Journalists’ Roundtable

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Local 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 Mary Jo Pitzl of the "The Arizona Republic," Dennis Welch of the "The Arizona Guardian," and Jim Small of the "Arizona Capitol Times." Arizona is in the national spotlight again this week over the state's SB 1070 immigration law. I wanted to lead the program off with that, but right before air time, Mary Jo, word comes across a budget has been agreed to.

Mary Jo Pitzl: We got a Kumbayah statement from legislators, and they are saying they have reached an agreement on the budget. They have no details but they talk about it being a balanced budget and having restored the state to fiscal sanity. And we can talk later on, but a lot of the details that were disclosed to rank-and-file Republican members yesterday is the foundation of this budget. They didn't want to give any details in their statement on that agreement amongst the three right now.

Dennis Welch: And I think the key thing there is there's agreement amongst the three right now. They still have to vote on whatever budget's going out there and the devil's always in the details. They have stopped on whatever this budget's going to be out there, they still have to go out and sell their members at this point right now. Sounds like they have got some support on that, but a lot of things can happen over the weekend as more details filter out on this. There could be more pressure on certain districts from constituents or lobbyists who say hey, let's back off of this budget for this reason or that reason.

Ted Simons: Earlier the legislature seemed to get what it wanted. What's going on here?

Jim Small: I think the bird's-eye view is that they got a lot more of what they were pushing for than the Governor did. Looking at the revenues, the governor's office had for months drawn a line in the sand and said, we're not going to adopt - our revenues for the next two or three years are going to be a little higher than the legislature's, they are a little more pessimistic and more conservative. One of the things that really I think sparked this deal was when the Governor's office came to the legislature a couple of days ago and said, all right, we're going to accept your revenue numbers. That was kind of the big stumbling block for years '14 and '15, and then that really jumpstarted it and then it was just a matter of making the pieces fit.

Mary Jo Pitzl: When you say the legislature got more, they got more by getting less. The revenue number is lower for the legislature, they have taken a more conservative view. They are concerned about the expiration of the penny sales tax in a year, even more concerned about what will happen with the federal health care mandates beginning in fiscal year 2015. They have tried to low-ball spending in anticipation of salting away money so they don't fall off that cliff a cushion.

Dennis Welch: Over half million or half a billion or whatever into that rainy day fund, there's going to be less money for education out there, not as much month in for soft capital as the governor had wanted, and some other details I had also heard about, too. There's not going to be any money for parks out there, as much as the government wanted to.

Ted Simons: So it sounds, for lack of a better term, the Governor's office seemed to cave on some of these --

Mary Jo Pitzl: Whoa.

Ted Simons: -- that's a little rough. Using any description you like, why?

Jim Small: I think it was just politics. The Governor said, I'm not going hear any more bills or consider them until you send me a budget. And that really rankled a lot of lawmakers. They immediately turned and went to the Democrats and said, hey, you guys' budget wasn't terrible, we can work with you and see if we can come to a legislative deal. The talks were dismissed as, it's just a way to leverage the Governor's office. It may well have been, but those talks were serious. They had several days of meetings in both the House and Senate with leaders and staff where they were giving proposals and counterproposals. I think the conventional wisdom is the Governor's office saw that and went this has the potential to look really bad. If she's got a super majority of the legislature in her party, and they roll her and side with the Democrats and override a veto. Suddenly, let's go ahead and cut a deal.

Ted Simons: Is that how you see it, too?

Mary Jo Pitzl: The Democrats who came forward with a very credible budget plan, they did the adjustments to baselines and the Republicans are saying, this is the first time we've seen something we can work with. They liked it because the spending amount was lower than the Governor's. The priorities are rather different between the Republicans and the Democrats, but it provided a nice little lever to use on the governor. I would not say the Governor lost. One of the big things she got was $42 million to pay for basically social safety net programs. The state's going lose that much money in federal funds as the state starts to turn the sales on their spending. Brewer wanted to backfill that with state money. This is money for child care, child protective services, and aging services.

Ted Simons: We're all flying blind, because it just came down here relatively quickly. So don't use the word "cave." Was -- did she go so far to say, I'm going to let them have their way as far as rainy day funds and other things?

Dennis Welch: It's called give and take. On any negotiation of this magnitude, there are things you're not going to get. There are also other concessions you're going to get, like the social safety net programs that are important to the governor. They always have been. She got that, maybe she gives up a little less over on education and that's the way these things tend to go.

Ted Simons: So it was a kumbayah.

