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Az House Dem: GOP refusing to hear gun-violence bills

PHOENIX – The top House Democrat accused Republicans on Monday of refusing to further the discussion about community safety by ignoring his plans to control gun violence and boost school safety.

Rep. Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix, said he found it “troubling” that none of the nine bills making up his Arizona Safer Schools, Safer Community Plan has been scheduled for committee hearings.

Campbell’s bills range from background checks for all gun purchases to increasing the number of school resource officers to boosting funding for mental health services. In all, his plan calls for $261 million to address gun violence.

“The longer we wait on doing anything, the more likely things are going to continue happening,” Campbell said.

Rey Torres, spokesman for the House Republican leadership, said that if Campbell would spend more time working to get his legislation heard and less time personally attacking House Speaker Andy Tobin, R-Paulden, he might be more successful.

The call for action from Campbell and other House Democrats during the caucus’ weekly briefing came less than a week after a shooting at a Phoenix office left two dead and drew national attention.

“Violence seems to be becoming more commonplace and we need to find ways to keep our kids and communities safe,” said Rep. Eric Meyer, D-Paradise Valley, who represents the district where the shootings occurred.

Other provisions of Campbell’s bills would double the number of school counselors in Arizona, provide $20 million to help schools address security needs, and allocate $138 million annually to expand Medicaid coverage for the mentally ill.

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All but one of the bills have been assigned to committees, but as of Monday afternoon none had been scheduled for hearings.

“I’m not optimistic right now about them,” Campbell said.

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Lauren Saria/ Cronkite News Service

Rep. Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix, the House minority leader, addresses a news conference at which he accused GOP leaders of bottling up Democratic bills addressing gun violence.

Campbell’s plan

  • $62 million over three years to double the number of school counselors.
  • 200 percent increase in funding for a program that funds school resource officers.
  • $20 million to establish a school safety fund.
  • $138 million annually to expand Medicaid coverage for the mentally ill.
  • Close the so-called gun show loophole by requiring background checks for all sales.