Journalists Roundtable

More from this show

Local reporters discuss the week’s top stories.

Ted Simons: Hello and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Joining me tonight are Mary Jo Pitzl of "The Arizona Republic," Dennis Welch of "The Arizona Guardian," and Mike Sunnucks of "The Business Journal." A number of new laws took effect this week. Let's start with one that didn't quite make it. Dennis, key provisions of the abortion law struck by -- what? -- state court?

Dennis Welch: Yeah, it --

Ted Simons: I should say delayed.

Dennis Welch: It's delayed. Big parts, almost all of it except for one little provision was struck down. The key provisions struck down, abortions only performed by doctors out there. Currently, right now, nurse practitioners could do most of these types of procedures. The thing they did keep was the 24-hour waiting period. The original bill was you had to consult with a doctor 24 hours before the abortion thing. You can do it over the phone. It doesn't have it be a doctor.

Ted Simons: Two visits in 24 hours, talk about that.

Dennis Welch: Obviously, they want to give every opportunity, people supporting this bill want every opportunity to educate, as they say, the people going in for these procedures before they -- before they actually have them done so they hope they have all the facts and information.

Mike Sunnucks: They also have them talk about the fetal pain and what it goes through and what stage it's at. It happens in other states when the abortion laws come up and it will be months now before the court decides whether it's yea or nay on these things.

Mary Jo Pitzl: They're still there, as I understand it, it's just that the patient doesn't need to come in and consult twice in a 24-hour period. They can do that over the phone. That was an argument that some opponents made, especially people in rural areas, if they have to go and visit the same person twice in 24 hours is asking a lot.

Ted Simons: Another aspect that would affect rural residents is the idea they don't have to be performed by an M.D. For folks in rural area that would make for a chilling effect.

Dennis Welch: It would. And it would create a logjam and you would have fewer people able to do them. How many doctors out there would be willing to sign up and provide this service?

Mike Sunnucks: I think it stems from a nurse in southern Arizona -- Tucson -- that was performing abortions and some antiabortion folks were going after this. This goes back to Napolitano. They were trying to stop this. Obviously they think that abortions should be performed by physicians.

Mary Jo Pitzl: These two bills are in the same form, had been passed by this legislature and prefer only to be vetoed by Napolitano when she was governor and that changed when Jan Brewer came in.

Mike Sunnucks: This is probably going to go into next year, an election year and let's see how it plays out in the legislative races, especially the Republican side where you might have socially conservative folks running against somebody who is not as socially conservative and we may need this vote again.

Ted Simons: Pharmacists cannot refuse to dispense emergency contraception.

Dennis Welch: That was blocked as well. There's a provision you could refuse any services related to abortion based on moral or religious, that means someone like a pharmacist could refuse --

Mike Sunnucks: Like the day after pills and those things. They could say they don't want to deal with it and can't get in trouble with the hospital or pharmacy they work at.

Ted Simons: Let's take a look the laws that did take effect. Including concealed weapons. They can go into establishments where booze is served.

Dennis Welch: I guess you can say they can get loaded and loaded there.

Ted Simons: But are they allowed to drink as well or just go into the establishment?

Mary Jo Pitzl: You can't drink. That's the way the law with written. Someone in a restaurant or bar, and they have a concealed weapon, how are you to know they're packing or not? And that leaves it up to the good intent of the weapons carrier and if a bartender or waitress were to serve them, there would be no liability back on the establishment. It took a couple of years, but we got guns in bars.

Mike Sunnucks: There's a lot of liability and issues that they don't care for and a lot of tourism folks don't like -- after the Obama rally, they don't like the national news talking about people bringing guns into Chili's.

Ted Simons: Unless that Chili's has a sign posted saying, "No firearms." You have to put onus on the bar or restaurant owner.

Dennis Welch: They're going to go continue business as usual. They don't want to draw attention to the issue and move on from here. Guns allowed in parking lots and garages if left in vehicle, correct?

