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Jordan Harb: Starting a life of politics and public policy

Jordan Harb (Photo by Paulina Pineda/Arizona Capitol Times)
Jordan Harb (Photo by Paulina Pineda/Arizona Capitol Times)

Jordan Harb, the 17-year-old Mesa student who helped organize a student walkout on March 14 to mark the one-month anniversary of the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., said he won’t be deterred by lawmakers’ lack of response. After all, many of the students who joined him at the Capitol will soon be able to vote. If lawmakers don’t take their pleas seriously, he said, they’ll hit the polls and vote for those who will listen.

A junior at Mountain View High School, Harb said he’s been politically active for some time. He started a We the People and a Young Democrats club in school, and has helped register almost 600 seniors to vote, he said. He also interned with Save our Schools Arizona last summer.

Listening to him speak passionately about the work he’s doing, it’s almost easy to forget he’s in high school – that is, until he starts raving about video games and his love of Harry Potter.

Cap Times Q&AHow does it feel to be the face of the Arizona March for Our Lives movement?

It’s really weird. I actually walked into the gas station that I go to every day to get an energy drink and the cashier was like, “I saw you on the front page of the newspaper.”

How did you organize the Day of Action on March 14?

It has kind of been a mix of social media and phone banking. We’ve used social media to blow up and get the event out and a lot of people have signed up to volunteer. But through all of the forms we have, whether you’re signing up to volunteer or signing up for our newsletter, we always ask if you’re a student. So for the Day of Action, I basically got every phone number I had for a student here in Arizona and I called every single one of them personally and said, “Come down to the Capitol. This is important. We need to make some changes here.” And I texted them all a little graphic we made for social media, a little bio, and they themselves went and spread it all over social media.

What’s been the response from your teachers?

I go to a really, really conservative school. … So some of my teachers know what I’m doing but have ignored it because they don’t like what I’m doing.

How do your parents feel about all of the attention?

They’re just kind of on the sidelines at this point. I think that, I’ve been a little involved for a while now, so they’ve gotten a little used to me just always being somewhere. And now they’re seeing me on the news every single day. My mom called me yesterday and told me, “Can you stop being on the news? I’m worried someone’s gonna kill you.”

What about the Parkland shooting sparked this kind of reaction?

I think it’s because of the Parkland students. They’ve become inspirations for the entire nation. If it wasn’t for them, this wouldn’t be happening because students aren’t really inclined to break the rules and break the status quo. It’s kind of entrenched. And watching the survivors of the Florida shooting stand up and make national television every single day when they’re my age, or younger even, it inspired me. It inspired everyone else to say enough is enough. We are the catalyst, we are the changemakers. And I think that’s why this has been so successful. The survivors speaking out, that was the moment that this became a movement. Because with all other shootings everyone says it’s not the time to talk, we’re mourning. But it’s become obvious that the time between each shooting is becoming shorter and shorter, so there is no time to talk about it if you want to respect the dead. And watching the survivors speak out, that broke the status quo, it ended that excuse.

Don’t take any offense, but we just wanted to gauge what your reaction would be. How much is George Soros paying you?

Who’s George Soros?

He’s a billionaire Democratic donor.

Well, I would like to ask George Soros to please send me checks. I’ve taken a huge hit out of my paychecks. I work like twice a week now because every waking hour of my life has been dedicated to this movement and I could really use some gas money.

Jokes aside, some Republicans questioned Democrats’ intentions following the Day of Action, with one member, Rep. Anthony Kern, saying that the students “were played.” What do you say to that?

I would think it was the other way around. I had been talking to the Democratic Caucus in order to get more radical things to happen that day. I wanted something to happen on the floor that day and we pushed it. And if anything, we pushed the Democratic Caucus to read our cards. The youth who showed up that day and the youth who walked out of class across the state aren’t partisan, we’re just scared.

Do you think this is a one-time thing or will we be seeing students become more politically active?

This youth movement didn’t just start with Parkland. … Youth have been mobilizing since the 2016 election, slowly, and I think the Parkland shooting has been the catalyst just to make it explode exponentially and I don’t think it’s stopping anytime soon.

