Biggs: White House aide ‘mistaken’ that he sought pardon after Jan. 6

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By Tracy Abiaka
Cronkite News

WASHINGTON – Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, this week denied he sought a pardon from then-President Donald Trump for any part in connection with the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol.

Biggs’ statement Thursday night came in response to video testimony earlier that day to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack. During that hearing, former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson named Biggs as one of several Republican lawmakers who sought pardons before Trump left office. Continue reading “Biggs: White House aide ‘mistaken’ that he sought pardon after Jan. 6”

House gives final OK to compromise gun-reform bill, first in decades

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By Morgan Fischer
Cronkite News

WASHINGTON – The House Friday gave final approval to a bipartisan gun-reform bill that is the first major federal gun safety legislation in decades, voting just hours after the measure cleared the Senate.

The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act is less restrictive than a pair of bills that passed the House a little more than two weeks ago, but House members appeared ready to accept what one called a “much-needed step” toward gun reform in the wake of recent mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde. Continue reading “House gives final OK to compromise gun-reform bill, first in decades”

Arizona officials decry, delight as Supreme Court ends abortion rights

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By Neetish Basnet
Cronkite News

WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court ruled Friday that there is no constitutional right to an abortion in the U.S., overturning nearly 50 years of precedence and returning the power to regulate abortions to the states.

In Arizona – where Planned Parenthood said it will suspend abortion services and the attorney general said a new, more restrictive abortion law can now take effect – reaction was swift, and ranged from advocates being “furious” to calling it “a great day.” Continue reading “Arizona officials decry, delight as Supreme Court ends abortion rights”

‘We will see desperation’: Planned Parenthood Arizona stops abortions after Roe v. Wade overturned

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By Sameer Malla
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – In the wake of Friday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade – eliminating the constitutional right to an abortion – Planned Parenthood Arizona announced it has shut down its abortion services, effective immediately, while it sorts through “Arizona’s tangled web of conflicting laws.”

Abortion opponents, meanwhile, said “life has won a great victory.”

“We are working diligently with our team of attorneys to understand Arizona’s tangled web of conflicting laws so we can ensure that our patients know what their rights are and how to access legal abortion,” Brittany Fonteno, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Arizona, said at a virtual news conference Friday.

The ruling, Fonteno said, will “serve to further our country’s disgraceful legacy of racism and discrimination, because it will have the greatest impact on Black, Indigenous, Latino and other people of color, young people and rural communities.”

She urged Arizonans to protest the court’s 6-3 decision.

“We have never before lost a constitutional right in the history of this country,” Fonteno said.

Thousands of protesters heeded the call and gathered at the Arizona Capitol on Friday night. Many carried signs decrying the Supreme Court’s ruling, with messages such as “My Body, My Choice,” as well as many more strongly worded messages. The crowd marched around the Capitol ground chanting, “Abortion is our right. We won’t give up this fight,” and other abortion-rights messages that had been distributed on small cards, and members of several groups, including event organizers Planned Parenthood, the Party for Socialism and Liberation and Radical Women, shared their frustration with the ruling.

But the activists were met by a smaller group of abortion opponents who displayed signs of their own or crosses.

The groups stayed peaceful until about 8:45 p.m. when, according to AZ Family, the Arizona Department of Public Safety deployed tear gas to scatter demonstrators who were banging on the glass of the Senate. DPS said the gas was also deployed at Wesley Bolin Plaza.

Abortion opponents: ‘Life wins’

As abortion-rights groups were preparing to take to the streets, abortion opponents were all smiles and tears of joy during a media conference Friday afternoon at the Arizona Family Counseling clinic in Phoenix.

“Today, life wins,” said Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy. “Roe will not see 50 (years), and we’re a better nation for it. The court’s decision rights a deadly decades-old wrong. Life is a human right, and we can no longer deny the humanity of the unborn child.”

State Sen. Nancy Barto, R-Phoenix, shared similar sentiments.

“Many of us in this room have been waiting for this moment,” Barto said. “Life has won a great victory through prayer, unity and 50 years of perseverance.”

The court’s ruling Friday in Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization paves the way for Arizona’s 15-week abortion ban to take effect. Signed by Gov. Doug Ducey in March, the law bans abortions after 15 weeks of gestation, except in a medical emergency. The law will take effect 90 days after the Legislature adjourns its current session, which is considered imminent.

