Things don't always happen the way you want them to. We in Tucson know that all too well.
But as we move forward -- even from terrible events -- in a spirit of love and hope and empathy, and join together in our community as we have especially since January 8, 2011, we have shown we can rise above anything and be a beacon unto the nation.
As my family and I watched the video on Sunday of Gabby telling us that she would resign her seat, we cried. We feel like she is a member of our family. My daughters have joined me at Giffords events -- and asked pertinent policy questions -- for years and years, and Gabby has always been our hero.
I know, as we all do, that Gabby is capable of doing anything she wants. Even though we so powerfully wanted her to keep representing us in Congress and take up her office once more, she has made the obvious right decision: to focus on her recovery.
We want her in office, but above all, we want her well. And once she is well, I know that she will lead us once again, in a bigger and better capacity, and even the sky will no longer be the limit for where she can go.
Many of you have emailed me since Sunday to urge me to consider a run for her seat to carry forward Gabby's legacy, and I will tell you that if Gabby asks me, I will run, and I will ask for your help so that we can win together. If she asks another person to run, I will support that person and I will ask for your help so that we can win together.
Meanwhile, there is a lot of work to be done at the Capitol, and I remain committed to help change the Arizona Legislature this November as the new State Senator for the new District 9. If that changes, you will be among the first to know.
Today at the Capitol I hosted Arizona's first Distracted Driving Summit, organized by Shelly Camp and her students from Payson High School, and attended by 150 teenagers from high schools around the state. It gave me a huge infusion of hope for our future.
One of my favorite things to do is to share with high school students an inside view on how our government works, and how they can play a part. As I told them this morning, the future of our democracy depends upon their active engagement in public policy as involved citizens.
They made appointments with legislators of all parties to advocate for bans on driving while texting (HB2512 from Steve Urie (R-Gilbert)), cellphone use by teen drivers (SB1056 from John McComish (R-Ahwatukee) and HB2311 from me), and distracted driving in general (HB2312 from me).
Some of the best moments came as I stood with some of the students, pointed out legislators on the plaza as they walked by, and watched as they tried out their best elevator speeches about the bills. The students were really pumped up for this chance to make their case to the Senators and Representatives, and I definitely get the sense that their feeling of empowerment will not leave them as they seek to improve our state in the years to come.
Yesterday, I introduced a bill to further empower citizen lobbyists like these students by reducing the power of large corporate lobbyists to influence legislation -- HB2665, the ALEC Accountability Act of 2012, which I first described to you in the December Farley Report.
Right now at the capitol, a back-door system of lobbyist-funded scholarships, not regulated or usually disclosed to the public, fund lawmaker participation in American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) conferences that promote an ideological agenda. This system also actively provides fancy accommodations, upscale dining and entertainment "networking" opportunities in cities around the country.
ALEC lobbies lawmakers and it is quite effective in doing so. ALEC model legislation that has been promoted and adopted by the legislature is evidence of this -- you can read an excellent independent report exposing the connections between ALEC model legislation and Arizona bills here: http://site.pfaw.org/pdf/ALEC-IN-ARIZONA.pdf
Right now, ALEC operates outside the rules that limit lobbyist influence in Arizona. But these special interests clearly have a purpose for funding ALEC and ALEC clearly has an aggressive agenda it is actively promoting in states across the country.
The public has the right to know who funds ALEC's activities, who funds legislators' costs associated with attending ALEC meetings and conferences around the country and which legislators are accepting those funds.
Arizona's citizens also have a right to ensure that, as a lobbying entity, ALEC complies with the laws in place to limit the influence of lobbyists on Arizona's political process. The ALEC Accountability Act, HB2665, requires ALEC to adhere to the same laws that other lobbying entities must follow.
It is time to shine the light on who funds this organization and who funds the travel and other participation costs of legislators active in groups like ALEC. It is also time that the public knows what legislators are taking “scholarship” or other funding to pay for travel and lodging costs for ALEC and other conferences, including NCSL and CSG, and what special interests are paying for those trips.
Right now to get this information, a regular citizen must file a public records request. But I believe it should be easily be accessible via the Arizona Secretary of State’s website.
Lastly, there is a need to make sure any entity acting in a lobbyist capacity is required to register as a lobbyist and comply with the regulations and public disclosure laws applicable to lobbyists.
Some special interest groups, such as the Goldwater Institute, define their regular testimony in front of legislative committees as “technical assistance” or “legal advice,” thus skirting the lobbyist registration requirements, while others like the Arizona Education Association forthrightly register themselves as lobbyists. These loopholes must be closed so that any person or entities acting as lobbyists are required to register as lobbyists.
This bill will help lawmakers be more effective for the actual people they are representing – the people of Arizona – instead of serving corporate special interests.
I want to leave you with some good news that gives us hope that bad bills can be defeated -- albeit a year after they first passed. Loyal Farley Report readers may remember a bill first heard last year around this time in my Ways & Means committee establishing a "homeowner affidavit".
It requires that counties mail a tiny postcard this March to all homeowners in their jurisdiction, informing them to fill out a notarized affidavit swearing that they are the resident owner. If the postcard gets chucked out with the junk mail, or we get too busy and forgot to go get the affidavit notarized and sent, we will be confronted with a $600 increase on our property tax bill this fall.
This is a brave new world for government intrusion -- for the first time, the basic legal assumption becomes that all taxpayers are guilty of tax fraud until proven innocent -- the opposite of what it should be and always has been. And a $600 penalty for losing a postcard is pretty harsh, especially in this economy.
I hammered the bill with these arguments in 2011, and it never arrived on the floor for a vote, but the bill reappeared buried in the Republican budget last year and was adopted by the majority.
This year that same majority, nudged along by strong opposition from the Arizona Association of Realtors, realized it would have been well served to listen to my arguments of last year. So Majority Leader Steve Court (R-Mesa) brought a bill before yesterday's Ways and Means committee to repeal the "homeowner affidavit" once again, and it seems fast-tracked to passage. At least on this topic we can breathe easy once again.
As you know, the only special interest I report to is you. Please consider helping out my campaign for the State Senate as I carry out my leadership duties to recruit, support, and elect a new generation of Arizona leaders. I can't do this alone. I need your support right now.
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Thanks for your continuing faith in me as your Representative.
Arizona State Representative, District 28
Assistant Minority Leader
Ranking Member, Transportation Committee
Ways & Means Committee
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