Howdy, Friends O'Farley…
Before we get to the Capitol news, on the State Senate Campaign front I am happy to announce that my new campaign manager is Alma Hernandez, Daniel's energetic sister, whom many of you already know for her warm smile, kindness and dedication as a longtime Farley volunteer. Daniel has accepted, with my encouragement, the exciting position of Southern Arizona Field Director for Richard Carmona for U.S. Senate, and will be gaining tons of great experience for a future Farley for Congress run!
1--> If you haven't already joined us, now is the time! Come to our joint walks with Ron Barber at 10am and 1pm on Saturdays and 1pm on Sundays. Volunteers will be gathering nominating signatures for Barber for CD2 and Farley for LD9. Please join us! If you can come, call or email my new campaign manager Alma Hernandez, 520-302-0623 or Alma@FriendsOFarley.com.
2--> Please CONTRIBUTE $25, $50 or even $100 and VOLUNTEER on our website TODAY, and share our website with your friends & colleagues. Every dollar counts in our newly competitive district!
3--> Please SIGN my nominating petition ONLINE by clicking the link at:
And now, the news…
--> Budget: Talks continue in earnest among Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature and between Republicans and the Governor's staff. I wish we could add talks between the Democrats and the Governor so we score a budget trifecta, but there is no sign of that happening yet. No decisions are likely to happen this week while the Governor is celebrating SB1070 Week in Washington DC, so we are now looking at remaining in session at least until late next week or beyond.
In the meantime, the Governor's ultimatum is still in effect -- she will veto any bill that is sent to her before the existence of what she deems adequate progress on the budget. That means our workload is shrinking while final votes are backing up because no sponsor wants to send their bill to certain death on the Governor's desk this week. As soon as the veto threat is lifted, the dam bursts and we will be doing a whole lot of final votes all at once.
This week's News in Bills:
--> Today the House by a vote of 33-17 passed Senator Al Melvin's (R-Saddlebrooke) "postcard to Congress", SCM1004, which "prays" that the U.S. Government send nuclear waste to Arizona as the solution to our economic crisis. I'm sure THAT won't get us on the Daily Show again.
--> Senator Sylvia Allen (R-Snowflake) has a bill (SB1182) that would make it a state crime for state, county, or local law enforcement officers to enforce federal law, thus putting them in a double-bind -- if they obey their oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution, they will be charged with a state crime. It passed the Senate 20-8, and will head to the Governor as soon as she rescinds her threat to veto all bills, although I hope she continues the veto threat for this one. Too bad certain legislators feel the ideologically driven need to punish our first responders for doing their jobs.
--> Senator Frank Antenori (R-NotTucson) resurrected his bill to widen the definition of intersections -- the one which we killed in House Transportation Committee in March with only three votes in favor. You may recall that a Phoenix police commander with 26 years in the Traffic Division testified that the bill would dramatically increase injuries and fatalities all over the state. After the bill was killed, Sen. Antenori was witnessed getting in the commander's face and cursing him out in the hallway outside the committee room. A few days later, media reports broadcast video of Sen. Antenori running a red light in Scottsdale, which you can see here: http://www.myfoxphoenix.com/dpp/news/politics/state_politics/state-senator-miffed-at-red-light-violation-question-3-26-2012
The intersection redefinition came back as a Senate strike-everything amendment to a Rep. Ted Vogt (R-Tucson) bill (HB2557) that formerly involved cell phone companies giving call location information to law enforcement. Last Thursday, we had a final read in the House where it gained the required 31 votes before I stood up to speak and give some background on the bill so that members knew the public safety risks. I acknowledged that we need to help solve the problem of people getting unfair tickets for making late left turns after being caught in the intersection by traffic cameras. But this bill would apply to ALL signalized intersections, potentially making all of them more deadly. After my speech, the bill went down to defeat 27-29. Rep. Vogt asked for the bill to be reconsidered tomorrow, and I hope that common sense and public safety will again prevail.
