Following a 2018 election in which ballot processing continued weeks after the polls closed and results in some of the state’s biggest races flip-flopped (see: Sinema vs. McSally and Hobbs vs. Gaynor), legislators are discussing ways to abbreviate the counting process. The biggest culprit for delayed results: mail-in ballots that voters drop off at a polling place on Election Day. Counties don’t even begin to process these ballots, hundreds of thousands of them, until the days following the election.
Frustration with this situation led Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita (R-Scottsdale) to introduce a package of election reform bills, which were heard this week in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bills are:
• SB 1046: restricts in-person early voting to people who are not on the early voting list and prohibits county election officials from counting mail-in ballots dropped at a polling place.
• SB 1054: requires county election officials to verify early ballots for no more than five days after the election.
• SB 1072: requires voters at early voting locations to show the same identification they would at a regular polling location.
Legislative Democrats and progressive organizations such as the Arizona Advocacy Network and ProgressNow Arizona oppose the bills, saying they’d create new barriers to voting. Supporters, on the other hand, counter that the weeks-long vote counting erodes public confidence in elections and could create a crisis in the circumstance that control of a particularly vital office (hmmm) hangs in the balance. After a lengthy and contentious hearing, all three Ugenti bills passed the committee on a party-line vote.
Democratic legislators have election reforms of their own. Rep. Raquel Teran (D-Phoenix) has introduced bills that permit same-day registration on Election Day and automatic voter registration when applying for a driver’s license, and House Co-Whip Reginald Bolding (D-Phoenix) has introduced a measure outlining a “Voters’ Bill of Rights” in the Arizona Constitution.
Consumer Alert: AG Brnovich Warns of Increase in Social Security Administration Scams
Attorney General Mark Brnovich is warning Arizonans about con artists pretending to be from the Social Security Administration (SSA) scheming to obtain victims’ Social Security numbers and access to their financials. In many cases, scammers go as far as spoofing the SSA's number so as to appear to be from the government.
[...] “Our office has seen an increase in consumer complaints involving Social Security Administration scams,” said Attorney General Mark Brnovich. “These con artists can be very intimidating and convincing over the phone. They’ve also figured out a way to spoof their phone number, so the number appears to be calling from the Social Security Administration’s national customer service number. It’s important for Arizonans to remember legitimate government offices will not threaten you, demand money, or ask for access to your bank accounts over the phone.”
[...] The FTC is also working to address this issue. Consumers can find several additional tips on the FTC blog.
Read more HERE
Senate committee approves vaping restrictions
Arizona Capitol Times
Hoping to curb teen use, state lawmakers are moving to put new restrictions on where and how vaping devices can be sold.
Without dissent, the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services voted Wednesday to classify both the devices and the liquids that they burn as tobacco products. That would make them subject to all the same restrictions in Arizona law as cigarettes.
[...] One big issue is that Arizona law forbids the sale of cigarettes online. McKay does not want a similar restriction on vaping devices.
And he fears that such a change could make the devices subject to the same taxes now imposed on tobacco products.
[...] Andrew LeFevre, executive director of the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission, said the latest survey of teens show more than 25 percent of high school seniors reported using a vaping device in the past 30 days, what he said is an indicator of regular use.
Read more HERE
Financial Literacy Is Becoming a Requirement in Schools
About 63 percent of the nation's residents could not pass a basic financial literacy quiz. According to the Federal Reserve Board, 40 percent of U.S. adults don’t have enough savings to cover a $400 emergency.
This reality has prompted some to wonder whether students are learning enough about how to manage money. According to the Center for Financial Literacy at Champlain College, they're not.
[...] Recently, several states have made financial literacy lessons more of a priority for students even before they're old enough to get a job.
[...] Utah State Treasurer David Damschen says he understands the potential challenges states can face with allocating money or providing resources for personal finance lessons. Utah was the only state to receive an A+ in Champlain’s report, but Damschen believes even his state has room for improvement. Funding for such programs is "inadequate," he says, and changing the education culture to consistently and effectively embrace financial literacy as a necessary curriculum subject can be difficult.
Read more HERE
Veridus clients in the news
Arizona school seeks to train more mechanics amid looming worker shortage
Paul Cater's interest in auto mechanics dates back to helping his father work on a 1971 Buick Skylark as a kid.
"Ever since then," he said. "I've been tinkering, messing with engines and cars."
Following service with the Marines, the 24-year-old Alabama native moved to Arizona to study mechanics — especially big Cummins commercial-truck engines on the Avondale campus operated by Phoenix-based Universal Technical Institute.
After graduating next month, Cater hopes to land a job with Cummins, Caterpillar or another company that makes large diesel engines — and Universal Technical Institute hopes to enroll more students like him as the nation faces a shortage of mechanics for small passenger cars, big commercial trucks and everything in between.
"There's a tremendous need for technicians right now," said John Norlington, a recruiter for Sewell, a family-owned network of 17 auto dealerships in Texas. He traveled to UTI's Avondale campus for a Jan. 17 career fair. About two dozen other companies from Tesla to Carvana to Knight Transportation also attended.
"We'd be happy to hire more GM-specific guys," Norlington said, referring to students who have specialized in vehicles made by General Motors. "We have hired about 40 graduates of (UTI's) GM program over the last three years."
Plenty of job openings
Auto mechanics are in demand.
