Giffords and the 50th State Legislature

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Before the November election, Rep. Giffords appeared on Horizon where she talked about the need for politicians to work together on contentious issues like immigration reform. Hear what she had to say followed by a discussion about convening a new state legislature in the shadow of the Tucson tragedy. Guests include: political consultant Stan Barnes, Secretary of State Ken Bennett and State Representative Steve Farley.

Ted Simons: Congresswoman Giffords' most recent appearance on horizon was prior to the November election, when she talked about the need for politicians to work together on contentious issues like immigration reform.

Congresswoman Giffords: The challenge for us and Arizona, is to take a part of the country that's been ignored for a long, long time and you have elected officials that have served in area for decades.The problem did not happen overnight. It's built up over time. I don't care who gets credit, let's just fix the problem. It's not about pointing fingers and make the governor look bad, the president, the legislature, come on guys, let's figure it out.

Ted Simons: This is an unusual day at the state capitol. Lawmakers gathered for the opening of legislative session, but the shootings in Tucson overshadowed the proceedings. Joining us now is Stan Barnes, a former lawmaker who owns the political consulting firm, Copperstate Consulting. Also here is democratic assistant house minority leader Steve Farley of Tucson. And also joining us is secretary of state Ken Bennett. Good to have you all here.

Ted Simons: Describe the scene at the capitol.

Ken Bennett: The mood was mixed. It usually is a time of celebration and getting stuff started, and there was enough of that that you knew it was the opening day of session, but it certainly was void almost completely of the political overtones that often accompany a state-of-the-state speech and opposing caucuses in both the state and house, it was more of a day -- and I thought the governor and the speaker both minority and majority leader it's a perfect job of kind of capturing that middle tone where as one or many of them said, we're not Republicans or Democrats. We're Arizonans today, and we're not going to try to pretend to ignore what happened on Saturday.
Stan Barnes: I was telling someone outside of the chamber; it's probably the most unified opening day I've ever seen in my 22 years of being down there. After all, we're all together in our grief over this situation. I thought it was a great moment when words were said by the minority leader, Chad Campbell in the house and the majority leader came over to him and they embraced and you don't see that on opening day in the state legislature, it was a great symbolism for the unified feeling there today.

Ted Simons: Steve, did you see that as well?

Steve Farley: There was a lot of hugging across boundaries, across the aisle. I had to wipe the stuff off from the result of that earlier today. But that was part of the intention, I think from everybody's part and having lived through these horrible events in Tucson. I was absolutely determined to come up here and change the way we do politics. Our need to come together in a different way. That's what I've committed myself to do and I saw it. The speaker and the governor will be partners in that quest to change the climate.

Ted Simons: What was your impression on the governor's speech today.

Ken Bennett: I thought it was probably her best speech I've heard her give. I think she -- it was from the heart and she struck the right tone and I thought she did a great job of keeping things -- keeping Arizonans focused on what we should have been focused on and not doing anything on the political side but just calling everyone to use the events of Saturday to come together and build a better Arizona, and, you know, it's -- it's -- I don't think anyone can pretend we're not going to have our disagreements in how we do that, but it was total unity and standing as the leader of Arizona, today we are going to come together and work on making Arizona better and maybe that's one of the few positive things that can come out of such a horrific tragedy.

Ted Simons: Stan, as far as the state of the state, the address itself, what usually happens? How are these things usually addressed and how did that differ today?

Stan Barnes: It was entirely different. Today's speech was given at the same time as the state of the state. But it was not a state of the state address. It was a speech that only a person that represents us can say. The governor of Arizona expressed grief on behalf of all of Arizona. She was playing out her part as the chief executive of the state and said nothing about policy and about her words to the legislature about bills, send me or don't send me, or we're going do this on the budget or other key issues. None of that. The expectation is that that ceremony is going to be passed this year and while there's a need for the governor to give direction to the legislature, as the former senate president can tell you, the current representative can tell you, Mr. Farley, legislators hear that for two minutes and set it aside anyway. There's an expectation that the governor is going to in writing send her words to the leadership of both chambers.

