Arizona governor signs virtual border fence bill
PHOENIX (AP) - Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has signed a bill allowing Arizona to build a "virtual fence" along the Arizona-Mexico border but providing no money to do so.
House Bill 2462 was signed Wednesday and would allow the state to place high-technology radar and video sensors on 300 towers along 375 miles of the border to monitor human and drug-smuggling activity. The sensors would send signals to a publicly accessible site and could also be monitored by law enforcement agencies.
The proposal from Sen. Bob Worsley of Mesa originally had a $30 million appropriation but it now only says a virtual fence could be built.
The federal government tried to construct a "virtual fence" along the border in 2006 but abandoned the project in 2011 after spending more than $1 billion.
House sides with ridesharing services Uber, Lyft
PHOENIX (AP) - The Arizona House has given final approval to a bill that exempts Uber and other rideshare companies from the same regulations that traditional taxi and limo companies have.
House Bill 2262 exempts rideshare companies from the commercial insurance requirement that affects traditional taxi, limo and livery companies by not requiring that drivers be insured at all times on the job. It also would not require that rideshare drivers be drug tested. It would require that Uber insure its drivers with $1 million policies.
The insurance, banking and taxi industries oppose the bill.
Uber and Lyft launched aggressive public relations and social media campaigns to push for the approval of the bill.
The bill was approved Wednesday with a 31-22 vote. It will now go to the governor.
Laser pointing at aircraft could be tried locally
PHOENIX (AP) - The Arizona House has given final approval to a bill that would allow county attorneys to prosecute people charged with pointing a laser at aircraft.
The bill sponsored by Tucson Republican Rep. Ethan Orr would originally have made pointing a laser at aircraft a class 5 felony, but an amendment adopted by the Senate lowers that to a misdemeanor.
Pointing a laser at aircraft is already a federal offense. But Orr says federal prosecutors rarely go after offenders and that he wants to give local prosecutors "more teeth."
The Federal Aviation Administration reported nearly 4,000 incidents of lasers being pointed at aircraft in 2013, a more than 40 percent increase since 2010.
The House approved House Bill 2164 with a 46-7 vote Wednesday. The bill now goes to the governor.
Senate passes elections agency curb bill
PHOENIX (AP) - A bill preventing the Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission from investigating possible campaign contribution violations by candidates who don't participate in the program is headed to the governor's desk.
Senate Bill 1344 would allow only the Secretary of State and state Attorney General to investigate.
The bill failed in the House on Monday but passed on reconsideration Tuesday.
It failed again in the Senate on Wednesday but then passed on reconsideration.
The final vote was 16-12.
Proponents say the commission doesn't have authority to investigate candidates who don't take public campaign funding.
The commission says they do have authority and announced last year it planned to begin doing so. The Citizens Clean Elections Act provides funding to candidates if they forgo private donations.
The House added language changing independent expenditure rules.
School voucher bill heads to governor
PHOENIX (AP) - The Arizona Senate has given final approval to a bill that would help expedite the approval process for parents of some students in the state school voucher program.
But the other major component of Senate Bill 1237 was stripped out by an amendment on Wednesday. That provision would have allowed the Arizona Department of Education to give all students in the program an extra funding that is meant for students who leave charter schools.
The Arizona Empowerment Scholarship Accounts program was created in 2011.
SB1237 allow parents of special needs children enrolled in the program to get verification from an independent contractor that would allow them to receive extra funding, instead of going through the school district the child previously attended. The bill passed 25-3 and now goes to the governor.
Yarnell Hill memorial site plan goes to governor
PHOENIX (AP) - The Arizona House has given final approval to a bill creating a memorial site honoring the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots who died in the Yarnell Hill Fire last year.
House Bill 2624 passed unanimously on Wednesday. A half-million dollars to pay for the memorial was included in the state budget.
The bill also gives the firefighters' survivors the chance to buy the site themselves.
The bill creates a committee to oversee the memorial and administer the fund and any donations for the purchase. The committee would include relatives of the firefighters, state representatives and state parks board officials.
All but one of the 20 Hotshots on the Prescott-based crew perished in the fire on June 30.
The bill now heads to the governor for consideration.