Mary Jo Pitzl: I think so, I think the statement speaks for itself it sounds like these three are in agreement. I think as Dennis pointed out it's a long weekend. They have Friday, Saturday, Sunday, they'll be back Monday. It's time to think harder about this, to have lobbyists hitting you with hey, wait, put my item back in your budget. What happened to this? That could change things. I somewhat read today's statement as a way to say, we're not budging, we've got an agreement and we're going to stick with it.

Ted Simons:Kumbayah?

Jim Small: I think along with what Dennis said, we haven't seen the policy bills. There's the one spending bill and then a bunch of policy bills to go along with it to kind of enact all of these things. And we haven't seen those things. I talked to a number of lawmakers who said, yeah, I liked what I heard in my meeting when I was briefed on the budget, but I want to see the policy bills. Pencil me in for a yes, but I want to make sure what's in there isn't something I don't like. Legislators are notorious for hiding bills that failed two or three or four times in the regular session, and throw it in to the budget. Suddenly, "are you going to vote against a budget for one little bill?" You can kind of bootstrap it onto something that didn't get the votes.

Dennis Welch: Legislation can be stalled over some small item that is stuck away in that document. One of the ones we'll talk about a little bit later, whether they are going to reimburse Russell Pearce on his campaign. That could be an issue that could keep a lot of folks from voting for this thing. It could really turn people off on a deal.

Mary Jo Pitzl: All that said, it is next Monday, April 30th. We're going into the first week of may. It's an election year. There are new legislative districts, people want to get out of there. I think there's a general sense that this budget framework is something that, aah, you can sort of live with. I think there's an intent to get out of town next week.

Ted Simons: I think the Governor was holding on and not going to sign anything until a budget agreement has been reached. The pen starts flying now? What happens?

Jim Small: On Monday several bills that have been sitting in the house and Senate just waiting for the budget deal, I think those will go up quickly.

Ted Simons: Wasn't there a constitutional question regarding her not signing bills and them not sending -- wasn't it gone through a couple of years ago?

Mary Jo Pitzl: There was a lawsuit called Brewer versus Burns. The legislature could not send her the budget in 2009 for fiscal '10. She was going to veto it and they didn't want to send it to her. It was a not lovely prolonged budget battle which culminated in the governor going to court. The court's decision -- basically the Governor won the war and lost the battle. They hung on to the budget, it ultimately got to her and she ultimately vetoed it. Once bills are passed they must go up to the governor in a timely fashion. 10 days ago the Governor says, don't send them to me. The legislature has been in a box. They are done with the bills but they can't -- they are not going to send them up because they don't want to further anger the Governor. And what's the harm? Is she going to sue them?

Ted Simons: It's pretty much academic.

Mary Jo Pitzl: But it was an interesting dilemma.

Ted Simons: You mentioned Russell Pearce getting -- we will get to SB 1070 in a second -- as far as recall costs there is a move afoot to reimburse him for campaign costs?

Dennis Welch: Yeah, the "Arizona Capitol Times" first reported I believe that it was a letter circulated around by a Representative, Steve Montenegro, asking for support from lawmakers saying, hey, we need to reimburse the fallen senate president fir the costs incurred, there is a part of the constitution that allows for these things. There are a lot of conservative lawmakers out there who say, look we need to follow the constitution. If it's in the constitution, we need to follow it and pay Russell Pearce that money.

Jim Small: The argument is more than just the constitution allows it, it says the constitution requires it. There's a constitutional clause in the recall section that says the legislature has to pass laws essentially to cover all of the recall election -- basically to let the election happen. One of those provisions also needs to be allowing for the reimbursement of reasonable campaign expenses for the recalled officer. Reasonable is the catch number. Russell Pearce spent about $260,000, none of his money.

Ted Simons: Who gets the money, I was going to ask.

Jim Small: The assumption is it would go to his campaign and the state treasurer would write a check for $260,000 and send it to him. One man's reasonable is another man's ludicrous. That's kind of the argument having. I've talked to a couple of lawmakers who say, I'm okay with reimbursing him some amount, but $260,000 is a bit beyond the pale.

Mary Jo Pitzl: For the lawmakers pushing for this, there is probably an equal number pushing back saying wait a minute, it calls for reimbursement to the individual, but it was the campaign committee that were donors. This was not Russell Pearce's money out of his own pocket to defend his seat. It's unknown, unexplored legal turf and perhaps we will venture out there.

Dennis Welch: It's not popular with a good portion of people out there. They refused to fund transplant patients for a million, they want to give somebody a quarter of a million for losing an election? This really doesn't look good to people outside the capitol up there.

