Journalists’ Roundtable

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Arizona journalists discuss the week’s top news stories.

Ted Simons: Good evening, and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Joining me tonight are Dennis Welch of the Arizona Guardian, Mike Sunnucks of the Phoenix Business Journal, and Jeremy Duda of the Arizona Capital Times. Anti-union measures are making their way through the state Senate, and Dennis, they are moving quickly. How much debate is going on?

Dennis Welch: There was plenty of debate the first time in committee about this you know, where you had a lot of folks come up and talk about what these measures would actually do, and the big one is, the one that would end any kind of collective bargaining in this state, which means it deals more with the local municipalities and their meet and confer stuff because as of right now, there is no collective bargaining right now. We're a lot different from say Wisconsin, who, about a year ago, people may remember there was a battle there, where the Governor moved to get rid of collective bargaining with them. And so, these things are on the fastrack to get through the Senate. And at least whether it comes to the floor, where I'm hearing it will hit some problems where I hear where there is a pretty good group of Republicans, and as many as seven or eight of them, who are on the bubble about voting for something like this.

Ted Simons: In the Senate?

Dennis Welch: Yes.

Ted Simons: Interesting.
Mike Sunnucks: Like the political motivation behind the folks. If they looked at Wisconsin and the big fights in Ohio, which went both ways, and they see, let's break the unions any more, and you know, their argument, is the less union power, the more flexibility, the cities or governments will have to control the costs. And the big question, is you know, the public safety unions kind of popular compared to say your typical government employee unions. So they will be the political dynamic there of how much sway they have in the end.

Ted Simons: The Governor's position in all of this, Jeremy?

Jeremy Duda: The Governor never really comments on any legislation that hasn't reached her desk, as we all know well. But there is a lot of signs if I were one of the supporters, I would be kind of worried about this going to her desk. She's had a tight relationship with the public safety unions. She kind of stuck her neck out for them during the pension reform debated, and department of corrections, they do have meet and confer, and Brewer played a point of not repealing that when she rescinded Napolitano's meet and confer orders. So, you know, hard to say what the Governor will do, but not good signs.

Dennis Welch: And the other thing I would like to add to that, she's also said that yeah, you know, I'm not going to sign any of these bills until I get a personal reform bill, which has, unlike the union bills, are not moving through the Senate. If I was a supporter, I would be worried because add to that like what was really, you know, these unions, particularly the firefighters, the teachers' unions were instrumental in getting Prop 100 passed a couple of years ago, which is arguably this Governor's greatest political achievement.

Mike Sunnucks: If I'm on the no side, I don't have any democratic lawmakers, I don't have any teacher unions. I just have the public safety folks fight this fight. And they can win that politically and P.R.-wise. I think pretty easily if they cast it as that, if it gets cast like Wisconsin where it's all these greedy, big government unions, it's a little more complicated, but I think he's right in terms of the Governor and the public safety.

Ted Simons: What's going on as far as the governor's personnel reform, and the idea that, that some folks saw this as, as a symbiotic measure, and the Governor's office said not at all.

Jeremy Duda: The Governor's office lashed out over that, and they are worried about these being tied together, which is, as Dennis said, is another bad sign for them, but as far as what's going on with that, it's, it seems like an impasse. We don't have a bill yet. We don't know who is going to be sponsoring this for the Governor's office, and Steve Pierce, Senate President, after the Governor's office threw down the gauntlet, they made it clear, you know, this is your priority, not ours, and we're going to do the budget first and then to your stuff.

Mike Sunnucks: And they didn't know how they can get anybody motivated. It's not a section issue. There was a lot of amateur, term limited folks, a lot of social ideological conservatives, and on the democratic side, you know, how do you get people to say, I'm really going to go to bat for personnel reform?

