The Farley Report from Phoenix #125: 2-22-11

Howdy,  Friends O'Farley,

The most important object on my desk on the House floor is my grandmother's Bible. It was given to her when she was 11 by her mother, a few months before she lost her mother to the 1918 outbreak of Spanish Influenza. 

In the pages between the Old and New Testament are handwritten records of my family's births, marriages and deaths. My grandmother recorded her own mother's death in those pages, and the ink is smeared from her tears as she wrote that devastating event.

In the years to follow, my grandmother Evelyn moved all over the country to stay with relatives in Kansas, New Jersey, Colorado, Ohio, and finally, California. Her Bible always stayed by her side. Her life was hard, but I will always remember her eternally hopeful and positive outlook on life. My visits with her as a kid are some of my most treasured memories -- I loved the stories from her life she shared with me.

Every day when I look at that Bible, I gain energy from the memory of her strength.

Yesterday, instead of dealing with the very real problems facing our state -- including balancing our budget, saving education and healthcare, and creating jobs -- we engaged in debate over a bill (HB2442) from Rep. Steve Montenegro (R-Litchfield Park) that would ban a practice which does not appear to exist in this country -- abortion for the purpose of race or sex selection.

Dr. Matt Heinz (D-Tucson) pointed out that most abortions are performed prior to the 12th week of gestation, before the gender of the child is determined. And while more abortions are performed on people of color, that has not been due to a eugenics movement, but rather due to the sad corollary in our country that bind together race, poverty and unplanned pregnancies. 

The bill would criminalize doctors who purpoertedly perform this fictitious act, and would do nothing to reduce the numbers of abortions occurring among people of color by attacking the root causes of poverty. Instead, the bill served as a platform for vicious and ungrounded attacks on organizations like Planned Parenthood and those of us who support their efforts to protect women's health and reproductive rights.

During debate on the floor. Rep. Montenegro spoke of those who would oppose his bill. "They'll find a way to defend the indefensible. And they'll rationalize it with smooth words. They're the people behind genocides." It would appear that the new UofA Civility Institute has its work cut our for it. 

I voted against this bill -- another in a series of ideological wedge issues that simply serve to divide us for no good reason. So did two brave Republicans, Russ Jones (R-Yuma), and Kate Brophy McGee (R-Phoenix).

After the vote, a Republican Representative followed me up to my office and told me that she was infuriated by my vote on that bill. She told me that I was not a true Christian because no one who believed in Jesus would vote against that bill.

She then accused me of using my grandmother's Bible as a "prop".

Instead of asking her to leave my office, I remembered the words of advice offered by Katharine Schori, presiding bishop of my faith, the American Episcopal Church, when she said, "The reason to stay in communion with those with whom we disagree is to leave open the possibility of conversion. Not a conversion in which one?s political opponents see the error of their ways in a flash as the scales fall from their eyes, but the far greater and more elusive possibility of a conversion that compels us to see our opponents as human beings, worthy of respect and possessing God-given dignity."

I spoke of the importance of seeing Scripture as a continuing revelation of the ever-changing present, not an unchanging artifact of the past. I spoke of the importance to me of the admonition of Jesus to love one another without exception. I suggested that we would best be carrying out the example of the life of Christ by working together to reduce poverty among all peoples, and thus reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies -- instead of dividing ourselves from one another to serve political purposes.

I don't know that my response changed her mind, but I am convinced it did no harm, and perhaps the dialogue will continue. Without dialogue, democracy is doomed.

I do know that it will take a lot of work to change the mind of Senate President Russell Pearce, who transitioned us from Abortion Monday into Immigration Tuesday.

As you know from reading these Farley Reports over the past four years, Mr. Pearce has introduced a whole lot of bills to go after immigrants -- and non-immigrants who may be determined to be "reasonably suspicious". His strike-everything amendment to SB1611, being heard today in the Senate Appropriations Committee along with the 14th-Amendment Repeal (which passed) and several other anti-immigrant bills, contains nearly every bad idea he has ever previously tried to enact.

It would be hard to imagine a bill more imbued with the spirit of Orwellian Government -- this is the sort of infringement on personal liberties and privacy that rankles most Arizonans, and would do nothing to crack down on illegal immigration and criminal activities at the border.

The bill is so full of different provisions that it is impossible to list them all here. I will highlight a few.

--> Anyone operating a motor vehicle who is "believed" by a law enforcement officer to be unlawfully present in the U.S. can have their motor vehicle, registration, card, and license plate taken from them and must serve a minimum of 30 days in jail. The proceeds from the sale of the car would go to the State's General Fund.

--> Public and private school and hospital officials would now be forced to serve as immigration enforcement officials. In the case of homeschooled children, legal guardians would be forced to turn in their children.

--> Anyone convicted of using a false Social Security card would be sentenced to a minimum of six months in county jails, which already are overburdened and underfunded. 

--> Universities and community colleges would kick out any students -- including those paying full out-of-state tuition -- who could not produce ID.

--> The Attorney General must suspend all business licenses of any business that is not registered with E-Verify.

--> Public housing authorities must evict all residents of a dwelling unit if a single resident of that unit cannot produce proper ID.

There is so much more in this bill, all of which would cost millions of dollars that we don't have, and will chase away tens of thousands of visitors and jobs that we desperately need. You may remember that Mr Pearce obtained enough votes to attain the Senate Presidency after promising a number of his fellow Republicans that he would focus on the economy this year, not immigration. It would appear that his promises had a rather short shelf life.

The bill is being heard as I write this, and the encouraging development is that every major business, tourism, education, religious, and healthcare organization in the state is signed in against the bill. They are united in their understanding that SB1611 would undercut everything we have done to try to attract businesses and tourists to our state to help grow our economy. Its passage would cement our reputation as the intolerant backwater of the Union.

Why do we have to deal with these ideological wedge issues, year after year, as our ship of state runs aground for lack of leadership? I really don't believe that most Arizonans want to see these bills dominate our agenda. Most folks what us to work together to balance the budget (at last!), create real jobs now, build our infrastructure, revive our education system, and provide healthcare for those in need.

I think as the ideological bills continue their onslaught on our democracy, even some of the majority party are getting tired of the lack of attention to our real problems. Perhaps I am lucky to have inherited my grandmother's optimism even when events appear bleak -- I do find hope in some of the off-camera conversations I have had with colleagues from the other party.

I will continue the dialogue, and remain in communion with all who I encounter up here. I will stay hopeful that reason can prevail for the sake of all of us in the once and future great state of Arizona.

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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