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 on the Journalists' Roundtable are Mary Jo Pitzl of "The Arizona Republic," Howard Fischer of Capitol Media Services, And Luige Del Puerto of "The Arizona Capitol Times." Today was supposed to be the start of an enrollment freeze at AHCCCS. I guess technically it starts but doesn't start for another week.
Mary Jo Pitzl: Right, it was part of the budget it help make the budget year, begins today, balance. The governor proposed a freeze in Medicaid enrollment that was supposed to take place today but needed federal approval and as of yesterday when the parties went to court, can we hold this off. The state saying, no, you can't. The feds said we haven't given you your final permission. And everyone went away and the federal government said, yes, Arizona you can implement your freeze but it will take a week for the state AHCCCS program to get up and running.

Howard Fischer: And this is going to be back in court. We know this. Look, the underlying question is when voters decided in 2000, the state should cover everyone below the federal poverty level; proponents said they meant what they said. And that's about 18,500 a year for a family of three. The governor is saying that if you're a single adult, and below the poverty level, because Medicaid doesn't require we cover you and because we do not have available funds, naahh… the voter's thing was squishy enough. So that's what originally got to be decided.

Ted Simons: We had a superior court ruling yesterday regarding -- again, Tim Hogan, center for law in the public interest, making the argument that this is what the voters wanted, you can't turn back because that's unconstitutional. And yet the superior court said -- what did they say?

Luige del Puerto: Basically said that the people that you said are going to be affected by it haven't been affected by it yet. So come back at some point when people are actually cut off.
Howard Fischer: And that's crucial because Tim was asking for a temporary restraining order, which is a high burden, you have to pretty much show irreparable harm. The Judge Mark Brain said where are the people with irreparable harm? No one, as Luige said, has been turned away. But Tim said ‘Your Honor, clearly somebody is going to be turned away.' The judge said, ‘that's nice, but until they are turned away, I can't give you a restraining order'.
Ted Simons: Which means if this thing pretty much gets up and operational in a week and 10 seconds, someone's going to file?

Mary Jo Pitzl: Yes, precisely. Hogan will be out there. They'll be looking for someone who has been frozen out of enrollment and, therefore, immediately impacted and the question is, there will probably be drama this time next week, will it have happened at the close of the week or bleed into the following week?

Ted Simons: Luige, is this issue -- because people are confused, I can tell. I'm confused half the time. But is it so complicated and affects a segment of society, maybe some don't have to deal all that much. But are people paying attention to this and what kind of political fallout do you see from this?

Luige del Puerto: I think especially this year, people have been paying close attention to this, given just the fight over the budget. The scale of the budget reductions we've seen, I think people are more aware. They're paying attention. I think when it comes to AHCCCS, there are a lot of people on AHCCCS and those people will be cut off AHCCCS and won't be able to enroll, basically, the governor -- in fact, she's going to be -- to have her way. Yeah, people are paying attention.

Howard Fischer: I don't see the political implementation implications from this the way I do unemployment. People understand losing their jobs and not being able to fine one. We're talking the first group, childless adults. Not talking about kicking children off or families off, but people who have no dependents, who in some cases, will qualify for other programs. In terms of if they're chronically mentally ill, they could be put somewhere else.

Ted Simons: AIDS, HIV…

Howard Fischer: Yeah, all those categories. So I don't see political implication in this. I don't see the fall out the way I do the denial of the unemployment extension.

Mary Jo Pitzl: Except a lot of childless adults are people who are unemployed. The subsets cross over each other. But I tend to agree that most of the budget cuts that we've seen through the years of state budget cutting have fallen most heavily on the more vulnerable and those who rely on the state's safety net. If you're not involved with that, and I can only think of a few people I know who have been on AHCCCS and then it's just a brief period of time. I don't know how much public sympathy this arises.

