The Skinny

Warthog Win

A-10 gains protection in latest version of Pentagon budget

The U.S. House of Representatives last week protected the A-10 combat jet along with the EC-130H Compass Call plane as part of the National Defense Authorization Act.

The A-10 has been on the Pentagon's hit list. The Obama administration has said that retiring the plane will save $4 billion though fiscal year 2019 but its champions say it provides close-air support that no other plane in the Air Force arsenal can match.

More than 80 A-10s train at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, which is also home to the EC-130H Compass Call aircraft, a tricked-out version of the C-130 Hercules designed to disrupt enemy communications.

"Today's passage is a significant victory for Southern Arizona and all our service members," said U.S. Rep. Martha McSally (R-CD2), who worked to insert language into the legislation preventing the Department of Defense from further reducing fleets of both planes. "The A-10 and EC-130H bring irreplaceable capabilities to the battlefield, something Southern Arizonans know well."

Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick (D-CD1) was one of 41 Democrats who voted in favor of the NDAA. She said that Arizona "scored a win in today's passage of the NDAA."

"I was proud to vote for full funding of the A-10 Warthog and EC-130H Compass Call, two aircraft important to southern Arizona and our national security," Kirkpatrick said. "While this funding is an important step, it is not a final one. We must continue to assess future attempts to phase out these aircraft, which are stationed at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base and are uniquely equipped to protect our troops."

Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-CD3) voted against the NDAA.

Restrictive Legislation

GOP House votes for new 20-week abortion ban despite concerns about birth defects

In a separate vote last week, the U.S. House of Representatives pushed through legislation creating new restrictions on abortion last week.

The "Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act," sponsored by Arizona Congressman Trent Franks (R-CD8), passed on mostly party line vote; four Democrats voted for the bill, while four Republicans voted against it. It would ban abortions after 20 weeks except in cases of rape or incest or if the mother's life was in danger.

The legislation had stalled earlier this year over provisions that the required victims of rape or incest report the crimes to authorities in order to be able to terminate pregnancies.

Among Southern Arizona lawmakers, Republican Martha McSally voted in favor of the new restrictions while Democrats Raul Grijalva and Ann Kirkpatrick voted against the bill.

The bill has little chance of becoming law; even if it were to pass the U.S. Senate, it would face an almost-certain veto from President Barack Obama. A January statement of administration policy noted that Obama's advisors would recommend that he reject the legislation, noting that H.R. 36 is a direct challenge to the Supreme Court's holdings on abortion. Not only is the basis for H.R. 36 scientifically disputed, the bill disregards women's health and rights, the role doctors play in their patients' health care decisions, and the Constitution."

Pro-choice advocates say that only a tiny percentage of abortions—less than 2 percent nationally—happen after 20 weeks. That's sometimes because the mother discovers that the fetus has developed a serious birth defect, such as organs growing outside of the body. In such cases, women face the heartbreaking choice between aborting the pregnancy or giving birth to a child who cannot survive for long outside the womb. The legislation would require the women to give birth in those cases.

McSally spokesman Patrick Ptak didn't directly address the question of restricting abortion options for women who discover their children have significant birth defects after 20 weeks of pregnancy, but he said McSally voted in favor of the bill because she "believes in the dignity of life while ensuring protections for women who are victims of rape or incest and in cases when the life of the mother is threatened."

Presidio Makeover

Design firm selected for Jan. 8 memorial

The construction of a memorial to those lost and wounded in the mass shooting of Jan. 8, 2011, advanced last week with the selection of a design firm to develop both the memorial and makeover of downtown's El Presidio Park.

The Tucson January 8th Memorial Foundation picked Chee Salette Architecture Office for the job.

The memorial concept involves a circular wall on the west side of the county courthouse with names of the six people killed and 13 wounded when a crazed gunman opened fire at then-U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords' Congress on Your Corner event.

The makeover of El Presidio Park will also include a reorganization of the existing memorials into a "gallery of memorials," according to Karen Christensen, chair of the board of the Tucson January 8th Memorial Foundation.

"We wanted to make sure the design respects the existing memorials," Christensen said.

Marc Salette of Chee Salette called the project a work in progress.

"The concepts we presented for the park and the memorial will evolve and develop through a conversation with Tucsonans about what El Presidio Park and the January 8 Memorial should be," Salette said.

Funding for the memorial is part of a $98.6 million tourism bond that Pima County is asking voters to approve in November. A total of $25 million has been set aside to refurbish the historic Pima County Courthouse, give El Presidio Park a facelift and design the memorial. (of that, $1.5 million is directly related to the memorial, with a matching amount raised by the January 8th Memorial Foundation, according to Christensen.

The remodeled courthouse could serve as an annex to the Tucson Museum of Art as well as a home for a museum displaying artifacts and other displays about the mass shooting and its aftermath.

Tucson's Jan. 8th Memorial Foundation board member Ron Barber, the former Giffords aide who was shot twice in the mass shooting and went on to finish Giffords' term in Congress, said he remembered how emotional he felt when he was able to leave his hospital room and see the shrine that had developed on the University of Arizona Medical Center lawn.

"It was wonderful to see what people had done to say, 'We want you to get better,'" Barber recalled. "Tucson opened its heart to us and we need to capture that."

"Zona Politics with Jim Nintzel" is taking a Memorial Day weekend vacation. The show will return on Sunday, May 31, with an interview with UA physics professors Michael Shupe, Shufang Su and Margaret Regan.

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