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KNAU's Morning Rundown: Friday, February 12th, 2021


It's Friday, February 12th, 2021. Here are some of this morning's local headlines:


The Arizona state Senate has voted to ask voters to curtail the governor’s authority to assert emergency powers during future pandemics or other crises. Republicans approved the measure in a party-line vote sending it to the House. If approved by voters it would make a governor’s emergency declaration expire after 30 days unless state lawmakers extend it. Some Republicans have been furious with Governor Doug Ducey for closing or restricting businesses to contain the spread of COVID-19, saying it’s too much power for one person to wield indefinitely. Democrats say it’s risky to take away the governor’s power to respond to an emergency.


A man accused of fatally shooting three people at a bar in Globe in 2018 has been sentenced to life in prison. Prosecutors say Sterling Randall Hunt reached a plea agreement in the case and was sentenced this week in Gila County Superior Court to three consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole. Hunt was 22 years old at the time of the shootings. Authorities said the victims had gone outside to smoke a cigarette when Hunt walked out of the bar and opened fire.  They all had been playing pool before the shooting occurred. Globe police say a man and woman died at the scene and another female victim died several days later at the hospital.


The Arizona Supreme Court’s presiding disciplinary judge has announced plans to retire this year. Judge William J. O’Neil informed Chief Justice Robert Brutinel that he’ll retire mid-year after a successor has been chosen.  O’Neil was appointed in 2010 by the state Supreme Court as Arizona’s first presiding disciplinary judge who presides over attorney discipline, reinstatement and disability cases. Brutinel said in a statement that O’Neil “set a standard for efficiency and fairness that creates a benchmark for the presiding disciplinary judges to come.” O’Neil previously served Arizona’s courts for 20 years including time as presiding judge of the Pinal County Superior Court.


Navajo Nation health officials on Thursday reported 53 new COVID-19 cases and 11 more deaths. Tribal officials say additional federal personnel are beginning to arrive to support vaccination efforts on the reservation. The Navajo Department of Health has identified 44 communities with uncontrolled spread of COVID-19 from January 22nd to February 4th, down from 75 communities in recent weeks. The tribe has extended its stay-at-home order with a revised nightly curfew to limit the virus’ spread on the reservation. The Navajo Nation also is lifting weekend lockdowns to allow more vaccination events.


The city of Payson had its biggest food donation drive ever this last year. Organizer Chuck Proudfoot told the Payson Roundup the goal was to raise 50 thousand dollars and 30 thousand pounds of food. When the drive wrapped up Sunday, there were well-over 30 thousand pounds and more than 104 thousand dollars in donations. Proudfoot says some people who donated told him it was money they would have spent on family events or travel if not for the coronavirus pandemic.


The Navajo Nation is leading the country in vaccination distribution. The Navajo Times reports nearly 45% of tribal members living on the Nation have already had at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine. The U.S. is vaccinating at a rate just below 13%. The Navajo Nation once had the highest rate of coronavirus infection in the world. The director of the tribe’s epidemiology center told the Times that the effort is going well, in part, because tribal agencies agreed early on to cooperate with the vaccination effort.


This coming Monday will be a fee-free day on national forest lands in honor of Presidents’ Day. In northern Arizona, forest managers for the Coconino, Prescott and Tonto forest, among others, will waive day-use fees in locations where they are normally charged. That includes Grand Canyon National Park, Petrified Forest National Park, Sunset Crater and Wupatki National Monuments, and Montezuma Castle. Camping, backcountry and other permits may still have fees associated with them. Other fee-free days this year include National Get Outdoors Day on June 12th, National Public Lands Day on September 25th and Veterans Day, November 11th.