Journalists Roundtable

More from this show

Local reporters review the week’s top stories.

Ted Simons: Hello, and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Joining me tonight -- Mary Jo Pitzl of "The Arizona Republic," Daniel Scarpinato of "The Arizona Daily Star," and Matt Benson of "The Arizona Republic." Governor Jan Brewer is suing the legislature over the budget. She's asked Arizona's highest court to order lawmakers to send her budget bills that they approved two weeks ago. Mary Jo, before we get to the all there machinations there, is there any talks going on today? Any new developments?

Mary Jo Pitzl: I don't think there's any talks going on today. The senate's been busy doing a heavy calendar but senate President Burns said they met briefly yesterday evening and he and speaker Adams Governor Brewer will meet again on Monday and meanwhile, over the weekend, staff is expected to continue working.

Ted Simons: So we've got the governor filing suit against the legislature and but behind the scenes, they're still talking.

Daniel Scarpinato: They are, but who knows what the tenor of the discussion is like. We heard about this big blow-up where Bob Burns, the president of the senate apparently walked out on the negotiation meeting and that was when things seemed to go downward. Who knows what is happening behind the scenes? In public, at least earlier this week, they were heated with their remarks about each other.

Mary Jo Pitzl: Who knows what's going on? Certainly, the stories coming out of that now somewhat storied budget session are diametrically opposed. If you talked talked to legislative people, he said he hit an impasse after three, four hours, and theres a big silence and said we're not getting anywhere. I'm going home.

Matt Benson: And there was a lengthy four-hour discussion and they've had a series of shorter talks. Yesterday they met for less than an hour and from what I understand, all of the sides have dug in their heels and a lot of people are waiting to see what happens with the court on Tuesday when you have oral arguments. Does the court rule in this case and order the legislature to send up the bills and in the meantime, it's a waiting game.

Ted Simon: How surprised were Burns and Adams that the governor took this tack?

Matt Benson: Certainly acted like they were surprised. They understood she wanted the bills. She'd been saying she wants the bills but saying you want the bills and going ahead and suing a legislature run by your're own party, those are two different things. We're in uncharted territory.

Mary Jo Pitzl: This is an incredible game of chicken, and they're coming straight at each other and the way out are these discussions that we're not privy to, I think that's where the resolution will be reached, probably more so than in court. But depending on how quickly the court acts.

Ted Simons: As far as the court, the idea is to figure out if the legislature usurped the executive branch, correct?

Daniel Scarpinato: It gets so confusing of what it means practically. The governor wants the bills so it sounds like she can veto them. And seems to make the case that the legislature is conspiring against her to -- to wait this out, wait out the clock, and then send these bills to her, so she has no choice but to sign them or face a government shutdown, and she used the word, she didn't want to be tricked, she didn't the legislature to trick her. That's what she believes they're trying to do.

Ted Simons: We had a law professor joining us from A.S.U. to talk about the merits and he seemed to think she had a pretty good shot at it because of the deadline and the fact that a reasonable person needs a reasonable amount of time to look over a budget. What are you hearing from legal folks and anyone down there at the capitol? Do they think she has a chance here?

Matt Benson: It depends on who you talk to. There's no case law in Arizona. We're in uncharted territory and there's no place you can look back and say the court ruled such and such in the past. The fact of the matter is the legislature passed these budget bills on June 4th. The constitution says they "shall" transmit them to the governor after passed. But doesn't say when. That's the argument. The legislature says we're allowed to transmit them as long as we're still in session. So they could wait until June 30th.

Mary Jo Pitzl: I understand the governor says she wants to view the bills. They're viewable. It's all on the internet. The budget is available for anyone who wants to access the legislature's website. So I'm making a leap here, but I would guess the governor's staff has probably had a peek at the bills.

Matt Benson: It's not about viewing them, though. She wants them because she wants to act on them. If she's able to veto these bills, which it's widely believed she would do, she puts the ball back in their court. She can say, hey it's up to the legislature to get me a budget I can sign. As long as they've passed a budget, the ball is more in her court. It really changes the dynamic.

Daniel Scarpinato: Matt is right, there's no case law. But if you look at other states, this has come up and most cases the court has either said we're going to stay out of the legislative process or they've said something very general, like the bills need to be transmitted in a reasonable amount of time. So it'll be interesting so see what the court does here and if this deadline, this potential government shutdown is part of their decision making process.

Ted Simons: As far as the governor making what seemed like a concession regarding the sales tax increase, saying we're not going to use it necessarily for next year, but save it for 2011, how much of a concession, Mary Jo?

Mary Jo Pitzl: Well it's a pretty big concession given that she has said she needs a billion of new revenue to make her budget plan work for 2010. If you take the increase off the table for 2010, where are you going to get that billion dollars?

