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There is no ‘practice of filming pornography’ in Arizona schools
Sen. Jake Hoffman, R-Queen Creek, put out a statement earlier this week asking Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs to sign his Senate Bill 1696, which would make it illegal for sexually explicit acts to be filmed or facilitated on property owned, leased or managed by the state or any other government entity in Arizona.
But the bill also stops workers for any government agency in the state from referring minors to sexually explicit materials, which could stop public librarians from referring teens to some classic works of literature and even informative books about reproduction and puberty.
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“I think we are in good order to cover both topics at once,” Hoffman said during a Senate Government committee meeting in February. “I don’t want minors in Arizona being exposed to sexually explicit materials.”
While Hoffman’s recent statement seemed to imply that the filming of pornography at public schools was a widespread issue, the bill is based on one incident in Mohave County last year. The two teachers involved were a married couple who both worked for Lake Havasu Unified School District.
“Certainly calling one isolated incident a ‘practice of filming pornography’ is misleading,” Democratic Sen. Priya Sundareshan, of Tucson, told the Arizona Mirror. “Hopefully the governor will veto it. This is definitely not a widespread practice.”
Hoffman told the Senate Government Committee in February that he believed the bill was necessary after a science teacher at Thunderbolt Middle School filmed explicit content for her OnlyFans channel, a subscriber-based service often used by adult content providers, after hours, at the school.
The teacher resigned Oct. 31, after students found her OnlyFans content online. Her husband, who was sometimes featured on her channel and who worked at another school in the district, was let go several days later.
“Astonishingly, there is no law that prohibits this from happening,” Hoffman said in the statement. “These are places where our children go to learn, they should not be locations for the adult entertainment industry. It’s an egregious misuse of taxpayer-funded property, and it needs to end.”
Hoffman did not respond to an interview request for this story.
Robert J. Campos, a former Maricopa County prosecutor in the sex crimes division and currently a Phoenix defense attorney, agreed with Hoffman’s take that there are not likely any crimes on the books in Arizona that specifically outlaw filming sexually explicit material on school property.
But in his eyes, this issue would be better served through employer policy than criminal law.
“It sounds like overkill to me,” Campos told the Mirror. “I think it sounds rather drastic to pass a law when you’ve had one incident.”
He added that laws regarding sexual behavior and minors in Arizona typically pertain to sexual activity when a child is present, or involved, or exposing minors to sexually explicit materials, but not to filming content when children are not present.
The rest of the bill, pertaining to exposing minors to sexually explicit material, has caused concerns for some Democrats.
Their most significant concerns had to do with the breadth of the bill, which could essentially mean a ban on public libraries making classic works of literature available to minors if those works contain any sexual content, Sundereshan said.
Sundareshan, who has had two children in the past three years, said that she checked out a book from her local library that extensively covered the process of pregnancy, to help her understand how her body would change. And that book included descriptions of the entire process of pregnancy, including how it begins. She worries informational books like those would no longer be available at public libraries if this law is passed.
“I benefited from public libraries having the ability to provide me with scientifically accurate information,” she said.
While SB1696 would apply to schools, the legislature already passed a bill last year, when Republican Doug Ducey was in the governor’s office, that bars schools from using sexually explicit content or referring students to it.
During a House Government Committee meeting on March 15, Republican Rep. John Gillette, of Kingman, said that he believed some sexually explicit books should be banned, saying that one book intended for middle schoolers included photos of sex acts that he did not believe was appropriate to show to sixth graders. Gillette did not share the name of the book.
The bill was approved by the House May 15 and the Senate March 2, both along party lines. It was sent to Hobbs to either sign or veto on May 30.
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This article was first published by the Arizona Mirror, part of the States Newsroom network of news bureaus. It’s supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Arizona Mirror maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Jim Small for questions: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Arizona Mirror on Facebook and Twitter.
Louisiana Illuminator is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Louisiana Illuminator maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Greg LaRose for questions: email@example.com. Follow Louisiana Illuminator on Facebook and Twitter.
Prominent Kansas Republican blames Catholic Church for failure to expand Medicaid
Jim Denning, in an interview for the Kansas Oral History Project, said Archbishop Joseph Naumann “basically stopped Medicaid expansion.”
“So if you were an opponent of Medicaid expansion, then he’s your guy. If you were a proponent, you’re mad at him,” Denning said. “He single-handedly torpedoed the bill because he said, ‘You can’t vote for Medicaid expansion until the abortion amendment passes with the public.’ So he killed it. It never came out of committee.”