Dennis Welch: Yeah, I mean, this bill, let's face it, this bill, the personnel reform is all about making it easier to fire people. And down there, and a lot of people down there are always ought bit worried about that because they believe that every four years, with the new administration there is going to be a big cleaning of house down there, with the bureaucrats, the people who work there every day, the rank and file that make, you know, government run. And that's one of the more powerful arguments against something like there, so I think there will be a lot of pressure on the lawmakers. They are going to hear this story a lot.

Mike Sunnucks: And there was the common sense argument for reforms, because when you try to fire a poor government worker, someone is not doing very well, it takes a long time, and compared to the private sector, so there is common sense arguments, but just energizing any way they can get behind a bill is a challenge.

Jeremy Duda: It's ironic, when necessity first implemented the rules, it was the Republicans who finally had taken control of the legislature after decades of Democrat rules, and they wanted to get rid of how the Democrats had put in their friend, their cousin, favorite campaign bundler, and getting the patronage jobs.

Ted Simons: Interesting.

Jeremy Duda: Yeah.

Ted Simons: And all right, let's keep it moving here, and we have got the budget and we're trying to figure out how much of a budget legislature has got one number, the Governor has got another, and is there some sort of battle looming here, or is this just kind of a fight?

Dennis Welch: I don't think you are going to see a big, as big of a battle this year as you have seen over past years, and for one thing, and I think that, that you are seeing the numbers relatively or pretty close together. There is not a big disparity there. And there is a bit of money left over for some stuff like that, so you are not fighting, you are not talking about cuts to programs like we've been talking about over the past few years, but, you know, there is always, in every budget cycle, it always comes down to, to those little unseen issues that we don't talk about until they happen. So, you know, but, I don't anticipate a big fight. I anticipate them getting this wrapped up here quickly.

Mike Sunnucks: I would think whether we buy back the capitol on some of the buildings and how they do that, or they refinance again or how they figure that out, a pathway, it's an inside baseball issue but an image thing for brewer and for the state. We have had, we, basically, pawned our state capitol and our buildings, and she would probably like to reverse that before she is out of office. Whether that happens this year or the pathway is put in, it's one of the interesting debates going on.

Ted Simons: From what you hear, is there much of a disconnect between the governor's office and the legislature? Is it just the usual situation? What are you hearing?

Jeremy Duda: It's the usual thing. Every year you see them trying to reconcile the estimates, and the Governor is a bit higher, and they are trying to, to, eventually they will find somewhere to meet in the middle, but you could see a few sticking points right now. Like Mike mentioned the capital buyback, a lot of the Republicans aren't too thrilled. They think the money can be better spent elsewhere like replenishing the rainy day fund, which has been empty the last few years because of the budget crisis.

Ted Simons: And all, all is looming this is cliff, this idea of the temporary sales tax going away in the future after what, a year from this, after this budget, and then who knows.

Dennis Welch: No, I mean, that's a big, that's a big chunk of money. You are talking about a billion dollars of revenue that the state depends on right now. It's going to dry up and go away. There is talk about, you know, a move to put up an initiative on the ballot that would extend that tax, but I have not seen anything, you know, anything lately about that. To see how this is going to determine whether that's going to be successful or not. And so, we'll wait and see a bit about that.

Mike Sunnucks: The folks want to get it on there. They are trying to figure out who gets into the, the camp and gets the cash and how to do it, and like they said, there is not a lot of public movement on that, and they need to get moving soon if they want to, to raise the signatures. And I think that plays into the rainy day fund, and, and this pawning of the capitol. We have this cliff, like you said, so do they want to take any chances with anything or are they going to have their chips, you know, for next year a bit without the sales tax?

Jeremy Duda: In terms of the clip, right around the same time, the temporary sales tax expires, you have the new mandates from the Federal health care overhaul, and you have, you have all these tax cuts from the big tax cuts package from last year. They start to phase in, so there is other considerations, too,they are going to need money.

Ted Simons: And you have an economy picking up and all of a sudden you may not have to worry about it at all. Just some optimists are suggesting, so I guess we'll see.

