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 Alia Rau of the "The Arizona Republic," Dennis Welch of the "The Arizona Guardian," and Jeremy Duda of the "Arizona Capitol Times." The Governor puts a moratorium on signing any new legislation. She wants a state budget worked out first. Alia, is it a little bit of pushing and shoving here?

Alia Rau: A little bit., maybe a little more than that. She wants what she wants and she's threatening to hold everything until she gets it.

Ted Simons: Yeah, obviously signs that budget negotiations, at least at the time earlier this week, not going all so well?

Alia Rau: Absolutely, I think there's a perfect stalemate and we have to wait and see what happens.

Ted Simons: Sounds as though, while we are also hearing reports, that there may have been an agreement on things the Governor -- things legislative leaders may have backed out on. What's going on there?

Dennis Welch: Some say they were very, very close to an agreement, and there was a meeting at the Governor's office that blew everything up. It would be interesting -- so I'd be interested to know exactly what that issue was, if they were so close, how could everything blow that up? This happens every year. You get that idea where we're close to a budget deal. Then it blows up. And then usually after that people -- they go out and scream about it and complain about it. And cooler heads prevail and they come back to the table and figure it out.

Ted Simons: I believe, yeah. You guys at the "Arizona Capitol Times" said the Governor thought they had agreed on something, and according to the governor's office the leaders backed down or backtracked. What's going on?

Jeremy Duda: Oh yeah. The Governor said over the weeks they gradually reached common ground on the Governor's key spending items. Couple of hundred millions for school, money for corrections officers prisons, DES. And then they say on Tuesday, Speakers Tobin and President Pierce went in and said we are going back to our previous proposal from few weeks ago, that's all off the table. That's when the Governor said, ok well, no more bills. Nothing that comes before me is going to get anything but vetoed until I see a budget.

Dennis Welch: Well the dynamics are at play here I think. You know these are two leaders here that are considered middle row, pretty moderate for their party. They didn't win with huge margins; they did not win their positions with huge margins of the caucus. They have to be able to listen to the more conservative elements of their parties who aren't very happy with some of the spending proposals in the governor's budget at this time. So that could be a big factor in lot of this.

Alia Rau: But it is a matter of spending. You know, how much money is there, how much money can we afford to spend right now? The governor's picture is quite a bit rosier than the legislature's.

Jeremy Duda: The main issue is revenue. The Governor wants to spend more because she's projecting more revenue over the next few years. Now some of the Republicans are going to the Democrats, who introduced their own budget. They saying well, your budget is more conservative in the long term, we like your budget better, and now we're starting to see negotiations there, too.

Ted Simons: Are we really seeing Democrats becoming a factor in this?

Dennis Welch: In their best dreams, yes, they are a factor, but only in their dreams. At the end of the day it won't be much of a factor. Strategically I think this is a really good move for the governor. You've heard this over and over this year. If it comes down to a long, protracted budget negotiation, she's going to win. She's not up for reelection this year or in two years. Everybody down there is up for reelection this year. A lot of them are in different districts that are more competitive and they would like to get out of here as soon as possible.

Ted Simons: So why again though, according to the Governor's office, there was some sort of an agreement or tacit agreement and then legislative leaders backtracked on it. Why would they have backtracked? I mean---

Jeremy Duda: You know when you ask them, they say we didn't.

Ted Simons: Right.

Jeremy Duda: They say we don't know why the Governor did this, you have to ask her. You know something went off the tracks there and it depends on who you talk to what it is.

Dennis Welch: And this isn't the most transparent of processes, it's never been that way. The budgets and negotiations are a lot of hearsay, a lot of secret closed-door meetings. I am not saying this is the beast way. People are upset sometimes every year when budgets are done this way and that's the reality of it. We don't see a lot of this firsthand.

Ted Simons: And Alia, I was going to ask, as well, seems like a lot of the rank and file, I mean both sides of the aisle don't really know what's going on.

Alia Rau: No, they don't, until they see a budget in front of them. And that seems to be the saddest quote - the closed door meetings, a lot of them aren't included. It's leadership. A few key folks who really work on the budget, and everyone else is left in the dark.

Ted Simons: Does that mean people are getting real testy down there? Is patience wearing thin?

Alia Rau: I would think so, yeah. I mean, there are a few don't there who don't care. They have other things and few who have other agendas, bills they wanna deal with. But yeah, there are a few who complain that there is a budget that I have never seen before.

Dennis Welch: Yeah. They are elected officials and represent their constituents. They feel disrespected when they are brought a budget in the middle of the night saying, here, sign this.


Ted Simons: Well, the Governor got a bill with guns in public places and public buildings, here, sign this, and she said - No, sir.

