/ Modified oct 6, 2020 11:54 a.m.

News roundup: Court extends AZ voter registration, UA to start in-person classes, Indigenous protesters block border crossing

Recent coverage impacting Southern Arizona, Oct. 5

Cases 219,763 | Deaths 5,693

On Monday, Oct. 5, the state reported 316 new cases of COVID-19 and 1 additional death. Also, on Oct. 5, President Donald Trump checked out of Walter Reed Army Hospital and returned to the White House to continue his treatment there..

Federal court rules AZ must extend voter registration deadline

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A federal judge ruled Monday night that Arizona must extend its voter registration deadline until October 23rd. The ruling came less than four hours before the statutory, midnight voter registration deadline.

Mi Familia Vota brought the suit claiming it was unable to register voters as it normally does due to restrictions put in place to reduce the spread of COVID-19 earlier this year. They told the court their registration numbers dropped from 12 hundred a day to fewer than 300 during the restrictions.

The state argued it is too late to change the voter registration deadline and that voters have many options in addition to in-person to register to vote…including by phone and over the internet.

The judge wrote “the Court is also cognizant of the large population of Arizona that lacks access to the internet. Registering to vote has never been easier for some, though others are not so fortunate.” The Secretary of State's office said they will not appeal the ruling.


UA president says school is ready for in-person classes

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The University of Arizona will allow classes of 30 or fewer people to meet in-person beginning Monday, Oct. 12, according to University of Arizona President Robert Robbins.

The move to what's known as Phase Two comes as COVID-19 cases have started dropping on the UA campus. Robbins said students attending classes are not the problem.

“We’ve recorded no instances in a classroom or a laboratory setting,” Robbins explained.

About 6,200 students have been attending essential, in-person classes during Phase One. Robbins says going to Phase Two will bring about 2,500 more students on campus.

“The students are very, very eager to get back to more in person instruction. That would be about 25 hundred additional students who could take advantage of this limited courses with 30 or fewer students,” Robbins said


Arizona economy slows again amid pandemic

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Arizona’s economy was starting to recover from the pandemic in the early part of the summer, but University of Arizona economists say it has slowed again during August and September.

“I think we are going to see gradual improvement in the state’s economy and we should be, I think back to pre-pandemic levels sometime in the second half of 2021,”said George Hammond, director of the Economic and Business Research Center at the University of Arizona Eller College of Management.

Before the pandemic began, Arizona’s economy was going strong with some of the strongest growth in the country.

One indicator of the economy is unemployment. In Arizona there are two sets of numbers to look at: regular unemployment and pandemic unemployment (PUA).

Pandemic unemployment is the federal program that covers the self-employed and those in the gig economy. Normally, they are not eligible for unemployment benefits.

Regular unemployment numbers have slowly drifted down recently, but that is not the case for pandemic unemployment.

Hammond said the PUA numbers can be a little difficult to read because there is a large amount of fraud in that system. But he said they are still an indicator.

“What I think they are telling us is that the impact of the pandemic has been pretty severe on the self-employed,” Hammond said.

During the last full week of September, 96,000 people in Arizona received unemployment payments, according to the Arizona Department of Economic Security.


Demonstrations against border wall construction on ancestral Indigenous land continue despite Quitobaquito closure

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Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument was the site of more demonstrations against the border wall, this time on the highway leading to the international border.

Early Monday morning, demonstrators blocked traffic along a stretch Highway 85, about a mile north of the Lukeville Port of Entry.

Cars and trucks coming from both sides of the highway were stopped, including a handful of construction vehicles. In a video shared by the group, demonstrators can be heard chanting and singing as cars are forced to a stop.

Speaking while walking with the camera, one O'odham demonstrator said the action had briefly blocked construction from taking place. Piles of steel bollard wall panels lay stacked behind her.

"We’re here to send a message to all Indigenous nations across the border," she said. "The fires have been lit and this is enough."

More footage from the scene shows pick up trucks forcing their way past as demonstrators try to physically stop them.


After two years, measure taxing the wealthy to fund education is on the ballot

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Arizona voters will finally have the chance to weigh in on the so-called "Invest in Ed" ballot measure this November after the Arizona Supreme Court knocked it off the ballot two years ago.

Teachers unions and education advocates are campaigning hard for Proposition 208, which they say will help address Arizona's teacher shortage. The measure aims to make up for lagging state funding with a tax on the wealthy.

If voters approve the measure, high earners would see a 3.5 percentage point increase on their income tax starting next year. The tax would apply to income over $250,000 for a single person or married person filing separately, and to income over $500,000 for a married couple or someone filing as head of household.

The collected revenue would go into a special fund for public school districts and charter schools. Half the money would go to schools to use for hiring teachers and increasing teacher salaries. A quarter would to to schools to hire and increase pay for student support services personnel such as counselors, bus drivers and cafeteria workers. The rest would be used for teacher training and retention programs.


UA Football Coach Sumlin tests positive for coronavirus

AP

Arizona football coach Kevin Sumlin has tested positive for COVID-19 less than a week before the team begins its preseason practices. The school says in a statement that the 56-year-old Sumlin received back-to-back positive tests and has entered self-isolation.

The school says Sumlin has not experienced any symptoms and that contact tracing has begun in earnest. Sumlin is among a handful of FBS coaches who have contracted COVID-19 over the past few months, including Florida State’s Mike Norvell. Arizona begins its six-game schedule on Nov. 7 at Utah.

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