Do you think you’ll pursue politics in the future?

This has permanently impacted me and I can tell you I will be pursuing activism, public policy and government for probably the rest of my life.

What’s your favorite subject in school?

Social studies. I love learning about history and I love learning about social sciences, I just think it’s fascinating. … I went to D.C., the week of the Parkland shooting actually, and I met with Senator Jeff Flake. A little off topic, but I was very disappointed because his answers were very politician-like and I was upset that children had died that day. But while I was there, we took a tour of the Capitol building and I was sitting in the old Supreme Court building. And they told me that the Dred Scott decision was made there, and I don’t know, I almost started crying because I thought it was the coolest thing ever because I’m standing in a place that like, a terrible decision by the way, but a monumental decision was made that I learned about in U.S. History.

Legislature poised to work on Ducey school safety plan

Students are evacuated by police from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on February 14, after a shooter opened fire on the campus. (Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)
Students are evacuated by police from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on February 14, after a shooter opened fire on the campus. (Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)

A first draft of legislation that corresponds to Gov. Doug Ducey’s school safety plan surfaced in the Arizona legislature Tuesday.

A rough draft of the bill, obtained by the Arizona Capitol Times and which can be viewed below, aims to curtail gun violence in public schools. The legislation includes provisions to take guns away from those deemed a danger to themselves or others, mandatory active shooter training for school resource officers, creation of a school safety center within the Arizona Counter Terrorism Information Center and mental health first-aid training for public school students across the state.

Ducey introduced his school safety plan in the wake of the February shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

The 51-page bill is so new it doesn’t have a bill number yet, but it details a number of the priorities Ducey called for when he unveiled the plan weeks ago, and in some cases, the amount of money Ducey proposes to spend in order to make his plan a reality.

A spokesman for the governor’s office said the draft, obtained Tuesday, is not the final version of the legislation.

“There are more changes that need to be made that will continue to be made over the next day or two,” said Ducey spokesman Daniel Scarpinato. “We hope to introduce a final bill that addresses some of the issues that members have this week.”

A major pillar of Ducey’s plan — to create a Severe Threat Order of Protection, or STOP order by which law enforcement, family members or someone else can petition the court to temporarily confiscate a person’s firearms — is included in the bill. Should a court determine a person may be a threat to themselves or others after being evaluated by a behavioral health professional, the court can prohibit the person from possessing firearms for up to 180 days.

The bill also calls for all school districts that issue student identification cards to include the safe schools hotline number on all student IDs starting in the 2018-2019 school year.

The legislation also beefs up school safety training requirements for teachers, school resource officers and calls for “age-appropriate” training for students. Nearly $600,000 would be provided to the Department of Public Safety to create a new Center for School Safety, which would house a statewide hotline for students to report suspicious activity.

School districts and charter schools may also enter into agreements to hire reserve law enforcement officers to serve as campus security officers, according to the proposed legislation. As pitched by the governor’s staff, those agreements would be voluntary, and made only if local school officials desired.

The governor’s office has also been able to identify additional resources to help fund more school resource officers, Scarpinato said. The bill provides an additional $2 million to the Department of Education for those positions.

Should sufficient funds be available, the legislation would require school districts to hire contractors that would be able to provide mental health first-aid training and behavioral health services to students in kindergarten through twelfth grade.

To that effect, the bill provides a $2 million appropriation, to be matched by $6 million in federal funding, that would provide students covered by Medicaid or KidsCare with access to counselors.

Another $450,000 is provided to fund mental health first-aid training for students.

As drafted, the bill is also notable for what it lacks. Democrats have called Ducey’s proposal ineffective so long as it lacks universal background checks and a ban on bump stocks, but those provisions are not included in the legislation. The minority party has vowed to vote against the plan as proposed by Ducey weeks ago.

Nor does it include plans to arm teachers, as proposed by some Republican leaders who support a school marshall program, by which teachers, coaches and school administrators could  volunteer to undergo hours of firearms training before being able to use a gun at schools to respond to school shootings.