Ted Simons: It doesn't depend on how it looks, it's what the constitution says, correct?

Jim Small: It's what the legislature decides to do with what the constitution says. Reacting on what Dennis was saying there, politically I don't know that this is good for Russell Pearce to take a quarter of a million check from the state government. He's being hammered by his opponent for calling for a boycott of Arizona businesses. This will feed into the narrative we saw even during the Lewis campaign. He's been in government his entire life and now his campaign is being funded by the government. You can see the attack mailers and ads being formed right now if they happen to come true and he were to accept a quarter of a million dollars.

Dennis Welch: The best thing the former Senate President can do is issue a statement saying, forget it, I'm not going to take the money, probably that's in his best interested. But he's not being saying anything. Maybe he wants the money.

Ted Simons: He's actually kind of looking at this, according to reports.

Jim Small: He's said he's considering this, he hasn't decided whether to take the money. He thinks he's owed it. He's pushing forward with it.

Ted Simons: Certainly a busy week for Senator Pearce, on capitol hill testifying in front an odd Senate Republican committee hearing that was. He may have been the only Republican in the room as far as we could tell. At the state capitol, you know, it was described as a dog and pony show, certainly a show hearing. Not much came of it except for a lot of Arizona-bashing. At the capitol, how much play does something like that get… the state capitol?

Mary Jo Pitzl: I didn't hear lot bit, they were hip deep and trying to 34 the last important bills for every lawmaker and then budget talks. The bigger kerfuffle about 1070 was out on the lawn. There were a couple of vigils, really, it was very peaceful, not much of a scene at all.

Dennis Welch: There were a couple -- have been a couple statements, you know, senator Steve Pierce is a big Russell Pearce supporter. He's said on the floor, he's really positive the court is going uphold 1070. If that happens, Mr. Pearce is owed a big apology. By and large, it's more of a campaign issue. At the capitol I think they've been there and done that. 1070 is more of a campaign issue.

Ted Simons: With a hearing on Capitol Hill, and major story with the supreme court arguments on SB 1070. Just a colossal story there. At the capitol there's a little bit of a Star Trek shield or something like that.

Jim Small: It is kind of a bubble down there. Especially because of where they are at in the session. If this had happened in January you might have had a lot more interaction between the lawmakers and kind of what's going on in the outside world. Right now they really are hunkered down. Like Mary Jo said earlier, they want to get out. They really want to get out of session. They are really trying to get that done.

Mary Jo Pitzl: There might be some 1070 fatigue. They went through this in 2010, and all last year it was a standing protest in the courtyard between the House and the Senate. That dog was hunted and hunted, not that it wasn't a big issue, but there's a bit of fatigue, I think, that's settled in.

Dennis Welch: I think you hit it too. There wasn't a whole lot of new out of there, except more Arizona-bashing. It's the same talking points everybody's been going over and over and over again for two years.

Ted Simons: To Mary Jo's point, will we see immigration rear up as a campaign issue as we get closer to Novemebr. Or in Arizona, at least, or does it feel like immigration fatigue? What's your sense from the way people are talking right now? Given it's a presidential year, you're going to hear immigration. Obama is going to be -- try to be contrasting where he's at with Romney. You will hear about the record number of deportations under the Obama administration and his to-date unfulfilled promises to the Latino community. You've got Romney saying, well, Russell Pearce saying Romney's immigration plan is my plan. I think you'll heard plenty of it, it'll have a down-ballot trickle-down effect.

Dennis Welch: That's where it's going to play out, mostly in a lot of these Republican primaries, people are tough on immigration. Even a lot of Democrats are pretty tough on that kind of stuff. If you say something stupid on the issue, if you end up being on the wrong side, it becomes a big deal in any given race.

Ted Simons: Planned Parenthood funding has been approved by the legislature, correct?

Mary Jo Pitzl: Well, it's not worded that way but that's the effect of House Bill 2800. The bill is on its way to the governor now or soon will be. This bill says no public money from any level of government, state or local governments, shall go to any agency or nonprofit that provides reproductive services that includes abortions. That shuts off a stream of money in to Planned Parenthood. Although the state does not send any money directly to Planned Parenthood.

Ted Simons: Planned Parenthood says this will disrupt services for some 19,000 women. And already, Arizona law prevents giving public money to abortions. But they are just saying, if you are involved in any way with abortions,

Mary Jo Pitzl: Correct. I think the concern, it's unclear at this point. But Planned Parenthood believes this could cut off some of the state's company ACCCHS programs. Those private providers pick the partners they want to have to have. ACCCHS says it doesn't see a connection. Planned Parenthood I think sees it otherwise and is going to need a little more research and maybe some litigation.

