Democrats urge governor to call special session on guns after Texas shooting

State and federal law enforcement officers in tactical gear work outside a home in Alvin, Texas, as part of the investigation in the aftermath of a deadly shooting at Santa Fe High School on Friday, May 18, 2018. (Kevin M. Cox /The Galveston County Daily News via AP)
State and federal law enforcement officers in tactical gear work outside a home in Alvin, Texas, as part of the investigation in the aftermath of a deadly shooting at Santa Fe High School on Friday, May 18, 2018. (Kevin M. Cox /The Galveston County Daily News via AP)

Democrat lawmakers are using Friday’s school shooting in Texas in a bid to get Gov. Doug Ducey to call lawmakers into special session to adopt new gun laws.

In separate letters to the governor, House and Senate minority leaders said they are willing to provide the needed votes for a package. All it would take, they said, is for Ducey to add some of the things they want to the package, things like mandatory background checks when weapons are sold at gun shows.

But Ducey appeared uninterested, saying Friday that he offered up what he called “common-sense reforms” which never made it into law. And press aide Daniel Scarpinato said his boss wants members of both parties “to put politics aside and join in support.”

Only thing is, it’s not just Democrats who refused to vote for the package. Ducey lacked sufficient support from his own Republican majority for what the governor portrayed as the keystone of his package: Severe Threat Orders of Protection allowing family members, school administrators and even roommates to ask courts to have people evaluated to see if they should be forced to surrender their weapons.

And Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, told Capitol Media Services on Friday he’s not sure that the STOP orders Ducey wants can ever be enacted in a way that he and fellow Republicans believe sufficiently protects individual rights.

What all that means is that, new school shooting or not, the chances for legislative action here in the near future are virtually nil unless one side or the other makes significant concessions.

FILE - In this Jan. 22, 2018, file photo, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey speaks prior to signing the order calling the Legislature into a special session at the Capitol in Phoenix. Arizona Gov. Ducey is pushing lawmakers to approve his proposal for big teacher raises Monday, April 23, 2018, as school districts make plans to shut down if educators statewide walk off the job as planned this week after calling the Republican governor's plan insufficient. (AP Photo/Matt York, file)
Gov. Doug Ducey AP Photo/Matt York, file)

The back-and-forth came just hours after nine students and a teacher were killed at a high school south of Houston. A 17-year-old was taken into custody.

“Praying for the community at Santa Fe High School,” the governor tweeted out shortly after the attack.

“Governor, prayers are not enough,” responded House Democrat leaders in their letter to him. And Rep. Randall Friese, D-Tucson, the assistant minority leader, told Capitol Media Services there’s a deal to be had — along with the Democrat votes that come with it.

“We put on the table what it would take to get us closer to joining him with his watered-down, NRA vetted and approved piece of legislation that was, in fact, possible counterproductive,” he said. And that starts with some attempt to close what he called the “loopholes” of allowing weapons to be sold by individuals at gun shows without the same check federal firearms dealers must do to find out if a buyer is legally entitled to own a gun.

Friese said this works hand-in-hand with Ducey’s proposal for STOP orders. Anyone who a judge finds is a danger to self or others would not only have to forfeit weapons but be placed into a database that dealers check to see if someone is what the law calls a “prohibited possessor.”

“The first step in that is creating a system of comprehensive background checks and making sure these people, if there’s some reason that they fall out, they’re identified,” Friese said, and precluded from completing a purchase at a gun show.

“That’s not a loophole,” Farnsworth said.

“These are private sales,” he continued. “So the question is, should private sales be required to do background checks and take ID, and is it their burden to make sure a prohibited possessor doesn’t have a gun?”

And Ducey, in an earlier interview with Capitol Media Services, dismissed the Democrats’ contention that expanding background checks would secure their votes for the package.

“They had an issue with school resource officers,” he said, with objections to having more people with access to weapons on campus, even police officers. “I’m someone who just believes someone who is trained in law enforcement inside a school is a good thing.”

Farnsworth, who operates a charter school, would even go a step beyond armed officers.

