The bill introduced by Senator Steve Smith in memory of Grant Ronnebeck, who was killed by an illegal alien while working the night shift at a QuickTrip store in Mesa in January 2015, was defeated on Thursday on the floor of the Arizona Senate by three Republicans who joined all of the Democrats in opposition.
Republican senators, Bob Worsley, Frank Pratt, and Kate Brophy McGee voted against the bill.
Smith had called on the senators to explain their votes to Grant Ronnebeck’s father Steve, who was watching in the gallery above the Senate floor along with the families of others who were killed by illegal aliens. The three senators refused to look at the families and the police officers who had joined them in support.
“I think it is just sad that we have a bill that will directly help families in our state and in our country, but because of one political pressure or another, that I haven’t heard yet, you’re going to go ahead and defeat this bill,” Smith said to the senators. “If that sits well in your conscience, let it sit well.”
The bill, SB1279, “requires courts to sentence persons convicted of a misdemeanor or felony to the maximum term of imprisonment or full presumptive sentence if it is determined that a U.S. immigration offense was an aggravating factor and makes such persons ineligible for probation, suspension of sentence, community supervision, commutation or release on any basis until the sentence imposed is served,” according to the legislative overview.
In an interview on the James T. Harris radio show immediately after the vote, Senator Smith said, “I put Grant’s Law up for a vote, and 3 Republican senators voted against it. I needed 16 votes to get a pass and I only had 14, and because those three voted against it – was heart wrenching. I stood up and I talked for about 20 minutes. I said if you don’t want to give me an explanation; because the Democrats of course didn’t give me an exclamation, maybe you want to give the family members who have been trying to get an appointment with your office for several weeks now – that have been unsuccessful, maybe you can give them an explanation for your no vote.”
“I had each one of the family members stand up. Grant’s father, Steve, stood up in the gallery literally seated right behind these members voting. Ms. Mendoza whose son was a police officer. Murdered by an illegal alien. Miss Estes, her daughter Shaleigh. Twenty-two years old, murdered by an illegal alien. I had the police organizations there representing over 14,000 officers in the state of Arizona stand up to say we support this. The national border patrol association with over 15,000 national border patrolmen stand up in support of this,” said Smith. “James in front of all of them, they hit the little red button and voted it down. I said at least give the common courtesy to tell these people, these family members why you are not giving justice to their family. Stand up and explain your vote. Do you want to know how many stood up? Zero.”
“I said at least have the common courtesy to tell these people; these family members, why you’re not giving justice to their families. Stand up and explain their vote. Do you know how many explained their vote? Zero,” said Smith.
“The three Senators that voted against it was Bob Worsley out of Mesa, Frank Pratt out of Casa Grande, and Kate Brophy McGgee out of the Phoenix area. I was pleading with them. Tell me how it was unconstitutional, which it wasn’t. Because I cited how it wasn’t. Tell me how it was written wrong, which it wasn’t because I said how it wasn’t. Tell me how we can’t treat illegal aliens differently, which is wrong because we can as I cited in other areas of the law. Tell me something, why are you voting against this. Please tell these family members to their faces. Tell them why. Not one of them stood up and said anything because the answer is pretty simple. It’s political,” said Smith.
Smith said he turned to the families after the vote, “Once again your government has let you down. The state has let you down.”
Sen. Worsley complained later that Smith was unfair to him. Worsley did not respond to the ADI’s request for an explanation of his vote.
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