Jeremy Duda: For the second year in a row she vetoed a bill that would have allowed guns in most government buildings. This one is a little bit different. She said in her veto letter, I vetoed this last year, it didn't address any of the concerns I had last year. It did address some of them but not all of them. The message seemed clear, stop sending this to my desk, I'm not going to sign it.

Dennis Welch: It did address all the major issues except for the issue that guns, you could bring them into the schools.

Jeremy Duda: Not that one.

Dennis Welch: I think that's the main issue.


Ted Simons: I was going to say. So is there anything substantially different between this year's version and last year's version?

Alia Rau: She clarified that this did not apply to scholls. No universities, no schools, no K-12, that was the issue last year. But other than that, it was for the most part pretty much the same. I think this year in her veto letter she was clear that maybe guns don't belong everywhere. She didn't say that last year.

Ted Simons: Is that a little bit of a surprise for someone like Governor Brewer?

Dennis Welch: I really wasn't surprised on this. I thought this because she vetoed this last year. I just didn't see her doing this. Maybe just a step too far. Really hardly anybody at the university level was saying this was an issue. Universities themselves were saying if we have to implement this, this could cost us tens of millions to do this because of the security stuff involved.

Ted Simons: I was going to say the costs of gun lockers, security guards, posting somebody at every entrance and exit in public buildings, swimming pools, for goodness sakes, this had to be a factor.

Jeremy Duda: Yeah, she mentioned that in her veto letter. It could have cost upward of $100,000 per entrance per public building per year. Governor Brewer has a history in local government. She's got a lot of sympathy, more than the people at the legislature.

Dennis Welch: So how would this look for her if she signs this bill the same week the primary for Gabrielle Giffords replacement happens? I think this would have been a really bad P.R. thing. I think this played a little bit of factor in it. Arizona is still in that post-Gabby era where gun control is questioned. How much more do we need? This is one of the most liberal states in the country when it comes to those issues.

Ted Simons: With that in mind, will we see this again next session?

Dennis Welch: I don't know. I don't think so. The reason why is because I think you will see more of a moderate legislature next year.

Alia Rau: I disagree. You have a very determined gun lobby, who are very intent on getting this gun thing pass. I think we'll see it, whether it will go anywhere --

Dennis Welch: I mean yes, see to clarify - you might see it. I don't know if it passes again.

Ted Simons: Ok, if it does pass again, would the Governor -- how could the governor twice veto this and then the third time say, well, I think I'll sign it.

Jeremy Duda: Oh I don't think she will. She's made that line in the sand. She's made it clear how far she will go on second amendment stuff. Because you know if you were a second amendment guy, you know prior to last year, Brewer was great for you. She signed a bill allowing people to carry concealed weapons with no permits, guns in bars, you know, NRA was spending money for commercials for it in 2010.

Ted Simons: How much more liberal can you get for guns in this state? There was a story done by a college reporter this week who is published. She was basically able to get a concealed weapons permit over her lunch break with $100 and she's never, ever held a gun or fired a weapon in her life. But she is able to go ahead and carry a concealed weapon where she wants, wherever she wants. You know that's pretty easy, that's pretty liberal here.

Ted Simons: Ok, Alia, the house passes a narrowed-down contraception bill. As expected, I suppose. Give us the background on all this.

Alia Rau: Sure. The original version of the bill would have allowed any business to opt out of contraception health care coverage. The bill died in the Senate, was brought back with the promise it would be narrowed down. This version that's now passed the house and has to go to the Senate maybe next week, would say that only religious-based groups or employers can knock down the contraception health care coverage.

Ted Simons: What defines a religiously based employer?

Alia Rau: There is a definition in there. It includes churches who serve or employ only one religion. Then it also allows for businesses who, in their bylaws, say that they are religious-based, that they have a religious focus. That's the big issue right now.

Ted Simons: I was going to say, that's -- that could possibly cover a lot of folks if they want to change their bylaws that, could cover a lot of folks out there if they wanted to. Again, with this legislature, I just love that they are prone to ignite these culture wars out there. This bill certainly accomplished that again, it received a whole lot of media attention.

Ted Simons: Alia again, the whole idea that the Democrats had a couple of amendments; one was that you had to inform prospective workers and another was along the line of no discrimination.

Alia Rau: There was a piece in the current law saying the business may not discriminate against the woman who chooses to get contraception even if the business has opted out. And they removed that option.There are many, many places in state and federal law that protect us from that discrimination. The democrats do say that no, this removes a vital piece to protect the women who do chose to use contraceptives on their own.

Ted Simons: And informing prospective employees, workers, something they didn't feel was necessary?

Alia Rau: Agreed. They thought every year you have to re-up your insurance and you know what's in it. So why do we nee dto tell you just in this particular issue?

Ted Simons: Jeremy, supporters say insurers don't have to violate their religious beliefs. What doe the governor do on something like this?

