Ariz. shooting casts shadow on legislative session

Arizona's Legislature began its 2011 session Monday amid tightened security as lawmakers expressed grief and resolve in the aftermath of the Tucson shooting that left six people dead and 14 inju...

Arizona's Legislature began its 2011 session Monday amid tightened security as lawmakers expressed grief and resolve in the aftermath of the Tucson shooting that left six people dead and 14 injured, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

The Legislature is a family that "will stand together," said House Majority Whip Andy Tobin, a Republican from Paulden. "We will move Arizona forward just as we promised we would, and we will not let those haters hold us back."

The state House and Senate convened separately shortly after noon, both opening with a moment of silence for the shooting victims and their families.

Lawmakers are to convene a joint session in the House chamber later to hear Republican Gov. Jan Brewer's State of the State address, which was revised to focus on the shooting.

The governor's message will be "one of unity against evil," said Paul Senseman, Brewer's chief spokesman. He declined to elaborate.

Visitors were searched with hand-held metal detectors and their bags were inspected as they entered the House building. Dozens of police officers were deployed in and around the Capitol, with at least two officers stationed on the roof of the nearby Senate building.

Authorities have said Giffords was targeted in Saturday's attack. She remained hospitalized in critical condition.

The Democratic congresswoman served in the Arizona Legislature before resigning in 2005 to successfully run for Congress in 2006.

"She stood on this floor and took the same oath that we just took," said House Speaker Kirk Adams, a Mesa Republican.

Adams said lawmakers' emotions "feel like a scorching fire" with anger, fear and grief, while Senate President Russell Pearce said lawmakers' prayers are with the victims of the "insane, senseless violence" and their families.

Lawmakers applauded 20-year-old University of Arizona student Daniel Hernandez, a Giffords intern who was at the shooting and used his hands to apply pressure to Giffords' head wound while holding her in his lap.

Legislative leaders from both parties called for civility in political debate.

"We are on the same team," said House Minority Leader Chad Campbell, a Phoenix Democrat.

Lawmakers revised Monday's planned proceedings, dropping some ceremonial events and having lawmakers refrain the usual practice of introducing guests.

"Ordinarily it's a day dedicated for celebration with the beginning of the session," Adams said. "Not only do we not feel like celebrating, it would not be appropriate."

The state Senate schedule was not significantly revised, retaining a musical performance and remarks from former astronaut Buzz Aldrin.

The shooting prompted minority Democrats to cancel scheduled news conferences on unrelated controversies — proposed legislation to deny children of illegal immigrants automatic citizenship and Medicaid funding cuts that deny coverage for transplants.

State of the State addresses normally hail accomplishments and outline the governor's views and proposals for legislative action, but Brewer's speech will focus on the shooting and be significantly shorter than originally planned.

"It will be a speech reflecting on public service and sacrifice," said Doug Cole, a Brewer adviser who helped her staff work on the originally planned address and the revised version. "It's under 15 minutes."

Senseman said it hadn't been decided if Brewer would somehow provide lawmakers with material from her original address, which had been expected to focus on economic development and other issues facing the state.

She is expected to present her budget proposal to the Legislature on Friday.

Arizona faces a continuing fiscal crisis, with lawmakers having to close an $825 million revenue shortfall in the current $8.5 billion budget and a projected $1.4 billion gap in the next one.

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