Journalists’ Roundtable

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Journalists discuss the week’s top stories.

Ted Simons: Good evening, and welcome to "Arizona Horizon"'s Journalists' Roundtable. I'm Ted Simons. Joining me tonight are Mary Jo Pitzl of the Arizona Republic. Howard Fischer of capital media services, and Jim Small of the Arizona capital times. State representative John Kavanagh wants voters to reconsider Arizona's medical marijuana law. What is this all about?
Mary Jo Pitzl: Well, enough is enough, says representative John Kavanagh. And this was sponsored by a survey of kids to find out where they got pot from. And I think it was one in nine said they got it from someone with a card. That shows the abuses of the program medical marijuana was set up only for medical reasons, not for distribution to high school kids who are healthy. So, John Kavanagh says let's give voters another look at this. Maybe they were not so sure what they wanted.
Howard Fischer: And let's be fair. He never liked the thing. He was already looking at introducing repeal or legislation because he said, it did not turn out as advertised. The way he puts it, is we were sold it would be little old ladies with cancer and glaucoma, and nine out of ten are, you know, young males suffering, from back pain. And he said, it was not as advertised. Now, look, I don't know whether, what, what, why people voted for him. But what I do know is look across the country. He's the one swimming upstream on this. We got two states that went ahead and legalized it for all uses, and he's convinced somehow voters will say, we really don't want that here.
Ted Simons: The question is, he's asking to, to reconsider something -- how many times has it been considered in the first time?
Jim Small: I'm sure it was the first time it had passed. You know, the other two, you know, had other various issues, but, you know, I don't know, maybe the fourth time is a charm that voters will reject the idea. They did narrowly pass it two years ago to the surprise of most people. Most everyone looked around and said, this is on the ballot twice before and passed comfortably both times. This should sail, especially given the climate that Howie's talking about with more permissive attitude towards drugs and certainly towards marijuana. And yet it, barely passed. It was one of those ones where week after the election was really when it, I think, when the vote flipped, and it was losing up until that point.
Ted Simons: You know, you mentions Washington and Colorado, if this gets on the ballot next year, could we see a competing initiative that will be similar to what they have done in Washington and Colorado as a, as a way to fight it?
Mary Jo Pitzl: It might be possible, as Howie said, there is sort of this climate that, that, you know, climate change that's happening in the country on, on marijuana. And also, the proponents, the people who brought this to Arizona will be out in force to, to fight repeal, and by the way, it probably has good chance of getting on the ballot being referred by the legislature.
Howard Fischer: And the other piece of it is, as you point out, that, you know, if John Kavanagh is saying, look, this is a, a recreational marijuana program. Masquerading as a medical marijuana program, ok. Very simple. Let's, let's decide if that allowing people to smoke marijuana is any worse than allowing them to drink, allowing them to smoke tobacco and to go down to, to the CVS and get some, some great cough medicine. It's an interesting question.
Ted Simons: Do you agree that this is likely the sales through the legislature?
Jim Small: I think that you look at the Republican legislators, and certainly, the previous legislature was, was fairly lock stepped in their opposition to, to the medical marijuana program. And, and there is smaller legislative Republican majorities now, in a session that begins in a couple of weeks but still stands certainly, stands a chance of getting on the ballot. Even the Republican legislators may be, you know, almost universally opposed to the program. We did polls that showed Republican voters, it's almost a third of them that support the idea of, of medical marijuana program.
Howard Fischer: And that becomes the issue. That, that whatever you believe about marijuana for recreational use, they -- there are people, almost everybody knows somebody with a particular medical problem that is not responding to Opiates. Is not responding to whatever else the doctors doing, and this state prides itself on the Libertarian philosophy, and the issue, of so what if the Federal Government tells thaws we cannot do that. What about the state's rights issues? So, that tells.
Ted Simons: So with that in mind, if something got on the ballot, an initiative, something similar to Washington and Colorado, would Arizona voters approve?