“We are foolish if we think that by putting background checks or closing the so-called loophole in gun shows that people are not going to still get on campuses and shoot children, because we’ve made them gun-free zones,” he said.

“You can’t stop it,” Farnsworth said. “What you can do is you can meet force with force,” he said, with properly trained civilians.

That still leaves the question of those STOP orders.

Friese and Democrats contend that the plan offered by Ducey requires those seeking such orders to jump through too many hoops. They prefer what the Giffords gun-control group has proposed.

That organization faulted Ducey’s plan for requiring a court to have a minimum of two hearings and make three separate findings before suspending someone’s access to guns. And the organization said it does not appear to give courts the ability to temporarily disarm someone who has made credible threats of violence motivated by hate or bigotry.

But Republicans contend that what Ducey proposed was actually overly broad.

“What we can’t do is turn it into a witch hunt,” Farnsworth said. “And we can’t take away constitutionally protected rights.”

That’s not a Second Amendment issue but goes to the ability of courts to have people locked into a mental health facility for up to 72 hours for an evaluation for something they have not done but only what they might do in the future.

“Now we’ve gone from a civil action into what’s usually reserved for a criminal action because now the person has lost their liberty,” Farnsworth said.

“It may be incarceration in a hospital but it’s still incarceration,” he said. “I’m not sure how to fix that.”

Friese, in pushing for something even stricter than what the GOP rejected, acknowledged that such a plan could have civil rights implications.

“You may not get the solution right the first time,” he said. “But you have to start down that path.”

Anyway, Friese said, other states have adopted more comprehensive measures, and none of these have been declared unconstitutional by courts there.

Ducey: ‘Politics intervened’ in school-safety bill that died

FILE - In this Jan. 22, 2018, file photo, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey speaks prior to signing the order calling the Legislature into a special session at the Capitol in Phoenix. Arizona Gov. Ducey is pushing lawmakers to approve his proposal for big teacher raises Monday, April 23, 2018, as school districts make plans to shut down if educators statewide walk off the job as planned this week after calling the Republican governor's plan insufficient. (AP Photo/Matt York, file)
In this Jan. 22, 2018, file photo, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey speaks prior to signing the order calling the Legislature into a special session at the Capitol in Phoenix. Arizona Gov. Ducey is pushing lawmakers to approve his proposal for big teacher raises Monday, April 23, 2018, as school districts make plans to shut down if educators statewide walk off the job as planned this week after calling the Republican governor’s plan insufficient. (AP Photo/Matt York, file)

Undeterred by opposition from his own party, Gov. Doug Ducey is determined to make another bid next year to let parents and school officials ask judges to take guns away from people who are a danger to themselves or others – assuming he’s still governor.

In an interview with Capitol Media Services, the governor said he is disappointed that the Republican-controlled Legislature first diluted and ultimately killed his school safety plan.

He still contends that the package was not only comprehensive but fair to everyone concerned. And Ducey said he believes that the plan would help ensure that the mass school shootings in other states do not happen here.

So what happened?

“Politics intervened,’’ he said.


Even before Ducey could get his proposal printed up, the governor had to jettison some key provisions because of GOP criticism. That included making adults liable when children get hold of unattended weapons and tightening up the ability of criminals whose civil rights were restored from also getting back their ability to own guns.

And by the time the measure got out of the Senate, the keystone of the plan – allowing judges to issue Severe Threat Orders of Protection – had been curbed so that only police could pursue such court action.

Sen. Steve Smith, R-Maricopa, argued that there’s no need to allow family members, school administrators, probation officers, behavioral health professionals, roommates and “significant others’’ to go to court to seek STOP orders. He said those concerned about someone’s behavior could simply call police.

Ducey sniffed at that contention.

“What laws have been broken if you’re scared of someone?’’ he asked.

And even what was left after the Senate got done with the bill could not get a hearing in the House. Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert, who chairs the Judiciary Committee, said he had issues with the plan, not just the issue of forcing someone to surrender weapons but allowing a judge to order people locked up against their will for a mental evaluation.