Howard Fischer: And it's a small piece and this is why the hospitals are unhappy. At the point the people get sick enough, they'll show up in the hospital emergency room. Federal law says if you're in an emergency situation, you can't turn them away. The hospitals will end up eating the bills. So it's not that these will be flung into the streets.

Ted Simons: That's one. The things in the future, we'll soon see that, that's not a black and white, it's going to happen next week.
Mary Jo Pitzl: No, look, if you're -- if you're sick and -- you don't have health insurance, you're probably going to wait until things are really bad before you look for help. But this is where it will impact the broader population. Even if some really -- some persons let their illnesses go on for a while and show up in a E.R. and there you are with a kid and a broken arm and the line is out the door or the insurance statement comes in a couple of years, what does all of that mean? But it's hard to anticipate for people as to what harm they might see.

Ted Simons: We had another story, clean elections matching funds, no go, Howie.
Howard Fischer: HAST LA vista.

Howard Fischer: We sat on this table and we said this is what the court is going to decide since they had enjoined the state from matching funds for this past election even before hearing the case. The court said clearly, the question of public financing isn't before us, we're not going to go there, we had -- today is'nt the day to do that. But said the idea of artificially trying to balance things out makes no sense and interferes with the rights of the privately financed candidates. You and I are running for office. You are running privately and me public. Every time you spend a dollar over what I spend, I get another dollar. And you're saying why would I want to spend another dollar? If my supporters spend a dollar on my behalf as a publicly funded candidate, you don't get a match and the courts said this makes no sense at all.

Ted Simons: They mentioned the independent expenditure groups because sometimes a candidate doesn't want that support yet here it comes and that means your opponent gets the support as well.
Luige del Puerto: That's one of the strongest arguments that those suing clean elections over matching fund have been putting forward, independent groups may be inhibited from helping out a private candidate because every time they spend a dollar, that private candidate gets a dollar from the state.

Howard Fischer: And things are going to get worse now that we have last year's ruling on the citizens united case that said corporations and unions can spend unlimited amounts on these independent expenditures.

Mary Jo Pitzl: So guess what we'll see in the next election cycle. We'll see a lot more independent expenditures and because of the caps off with citizens united some extraordinary spending.

Luige del Puerto: And the biggest question how it impacts the way things are in Arizona, whether that would -- you know, see shifts in the legislature, for example, some new faces or -- here's the thing, this has always been seen as -- matching funds seen as the clean elections system seen as benefiting the conservative Republicans, and we've seen people run with clean elections money and the next year, the following election basically decide to run with public financing. So it remains to be seen what kind of impact it would have on this kind of legislature.

Ted Simons: Howie, who is going to now agree to take this clean elections money if it means I get X and when you do X + 1, I'm still stuck at X?

Howard Fischer: Several people. People running for the corporation commission. Bob Robb said it right today. He said contributions from anyone who runs a corporation commission - can you say APS? Toxic. Perhaps gubernatorial candidates. The amount of money, $700,000 for the primary, over a million for the general might be enough. Some people who can't get support anywhere else. But if you're an incumbent in the legislature and whatever party you're with, you can now tap the resources and say, look, because I know I can spend as much as I want, I think the incumbents are out in terms of future clean elections.

Mary Jo Pitzl: I don't know about that. I mean, A, a lot depends on where the new district lines are - which is yet to come. That way we'll figure out where our legislative boundaries are. But if you are in a fairly safe district and not really facing any competition, why would you even want to bother and do fundraising? Clean elections is going to give you just under $15,000 to run your primary campaign next year and then $20,000 some for the general. And if you don't have really much of an opponent, whether you're a incumbent or challenger, why not?

Luige del Puerto: And I think -- I agree with Mary Jo, it's still a case-by-case basis. The governor, last year, would she have been better off running as a private candidate or clean elections? They got $700,000 in the primary and over a million in the general. And if you -- if you're in her position, seem to be safe, you know, your ratings are up and what have you, I mean, why --

Howard Fischer: Let's remember she made this decision
Mary Jo Pitzl: Yes.
Howard Fischer: before her seat was safe. She made this decision --

Luige del Puerto: Right.

