MONDAY, MARCH 24IS THAT A GUN IN YOUR POCKET, OR ARE YOU JUST HAPPY ABOUT THIS LEGISLATION? The Arizona Senate Judiciary Committee votes 4-3 to reduce the fine for having a concealed weapon from a class 1 misdemeanor to a petty offense, unless the violation occurs in relation to another felony. The new penalty: $300. Supporters of HB 2630, which has already passed the House of Representatives, say too many law-abiding gun owners are getting hassled by The Man; critics say reducing the fine will mean many people won't bother with the time and expense of taking a safety course and passing a background check to get a concealed-weapons permit.
TUESDAY, MARCH 25WTF? Arizona Republic columnist Laurie Roberts reports on her blog that gubernatorial aide Mike Haener was a mite miffed by the passage of House Bill 2454, which would open CPS records when a child under their supervision dies or nearly dies. Although Gov. Janet Napolitano says she supports the bill, with the exception of an amendment that would allow CPS to sue county prosecutors, Haener sent an e-mail to Democratic Rep. Chad Campbell after he voted for the bill, with the message: "That fucking blows. Glad to see the fucking caucus is willing to help. Hope that there are no fucking changes in the Senate." We'd hate to hear what he'd say if Janet opposed the bill.
NEW MATH: The Tucson Unified School District governing board gets an independent audit that shows the district could save $17.8 million over five years by eliminating waste and improving efficiency.
Among the suggestions in the audit, done by MGT of America, Inc., after TUSD bean-counters neglected to properly charge hundreds of teachers for health-insurance benefits: "Appoint a well-trained and experienced employee relations expert to conduct good-faith Interest Based Bargaining, and be held accountable for negotiations between unions and TUSD."
One bit of surprising news: The audit projects that the district will only save $260,000 annually by shutting down four elementary schools. TUSD officials had estimated that closing Wrightstown, Ochoa, Rogers and Corbett could save between $2.4 million and $4 million.
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 26EVEN NEWER MATH: TUSD officials, having sent the audit back to MGT of America for further review, release a new estimate for the four elementary-school closings: S1.8 million a year. TUSD's explanation for the discrepancy: MGT calculated the savings based on incorrect data.
GET YOUR FREAK ON: The Range stopped by Club Congress for the 999 Eyes Carnival of the Damned, a traveling freak show featuring Lobster Girl, a modern-day Elephant Man and the human tripod. For a full report, check out TWTV correspondent Kelli Hart's dispatch on our fledgling YouTube Channel.
THURSDAY, MARCH 27MAY WE SEE YOUR PAPERS, PLEASE? The Department of Homeland Security announces that it will not require travelers entering the U.S. by land or by sea to show a passport or other secure document demonstrating citizenship until June 1, 2009. DHS had planned on requiring the documents this summer, but delayed the plan because of congressional action. Since Jan. 31, travelers have had to show proof of identity and citizenship rather than simply answering the question: "Are you a U.S. citizen?"
FRIDAY, MARCH 28SCHOOL'S OUT: TUSD officials announce that they are laying off 40 elementary-school teachers at the end of the school year. Alyson Nielson, TUSD's director of human resources, says the firing of the first-year teachers were related to declining enrollment and budget problems. TUSD spokeswoman Chyrl Hill Lander says there's a "good possibility" that many of the laid-off teachers could be hired back in the fall as the district looks to replace retiring teachers.
GROUNDED: Looks as if the The Range may never get a chance to take that midnight plane to NYC. JetBlue Airways announces that it is making its last direct red-eye flight from Tucson to JFK on May 12. Airline officials cite the high cost of fuel and a lack of passenger interest as factors in the decision to end the flight, which launched in September 2006.
SATURDAY, MARCH 29SLOW DOWN, LEADFOOTS: The Tucson Police Department activates its fourth photo-radar system to nab people who speed and run red lights, at the intersection of River and Oracle roads. The camera joins photo-radar systems at Valencia Road and Nogales Highway; Wilmot Road and 22nd Street; and Kolb, Grant and Tanque Verde roads. Police also have a photo-radar van that moves around the city to nab speeders.
NABBED, THE FINAL CHAPTER: Pima County Sheriff's deputies capture the last of three women to escape from Pima County Jail on March 18. Katrina Francine Ochoa, 24, is nabbed between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. while sitting in a car in a hotel parking lot after being spotted inside the International House of Pancakes at 5101 E. Grant Road. Ochoa, who was in jail on probation violations, had slipped out the back of a jail commissary where she had been working. She now faces second-degree escape charges.
AQUACATS, PART II: One week after the UA women's swim team won the NCAA championships, the UA men's swimming and diving team captured their own NCAA crown, giving coach Frank Busch twin victories this season.