So the session ended with the bill dead, and Ducey having to be content with getting some additional dollars in the budget for mental health issues including suicide prevention.

But the governor conceded he shares at least some of the blame for the failure of the plan.

That starts with the fact that Ducey did not unveil his package until March 19, more than two months into the session. Meanwhile there were other unforeseen events.

“I believe we would have been able to get more of the school safety plan had our priorities not changed in April, that we wanted to focus on teacher pay,’’ he said. So look for Ducey to reintroduce the plan in 2019 when the session starts in January.

Smith who is running for Congress will be gone. And there could be other turnover among incumbents.

But it remains to be seen whether Ducey, if he is re-elected, can push such a plan through what could still be a Republican-controlled Legislature.

The big sticking point are those STOP orders and the whole idea that someone could be brought into court, ordered to undergo a mental examination and forced to surrender all weapons based on a complaint by someone else. Ducey said this isn’t just his idea.

“This law was brought together by superintendents and principals and teachers,’’ the governor said, people who want to remove guns from dangerous people before they show up at a school.

And Ducey said there are clear examples of why STOP orders – and allowing those other than police to seek them – make sense. Start with Florida and the shooting death of 17 students and faculty at a Parkland high school.

“Nikolas Cruz had 39 visits from social services, was identified by name to the FBI, and actually posted on YouTube that this was something that he wanted to do,” the governor said.

“There was nothing they could do,’’ he continued. “There was no law that allowed them to do anything.’’

Ditto Jared Loughner, who killed six and seriously wounded others in 2011, including then-Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was meeting with constituents in the parking lot of a Tucson Safeway, Ducey said. “Similar things happened with him at Pima Community College,’’ he said.

Part of what may be working against the kind of legislation Ducey is proposing is that Arizona has not had the kind of school shootings that have plagued other states. The governor said that’s irrelevant.

“Why would this only be the focus in response to one of these school shootings?’’ he asked. “Why can’t we do something proactively?

But Ducey sidestepped repeated questions about whether gun-rights groups like the National Rifle Association and the Arizona Citizens Defense League, both of which raised questions about the package and forced changes, are barriers to getting this kind of legislation passed.

“I believe we can get the full school safety package passed,’’ the governor said. And if there’s a problem with that, “the onus is on us as elected leaders, the onus is on the Legislature to make the right vote.’’

While Ducey’s plan was having some problems getting votes among some Republicans, the governor showed little interest in actively pursuing votes from Democrats. They opposed the package because it lacked some things they wanted, like universal background checks and a ban on “bump stocks’’ that can convert a semi-automatic rifle to the equivalent of a machine gun.

But the governor said those issues never came up when he was meeting with those who helped him craft the package. He said they were more interested in “pragmatic issues that would actually avoid this type of shooting.’’

Anyway, Ducey said Democrats were never going to support the plan because it included more money for school resource officers, armed police in schools

“I’m someone who just believes that someone who is trained in law enforcement inside a school is a good thing,’’ he said.

Democrats, however, suggested that the solution to campus violence is not more people with weapons on school grounds. And they said there is evidence that more police in school tends to lead to situations where discipline issues that should be handled administratively instead become criminal matters, particularly when minorities are involved.

Ducey said he remains cool to the idea pushed by some members of his own party to arm teachers and other school personnel.

The governor said he is “open minded’’ to the possibility of allowing a school employee with military or law enforcement experience, or possibly special training, to carry a weapon.

“But it also brings complexity to it,’’ he said. “How would law enforcement, when they arrive, know who is a trained teacher?’’

Ducey’s crown jewel of gun legislation still unpopular with lawmakers


A group of party faithfuls shouted down Gov. Doug Ducey at Saturday’s Arizona Republican Party state convention at Church for the Nations in Phoenix, interrupting his speech to shame him for proposing “red flag laws.”

Ducey used his time on the convention stage to deliver a condensed State of the State speech, tout economic growth and rally the crowd about the coming election. But about halfway through, about 25 people stood, waved signs and chanted, “no red flag,” even though Ducey and his staff contend the crown jewel of his failed gun legislation from two years ago – Severe Threat Order of Protection, or STOP orders – is different.  