Howard Fischer: -- when -- when God forbid, I predicted that Dean Martin would be the Republican nominee.
Mary Jo Pitzl: And made the decision when Buzz Mills was a millionaire in the race and dumping buckets of money.

Luige del Puerto: What I am saying is - when you're in a position your ratings are up and faced with a situation whether running with clean elections money or private raising, I mean why would you want to go the other route?

Ted Simons: Justice Kagan said it was a legitimate way to what she called a ‘cancerous effect of corruption on campaigns' which is pretty bold stuff coming in there -- the idea that more speech and more -- you know, competition is not an injury to the first amendment.

Howard Fischer: Well, this is the thing. This is the same fight -- this is the same fight we have as journalists. People try to censor things. As a journalist, I have to have an absolute right with the first amendment. The answer to sub-speech is always more speech. Not to censor me, not to center heaven-forbid Larry Flint and Hustler magazine. But the idea is of more speech, alternative speech. Now, obviously the idea behind matching funds was was to promote more speech, but at the point you're having the government funding it, that was the issue. In other words, this wasn't a question of limiting an individual's right to spend his or her own money, because the court would not buy that! But when you've got the government being the equalizer - that becomes an issue.

Mary Jo Pitzl: Yes.

Ted Simons: I believe that Chief Justice Roberts mentioned the idea it wasn't right government was funding out-spent candidates which was basically what was happening.

Mary Jo Pitzl: Right, and therein is in the dilemma that clean elections tried to address and not very well, to have more speech, unfettered speech, in especially a political context. After a certain point, it takes money! And we're only go to write so many news articles and do so many radio broadcasts. And it takes money to get your message out. And there are candidates who would like to respond to a heavily funded chamber of commerce backed candidate. They can't get that money. So how are they going to respond? So that's why they created clean elections.

Howard Fischer: You know what's going to be interesting - we talked about how many candidates can get advantage of it? If we get it to the next race, and perhaps only 15% of the candidates participate and then you have the ballot measure, assuming that the challenge, to get rid of clean elections at the point we're down to 15%, I think folks will say just get rid of it and be done with it.

Ted Simons: We'll see about that. Federal judge, basically made a decision on this casino situation with Glendale and the Tohono tribe. And it sounds like - tribe wins again.

Howard Fischer: The tribe wins again.

Howard Fischer: I mean there are about five different lawsuits out there - the Gila River Indian Community is suing, The city of Glendale is suing over the department of interior being taken, I mean the land under reservation, the state's got a lawsuit, there's a whole gaming issue. The tribe got permission in 1986 in congress to buy additional land to replace some flooded reservation property and it could be anywhere in Maricopa, Pinal or Pima Countys. The only restriction, the major restriction is that it could not be in an incorporated area. The tribe quietly, under an assumed name, remember, bring their enterprises, bought 135 acres near the Cardinal's Stadium in 2003. 2009, they say, ‘oh by-the-way, guess who we are? We want to have the reservation status as a precursor to the casino.' The state responds with efforts to kill it and including saying to Glendale, ‘we'll elect to annex the land without the tribe's permission', which normally never done. And if you can do it quickly before the interior gives permission for the reservation status, we can thwart the casino. Judge Campbell said you've got to be kidding.

Ted Simons: Basically this implies that you are superseding what the feds said. By annexing the land, you killed a deal that the feds had said was possible.

Luige del Puerto: And that's why the law that the legislature passed this year was always iffy to begin with. I think one of the arguments for it, it would help basically Glendale present its case against the tribe's plans but it was always iffy in the sense that everything really hinges on the feds giving a go signal, a green light. And, of course, they sued in court and now went back and said, yeah, it's up to the feds and they've said it and that's it.

