The Farley Report from Phoenix #123: 2-8-11

Howdy,  Friends O'Farley,

First off, I want to invite you to celebrate the 99th anniversary of Arizona's statehood by taking part in a statewide Office Hours for all Democratic legislators across Arizona this Saturday, February 12.

Your District 28 Dream Team of Senator Paula Aboud, Representative Bruce Wheeler, and I will be holding our Town Hall from 3:30-5:00pm at the Martha Cooper Library at 1377 N. Catalina Avenue in Tucson.

Please come by and offer your input on state issues, hear the latest on what's going on in the Legislature, and share a hug. All three of us take our jobs as your voice at the Capitol very seriously and we want to hear from you. Plus we just really like talking policy with people as engaged and interesting as you are!

It is hard to believe that it has only been one month since our world was turned upside down by one deranged killer.

The events of January 8 were especially on my mind today, as I was honored to spend time with Gabe Zimmerman's parents Ross Zimmerman and Emily Nottingham and his fianc?e Kelly O'Brien. Their strength, courage, and grace under the most horrific circumstances inspire me deeply 

They joined me at the Capitol today in a press conference to support my House Bill 2711, which would make a large-capacity ammunition feeding device (like the kind used by Jared Loughner) a prohibited weapon 

In her comments, Kelly said "I absolutely support this bill, and it is so sad to see 19 people gunned down in just 15 seconds by one of these extended capacity magazines. As you know, Jared was stopped when he ran out of bullets. And I believe, even if not Gabe, other people could have been saved that day." 

Kelly and Gabe's parents are committed to saving future lives, and that is what this bill is about. That's why I introduced the bill, which has 19 co-sponsors.

I support the Second Amendment and believe that all law-abiding citizens have the right to own guns. I also believe in common sense. These ammunition magazines were banned in the United States from 1994-2004, and even Dick Cheney said in late January that he thought it could be appropriate to limit the size of magazines.

I know that we can't stop these tragedies from ever happening again. But if we can do something to limit the carnage and save innocent lives in the future, we need to do that.

I understand that the road to passage for a bill of this type in Arizona has historically been difficult. This year is no exception, as Senator Ron Gould (R-Lake Havasu City) has already managed to shepherd his omnibus gun bill (SB1201) through the Judiciary Committee on a 6-2 vote. That bill would allow guns into most government facilities (including the Senate and House galleries), public events, and public transportation, and would repeal Shannon's Law which made it a crime to discharge a firearm into the air in city limits.

I hope that my colleagues will understand that HB2711 is a common-sense bill that does not threaten Second Amendment rights and can save lives. If it does not get heard in our legislature, I believe that it is important for the rest of the country and Congress to know that Arizonans want these magazines banned for good.

My bill from January 2007 to ban driving while texting was the first in the U.S. to be introduced. Although we still don't have that ban in Arizona, driving while texting is now against the law in 40 other states. If we can do the same with this bill, we will have honored the memory of the lives lost and lives changed forever on January 8.

Speaking of saving lives, on Thursday my bill to ban all cellphone use of any kind for drivers under 18 (HB2426) will be heard at last in the House Transportation Committee. This bill has a lot of momentum this year, and I have high hopes that it can go far.

The fact is, learning to drive is hard enough without the distractions provided by today's cellphones and smartphones. We need to keep the 16 and 17 year olds focused on the road ahead to protect their lives and everyone else on the road. This is a common-sense nonpartisan bill that can make a real difference. If you are so inclined, please contact members of the Transportation Committee and ask for their support. You can find their contact info by going to:

http://www.azleg.gov/CommitteeInfo.asp?Committee_ID=13&Session_ID=102

Yesterday the House Ways and Means committee heard two of my bills. One was HB2557, the medical marijuana tax that I described last week. I am amending the bill to make the rate 100%, and dedicate the funds to transplant patients, maintaining coverage for the 280,000 people in poverty that the Governor proposes to kick off health care, quality and safety inspections for dispensaries, and enforcement. The debate was very interesting, and many of the Republican members showed a great deal of interest in the concept. Chairman Harper did not hold a vote on the bill, but I believe that the concept may well appear in a future budget.

We also heard my bill to eliminate the infamous tax exemption on four-inch pipes (HB2564), which would raise more than $18 million a year. Again, the testimony was fascinating (for us fiscal policy wonks, anyway) and the Republicans on the committee were surprised to hear the size and scope of all the sales tax exemptions on the books.

It turns out that the beneficiary of this exemption is Southwest Gas, the Las Vegas-based company that has had issues with some Farley Report readers recently during our cold snap. During testimony, the company's lobbyist explained her belief that taxing the gas and taxing the pipes through which it flows is "double taxation".

I suggested that Southwest Gas is not in the business of selling pipes, but is an end user of the pipes, and therefore should be fairly subject to sales tax on those pipes. For example, carpet companies use trucks instead of pipes to transport their product (carpets) to the home in which they are to be installed. But those carpet companies are not allowed to escape paying sales tax on their trucks.

The lobbyist then went on to say that the four-inch pipe exemption was put in place decades ago to put the natural gas delivery industry on an equal footing with the electricity delivery industry which already had a sales tax exemption on wiring and poles and transformers. I suggested that perhaps a better way to deal with that inequity would be to eliminate both exemptions. For the record, the amount of sales taxes lost to the electrical delivery exemption is more than $38 million a year.

Committee Republicans were amenable to the argument that perhaps a fairer, flatter sales tax code could be in order, where we fill up these loopholes so that the overall sales tax rate could be lowered. But once again, Chairman Harper decided not to call a vote. We did accomplish something in getting the debate out there -- let's see if we can get rid of some of those exemptions in the overall budget bill.

I'll leave you with some very good news tonight. Senator Ron Gould heard in his Judiciary committee his infamous "repeal the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution" bills (SB1308 and 1309) that would create second-class citizenship for babies born in Arizona whose parents could not prove legal residency while giving birth. After testimony, it became clear that he did not have the votes for passage, so he held both bills.

But as Farley Report readers know, there are many ways to bring back a failed bill as long as we are in session. Senate President Russell Pearce (R-Mesa), who promised when running for his post as President that he would focus on the economy first, has instead focused on pushing SB1308 and 1309 back into the realm of possibility. He has taken the unusual step of personally withdrawing the bills from Judiciary, and re-referred them to Appropriations, where he believes they will have a better chance of passing.

Luckily, even if he is successful in getting this repeal to the floor, the scuttlebutt is that the votes are still not there. Keep your fingers crossed!

If you want to continue your search for the worst of the worst corporate giveaways already in statute, here's that link again. Feel free to pass it around so all Arizonans find out who really wins in our tax code -- it isn't you and me:

http://www.azdor.gov/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=JL-F9b7MZ-M%3d&tabid=108&mid=492         

Thanks for your continuing faith in me as your Representative.

Steve

Steve Farley
Arizona State Representative, District 28
Assistant Minority Leader
Ranking Member, Transportation Committee
Ways & Means Committee
Ethics Committee
Legislative Council
Capitol office: 602-926-3022
Tucson office: 520-398-6000
Official email: sfarley at azleg.gov 

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