Scarpinato called Ducey’s plan a “middle-of-the-road approach” to school safety reform.

“I think that there’s some folks on either extreme that have some ideological views on these things, but ultimately, we think that we’ll be able to come to a consensus plan that any reasonable person who really wants to deal with these issues could get behind,” he said.



School Safety (Text)

Mass shooting could spur Arizona gun law changes

Students were greeted by supporters, signs and flowers as they returned to class at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018 in Parkland, Fla. With a heavy police presence, classes resumed for the first time since several students and teachers were killed by a former student on Feb. 14. (Matias J. Ocner/Miami Herald via AP)
Students were greeted by supporters, signs and flowers as they returned to class at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018 in Parkland, Fla. With a heavy police presence, classes resumed for the first time since several students and teachers were killed by a former student on Feb. 14. (Matias J. Ocner/Miami Herald via AP)

Every day since 17 students and faculty were gunned down in a Florida high school, Arizona’s Democratic legislators have pleaded with their Republican colleagues to do something, anything, to make sure such a mass shooting never happens again.

Those pleas, in the form of daily speeches on the Senate floor, have mostly been met with silence.

A response here or there has deflected the issue away from gun control, Democrats’ preferred course of action, as Republican lawmakers speak up about mental health issues, make claims of violent video games influencing American culture or lament a lack of God in schools.

As Sen. Sylvia Allen, R-Snowflake, put it, it’s not guns that are to blame, it’s “the darkness of a human soul.”

That leaves Arizona with the status quo. The GOP-controlled Legislature hasn’t seriously considered passing gun control legislation in years, even after a gunman wounded former Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and killed six others in Tucson in 2011. Instead, they passed a measure recognizing the Colt single-action Army revolver as the official state gun.

This time could be different.

Student survivors at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida are passionate, eloquent and organized in their calls for adults – elected representatives – to do something about gun violence.

And they’ve inspired Arizona Democrats, who aren’t letting up so easily after the February 14 shooting.

House Democrats used procedural maneuvers to try to force a vote on a bump stock ban, and have vowed to try again after Republicans rebuffed that effort. In the Senate, at least one Democrat has spoken each day about the Parkland shooting, at times eulogizing the dead or excoriating the Republican majority for failing to take immediate action in the aftermath of multiple shootings.

Sen. Lupe Contreras, D-Avondale, tried a more personal plea as a father and husband.

“I have three little kids that are going to school. I have a kindergartner, a second grader and a third grader. My wife’s a schoolteacher at a high school. I’m sorry, this is true for me, this is real life for me,” Contreras said in a speech on February 26. “This world is getting crazier. Please help me and every other parent that has young individuals out there do something about this now… Let’s try and keep this conversation going and try to do something.”

Leadership

It’s not like politically and ideologically divided Arizona lawmakers are incapable of working together.

A vast majority of bills approved every year passed with unanimous support. And while most are uncontroversial policy changes, Democrats can point to recent legislative action on opioids as a blueprint for how opposing parties can work together and tackle important issues.

Democratic leaders were effusive in their praise of Gov. Doug Ducey and his leadership in crafting the Opioid Epidemic Act, which targeted opioid-related addictions and deaths by limiting opioid prescriptions, cracking down on fraudulent drug sales and providing treatment options. Senate Minority Leader Katie Hobbs, D-Phoenix, called the process, which involved Democratic input before a bill was ever introduced, one of the most effective legislative efforts she’s ever seen.

That’s because the governor treated the opioid epidemic as a public health crisis and took the lead, according to Will Humble, executive director of the Arizona Public Health Association and former director of the state Department of Health Services.

Ducey has hinted he’ll take a role in an effort to specifically address school shootings.

Whether that involvement leads to legislation in 2018 remains to be seen. But Ducey’s recent comments suggest that gun policy changes, in some form, could be coming in the next few weeks. The governor has talked about gun violence with reporters several times since the Parkland shooting, and discussed mass shootings with other governors while in Washington, D.C. last week.

