PHOENIX — Some international news crept into the Legislature this week with the death of Kayla Mueller, the Prescott woman who was killed after being kidnapped at the hands of Islamic State militants.
Gov. Doug Ducey ordered state flags to be flown at half-staff, and moments of silence were held throughout the Capitol during the week.
New child safety director
At a press conference on Tuesday, Ducey announced that he fired the director of the Arizona Department of Child Safety, Charles Flanagan, and replaced him with Greg McKay, the investigator who uncovered that the agency had left more than 6,500 cases of abuse uninvestigated.
“When it comes to Arizona’s record of safeguarding children — our most vulnerable — our state government has come up woefully short,” Ducey said.
He said the state’s child welfare agency needed a new direction just about eight months after DCS was created under Gov. Jan Brewer with Flanagan, who had been in charge of the agency’s predecessor, at its helm.
McKay said he was dedicated to the issue of child safety.
“Whatever has taken precedent over this mission is to be discarded immediately,” he said.
Center for Arizona Policy Day
Following up on that announcement, Ducey addressed the influential Center for Arizona Policy on Wednesday and called on it to help the child safety situation in the state. The group was behind last year’s controversial Senate Bill 1062, which critics derided as discriminatory against members of the LGBTQ community.
Ducey told hundreds of conservative and antiabortion activists that they should reengage in child welfare, helping children who are now outside the womb.
“These are the most vulnerable in our society and are, in many situations, not being cared for properly,” he said.
Cathi Herrod, president of CAP, then proceeded to interview Ducey at the podium, asking him about his time so far as governor and prayer.
Herrod later went to the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services to testify in favor of a bill that would provide for tighter regulations on abortion in the state.
SB 1318 would prohibit abortion coverage under the federal health care exchange and require doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges to local hospitals. The committee approved the bill down party lines to the applause of those in the audience, which is prohibited during committee meetings.
Ducey, Douglas spar
On Wednesday, Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas announced the firing of two top State Board of Education officials, but Ducey responded by saying she had no authority to do so.
Douglas fired back on Thursday with a statement to the media where she said Ducey now views himself as both governor and superintendent of schools.
“[Gov.] Ducey has refused to take calls or meetings with me personally since his swearing in,” Douglas said in her statement. “Clearly he has established a shadow faction of charter school operators and former state Superintendents who support Common Core and moving funds from traditional public schools to charter schools.”
Ducey responded that he was “disappointed” with Douglas.
Beer, beer, beer
Beer dominated the conversation at the Capitol Monday afternoon when microbrewery supporters descended on the Capitol to rally for SB 1030. The bill from Sen. Kelli Ward, R-Lake Havasu City, would raise production caps for microbreweries to allow them to continue operating restaurants.
“Beer puts people to work, and we should be ensuring craft brewers have a path for responsible growth,” Ward told supporters holding green signs supporting SB 1030 on the Senate lawn.
The microbrewery supporters weren’t just there to back SB 1030. They also came to oppose competing legislation that would keep in place the system where producers, distributors and retailers are separate. That bill, SB 1437, sponsored by Sen. Steve Smith, R-Maricopa, also has supporters in the alcohol industry and was heard in the Senate Committee on Commerce and Workforce Development along with SB 1030.
After hours of debate and testimony, the committee approved SB 1030, and Smith held his bill in hopes of finding compromise later.
No samples were made available.