Daniel Scarpinato: I think the bigger concession is going to be potentially by Republicans who somehow figure out how to justify putting this on the ballot after saying that they don't believe in letting people vote on a tax increase. That that, in fact, constitutes somehow raising taxes and you're hearing them talk about sending other things with that to the ballot. Like spending limits and clean elections reform. And other things that may allow them to go out to their constituents and say this isn't totally bad. The other quick thing, is that there are some Republicans who are saying if we send it to the ballot and people turn it down, that gives us license to do what we want and then the governor and Democrats cannot say, well, people don't want you to cut these programs because voters would have, in effect, given up that other option.

Ted Simons: Back to Mary Jo's point, the governor says you're a million dollars short -- a billion short, I'm sorry, and now all of a sudden, you're not? Where is this money coming from?

Matt Benson: Well that's interesting because she said from the get-go she didn't want to allow gimmicks and -- gimmicks and funny math, her term - in 2010 but in reality by giving up on the tax revenue in 2010 that's exactly what she's agreed to. She's talking about more borrowing and rollovers and more gimmicks to float the state by in 2010 and you get the tax and if voters approve it, you have revenue starting in 2011.

Ted Simons: Did the concession at all change any minds down there? Move anyone in one direction or the other, or folks entrenched?

Matt Benson: I can tell you that one of the major objections among legislators was how can we figure money into the 2010 budget before the tax has been approved? How can we approve a tax now for 2010, assuming we have revenue that voters won't vote on until November, and by taking this money out of 2010, you eliminate that issue.

Ted Simons: Is that how you're seeing it? Are folks seeing the concession and saying I can see her point of view a little more or --

Mary Jo Pitzl: I think it's very murky. People are still all over the board. The lawsuit adds a whole new wrinkle and gives an argument, especially for the rank and file to sit back and wait and see what happens.

Ted Simons: How is the rank and file taking the lawsuit? Are they sitting back and seeing who plays what?

Daniel Scarpinato: I think at least early in the week, a lot of the rank and file dismissed it as theatrics and didn't seem they took it seriously. Now it seems like they've tried to set this tone that, oh, well, we're talking to the governor again and we're positive and optimistic and given, as Mary Jo says, these unknowns, the lawsuit, what happens next week, it's hard to really gauge, I think, you know, whether or not they've really gotten over the blowup early in the week.

Ted Simons: Are Democrats a factor at all down there? And if not, why not? Are there enough Republican votes for both leadership and for what the governor wants to do?

Daniel Scarpinato: I don't think they're a huge factor in how the budget plays out. In part because even though they've talked about a bipartisan budget, they've been very disciplined in not letting their members fall off and go on board with anything else. And it really wouldn't serve any of them politically, I don't think so, to do so. I think the Democrats have finally found their voice on this. I think early on, given the fact that they were closer to Brewer on a lot of this than Republicans, I don't think they really knew how to fit into the whole scheme. But they seemed to have found their voice in -- in complaining about the governor waiting too long to get involved in this. And you're even seeing some of the potential gubernatorial candidates like Jim Peterson and Terry Goddard going along with that same mantra.

Mary Jo Pitzl: There does seem to be an intent to do a Republican-only budget, Republic governor and Republican legislature, and the more they keep the Democrats on the sidelines, that makes for a clear argument if indeed they can get that budget through that you can take to the voters and voters can decide whose ideas they like better. But it creates clear delineation between the camps.

Ted Simons: The concept, the prospect, of government shutdown, how serious is that talk around the capital?

Matt Benson: Oh I think it is extremely serious, you are hearing a lot of talk about that. The senate president is making plans to kind of keep some government going on a sort of month-by-month basis and I don't think you're going to have a situation where we walk in on July 1st and all the lights are going to be off. But you could well have a situation where only the critical functions are going. Corrections and D.E.S. and things of that sort and a lot of other things are going to be on hiatus.

Ted Simons: And again, continuing resolutions likely if this occurs?

Mary Jo Pitzl: Well, to get a continuing resolution you need 16 and 31 and then the signature of the governor. So the same parties that are warring need to come to agreement. But I think it's generally believed if it came to that, they'd find it within themselves to approve month-by-month funding for basic functions.

Ted Simons: Before we get off the budget and the legal issues and the government shutdown, if the government does have to scale back because the fussing and fighting continues, who is the winner and who is the loser here?

Matt Benson: Well, the Democrats are the winners.

Ted Simons: In public perception?

Matt Benson: Politically, the Democrats come out smelling like a rose. I don't see any other way to see this. This would be a Republican disaster, from a public opinion standpoint. They run the house and the senate and the governor's office and Democrats have been virtually excluded from the process, so I just don't see another way to see it.

