State rep. talks budget fight, guns

Ethan+McSweeney%2F+The+Daily+Wildcat%0A%0AState+Rep.+Ethan+Orr+%28R-Tucson%29+stands+in+his+office+at+the+State+Capitol+on+Thursday.+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Ethan McSweeney

Ethan McSweeney/ The Daily Wildcat State Rep. Ethan Orr (R-Tucson) stands in his office at the State Capitol on Thursday.

Ethan McSweeney

With the legislative session well under way, State Rep. Ethan Orr (R-Tucson) is preparing for a year of budget battles and elections. The Daily Wildcat caught up with the UA adjunct professor at the State Capitol to discuss higher education, guns on campus and the importance of the UA.

DW: What are the higher education issues being argued in the state Legislature this year?

Orr: The biggest thing to me is that the [Arizona] Board of Regents came to an agreement among the three university presidents which was a very good package. It included for the UA an extra $15 million in main campus infrastructure and faculty improvements. It included $4 million for a vet school and $4 million for cooperative extension. The governor only put in the $3.5 million for cooperative extension. So, what I’ve said is that I am not going home until I put the $19 million back into the budget.

What do you think are the chances of that happening?

I think I’m going to get something. I’m going to be tenacious and I’m going to make it very clear it is wholly inappropriate to fund NAU and ASU for a majority of their ABOR package and not fund UA. You can’t make an agreement among the three universities and arbitrarily take one out. If it’s going to be an agreement and you have to shrink the size of the agreement, shrink them all together. The UA got 10 percent of its ask. ASU and NAU got 60 percent. Why would you single out one university?

A bill in the House proposes allowing faculty members of a state university to carry concealed weapons on campus; what are your thoughts?

I think safety is extremely important. When I was in student government [at the UA], we built all those blue-light phones because we had a lot of problems with campus rape. Women feel much safer to have those campus phones. Safety is extremely important to me. I think if you want people to be safe on campus, better policing is more important. For example, the text alert and the alert system that the UA has set up are extremely effective.

I fully support people’s Second Amendment rights, but you have to put it in context. People deserve to be safe, but is that the way to make them safe? If we’re going to have a mass shooting event, text alerts, the alert system and better policing, these are the things that practically make people safer.

Why do you think the UA is important, not only to Tucson, but to the whole state of Arizona?

People don’t know what land grant means anymore. When I think of land grant, I think of an Arizona-wide resource. We are a resource to every farmer, every rancher and everyone in rural Arizona. If you look at our arid lands research and our AgEcon research, it’s being recognized in the Middle East. President [Ann Weaver] Hart went to Dubai and alumni associations there want to know what we’re doing when it comes to agriculture and water. We really are a resource to all of Arizona.

Is it hard to balance family and work?

It sucks. The night before, my son started crying on the phone because he’s sad that I’m not there. It’s really a sacrifice and my wife understands. She views it as a ministry, because we get to help people. My kids don’t get it. What I do is when I’m home, I try to do as much with my family as possible.

I have a condo here that I split with another member. I’d just rather be home. I have three kids — a 9-year-old, a 7-year-old and a 4-year-old — and I just love being home.

It’s an election year; what do you think your chances are for getting re-elected?

I think they’re pretty good. I hope that they will follow suit because I am going to have a relentlessly positive campaign. I don’t like the negative campaigning and, unfortunately, they have started down that road. I really dislike where politics has gone. I dislike the partisan nature. I dislike how people introduce issues, not to solve a problem, but just to create a “gotcha” moment.