Ducey stopped, and State Republican Party Chairwoman Kelli Ward warned them that if she had to ask them two more times to be quiet, she’d remove them. Most of the audience applauded that and protestors sat down and allowed Ducey to continue..

“I think it’s important that everyone that’s standing up understands that Arizona is the number one pro-Second Amendment state in the nation, and that’s not going to change,” Ducey said. 

Many Republicans are wary of Ducey’s push for STOP orders, which allow friends, family and law enforcement to petition a court to remove guns from someone showing signs of violence and lock the person up for 21 days for a mental evaluation. Ducey has pushed for the STOP orders since 2018 though the policy has never earned much support from Republicans,, who call the measure an unconstitutional slippery slope, or from Democrats, who call STOP orders a watered down version of red flag laws.

This year, lawmakers have already introduced mirror bills with bipartisan support in the House and Senate: Sen. Kate Brophy McGee’s, R-Phoenix, S1165, and Rep. Jennifer Longdon’s, D-Phoenix, H2543, that would allow judges to issue temporary restraining orders and enjoinders against buying or possessing a gun. The bill also requires a mental health professional to evaluate a person to determine if one is a danger to themselves or to others and would expire two weeks later or after the evaluation is complete — whichever comes first.

Ducey spokesman Patrick Ptak said Ducey still wants to push for his STOP order proposal.

“[Gov. Ducey] believes this idea is different than and far superior to Red-Flag laws because it protects the Second Amendment right of law-abiding Americans and includes due process,” Ptak said, adding that Brophy McGee is one of the best legislators at the Capitol. Ptak did not mention Longdon’s bill, which is identical and also has bipartisan support.

Brophy McGee said her STOP order proposal has been pared down since

Former Sen. Steve Smith introduced a bill on Ducey’s behalf two years ago. 

She said “stringent” opposition remains in her own caucus.

Senate President Karen Fann, R-Prescott, sent S1164 and Brophy McGee’s S1165, which prohibits gun ownership for people convicted of certain domestic violence offenses, to the Senate Judiciary Committee, where their chances of getting a hearing is slim. Sen. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert, refused to hear the legislation two years ago, and the current proposal still contains the same issues he objected to then.

“We’re not talking about just taking people’s guns,” Farnsworth told Capitol Media Services at the time. “We’re talking 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.”

Lawmakers: Ducey silent on pushing gun control measure

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey talks to reporters outside the West Wing of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, April 3, 2019, following his meeting with President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey talks to reporters outside the West Wing of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, April 3, 2019, following his meeting with President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

In the wake of yet another round of mass shooting, this time in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, Gov. Doug Ducey is again touting a policy that would allow judges to force people determined to be a danger to themselves or others to surrender their weapons, at least temporarily. 

Those Severe Threat Orders of Protection, more commonly referred to as STOP orders, have been described by the governor himself as the “crown jewel” of a gun safety plan concocted in the wake of a 2018 shooting at a Parkland Florida high school, an event that prompted Arizona high schoolers to launch their own protests urging the governor to enact gun control measures.

Ducey failed to guide that policy through the Legislature in 2018, when it was panned by Republicans as too restrictive and Democrats as too weak. Later that year, Ducey vowed he hadn’t given up on STOP orders, calling it “the one tool that could have eliminated the mass shootings that have happened in other places in the country.”

For all the talk, the 2019 session came and went without any legislative push to adopt the policy.

It’s disingenuous for Ducey to claim STOP orders as a priority if the governor won’t even introduce a bill to make it happen, said Rep. Daniel Hernandez, a Democrat a survivor of a 2011 mass shooting in his Tucson-based district.

“If this were a priority for [Ducey]… he would’ve started pushing a bill way before where we are now,” Hernandez said. “It’s well into August, and it’s only because there’s been another two incidents that he would say, ‘maybe we need to do this.’”