“Just know that we’ll be addressing this issue. This is a concern for the Governor’s Office,” Ducey said February 22

Background checks, mental health issues, and resources for schools are all on the table when it comes to ways Arizona can address school shootings, he said.

Ducey said his staff is already examining tragedies from the past several years to find consistencies in various shootings and what could have been done by state government to avoid them.

In many of the shootings, there were avoidable issues like a missed background check or calls to social services that should have prevented the shootings, Ducey said.

Reports from Florida indicate that the shooter, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, had been reported to authorities multiple times, but no action was taken.

“We have situations in domestic violence where there can be a temporary restraining order on an individual,” Ducey said, a measure that ensures a reported individual can’t have a firearm. “Why should one of these individuals not have that type of order on them so that they don’t have access to a gun?”

Students are evacuated by police from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on February 14, after a shooter opened fire on the campus. (Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)
Students are evacuated by police from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on February 14, after a shooter opened fire on the campus. (Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)

Political will

Ducey added that he’s having discussions with law enforcement and school superintendents and plans to keep those discussions alive. Future sessions may include Democrats and Republicans working together, something the governor said isn’t out of the question.

“This is something that’s all our responsibility,” Ducey said. “These are our kids and our public schools. And it’s not only the kids. It’s the teachers that are teaching the kids, the people that work inside these schools, and we want to have them as safe as possible.”

That’s good news for the lawmakers who penned a letter on February 25 asking for Ducey’s leadership on gun violence.

Those legislators, mostly Democrats, but some Republicans like the governor, called on the governor “to act quickly, decisively and compassionately” to protect Arizona school children by convening a task force to prevent potential school violence.

Count Cave Rep. Heather Carter, R-Cave Creek, among Republicans who would “welcome the opportunity” to work on legislation addressing school shootings in a bipartisan fashion.

“This is a critical issue and everybody is talking about it, everywhere, from the kitchen tables with their own kids who are in school to every state Capitol across the country and even at our nation’s capital,” she said.

House Speaker J.D. Mesnard hasn’t shut the door on a “grand bargain” on gun violence, either. The Chandler Republican said he’s willing to have a conversation about gun control that’s directed at what he calls practical solutions that still honor people’s constitutional rights.

And he doesn’t begrudge Democrats for trying to circumvent the usual legislative process to consider gun control measures.

Democrats like Tucson Rep. Randy Friese, who made the motion to bypass House rules and vote on a bump stock ban, are genuinely interested in addressing gun violence, and Mesnard doesn’t regard the maneuver as a political stunt.

“I think Dr. Friese wants real solutions and I’m with him,” Mesnard said, though he noted that their ideas of how to address the problem might be different.

Those differences of opinion on gun violence make the comparison to the opioid act a fair, but flawed, analogy, said Humble.  Unlike the issue of guns, a consensus “was possible on opioids because there’s not a huge constituency group that’s pro-opioids,” Humble said.

Other Republicans are reluctant to even broach the topic of gun violence. House Majority Leader John Allen, R-Scottsdale, refused to even concede the term “gun control reform” in conversation, and instead referred to it as a mental health issue.

He doesn’t have an answer for how to address that.

“We’ve had a lot of suggestions and you can’t really draw a straight line between how any of those suggestions would have stopped any of these things from happening,” Allen said.

If immediate legislative action isn’t an option, Humble suggested following Ducey’s directives on opioids. That would mean studying the issue of gun violence first.

In the summer of 2017, Ducey ordered the Department of Health Services to begin collecting data from hospitals, emergency rooms and patients on opioids. The study was the crucial first step toward a bipartisan conversation about addressing opioid prescriptions and addictions.

Ducey’s support vital

Federal agencies like the Center for Disease Control and Prevention may be barred from gathering data on gun violence, but there’s plenty of raw data in Arizona that could aid Ducey and DHS, Humble said, such as hospital discharge databases, the state’s annual child fatality review report and mortality databases. Using data could cut through partisan talking points on gun violence.

“Because that (opioid) evidence review was well done and really well researched, that really set the stage for bipartisan action,” Humble said.

Such a study is going to need Ducey’s full-fledged support, Humble said, because DHS had to divert resources to focus exclusively on opioids, and the study took months.