Mary Jo Pitzl: Yes, this is another one hotly debated and this pits private property rights against the rights to bear arms and posed a dilemma for lawmakers because, geez, which one do you pick? In this case, the gun rights trumped and they came in at the last minute and made exceptions for places like nuclear power plants and facilities that have highly sensitive issues going on, you cannot leave your gun in your vehicle. What I still find fascinating, during the debate last spring, two lawmakers that moved this along said they have seen gun violence in the workplace and somebody went out and went out and grabbed a gun from their car and came back and shot people and they voted.

Mike Sunnucks: There's confusion on the business side. The landlords and restaurants. When they change laws, they're never sure of how the signs work. But there's a lot of landlords trying to figure out if parking garages and parking lots, how do we handle this? But gun rights seem to win out over everything down in the legislature.

Ted Simons: More difficult now to successfully sue emergency room doctors, correct?

Mary Jo Pitzl: This is another one that found new life once Janet Napolitano moved on and we got a Republican governor. This was a medical liability bill that Karen Allen from Scottsdale has run for several years and once again it was passed and signed into law and doctors, as you said, this is going to limit their liability in emergency cases.

Mike Sunnucks: And doctors pushed for this for a long time. Janet got a lot of heat. The Democrats are with trial lawyers argument. On its face it seems like it makes sense, but case-by-case, you want people to have the right to sue.

Ted Simons: The difference is it has to be clear and convincing evidence as opposed to a preponderance of evident. That by itself raises the -- the bar and that's what they were looking to do. Numbers out, Dennis, not good at all.

Dennis Welch: No, not good at all. We're seeing budget deficits, projected $1.5 billion now and this comes on top of other news by the department of commerce where we're expected to lose 200,000 more jobs by the end of the fiscal year. This is shaping up. I think next year when the lawmakers come back, it's going to be another tough deal to get a budget deal down and I think we're talking about a special session sometime before the holidays to fix the current deficit.

Mary Jo Pitzl: What's interesting about this, it's been just months since the governor vetoed parts of the budget and signed others, but that's what created the deficit. Ostensibly, the budget that the legislature passed was balanced and then they rolled in another $400 million from last year and they haven't dealt with, and the tax revenue is certainly not coming in at the modest clip we projected and there you are, rather skeptical that money-raising tactics would pan out. You've got to wonder they're going to get the money from selling state buildings.

Mike Sunnucks: A lot of economists say it's bottomed out, but so many things are lagging. Arizona is lagging behind the rest of the country but it's been hit so hard. We're going to lose like 178,000, it takes longer for things like consumer spending and even when the economy does recover those things are going to be slow, and we're slower out here than the rest of the country.

Ted Simons: We're spending two times more than we're taking in?

Mary Jo Pitzl: This report looked at the first two, three months of the fiscal year and -- sorry, the first two months, and said that revenues are coming in about a billion and the spending is about two billion.

Mike Sunnucks: The poll, that we'll talk more about. What's the problem here? Do we need to tax more or is the government spending too much? The Rasputin poll -- it's hard to make those decisions.

Ted Simons: And we'll get to those polls. There's a lot of them. A plethora of them. Including our own Cronkite eight poll. The sales tax -- over 50%.

Dennis Welch: That's a misnomer. 51% and there's no opposition. If you're going to send something to the ballot, you better have 65%, 70% approval, because as soon as there's an opposition, those numbers will drop. If it's barely at 51%, it doesn't look good.

Mike Sunnucks: Depends on what kind of money is in the race. If there's a lot of money, saying, look we're going to raise these taxes to protect schools and essential services, it has a good chance. If the other side says these guys have mismanaged the state, you're going to give them more money? The chances decline.

Ted Simons: There's talk I heard about redirecting the surplus money, that the lawmakers are looking at that as a way to do that.

Mike Sunnucks: Representative John Kavanagh said the governor should redirect some of that money. And they said no dice. It's going to essential services. It's tough love.

Mary Jo Pitzl: And that's her money to control. They might want to recommend all they can, but they cannot control that.

Mike Sunnucks: That stimulus money is not going to be there forever. They're going to be dealing with these deficits when the money is not there. So they should focus elsewhere.

Dennis Welch: There's a lot of people who believe that the legislature didn't want to give her her tax referral, will be moved by real bad economies and -- economics and moved to the governor's position as people look at you're going to cut health services next year, people will say we don't want that.

