Legislative Update

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A mid-week legislative update with Arizona Capitol Times reporter Jim Small.

Ted Simons: At the capitol this week, the governor formally requests a federal waiver to suspend Medicaid eligibility. And the house passes a bill to stop a tribal casino from being built. Here to talk about all of that and more is Jim Small of "The Arizona Capitol Times." Good to see you, man.

Jim Small: Thanks for having me.

Ted Simons: Let's start with the waiver. She formally asked for a waiver from the feds.

Jim Small: This goes back to the budget proposal and what they did in special session at the beginning of the month. The idea is Arizona doesn't have enough money to pay for the Medicaid and the AHCCCS program and they want to cut about $540 million, about 280,000 people, trim them from the rolls. The problem is two fold, you've got the federal government with the healthcare reform they passed last year that says states cannot decrease pedestrian indicate eligibility. She applies and September a letter to the department of health and human services in Washington D.C. and said we need to be exempted from this. Can you please give us a waiver from this maintenance of effort requirement so we can make these cuts because we cannot afford to do them.

Ted Simons: And wants a face-to-face meeting with the director?

Jim Smalls: She does, and they're trying to set up a meeting so she can make her case in person and I imagine bring whatever relevant documents and figures to show here's where weary and here's where you want us to be.

Ted Simons: This is a major part of budget and also a big gamble because the budget is predicated on fact that the government allows this waiver. Sounds like there's no plan B should the government say no? Is that the case?
Jim Smalls: Everyone is talking about how we aren't even looking at plan b. This is our plan right now and we're going to go with this and asked Kirk Adams question earlier and we've put our chips into this pile and going to play it. I think at the end of the day they're working on formulating a plan B. Rye now, hooks like it's going to be -- you know, a minimum of a couple options. K-12 education cut, not included in Governor Brewer's budget and I think that was intentional and two, the ability to borrow more money. They've sold properties and got funding from doing so and you're likely to see them do that again.

Ted Simons: There is another idea floating around out there from the State Hospital association. There's a provider tax, a bed tax, a hospital tax, whatever you want to call it, first, talk to us about this idea. This was floated before but in the way of punishment last year, right?

Jim Smalls: It was floated as a form of punishment because the hospitals were looking to put something on the ballot that would have raised income taxes. This would say, ok, for every person who comes into the hospital, every person you give service to, you're going to charge a fee, basically, and it's an interesting idea and I think one that will be in the mix but right now, Governor Brewer says she hasn't seen it and house speaker Kirk Adams and Russell Pearce hasn't seen and it doesn't solve the whole problem and what they're talking about and what we've heard is this is a few million, which is nice, but we're asking for $540 million in cuts and realistically we need more like a billion.

Ted Simons: It could be part of a mix, though, couldn't it?

Jim Smalls: It could be. I wouldn't say it's of the table entirely. But as I said, the legislative leadership and the governor are pushing this waiver option and that's where their focus is for the time being.
Ted Simons: The focus for a lot of folks at the capitol, the birth right citizenship bill. Are you expecting a circus for this?
Jim smalls: I Think of there's going to be a lot of attention. I don't know if we'll get to the media circus we had when Russell Pearce held a press conference to talk about this and trucks and 75 reporters and members of the media there. There is no press events scheduled for tomorrow. At least not for the sponsor -- from the sponsor of the legislation. But once it moves through the legislative process and is on a committee hearing, that committee is going to be a zoo, without a doubt.

Ted Simons: Is it surprising there are no press conferences set for tomorrow?

Jim Smalls: Yeah, I was surprised. I expected the sponsor, Ron Gould and John Kavanagh to do a media event to talk to everyone at once and I have no doubt that John Kavanagh will be all over the national news tomorrow and probably through the weekend.

Ted Simons: Before we let you go the bill to block casino passes but the future sounds rather uncertain. Talk to us about this.

Jim Smalls: This bill is aimed at letting the city of Glendale annex a portion of land currently owned by a southern Arizona tribe that's near the cardinal stadium and the Coyote stadium. Glendale doesn't like the idea of building a stadium and the legislation was passed and sent to the governor and they wanted to put an emergency measure, which would have let it go into effect immediately and let Glendale annex as quickly as they could. They didn't get the emergency measure; enough republicans didn't support the bill. They lost this emergency clause to that means it won't go into effect until 90 days after the session ends, August or maybe September.

Ted Simons: And by that time, you can get a court ruling saying you can't annex this you have no power to do to.

Jim smalls: There's a federal court hearing and they're asking the federal government not to consider it tribal land and saying you don't have authority to do this and certainly by the time the law goes into effect, that decision by the lower court at least will have been made and no doubt in the appeals process.

Ted Simons: One of the no votes came from Representative Eddie Farnsworth, republican, who was worried about private property rights. Is that where the opposition came from?

Jim Smalls: From the Republican side. This is a property rights issue. You're setting up a law that sets the government take this property, at least, put it into a city, annexed into a city when the landowner may not want it in the city and in this case they do not. Between that issue and the idea it's special legislation where it's so narrowly crafted and applies only to this one parcel of land in the entire state and Mr. Farnsworth argued because of that it's unconstitutional on top of it.
Ted Simons: Very good. Thanks for joining us, we appreciate it.

Jim Small:Arizona Capitol Times;

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