“That doesn’t happen unless you get a directive from the Governor’s Office,” Humble said.

A study alone might not be enough for those calling for action from lawmakers. March for Our Lives Arizona, a nonpartisan group led by local students, has echoed the calls from Florida high schoolers for immediate gun policy changes.

They’ve launched a policy platform calling on the Legislature to hear four gun safety-related bills. All are sponsored by Democrats. None have been given a hearing by Republican leaders and committee chairs.

“These are common sense, existing pieces of legislation that do no harm to gun owners or their Second Amendment Rights,” the group said in a news release. “They only serve to make kids like us safe in school, at home, and in our community.”

It’s not just students calling for action. House Minority Leader Rebecca Rios, D-Phoenix, noted that President Trump has promised action on gun violence. Trump even issued an executive order to ban bump stocks just as House Republicans blocked the Democratic effort to do just that in Arizona.

The president’s own words at a recent roundtable on gun policy echoed that of Parkland students: “We have to do something about it. We now have to do something. We have to act.”

If Trump can tackle gun violence, Arizona Republicans “absolutely” can, too, Rios said.

“If all we can get them to do is get them to agree with their president on background checks, raising the age of sale on AR-15s and the bump stock ban, if they only want to follow their president and agree on those three issues, I can guarantee you’d get 25 Democratic votes,” she said.

Paulina Pineda contributed to this report.

This report includes information from Capitol Media Services.

Republicans reject vote on proposal to ban gun bump stocks

bump-stock-620

Republicans today rejected a Democratic maneuver to force a vote on a proposal banning so-called bump stocks or accessories designed to accelerate the rate of fire of semiautomatic rifles, such as the one used in the shooting of concertgoers in Las Vegas last year.

Rep. Randy Friese, D-Tucson, made the motion to vote on HB2023, which sought to expand the definition of prohibited weapons to bump-fire devices.

 The motion came nearly a week after 17 people died at a shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida and as news outlets reported that President Donald Trump has directed the U.S. Department of Justice to ban the use of devices that modify rifles to be used as fully automatic weapons.

House Majority John Allen, a Republican, outmaneuvered Friese by successfully making a motion to instead proceed with the debate scheduled for the afternoon.

Democrats urged their Republican colleagues to give Friese’s motion a chance, but were outvoted.

Democrats said even though the motion was unexpected, the conversation is necessary. Republicans countered that the issue isn’t about guns or accessories, but about addressing mental health issues.

Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley, also blamed violent video games, saying they have led to a rise in school shootings. House Majority Whip Kelly Townsend added that such games created a culture of violence.

Others, like Rep. Jay Lawrence, R-Scottsdale, said the number of fetuses aborted so far this year outnumbered gun-related deaths last year.

Rep. Athena Salman, D-Tempe, said it’s time to take action.

“I’m tired of this being normal,” she said, adding, “We have the ability to take action that will save people’s lives.”

Senate approves watered down gun bill

State senators voted Tuesday for what was crafted as a comprehensive school and public safety plan — but not before Republicans removed a key provision designed to take guns away from dangerous people.

SB 1519, approved on a 17-13 party line vote, still allows police to ask a judge to have someone brought in for mental evaluation. And judges remain able to order temporary removal of weapons if there is “clear and convincing evidence” the person is a danger to self or others.

Arizona Senator Steve Smith, R-Maricopa
Sen. Steve Smith (R-Maricopa)

But Sen. Steve Smith, R-Maricopa, took out language which also would have allowed family members, school administrators, probation officers, behavioral health professionals, roommates and “significant others” to go to court to seek what are known as Severe Threat Orders of Protection.

“This amendment guts this bill, period,” said Sen. Steve Farley, D-Tucson.

Smith disagreed, saying that parents and others who believe someone is a danger still have the option of calling police who, in turn, could start the court process. Farley was unconvinced, saying law enforcement officers already have more than enough to do than go out and investigate every time someone calls with a complaint that a friend or family member is acting erratically and should be evaluated to see if their guns should be taken away.

