Legislature A to Z Dynamics

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We begin a four-part series examining the 48th Legislative Session as it begins. Tonight, a look at the potential dynamics between political parties and the Legislative and Executive branches. Political Analysts Bob Grossfeld of The Media Guys and Stan Barnes of Copperstate Consulting are guests.

Michael Grant: Tonight on "Horizon," we begin a four-part series on the start of the new legislative session. Tonight on legislature A-to-Z we focus on the dynamics that could be played out between political parties and the executive and legislative branches. Also, to celebrate Horizon's 25th anniversary, a look back at one of the top stories we've covered in the last quarter of a century. That's next on "Horizon."

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Michael Grant: Good evening and thanks for joining us tonight on "Horizon." I'm Michael Grant. Today is Martin Luther King Day, of course, and the Arizona legislature is completely closed, along with the executive offices. The House has been taking the holiday off for some time now, but the Senate has decided to take a holiday for the first time. Senators can thank incoming State Senator Leah Landrum Taylor for the day off. She's been pushing for the holiday since initially becoming a state representative. Tonight we begin a four-part series looking at the 48th legislative session that began last Monday. The next four days we'll be talking to legislators about health, transportation and immigration issues. Tonight we focus on the dynamics that might be played out throughout the session. In fact, we caught a glimpse of that before the governor's state of the state address last week. Democrats are arguing for more power after picking up six seats in the house, one in the senate during the last election. But Republicans aren't eager to give up power, considering the fact they still control both houses. The state of the state was unique this year as retired Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O'Connor swore in the new legislators. O'Connor, herself, of course served in the legislature herself from 1969-to-1974. She's a former senate majority leader. As Larry Lemmons shows us, O'Connor's call for bipartisanship was picked up and dropped by the battling political parties on the first day of the session.

Sandra Day O'Connor: The nation needs leadership right now. Badly. It needs leadership on all of these issues. Education and immigration loom large. And it would be my hope that you and Arizona, you and the legislative bodies, can work constructively and intelligently to help design some of the solutions to these problems.


Audience member: Thank you.

Larry Lemmons: Before the governor's state-of-the-state address this year, a bit of political maneuvering focused attention on the underlying tensions in the state legislature. As expected, House Majority Leader Tom Boone made a nomination.

Tom Boone: I place a nomination for Speaker of the House of Representatives, 48th legislature, the name of James P. Weiers of District 10.

Larry Lemmons: That was followed by a nomination from Flagstaff Democrat, Ann Kirkpatrick.

Ann Kirkpatrick: I place in nomination for speaker of the House of Representatives' 48th legislature the name of Phil Lopes of District 27.

Larry Lemmons: Minority Leader Lopes then spoke of promoting bipartisanship which could be translated to mean more Democratic influence in a chamber long dominated by Republican power.

Phil Lopes: And in anticipation of that time. And in anticipation of the good of this body, I ask that my nomination be withdrawn. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Larry Lemmons: But as Representative Lopes sits, notice a nod from Majority Whip John McComish possibly in the direction of Bob Robson in the foreground. Shortly after this moment Mr. Robson makes a move.

Bob Robson: Mr. Chairman I move that Representative James P. Weiers be chosen as speaker of the House of Representatives and I request a roll call vote.

Larry Lemmons: Then McComish stands.

John McComish: Mr. Chairman, I also request a roll call vote.

Larry Lemmons: As McComish stands, Kirkpatrick then calls for a recess. So what just happened?

Mary Jo Pitzl: The Democrats didn't want to be apparently on record voting against or for speaker Weiers. So they called a recess. It just dissolved into chaos. And ultimately I think there was a lot of confusion within the Democratic caucus themselves. And ultimately speaker Weiers was elected. But you really couldn't count noses to know who's voting for him. So we question how strong the spirit of bipartisanship that everyone talks about, how long it will stay.

Phil Lopes: What the Democrats were trying to do was say to the speaker, you have to pay attention to us. We got 27 members. And we want to be dealt with as a real partner.

Howard Fischer: Well, Phil Lopes is unhappy with the makeup of the committees. When we went to 33-27 his belief is the committees which had been 6-3 Republican to Democrat should have been 5-4. Well, house speaker Jim Weiers didn't want the possibility that Democrats could move over one republican in committee and actually attach their ideas to, heaven forbid, Republican legislative agendas. So he made the committees 6-4. That led to the whole issue on the floor of Jim Weiers's re-election.

Larry Lemmons: Capital reporters have observed that changes in the leadership and membership of the two houses will probably affect the working dynamics.