Dennis Welch: Yeah, they are really bullish on the future, and I think that they have to be with some of those measures because as Jeremy pointed out, it's a jobs package bill. You are talking hundreds of millions of dollars of taxes that are about to go in at the same time we lose a billion dollars worth of revenue.

Mike Sunnucks: But those jobs are not going to be created at that clip. It's getting better but businesses are skittish on their spending, so we're going to let the tax revenue go away. It will not be replaced by economic grossed despite their, you know.

Ted Simons: Guns on campus bill, advancing out of committee here. What, what are we -- this, despite everyone and their brother down there, associated with the university saying please, don't do it?

Dennis Welch: There was a very, very interesting debate for me because I think that, you know, in terms of the end vote, I think it exposed some cracks within the GOP, which was really pushing this bill, when you have had one Senator on the committee vote against this bill, it seemed like another one in Senator Adam Driggs was apprehensive with this bill. It moved forward, but I'm wondering if it will be able to pass, you know, a similar measure last year, was vetoed by the Governor, and I don't see a lot of changes in there that, that address her concerns last year for her reasons for rejecting this bill.

Ted Simons: She said that it was poorly written, and it lacked clarity last year. Have you seen anything different this year?

Jeremy Duda: He changed it, but it looks more like the original version of the bill. Brewer objected to the fact that they did not define public rights-of-way. There is like four definitions in the state statute, and it did not specify that we're talking only about the universities and higher education institutions. Now it says the universities, colleges, they cannot regulate people who have concealed weapons permit, which is what the Governor suggested in her veto.

Dennis Welch: And this is really interesting, too, because whether you start talking to the universities and you start talking to the junior colleges that this would affect, you are talking about, about 1,800 buildings, that this would effect in a three, in the three universities, NAU, ASU, and U of A, and 7800 in the junior college, so you are talking thousands of buildings because there is a, there is a provision in this law says that, if you are not going to allow concealed weapons, you have got to provide lockers. And along with those, you know, so you have got to kind of, you know, retrofit the buildings with that, and that cost a lot of money.

Mike Sunnucks: Absolutely. Last year, it was the backdrop of the Giffords shooting, so that kind of sealed the fate. I still think that overshadows this issue, and I think that she veto it again, and they are still thinking about a public arena stadium type of bill, that floats around, the same idea, and the sports teams, of course, don't want that because they would have to do the same thing. The University of Phoenix stadium, with the 50,000 gun lockers.

Ted Simons: It's interesting, I thought, you had students, faculty, teachers, administrators, campus police. You had a U of A neuroscientist saying the brain is not fully developed until the age of 25 or something like that, the decision-making process. All these folks are down there testifying against this thing, and it's still, even played it out of committee. It's interesting.

Dennis Welch: The NRA is pushing this bill, and they sent their lobbyist down here, to testify for it, and they have got a really powerful, a lot of influence with, with the legislature down here. And to listen to the lawmakers that, that support the bill, running the legislation, is they think that it's a fundamental right to be able to defend yourself. And they feel this is the best way to do that.

Mike Sunnucks: You don't seem like, the conservative base, I don't see them nationally or statewide focused on this issue. There is not throwing in that much red meat. They are concerned about, about birth control mandates, and taxes, the economy, and that the presidential race. They are not concerned about gun rights, and there is a strong contention down there that pushes this, you know, every year, and they will put a variation on this if it passes.

Ted Simons: There is a move to kill clean elections, and that advanced, as well, and talk to us about that, and, and basically, bands the state from funding campaigns. Correct?

Mike Sunnucks: It's an interesting -- that, you will have some conservative Republicans, who are in office, voting for this, but that's why they are in office. It's been the best present conservative Republicans have ever asked for in the state. It has allowed them to bipartisan the business community, to bypass the money guys and the Republican Party. There is no vetting. They can go straight to the district folks, and throw the red meat issues, social issues, guns, and taxes, and they get in and they are going to get rid of this, and it could be to benefit the pro benefit folks, and it could benefit the Democrats.