Mary Jo Pitzl: It would be hard for the Republicans to distinguish in the public's mind that Governor Brewer is over here and the legislative leadership here, and I think they see them under the big R umbrella.

Ted Simons: Do you see that as well?

Daniel Scarpinato: I think the Democrats benefit politically if they can find a way in which they previously have not been able to to use it next year in their elections and rather than running so and so against so and so in a particular legislative district, it would give them an opportunity to essentially run a statewide referendum on the legislature and that might be a better move politically.

Matt Benson: I'm not saying Democrats would come out looking like champions. I'm saying they would look better than Republicans because the Republicans -- I mean, this would be -- you would have the real feeling in the public that these people cannot lead.

Daniel Scarpinato: I think that's why, probably, the governor is making such a public event out of being essentially at war with the Republicans, because I think she's perhaps trying to distance herself now from whatever -- you know, is left after the end of the month.

Mary Jo Pitzl: I want to know, Ted, if there's a government shutdown, does Horizon shut down?

Ted Simons: Ah Mary Jo, please. Horizon will always continue. A continuing resolution, Horizon. Let's move on to other things. Absolute stampede of bills, going on How many were looked at?

Mary Jo Pitzl: I had a lot of fun just counting them, much less trying to read what's in the bills. Through yesterday, the senate, their committees alone heard 212 bills in the course of four days. So figure that out. How much due deliberation is being given to these bills? There were 460 bills introduced to the senat, they are working through the process, not all of them will make it, but so far, only 63 have gone over to the house and the house which has not had a holdup on bills, it's bracing for this DELUGE of bills coming their way. Meanwhile next week, the senate is trying to dedicate next week to hearing the bills bottled up in the house and it's just a massive traffic jam.

Ted Simons: So how long are the hearings and how late are the nights? Is it going to be like this to the bitter end?

Mary Jo Pitzl: I think. So Monday night senator Paton's judiciary committee went 6 hours, past 8:00 p.m. and didn't get the agenda done and back here today and they were still talking when we left to come here.

Ted Simons: How much concern is there at the capitol and outside that these bills aren't being vetted properly?

Matt Benson: I think there's a lot of concern. And everybody remembers the old fuels mess and all of that and that's the big fear is that you're going to have bills that get through the process with unintended consequences and 18 months from now or nine months from now, all of these little land mines are going to be going off.

Ted Simons: Beautiful.

Daniel Scarpinato: And it's not completely unique. I mean, this is really fast-paced but it's not unique that every session they pass things without much deliberation. So this is a very fast process and it's kind of pointing to a maybe larger issue. But you do see things get added to the budget at the last minute that never got much debate and it happens regularly.

Matt Benson: But it's not only deliberation by the lawmakers themselves, think about how many bills are going to end up on the governor's desk all at once and she's going to have the usual five days or 10 days if we're out of session to deliberate and analyze these bills and make a decision to sign or veto. It's just human nature, you're not going to be able to give the bills the same amount of deliberation if you've got a stack on your desk.

Mary Jo Pitzl: And let's not forget the public in this. There's a lot of maneuvers happening now. The infamous strike where it's difficult to track unless you're down there day in and day out watching that. And it's generally hard to mobilize any group from the public to come down to the legislature on very short notice. So people aren't going to know what's hitting them until a couple months down the road where land mines potentially go off.

Ted Simons: We had an immigration bill pass the senate. Looks like no sanctuary and no way to -- expanding the state trespassing, something along these lines, correct?

Mary Jo Pitzl: Yes, Senator Russell Pearce, who is just the PRIMO multitasker. He is head of the appropriations commitee, which is we've got a big budget mess but he's found time to spend time on the immigration issues as well and he has a bill that will require local police departments to enforce federal immigration law, getting rid of what they see as a sanctuary policy.

Ted Simons: And this would be a major headline if it were not for the avalanche of bills flying all over the place, correct?

Mary Jo Pitzl: I would think so.

Ted Simons: Another biggie is the concealed gun bill. Which was heard in committee today?

Matt Benson: Yeah.

Ted Simons: And what's the deal? No more training for folks who want these permits?

Matt Benson: Basically it would do away with the concealed permit in Arizona. If you're over the age of 18 and can pass a background check, you can carry a weapon, concealed or otherwise and currently you have to go through this permitting process to carry a concealed weapon. You have to do the training and the background and all of that. This would do away with that.

Daniel Scarpinato: And what's interesting is that you could still get the permit, and if you did, you could actually carry the gun into places that currently you can't. Certain public buildings. Perhaps even the gallery of the state senate. So -- so the permit stays, but it expands it so that if you actually go through that process, you have even more opportunity.