Jeremy Duda: Last time the Governor talked about it she came out surprisingly strongly against it. Since then she's kind of moderated her tone a little bit. Some of the real controversial aspects, you kind of have to read the tea leaves of the governor of course. Earlier she said that I am very uncomfortable. You know this is like getting into people's private business. Since then she has walked back a little bit. She's generally pretty strong on the social conservative stuff. So that might be enough.

Ted Simons: Well she did sign the -- allowing for vital history, the culture and impact of the bible on American history, something along these lines, for high school courses. She did sign that.

Dennis Welch: I wasn't too surprised with that, given her past track record on certain issues like that. You know, on the other hand it could be a little bit surprising that she would have signed this, given the fact that she's loving to veto a lot of these bills recently because she hasn't been too happy with the budget process.

Jeremy Duda: What's interesting about the bill is that a lot of people say the bill is complete unnecessary. The support said people might be discouraged or worried, and they could do this if they want to, but nobody has.

Ted Simons: The Bible and its role in western culture. You could take that in any direction you like, couldn't you?

Alia Rau: There is as much controversy with this issue as there is at contraception. You may have a teacher who legitimately wants to teach about the history, but inadvertently brings religion and politics into it, and you end up with a constitutional problem.

Ted Simons: Not only that, you could say the bible and completely eviscerate anyone who thinks religiously. You could say that the bible said this and the bible said that. Where is the stop to this? So is there a curriculum in place which teachers in school will have to follow?

Dennis Welch: I think you have to be really careful about it. From my perspective, it's a legit topic if you really want to teach something like that because the bible, good, bad or otherwise, obviously had a large impact on western civilization and culture. I think it's a legit course. There will be complaints probably, you know, some kids who don't agree with what they hear, but you hear that in a lot of different subjects.

Ted Simons: The electronic billboards issue. Give us a little bit of a background. What's the concern here and why was this -- the governor said now compromise, maybe it's going to work better?

Dennis Welch: Yeah, she made go back and compromise. You've got people with an interest in the billboard industry and they want to be able to advertise on roads and highways throughout Arizona. Oddly enough, you saw a group of astronomers get together and come down and lobby the lawmakers. One of the more interesting stories I saw in the legislature, successfully lobbying to keep this from happening. The astronomers were concerned that the light of these billboards would make it hard for them to study the night skies in Arizona. And you know Brewer went on, earlier last year, and made a compromise. They compromised and worked out a deal.

Jeremy Duda: If you've lived in southern Arizona in Tucson they take a lot of pains to avoid light pollution. You know the street lights are pretty dim, there's a big astronomy center. They have always been very touchy about that stuff. Those people talked to the governor and really got their point through.

Ted Simons: Nothing east of metro Phoenix, parts of Cochise and Pima counties would been protected. Billboards would have to be turned off at 11:00 p.m. If you're along I-10 and I-80 near California, sounds like letter trip.

Alia Rau: Advertise all the way.

Ted Simons: This is a good example of a compromise working.

Alia Rau: And for everybody. The Governor, the legislature, and some outside parties, some industry.

Ted Simons: Good enough to satisfy the Governor, do you think?

Alia Rau: I think so.

Ted Simons: Tax credits for the film industry. I want to go over this a little bit. It comes up a lot and the dialogue seems to be on either side whether it's going to spur economic development or whether it picks winners and losers. Got a little passion, got a little testy it sounds like?

Alia Rau: Yeah, we have a lot TV shows brought into the mix. We had Michael Moore brought into the mix. Shouldn't we be able to tell them what to produce if we give them the money.

Ted Simons: What is the problem, the idea if you're going to give tax breaks to the film industry, make eight blanket tax break?

Jeremy Duda: Pretty much every tax credit, picking winners and losers versus spurring economic development. People want to attract movies and TV shows to Arizona. Some don't care if it's breaking bad or Michael Moore, they just want the industry down here. This expired in 2009 and they have been trying to bring it back ever since.

Dennis Welch: And this is a legislature that is in love with Hollywood.

Dennis Welch: You know the administration love giving out tax credits and breaks in other industries. Education, look how many tax breaks and credits are handed out by this legislature. A lot of it comes back to that. There were a lot of examples of shows they didn't like that were brought up in the debate of this bill. That has a lot to do with it.

Ted Simons: It wasn't so much the film industry, it was the film industry filming that here.

Dennis Welch: Yeah.

Ted Simons: I heard Senator Nelson and Senator Gold got into a little bit of a thing here? Is that true?

Jeremy Duda: Sounds like Gold had a list of people who supported his position holding it over Nelson's head and it was playground game of keep-away. And the debate does get a bit testy every time they bring this up.

Ted Simons: As I mentioned earlier, it's an indication of the sessions getting long, longer than meant to be. There are tempers just fraying down there?