Ducey has passed blame onto legislators, some of whom oppose his efforts at gun control. But the governor is typically someone who gets his way, Hernandez said, even when faced with reluctant lawmakers from his own party.

This past session, Hernandez noted, Ducey managed to force unwilling GOP lawmakers to vote for a plan to set aside more than $1 billion in the rainy day fund.

In 2018, Ducey managed to bend Republican wills in order to curry enough favor for a university bonding package.

“When he wants something, he gets it,” Hernandez said. “I can’t think of a single time the governor has come out, put his energy behind something, it hasn’t gone through.”

Ducey spokesman Patrick Ptak said the governor hopes his latest push for STOP orders will pay off.

“This is an idea that’s time has come,” Ptak said. “We remain hopeful both sides can come together to advance commonsense policies that make a meaningful impact.”

But Ptak would not pledge that Ducey would ensure a bill creating STOP orders gets sponsored in 2020. The governor’s work on the issue should not be judged simply by what’s happening with actual, sponsored legislation, Ptak said.

“You’re only looking at action that occurred on the surface,” Ptak said. “As I mentioned, there was a lot of action on this, and there was a lot of discussion and work being done to try and move this policy forward.”

How much action occurred behind the scenes is even up for debate, however, as Ptak and lawmakers have differed in their descriptions of the interaction between the Legislature and the Ninth Floor.

Hernandez was one of two Democratic lawmakers in 2019 to sponsor legislation in the same vein as Ducey’s STOP order proposal – Hernandez describes his own bill as more of a “red flag” law, a policy Ducey compared to his own in a statement this week.

While Hernandez said he had the opportunity to meet with the governor’s staff during session, his own “red flag” bill was never a part of the conversation, Hernandez said. Nor was Ducey’s STOP order policy.

Republican leaders in the House and Senate also say they heard nothing from Ducey or his staff about STOP orders, save for the policy getting a shout out in the governor’s State of the State address in January.

Senate President Karen Fann and Bowers told the Arizona Mirror in April that if the governor’s staff is talking to anyone about STOP orders, it isn’t them. Fann, R-Prescott, said her staff hadn’t heard “a peep” from Ducey’s staff, as did Bowers, R-Mesa.

By then, Bowers noted, it was almost too late anyway, as the bill introduction deadline had long passed, as had the deadline for bills to be heard in committees.

Fann reiterated Tuesday that she heard nothing from Ducey about STOP orders during session.

Ptak has consistently disputed this. Ptak told the Mirror in April, and told the Arizona Capitol Times on Monday, that Republican leaders, as well as Democratic lawmakers, were among many groups and individuals consulted by the governor’s staff this spring as they worked behind the scenes in favor of Ducey’s gun safety measures.

“It’s something that his staff worked diligently on throughout the session with lawmakers from both parties,” Ptak said. “As we do with any policy, we take the approach of what can we do to give it the best chance of success, so our efforts were very much focused on that.”

That lawmakers can’t even agree on the scope of Ducey’s behind-the-scenes efforts to get the Legislature to adopt his gun safety policy highlights the uncertainty of whether, after the latest round of mass shootings – and the latest rounds of calls to action – any action will actually take place.

Fann, who controls the flow of legislation in the Senate, told the Capitol Times that she hasn’t had any discussions regarding gun safety measures with her caucus since the end of session in May.

Bowers struck a different tone, stating that lawmakers “certainly need to explore ways to keep guns out of the hands of domestic terrorists and the dangerously mentally ill. I expect my colleagues will introduce a wide range of bills next year designed to prevent mass shootings, and I look forward to discussion and consideration of them.”

Count Democrats among those who are skeptical that Bowers’ statement is nothing more than lip service.

Rep. Randy Friese, a Tucson Democrat and trauma surgeon who helped operate on victims of Arizona’s own mass shooting in 2011, tweeted that no gun control measures have been voted on, let alone heard in committee, in the five years he’s served in the House.

Sen. Martin Quezada, D-Glendale, echoed that sentiment, noting that Democrats routinely sponsor gun control measures that never get a hearing, or even assigned to committees, by Republican leadership.

