NewsThe West

Out West Roundup: Arizona lawmaker expelled for harassment files $1.3M claim

Author: Associated Press - April 20, 2018 - Updated: April 23, 2018

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In this Feb. 14, 2017, file photo, state Rep. Don Shooter is seen on the floor of the Arizona House in Phoenix. Shooter, the former Arizona representative who became the first state lawmaker expelled for sexual misconduct since the #MeToo movement swept the nation in October 2017, has filed a $1.3-million claim against the House speaker and Gov. Doug Ducey's chief of staff. (AP Photo/Bob Christie, File)In this Feb. 14, 2017, file photo, state Rep. Don Shooter is seen on the floor of the Arizona House in Phoenix. Shooter is a former Arizona representative who became the first state lawmaker expelled for sexual misconduct since the #MeToo movement. (AP Photo/Bob Christie, File)

Arizona

Arizona lawmaker expelled for harassment files $1.3M claim

PHOENIX — A former Arizona representative who became the first state lawmaker expelled for sexual misconduct since the #MeToo movement swept the nation filed a $1.3 million claim this week against the House speaker and Gov. Doug Ducey’s chief of staff.

The claim filed by former Rep. Don Shooter as a precursor to a lawsuit says he was targeted by the governor’s office because of his efforts to expose widespread fraud in the state procurement system. The claim says House Speaker J.D. Mesnard changed House rules and policies on harassment to remove Shooter from his committee chair post and ultimately to force a Feb. 1 expulsion vote.

Ducey’s office called Shooter’s filings “desperate claims by a disgraced, ousted lawmaker” and said they are untrue. Mesnard said he hadn’t read the claim and couldn’t immediately comment.

Shooter was accused by a female lawmaker, Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, of harassment in November. Other women soon came forward.

Shooter eventually apologized for what he called his “jarring, insensitive and demeaning” comments but argued that he never sought to touch anyone or have a sexual relationship with them.

The 56-3 vote for expulsion came after Shooter made an impassioned floor speech where he said he had said and done stupid things but “I stood on the carpet, I took it like a man, I apologized.”

Shooter’s claim said the expulsion was meant “only to remove the burr under the Governor’s saddle that Representative Shooter had become due to his attempts to uncover evidence of steering, no-bid contracts and other non-competitive procurement processes.”

North Dakota

Deadly disease spreads to more North Dakota bighorn herds

BISMARCK, North Dakota — Deadly bacterial pneumonia among bighorn sheep in the North Dakota Badlands spread to three previously unaffected herds last year, resulting in the smallest estimated population in more than a decade.

State wildlife officials are still confident that this year’s fall hunting season will be held, though possibly with fewer licenses.

Game and Fish Department biologists counted 265 bighorns in a population survey that was completed in March with the recounting of lambs to see how many survived the winter.

“Fortunately, adult mortality was low in previously affected herds, and lamb survival improved as well, which could indicate those herds initially exposed to the deadly pathogens in 2014 are beginning to recover,” big game biologist Brett Wiedmann said.

The outbreak of disease four years ago killed about three dozen sheep, leading Game and Fish to cancel the fall hunting season in 2015 for the first time in more than three decades. The agency reinstated hunting in 2016 after the deaths tapered off but reduced licenses in 2017 after a summer survey documented a significant drop in the number of rams, which hunters seek for their trophy horns.

Bighorn hunting is popular in North Dakota, with thousands of people typically applying for fewer than 10 licenses. The licenses are distributed through a lottery, except for one that is auctioned off every year by the Midwest Chapter of the Wild Sheep Foundation to raise money for sheep management. Five licenses were issued last year, down from eight the previous year.

A decision on this year’s hunting season will be made in September, after a summer survey of the sheep population.

Wyoming

Most Wyoming GOP candidates for governor won’t take no-tax pledge

CHEYENNE – Most of Wyoming’s Republican candidates for governor won’t be taking a no-tax pledge leading up to the August primary.

