Journalists Roundtable

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Journalists discuss the week’s top news stories.

Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Joining me tonight are Kathleen Ingley of "The Arizona Republic." Mike Sunnucks of "The Business Journal." And Jeremy Duda of "The Arizona Capitol Times." Lots of activity at the capitol this week. Lots of activity at the capitol this week, including some veto action. Jeremy, let's start with this private school tuition tax credit. The governor vetoed the expansion of this program, was that a surprise?

Jeremy Duda: Brewer's always been very supportive of school choice measures and this one would have expanded the amount of money that individual taxpayers could claim as tax credits but was expected to cost $33 million in the state general fund and Brewer has been consist. With anything that balances the budget and anything that takes away revenue from the state is a no-go.

Mike Sunnucks: And said it would hurt local school systems. Which is a surprise, because Republican governors' usually aren't friends with the teachers unions and the school districts. So she's been consistent on that, protecting K-12 from draconian cuts and it's another case of this.

Ted Simons: Was there something regarding mining companies. There's a new credit for mining companies, something along those lines?

Kathleen Ingley: Yes, this is what hit hard, a couple of the small counties and also a -- counties and you had a lack of cap. And we know with alt fuels if you have a tax credit and no cap, you may be very sorry down the road.

Ted Simons: Ok. Also a veto of the religious liberty bill. Again, surprise?

Jeremy Duda: Also surprising, but fairly understandable based on late concerns raised by AZ Post, the organization that accredits police officers. They've had a lot of problems in the past up in Colorado City with the fundamentalist church of Jesus Christ of Latter day saints. They've taken away the accreditation for some officers and this would prevent them from doing that.

Ted Simons: Sounds like the governor thought it would be overly broad and things that could do the public harm might be covered by this.

Mike Sunnucks: That was the polygamist sect that was up there, that turned the tide on this. Otherwise these are conservative causes you'd think she'd be behind, but that police concern, that swayed her and she's got some good standing with folks.

Ted Simons: Wasn't this based on with the commissioner for redistricting was asked a question regarding whether he could separate his religious beliefs from his commissioner duties. Isn't that where this came from?

Kathleen Ingley: It came from Christopher Gleason and his application for the independent redistricting commission and because of his background, people thought -- there was discussion about whether that would influence his ability to serve. They said that was not why they didn't pick him. But this is so classic. One legislator hears about one problem and then they come up with a bill that's so sweeping that some people were saying, wait, we've seem the problem, if for instance, you misuse sweat lodges and what if there's some public employee doing sweat lodges and endangering people's lives but no, no, it's their right.

Mike Sunnucks: We've had a lot of bills like these where we have unintended consequences and they pass and maybe they had the foresight to look at the draw backs that could have happened here.

Ted Simons: One veto of note is the tax bill regarding companies being able to use tax rates from other states -- being able to use tax rates from other states. If it costs the state revenue, the governor is not going to go for it, necessarily.

Jeremy Duda: I'm not sure how much it would cost but the Apollo group, the company that runs the university of Phoenix was one the main beneficiary and they've blown a gasket and talk about pulling up stakes in Arizona and the governor has been consistent and they're using the arguments she used, phased in tax credits and it will help the economy, attract new employers.

Mike Sunnucks: The number I thought was $20 million, $50 million a year, not just for Apollo but everybody and it's the same tax credit that Intel and semi-conductor companies gets, they would go to service providers, if you're a Qwest or Cox communications and separated it out from the jobs bill and had a lot of lobbyists and got a lot of business groups to support it and put a full court press and they were shocked because it passed easily in the legislature.

Ted Simons: Wasn't the idea, if you phase it in, the governor might be more amenable to something like this, but because they were immediate hits to the budget, that's where she had the problem?

Jeremy Duda: Much like the tax cuts of the jobs bill, they start in 2015 and phased fully in by 2018. Brewer killed the bill last year, on similar grounds. The tax cuts went into effect immediately.

Kathleen Ingley: And in this case, you felt they were cutting in line. Everybody else, phased it in. The immediate hit would have been $33 million and when they're scratching to find a couple million here and there, that's a lot of money.

Mike Sunnucks: It's a Pandora's box. We like semiconductor and solar and the other sectors come in and say, what about us.

Ted Simons: The governor did sign a bill targeting planned parenthood. What information do you have on this?

Jeremy Duda: Basically… state funding for abortions and abortion providers is already restricted this would limit the tax credits you can get for giving to charitable organizations. So it would eliminate the university's ability to claim that for giving to Planned Parenthood, or to use tuition money to train people to perform abortions and the tax credits for the charitable organizations that counts for not just those who perform abortions but those who refer people to an abortion provider.