“There’s a lot of big talk right now. Let’s see if they follow through when it matters. The 2020 Legislative session starts in January,” Quezada tweeted Tuesday morning. “I’m certain @AZSenateDems and @AZHouseDems will be dropping the same common sense #GunReform bills we’ve dropped for years. Will they be heard?”

As for the governor’s own efforts, Ptak said that Ducey shouldn’t be judged by whether or not a bill was passed in 2019, let alone introduced.

But Ducey’s own comments about the Legislature don’t inspire confidence that he’ll find legislative success in 2020. When asked why he didn’t even introduce a bill to create a STOP order policy in 2019, Ducey blamed senators and representatives.

“It’s oftentimes difficult to do things proactively in certain settings,” the governor told the Capitol Times in June. By certain settings, Ducey made clear he meant the Legislature, though he wouldn’t comment on what in particular was challenging about it: “I think that’d be a question for the legislative setting.”

Come 2020, little will have changed about that legislative setting, given that all the lawmakers who comprise the Legislature that Ducey blames for making STOP orders a tough sell will still be in office for at least one more year.

In the meantime, Ducey and Republican officials tout what the governor has achieved on his gun safety agenda. The governor praised lawmakers for approving more funds for school counselors and cops on campuses as part of school safety measures. And the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission, a body of the state’s top law enforcement officials, highlighted efforts to improve the state’s criminal history database as part of the National Instant Criminal Background Check system. 

In the future, if Ducey pursues STOP orders legislatively, Hernandez said he hopes those discussions include a diverse group of individuals and organizations, even those who may not agree with one another.

A good place to start, Hernandez said, would be survivors of gun violence such as himself and fellow Rep. Jennifer Longdon, D-Phoenix.

“If I hear from him or his people, I’ll let you know,” Hernandez said, “but as of right now it’s been radio silence.”

Q&A with Governor Doug Ducey

Doug Ducey (Photo by Dillon Rosenblatt/Arizona Capitol Times)
Doug Ducey (Photo by Dillon Rosenblatt/Arizona Capitol Times)

This year is Gov. Doug Ducey’s sixth legislative session and, although it’s an election year – but not for him personally, he said he’s not thinking about what his legacy will be because there’s still more work to do. He has laid out an ambitious, yet achievable set of policy priorities, one that might be expedited in time to maintain Republican majorities in both chambers. Among those priorities are efforts to close the state’s school achievement gap, continuing his approach on criminal justice by addressing recidivism and re-entry and taking the first step to address the state’s depleting groundwater supply.

What is your number one priority and how do you plan to achieve it?

My number one priority is always education in the state of Arizona, and because we are in a position of financial health and growing revenue, I think we’ll be able to make targeted investments that focus on outcomes and results across the board.

This is the last year you’re expected to kick in that last bit of funding that will, on average, give teachers a 20% pay bump. What happens next? Is there a 25×2025?

There’ll always be more to do in K-12 education. That’s just one place that you’re never going to check the box in state government. We’re focused on this upcoming year and the completion of the 20% pay increase, and I’ll save what I have for next year for next year’s interview that we should do after the State of the State.

Is it a problem to you that some parents are camping out of schools and buying properties near ones they want their children to go to?

From what I understand of what I’ve seen in the paper, we’ve got excellent public schools, and they’re not always in the most prosperous parts of town. I think it proves that we know how to educate a child in Arizona. So I want to find what are the best practices at a place like Sunnyslope and make sure that those are being exported all over our state so that nobody has to camp out but that every parent has a choice so they can find the best place for their child to get an education.

You failed to get your STOP order enacted last session. Are you going to change your approach?

School safety is always going to be a top priority and we’re going to focus on that and the whole child, along with mental health and other issues in this year’s State of the State and policy package.

We talked about criminal justice reform last time. If you could pass one thing on that front, what would it be?

Did I talk about criminal justice reform or did I talk about reducing recidivism?

I guess it was the latter, but that’s part of it.