The U.S. Labor Department projects an average of around 120,000 annual job openings in coming years in the automotive, diesel and collision-repair industries. Many of the jobs have become technically more demanding.
"Auto mechanic skills are becoming increasingly complex with the growth in automobile electronics," noted researcher IBISWorld in a report. That complexity discourages consumers from conducting as many repairs on their own. Job openings are plentiful, as many younger adults lose interest in the profession, the company added.
Mechanics earn about $33,000 nationally on average, IBISWorld estimates.
An interactive job board at the Avondale campus of Universal Technical Institute lists 6,000 to 7,000 positions for mechanics across the nation, and roughly that many new jobs open each month, said Adrian Cordova, a company vice president for regional operations. "There's probably eight to 10 opportunities for every graduate," he said.
UTI has more than 10,000 students enrolled at its 13 campuses around the U.S., including the one in Avondale and another in Phoenix. About 70 percent of the company's students graduate, and 80 percent of graduates find employment in the industry within a year, Cordova said.
[...] UTI partners with more than 30 vehicle manufacturers at the Avondale facility. Many automakers provide vehicles for students to work on and award credentials to students who complete manufacturer-specific coursework. "Our partnership with industry is very important," Cordova said.
[...] The Avondale program also offers an industrial-welding program, and other UTI campuses have other specialties, such as motorcycle maintenance at the company's Phoenix campus.
Read more HERE
Charters have been an education innovation
Lisa Graham Keegan and Armando Ruiz
For most of Arizona’s existence, where a student attended public school was determined solely by their address.
Affluent families could afford to move to the school of their choice or pay for private education. Poor students were trapped with whatever school they were assigned.
This was segregation based on income rather than race — an exclusionary system in which ZIP code was the greatest predictor of a student’s access to a quality education. Generations were victimized, especially low-income students of color, as a cycle of poverty was perpetuated.
The dynamic began to change 25 years ago, when Arizona adopted policies creating public charter schools and granting students open enrollment across district boundaries.
It was an education revolution.
For the first time, every Arizona parent was empowered to select a tuition-free, public school of their choice. No longer could well-to-do school districts charge exorbitant admission fees to students living on the wrong side of an arbitrary district boundary. A wave of charter schools soon came to life — back-to-basics academies; schools focused on science and technology, performing arts; and more.
Parents know their children best; teachers know how to build what students need. These are the school-choice movement’s guiding principles.
We’ve learned a lot along the way.
The charter application process has been tightened so that only the strongest school plans move forward. Once a school opens, it must meet strict academic requirements or face penalty – and, ultimately, closure — by the Arizona State Board for Charter Schools. In 2018, Gov. Doug Ducey and legislators gave the board enhanced power to take action against charter schools for financial misconduct.
Watch for charter reforms in the weeks ahead that will provide added safeguards for taxpayer dollars while improving transparency and accountability within Arizona’s public charter schools.
Now, the challenge facing policymakers is to strike an appropriate balance that prevents abuse of the public trust without destroying the very flexibility and autonomy that have made charter schools successful.
The fact is, charter schools have been the greatest force in our lifetime for educational improvement, innovation and equity. Consider:
❚ Arizona charter students of every racial and ethnic group are outperforming the statewide average among their peers on the state AzMERIT assessment;
❚ If measured as their own state, 8th grade Arizona charter students would rank No. 1 nationally in math and No. 2 in reading, according to their scores on the 2017 NAEP test;
❚ More than 3 out of 4 Arizona charter students attend an “A” or “B”-rated school.
Academic results like these have Arizona families flocking to charter schools. The sector has grown to include more than 550 schools serving nearly 200,000 students. Charter enrollment has almost doubled in the last decade.
Clearly, charter schools are giving parents what they want.
Further regulatory reforms are warranted if they improve this system of choice to the benefit of students and taxpayers. But policymakers would be wise to avoid hostile regulations intended only to reduce a parent’s power to select the school best for their child.
After nearly a quarter-century, “school choice” is now an Arizona birthright. Parents won’t give up this freedom without a fight.
Read more HERE
MPAA Welcomes Netflix as New Member
The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has added Netflix as a new member of the global trade association that advocates on behalf of the film and television industry.
“On behalf of the MPAA and its member companies, I am delighted to welcome Netflix as a partner,” said MPAA Chairman and CEO Charles Rivkin. “All of our members are committed to pushing the film and television industry forward, in both how we tell stories and how we reach audiences. Adding Netflix will allow us to even more effectively advocate for the global community of creative storytellers, and I look forward to seeing what we can all achieve together.”
[...] Netflix joins other leading producers of film and television content that make up the MPAA, including Disney, Paramount, Sony, Fox, Universal, and Warner Bros.
Read more HERE
Why You Should Consider Banking 'A Righteous Career'
When bankers are portrayed in the media, they're either ethically compromised narcissists (Gordon Gekko of Wall Street; Jordon Belfort of The Wolf of Wall Street) or buffoons (Milburn Drysdale of The Beverly Hillbillies). For Paul Hickman, however, banking is a "righteous career," because its focus is on helping consumers and business-owners realize their dreams.
Hickman is president and CEO of the Arizona Bankers Association, a state chapter of the American Bankers Association. In this continuing series about the role that character plays in the financial services industry, Hickman discusses the importance of banking in our society and why ethical leadership is the key to success.
[...] Read more HERE