Ted Simons: Not really a surprise she signed that?

Mike Sunnucks: Oh no, this -- the planned parenthood is a big whipping boy in the abortion debate right now. Both sides get to fundraise off this, and we saw this where Conservatives and anti-abortion folks go after planned parenthood to appeal to their base and then folks who support abortion rights come to their defense. It's good political theatre and probably fundraisers for that but she's certainly behind it.

Ted Simons: Kathleen, a couple of gun bills we want to talk about here. Let's talk with the one regarding public property. And if there's no security measures in place. Legislature basically approves this firearms bill and we'll get to the universities in a second, but as far as public property and buildings, what's going on here?

Kathleen Ingley: The bill as it passed, it was rolled back a little, would require cities and local governments and states to allow bill -- sorry, guns in public buildings, which is a very broad category. They did carve out courts and police stations or if you don't allow them in, then you have to have -- you have to have an armed guard and you have to have a metal detector. The upfront costs $5,000 per door and $45,000 a year per guard, but if it's a big door, you might need two guards and $90,000, a huge expenditure for taxpayers.

Ted Simons: Again, this is a thing where apparently they're saying guns should be ok for everyone, or no one. It's got to be one or the other and if it's no one, you've got to have the security measures in place. What kind of response is this bill getting down there?

Mike Sunnucks: Well the gun rights folks, the second amendment folks support it. The NRA weren't pushing it that hard. They liked the concept but I don't think they were behind this. But you saw the sports teams fight it and get the language changed and the Cardinals and University of Phoenix stadium, the last doesn't -- it would have been a big security, logistical and liability issue for them.

Kathleen Ingley: You know if you love the airport security lines you're going to love this bill.

Ted Simons: Public pools same thing?

Kathleen Ingley: Yeah, lots of places with kids, it's scary, their argument is, hey, if you don't let me go in armed, you have to protect me and the way you protect me you have to have the armed guard and metal detector.

Mike Sunnucks: You have things like police stations and prosecutor's offices, those things are exempt. It was a big win for the sports didn't want the metal detectors at the cards game, or people being able to bring their guns in there. It would be a P.R., nightmare for them.

Ted Simons: The governor pretty vocal about that, is this the bill -- is she likely to sign this?

Jeremy Duda: I think most are assuming she will. She's signed pretty much every piece of gun legislation that's come before her desk. So pro-second amendment, they spent a lot of money funding ads to show their appreciation. The president asked her about this the other day, she mentioned, something about, oh, well, my credentials or gun rights have been good. You could use that as an argument, for, in the past I've supported this but this time I've got to draw the line.

Mike Sunnucks: I think she has a lot of wiggle room. I think the logistics and cost of this can be crazy. You can make the argument, do you want metal detectors or guns at public swimming pool or baseball field and stuff like that. I think she has room to some wiggle room to veto this and not take a big hit.

Ted Simons: Ok let's get to the other major gun bill here regarding guns on campus, talk to us about this one.

Kathleen Ingley: The original idea was going to be guns everywhere on campus and people became unglued over that idea and so they rolled it back to just guns on public rights way. Now they do include all public schools. But the thought is you pretty much don't have the big campuses for K-12 so it's basically university campuses but that right away is ambiguous.

Ted Simons: A public right-of-way -- we talked about this, and no one could pin it down. There are road that's good through ASU, are those roads public right-of-way. If it's university drive, I think so. What about McAllister or some of these other roads that go through campus.

Kathleen Ingley: Can the public go on it? There you are.

Mike Sunnucks: The school choice bill, it's a slippery slope. They claim it's not but each year you see them move the needle a little bit on the bills. I think this is another example of continuing to expand where you can take guns.

Ted Simons: Jeremy, Campus police departments against this, one regent said it was an unacceptable threat to campus safety. But this is a serious piece of legislation. What's the word, what's the feeling of what the governor might do?

Jeremy Duda: Brewer always keeps her cards pretty close to her vest, she doesn't comment on almost any legislation until she signs or vetoes it. It's hard to guess. It will come down to whether or not Robert Shelton and Michael Crow can convince her on this. They haven't been able to convince her on other stuff, it's hard to say.

Mike Sunnucks: I'd say it's more likely she signs this one and vetoes the broader one.

Ted Simons: Interesting.

Kathleen Ingley: Well, I'm hopeful that because we've editorialized this, hopeful she'll veto both, that she'll take those second amendment credentials. And also, as you said, every year, there is a guns bill and for sure, next year it's going to be guns completely on campus. There's just no question about it.