It’s definitely part of it. I think it’s also one where you can take specific steps to address the men and women that are being released, hundreds, if not thousands every year, back in into the society and you want to provide them the opportunity for a better choice and better decisions. I want to see our prison population be reduced, all while protecting public safety. I will have a real surprise in the State of the State on what the results have been, due to our focus on reducing recidivism. (Ducey’s surprise was his announcement on the planned closure of a state prison in Florence).

What about prison locks?

Prison locks will be addressed and fixed. I’ve got high expectations for our new director of Corrections, David Shinn. He worked at the highest level of our Federal Bureau of Corrections. He’s challenged the department to have a new and different mindset about what’s possible, not only inside our prisons but for our inmates once they’re released once they’ve paid their debt and served their time.

Is there any progress being made on filling vacancies at heads of agencies, like DES?

Well, we have a new chief operating officer in Daniel Ruiz. Part of his focus is going to be to make certain that good things are happening inside of our agencies and where we have room for improvement. We need new agency heads and fixes he’ll be addressing that. DES is a large agency, it’s complex, and we want to find the right person.

Is there any plan that you have or that the state should have to address dropping groundwater levels that are so low that they may not be replenished in my lifetime?

Last year, we completed the drought contingency plan, DCP. It was the most comprehensive water legislation that’s been done in 40 years. I don’t think that we should deal with these issues one crisis at a time, and I plan to address that in the State of the State.

Do you have a message to these large water users that take water from these basins?

Help is on the way.

Part of that help comes from ADWR (Arizona Department of Water Resources) that is, as you know, the chief technical adviser for these sorts of discussions. How can that agency effectively do its job when it has less than half of the budget it had since the Great Recession?

Resources and dollars are not the issue in state government. We review all agency requests and work with them on a budget that’s doable, like I said. My priority, in addition to K-12 education, is always fiscal responsibility. But there’s going to be plentiful dollars in this budget.


It depends on the agency. We work with the head of the agency to decide what’s needed for that agency. It’s not just resources that a state agency needs to deal with water policy.

Well, they’ve said it is. But even if they had what they needed, they couldn’t pay these people that work for him enough, these analysts, because they can’t pay the same competitive rate as other state or private water agencies.

We’re not looking to duplicate water agencies or increase the size of state agencies – we’re looking for good, responsible policy.

Do you agree that private landowners should be able to construct a wall on their private property on the U.S.-Mexico border, helping these private contractors sent to build it?

I don’t know about Representative Peterson’s bill. I haven’t been briefed on it and I haven’t talked to him. I would say to you in general, the way you phrased the question of private property owners have property rights and I think they should be able to exercise them.

Is there anything you’re holding off on this year, given that it’s an election year and that everyone, generally, wants a quicker session?

My focus is to be governor of all the people. I realize there’s an election for many of our people in elected office, but the citizens have elected me to lead and govern and that’s what I intend to do with an eye on the best possible policy. I’m hopeful. If the members want to get out quickly, they’ll agree, and we can pass this budget and move this agenda forward, expeditiously.

Wrap up with Doug Ducey

Gov. Doug Ducey (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)
Gov. Doug Ducey (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)

Gov. Doug Ducey finished the last session of his first term in office with a bang, overseeing a budget process that he threw a bomb into mid-session, all in an effort to avoid a historic teacher strike. The strike still happened, but Ducey is now happy to be labeled by some as the “education governor” after promising teachers a 20-percent raise by 2020. Ducey had other successes, and some failures, amid a session that went in every possible direction — from addressing the opioid epidemic to tackling sexual harassment at the Capitol.

Cap Times Q&AGive me your thoughts on the final session of your term as governor. Where did you excel, or struggle?

I thought it was a big win this session. I thought is was a really positive session. I really think the last three and a half years have been very positive. This session started off with the special session of the Opioid Epidemic Act, which we were able to pass in four days with a unanimous, bipartisan support, so we thought that was a positive. I think the focus that we’ve had on education over the last four years, highlighted of course by accomplishments like Prop. 123 and this session, the extension of Proposition 301, was a victory. And then I would also give our team a lot of credit for being able to listen, and adapt to changing circumstances, which I think is part of the definition of leadership. Sometimes you’re able to set a vision out there and present the agenda and chart the course and run it the way you want to run it, and other times there are changing circumstances, and I think the best leaders and best teams adapt to those circumstances, make sure they understand what’s happening, and are able to provide a solution.