“Attorneys general have a solemn responsibility to defend the most vulnerable among us, and that’s exactly what we did today,” said Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, a Repubican who’s running for governor. “I look forward to seeing the issue returned to elected representatives where it belongs. As Americans, we believe in the dignity and value of every person.”

Ducey tweeted on Friday morning:

“Roe v Wade was a poorly-reasoned ruling that had no Constitutional basis. The Supreme Court has made the right decision by finally overturning it and giving governing power back to the people and the states.

“I am proud that Arizona has been ranked the most pro-life state in the country. Here, we will continue to cherish life and protect it in every way possible.”

But others see the ruling and its effects as an affront to women.

‘My heart honestly is breaking’

The medical director of Planned Parenthood Arizona, Dr. Jill Gibson, called the decision and political pressure to limit the availability of abortions “devastating.”

“Today’s decision will be felt the hardest by Arizonans who already face discriminatory and systemic obstacles to health care,” she said, including people with disabilities, people who live far from the city, young people and undocumented people. “My heart honestly is breaking because this decision will cause immense suffering for women, and for their families – we will see desperation.

“Taking away access to abortion isn’t a theoretical talking point. This is real life for our patients. Our patients will now have to go to centers that are out of the state, they will struggle to find someone to watch their children so they can travel, they will have to beg for time off work from the two or three jobs that they’re holding down in order just to make their ends meet.”

Troy Hill contributed to this story.

For more stories from Cronkite News, visit cronkitenews.azpbs.org.

Alicia Nuanez marches with a crowd of abortion-rights activists at a demonstration at the Arizona Captiol in Phoenix on June 24, 2022. (Photo by Troy Hill/Cronkite News)
Abortion-rights activists gather at the Arizona Capitol on June 24, 2022, to protest the Supreme Court’s ruling overturning Roe v. Wade. (Photo by Troy HIll/Cronkite News)
Abortion-rights activists march around the Arizona Capitol grounds on June 24, 2022, to protest the Supreme Court’s ruling overturning Roe v. Wade. (Photo by Troy HIll/Cronkite News)
Anti-abortion demonstrators approach the group of abortion-rights protesters at the Arizona State Capitol in Phoenix on June 24, 2022. (Photo by Troy Hill/Cronkite News)
Bobbi Jean Forgey, a member of Radical Women, addresses the crowd at the abortion-rights protest at the Arizona State Capitol in Phoenix on June 24, 2022. (Photo by Troy Hill/Cronkite News)
Abortion-rights activists gather at the Arizona Capitol in Phoenix on June 24, 2022, to protest the Supreme Court’s ruling overturning Roe v. Wade. (Photo by Troy HIll/Cronkite News)
Abortion-rights activist were given cards with chants at the Arizona Capitol in Phoenix on June 24, 2022. (Photo by Troy Hill/Cronkite News)
Abortion-rights activists gather at the Arizona Capitol in Phoenix on June 24, 2022, to protest the Supreme Court’s ruling overturning Roe v. Wade. (Photo by Troy HIll/Cronkite News)

Cronkite News Digest for Friday, June 24

Here is your Cronkite News lineup for Friday, June 24. If you have questions on news stories from the Phoenix bureau, please contact Managing Editor for Digital Julia Thompson at 602-543-4610 or julia.thompson.1@asu.edu, while questions about stories from our Washington bureau should go to Steve Crane at 202-684-2398 or steve.crane@asu.edu. Sports story questions can be directed to Paola Boivin at paola.boivin@asu.edu. Clients who want to use Cronkite videos can find clean versions, and scripts, for download in a Dropbox – if interested, contact Managing Editor for Broadcast/Executive Producer Heather Dunn at 602-430-8764 or at  hdunn4@asu.edu for access. Stories promised for today, along with photos and links to multimedia elements, will post to our client site at cronkitenews.jmc.asu.edu/clients. Continue reading “Cronkite News Digest for Friday, June 24”

Passing on gas: Biden’s gas-tax holiday gets cool reception in Arizona

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By Neetish Basnet
Cronkite News

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden’s latest attempt to combat rising gas prices might be running on empty.

Biden on Wednesday urged lawmakers to suspend gasoline and diesel taxes on both federal and state levels for at least three months, in hopes of providing consumers direct relief from soaring prices at the pump.

