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School voucher expansion set for Legislative votes

PHOENIX (AP) - The Arizona Legislature is poised to vote on a major expansion of a school voucher program giving parents state money to pay their children's private school tuition.

The Senate plans to debate a bill authorizing the expansion Wednesday and the House an identical measure on Thursday. Final votes are expected this week.

The so-called Empowerment Scholarship Accounts were created in 2011 as a small program aimed at children with disabilities. The program was expanded last year.

This year's major expansion originally allowed as 850,000 of the state's more than 1.1 million public school students to qualify. But Republican Rep. Debbie Lesko says a planned amendment will cut that number to about 100,000 low-income students. A cap allows only an additional 5,400 students a year to use the vouchers.


4 pro-gun bills get approval in Arizona Senate

PHOENIX (AP) - The Arizona Senate has approved four major pro-gun bills.

The bills allow concealed carry permit holders to take guns into government buildings that don't have strict security measures, ban municipalities from restricting the discharge of firearms on private property and punish cities and towns that enact gun ordinances stricter than the state's own laws. Another bill allows law enforcement to charge someone who wrests a gun from another person's hands with aggravated assault, even though it is already a felony offense to take someone's gun.

Republicans say 2nd Amendment rights are under attack. Most Democrats voted against the gun bills.

The bills will go back to the House for final approval.


Phoenix-area sites searched in drug investigation

PHOENIX (AP) - The Arizona Department of Public Safety and Phoenix-area law enforcement agencies have conducted numerous raids following a months-long investigation into illegal drug sales by criminal street gangs.

The Phoenix Police Department said in advance of a scheduled Wednesday afternoon news conference that participating agencies served search warrants on 16 locations in Phoenix and one in Avondale.

According to a police statement on the investigation dubbed "Operation Southland," the trafficking involved PCP, crack cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine in Phoenix and other parts of Arizona.

Agencies participating included in the raids included the Phoenix police, the DPS, the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office and the Scottsdale, Mesa, Gilbert and Chandler police departments.


Sheriff: Body found in car was missing defendant

PHOENIX (AP) - The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office confirms that a man whose dead body found in a parked car in Peoria was a missing murder suspect from Sun City.

Sheriff's spokesman Joaquin Enriquez says 79-year-old Howard Rudolph was found with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest.

Rudolph had been awaiting trial in the shooting death of his 73-year-old wife last August in what was called a mercy killing.

An arrest warrant was issued after he didn't appear for a court hearing Monday.

Rudolph was released to the custody of his friends in February while being subject to electronic monitoring.

Sheriff's officials said Tuesday that Rudolph had cut off his electronic monitoring ankle-bracelet.


Flagstaff homeless site begins closings at night

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) - The seasonal nighttime closing of Flagstaff's largest shelter for the homeless means dozens are heading for the woods in and around the northern Arizona city in search of places to stay.

Facility Director Stephen Tomasello of Flagstaff Shelter Services says some people have found alternate housing but that most have nowhere else to go.

Flagstaff bans camping but the Arizona Daily Sun reports that some homeless people are nevertheless expected to camp within city limits to be near services.

Tomasello says the nighttime closing each spring is a budget reality for Flagstaff Shelter Services.

The nonprofit continues to offer daytime services that include food, laundry and computers.

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