Ted Simons: The special session, how likely will we get one in the next month or so?

Mary Jo Pitzl: From talks I had yesterday, not in the next month, but maybe the first part of November. If that didn't work, maybe the first week or two of December. And if it doesn't happen then, we'll see in January.

Dennis Welch: There's not a political will because we just got out of a marathon session and if it doesn't happen before Thanksgiving --

Mike Sunnucks: Why call it back and retry the same defeat?

Mary Jo Pitzl: I think there's more and more -- as time goes on and lawmakers finish licking their wounds, there's a recognition we've got to deal with the deficit. The governor made it clear. She's got a sales tax referral that she's pushing for and that needs to be part of the plan and it hasn't worked so far. As Mike said, what's the point of bringing people to work if you don't have an agreement?

Ted Simons: Let's get to the polls. 38% and falling, the governor's approval. 26% of those responding had no opinion. In other words, really didn't know the governor well enough and what she's been doing well enough to say whether or not they approve of what she's doing. That's -- I thought that was very surprising.

Mike Sunnucks: She's been in since January and I don't think she's really established herself with the regular folks out there. She's pushed for the sales tax. She's been very insulated, hasn't been out in the media a lot. Like Janet. Like Symington. Hasn't drawn a lot of attention to herself and she's been sheltered and a lot of people don't know who she is.

Dennis Welch: She's been on this show twice since she's taken action. She's been on KJZZ once, and you rarely see her out there. That's been a problem in this administration, with her ability to lead. Kind of invisible.

Ted Simons: She's a hard charger, very personal and prides herself on a one-on-one campaign style and doesn't seem to be a lot of that going on.

Mary Jo Pitzl: The appearances are sparse and most groups would be happy to have the governor talk to them.

Mike Sunnucks: She inherited such a bad situation. The economy, failed to get a budget deal. Her idea of pushing a tax increase in Arizona is tough enough and that's shot down. Maybe it's good that her numbers aren't even worse because they could be worse. If there was a governor who was well known and all of these things lined up, they're not positive.

Dennis Welch: When she goes out and does the one-on-one politics, she's good. But when she gives speeches and appears on TV, she has trouble finishing her lines and awkward at the podium.

Mike Sunnucks: Seemed permanent and stiff and doesn't convey before the media.

Ted Simons: We talked about the Cronkite eight poll, down from 60% in April. It's slipping and sliding. The poll you referred, to Terry Goddard over the governor, Governor Brewer, 32-35% right now, and Goddard over Symington 44-47%. Those were thrown out there. She's got her work to do, doesn't she?

Mary Jo Pitzl: Certainly does. To get the field set, has to decide if she's running or not. There's not been a declaration from the governor and that will determine a whole lot.

Ted Simons: Let's talk about that quickly because I'm looking at these numbers here and we can talk about health insurance and it's interesting with the Cronkite poll there. You mentioned the governor's race. John Munger is running. Who is that?

Dennis Welch: Former chairman of the Arizona state Republican party back in the '80s, well known in Republican circles. Particularly down south. Business and international lawyer and done well. Well known -- he's got a TV show down there that I think --

Mike Sunnucks: Being well known in Tucson means no one in Phoenix knows who you are.

Dennis Welch: No one yet. At this point with Brewer's popularity ratings, he may look like a fresh face.

Ted Simons: Do we know a relationship at all with the governor? The GOP in the mid-'80s, I'm sure she must have dealt with him. But we don't know, do we?

Mary Jo Pitzl: Don't know what that connection was. Like anybody getting into the race, he's critical of the command she's had of the state economy and he's making a pitch he'll bring jobs and economic growth to the state.

Dennis Welch: What I think is interesting with another candidate out there, saying, a Republican, I'm going to run. He's from the establishment. From the party and whatnot, shows how much dissatisfaction there is within the Brewer administration. Within the party. You have Vernon Parker and Symington and Dean Martin and Ken Bennett's been rumored to run. And if you were looking at it, you didn't know the situation, you would think the Democrats were the incumbent party because they've seemed to settle on Terry Goddard while the Republicans have half a dozen candidates.