Ted Simons: We have a birther bill that -Mike going to you to talk about this one, at least get us started. This would make Arizona the first state in the nation with such a law. What exactly would a presidential candidate have to show to get on the Arizona ballot here?

Mike Sunnucks: I think the final bill that went to the governor, passed the legislature, is birth certificate or some other type of birth documents, I think they added some other documents in there. This is obviously at Obama and folks on the right that want him to provide a birth certificate to show he was born in Hawaii and not Kenya, the conspirator theory that's out there. It's come up several times before. At the legislature, Donald trump has glommed on to this. And suddenly, it's to her desk, and you know, she's gonna gave to decide whether to sign this thing.

Ted Simons: What are you hearing so far as what she's likely to do? This is another interesting piece of legislation.

Jeremy Dude: Like I mentioned before, she rarely comments on legislation before she acts on it, but this morning, myself and a couple other reporters I saw a couple other reporters asked about this and she had concerns about whether Arizona is legally allowed to start setting its own standard for who can run for president, what they have to do to get on the ballot. Just hearing her express those reservations lead me to believe she very well could veto this.

Ted Simons: Is there enough support in the legislature?

Jeremy Duda: Definitely, got all 40 Republicans in the house voted. If they wanted to push the issue, obviously, you run the risk of antagonizing someone who has the power to veto all of your legislation. You've got an election coming up, a lot of people might be worried how the Republican electorate in the primary is going to deal with it. Especially those who voted against the immigration bills.

Ted Simons: Yeah, I'm gonna get to that in a second, but, Kathleen, quickly. Opponents of this say you just can't do this, it's a federal responsibility as far as the federal election, but supporters say the legislature can determine how federal elections are conducted in its state.

Kathleen Ingley: Oh, let's be serious. This is aimed at Obama. This has absolutely nothing do with a problem we've seen in any election. It's pure theater and I hope the governor vetoes it and forces the legislature to override. Do we want to be a birther state? We've got a lot of problems.

Mike Sunnucks: She's going to get a lot of pressure from moderate folks, probably from the tourism industry and business folks, and from the media to veto this because of the image. And there's a lot of conservatives who don't care or think that Obama was born in Kenya but they just want to jab at him and it's a nice little jab and it's good theater and Mr. Trump has GLOMED on to this. And there will be pressure for her to sign on this.

Ted Simons: Alright the house ok's a bill on public workers' pensions. Who wants to take this one? This is one of those issues that is very difficult, can be complicated but it sounds as though, Speaker Adams is basically saying I'm helping save this pension program because if something isn't done, things will go bankrupt.

Kathleen Ingley: And he's right, Arizona is in better shape than a lot of other states. We actually were cited as one the good states a couple years ago, but that just means that our pension system is less unfunded than others. But there's more than one thing going on. It's a matter of getting the pension system more stable and pulling the burden off the state and you've seen a shift how much the state is going to put into pensions versus the amount workers have to contribute and then there's the notorious issues like double dipping. I retire and come back. Which infuriates people. It's I come back but no longer contributing to the pension system so I'm not helping the other people in the system unlike someone else who would be a fresh hire. So I create a problem.

Mike Sunnucks: I think you'll see state workers, public workers challenge this in court also. This is one of those cases where they'll say of the legislature, did they stay within their bounds, did they stay within existing law in making some of these changes, so this will be a court fight also.

Ted Simons: I was going to say from the Republic's story, it sounds like you can't reduce or diminish state pensions, some were saying, those likely to take this to court. I was unaware it was even in the constitution.

Kathleen Ingley: They're saying it's a constitutional whether you can take workers' right ways and there are people who say, we've made a deal -- there's an issue about retroactively. Those counting on a certain deal. Does that apply your cost of living increases though. I think it's not so black and white.

Mike Sunnucks: It's interesting, this has been Kirk Adams' issue. He wants to run for something else. Probably congress and in a state where it's hot button issues that runs politics. He's chosen this fiscal path. The Paul Ryan of the legislature down there in a lot of ways. Whether you agree or disagree what he's doing, it brandishes his credentials as a legislature.

Ted Simons: You mentioned hot button and you mentioned immigration issues earlier. Sounds like John Kavanagh is basically saying we'll let this die for now. We know we don't have the votes, we can't find them in the senate. The guys in the senate saying let's wait until next session, is that's what's going on with these things?

Jeremy Duda: That's what it looks like. John Kavanagh and Russell Pearce have fought the good fight for their cause this year, but they ran into a major roadblock. Got pretty much unanimous Republican support for 1070 but that does not repeat itself with a whole slate of very controversial bills this year.