Mary Jo Pitzl: And the permit would be made voluntary. They did amend it this afternoon to say that despite all this, you could not take it on to school grounds. They backed that one out And this bill has gotten a fair amount of attention and long debate this afternoon.

Ted Simons: Yeah, let's keep moving on here. A lot of other things going on. Looking at no smoking with kids in cars. For this kind of legislature, surprised that this thing got this far?

Daniel Scarpinato: Well, some of these things have been backed in the past by Democrats and didn't get hearings this time. It happened to be a Republican and so it has moved through the process. We'll see when this comes up for debate, how people fall on it. It may have a tough time, because you do get into issues that conservatives have a problem with the government dictating to people what you can and cannot do. But there are a number of these bills, texting while driving and things that have been termed the nanny state issues and they are unusual for Republicans to be championing.

Ted Simons: It seems odd for these things to going through. Evverything seems to be going through, at least for now, the committees seem to be fast-pacing everything.

Matt Benson: I think what you are going to end up seeing is a lot of bills getting through committee, they're going to hit a roadblock. The house won't have time to run through them all and the senate, and you're going to have a lot of bills that end up in somebody's desk and never seen again.

Ted Simons: Department of environmental quality. This was a target for a long time. What happened? It's been expanded now?

Mary Jo Pitzl: No, on the D.E.Q., which has been a target of lawmakers, I think most people would say, was targeted for a two-year extension of its lifespan during it's sunset review last fall and the senate looked at it today and said we'll give them five years. Typically, though an agency is extended for 10 years at a time. So they gave them a half life.

Ted Simons: Ok. And now again, you tell me, because I'm not down there, but sounded like majority whip Pam Gorman was reprimanded in an odd way in this --

Mary Jo Pitzl: Senator Gorman stood up and had four different amendments to the ADEQ bill. All of which voted down. Can't be voted down without some Republican votes going against their own majority whip and suppposedly what it was a bit of a rebuke because she had missed the earlier committee hearing where it was discussed and didn't want her to meddle in the bill if she couldn't show up for the committee hearing.

Ted Simons: So there's enough time for a little bit of that to be going on down there?

Mary Jo Pitzl: Oh yeah.

Ted Simons: Probably a lot of that going on down there. Last point, what's going on with the facial hair? What so easy a caveman can do it?

Matt Benson: Well listen Ted, you've heard of the NHL, the guys grow a playoff beard? I'm growing a budget beard and I told some my capitol colleagues, I wasn't going to shave until we got a budget or my wife makes me shave.

Daniel Scarpinato: How many days of growth is that?

Matt Benson: This is about four, five days.

Daniel Scarpinato: I think I can catch up in a day or two.

Ted Simons: Wow a little dropdown right there. So what happens if there's a continuing resolution? What's the deal with that?

Matt Benson: You know --

Daniel Scarpinato: Mustache?

Matt Benson: Maybe.

Ted Simons: Van Dyke, or some sort of goatee?

Matt Benson: And it gets a little scrathy as it gets warmer. And it's ugly and scraggly and just fits the budget, right?

Mary Jo Pitzl: I think you need to do weekly updates on his face.

Ted Simons: Yes, very quickly. Your thoughts -- Supreme Court going to take this up and if so, what are they going to do?

Matt Benson: You know, I don't know, is the long -- is the short answer.

Ted Simons: That's a safe enough answer. What do you think Mary Jo?

Mary Jo Pitzl: There seems to be a lot of arguments in which they won't get in the middle of what they see as an inter-family feud.

Ted Simons: Likely or unlikely?

Daniel Scarpinato: I have no clue, but it would be interesting to get a ruling so there'd be some clarity on it.

Ted Simons: In case it happens again?

Daniel Scarpinato: Yeah.

Ted Simons: Which it just might. Thank you so much. Good luck with the beard. Appreciate you all showing up. Monday -- we'll look at the latest in Iran. So far it's been a week of street rallies resulting in fatalities. We'll talk to Paul Kissinger, who used to be with the C.I.A. and is now with the Thunderbird School of Global Management. That's Monday at 7:00 on "Horizon." Tuesday -- the president's healthcare plan. Dr. Jacqueline Chadwick of the Arizona Medical Association will join us to discuss that. Wednesday -- "Arizona Capitol Times" reporter Jim Small will give us a mid week update on what's going on at the legislature. Thursday -- the Resolution Copper Minign Company is asking congress to approve a federal land swap allowing the company to begin mine a huge body of copper ore near Superior. And Friday, we're back with another edition of the Journalists' Roundtable. That's it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us. You have a great weekend.

Mary Jo Pitzl: The Arizona Republic; Daniel Scarpinato: The Arizona Daily Star; Matt Benson: The Arizona Republic;

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