--> The drama of the billboard bill (formerly HB2757) reached a frenzied crescendo yesterday, demonstrating the least palatable example of sausage-making I've seen in quite a while. The sponsor, Bob Robson (R-Chandler) found a germane bill headed to Conference Committee (HB2543) and the fun began. Because I was a conferee to that committee -- one of three House members and three Senate members (4 R's to 2 D's) -- I had the opportunity to write a dissenting Minority Report. It follows in its entirety for your reading pleasure:
"I cannot agree with the conference committee amendments to this bill for reasons both of process and of substance. There were irregular procedures in the committee. There was new content -- that was not brought to the table until shortly before the vote -- that may negatively impact the important astronomy and optics industry in Arizona.
"This conference committee was scheduled for 2:45 PM, but key players were not informed until after noon. It was announced as cancelled – not postponed -- at 2:30 PM. Shortly afterwards, a meeting began in a Senate caucus room where representatives of the billboard industry presented a marked-up version of a previously proposed amendment that was circulated on Thursday (which had been superseded by a new version with new substantive language was presented on Friday with no opportunity for comment). This copy included handwritten notes by multiple people, items that were scratched out and then ambiguously indicated to be re-inserted, and other changes indicated by notes and arrows.
"Needless to say, this was difficult to understand for those of us with legislative experience. It was nearly indecipherable to scientists from the astronomy community, who are not allowed to hire professional representation. They asked for more time to confer on the new ideas but were told no more time was available since the conference committee had been announced to meet at 3:45 PM, and they were told that Senate President Pierce was not willing to extend conference committees beyond that day. 40 minutes after the conference committee was gaveled shut, conference committees were extended into the next day after all.
"Despite lack of agreement, the committee did start shortly thereafter and the handwritten changes were adopted without even the promised opportunity for the proponents to describe the new changes for the record. I did not receive a complete typed version of the amendment that was adopted last night until 10:30 on the morning following the committee’s adoption of the hand-annotated amendment. It is exceedingly clear to me that the legislature made a huge mistake when we abandoned our notice requirements for conference committees in 2011 and that those should be reinstated as soon as possible so that we may better serve the public.
"There remain a number of substantive issues that concern me. Brightness limits for electronic billboards are set as 342 nits but we are given no scientific evidence for this choice -- the Pima County dark sky ordinance proscribes 200 nits as the maximum allowable brightness compatible with astronomical uses. Curfew for signs is set 11:00 PM, although the time for starting astronomical observations begins approximately an hour after sunset. Most states limit billboard spacing to no less than 1000-1500 feet, while this language allows them to be placed 500 feet apart. Even with a 75-mile exclusion zone, the combined effect of too-bright billboards spaced closely together may still endanger our world-class dark skies and the astronomy and optics industry jobs they engender, as well as advances in science for the benefit of humanity.
"For these reasons and others, while I appreciate the fact that many good people were working hard to make the best case for their respective sides in the midst of confusion that was not their fault, I cannot support this version of the billboard bill at this time and urge my colleagues to make time in the future for a complete vetting of this issue in a public setting."
At left is an actual scan of one of the annotated pages from the amendment as adopted, so you can see what we had to work with.
The bill now heads to the floor where it will likely pass, since the astronomers have today been able to read the final language (something that should be done BEFORE we have to vote on the amendment!) and say they are OK with the final form, since it does have a 75-mile-radius exclusion zone that should provide reasonable protection. I am thankful we were able to head off a terrible version that would have allowed billboards everywhere, and remain grateful that the Governor vetoed the original 2757 and has committed her staff to assuring that the astronomy and optics industries and the 3,800 jobs they provide are not irrevocably harmed in the process. This may be the best outcome we can hope for at this time, although I fully expect more battles in upcoming years.
--> My HB2713 to help middle-class families afford long-term care for themselves and the seniors they love remains in holding pattern awaiting the Governor's word that she is open to signing bills again. If you would like to help, please call or email Governor Brewer to urge her to sign HB2713 once it reaches her desk so that we can help middle-class families afford to take good care of our loved ones in need, while at the same time saving the state money it would otherwise have to spend on the ALTCS program. You might also remind her that part of the bill allows families to set up Health Savings Accounts, an idea that has broad Republican support. You can call her at 1-800-253-0883, or comment online at:
Thanks for your continuing faith in me as your Representative.