Howard Fischer: I don't think so. I don't think that we're ready to go that step. And again, part of what Jim points out, there is something like 4,300 votes that approve the medical plan. I think if it gets on the ballot again, depending on how it is worded, I think voters will ratify the medical marijuana. But in terms of going that extra step, I think that they want to watch and see what happens. How do you deal with drunk driving? Does it create other problems? I don't think that we're ready to go that step.
Ted Simons: Do you think that Richard Carmona is ready to go to the step of running for Governor?
Mary Jo Pitzl: He's very ready to be entertaining lots of ideas about that, you know, Carmona is fresh off, of a very competitive race against Jeff flake. I think he lost by three points for the Senate seat. And a lot of people are, are urging him to, you know, to not let his, his, to not let his candidate go out. He has some fire power and why don't you use it.
Ted Simons: How much do you think that the Senate race would help or hurt him?
Jim Small: Well, I mean, it probably does a bit of both. He has name I.D. and a campaign infrastructure that, that, he does not have to start from ground zero. He has all of that in place. His name I.D. is as high now as it will be. Going forward. So, if you are going to, to run for something else, now is the time to do it, and to go for a statewide race, you know, this is it. On the flip side, there were certainly damaging ads. The flake campaign and the outside groups supporting flake really did hit him hard, and painted a picture him to, you know, to, portrayed him be a person that doesn't work well with issue, and someone with temper and anger issues. You could see the blueprint for going after him, you know, if we were to run for Governor.
Howard Fischer: The question becomes, do any of the Democrats, let's say Fred Duval, do they go that route? It's one thing to say that assuming he's the democratic nominee, that the Ken Bennett or Doug doozy or whomever will go after him. Does Fred go that route or does he try to wage a campaign of ideas?
Mary Jo Pitzl: Well, or do you think that Carmona could clear the field?
Howard Fischer: Well. On a primary. That's an interesting question. View Val went to the regional Governor's association meeting because he wanted to say, look, here I am. I am feeling it very hard to recall. And, and I think that Carmona, as you point out, because of the fact that he's what the best the party has, the highest name I.D., you know, could, could convince Fred, well, maybe the time is not right.
Ted Simons: Or, could we see something to where the Democrats get behind one person, be it Duval, the Chad Campbell, Richard Carmona, and the other two just say, all right, we have seen the light. We are not going to fight this.
Jim Small: We could, and I think it will depend, we'll know in a couple of months when Dr. Carmona makes that decision as to whether he's going to get in the race. Technically Chad Campbell, and either, and Duval, is not technically in the race. They are both just talking about it. I think the field is a bit fluid. But someone with Carmona, with the ability to raise that money with that name I.D., and with the democratic parties' focus, intense focus on Hispanic voters and getting out the Latino vote, I think that Carmona is, certainly, well positioned to do that, and you just have to look at the Senate race to see the success.
Mary Jo Pitzl: And if you remember, Carmona cleared the field for the democratic primary for U.S. Senate, Bivens was out there running, bivens stepped aside. Carmona is only bigger name now.
Ted Simons: It sounds as though there is move to change the primary date for the presidential primary Republicans. What are the ramifications as far as Republicans are concerned? What's going on and what's with the push to change things?
Jim Small: We heard, you know, a lot last year, and in 2012. There was a focus, Governor brewer, and a lot of Republicans really wanted to put Arizona in the spotlight. Said look, Arizona drove policy on immigration. You know, with the employer sanctions, with Senate Bill 1070. We have had a lot of issues that, that they felt were ignored, and, on the national stage, so, we got the presidential debate, which, you know, was the feather in the cap for doing that, and they moved up the primary, so now the plan is to, well, if, instead of moving it bit and waiting for other states to leap frog over us as they did, you know, earlier this, in 2012, we're going to go ahead and write, we'll have legislation out to tie it to the Iowa caucuses, which is the earliest presidential, not really a primary, but, the earliest presidential voting event of the season, and so we'll go ahead and tie it to that and say no matter where they put it, we'll be there. And we give the state, we require the state to be before Iowa. There you go.