Dennis Welch: If you look at, to your point on the, the number of Republicans that voted for this bill in committee, all of them, with the exception of one Republican on this committee, were there because of clean elections, which I found to be really kind of ironic, that they are, they have been the ones pushing this bill you, when Republicans have, by and large, gained so much over the pastor ten years under this bill, why the Democrats have lost so much, but they are putting up the fight for this.

Ted Simons: The full Senate likely to vote to this?

Jeremy Duda: They voted for it last year. They sent this thing to the ballot in 2011, and it got kicked off, basically, doing a drafting error, due to the single subject rule, and the second that happened, the chamber of commerce is pushing this, this is one of the top priorities, they were going to come back and they are going to fund this campaign very well. There is no question.

Dennis Welch: I just wanted to add the chamber really is pushing this because they feel that -- they want more influence on, on the, the, you know, the legislature down there because they have lost a lot of juice down there. They have lost a lot of power over the past ten years since candidates have been going down there, and this is a play on their part to have more say.

Mike Sunnucks: The critics say it's special interest, anybody else trying to get more lawmakers in their pocket. If they have to go to somebody for cash, and go through there process with them, instead of getting it from the state, and you have to, to meet their litmus test, so, I think that, that, it would be interesting to see who winds up on this. The folks on the far right and the far left oppose, and want to keep people, clean elections around.

Ted Simons: We should mention that one of the bigger fights was to call the thing, with the call to measure, and the final, the winner was no taxpayer subsidies for political campaign act.

Dennis Welch: Well, yeah. When they passed this, really, the genius in passing this bill was the name of it. Who wants to vote against clean elections? Now, who wants to repeal the clean elections. That means I want dirty elections, and nobody wants that. So, that was one of the big fights down there.

Mike Sunnucks: There all comes down to money. If this gets on the ballot, if you have a Jim Peterson pushed this, if you have a sugar daddy on either side that's going to push this, that's what wins because you can cast it as clean elections or taxpayer money for politicians.

Ted Simons: All right, on we go, and we have got a couple of bills involving the, the redistricting committee, and one of them suggests that the IRC should draw school district, just draw all political maps. What is it, is this a way to swap the, the committee? What's this all about?

Jeremy Duda: Well, Senator Rick Murphy, he basically said, as he trying to make a point, that the supporters of the IRC say the legislators shouldn't be drawing their own lines. They have too much self-interest, and he says well, you know, that's the case, why don't we have them drawing city council districts, county board district. But the problem, there is zero chance that they could actually do this. You have to secret 100 other redistricting commissions, so they barely got the congressional legislative lines done behind the schedule from where they were ten years ago.

Dennis Welch: And I thought that the IRC was supposed to take politics out of this whole process. But now, for months, we've been talking about every step of the way on this, and I find it fascinating that, that the Republicans are, that are doing this are saying, this is becoming way too political when the speaker of the house, Republican Tobin, he put his own map and drew six into the same district. And I just find that, this whole thing to be ironic and hilarious.

Ted Simons: We should mention that, that Murphy was, basically saying, is we cannot draw our own maps because of the IRC. The school boards, the city, counties, shouldn't be able to draw their own maps.

Mike Sunnucks: They can make that argument, I mean, you know, but elections have consequences, so if you don't like the maps, you vote them out of there.

Ted Simons: Or call for special elections.

Mike Sunnucks: Call for a special election. The thing with Republicans on this, the lesson learned is don't have three Democrats on the committee. Don't pick two Democrats and an Independent, they are going to vote with the democrats. And that's, that's probably their lessen.

Ted Simons: Or change the commission as some are saying. Nine or 12 or something along those lines, or if you are, the majority leader, Andy Bigg, say get rid of it, adios.

