Legislative Update

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A mid-week legislative update with Arizona Capitol Times reporter Luige del Puerto.

Ted Simons: it's been a big week at the state capitol. The governor called a special session to pass a job creation bill, and we get word from the feds that Arizona doesn't need permission to make massive cuts to Medicaid. Here with the details is Luige Del Puerto, legislative reporter for "The Arizona Capitol Times" and a regular on "Horizon's" mid week legislative update. Good to see you. Thanks for joining us.

Luige Del Puerto: Thanks.

Ted Simons: Let's get to this special session jobs bill. A done deal. An easy done deal?

Luige Del Puerto: Well, the legislature passed the bill with comfortable votes. It received 18 votes in the senate, it received more than 30 votes in the house. Was it easy? I think at some point there was some point when it looked like the momentum for the bill might have been ebbing just a little bit, but it did manage to get it through today.

Ted Simons: What were some of the concerns and some of the objections?

Luige Del Puerto: Well, you can look -- really the concerns are two. One is that the process, the way this bill has been for some critics rushed through the system, rushed through for a vote, and two, many Republicans -- many democrats and a number of Republicans have concerns about the merits of the bill. You have people like Ron Gould, Linda gray, who said that we have been stuck in committee meetings, and now we're passing it in three days. It's a 270-page bill, we needed more time to read it.

Ted Simons: We had speaker Adams on last night, I raised that point to him, and he said that's hogwash. There's nothing new here, everyone knows what's in there, and he said that those credits were unfounded.

Luige Del Puerto: Well, it's true that many of the concept and many of the provisions are not new, many of the provisions in this bill we saw in last year's jobs bill. The reducing -- reducing corporate income taxes, those are not new. But the bill itself, the package itself, the whole bill is new in the sense that many people haven't seen -- lawmakers like lawyer like Laurie Klein, john Smith, they're new to the legislature, so for them, some of these provisions may be novel.

Ted Simons: Real quickly, one more concern was the commerce authority and what was perceived as a lack of oversight on the commerce authority. Talk to us about that.

Luige Del Puerto: Many Republicans, a few Republicans, in the senate and in the house had concerns that the legislature would have little oversight about this new entity, because it's a private public partnership entity, its sole mission is to attract business to the state. They're saying we're giving this entity, this new agency money, and they have -- their mind complete or blanket control over how to spend that money. And to them, that's just not the way they should be doing things.

Ted Simons: Slush fund I think was a term tossed about today?

Luige Del Puerto: Ron Gould called it a slush fund. I'm not sure if Farnsworth called it corporate welfare on the floor, but he did mention the phrase in an interview after. But yes, basically giving an entity the authority to spend money is something that is causing some heart -- cost some heartburn among some few conservative Republicans.

Ted Simons: The governor is expected to sign this, and off we go, correct?

Luige Del Puerto: Off we go in the sense that this bill is done, it is done for now. There are talks that we might see some tweaks maybe in other bill at some point in the future. Certainly the discussion for this bill may be over, but the discussion over the merits of this bill, the contents of this bill I think those are going to continue.

Ted Simons: All right. Talk to us now about the feds basically saying Arizona, you're so worried about this waiver, what waiver? We don't care about -- you don't need a waiver. What's going on here?

Luige Del Puerto: Yesterday we got a call from the federal -- from basically the health department saying we're going to send this letter to the governor, and it's going to essentially say that look, Arizona, you actually don't need to ask for permission, if you want to cut 250,000 people off AHCCCS. In order to expand the coverage, which we did with prop 204, we had to ask the feds permission. We needed a waiver in order to do that. And that waiver is expiring in September of this year. The feds in this letter basically said, you don't have to reapply for that waiver. In effect they're saying you can go ahead and cut 250,000 people and you don't need to ask our permission.

Ted Simons: You don't need a waiver for the waiver.

Luige Del Puerto: You don't need a waiver for the waiver. And I think it was certainly a surprise to many people. We didn't expect that from the feds.

Ted Simons: Why was it -- you know, sitting back you wonder, didn't anybody see this or check into this or research this?

Luige Del Puerto: You know, I think that's a good question for the governor's office. Did we know this one? It's tough to say. What we know is that all these ideas -- this particular idea of cutting 280,000 off AHCCCS came about as a result of the budget crisis. And it came about -- so did we have time to look at every nook and corner and try to see whether -- whether we needed it or not? It's tough to say.

Ted Simons: But there is, this doesn't mean the governor and the legislature will get their way necessarily, because a lawsuit is almost certain, because of breaking of prop 204.

Luige Del Puerto: Right. And democrats have always been saying, we can get the waiver, we may not get the waiver, now we don't need it, the fact is this population is protected under prop 204, you cannot just cut them off AHCCCS without asking voters' approval, because they were the ones who created this program.

Ted Simons: The courts are next for this one.

Luige Del Puerto: It is very likely from what we've seen and heard that this will get challenged in court.

Ted Simons: Before we let you go, we've got a birther bill, a birthright bill, give us an update on both.

Luige Del Puerto: The birthright legislation was tabled, not tabled, it was postponed until next week. They didn't want to do this one and do the other at the same time. The birther bill surprisingly failed in the judiciary committee hearing on Monday. If you look at these two bills and where they are, where they are is they're not really moving that far right now. And it just goes to show you that there is certain reluctance in the state legislature, specifically in the senate, to alter or radically change how we do, for example, elections and how we -- or how we define who is an American citizen and who is not.

Ted Simons: These are the kinds of things that could pop up at any time, correct?

Luige Del Puerto: Yes. And next week we are going to hear this birthright legislation. The question is, well, we are -- pass out of the appropriations committee. The question is, does it have a vote to get out of the senate, and if it gets out of the senate, will Kirk Adams take it up?

Ted Simons: We'll keep in touch with that. Good to see you.

Luige Del Puerto: Thank you.

Luige del Puerto:Arizona Capitol Times;

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