House gives nod to new alert system for elderly
PHOENIX (AP) - The Arizona House of Representatives has approved a bill creating a new alert system for missing seniors who disappear unexpectedly.
The House unanimously approved the bill on Wednesday.
Senate Bill 1097 would create a "Silver Alert" system modeled after Amber Alerts, which notify the public when a child has gone missing. The bill would require the state Department of Public Safety to coordinate emergency alerts for seniors who have gone missing and who are thought to be in danger. Local law enforcement must conduct an exhaustive search before an alert goes public.
The bill will now go to the Senate for a final vote.
Bill targeting assisted suicide goes to governor
PHOENIX (AP) - The Arizona House has given final approval to a bill that aims to make it easier to prosecute people who help someone commit suicide.
Republican Rep. Justin Pierce of Mesa says his bill will make it easier for attorneys to prosecute people for manslaughter for assisting in suicide by more clearly defining what it means to "assist."
House Bill 2565 defines assisting in suicide as providing the physical means used to commit suicide, such as a gun. The bill originally also defined assisted suicide as "offering" the means to commit suicide, but a Senate amendment omitted that word.
The proposal was prompted by a difficult prosecution stemming from a 2007 assisted suicide in Maricopa County.
The House approved the bill 35-19 Wednesday. It will now go to the governor's desk.
Maricopa County deputies shoot, kill suspect
GOODYEAR, Ariz. (AP) - A Maricopa County sheriff's spokesman says a man wanted for questioning in a fatal shooting was shot and killed by authorities in Goodyear.
Lt. Brandon Jones says detectives confronted 26-year-old Jesus Chacon on Wednesday morning outside a Circle K convenience store.
Jones says Chacon reached for a weapon and ignored commands to put it down.
According to Jones, multiple shots were fired and Chacon was struck in the abdomen.
He later died at a hospital but no detectives were hurt.
Jones says Chacon was wanted for stealing a gun in a home burglary.
Authorities believe that gun was used to kill 51-year-old Mark Meginley, whose body was found last week near Buckeye.
Chacon says the Circle K and part of Litchfield Road near Interstate 10 will remain closed.
Arizona officers search for auto theft suspects
RYE, Ariz. (AP) - Law enforcement agents are searching in Gila County for two men who crashed a stolen vehicle before fleeing on foot.
Authorities say the chase started Wednesday afternoon when an officer tried to make a traffic stop. The vehicle rammed a pickup truck and sped north on state highway 87 near Rye.
Officer Carrick Cook with the Arizona Department of Public Safety says the vehicle eventually stopped and the two men got out and ran. Inside, officers found two handguns.
The highway was briefly shutdown as a result of the chase.
Tactical officers with the Department of Public Safety, the U.S. Forest Service and other agencies were helping with the search Wednesday night.
Arizona man gets probation in ecstasy bust
PHOENIX (AP) - An Arizona man who was charged in connection with an ecstasy-manufacturing operation found inside a student apartment near Arizona State University has been sentenced.
Judge Harriett Chavez on Wednesday ordered Malik Hooper to serve 18 months of supervised probation and to complete 100 hours of community service. He must also pay a $3,660 fine.
The court says Hooper pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of possession of drug paraphernalia.
Hooper was one of five people arrested after detectives with the Arizona Department of Public Safety uncovered the pill factory in December.
The bust stemmed from a traffic stop along Interstate 17. A search of the vehicle turned up a backpack that was loaded with ecstasy pills and cocaine.
Crash site at Grand Canyon a national landmark
GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK, Ariz. (AP) - The site of a 1956 plane crash at the Grand Canyon that killed 128 people has been designated a national landmark.
The announcement was made Wednesday by Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis.
Two planes collided on June 30, 1956, as they were flying 21,000 feet over the canyon near the confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado rivers. All people aboard the two flights died.
The Federal Aviation Administration says the crash spurred discussion in Congress on managing airspace and controlling air traffic.
Federal officials say improvements that resulted from the crash included collision avoidance systems and flight data recorders.
Some 2,540 sites across the country are designated national landmarks. Jewell says they serve as reminders of triumph, tragedy, public service and artistic beauty.
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