I see the proposal in April for a significant boost in teacher pay as a good example of adapting. What was the turning point for you, to get to that proposal?

I’m not only observing and listening to what’s happening in Arizona. I can see what was happening around the country. And you could see an organized movement in West Virginia, Kentucky, Colorado, North Carolina, Oklahoma and other states. I know these governors. And what I wanted to do of course is, my number one concern in education, are kids in the classrooms. So I did not want to see a school shutdown. I did not want to see a teacher strike. So I wanted to answer, prospectively and proactively, not only what this year could look like, but what the next three years could look like.

Why is it so hard to reach a consensus on education funding? There’s always disagreement on how much funding is enough.

First I would say that I think there’s very little that you come to consensus on. This is why we have a Legislature with a House and a Senate and Republicans and Democrats and independents, is to roll these ideas through as to what can achieve the accomplishment of passage in a budget or in legislation so that we can address these issues. The thing that I think we’ve had broad support on is that our teachers deserve a raise. Our teachers have earned this raise. And what I don’t want to do as the chief executive is make spending the measure of success. And I’ve been vocal about the objective of focusing on outcomes and results inside the classroom… Arizona is improving faster than any other state in the country.

Can you address the failure to get a school safety bill out of the Legislature?

I am disappointed with what happened with school safety. I wanted to do more. I’m happy that we were able to fund these background checks, which I think is really part of what’s missing, not only in Arizona but across the country, and we have the ability now to dramatically improve our background checks. We have some dollars in there as well for behavioral health and counselors inside the schools. But I think the STOP order, the Severe Threat Order of Protection, is an excellent plan, and it was put together by listening — to kids in classrooms, teachers, principles, law enforcement leaders, mental health professionals, prosecutors from around the state, rural and urban, Republican and Democrats. And then politics intervened.

When will you continue the push for that bill? Perhaps a special session?

We wanted to get this done in the regular session. So I don’t’ know why I would call a special session to have folks come back here just so they could receive per diems and continue to play politics with this. We have seen a lot of interest since the national attention has happened around the advocacy of the plan, so we’re going to continue to work with lawmakers. I would think just like public education and the focus on results, school safety is something we’ll want to continue to focus on.

Did you like how the bill was amended in the Senate? They watered down parts of it, including eliminating part of the STOP orders.

It was still in movement, and we traditionally don’t comment on legislation as it’s moving, so I don’t know what a final product would have looked like. And I also want to acknowledge that things changed. Circumstances on the ground changed, and the top priority became teacher pay. So we did have a focus on that. So we were able to accomplish a portion of the school safety plan. That’s why I say there’s more left to do.

One campaign talking point from 2014 that went unfulfilled was lowering income tax rates. Why is that?

I said as I campaigned and I’ve said as I’ve governed that to lower our income tax, you’re going to need three things: You’re going to need a term or two; you’re going to need a growing economy and you’re going to need a plan. Now we have two of the three, the third is still to be determined. But when we came into office we had a $1 billion budget deficit. I’m a big believer that tax reform can improve the state and improve our revenues and improve our K-12 education system. But we had to get our finances in order. We have them in order now, so now there’s opportunities to look to broader tax reform and improvement.

What does that plan look like?

We’ll be talking about what our plans are during the campaign cycle and the election season. But I think the health of the economy, the attractiveness of the state, the continual job creation and formation always leads with a discussion around tax policy.

How do you feel about your re-election odds given the political climate: A potential blue wave the year after a Republican was elected president?

I’m proud of our record of accomplishment and achievement. I am confident and optimistic that when we run our campaign and communicate directly with voters, they’ll see the change in Arizona over the past four years. At the same time, I think you need to prepare for the worst. And hope for the best.