Ted Simons: Is that a requirement. You have to deliver it, whether it's a speech or hand-deliver it?

Stan Barnes: Yes, like the president of the United States, there's no requirement that you stand up and make a big speech. But there's a mandate on the state of the state and she can do that in many ways, given her perfect pitch ear on the nature of what we've got going on. She'll probably write it and send it in.

Ted Simons: Hearing from Ken over here, no one is going to fool themselves here. There's going to be divisiveness, contentious issues. Is there thought when both sides go back and forth, things will tone down a little bit? Obviously, now it feels that way. Do we really think it's going to last?

Steve Farley: I really think it is. But I cannot control what other people do. I can only control myself and I made a commitment. Which I shared with the governor that I will not engage in hurtful or hateful conversation of any kind. That's over. We can't do that anymore. And I hope that others do the same. And I have faith that we will. What I found interesting, majority leadership Tobin gave remarks on the floor as well. But he did remind us, we must not let this killer silence other debate either. Debate is part of democracy as well. We have strong differences among us, there's no question about that, but if we can air those strong differences in terms that are honest disagreements about policy, instead of demonization. Then we will achieve something powerful. That I think we can spread to the rest of the country as well.
Ted Simons: You've been there, how does leadership do this?

Ken Bennett: You do it by example. And but that may be is too simple. I think you do it by building relationships. I've been convinced in the years I've been involved that influence comes from relationships and it's building the friendly relationships that we heard amongst Ken and Linda and their friend, Gabby, not their colleague, they may have started as colleague, one it's the example, the leaders, the governor, the president, the speaker, the leaders of the caucuses. Committee chairs, there's lots of formality in the legislature, lots of opportunity to say we're not going to take testimony or you've had enough and I think it's going to take everybody, starting at the top and I think we saw that from the very top today, setting a different tone and leading by example, that we're going to have those disagreements, couldn't agree more with Steve, we're going -- we've got such tough issues, but we can do it without being disagreeable and I think that's what Gabby stood for. That's the way she was a legislator. You -- you never wanted her to oppose your position because that's all she would do. She would oppose your position from a well-thought out, well studied, she never attacked you. She was a sweet and kind -- but -- but the way she did things had tremendous influence and it's what I think has made her effective as a legislator and as a representative going back to her people and wanting to hear them.

Stan Barnes: You know, 22 years ago, I was a freshman on the floor of the house and an know your viewers are saying you're not old enough. I was 27 years old. And I was taught as I came into the process, not knowing what I'd done as a brand new member, that there's an honoring of each other in this body. Because each is a representative of a cadre of Arizonans in all parts of Arizona and I remember being awed by the old fathers of the day. The veterans of the legislature how they would fight like hell on the floor and go out and have a beer together and laugh. And I -- that shocked me. And I loved it. At the same time. And I remember thinking, what a cool thing about our government that ideas matter, that people and friendships are separate and sometimes they help each other come together. Things -- almost from the point -- and it's happened nationally, as well as to Arizona, in the late '80s, things have been in a big sweep the other way and the honoring of one another has melted down and it seems to me, you might have heard from Mr. Farley and the speaker, the governor, this might be a moment to reflect on that and reset how we deal with each other at the state capitol.
Steve Farley: And a fortuitous moment to do so, because this is one the biggest freshman classes we've ever had. And there are a tremendous number of people like you were. Not having any idea how it place works and if they're shown by leadership, this is how we treat each other, that will last for many years to come.

Steve Barnes: There are laws -- laws? Rules in the house against impugning one another. It's in our rules not to stand up and say he's wrong on the bill because someone is paying him -- a conflict of interest. Those things are not allowed on the floor. And we try to live to those, but beyond that, there's -- there's a civility that the place demands because it's the best form of government. And I love what I'm hearing today on the opening day of our -- as the speaker says, our centennial legislature. Things might reset and there might be a new awakening of helping one another.