Howard Fischer: This doesn't mean that's the turning ground for the casino yet. There's four other lawsuits, stuff at the ninth circuit. But as you point out, the Tohono won everything that's been there and at some point, I think you're going to be seeing a casino and hotel on that site.

Ted Simons: Do you see Glendale starting to come a little bit more to the table here? Dynamic change.

Howard Fischer: I'm Glendale at this point and have lost everything. I go to the tribe and say - look, this isn't benefitting any of us. How about we work out a revenue sharing agreement? The hotel isn't going to generate city tax revenues for Glendale, the casinos won't, the shops, the restaurants won't. Can we work something out? The tribe may give them a one-finger salute.

Luige del Puerto: Or might not. Might come up with a compromise that might be wise for both sides to come up with a revenue sharing system.

Ted Simons: You would think.
Ted Simons: What's going on with the Fiesta Bowl saying to folks like Russell Pearce, we spent $39,000 on you, we'd like it back.

Mary Jo Pitzl: Well, what the -- the Fiesta Bowl is trying to make up for past sins and looking at all the contributions they made to lawmakers and trying to determine with some help from the lawmakers, was this help -- is this something that would help us advance our nonprofit status or imperil it. And this is the Fiesta Bowl trying not to get this trouble with the IRS.
Howard Fischer: Let's call it what it is. It's covering their tush. It's very simple. The Fiesta Bowl's directors and boards made the decision we want to take lawmakers and their families to various games. Now, some of them want to take them to Dallas to see the competitions, perhaps the Cotton Bowl Championship Series. We want to take lawmakers out so we can schmooze them so we can get them to pass bills in our favor. Now, the cusp of the whole thing is, to tell the lawmakers we want you to justify why we spent money on you? As one lawmaker told me - go ask your board. I didn't ask for the trip.

Ted Simons: Luige, what response is this getting? Some are paying something back, but it does not look like any are paying the full thing back yet.

Luige del Puerto: I haven't seen anyone pay the whole thing. The Fiesta Bowl said they owed the nonprofit but what was the reaction? I think this is an understatement -- they're not happy about it. [Laughter] You know, with -- for example, told the reporter this week, that he was being asked to pay back $500, said, well, I went to this thing and ate a burger and they didn't take me out to dinner and now I'm asked to pay back this amount. Linda López was not happy, Howie's point, they were invited to go.
Howard Fischer: And a friend said - you know Howie, it's like a friend invites you to his wedding to be his best man, five years later, he gets divorced and now he wants the travel expenses back. It doesn't work that way.

Mary Jo Pitzl: It also comes with a lot of legislative displeasure. I think it shines a -- shines a not flattering light. Maybe they've taken these ritzy trips. Maybe they're being goodwill ambassadors for Arizona, sitting in a box, sitting in somebody's seats watching a game. And that's what they were asked to do but it does not sell with the public.

Ted Simons: What kind of legal authority does the Fiesta Bowl have? Someone with a yellow jacket going to come knocking on your door?

Howard Fischer: No. Look, between us kids and, you know, the --

Mary Jo Pitzl: Millions of viewers…
Howard Fischer: Yeah, millions of viewers that we have…

Ted Simons: Thank you, thank you.

Howard Fischer: -- I don't think the Fiesta Bowl even cares if they get the money back. They're trying to tell the IRS --

Ted Simons: We're making the effort.

Howard Fischer: -- we're making the effort because it's a new administration. Bob Sheldon is coming. He's gonna be a new leader. Now we are going to do what we can to get the money back. Now we can't. It's like the campaign contributions. They went to McCain and Kyl and said - you shouldn't have gotten this laundered money. And Kyl said - well, why will I give it back to you cuz you've shown you can't manage money!

Mary Jo Pitzl: This is all window dressing by the Fiesta Bowl. Boy, they're paying a high price. I don't think they'll get any favors out of the Arizona legislature or have anyone look at legislation they've interested in for a long, long time.
Howard Fischer: Oh sure. But the alternative is, the IRS concludes they are not a nonprofit, changes the whole tax and all of sudden, they owe a bunch of money.

