Some days are tougher than others around here. This is one of them.
My heart goes out to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings and their families. We in Tucson know that the pain is immense, but senseless violence cannot stop the human spirit of love and hope. We are with you.
At noon Arizona time, Speaker Boehner, ex-Speaker Pelosi, Ron Barber, Vice President Biden, Gabby and Mark, and so many others joined with Gabe's parents Ross Zimmerman and Emily Nottingham to dedicate the Gabe Zimmerman Memorial Meeting Room in the U.S. Capitol. This was the first time a room at the Capitol has been named for a staffer, and the ceremony was wonderful. Mark read a poem that Gabe had written at age 10 that I had included -- in his own handwriting -- as part of the artwork I was asked by his mom to create at his memorial trailhead southeast of Tucson.
The poem says:
Gabe Matthew Zimmerman
Who loves Sports,
Family, and Pizza
Who needs Sports,
Friends and Family
Who Fears Failing,
Weapons and War
Who Gives Love,
Help, and Ideas
Who would like to see, No hunger,
Peace, and No Nuclear Booms
Gabe Matthew Zimmerman
If you missed it, the live feed is on YouTube here. The ceremony actually starts at the 40-minute mark of this clip.
Gabe was a good friend to me and to many of you, and his loss still hurts deep inside. His ability to calm even the most agitated constituents earned him the nickname of the "Constituent Whisperer" among Gabby's staff. His dedication to public service remains an inspiration to me and so many others, and his kindness I will never forget. With this room, Gabe will continue to inspire future generations of public servants who never had the privilege of meeting him during his lifetime.
To lead off today's floor session in the Senate I praised the bipartisan leadership in Congress honoring Gabe in this way, and hoped that future leaders could use this room as a place to resolve difficult conflicts in his honor.
Sadly, the atmosphere changed later in the afternoon as a Brenda Barton bill, HB2455, passed the Senate on a third read vote of 18-12. This bill would force law enforcement and cities and counties to sell guns in their possession, even those surrendered voluntarily by owners and those used in the commission of crimes, murders, and suicides.
Imagine the impact on victims' families to know that the gun used to kill their loved one is back out on the streets in someone else's hands. Imagine the family of a suicide victim killed by the family gun, who would no longer be able to ask law enforcement to destroy that gun.
One senator, Rick Murphy (R-Glendale) argued that this was a "taxpayer protection bill" and that it was our duty to maximize profits for our cities by selling guns instead of destroying them. He added that those of us talking about the emotional impact on victims' families were "using those emotions for political purposes."
As Dave Bradley (D-Tucson) put it, "It is now safer to be a gun than to be a child in Arizona."
As if this weren't enough, you will recall I previewed Sen. Judy Burges' Agenda 21 UN-Communist Conspiracy hearing in the last Farley Report. It took place on Thursday morning, and was attended by about a hundred riled-up Tea Party supporters.
I was the only Democrat on the dais, so I took a fair amount of heat, including when I asked former Sen. Sylvia Allen if there have ever been any good government regulations (like banning the known neurotoxin lead paint), and they crowd yelled "NO." I pointed out that 56 years passed between lead paint being banned in Europe and it being banned by the EPA here in the US, putting three generations of kids at risk of severe brain injury. Allen replied that the Federal Government has no authority to regulate, and if we had just waited longer, the states would have eventually gotten around to enacting the ban themselves.
We heard that the UN Agenda 21 declaration on sustainability (a non-binding declarations that says things like "human beings should be at the center of sustainable development" agreed to by George HW Bush in 1992) had replaced our Constitution and was being carried out by communist plants at every level of government by forcing us into "high-density human settlements" and light rail, building bike paths, preserving wildlife, and adopting common core curriculum in our schools.
It appeared to me that many of these folks are legitimately scared and threatened by societal change and uncontrollable global economic forces that are transforming our world, and sometimes not in a good way. I agreed with Allen that we do need to look closely at how free trade agreements are hurting American businesses.
I just don't think that conspiracy theories and free-flowing fury are the best ways of dealing with the challenges we face. There were many catcalls from the audience when I told them this, making me a target of their rage.
In the middle of all this, Rep. Bob Thorpe, (R-Flagstaff), decided to "joke around" by inviting the audience, "Please refrain from laughing and clapping, but here in Arizona if you do have your Colt 45, please feel free to shoot it into the air." Note that the Senate Floor was directly above the hearing room. You can see a video of him saying this here. Later he helpfully pointed out another target of ire, Sierra Club lobbyist Sandy Bahr, in the audience, so they would know who she was.
No video was posted publicly on the legislative website, by the request of Sen. Burges, but it was recorded. You can see a 7-minute video of some of the highlights here, and tomorrow I will post the entire 2.5 hour hearing on my Facebook page here, for those of you who just can't turn away from this stuff.
Meanwhile, there is no progress on the budget, or Medicaid restoration. I hope we can move on next week.
If you would like to hear about education funding, common core curriculum, and performance funding, Rep. Victoria Steele and I will be holding an LD9 Education Forum this Saturday from 10am-noon at the AEA Southern AZ offices, 6873 N. Oracle, in the back of the business complex. We will be hosting education expert Dr. David Garcia, so in contrast to the Agenda 21 hearing this should be a fact-based session. Please RSVP to Victoria at email@example.com. Hope to see you there.
Thanks for your faith in me as your Senator.
Senator, District 9, Tucson
Paid for by Friends O'Farley