Dennis Welch: The moderates definitely will have more muscle down here. With smaller majorities Republicans down here particularly are going to have to -- they're not going to have the luxury of losing several votes of their own members if they don't like a certain bill, they don't like the way it's going. They're definitely going into people like Jay Tip Shraney who was the majority whip over in the Senate. Well, he attempted to become president of the Senate. He lost. He was kicked out of leadership. But in a weird way he may have just as much influence now as he had last year. Because he is considered a moderate. He doesn't tow the party line. People will come in his door on tight, important votes and say, listen, come with us. We want your vote on this one.

Rebecca Rios: Former house speaker art Hamilton had called them the mod squad. These folks can clearly come out as the heroes by forging with Democrats to push through key pieces of legislation. Will they also potentially be targeted by their party? Absolutely. That can also happen. That's the dirtiness of politics. That's why Senator Helen is no longer in the senate, unfortunately.

Howard Fischer: You have two factors at work. Number one the governor won by like a 28 point margin. She believes she has a mandate. She made it clear during her state-of-the-state speech that she's got an agenda, and darn it they'd better pay attention to her. The other factor, as you point out, is that the Republicans while they're still in control don't have quite the same margin. What used to be a 39-21 lead is 33-27. In fact for the first couple of weeks it's 32-27 since Jonathan Payton is off in Iraq. The Senate Wednesday from 18-12 to 17-13 Republicans. What that means is the moderates of both parties really hold the center and can move people either way. That may help the governor with some of her proposals versus what some of the more conservative elements of the Republican Party would like to do here.

Mary Jo Pitzl: The Republicans have a smaller majority than they've had in the past but they are a majority.

Larry Lemmons: So despite Democratic gains Republicans still control both houses. A moderating influence may be apparent but legislators must still be elected in primaries where they are sometimes vulnerable to more extreme opposition. Likely as in previous sessions, the battle over the budget will determine the quality of the relationship between the executive and legislative branches.

Mary Jo Pitzl: They all want to go after the same thing. The governor doesn't want to raise taxes. What is absent today her agenda that is in the majority party's agenda is tax cuts. I think that will be further ground for battle.

Janet Napolitano: It's a good deal. No new money and a great positive payoff.

Michael Grant: Joining us now to tell us what we might expect in the upcoming session is Bob Grossfeld, he is the president of the Media Guys, a political consulting firm, and the president and founder, I might quickly add, of Copper State Consulting Group. The semi-learned Stan Barnes. Welcome back.

Stan Barnes: Thank you Mike.

Bob Grossfeld: A pleasure.

Michael Grant: First I want to talk about how we got here. I know a question I've been asked frequently, Bob, is how much particularly people focusing on the six seat pickup in the House, how much of that was attributable to the national phenomena, you think, of throw the bums out, and how much of it was local?

Bob Grossfeld: About 50-50. I think some of the political tactics that came about because of the national shift, where there was just a lot of money being poured in at the grassroots and doing a lot of get out the vote operations, probably helped lift that. But the rest of it, I think, both in those areas as well as statewide was there was just a desire to change.

Michael Grant: What do you think, Stan? All politics national? All politics local? Someplace in between?

Stan Barnes: I'm still in the local category. Arizona in my experience of 20 years of being around the political side has followed the national wave. I don't know which is affecting which. But when the Gingrich revolution took place the conservative element took control of the legislature and those things coincided. This time I think the Democratic move in the house and senate had as much to do with them having a strong governor nominee from their party on the top of the ticket. It didn't help Jim Pederson but it helped a lot of opposites down the line that she was and is a popular governor and popular leader of her party. And the Democrats to their credit put up a lot of talented people to run. The old saying in our business is you can't beat somebody with nobody. And the Democrats didn't try to beat Republicans with people out of the phone book. They had talented people willing to get in the arena. That's one way you win games around here.

Michael Grant: Obviously, Bob, much ado is being made about this, again mostly in the house where it went from 39-21 to 33-27. Less so in the Senate, 17-13 instead of 18-12. Is it much ado about nothing or is it much ado about something? Do you think it's going to be a substantially different session this time around than for example last time?

Bob Grossfeld: I think it will be different, not necessarily in outcomes. But I think the culture is being changed. And it may be changed kicking and screaming for some people. And I think to Stan's point, the new people coming in I think are pretty well-schooled. Very bright. And they're not down there to just keep a seat warm or for the grandiosity of having the title. They're down there to get things done. And they're not going to just sit back and be beat up. And within Democratic circles for years now the problem has been that Democrats got very comfortable being victims, being the losers, being in the minority. And this new group that's come in, no. They want to take over.

Stan Barnes: Yeah I agree. I've been down there and met all these nice people. There's no sense of, "I'm in the secondary party, the party that's destined to lose this thing." They're in the sense of, "we almost picked off the majority. We'll get them next time." In the meantime we're going to stir the pot here. So there's a lot of energy in the Democratic Party. Again the governor and for that matter Terry Goddard our attorney general, they gave a lot of the wind to the sails of a lot of people. And in this state the Democratic Party is re-energized in a way it has not been in a long, long time. And it plays out in the legislature and it kills me to say those words.