Ted Simons: The logistics as far Representatives Giffords seat -- I don't know how familiar everyone here -- it's a question I've been asked numerous times. What happens now, if she's out of commission for a while. Assuming she will be. What happens to the seat?

Ken Bennett: Our office has done some research. Initially we thought it was a declaration of a vacancy by the speaker of the house, but as it turns out, there's only one instance in the history of a country where a house of representative in congress seat has been declared vacant. In 1981, I think a representative had just been reelected in Maryland and had a heart attack two days before the election. And slipped into a coma and never recovered. And it was the following February -- mid to late February so, it had to be four-ish months later, that the U.S. -- the house of representatives, voted to declare that seat vacant. And then they have -- it triggers a special election type process. But it's -- I don't expect there will be any declaration of vacancy as long as Gabby is fighting and it appears right now that that's what is happening and as the doctors have said, so far, there's nothing of a negative connotation and we just hope and pray that she will continue to recover and I don't -- I don't expect there will be a vacancy declared. If it were to be declared, it begins a process of about six months that culminates in a special election.

Ted Simons: Not an appointment?

Ken Bennett: Not an appointment.

Ken Bennett: Interesting, in a U.S. senator, it's a vacancy appointed by the governor until the next election, but in the house of representatives, special election about six months later.
Ted Simons: Interesting stuff. We have a few minutes left. Three or four minutes. I want to get each one of you to talk about this, we are, Arizona, we're all Arizonans here. And we have gone through tough times, perceptually around the country. The perception of Arizona, regardless of where you stand, I don't think anyone can say a lot of folks are holds parades for us right now. What are you hearing regarding the image of Arizona. And what can be done - This used to be the most friendly, openness, come out and join us, boy, howdy, what's going on here?

Steve Farley: I've talked to my share of reporters in recent days and hours, and a lot of people are asking that question: What's wrong with Arizona? And the way I talk to them, is at any time that there's -- it isn't that there's anything in particular, it's just that we're not having the stories told about the people who are not doing that stuff out there on the edge. And the stuff who is doing the extreme -- the extreme legislation in my view, that's gotten a lot of public attention from around the country. What we're -- we need to focus on is that -- that incredible community spirit we have in Arizona, where we do come together. And -- and as a community, we're able to move forward past difficult things and this is a tremendous opportunity to do that right now. Because of how hard this has been. We are not all that that we're being portrayed in the media. There's no question about that.

Ted Simons: Stan?

Stan Barnes: I agree with Representative Farley. We're not all that. I think we've had a bad draw, a couple of stories and commentaries by media that generally is based on the east coast of the United States and has a different view of Arizona, much like people in Australia looks at Perth. We are growing up as a state. We're going to have nine congressman in the next round. Nearly seven million people. We're not small old Arizona anymore. We're getting to be big and big draws attention and has diversity and causes a variety of things to happen, as part of our growing up phase. Part of my theory.

Ted Simons: Are we simply just growing up? Not little old Arizona anymore?

Ken Bennett: I think there's an element of that, but I don't think the real Arizona, which is really the real Arizonans, are any -- anything like what we've unfortunately been portrayed as over the past year or two, for a variety of circumstances kind of become the focal point or the microcosm. Gabby in her few minutes a while ago talked about we have culminated in things that have been going on for decades and trying to get things solved that many have not and we're going to get that done if we follow the guidance talked about tonight.

Ted Simons: Gentlemen, it was a pleasure having you on. It's a difficult evening but a good conversation.

Steve Farley: Thanks for telling this story.
Ted Simons: You betcha.

Stan Barnes:political consultant;Ken Bennett:Arizona Secretary of State;Steve Farley:State Representative;

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