Legislative Update

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An Arizona Capitol Times reporter provides a mid-week update on news from the Arizona State Legislature.

Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. State lawmakers celebrated Arizona's centennial this week and then went back to work on a variety of proposed legislation. Here now with our mid week legislative update is Jim Small of the "Arizona Capitol Times." Thanks for joining us. Let's start with the governor -- we finally got someone to introduce the governor's education reform plan, correct?

Jim Small: This is a plan that has really been in the works for almost a year now. It was about last February when the governor's office started having meetings with legislative leaders and some legislative staff people to talk about this whole idea and it was never able to get off the ground last year for a variety of reasons. That session moved quickly and done in 100 days by -- I think the end of April and didn't get to this bill. It was a cornerstone in Governor Brewer's State of the State plan. And talked about how Arizona needs to go out and revamp the way it hires government workers and give the government more flexibility, like the private market has and Representative Justin Olson, a Republican from Mesa is basically carrying this legislation for the governor's office and it's going to be heard in committee tomorrow.

Ted Simons: New state workers uncovered by civil service protection and current state workers would still have those protections however the governor says you want a 5% raise, uncover yourself.

Jim Small: Yeah, and you could voluntarily do that or there's a provision if you take a new job or new responsibilities and go from a CPS caseworker to a supervisor, by taking that you would become uncovered, so you would move from having merit protection to being an at-will employee.

Ted Simons: Take the promotion and lose the protection.

Jim Small: Exactly.

Ted Simons: How much debate at the capitol?

Jim Small: Tomorrow, it will be a lengthy hearing, going through the employment and regulatory affairs committee in the house. A bill like this, you know, a couple of hours, maybe an hour and a half of testimony and debate and back and forth and you'll have, I think, the state employee unions out in force against this to testify against it and lodge opposition. I don't know if it's going to make much of a difference, at least not in tomorrow's hearing. As most committees at the capitol, it's an overwhelming Republican to Democrat and I'm sure the bill will have new steam to get out of committee and see at this point, what problems are highlighted during the testimony.

Ted Simons: We should mention the critics of the proposed legislation talk about leading to cronyism and retaliation because personality and politics and these things. We'll hear about that tomorrow.

Jim Small: The fear is that you'll end up with a patronage system -- where a new governor appoints a whole new crop of agency directors and they look down at the ranks in the departments, and say ok. , I'm going to get rid of these people and hire people I've worked with or who are friends and/or family of mine.

Ted Simons: Another bill calling for armed volunteer force on the border. This is -- Sylvia Allen is pushing. The special missions unit.

Jim Small: It's similar to an idea last year that would create -- maybe it didn't get vetoed but kicked around and create a volunteer armed militia that would respond to natural disasters or, in this case, be deployed to the Arizona-Mexico border and not require the governor's approval to be sent to the border so basically a standing volunteer militia designed to protect Arizona.

Ted Simons: And who would be in charge?

Jim Small: I think the National Guard would be in charge.

Ted Simons: The National Guard is for this, correct?

Jim Small: They are not necessarily all for this. They have General Hugo Salazar has gone through a couple of committees and registered as neutral and said I'm not going to take a position but I see problems coming and I don't necessarily want to be the guy in charge of the volunteers not going through military training and the things that his soldiers would do about they're sent into a combat situation.

Ted Simons: Correct me if I'm wrong here, but the cost was estimated at 1.5 some odd million, $1.5 million.

Jim Small: Yeah. That would be taken from some -- a pot of money used for gang, intelligence and drug trafficking.

Ted Simons: $1.4 million to train a force and supply a force and to equip and deploy -- doesn't sound like a lot of money for this.

Jim Small: Well, no, but it doesn't pay for salaries, because they're volunteers. Paying for a couple of people to oversee and supervise and command it.

Ted Simons: I think we need to learn more about it before it flies any higher. What's going on with the concept of the legislature making sure that the teachers don't use bad language or at least language that the FCC would not approve of on classrooms and school grounds.

Jim Small: It's a bill that went through the senate government reform committee this morning and I know it's created -- gotten a lot of controversy. I think on the blogs and news media. And some of the things that people were upset about were taken out. It doesn't apply to colleges anymore. It was amended and applies to in-school now. Originally, it would have applied to any teacher at any time whether in the teachers' lounge or at home or a bar. Would have been able to not use profanity without risking losing their job. It's an interesting bill and even so, the Republicans were skeptical and it passed and it's going to be moved on to a floor debate. But there were a couple Republican, I agree with the sentiment. I understand where you're coming from and I agree that we need to create a culture where there's less profanity, but the way it's written it's got problems and puts you in a situation where a teacher could be fired or suspended based on the word of a student and there's not a good system in the bill to determine how this whole thing is going to happen. How an appeal is going to happen and who is the judge and jury.

Ted Simons: And what words will not be allowed? The FCC standard -- have you watched television, prime time, and all of these -- we've remembered the bare buttocks on "Hill Street Blues."

Jim Small: And one of the Democrats said, jokingly, maybe put all of these words in the bill. And no, no, the FCC's guidelines are clear and I think even that's open to debate. We've seen this happen a couple of times every year, where a network wants to put something on the air and it's controversial and they're trying to find a loophole within the FCC guidelines.

Ted Simons: It opens up a discussion on vocabulary, I suppose. Good to have you here.

Jim Small: Thanks for having me.

Jim Small:Arizona Capitol Times

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