Ted Simons: It sounds like the senators who had a problem wanted to focus on illegal snuggling than illegal entry. Some of this is killing our image, our tourism. Not sending a good message with the economy. Part of it, it's not a election year. What can they gaining from this politically? They can run some of this next year and they can make their political points that immigration has sold here and taking that hard line thing and I think you'll see some of these come back next year with a little more support.

Jeremy Duda: It's surprising that the Republican senator who is opposed these bills last month, are the ones who are pushing Kavanagh to hold off no next year. A lot of these people are likely to face primary challenges they wouldn't have otherwise had. You know Russell Pearce has been known to run primary against people. Supporters of this bill have pretty much vowed retaliation.

Mike Sunnucks: Some of these were across the line for some people. You know having hospital workers report people. I think there was some problems with that.

Ted Simons: Ok. Let's get to problems perhaps with the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office accused of misspending $99.5 million. What's going on here?

Mike Sunnucks: Yeah, the county did an audit of the sheriff's office and came up with the fact that they were misallocating some of the money on that toward personnel costs so it was 100 million dollars. Sheriff Joe, it was a different Arpaio, he was subdued and said it was a bookkeeping type error and extended an olive branch to the board mentioning Stapley and Wilcox who he's had long fights with, that he wanted to work things out and I think the sheriff's office took a hit on this.

Ted Simons: Basically said let's put personal feelings aside and help fix this. Sheriff Arpaio said that.

Mike Sunnucks: Must have caught him on a subdued day.

Ted Simons: US Attorney's office I think is investigating this as well. We kept hearing for so long about investigations into the sheriff's office, county attorney's office, what's going on with all of these things?

Kathleen Ingley: I wish I knew. Is anyone ever going to pull a trigger on this? Especially -- and you look at things like the jail tax and they knew there were problems, there were signs for years, but things went on and on. This is particularly bad because it was jail tax money that was used, so you can't just say, oh, too bad. No, the county's saying, we've got to reimburse that money and put it back to its proper use.

Mike Sunnucks: It's a political minefield for the Obama administration. Part of their goal is to convince Sheriff Joe not to run for reelection. But part of it is, do you want to haul him into court and take him in the public arena? He's good at P.R. and adept and he'll say, they're going after my office for political reasons, because of my stance on immigration. It's a tough one for the Obama folks and prosecutors.

Ted Simons: Ok, let's keep it moving here. Matt Salmon says 90% sure he's going for a congressional run. Is that what we're getting at? Is that what we're getting out of the Salmon camp?

Jeremy Duda: That's what we're hearing. Initially, we heard he was running for the senate. Run against Jeff flake which seems interesting because there's bad blood there. Flake replaced him. It was basically, Salmon replaced him and said he would abide by the same six-year term limits that Salmon had set for himself. But looks like he's going back for his old seat and probably challenging house Speaker Adams.

Ted Simons: And no term limit this time. Talk about this race. There could be a lot of interesting folks.

Mike Sunnucks: Oh sure, you've got the sheriff in Pinal, Scott Smith could get in there and I think the salmon question, how well known he is, he's been out of public office. Lobbying, never good to be a lobbyist, no matter who you lobby for. And Adams is more fresh on the scene and so is the mayor of Mesa if he decides to get in. I think Salmon has a challenge there. I think the senate race is looking like Flake's clearing the field on that. Nobody's stepping in on that, Babeu the Sherriff could get in on that. I think the --

Ted Simons: Where is Russell Pearce in this equation?

Mike Sunnucks: He's lingering out there. There's talk about Russell could run for sheriff if Arpaio doesn't. But Adams looks like he's eyeing that seat and a little more front of mind.

Ted Simons: Before we get out of here, medical marijuana, the program began, it began and we saw -- what?

Kathleen Ingley: Well, we saw, a few people start to sign up. We saw, actually some older people as well as younger, and, of course, this is one day. The marker you're watching for is who is it? A bunch of young guys with chronic pain, then you know it isn't medical marijuana.

Ted Simons: Ok. But already we're hearing concerns that it's more recreational than medicinal. That was Will Humble's biggest concern. This is going to be an evolving story, isn't it?

Mike Sunnucks: Well, we look at California and the problems they have. And limit the number of clinics. But you'll have doctors and people step forward that are iffy. There's some people who have Parkinsons and pain and real problems and there's legitimate doctors and clinics but there are fly by night folks and we'll see how the state handles that.

Ted Simons: Alright, we've got to stop it right there. Thanks for joining us, we appreciate it.

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