But any tax holidays would have to be approved by Congress, where even some Democrats were cool to the idea, and by state lawmakers. While some states have already moved to temporarily suspend their gas taxes, Arizona is not one of them – nor is it likely to adopt the president’s plan. Continue reading “Passing on gas: Biden’s gas-tax holiday gets cool reception in Arizona”

Landlords asked to help solve homelessness through new Maricopa County initiative

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By Julio Ernesto Mora Rodriguez
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – The number of people experiencing homelessness is rising in Maricopa County, and with it the need for affordable housing. Enter Threshold, which intends to change the housing dynamic by inviting landlords to be part of the solution.

Threshold is a centralized network of resources to support property managers so they can provide more people with affordable housing. It’s operated by HOM Inc., an Arizona company working with nonprofits throughout the state to combat homelessness. The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors is funding Threshold through federal COVID-19 relief funds and general funds. Continue reading “Landlords asked to help solve homelessness through new Maricopa County initiative”

With Supreme Court on cusp of abortion ruling, Arizona advocates prepare

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By Tracy Abiaka
Cronkite News

WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court is expected to hand down a ruling restricting or overturning abortion rights within a matter of days, but Phoenix Dr. DeShawn Taylor has been getting ready for months.

“I’ve been doing this since the Supreme Court took up the case to begin with because in my mind, I felt that, why would the Supreme Court take up the case (if) they weren’t going to seriously consider overturning Roe V. Wade,” Taylor said, referring to the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision that recognized a right to an abortion.

A ruling overturning Roe could come as early as Thursday, when the court could release its decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a case challenging Mississippi’s law that prohibits most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Continue reading “With Supreme Court on cusp of abortion ruling, Arizona advocates prepare”

Firefighters get pay boost, say more needed as wildfires keep growing

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By Morgan Fischer
Cronkite News

WASHINGTON – Advocates welcomed the announcement this week that pay for federal firefighters will increase by as much as $20,000 this year, what one official called a potentially “life-changing” step for the chronically underpaid crews.

But they say more still needs to be done to attract and retain crews to the dangerous job of battling wildland blazes, as ever-larger fires rage and current firefighters leave for better-paying and safer work. They called Tuesday’s announcement by the White House, however, a step in the right direction. Continue reading “Firefighters get pay boost, say more needed as wildfires keep growing”

Heard Museum celebrates Pride Month with all-Native drag show

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By Nikita Chaturvedi
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – As the audience screamed its enthusiasm, the click of heels echoed across the hall. Indigenous drag queens took the stage to perform classic pop songs – gratefully accepting dollar bills from fans in the front row.

The Heard Museum, renowned for showcasing Indigenous art from around the world, opens its doors free of charge on the first Friday of each month. This month, First Friday showcased the museum’s inaugural Native Drag Show, which was limited to Indigenous queens, to celebrate Pride Month.

Continue reading “Heard Museum celebrates Pride Month with all-Native drag show”

Bowers: Trump efforts to overturn election devolved to ‘tragic parody’

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By Tracy Abiaka
Cronkite News

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. Continue reading “Bowers: Trump efforts to overturn election devolved to ‘tragic parody’”

Tampon shortage spotlights fight against ‘period poverty’

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By Cami Parrish
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – The latest supply chain problem – a shortage of feminine care items – has prompted Arizona advocates to renew calls for “period equity” to ensure that menstrual products are accessible and affordable for all.

These products are a necessity, not a luxury, advocates say, and lack of access can lead to disruptions at work or school, emotional stress, infections and potentially even death. Continue reading “Tampon shortage spotlights fight against ‘period poverty’”

As budget deadline nears, Arizona educators rally at Capitol to protest public school spending

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By Troy Hill
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – Members of the Arizona Education Association gathered Tuesday at the state Capitol to again ask lawmakers to funnel a bigger chunk of the state’s $5 billion budget surplus into public schools.

Marisol Garcia, president-elect of the organization, which represents more than 20,000 public school employees, blasted legislators for worrying about “impending economic impacts, when we know the economic impacts are hitting us right now in the classroom.” Continue reading “As budget deadline nears, Arizona educators rally at Capitol to protest public school spending”

New Juneteenth holiday gains acceptance – slowly – in Arizona, elsewhere

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By Neetish Basnet
Cronkite News

WASHINGTON – It took more than two years for news of the Emancipation Proclamation to reach the last enslaved people in Texas – and it may take as long to win wide acceptance for the new federal holiday marking that event.

Juneteenth, designated a federal holiday just last year, meant a day off for most federal workers Monday, but not for workers in half the states, including Arizona. It was recognized by some cities, but not by others, and just 30% of private businesses this year gave their workers the day off.