Stan Barnes: You know, for all of us who live in Arizona, there's an interesting balance that is taking place that if you can drop your partisan hat for a moment, it's okay. It's okay.

Michael Grant: You reminded me that when you were there early 90's this was the division. 33-27.

Stan Barnes: Yeah. I actually got elected to the house and I knew nothing and some would argue I'm still in that spot.


Stan Barnes: In 1989 when I was sworn, in it was the same 33-27 business. And it mattered a great deal. To your question that you asked Bob, things are going to change down there. Not only is the style changed, but the output of the legislature's going to change. Everyone's got a veto in this game now. Both parties have a veto in this game now. And in the House and in the Senate there is no
31-16 functioning majority to go any one certain direction. Yes, Republicans have a numerical majority, control the chairmanships and set agenda, and that sort of thing, but they don't put out policy the way they want.

Michael Grant: Bob, good point. Everybody said, okay, you have a r after your name and you're going to vote this way. If you have a "D" after your name you're going to vote this way. And that's way too simple in explanation.

Bob Grossfeld: Absolutely. I think as a general rule at the end of the day, final read on bills, yeah, it's probably going to work out that way. But it's the process along the way to get to that final version of the bill that I think is now going to be considerably more fluid than perhaps it used to be. Because working in committees, you have people that aren't just going to sit back and play dead. It just isn't going to behave. And the thing that keeps crossing my mind is, you know, God forbid somebody on the Republican side gets sick. They get an outbreak of flu --

Stan Barnes: You're describing the U.S. Senate right now, not the Arizona legislature.

Michael Grant: Now, any credence to this? Because I've seen it operate a few times. Sometimes I saw the caucuses actually hold together better when the margin was more narrow because they didn't have the luxury of "you don't need my vote. You've got 37 others you can go to."

Stan Barnes: Right.

Michael Grant: Any sort of counter balancing element in that phenomenon?

Stan Barnes: I think that is the way it could play out. But it's too early to see. Hope of its depending on the individual personalities involved. And if you just flew in and looked at the numbers and did not know the personalities you'd miss the meaning of it. The individuals in the Republican caucus and for that matter the Democratic caucus of both House and Senate mean everything about how that phenomenon plays out. There's a lot of independence down there among Republicans and Democrats. And there's a lot of willingness to risk like there didn't used to be. And there is hurriedness from the term limits issue where freshmen are down there thinking, I am equal to you. Mr. Speaker, we're equal. That is not real but has changed the dynamic about how that place operates.

Bob Grossfeld: Just to add to, that you also have the food chain effect which has now picked up speed because of term limits. You look four years from now, all the major line offices, statewide offices are up for grabs. And so now you have people at this point in time starting to figure, where am I going to go next?

Michael Grant: Positioning.

Bob Grossfeld: You have, for instance, Mr. Tetrini who's clearly going to run for Congress. A number of other people looking at different seats in and out of the legislature. And so that tends to temper what they do in the legislature because they're creating a record.

Stan Barnes: It will be used against them.

Bob Grossfeld: It will be used against them one way or the other.

Michael Grant: That's right.

Bob Grossfeld: By you or by me.

Stan Barnes: Yes.

Bob Grossfeld: They can't win.

Michael Grant: Bob, any particular issues or subject matters where you think D's stand a more likely chance than maybe some others of pulling over four in the House, three in the Senate?

Bob Grossfeld: I think if there's a concerted effort to get some tightening of regulations on employers who hire illegal aliens, yeah, I think there's a really good chance of that now. Because at the close of the last go-around --

Michael Grant: We might see some conservative bolting.

Bob Grossfeld: Exactly because you've got both ends coming around. And all you need are the moderates in the middle.

Stan Barnes: I think the way to the answer to that question is the education issue. The governor has got her flag planted. And the Democratic caucuses want to go in her direction and some Republicans want to go that as well. They have an opportunity to make a majority out of a bipartisan situation like that. But that's not the way it works. It's not so easy to do that. There's a lot of bloodshed before you get to that particular point. The leadership of the House and Senate don't just let that happen on the floor of their respective House or Senate. They do have tools to exact a certain party discipline by members.

Michael Grant: Yeah. That will be the subject of a show later.

Stan Barnes: We could do a whole show on that one.

Michael Grant: That's right. Stan Barnes, thanks very much for being here. Bob Grossfeld good to see you again. Tomorrow night we'll continue a look at our legislature a-to-z with an examination of healthcare issues. This year "Horizon" is celebrating its 25th anniversary. For the next few days we'll feature some of the most important stories the program has covered in that time. Our seventh most important story, Indian gaming. Congress approved the Indian gaming regulatory act in 1988. That was seen as a way to let Indian communities be self-sufficient. That act allowed tribes to offer gaming. But some times needed approval by the state. "Horizon" covered the many problems and solutions that ensued.

