Arizona in Brief: Arizona group: Border agents ruined migrant provisions

Arizona group: Border agents ruined migrant provisions

PHOENIX (AP) — Some Border Patrol agents have slashed and emptied the water bottles that a humanitarian aid group leaves at a desert camp for migrants illegally crossing the border, potentially putting the travelers’ lives in danger, the organization said Wednesday.

A spokesman for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which oversees the agents, countered that the agency does not condone such actions and investigates reports of misconduct against its officers. But he would not specifically say whether the agents shown destroying water bottles and other aid on videos made public by the No More Deaths humanitarian group would be investigated.

“Border Patrol agents are directed by our leadership to not tamper with humanitarian aid,” insisted Border Patrol Agent Christopher Sullivan, a spokesman for the agency’s Tucson Sector. “The U.S. Border Patrol is committed to enforcing federal laws to secure our nation’s borders while ensuring the safety and security of all individuals.”

“If that’s true, that directive should be made public. And it should be enforced,” said Mary Ada Vallet, a spokeswoman for No More Deaths. The group on Wednesday revived its allegations against the border agency during a news conference near the Arizona-Mexico border.

Car registration fee boost proposed to end raid on road cash

PHOENIX (AP) — Republican lawmakers in the Arizona House and Senate are proposing an increase in vehicle license fees to end years of raids on dedicated local highway funding that has paid for highway patrol operations.

The identical proposals from Sen. Bob Worsley of Mesa and Rep. Noel Campbell of Prescott mark the latest effort to end the raid of about $95 million a year that is supposed to fund local roads. Worsley pushed a similar bill last year but it died after Republican Senate President Steve Yarbrough refused to allow a formal vote because it was opposed by many majority Republicans.

Ending the raid on the Highway User Revenue Fund known as “HURF” is a longstanding goal of lawmakers from both parties. The fund raid is particularly hard for rural areas that have no way to pay for repairs and renovations without the state money, which comes from gas taxes and vehicle license fees.

Yarbrough said Wednesday that he’ll likely let the proposal proceed this year and see where it ends up. However, he’s concerned about how it makes an end-run around a requirement that bills that increase state revenue require a 2/3 vote to pass.

Worsley said this year’s effort would raise about $8 million by ending an exemption for alternative fuel vehicles. The rest of the $100 million needed for a dedicated highway patrol safety fund would come from giving the Department of Transportation director authority to raise license fees.

“He decides what’s fair,” Worsley said. “And every year we’re not back here fighting over ‘are we going to sweep it or not, how much are we going to sweep’ out of the HURF funds.”

Worsley said he didn’t have an estimate of how much fees could go up. But based on state registration numbers, if every vehicle registered in Arizona was assessed $11, it would raise about $90 million.

Allowing a department director to set the amount is the same maneuver that allows the state Medicaid agency leader to assess hospitals to pay for expanding that program. The Arizona Supreme Court upheld the Medicaid assessment earlier this year, saying it met the test for avoiding a supermajority vote needed to raise taxes under the voter-approved Proposition 108 by allowing state agency directors to set fees.

Flagstaff teacher accused of child molestation; Quits job

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — Authorities say a Flagstaff elementary school teacher has been arrested on suspicion of child molestation and sexual conduct with a minor.

Flagstaff police say 37-year-old Ted Komada was taken into custody Sunday, released after his initial court appearance and then arrested again.

He submitted his resignation last weekend to the Flagstaff Unified School District.

Komada is being held at the Coconino County Jail on a $25,000 bond.

It was unclear Wednesday if he has a lawyer yet.

The Flagstaff Daily Sun reports Komada was a teacher and chess coach at Killip Elementary School and had been at the school for 14 years.

Police say the alleged incidents occurred outside of the school setting, but didn’t release any details.

Driver dies after his vehicle crashes into a bus in Phoenix

PHOENIX (AP) — Authorities say a man has died after the vehicle he was driving collided with a Valley Metro bus in Phoenix.

Police have identified the victim as 57-year-old Curtis Lee Moyer.

They say an 11-year-old boy who is related to Moyer was a passenger in the car and remains hospitalized in critical condition.

Police say Moyer apparently ran a stop sign about 2 p.m. Tuesday and collided with a bus near 16th Street and South Mountain Avenue. Moyer was rushed to a hospital in critical condition before dying from his injuries. Police say nobody on the bus was seriously hurt.