But supporters say the national holiday, years in the making, is a “big deal.” They said they intend to keep raising awareness about the day and what it means as a celebration of the “independence and freedom of Black people in the United States.” Continue reading “New Juneteenth holiday gains acceptance – slowly – in Arizona, elsewhere”

Steeped in Black history, Eastlake Park celebrates Juneteenth

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By Taylor Corlew
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – Certain landmarks symbolize more than simply the region in which they’re located. Some, like historic Eastlake Park, are rooted in the sense of community, culture and history.

The Eastlake Park Community Center threw its annual Juneteenth celebration Saturday, a tradition since the early 1920s. Eastlake Park has been a haven for the Black community in Phoenix for quite some time, playing a central role in the community during many social movements in Arizona. Continue reading “Steeped in Black history, Eastlake Park celebrates Juneteenth”

‘Springs are sentinels’: NAU team studies how spring water affects ecosystems

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By Troy Hill
Cronkite News

FLAGSTAFF – Springs are immensely important to Arizona’s ecosystems and its people, and springs can tell us a lot about both, according to Abe Springer, whose Northern Arizona University research team studies spring water and groundwater and their effects on the environment.

For the past 10 years, the professor of ecohydrogeology and a team of NAU researchers, including graduate students, have monitored and collected data from springs throughout the Coconino National Forest and the Grand Canyon National Park. The versatility of springs allows graduate students to study effects on Arizona’s ecosystems and economies while contributing to our understanding of climate change. Continue reading “‘Springs are sentinels’: NAU team studies how spring water affects ecosystems”

Dreamer drama: Arizona man hopes play about his life drives DACA discussion

EDS: A previous version of this story misstated, in the ninth graf, Valdovinos’ age when he talked with a Marine recruiter, as well as the nature of that recruiter’s relationship to Valdovinos’ high school. The story below has been corrected, but clients who used earlier versions are asked to run the correction found here.

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By Tracy Abiaka
Cronkite News

NEW YORK – Tony Valdovinos is sitting outside New World Stages, a performing arts complex in Manhattan where his life story has been taking center stage in the musical “¡Americano!” for weeks now.

The former Arizona resident is talking about the need to continue the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program – what he calls a “saving grace” in his life – and the role his story plays in that fight. And he’s talking about meeting Barack Obama. Again.

Obama visited the show recently, 13 years after Valdovinos and other immigration activists asked the then-president for help. He said Obama told them to organize, organize, organize. Continue reading “Dreamer drama: Arizona man hopes play about his life drives DACA discussion”

Orange goes green: ASU mall earns certification for sustainable landscapes

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By Emma VandenEinde
Cronkite News

TEMPE – Palm trees, bushes and succulents line Orange Mall in the heart of Arizona State University’s Tempe campus. Water trickles across rocks next to the walkways, which are studded with shaded spots for students to gather. Some noisy birds and a chorus of skateboards whizzing across the pavers break the silence.

But this mini oasis is more than just a campus space. It’s a sustainable landscape in the desert, one that conserves water, improves the soil and lowers ambient temperatures. Continue reading “Orange goes green: ASU mall earns certification for sustainable landscapes”

A decade of DACA helped thousands in Arizona; advocates say more needed

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By Daisy Gonzalez-Perez
Cronkite News

WASHINGTON – It wasn’t a great job – dishwasher – but Mario Montoya was happy because it was his first job and because he needed money for the prom.

But Montoya was happy for another reason, too: The undocumented Mesa resident was only able to work because he was one of the first beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program when it took effect 10 years ago.

“My life would have been completely different if DACA never came to life,” said Montoya, now 24 and a college graduate. “I don’t know if I would’ve gone to college, or finished it, or thought about it. I wouldn’t be able to work to provide for myself. Continue reading “A decade of DACA helped thousands in Arizona; advocates say more needed”

Former coach keeps spotlight on Russian detention of Brittney Griner

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By Morgan Fischer
Cronkite News

WASHINGTON – A plain shirt, a pin, a number.

For the past 41 days, basketball legend Dawn Staley has posted that photo to her social media accounts, just one part of the outpouring of support for Phoenix Mercury star Brittney Griner, who has been held in a Russian jail since Feb. 17.

The pin is the orange-and-black “WeAreBG” logo sported by Griner’s supporters, and the number is a count of the days Griner has been held – 120 as of Friday. Continue reading “Former coach keeps spotlight on Russian detention of Brittney Griner”