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The Range

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Ditch Days

Hundreds of Tucson schoolchildren skipped classes last week to head downtown and, like, protest or whatever. Students were showing solidarity with illegal immigrants as the U.S. Congress took up immigration-reform measures--or they were just bored with their classes and looking for something new to do.

Response from The Man: Hey, kids, stay in school. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne urged students to protest after school, not during class time.

"It's the students' precious First Amendment right to protest and a great educational experience for them to protest ... but it should be done after school and not during school hours," Horne said. What a square!

By Monday, the kids figured they'd made their point and remained on campus to take this week's AIMS test (which, incidentally, has been dumbed down enough that most seniors have passed it and will graduate).

In other big-ol'-march news:

· Led by Congressman Raul Grijalva and labor leader Dolores Huerta, thousands marched on Tucson's southside in honor of the birthday of union hero Cesar Chavez. The Tucson City Council is considering making Chavez's birthday an official city holiday.

· The Minutemen returned to the Southern Arizona border to patrol for illegal immigrants, working out of the Three Points area.

· A record number of participants turned out for the eighth annual Susan G. Komen Southern Arizona Race for the Cure to benefit breast-cancer research.


Tongue Twister The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed to temporarily stay an order by U.S. District Court Judge Raner Collins that would have distributed $21 million in fines to programs for English-language learners in Arizona schools. The appeals court said it would review Collins' decision in the ELL case, which has been dragging through the court system since the early 1990s.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne, who had appealed Collins' decision last month, said he was happy with the decision.

"The decision was not a ruling on the merits, but it is a determination that there are serious legal questions that need to be addressed," said Horne, who added that school funding was "a decision for the people to make through their elected representatives. It's not a decision to be made by a lifetime federal judge."


E-Town

Little ol' Sahuarita is going high-tech! Town officials announced plans to outfit the entire town with a free Wi-Fi system for its residents. Besides allowing area residents free high-speed access to their MySpace accounts, online retailers and porn sites, the system will be helpful to cops and other town employees.

"The municipal wireless idea kept getting better and better after we realized that in addition to enhancing town operations and providing substantial cost savings, the wireless system will offer considerable benefits to town residents and business," press-released Town Manager Jim Stahle.

The Tucson City Council is also exploring the idea of developing a free Wi-Fi system.

As of press time, Cable and phone companies, which stand to lose $40 a month per high-speed subscriber, have not yet begun pushing state lawmakers to prohibit local communities from offering the service.


Rising Dough

We're still in the money! Arizona's tax collections continue to outpace expectations, according to the latest report from the Joint Legislative Budget Committee. February's total tax receipts were $430.1 million, which was $52.8 million higher than the original forecast. That brings total receipts for the year to $540.3 million more than originally predicted. With four months remaining in the fiscal year, The Range is wondering how we're going to get to that billion-dollar surplus.

The GOP legislative leadership is still attempting to come up with a budget, with Republican lawmakers looking to include at least $250 million in tax cuts. Gloomy rank-and-file lawmakers predict at least another six weeks of budget negotiations lie ahead.

The slow progress on the budget delay brought a ridiculing press release from the Project for Arizona's Future, which reminded Arizonans that Senate President Ken Bennett had predicted at the start of the session that work would be all wrapped by now.

The Project for Arizona's Future describes itself as a "nonpartisan, nonprofit, issue-advocacy group that will work to keep Arizona moving in the right direction through forward-thinking, moderate public policy." We think it's also going to help re-elect Gov. Janet Napolitano.


Hammered

We could probably find a local connection, but why bother? We close this week with the news that Texas Congressman Tom DeLay, a sleazy bully who has been stinking up the halls of Congress for too long, announced he wouldn't be seeking re-election this year, because he recognized that he was going to get his ass kicked.

DeLay, who is under indictment related to a Texas campaign-finance investigation, told Fox News that he feared the race would have been "nasty."

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