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NewsNet 02-25-14

SOUTHERN ARIZONA CONGRESSMAN VOWS FIGHT TO SAVE A-10 FLEET - U.S. Rep. Ron Barber says he'll fight to keep the A-10 Warthog flying, calling the aircraft "crucial to our community, to Davis-Monthan, and to the country at large."  The Pentagon says cutting the plane would save $3.5 billion over five years. However, Barber said yesterday it would only save $700,000 "after having already spent $1 billion to upgrade" the attack aircraft. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced yesterday that the Pentagon would cut the A-10 fighter jet, also known as the Thunderbolt, as part of sweeping cuts to the proposed defense budget for Fiscal Year 2015. DM reported in 2012 that the A-10 was responsible for $1.1 billion in economic impact for the Tucson area. Barber says he'll fight to make sure the A-10 cuts don't become reality. Read more from Tucson Sentinel.

THE DOWNTOWN TUCSON PARTNERSHIP FAÇADE PROGRAM COMPLETES LATEST FACADE IMPROVEMENT - Downtown revitalization continues with the addition of the 9th new façade made possible by a grant through the Downtown Tucson Partnership. Tucson 12 profiles the façade program, showing the latest addition at City High School.

FEDERAL DEPORTATIONS REDUCED IN 2013 - The federal government deported 368,644 people last fiscal year, a 10 percent decrease from the previous year and the first time deportations dropped since 2008. The latest number includes 34,868 people deported by Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) operations in Arizona, a nearly 12 percent drop from the year before. ICE reports part of the reason for the decline is that it is now focusing more attention on catching and removing serious criminals, whose cases take more time. In addition, the Obama administration now has policies allowing undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children, known as “dreamers,” to apply for protection from deportation, further reducing the number of people who can be deported. Read more from the Arizona Republic.

MINIMUM WAGE HIKE WOULD HAVE VARYING EFFECTS BY STATE - While President Obama's call last month to raise the federal minimum wage would benefit workers in many states, not every employee in that pay grade would benefit. The federal rate has been frozen at $7.25 an hour since 2009, and many states have higher minimum pay in effect. The U.S. Labor Department estimates 3.3 million Americans earned wages at or below the federal rate last year, accounting for 4.3 percent of the hourly workforce. At the beginning of this year, 13 states raised their wage requirements, either through legislation, ballot initiatives or annual inflation adjustments. About half of states mandate wages higher than the federal rate for most employers. However, less than two percent of hourly workers earned average wages of $7.25 or less in Oregon, California and Washington. Read more from Governing.

PHOENIX CITY COUNCIL TO HEAR PUBLIC COMMENTS EARLIER - The Phoenix City Council voted recently to make public comments the first item at its regular meetings. Known as the “Citizen Comment Session,” speakers are generally given a few minutes at council meetings to talk about any issue of their choosing. Previously, the Council heard public comments right after its meetings adjourned and the TV cameras went off, and it wasn’t uncommon for a few council members to leave before residents finished speaking. The City made the changes in response to a petition filed by a group of residents who said holding the public-comment session at the end of the meeting showed City leaders don’t respect their input. Council members will not be required to attend the public comment sessions. However, what is new for Phoenix is old in Tucson.  The Tucson City Council's "Call to the Audience" regularly precedes their consideration of legislative agenda items in order to benefit from public comment before taking action. Read more from azcentral.com.