A spokesperson for the Kansas Catholic Church and leader of a Medicaid expansion advocacy group disputed comments made by Denning about the fate of Medicaid expansion in 2019 and 2020, when Denning controlled the Senate’s legislative calendar.
Alan Conroy, executive director of the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System, conducted the interview with Denning on April 13. The Kansas Oral History Project is a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving state history. The project released several new interviews with lawmakers as part of a series on the Statehouse.
Denning, an Overland Park Republican, said he objected to an earlier Medicaid plan passed by the House in 2019 because it contained “lousy” financial policy. Then-Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, a Topeka Democrat, needed 24 votes to force a vote on the bill over his objections.
“He ended up getting 23,” Denning said. “The reason why he only got 23 was I was majority leader.”
Denning said Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly would come to his office, attempting to convince him to move forward with this Medicaid expansion plan.
“She was really mad at me,” Denning said. “I think she cracked the door one time when she slammed it.”
Kelly spokeswoman Brianna Johnson said this account was not accurate.
“Gov. Kelly doesn’t slam doors,” Johnson said. “What the former Senate majority leader got right, however, is that the governor is relentless in her pursuit of Medicaid expansion and will meet Republican leaders whenever and wherever — including in their own offices — to figure out how to pass legislation supported by nearly 80% of Kansans.”
Denning said he told concerned lawmakers in 2019 that he would bring an alternative forward in the 2020 session.
“I worked all summer putting the bill together,” Denning said. “I had about 2,000 hours. I had worked on it for many years. So the bill, it ended up being Senate Bill 252. It had 33 sections. Only 5% of the bill was Medicaid; 95% of the bill was health care reform on the commercial side. It was all the things that I wanted over 30 years of knowing what needed to be fixed.”
Denning worked out the bipartisan deal with Kelly. But Republicans, outraged by a Kansas Supreme Court ruling that established a constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy, were focused on placing a constitutional amendment on abortion before voters.
Senate President Susan Wagle and anti-abortion forces attempted to use the Medicaid expansion deal as leverage to secure Senate approval of the constitutional amendment, according to Denning.
Chuck Weber, executive director of the Kansas Catholic Conference, said Denning was wrong to blame Naumann. But Weber also said the church wanted the inclusion of the amendment as a provision of its support for Medicaid expansion.
“Senator Denning’s statement that the Archbishop Naumann was single-handedly responsible for torpedoing Medicaid Expansion is simply not accurate,” Weber said. “The public record is clear that the Kansas Catholic Conference, in January at the beginning of the 2020 legislative session, testified in support of Medicaid expansion with the provisos that the legislation included conscious protections for health care workers and the people of Kansas were provided the opportunity to vote on the Value Them Both amendment.”
Republicans gained a supermajority advantage in both the House and Senate in the November 2020 elections. The Legislature approved the constitutional amendment ballot question in 2021, with a provision to place it before voters in the August 2022 primary election. Kansans rejected the amendment by an 18-point margin.
Meanwhile, Democrats in both chambers have been unsuccessful in attempts to insert Medicaid expansion proposals into various bills.
April Holman, executive director of the Alliance for a Healthy Kansas, said the failure to expand Medicaid has had serious consequences over the years.
“We have seen poll after poll showing that Kansans overwhelmingly think that we should expand, and yet when the issue gets to the Statehouse, there is an absolute brick wall that we run into,” Holman said. “We can’t get a hearing. We can’t get bills that are moved out of committee. We can’t get a clean vote on expansion. And it seems very disconnected from the will of the people and very disconnected from the intention of the democratic process.”
Holman said Denning had the opportunity to expand Medicaid and didn’t take it.
“I think that it’s really ironic, because he had the opportunity to be the hero on this issue,” Holman said. “And if he had worked the bill or allowed it to be worked or voted on in 2019, we would have so many people across the state of Kansas who would be healthier today as a result.”
During the Oral History Project interview, Denning said he wasn’t optimistic about the future of Medicaid expansion absent a significant shakeup to the Legislature.
“All that work was all down the drain,” Denning said. “It may never come back unless the Legislature changes like it did in 2016. But I don’t think anybody would take the effort that I did to build Senate Bill 252. If it ever does happen, it won’t be robust like that. It was very comprehensive. It still stings a little bit.”
Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.