Michael Grant: Tonight on "Horizon," the issue of whether to continue to allow gaming operations on Arizona's Indian reservations will soon find its way to federal court. Good evening. I'm Michael Grant. In the state of Arizona and across the nation Indian tribes are using games of chance to boost their local economies. By doing so, quite often they are gambling with the patience of state and federal officials.

Reporter: On May 12, federal agents seized an opportunity and about 300 styled casino gaming -- from a gaming hall in an early morning raid. What federal agents didn't bargain for was that 100 tribal members would create a blockade of cars, trucks and heavy construction vehicles that would keep the video machines from leaving their reservation. After the blockade went on for over five hours Governor Symington made his way to a location near the reservation to meet with the tribal president to diffuse what was perceived as a possibly explosive situation.

Fife Symington: I don't promise you any miracles. This is not just the state of Arizona; it's a federal issue, it's the federal government as well. But we're determined to resolve it and I hope that you all will help us resolve it by allowing these trucks to pass and we can diffuse the situation.

Michael Grant: A record amount of money spent this election cycle, almost $40 million alone on the three gaming initiatives. Proposition 200, sponsored by the Colorado River Indian tribes, and 201, backed by the rice tracks, lost by wide margins. The 17 tribe initiative, prop 202, has a slight lead.

Michael Grant: Mark, you were actually there that day.

Mark Flatten: Yes, I was. And it started out as a very -- it wasn't a planned event. It was spontaneous. The Fed came in because there were slot machines that had been bought illegally. And initially some people that were there just pulled their trucks up and wouldn't let them out and it grew from there. It really grew into a spontaneous movement in the course of the day.

Michael Grant: Incidentally, did we ever find out who the federal procurement officer was who ordered a Mayflower van to the Indian reservation? Reservation? Did that work? I don't know. You know, we closed with a shot of the 2002 propositions. Alfredo, can you make an argument that mayflower van at the Indian reservation led to the election of Janet Napolitano in 2002?

Alfredo Gutierrez: You could certainly make an argument that initiative and the amount of money spent on the initiative to get out the vote, to get out folks who otherwise wouldn't have voted for Indian gaming had an impact on Democratic turnout. The kind of people who were coming out to vote, specifically to vote for Indian gaming, weren't the religious right. So it's likely they were voting Democratic and likely they were voting for the governor. That's where the impact was.

Michael Grant: Now, to go to sort of warp a Ronald Reagan line, let's ask ourselves, are we better off now than we were 16-years ago?

Jana Boomersbach: We certainly are better off now than then. I think it's poetic justice that after Arizona's long ugly history of messing over the Indians they end up with billion dollar case knows and all the uranium in the world. There is poetic justice. In 2005 they brought in $1.6 billion into the case knows of Arizona. We have 20 casinos now. Then they turn around and give the state back like 65 million and 85 million. And apparently the revenues are up now more than ever. All that money is going to great public facilities -- education, to anti-gambling illnesses. It supports the gambling bureaucracy that we have to do to regulate them. Wildlife conservation. That's where all that money is earmarked for.

Mark Flatten: What may be even more important is what gaming did is it took the poorest of the poor in America and gave them essentially seed money. If you look at what was going on at Salt River, Gila River, it's not just casinos anymore. They used that to spur economic development. When you talk to tribal leaders what they'll tell you is, we know gaming is not going to last forever. We have a 25, 30-year window on gaming. A lot of tribes are using that as the engine to get their economic development going so they don't fall into the poverty into the long-term.

Alfredo Gutierrez: We need to talk about what gambling didn't do. The idea was the earth was going to open up wide, demons and crocodiles were going to come out and eat us all up and horrendous things were going to happen. We would become morally corrupt as a society, and people almost instantly if Indian gaming came about. It's had extraordinary effects and we continue to be as morally deficient as we were the day before Indian gaming passed.

Jana Boomersbach: The other thing that it did is it brought the Indians to the table. They didn't have any economic power whatsoever. Now they have an economic power and they're now at the table. And it's about time. So that has been a great political benefit for them, too.

Merry Lucero: Providing healthcare coverage for children is among the governor's top issues in 2007. What do top lawmakers in the state legislature who deal with health measures say about those proposals? Find out what health committee leaders at the state House and Senate have on their agendas for the new session. That's Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. on "Horizon."

Michael Grant: Wednesday we continue our series legislature A-to-Z. We look at transportation issues that might be concerning the legislature. On Thursday we begin with immigration. Thank you very much for joining us on this Monday evening. I'm Michael Grant. Have a great one and good night.

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