We are careening toward Sine Die adjournment possibly as early as tomorrow night, so in honor of the season I've been spending the last few days tracking down rumors, advocating to Senators of all stripes, making floor speeches, and putting out fires in both House and Senate. But before I get to the rundown, let's pause, breathe, and embrace hope.
Last night, as I was grabbing a barbacoa salad at the Chipotle at 7th Ave. and McDowell in Phoenix after a long day at the Capitol, a young woman I did not recognize came up to me and asked, "Are you Senator Farley?" This happens from time to time in Tucson, but I was surprised to be recognized so far from my district.
She told me she was part of a group of dedicated volunteers from Neighborhood Ministries which has been walking door to door registering voters since last summer. She and her friends heard about the budget debate a few weeks ago and, instead of running away from democracy like too many other young people, they came down to watch us in the Senate as we held forth in the middle of the night detailing the problems with the proposed budget to anyone who was awake and listening. She just wanted to thank me for standing up for their future.
I was inspired that night by their presence as witnesses in the gallery, and am even more inspired by their resulting commitment to positive change for our state. They reinforced my optimism for Arizona's future, once we get through the current rough spots in governance through a new crop of leaders are elected by a new crop of voters. These young people are the reason I do what I do, and I am so grateful to them for their spirit and actions which will save us from the messes we have made.
Until that change manifests, we members of the elected minority are doing what we can to stop some bad bills, something we accomplished in recent days.
--> Rep. Barton's (R-Payson) guns in public buildings bill SB2320 went down to defeat on the Senate floor on Monday in Committee of the Whole (COW) action, 14-15. You may recall that this would have forced all government agencies to allow Concealed Carry Weapon permit holders to carry their guns into courthouses, libraries, stadiums, convention centers, child protective hearings, DES offices, council chambers, and more, unless they paid tens of millions of dollars to install metal detectors, security guards, and gun lockers.
Big thanks for this outcome go to all Democrats on the floor and three Republicans who had the guts to buck their party and embrace common sense: Adam Driggs, Steve Pierce, and Bob Worsley.
--> Those three R's also deserve thanks (along with Jeff Dial) for the defeat of Rep. Mark Finchem's (R-Oro Valley) anti-Common Core bill HB2190 in the same COW, 13-16. The bill would have eliminated standards that have been in place in most districts for four years and endangered the more than $600 million we receive annually from the federal government. All this would have happened just as we are putting the new AZMerit assessments in place for the first time across the state.
Now that the ideological battle is out of the way, it is my hope that we work together to improve the assessments based on facts and outcomes rather than keep trying to trash all the standards based on hearsay with no alternative to replace them.
Sadly, the initial signs for that happening are not encouraging -- in a highly unusual move yesterday, Senate Education Chair Kelli Ward (R-Lake Havasu City) refused to bring up for confirmation before her committee one of Gov. Ducey's nominees to the state board of education because, as Superintendent of the Yavapai School District, he helped to write the Common Core standards. Perhaps his existence inconveniently contradicts her assertion that Arizona had no input in writing the standards? At the same committee hearing she did confirm as the new Student Regent an NAU Young Republican who demonstrated a long history of opposing Common Core.
--> Through your emails and phone calls, you helped immeasurably with another victory -- Gov. Ducey vetoed Rep. Barton's HB2150, which would have stripped farm animals (including horses) out of the animal anti-cruelty code and put them in the weaker Agriculture code, and forced law enforcement to inform the Agriculture Department about ongoing investigations which could have compromised their integrity. Thank you for acting to stand for animals and stop that bad bill.
--> Nothing's over till we Sine Die, but it looks right now like we have been able to kill SB1172 (which would have gagged school employees from talking politically to the public about anything related to funding for their schools) and SB1076 (which would have made it harder for TUSD to sue to overturn the $8-18 million slashed from their budget by Gov. Ducey in the recent state budget). Thanks go to many, both within and outside of the Legislature, including those of you who sent in calls and emails. If these pop up again tomorrow, keep posted to my Facebook page for updates.
--> Sadly, not all the news is good. Gov. Ducey did sign into law the latest anti-abortion bill, Sen. Nancy Barto's SB1318, which bans abortion coverage for women who buy health insurance from the new healthcare exchanges, and requires a statement on the state Health Department website saying that abortion can be reversed, an astonishingly false claim made by one quack doctor. The lawsuits will quickly follow, as they should in this case.
--> The question of whether or not we get to obtain new federally-compliant driver licenses is going down to the wire. I mentioned last week that Arizona licenses are not currently valid under 2005's Real ID act--even the new ones. If you try to use them as ID to board a plane after January 16, 2016, you will not be admitted. Sen. Bob Worsley has been trying to solve this problem, and Gov. Ducey says he also wants it solved, but Speaker David Gowan has been blocking passage so far, for unstated reasons.
Last week he allowed compliance to be amended to the ADOT Omnibus bill, but he also arranged to have one of his favorite (but stalled) bills amended to the same vehicle -- one that would eliminate felony speeding charges, even at speeds more than 20mph over the maximum speed limit, and would make speeding of less than 11mph over the speed limit a $15 ticket with no points. Needless to say, ADOT, safety advocates, and insurance companies are not pleased, and the whole thing would likely be vetoed.
So today in COW, Worsley successfully amended the federally-compliant ID authorization to another inoffensive bill, Rep. Rick Gray's HB2609. We third-read the bill tomorrow, and then it is back to the House for a final read. It will then be up to Speaker Gowan to decide whether he wants to single-handedly make Arizona travelers furious starting next January, or put aside his objections and let it proceed through to the Governor's desk. Let's all hope the statesmanship in him rises to the surface.
--> And finally tonight, if you have any friends who still believe standing up for education investment is just a Democratic thing, please share with them a public statement made today by conservative Congressman Matt Salmon (R-East Valley): "I really do believe that if we keep short-shrifting our universities, we're going to reap the outcome. And it's not a good outcome." Hear hear! The same goes for our community colleges and K-12 schools. No, this is not an April Fools' joke. It's time for change, and even conservative East Valley Republicans are starting to agree.
Keep posted for updates tomorrow on my Facebook page.
Thanks for your continuing faith in me as your Senator.
Senator, District 9, Tucson
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