Ted Simons: Governor likely to sign something like this?

Jim Small: I would imagine they would. She's been very strong on pro-life issues. Very lockstep with the proponents of legislation like this, I'm sure she will.

Ted Simons: We had a bill apparently advancing the house, we had a bill that would put the states rights, giving sovereignty over air, water, natural resources. Putting that on a balance that, didn't make it out. What do we make of this? Sovereignty doesn't make it out but the idea that the U.N. could be controlling Arizona does. What --

Mary Jo Pitzl: You're asking me to connect dots? To make logic out of this? Different chambers, somewhat different issues, different days? Votes come out differently I think the ballot measure, the Senate just bashed that and said, we're not going to send that on. It's sort of seen as a joke. If you want to secede, as the Democrates often say, let's just write a bill to secede from the union. That's not quite. You gotta wonder if-

Dennis Welch: I think it shows that they're- less worried about the federal government and more worried about the U.N.

Jim Small: I think they are still a few votes away W. compressed time frame, if they make a strong push to sine die, this will come in weak. That doesn't leave a lot of time for the proponents of that bill to come out and try to whip up the votes. They are trying to do the budget stuff and get everything else passed, it may end up falling off the back.

Ted Simons: I think the ramifications are such that a lot of programs in Arizona would be affected because they are in some way association the with the particular program in 1992?

Jim Small: A lot of people are not happy about it. It can be read into getting rid of social services. Saying that you can't have women as000 chairmen of committees that deal with water and natural resources there's a lot of programs you read as poverty. One of the principles is to eradicate poverty. One of the principles of this thing is we can't have poverty. So we can't give out welfare?

Ted Simons: Something tells me this won't go too far, but you just don't know, you just don't know.

Jim Small: Legislative maps, we have the go-ahead. Although, we're hearing we might have some suit action here?

Jim Small: There were two lawsuits filed today, one in federal court challenging the legislative maps and one challenging the federal maps approved a week or two ago. They want the maps redrawn, the congressional maps redrawn by the IRC and the legislative maps redrawn by a three-judge panel.

Mary Jo Pitzl: This race is, given the timing. With the time agent primary on August 28th, and more importantly the signature filing deadline as the May 30th. You've got to wonder if the practical effects are that the lines have just been drawn and this legislation could have implications for the future. Or will they be able to successfully - I don't know if they're seeking an injunction. If that's the case, that drags everything out.

Ted Simons: Speaker Tobin has made lot of noise about some sort of lawsuit if these things get approved.

Dennis Welch: Well, yeah, why not? He can file his lawsuit on anything, I guess is the one thing we've learned down there. Speaker Tobin, it'll be interesting to see what he does after the session.

Mary Jo Pitzl: The question is with whose money on on what grounds? There seems to be some question whether he can use state house taxpayer money to sue over makes that yeah, he doesn't like. At least a month ago President Pierce over in the Senate saying, I don't think we can use this, this isn't Republican money, this is taxpayer money.

Ted Simons: The agreement on the budget: Sine die in sight here?

Jim Small: Yeah, it's in sight. I think we'll try to get it done next week. I don't think they will, it'll probably run into the week after. They still have some stuff to do and they may not get to the budget on Monday, may not get to it until Wednesday or Thursday. It depends on how committed they are to trying to get out quickly.

Ted Simons: What do you think?

Dennis Welch: Yeah, I agree with that I think it depends on how the budget goes. I don't look for the budget to be done until later in the week. There's going to be a little cleanup stuff, but I think yeah, week after next.

Ted Simons: That how you see it too?

Mary Jo Pitzl: I cannot predict the legislature, I just stock up on snacks and keep the fridge full at the office, bring the sleeping bag.

Ted Simons: But it is possible something could pop up and all of a sudden problems arise. Likely? Possible?

Mary Jo Pitzl: Possible, you know,, but again, I take this statement that came out today as a way to try to tamp down any kind of dissidence on the budget. So tune in next week.

Ted Simons: Anyone who says the Governor caved has another think coming to them?

Mary Jo Pitzl: Yes sir.

Ted Simons: Good. Thank you all for joining us. That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons. You have a great weekend.

Mary Jo Pitzi:Arizona Republic; Dennis Welch:Arizona Guardina; Jim Small:Arizona Capitol Times

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