Ted Simons: And the biggest name, as I mentioned, is Russell Pearce. 39 somewhat thousand dollars? Just showing this, that - family members going and all. All would no doubt play into a recall campaign, what is the -- what's the Pearce recall. What's going on here?

Mary Jo Pitzl: They're scrubbing the signatures. They have the recall signatures which were submitted a couple weeks ago. They've verified 33% more as of earlier this week than needed. Looks like a recall is a done deal. But the county is crossing -- dotting Is and crossing Ts. They are making sure they are not going to have any legal challenges on this. And it's indicating that there will probably be an election in November. Unless of course Pearce opts to resign.

Howard Fischer: That's the key. The timing is that the governor, after the county does its shtick, the governor has 15 days. And the count has basically said if we can have a decision by August 10th, we can have the election. Well, you know, if the county took until August 5th, the governor could play with it. If the county is done by July 25th, which it looks, at the rate they are going to be. Then it doesn't matter what the governor does, they'll call the election by August 10th, there will be a November recall.
Ted Simons: Are we hearing anyone stepping up as a possible candidate against him?

Luige del Puerto: That's the one question I've been asking etch I can get a hold of. The answer is no. Some sources are saying, yeah, this guy would be great. But he said no. Or this gal would be great, but she's not interested. Obviously, the organizers of the recall acknowledge if they put up someone who is a democrat in that district, that's not a chance that the district will elect a democrat, so they have to find someone who is Republican and conservative enough and really credible who can put up a fight against Russell Pearce.

Mary Jo Pitzl: Brigham young?
Luige del Puerto: The point is anyone who would do that in this scenario will be taking too much risk. Do you really want to begin your career by going after Russell Pearce in a recall that is being spearheaded by outsiders and people.

Ted Simons: Sure.
Mary Jo Pitzl: Here's another factor, this week, the Mesa school board decided they weren't going to have a bond election in November. That means if we're looking at a November election, it would be Pearce only on there. That helps him.

Ted Simons: He specifically mentioned that. He was concerned that the bond elections would bring out voters who would not necessarily be with him.

Mary Jo Pitzl: Correct. There's not going to be a bond election.

Luige del Puerto: It came out a few days ago, basically, we're behind Russell Pearce.

Howard Fischer: The other piece, because it's a single election, you get 12 people in there, there's no primary to weed it down, get 12 people, Russell picking up 15% of the vote, he's back.

Ted Simons: We've got the independent redistricting commission down there in Tucson.We've got Revenue growth, Luige, you wrote about that? Do collections seem to be growing a lil bit there? not too much, but conservative? Those are important stories, but I think the big story is vermin at the capitol.

Mary Jo Pitzl: Which vermin Ted?

Mary Jo Pitzl: I'm thinking quad peds? [Laughter] Yoo go ahead.

Mary Jo Pitzl: There's an infestation of rats and mice running around the house, the senate building and executive tower and caught since mid-May, about 64 rats and mice. They think it's because of sewer construction in the area.

Ted Simons: Are they following you around, Howie?

Howard Fischer: Remember, we got kicked out of the senate, we're in good shape.
Mary Jo Pitzl: Yeah, we're setting glue traps for Howie.

Howard Fischer: At one time, the senate had a security guard who would feed the cats around the area and he's gone and that may be why the pitter patter of little feet is going through the basement.
Ted Simons: These things are, literary, running across folks' shoes? This is just not a rattling in the closet?

Mary Jo Pitzl: No, no. These are big rats and live encounters. And then they had a fire in the senate this week. An air conditioning motor blew out after hours, filled the building with smoke. It's pestilence and drought and then --
Ted Simons: An apocalypse ---

Luige del Puerto: There was flooding -
Mary Jo Pitzl: Some three years ago.

Ted Simons: Thank you all. Thank you, have a good holiday weekend.

All: Yes. Thank you.

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