Jeremy Duda: You go into the same problems with clean elections, who wants to vote against an independent redistricting commission and a lot of elected, you know, Republicans and Democrats draw their own --

Dennis Welch: Which I think would be a good idea. On some levels down there, particularly, for something, you know, I think it draws on a level of civility down there, too, because I think you put it in a hands down there, people are going to respect each other more because, you know, you know, you are dependent, this guy you are sitting next to, hey, you might have to depend on him in a couple of years when you are redrawing that.

Mike Sunnucks: They have nine people, that's more people that they can summarily impeach.

Ted Simons: Right.

Mike Sunnucks: And I think one of the challenges, though, and you see it's another state, is everything is in Phoenix. Phoenix and Tucson. And they have this assistance of not having every district touch those two, so that creates so many contradictions and challenges in trying to draw the districts to make the rural districts, where there is not enough people there to do that.

Ted Simons: Ok, and talk about, about the Governor's personnel reform ideas, and Jeremy, quickly, there is a bit of a dust up here because apparently, she briefed the Republican caucus behind closed doors, and you are dealing with legislative issues, and you are not supposed to do that, what's going on?

Jeremy Duda: Ironic considering the yelling and screaming about the redistricting commission, open meeting laws and a lack of transparency, and they go into closed caucuses, and they talk about this, and they are not allowed to talk about it when they come out. And, you know, state law, opening meetings law, there is a few exemptions for when you can have meetings behind closed doors and discussing something like the policy initiative.

Mike Sunnucks: Let's say the Republican camp that accident happen like people protesting or any budget hearings. So I think, you know, look, there's been other governors, both parties, a lot of this budget stuff is done behind closed doors. In the end the public stuff is window-dressing and they go up to the ninth floor and figure it out.

Dennis Welch: Behind closed doors with the legislature? Never, I'm shocked about this.

Ted Simons: Let's move on then. We have got a referendum proposed to raise the bar on tax hikes. This would be a two-thirds -- is this a two-thirds deal again, yet again? And this would be two-thirds of voters, as far as how -- talk to me here.

Jeremy Duda: There is, this is -- the purpose is to make it almost impossible to raise taxes by voters, which Republicans hated. The only way that taxes get raised is through these ballot measures, but almost nothing gets passed. You look at prop 100, which is overwhelmingly passed by the voters, and it fell a few points short of that two-thirds threshold.

Mike Sunnucks: At the Cardinals' stadium?

Jeremy Duda: Right.

Dennis Welch: So, and I know I'm not supposed to have an opinion and everything but really a really terrible idea. I mean, look, look at the problems that we have had over the past few years, and the reason that we have to go to the ballot is because they passed this law, that you need two-thirds majorities in the legislature to do this, so when we have a revenue problem in this state, your legislature, our state lawmakers really can't do anything about it.

Ted Simons: Representative Stevens' quote on this was tax hikes should be more than simple majority in elections with low turnouts. I mean, are we changing the definition of an election of winning a vote?

Dennis Welch: That's silly. That is silly because, you know, if it's low Turnout, it's low turnout, but that's democracy. And you know, that's the price that you pay for that. If you know, if you don't like the way it's going, you know, if you don't like what's happening, you go out there and you cast your vote.

Mike Sunnucks: This is part of a decade long effort to pass that Colorado taxpayer Bill of Rights thing, and they keep bringing different revisions of that up. And the anti-tax folks don't like the special elections, lightrail, or when everybody is on spring break, and only the high efficacy voters turn out. They don't like that, they know the other side is playing games, but does it have to have two-thirds to pass now? Or would it pass 50%?

Ted Simons: Are we suggesting, anyone suggesting the two-thirds vote needed to win elective office? Are we hearing anyone?

Jeremy Duda" 50% Plus one 20 years ago or so, and tried that once, and it was, you know, down in flames, and they said let's get rid of it.

Ted Simons: We'll have to go back to the record books on that one. Hey, sounds like an aid now to Gabrielle Giffords will be running in the special election. We're not quite sure about when that district moves over to C.D.2, but it's C.D.8. Ron barber was amongst those injured in that shootout and has the blessing of Gabrielle Giffords.