In stripping the provision, Smith had the support of his GOP colleagues.

But there is one Republican whose blessing for the somewhat stripped-down bill is missing: Gov. Doug Ducey. In fact, it was top Ducey aides who, in unveiling the legislation earlier this year, stressed the importance of family members and school administrators in keeping schools safe and, in a larger sense, protecting the public against mass shootings.

Daniel Ruiz, one of Ducey’s policy advisers, cited the 2011 mass shooting in Tucson by Jared Loughner that killed six and injured 13 including then-U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

“Jared Loughner actually was feared by his parents,” Ruiz said. “His parents would take away his gun at night … because they feared he was a danger to himself or to others.”

Ducey aides also cited the February shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, saying the the former student who killed 17 students and faculty members there in February had been called to the shooter’s home 39 times during a seven-year period. They said the suspect made threat to attack the school in 2016 and was caught with a “gun-related object” in his backpack.

Elimination of the provision could put Ducey in a tough position if the watered-down version of SB 1519 reaches his desk.

“Absolutely the governor crafted this because he wanted to give parents and educators another mechanism, another tool to report these things and have them dealt with,” said gubernatorial press aide Daniel Scarpinato.

“He wants to see it included in a final bill,” he said. “He would like to see the bill that he put forward on his desk.”

But Scarpinato said Ducey recognizes he has to work with the Legislature.

The bill’s future is clouded by opposition from House Republicans, who before Tuesday’s vote in the Senate had expressed concerns with the bill as proposed by Ducey.

The governor already has had to jettison some of the things he had proposed.

For example, the original plan would have made it a felony for someone to leave a gun around in a way that a minor could get access to it.

During floor debate Tuesday, Sen. Lupe Contreras, D-Avondale, sought to restore that language. Contreras, who is a gun owner, said it simply reflects responsible gun ownership.

Republicans were unconvinced, rejecting the proposal.

Ducey’s plan also would have denied state-issued permits to carry concealed weapons to individuals with outstanding arrest warrants. And it would have said that simply because a felon has a conviction set aside should not automatically translate into restoration of the right to have a gun.

Neither were in the version that Smith brought to the Senate floor. And Smith took the lead on Tuesday in blocking various amendments offered by Democrats.

For example, Sen. Olivia Cajero Bedford, D-Tucson, sought a ban on “bump stocks,” devices that allow semi-automatic weapons to fire off hundreds of rounds a minute.

Smith opposed it, saying it is being considered at the federal level, a reference to President Trump directing the Department of Justice to review federal laws and rules. That did not satisfy Cajero Bedford who cited the 58 killed and 851 injured in Las Vegas.

“We can do this right now today,” she said.

Smith was still not convinced, saying the wording of the proposed ban would affect the ability of people who are handicapped to go hunting.

Republicans also rejected a bid by Sen. Sean Bowie, D-Tempe, to add funding for more school counselors.

Sen. Steve Farley (D-Tucson) (Photo by Jessica Boehm/Cronkite News)
Sen. Steve Farley (D-Tucson) (Photo by Jessica Boehm/Cronkite News)

And Farley had no luck in proposing that weapons can be sold in Arizona only if the buyer goes through the same kind of background check now required when a gun is sold by a licensed firearm dealer.

Farley pointed out that much of the bill is based on the concept of keeping weapons out of the hands of those who should not have them. That includes any court order precluding someone judged to be a danger to self or others from possessing a weapon.

But putting that person’s name on a list of prohibited possessors would block only sales made by licensed dealers.

“If you’re going to keep people from having guns, if they’re a danger to others or themselves … then why would you give such large loopholes where people are prohibited from having guns could go to the gun show, go to the Internet or go to their buddy and buy a gun without a background check?” he asked.

“This infringes on responsible people being able to own a firearm,” said Sen. Sonny Borrelli, R-Lake Havasu City.

And Sen. Katie Hobbs, D-Phoenix, had no better luck with a proposal to require that people report stolen weapons to police. Smith said that’s not fair, as nothing in state law requires people to file police reports when jewelry or automobiles are stolen.