Ack, there is so much to talk about today, it's hard to figure out where to begin.
I might as well start with the Daily Show.
For years now, I've been telling folks that one of my goals was to get the Arizona Legislature off the front page of the Daily Show website. Sadly, this appears not to be the year we regain respect from the rest of the country.
If you missed it last night, check out this episode featuring Tucson's own voice for promoting the rights of guns ahead of the rights of people, Citizens Defense League founder Charles Heller, as he calls Steve Kozachik "Hitler" for promoting the gun buyback program:
Just yesterday, we debated on the Senate floor the one gun bill that has come up for debate, Rep. Brenda Barton's (R-Payson) bill HB 2455. Rather than proposing a law that would help reduce gun violence and the toll on people, Rep. Barton, like Charles Heller, wants to reduce the toll people cause to guns.
She proposes to ban the destruction of firearms by law enforcement agencies, and force police to sell unclaimed firearms in their possession, include those used in felony crimes. This would outlaw gun buybacks of the sort Councilmember Kozachik led. It would do nothing about the proposed shotgun giveaway that another Friend of Heller says will be carried out in Southside Tucson neighborhoods Pueblo Gardens and Midvale Park later this month.
Sen. Steve Gallardo (D-Phoenix) proposed 17 different common-sense amendments that would have: Limited the size of ammunition magazines like those used by Jared Loughner; protected domestic violence victims against their abuser; shored up our prohibited possessor database; and much more. All of these ideas were introduced as standalone bills but were never allowed to be heard in committees by Republican chairs. All the amendments went down on party lines, until Republican leadership used parliamentary maneuvers to cut off debate entirely.
It would appear that Charles Heller has many friends in the Arizona Legislature who believe that the well-being of guns are more important that the well-being of people.
If you want to do something to express your displeasure at this clear disregard for the rights of everyday Arizonans and our increasing demands to bring common sense back to the gun debate, please join a Best Friend O'Farley -- local hero Daniel Hernandez -- and other powerful speakers at a Tucson press conference tomorrow, April 3, at the infamous Safeway parking lot at Ina and Oracle at 11:00am.
The Center for American Progress will be releasing a new report detailing Arizona's performance on 10 measures of gun violence, the link between weak state gun laws and high levels of gun violence, and what you can do about it. Read the press release here for more details.
Floor action continued this afternoon, as I sought to amend two significant pieces of legislation to germane bills in the Committee of the Whole (COW).
Farley Report readers know that I was the first legislator in the country to introduce a bill to ban Driving While Texting in January 2007. I have worked every year since then to get that law into place. I've collaborated with Senators and Representatives from both parties, both quietly in the background and loudly out front, in order to try everything I could to get this totally nonpartisan bill passed into law. One man has stood in the way each time: Senate President Andy Biggs (R-Gilbert).
Once again, it was me vs. Senator Biggs, leading debate on opposite sides when I brought the bill to the Senate floor as an amendment to HB2312 a few hours ago. If you have 20 minutes free, the video of the debate is well worth watching -- it is now posted on YouTube here.
I explained that this is not about politics, it is about saving lives. I am not introducing this for me, but for the victims of texting drivers who have called my office over the years, sharing their personal pain and hopes for change:
--> A widower whose wife had been killed in Peoria by a texting driver who crossed over the center line and ended both their lives in one careless moment, leaving two children motherless.
--> An 80-year-old constituent rear-ended by a texting driver who spent a month in the hospital fighting for her life -- she sent me pictures.
--> 17 teenagers from the West Valley who came to my office wanting to do something to end the devastation that accidents caused by driving while texting had wreaked upon their friends.
--> A Paradise Valley man whose brother was T-boned by a texting driver on Scottsdale Road -- when the car burst into flames, he was burnt over two-thirds of his body.
Studies have proven that you are 2300% more likely to get into an accident if you are driving while texting. You are more incapacitated than when you are drinking and driving. Since my first bill was introduced, 44 states now have laws against DWT. Somehow, Republicans and Democrats found a way to come together in those states -- why not Arizona?
I heard no legitimate arguments why we should not have this ban. Very few arguments were even offered, and those few were easily debunked. In the end, the vote went down along party lines: 12-16. The good news was that several Republicans came up to me afterwards, offering to help next year. I hope we do not have more tragedies in the meantime. Next year is a long ways away while our constituents remain at risk on our roads.
My second amendment (no, not that one) of this afternoon's COWs sought to attach my Animal Abuser Registry (basically a sex-offender-style registry for those convicted of animal cruelty) to a Rep. John Kavanagh (R-Fountain Hills) bill HB2521 that would prohibit those convicted of animal cruelty from possessing animals. While Rep. Kavanagh had signed on as a cosponsor to my original bill (SB1161), he had not yet fully committed to supporting the amendment when the bill came up in COW, so I was not able to express that to the members of his caucus.
My amendment actually responded directly to agricultural lobbyists who had registered their opposition on the grounds that it a) might affect agriculture (not true -- agricultural activities were clearly exempted), and b) it was "unenforceable". The registry would have made the prohibited possession clearly enforceable, since there would then exist a public registry where all those transferring animals -- shelters, pet shops, etc.-- would be able to look up anyone seeking to acquire an animal.
Without the clear support of the sponsor of the underlying bill, my amendment went down, and without the shoring up of my amendment, the underlying bill went down by an embarrassing 4-23 vote. Again, this should be an issue with broad bipartisan support. Hopefully, Rep. Kavanagh can work with me from the beginning next time, and we can make sure that animals do not end up in the hands of abusers in Arizona.
A few brief updates:
--> TPT sales tax simplification is proceeding with the Cities and the Governor in virtual agreement over all aspects except the construction contracting portion.
--> Increasing numbers of county boards of supervisors are voting to endorse the Governor's Medicaid restoration efforts, even as Koch Brothers money is now being spent on mailers to the constituents of Republicans who support the restoration, slandering them.
--> There are no signs of progress on the budget, even though we are 20 days away from the traditional 100-day end of session.
Finally tonight, Arizona Republic columnist just posted a sadly entertaining column about the legislative session so far, featuring the fate of my bill to force disclosure of dark money in politics. It will be published in the Republic tomorrow, but you can read it here now.
Thanks for your faith in me as your Senator.
Senator, District 9, Tucson
Paid for by Friends O'Farley