Legislative Update

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

Ted Simons: Good Evening and Welcome to Horizon I am Ted Simons. The senate appropriations committee worked past midnight last night giving its approval to laws that deal with everything from illegal immigration to getting rid of AHCCCS, the state's insurance program for the poor. Here to talk about last night's flurry of legislative action is Jim Small, a reporter for "The Arizona Capitol Times" and a regular on our mid week legislative round-up. Good to see you again. So this was quite the night on the appropriations committee. Let's get it going. Birthright citizenship bills. What happened?

Jim Small: These were the bills that were considered a couple weeks ago by a different senate panel, they debated it for about three hours, and ultimately didn't have a vote on it because the votes weren't there, the bills would have failed. So after that hearing senate president Russell Pearce, who is shepherding these measures through, pulled them out of the committee and pulled them in the appropriations committee where he felt there was a better mix -- basically more Republicans who would support it. And they debated last night again about 2½ hours, three hours worth of debate. Much of the debate very similar to what was had several weeks ago. And this time the bills did pass. And so now they're ready to go for a constitutional check, and after that they'll go to the floor and they can be considered by the senate.

Ted Simons: Basically the move to appropriations worked for Russell Pearce.

Jim Small: Yeah. It did. The goal was to get the bills out of committee and get them to be considered by the entire body, and he certainly got that to happen.

Ted Simons: OK. The two bills, one is joining other states with this compact regarding two different birth certificates and the other, I guess basically redefines an Arizona citizen? Am I getting that correct? I've gone over these so many times I'm starting to get loop de loop. Close enough?

Jim Small: Yes. A lot of the critics of these bills, look at them and say, these aren't going to do what the propose opponents want. The goal is to provoke a fight and go to the courts and get a lawsuit that will challenge more than 100 years of legal precedent and challenge the interpretation of the 14th amendment, which was drafted in the 1860s. And the question really is, does the -- do these bills even do that? Will they get the court to answer the question that they want answered, or will it just result in the court saying, you can't do this because of, you know, X, Y, and Z?

Ted Simons: Was there -- it strikes me as being a lot of debate over things like the 14th amendment subject to the jurisdiction, those particular words, all sorts of things. It sounds like it went on and on.
Jim Small: Yeah. It did. In a lot of sense it was a little legal scholar history lesson. And certainly that's what it was in judiciary, which is the committee that has more attorneys on it and typically delves into legal matters. A lot of the debate did focus on those words, and I think really the interpretation of those words is what is at issue for the proponents of the bill. They say that subject to the jurisdiction of means you have to be either a citizen or legal resident of a country, and if you're not, then if you sneak into the country or if you come here on a Visa and you overstay illegally, you're no longer subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, and hence your children should not be U.S. citizens.

Ted Simons: Is there -- what are you hearing down there as far as likelihood of this, A, getting out of the senate, B, finding success in the house, and C, getting a governor's signature or at least passing it into law?

Jim Small: I don't think it's ironclad any of those happen. The senate -- there is a lot of discontent over this legislation. There are senators who I think conservative senators who otherwise you would think would be on board with this idea who may not be. And there's a lot of talk about who is for and it who is against it, and whether these Republicans really want to push forward with this idea. There is a certainly a group of people who believe this is what should happen and that the state needs to do this to pick this legal battle. But there are a lot of other people who don't, and they are I think in a lot of ways a little bit timid about coming out and saying they don't want to do it because it opens them up to attacks, and even though it's not an election year, it will be next year.

Ted Simons: OK. With that in mind, we now move on to the omnibus bill that senate president Russell Pearce is pushing hard and getting success on, getting out of committee. Correct?

Jim Small: Yes. Did it get out of the appropriations committee last night. Like the other two bills. Another hour plus debate on this measure. And this really is kind of -- it's almost like a grab bag of different illegal immigration measures that we've seen over the past six or seven or eight years. Things that have been proposed and never sign in addition law for one reason or another, all got thrown into this big kind of stew of a bill, and it's got -- it probably does 25 different things, hence the omnibus title. And it's got critics crying that this is far worse than anything the legislature has ever considered in the past. Including senate bill 1070.

Ted Simons: 1070 on steroids, I've heard it described as. We're talking enrolling kids in school, targeting public benefits, hospitals would have to check the immigration status of patients, unlawful for undocumented folks to drive if they're caught, the car gets -- so if your car is being driven, your company's car being driven, enrolling in colleges, all of these things in one fell swoop, again, was this -- were you seeing Republicans having problems with this? Or was this pretty much party line business?

Jim Small: Republicans had problems with this. This bill got out by a narrower vote. Rich Crandall, Republican senator from Mesa among them who voted against it and said this, is not what we need to be doing. We've got other problems and this goes far beyond what Arizona should be doing in terms of illegal immigration.

Ted Simons: So again, is this not necessarily a done deal in the senate? You have the house and the governor to look at this as well. It's so full of different ideas, where do you start?

Jim Small: Yeah. I think so. I think that this face as lot of the same hurdles as the birthright citizenship bills. Especially considered the budget hasn't been tackled yet. That's an issue for the Republicans, we need to do the budget. The whole idea was to do the jobs bill and to do the budget, so let's do that stuff first and then we can tackle these other issues.

Ted Simons: OK. We could talk forever about this, but there are other things that were considered as well. Abolishing AHCCCS, that got through committee?

Jim Small: Yeah. It would basically end the state's AHCCCS program. It's an idea that has been put forward by a number of different conservative legislators and conservative think tanks and kind of antigovernment and antitax groups to say, look, Arizona doesn't need to do this, they can handle this on their own, doing so means you forfeit billions of dollars in federal match, typically the way it works for saying for every dollar the state spends it gets $2 in return from the feds. That's money that goes to hospitals, doctors, other health care providers. So all of that money would be lost. And that's really what the debate is. And I think at the end of the day a lot of these things boil down to a state's rights issue. And it's the idea of, should Arizona control its own destiny or should it be involved in federal programs and take money from the federal government that in turn make it beholden to act the way the federal government wants it to.

Ted Simons: And one more before we let you get out of here, replacing the Arizona board of regents also got out of committee, right?

Jim Small: Not so much replacing it, eliminating it. But replacing it, I --

Ted Simons: I thought the idea was replacing it with smaller groups.

Jim Small :I think the ultimately the way it would work, each school would have their own mini-board of regents and trustees who would determine what each school wants to do, so ASU would have -- its own board of directors, NAU, etc.

Ted Simons: Back in the omnibus bill, it seems like this came out of nowhere and was at the last minute, Ba boom, here you are. Is that a correct impression?

Jim Small: Yeah. It was a late introduction bill, which means on Monday the senate rules committee met and they gave permission for the late introduction of a bill, and it was filed about 4:45. Right before 5:00 Monday afternoon for a committee hearing at 2 -- that was supposed to start at 2:00 the next day. And, yeah, it did come out of nowhere. I think people realize there'd was going to be a bill coming when they saw the agenda for the rules committee that said they were going to consideration a late introduction of a bill related to immigration.

Ted Simons: Was there grumbling?

Jim Small: Certainly. For something this massive it was amplified a little more than normal.

Ted Simons: Jim, good stuff. Good to have you here. Good luck. Thanks for joining us.

Jim Small: Thank you.

Jim Small:Arizona Capitol Times;

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