An Arizona Capitol Times reporter provides a mid-week update on news from the Arizona State Legislature.
Ted Simons: Good evening. Welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. A state Senate committee hears bills that target public unions and some once dead immigration bills are back in the state capitol. Here with the latest in our weekly legislative update is Jim Small of the Arizona Capitol Times.
Jim Small: The Senate government and reform committee met today and they considered four anti-public union bills, going after unions for, you know, government employees, state, city, county, and municipality. The idea is basically to try to take away power. The critics like the Goldwater Institute who is pushing these bills says the public unions in Arizona have too much power and cost taxpayers too much money.
Ted Simons: Basically we're talking no collective bargaining negotiations. Just zippo.
Jim Small: Right. One of the bills would have the effect of basically banning collective bargaining, banning governments from entering into collective bargaining agreements with any unions. While that may not affect the state, which doesn't do that with any of its public employee unions, it would impact cities and towns and some counties who have these agreements with their cops and firefighters.
Ted Simons: This is because the proponents say unions are driving up the cost of operating government and they are also saying -- do we have testimony on this? That union workers, public workers are compensated and paid more than those doing equal work in the private sector? There was some talk of this.
Jim Small: That's one of the arguments that the proponents said. Government employees make something like $140,000 annually a year. That takes into not just their salary but also their benefit package and retirement package and vacation package and other time off. So combined when you take that and you work the numbers to say that the analogs in the private sector make far less than this.
Ted Simons: It's interesting because the other side says it's union busting and they say folks in the public sector don't make the kind of income that the private sector does but they use compensation to help make up the difference.
Jim Small: And that's the difference. Little bit of an apples and oranges thing. Total compensation package versus salary. The salary for police officers and firefighters may not be dramatically greater than in the private sector.
Ted Simons: This sounds like it could be a real donnybrook. How far could this go through the legislature, how far on the governor's desk?
Jim Small: No reason it couldn't get to the governor's desk. You have a supermajority of Republicans that control both chambers of the legislature. You have a super conservative governor. That's been popular in Republican circles for a while now. It's interesting to see if they will get traction. Couple of the bills have been around for a while, union dues, have existed in the past and they haven't gotten to Governor Brewer's desk. This might be the year. We'll see. The one thing to note, it is an election year and you're talking about going after the public employee unions that have the most political clout in the firefighters and police. I imagine that will give some Republicans pause.
Ted Simons: Steve Smith is pushing a couple of immigration bills seemingly similar to those that didn't make it last time around.
Jim Small: They deal with illegal immigrants in schools and in hospitals. One of them would require hospitals when someone goes to the hospital they have to show proof of citizenship at the hospital. Hospitals are still supposed to treat them, that's federal law, but the hospital would have to compile a report, in fact call the local immigration federal immigration office and let them know we have someone here who can't prove they are a citizen. Thought you should know if you want to pick them up that would be great. Compile a report on that. The hospitals have to submit an annual report. Same thing with the schools. Basically they would require students to show proof of citizenship. They can't stop those students who can't prove that but they would make a note of it and put together a report and show here's how many students we have every year that can't prove their citizenship and here's what it costs to educate them.
Ted Simons: If these ideas couldn't make it with Russell Pearce at the Helm last go-round, any idea of their chances this time without Russell Pearce are not?
Jim Small: They got to the floor and had backing on the floor of Senate president Russell Pearce. Now you have Senate president Steve Pierce who seems to be focused more on business interests than some of this immigration stuff. It's a question as to whether they get to the floor. If they do, this legislation was included in Alabama's legislation which passed and there was some argument at the time from some of the Republicans who voted against it, this is unconstitutional. We can't do this, but those things were allowed to go into effect in Alabama. The federal judge there said, no, these are fine and let them go forward. I know Senator Smith and other proponents are pointing to that saying this stuff is legal. The reason you had last time for not voting for it are wrong. There's no doubt that will be a major -- a major arrow in the quiver for supporters.
Ted Simons: And last year we heard of immigration fatigue. Are they well rested, ready for round 2?
Jim Small: I think the folks who voted against the bills last year would say they are not and the Arizona economy still hasn't picked up and we should be focusing on that.