Mike Sunnucks: The field has been publicly cleared on the democratic side. And Kelly and Gabby sent out an email in support of him. And I think that you will see national democrats get behind him, and this is going to be an interesting national race because Jesse kelly ran last time, close, he has all the mailing lists and everything right there, and he's maybe going to be the Republican, and you have got democrats probably going to get behind this guy, and if gabby is involved in that, that's going to be tough for Republicans to take that because she was so popular are and so was her husband.

Dennis Welch: But what's he going to do with the fall election?
It was my understanding he was going to run for the special election, serve out the term and let everybody else do what they have got to do for the fall election, but, you know, he was really hesitant. I was on the conference call where he announced, made his announcement yesterday, and you know, we were all pretty surprised when he said that he did not know what he was going to do with the fall election.

Mike Sunnucks: It's amazing because that would be one of the first elected officials to get in office, and have the U.S. rep next to his name, and not run.

Ted Simons: And then not run.

Mike Sunnucks: If he wins, he could win that pretty easily, if they really, if gabby and kelly get behind him and they get a lot of money. He would think that he would say well, I can probably win this next time.

Jeremy Duda: Now you have all these democrats who wanted to get in for the regular election later this year, we thought, he's going to serve out the term, and now they really can't do that until he declares his intentions, and the one person that helps is state representative Matt Hines, the only democrat who declared so far, the only guy out there raising money, setting up a campaign infrastructure, and this could really give him a leg up, if barber doesn't run this year.
Dennis Welch: He's running and dedicated going full force on the fall election, and he's dropped out of the special primary election, which, I find fascinating, you know, early ballots for that race will be dropping a little over a month from here.

Ted Simons: And Andrei Churney is running now in C.D.9 which makes for another democrat in C.D.9, and this will be a real donnie brook.

Dennis Welch: It will be, and I would like to nominate him for the biggest political loser of the week.

Ted Simons: Why?

Dennis Welch: Unfortunately, and he, he announced his candidacy 20 minutes before Ron barber announced his candidacy. Completely, trampling on, you know, his announcement out there, but to your point about the donnie brook, yeah, this is going to be a big battle between Mr. Churnny, former Senator Kyrsten and Senate minority leader David Schapira.

Mike Sunnucks: He ran for treasurer, lost to Doug, the Coldstone guy, a nasty race but maybe that gave him some experience, not only raising money, but just running a bigger campaign. Kyrsten and Schapira run on legislative campaigns. And that's a little different. The other thing on the other side, Holman, from Tempe, kinda looking at running.

Ted Simons: And Lauren Parker, and Steve moe. That's going to be a crowded field on both sides?

Jeremy Duda: As soon as Ben Quayle announced, you have a half dozen Republicans looking for awaiting that decision, and now they are doing polls trying to figure out what position they are in.

Dennis Welch: All sorts of names are coming out of the woodwork. You had former city councilman name's being put out there, and Dave Slipcheney, is rumored to be eyeing a seat.

Mike Sunnucks: A lot of republicans like the chandler city council guys, first Iraq war, moderate, kind of the image that some folks in the party like to see.

Ted Simons: All right, we'll stop it right there. Thanks for joining us. We appreciate it.

Ted Simons: And Monday, on "Arizona Horizon," we'll hear two state lawmakers debate anti-union bills making their way through the legislative process. And we'll take a look at some fascinating historic IMAGES of Arizona. That's Monday on "Arizona Horizon." 5:30 and 10:00 right here on 8, H.D. Tuesday, we celebrate Arizona Centenniel with official state historian Marshall Trimble and state Balladeer Dolan Ellis, Wednesday then we'll look at projects at the Sci-tech Maker-faire, and Thursday we'll hear from the President of the Arizona Senate, and the speaker of the house, and Friday, we are back with another edition of the journalists roundtable. That is it for now. I am Ted Simons. Thank you very much for joining us. You have a great weekend.

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