Mike Sunnucks: How much she plays that card next year, does she get out there, leverage the establishment, the party folks, the business folks, who back her on the budget? Michael Crow backs her on the budget. Because it's unclear how much power she's going to have.

Dennis Welch: These numbers could all change dramatically if they comes into the next session and has more success and if the economy turns around and jobs pick up. At this point, anybody in her seat, given the situation she took over, is going to have pretty bad polling data right now.

Mike Sunnucks: I think it's still undecided. Voters are undecided on whose fault it is. She inherited this from the legislature and Janet and at some point, it becomes hers. If the economy and budget becomes hers, she can't have that throw-away card forever.

Ted Simons: It sounds like other jockeying going on. Senator brochure looking.

Mary Jo Pitzl: He's looking. But his eye is on the state treasurer's office currently held by Dean Martin and since he would not run against fellow Republican Martin if Dean decided to stay in the treasurer's office. But nobody is expecting that.

Mike Sunnucks: It's interesting, because if it's a crowded field and you have a sitting governor in there, that could be tough for Martin to win that. His name I.D. is not great. He's been eyeing Shadduck's seat as well.

Dennis Welch: That job has been usually a graveyard for people. You go there and never heard from again. When Janet left, he had those well publicized and well mapped out.

Ted Simons: Jeb Bush visits.

Mary Jo Pitzl: He came here at the invitation of the education committees of the senate and house. They wanted the former governor to talk about education reforms that he launched during his years as Florida governor. It was a rapt audience. He made opening comments and then turned it over to a woman to walk through -- lawmakers through what Florida's done 1988-89.

Mike Sunnucks: Florida has the -- gone through a lot of legal battles where these things have survived and the Arizona folks look at it as a legal precedent.

Ted Simons: Aren't critics saying Florida has spent a lot of money that Arizona simply doesn't have right now?

Mary Jo Pitzl: Yes, and Governor Bush didn't have the figure at the tip of his tongue but statistics that Florida is spending $8,300-$8,500 per student. And he does emphasize that you got to spend money to improve education. That was a pretty strong message. Lawmakers came away saying, well, you know, there's some things we can do that aren't very expensive. And I would look first, especially Crandall, to run bills that aren't high dollar.

Ted Simons: Congressman Franks making news.

Mike Sunnucks: He's been in St. Louis, brought up the birth certificate and made a comment about Obama's pro-abortion rights stance. And he amended it to say an enemy of unborn humanity. Franks is an anti-abortion advocate. You saw a lot of blog posts about going after him. But that's a very, very Republican district.

Ted Simons: He said the president has no place in any station of government. He had to clarify that as well. Abortion policies have no place.

Mike Sunnucks: He was upset that one of the things that Obama did was undo gag rules and restrictions on funds.

Mary Jo Pitzl: Why do we have bills in Arizona that are being fought in court right now?

Ted Simons: The president's personal -- but does that hurt Franks at all?

Mike Sunnucks: That district is very conservative, Republican. He hasn't had a substantial challenge. What could happen, when they redistrict after the next census, that could be a west valley district. And that's not at conservative.

Dennis Welch: It's ridiculous rhetoric that you're seeing and both parties are guilty. You have the representative saying that Republicans want you to die quickly once you get ill. It's just ridiculous.

Mike Sunnucks: It's ramped up and not useful. People have disagreements on abortion and well established policies, it just seems to keep replaying itself.

Ted Simons: Speaking of ramped up and not useful. Coyotes start the regular season. [Laughter] Yeah, you want to root for the home team but I guess we can root for another year.

Mike Sunnucks: At least, the Canadian BlackBerry guy, wanted to move him to Hamilton. Shot down his bid. So there's only one bid right now. And wants them in Glendale and if they can make the playoffs, maybe we can get fans.

Ted Simons: Maybe get Dennis out there.

Dennis Welch: If they make the playoffs.

Mike Sunnucks: We're a good bandwagon town.

Ted Simons: Thank you very much.

Mary Jo Pitzl:The Arizona Republic;Dennis Welch:The Arizona Gaurdian;Mike Sunnucks:The Business Journal;

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