The Farley Report from Phoenix #272: 4-4-17

The pace of legislation is slowing down now as we await word of a budget deal from the majority caucuses and the Governor’s Office. Word is, that deal may be a few weeks away at the earliest, so we will be spending a lot of waiting-around time until we get out of here for good. 

Despite a lot of talk about including Democrats in the budget process, that new climate has not materialized just yet. Even Governor Brewer recognized that Democrats can bring a lot to the table to broker a final deal — perhaps once the majority realizes they can’t come to agreement on their own, we may get some of our priorities included. How about 4% teacher raises instead of Governor Ducey’s 0.4% ?

Meanwhile there is other news to share. But first, the Farley Report Pledge Break…

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Last week, I asked for 75 of my supporters to pitch in toward our end of month fundraising goal with the Arizona Democratic Party. You stepped up in a BIG way! Over two days we had nearly 150 people contribute over $7,000. Thank you, thank you, thank you! You are driving real change here in Arizona.  

If you didn't have a chance to pitch in, you can still do so by clicking here.

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—> As most of you know, I was the first legislator in the country to introduce a bill banning driving while texting.

And you also know that we are still one of only two states with no statewide ban for anyone. We are one of only four states without a statewide ban for adults. Another of those four states is Texas. 

Unlike us, Texas does have a statewide ban on cellphone use while driving for anyone under the age of 18. We are currently struggling to even get a bill through (SB1080, currently stuck in House Rules) that would only ban cell phone use by teens in the first six months of their driver’s license. 

But even if that bill gets through, it would do nothing to stop in Arizona the horror witnessed in Texas last Wednesday, when a 20-year-old texting driver crossed over the center line of a winding road and slaughtered 13 elders from the New Braunfels First Baptist Church while on a field trip.

As you can see in this report from Fox News, the driver had been texting on the road for at least 15 minutes before the crash. Texting while driving is legal in Texas, just like it is here. When a practice is legal, people do it. When it is illegal, most people stop.  

That’s why we have extensive drunk-driving laws. While some people will still drink and drive, most people don’t. And those who do are stopped and fined and often jailed. Because drunk drivers kill — just like texting drivers.

It’s only a matter of time before we witness a horrific crash like the one in Texas. In fact, a new study reveals that 52% of recent car crashes across the country resulted from phone distraction. The average duration of distraction for drives that involved a crash was more than two minutes.  

It’s happening here already. Months after I introduced the nation’s first cell phone ban in 2007, a texting 19-year-old driver crossed over the center line in Peoria, Arizona, and instantly killed Stacy Stubbs, a mother of three from Chino Valley. In the 11 years since, I have met dozens of grieving family members and felt their inconsolable pain from the nonsensical loss of a loved one to the carelessness of a distracted driver.  

One family was that of DPS Officer Tim Huffman, killed in Yuma by a texting truck driver who was caught on video surfing Facebook on his phone immediately preceding the crash. His killer was convicted of lesser charges because texting while driving is not illegal in Arizona. 

Polls show more than 90% of Arizonans of all political beliefs support a ban. How many more Arizonans need to die before we get that law? 

I have worked each year to ban driving while texting in Arizona. I will not stop until the ban is in place.  

I have worked with people as unassailably conservative as Senator Al Melvin and a variety of other people from both parties who support the ban. This is not a partisan issue.

Since the Texas tragedy, more folks across the aisle have stood up to support a statewide ban for everyone, and are working behind the scenes to try to make it happen this year, in the form of an amendment to existing bills. I am hopeful we have a chance. It’s time. There are no excuses. 

—> For some better news, I am happy to share that your calls and emails have worked, and it looks like we have stopped this year’s legislative efforts to allow predatory lending at 164% annual rates in Arizona.  

HB2496 would allow an Arizona resident to borrow $2,500 from one of these companies and pay back monthly a required 2% principal reduction plus the interest on the remaining principal. At the end of twelve months, the borrower would have to make a balloon payment for the balance. In the end, he or she would have paid $6,133 for a $2,500 one-year loan.If the money is not available to pay the balloon payment (which is likely), the borrower could roll over the remaining balance into another one-year loan to pay all that interest again. This is a long-term debt trap.

Last week, Senate President Steve Yarbrough announced that HB2496 “will not be allowed to advance.”

I am grateful to him for stopping this inhumane bill. As I stated in the explanation of my No vote in committee a couple of weeks ago, we as a legislature should be doing everything we can to end poverty in Arizona, not serve up the poor as a new market for out-of-state predatory lenders. 

—>  Your emails and letters have also worked their wonder on another problematic bill, HB2287, which would have weakened Shannon’s Law. This was enacted in the wake of the 1999 death of Phoenix 14-year-old Shannon Smith, who was killed in her backyard by a bullet fired into the air by someone who has never been caught. It’s now a felony to negligently fire a weapon inside city limits.  

2287’s sponsor Tony Rivero thought that was unfair, and that the law should be weakened. After a sustained public outcry, Senate President Steve Yarbrough announced that the Senate would not consider the bill, saying, It's important to have this law in place to deter folks from firing weapons in these circumstances, even accidentally.”

Thank you for speaking out, and thanks to President Yarbrough for having the courage to act on what he heard from you. Citizen activism works.

—> Outside of the capitol, I am continuing to meet inspiring folks all over the state. 

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I was honored to keynote the 9th Annual Polly Rosenbaum Dinner for the Greenlee County Democrats in Clifton last Saturday night. My former legislative mentors Ann Kirkpatrick and Tom O'Halleran also spoke and we had a delicious home-cooked meal in a lovingly restored former Masonic Lodge now called the Blue Door Sanctuary. The turnout was tremendous, and the people I met were unforgettable. 

The highlight of the evening was giving awards to local youth who have overcome seemingly insurmountable difficulties, including Gerardo Cerna of Duncan High School, who survived a horrific car crash when he was in sixth grade, and Jose Cazares, who received a kidney from his dad while in elementary school. They are now two of the brightest rising stars in Arizona for their leadership, empathy, and drive to better their community. I came away utterly inspired, and I won't miss the 10th Annual Dinner next year!

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And last night, despite the tough luck of being scheduled at the same time as the NCAA Championship Game, I was able to address more than 200 Democratic activists gathered at Chandler/Ahwatukee's LD18 regular monthly meeting. 43 of the attendees had never come to a Democratic meeting before, and the atmosphere was electric with hope and determination.  

With this level of energy, we win in 2018. Together.

Thanks for your continuing faith in me as your Senator. 

Steve

Steve Farley

Senator, District 9, Tucson

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