Alia Rau: Everybody is getting tired down there, yeah. They want to know when they re going home, they are starting to hear conversations about sine die and going home. We've seen this for the past three years and everybody's tired of it.

Dennis Welch: Once the temperatures hit around triple digits, it's about the same time their per diems get cut in half.

Ted Simons: Alia, I know you were about the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and the polling places. Again, give us the background here? What did the court decide?

Alia Rau: This is voter passed. The court says that Arizona can require people at the polling places to show I.D. They can require people to show I.D. when they are doing a state registration forms. Where they can not require I.D. is with the federal registration forms. The state ones we probably see the most right now. The impact is a little bit softer. There is concern if you allow the exemption for the federal ones, you may be registering illegal immigrant voters to focus on these forms and get through that way.

Ted Simons: Yeah, my impression was that not many folks use that federal form. It's almost like a postcard of some kind. But the concern noise with this particular ruling more folks will.

Alia Rau: That's the concern, absolutely. Some of these folks who do register would use it because they don't have to show I.D.

Ted Simons: Is that the reason why it sounds like Secretary of State Bennett and Attorney General Horne are thinking of taking this to the supreme court?

Alia Rau: Yeah, they want to ensure the integrity of the elections process and they think this is the best way to do it.

Ted Simons: This is the full court here. Was it a surprise?

Alia Rau: It wasn't. It's similar to the original 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling, a few differences but no, I don't think it was a big surprise.

Ted Simons: No surprise, Jeremy, down in Tucson Congressional District 8, the primary for the special election coming up in June. Jesse Kelly is going to be the Republican nominee. Umm… expected?

Jeremy Duda: Yeah, expected by pretty much everyone. He came in, he has all this name I.D. left over from the 2010 run where he came that close to beating Giffords. A list of donors to go to. Martha McSally came in second, she moved back to the country two days before she announced her run. Dave known as a broadcaster, Frank, a legislator, probably a little more well-known than their average one. He won by 10 points. I think that was pretty much expected. Now everyone's waiting to see if he wins in June. If he doesn't, he'll be back after the general election.

Ted Simons: I hate to hear that the broadcaster is not doing very well. But as far as the election itself, that is special election to complete Giffords' term. They have a quick turn-around for a general election for a whole new district down there. Correct?

Dennis Welch: The whole process from beginning to end has been a real quick turn-around. When they announced this, they only had a couple months to get their campaigns together before this primary that happened last week. It's a continuation of a real compressed timeline. My request foe Mr. Kelly heading against Mr. Barber what, makes him think he's going to do any better this time than last time and he still couldn't beat Gabrielle Giffords last time, I think he's got his work cut out for him.

Ted Simons: If he were to lose to Ron Barber, the Democratic candidate and close con if I had daunt of Gabrielle Giffords, correct?

Dennis Welch: Correct.

Ted Simons: Whoever loses the special election, are they even going to try for the next general?

Dennis Welch: That's an interesting question. The question is, do you want to frown that long. But at this point, too, there's kind of like aren't you going to be gathering your own tickets to get on the ballot for fall, and all that. One like Kelly, he think he continues on.

Ted Simons: I would think if Kelly were to lose, as an example, this Marth McSally, no one knew who she was, finished second. Would the Republicans down there say, we've tried you gentlemen see Kelly a custom times, let's try her or someone else.

Jeremy Duda: I think they could. Whoever does lose that special election, I think they will have trouble coming back next time a couple months later saying, you should vote for me now. Even though I was beat last time, they will have primaries no matter what. The district is less Republican in November, because this is the old district, not the post-redistricting one. The new district, district 2, will be very exertion pretty much split down the middle. The old one is slightly Republican-leaning.

Dennis Welch: If the right turn candidate loses, this is an off kind of time election. Later in November it's going to be a presidential cycle, more regular voters out there. It's not going to be -- this is a small group that we're going to see in this election that it might be better for a Republican nominee at that point to run in November.

Ted Simons: Before we go, back to the budget real quickly. Those of us on the oats, what do we look for? What kind of indications that are things are moving, not moving?

Alia Rau: We may see a little bit of movement with other bills. There will be more closed-door meetings, I don't know.

Dennis Welch: The blowup is the joke down there, there's usually one big blowup during budget sessions and then they come back and figure it out. It must be a sign we're getting closer to a budget deal, more than anything else.

Dennis Welch: The Governor met with the leadership yesterday. She sounded fairly conciliatory when he talked to Her today. It's the one thing that can give Republicans leverage. It might give them a little bit of the leverage they are lacking. I don't think anyone really wants to arouse Brewer's wrath and really do that.

Ted Simons: We'll stop it right there. Good stuff, good having you here.

Ted Simons: Monday on "Arizona Horizon," what it could mean to the local economy if US Airways merges with American Airlines. That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons, thank you so much for joining us. You have a great weekend.

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