Washington prepares for an invasive insect that could destroy major crops
Since first appearing in the U.S. in Pennsylvania in 2014, the invasive pest has quickly spread west, harming wine grapes, other crops and trees in its path. It’s now known to be in 14 states, as far west as Michigan.
Though the infestations are still far from Washington, it could take only one train or truck carrying the insects’ hard-to-spot egg masses for spotted lanternflies to begin spreading here. That would be a potentially disastrous threat to Washington wineries, orchards and hop farms, which produce billions of dollars worth of crops each year.
The state Invasive Species Council is trying to get ahead of the insect. The council is almost done with an action plan for dealing with the lanternfly. It will meet at 1 p.m. on Monday to present the plan, hear from national lanternfly experts and discuss how to proceed.
Experts say preparation is the most important step to prevent the insect’s spread. But there are unknowns, as every state is different and how the pests conduct themselves can vary.
“We just don’t know how it will act when it gets to some of these places,” said Matthew Travis, national policy manager for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s spotted lanternfly program.
An egg mass on a wood pallet. (USDA)
Preventing the bug and its egg masses from traveling along on vehicles and cargo is a key to containing it. Lanternflies are not long-distance fliers. Instead, a common mode of transport into new areas is hitchhiking by latching onto objects like railcars or pallets.
Once active, lanternflies feed on the green vascular tissue of plants, especially fruit, certain trees and a number of other agricultural products. This relentless sap sucking weakens plants, draining critical nutrients they need to survive and in some cases killing them or making produce unfit for sale.
One of the pests’ favorite hosts is the fast-growing and invasive “tree-of-heaven,” but they are also known to enjoy grape vines, which has been devastating for some wineries in other states.
The Washington State Department of Agriculture has already responded to reports of the insects in Washington, though all have turned out to be negative.
How to prevent the spread
One of the best ways to ward off an infestation is to spot and destroy egg masses, which tend to look like a smudge of mud. Scraping or smashing the masses, dousing them with water or treating them with pest spray can all be reliable destruction options.
Once the pests grow, fighting them becomes more complicated. Insecticide can help. Some scientists have also begun using backpack vacuums to suck up adult bugs, a solution that the Washington Department of Agriculture said worked well on the invasive northern giant hornet.
Travis said battling the insect tends to involve a combination of techniques.
In Washington’s draft lanternfly action plan the state is preparing for an emergency response, with a new advisory group and funding, if an infestation becomes severe enough.
The state’s plan to prevent the spread could include measures like destroying affected plants or products or introducing “biosecurity” measures, such as cleaning vehicles or quarantining areas where there are suspected infestations.
The state Department of Agriculture could also consider restricting the movement of goods that might carry the bug from certain agricultural sites or regions it has spread to. But the plan acknowledges that this could have negative economic consequences.
The plan also discusses the possibility of “biological controls,” meaning finding other living things that can kill the insects. But so far in the U.S., the lanternflies appear to have few major predators. Researchers have looked at tiny parasitic wasps and fungal pathogens as options for combatting the bugs. The report acknowledges that further study is needed in this area.
Taking out the insects’ favorite hosts – the tree-of-heaven, formally known as Ailanthus altissima – could also help slow the spread. Washington’s action plan discusses a number of options for doing so, including manually pulling trees or using an herbicide to kill them.
Threat to the economy
Washington faces some of the greatest known risks from lanternflies in three main sectors: wine and grapes, tree fruit and hops.
The fallout for the wine industry from the bug could be “significant” due to the sector’s size. According to the action plan, Washington has almost 60,000 acres of wine grapes and 400 wine grape growers. The industry sold $2.5 billion of wine in 2021.
Tree fruit could also take a hit, especially if there are changes with growers’ costs and or avenues for exporting fruit. Apples alone in Washington are valued at around $3 billion annually after packing, the report says.
Lanternflies can damage hops as well, another valuable Washington crop.
The bugs can also be a nuisance outside of agriculture. Even though they don’t bite or carry human diseases, they can appear in swarms, leaving people annoyed and grossed out. And as they feed, they can drip a sticky excrement, called honeydew, that attracts other insects, including wasps and ants, while also creating conditions ripe for mold.
One of the most important mitigation measures is to make sure members of the public know what spotted lanternflies and their egg masses look like and to report sightings.
As the pest continues to spread across the country, scientists and researchers will learn more about how it moves and how to kill it. For now, there’s only so much a state can do to prepare.
Washington State Standard is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Washington State Standard maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Bill Lucia for questions: email@example.com. Follow Washington State Standard on Facebook and Twitter.
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