Sorensen performed with Kepler a song entitled “Gone but Not Forgotten,” which he wrote for military veterans who died while in the service.

The ceremony also included a placement of wreaths, recognition of area veterans organizations and a tribute to the Navy submariners lost at sea as well as a rifle salute.

It was hosted by J. Warren Funeral Services. Justice of the Peace John Ellsworth was master of ceremonies.

Unprecedented outbreak of side blooms on saguaros in Arizona
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TUCSON (AP) — Cactus experts are tracking an unprecedented outbreak of “side blooms” on saguaros across Southern Arizona this year.

Typically, the giant cacti sprout flowers only around the tips of their arms and trunks. But a large number of saguaros also are pushing out buds farther down their stems this year.

Research ecologist Bill Peachey told the Arizona Daily Star that he has received reports of saguaros blooming in strange places from the Phoenix area to as far south as San Carlos, Mexico.

“It’s a big phenomenon,” Peachey said.

The exact cause is unclear, but experts agree the rare display is a sign of distress.

Ben Wilder, director of the University of Arizona’s Desert Laboratory, said last year was the driest on record in Tucson and he suspects this year’s strange bloom is a response to that.

Although he can’t prove it, Wilder said what’s happening now could be fallout from a run of record heat in 2017 that damaged many of the cacti, disrupting their development.

Drought since then has only made things worse, according to Peachey.

“The last several years haven’t been good for saguaros, so they haven’t grown much,” he told the Star.

As a result, the plants have fewer new spine clusters — known as areoles — from which flowers typically sprout, so they are “reactivating” old, unused budding locations farther down the stem.

Peachy has been studying the same, 2-acre grove of saguaros near Colossal Cave since 1997 and said he’s never seen anything like this.

In addition to the side blooms, some saguaros on Peachey’s plot are sporting crowns of flowers that are more tightly packed than usual.

The same thing is happening at Saguaro National Park, where visitors have been asking a lot of questions lately that staff members can’t answer just yet.

Other columnar cacti like the organ pipe and the Mexican giant cardon regularly sprout flowers along the sides of their stems. Saguaros almost never do — at least until recently.

Long-time park biologist Don Swann said the park launched a multiyear study of the unusual blooming activity after some limited reports of it in 2020.

“It’s just an interesting phenomenon that people had noticed but (that) hadn’t really been studied,” he said. “I don’t have data yet. We’re just sort of in the process of collecting data.”

Saguaros generally produce flowers in early May and bear fruit in early summer.

Their waxy white blossoms only stay open for a single day — just long enough, if they’re lucky, to be cross-pollinated by a honey bee, bat or bird.

Peachey said the seeds with the best chance for success tend to come from fruit produced during the last week to 10 days of June, “just in time to catch that first monsoon.”

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California man arrested after fleeing from troopers into CG mall
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CASA GRANDE — A California man is facing charges after he fled from state troopers and tried to hide himself in a department store, authorities said.

According to Pinal County Superior Court records, Wayne A. Esteen, 32, from Santa Monica, is charged with unlawful flight from a law enforcement vehicle.

At 7 p.m. on May 22, an Arizona Department of Public Safety trooper attempted to pull over a white BMW with California license plates for a traffic violation near mile marker 211 in Eloy.

Esteen, who was later identified as the driver of the BMW, allegedly sped off and began to cut through traffic at nearly 130 mph. The vehicle took exit 194 at Florence Boulevard in Casa Grande and allegedly ran a red light before turning north onto Mission Parkway.

Troopers set up a perimeter around the mall and located the BMW parked on the east side of PetSmart. Officers then searched PetSmart and Kohl’s department store. A man matching the description of the driver of the BMW was found inside Kohl’s and identified as Esteen.

Esteen allegedly gave troopers an ID with enough information to connect him as the driver of the BMW and show that his driver’s license had been revoked in California.