Wyoming Prosperity, a far-right economic policy group headed by Sven Larson, has characterized the state’s GOP gubernatorial candidates as being in two camps: those committed to opposing tax increases and those he said are less clear. Larson has been strongly critical of Republican Gov. Matt Mead and others in the GOP for policies Larson believes don’t comport with his brand of fiscal conservatism.

With a busy Republican primary to be the next governor, Larson put out a no-tax pledge in late March and called on the candidates to take it.

Of the six Republicans seeking the governor’s office in 2018, only State Treasurer Mark Gordon of Buffalo has experience in elected office.

Earlier this month, Larson announced just one Republican candidate, Taylor Haynes of Laramie, had taken his no-tax pledge.

“(Haynes) called the others out and said, ‘Where are you on this issue?’” Larson said. “‘Are you or are you not going to raise taxes?’ That gives him a distinct advantage.”

Kansas

Kansas officials find $80M error in school funding measure

TOPEKA, Kansas — Kansas officials have discovered an error in a public school funding bill lawmakers approved that lowers the size of its spending increase by at least $80 million, potentially complicating the state’s efforts to satisfy a court mandate.

Republican Gov. Jeff Colyer still plans to sign the bill and will work with the GOP-controlled Legislature to fix the flaw, a spokesman said. But the fix might come only days before an April 30 deadline to report to the state Supreme Court on how lawmakers have addressed education funding problems.

The bill approved by lawmakers was meant to phase in a $534 million spending increase over five years, and with the flaw, the figure is $454 million or perhaps a little less.

In Kansas, local school districts impose local property taxes to supplement their state dollars. Legislators included a provision setting a minimum for local tax revenues to be raised and counted those dollars toward the state’s total aid. Instead of allowing a mere accounting move, though, the technical language inadvertently created a calculation that replaced state dollars with local dollars.

And, with “the train barreling down the track,” few lawmakers, even those heavily involved in the school funding debate, had much time to review the details, said Rep. Melissa Rooker, a Kansas City-area Republican.

“It’s disappointing. It’s frustrating. It’s maddening,” she said. “It’s a giant mess.”

The high court ruled in October that the state’s current education funding of more than $4 billion a year isn’t sufficient under the Kansas Constitution for lawmakers to finance a suitable education for every child.

The Legislature is taking its annual 2 1/2-week spring break and is not scheduled to reconvene until April 26.

New Mexico

Museum stalls Hiroshima exhibit over nuke weapon ban push

A museum in Los Alamos, New Mexico — a once-secret New Mexico city that developed the atomic bomb which helped end World War II — has put an exhibit from Japan on hold because of its theme of abolishing nuclear weapons.

The Los Alamos Historical Museum won’t host a traveling exhibit organized by the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum until all parties can work out their differences over the theme.

The exhibit, which features articles of clothing, exposed plates, and other personal items from victims, aims to draw attention to the horrors of the bombs that destroyed both cities.

Heather McClenahan, executive director of the Los Alamos Historical Museum, said the museum’s board of directors felt uncomfortable about the exhibit’s call to abolish nuclear bombs. The New Mexico city is still home to the Los Alamos National Laboratory, one of the U.S.’s premier nuclear weapons research centers.

“The Los Alamos Historical Society will continue its dialogue with the museums in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in hopes that we can overcome cultural and linguistic differences and host exhibits that are respectful to all of our communities’ concerns and stories,” McClenahan said. “In other words, we hope this is not the end but the beginning of delving together into our history and the questions it raises.”

She said the historical society will not send an exhibit about Los Alamos scientists to Hiroshima and Nagasaki without significant dialogue and input from their museums.

“We would ask that the same respect be afforded to our community,” McClenahan said.

In the 1940s, scientists working in the then-secret city of Los Alamos developed the atomic bomb as part of the World War II-era Manhattan Project. The program provided enriched uranium for the atomic bomb.

Two atomic bombs were later dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, ending World War II. More than 210,000 people in both Japanese cities were killed.

Associated Press

Associated Press