Ted Simons: And correct me if I am wrong, the state was punished. They lost delegates for just moving it up that way. Will they get a single delegate if they go with Iowa?
Howard Fischer: You know, look. What happened last time, because the law sets the primary, the fourth Tuesday in February, allows the Governor to play games, and she kept talking about a January 31st primary. And then, I talked to the head of the Republican party of South Carolina, said well, we're not going to be that. We'll move ours up earlier, to which the New Hampshire Republican party said, we're required by our law to be a week before anybody else's primary, and the Iowa folks who conducted caucus said we're required to be before New Hampshire. We're starting to talk about November and December. You know, the party is going to, at some point, put its foot down, and say, look, there is a limit to this. And I don't necessarily see the Governor, either, signing the bill, assuming it would get to her. Because, it eliminates her power to negotiate these kind of deals.
Mary Jo Pitzl: And another point, at some point, the parties got to put their foot down, the state laws, you know, you can tie yourself with that, but it keeps up the pressure on, on the party to say, look, really, is Iowa and New Hampshire, are those really representative of, of America? And, back the west? Ok, now we have got Nevada, that has an earlier primary, but, perhaps, it will continue to, to pressure the party to take a look at well, maybe we need to reconfigure how our, who goes first, and second and 15th in our primaries.
Howard Fischer: But, it's one of those things. Everybody goes to Iowa. And kisses the ethanol pig, you know, and I believe in ethanol, and all of that stuff. And then goes up to New Hampshire, and, you know, and, and charges through the snow and kisses babies.
Mary Jo Pitzl: Right.
Ted Simons: And there is some tradition to that.
Howard Fischer: But, but, tradition, at what point do we decide the tradition also used to be that, that the President would ride to the White House in a horse-drawn carriage, I'm sorry, it does not, it does not -- just because New Hampshire was first in the primary, and Iowa has been first, the caucus does not mean that that's the way --
Ted Simons: But do you want to change it and unleash a primary arms race?
Howard Fischer: But, that's where the party comes, that's where the parties could decide, we are going to have regional primaries, and we're going to rotate them, and so, in 2013, we're going to do primary, a southwest primary and that will be first, and that will be California and Nevada and Arizona and New Mexico, Colorado. And maybe in 2020, we'll have the northeast primary first. And it's a system that needs overhaul.
Mary Jo Pitzl: I was going to say, at the risk of sounding like the Chamber of Commerce, would you rather be trudging through a snowy cornfield in Iowa or out here, building in a bowl game or if the Cardinals were in the playoffs again, you know, in late January.
Howard Fischer: We need the presidential candidates out here, think of what it will do for the horizon show having these people on.
Ted Simons: Oh, that's right. [Laughter] That's what this is all about, Ted. We're trying to help you. Glory. Let's move on. Bit of a dust-off in legislative district 25. It sounds like kind of an intraparty, just mess out there with Republicans. What is all of this about?
Jim Small: The Republican party, in the new district 25, which is out in Mesa, essentially, where, where Russell Pierce ran and was defeated last year in the primary to Bob worsely. The district did the organizing, and there was an election. There were some minor allegations of fraud. The county party stepped in throughout all of the elections. The party officers, and the, basically, the delegation to the state Republican party meeting. That resulted in a lawsuit that got filed on Christmas Eve in Federal Court. And which quickly prompted a settlement, prompted the party to back down and say, we're not going to fight this. We're going to go ahead and, and take back what we said about wiping out the elections, and, you know, and essentially, he was pitted inside lawsuit, and posed as a Russell Pierce allies versus the rest of the party, and the establishment of the party. So you have this, this, kind of the quintessential Republican intraparty dynamic going on with the grassroots Tea Party. The Russell Pearce folks versus the corporate business, you know, establishment Republicans.
Howard Fischer: And that's really the key to this. What we saw in microcosim in L.D.-25 is current around the state. Of the Tea Party has become the de facto wing of the Republican party. They think that, that they are the Republican party. And then you have, I will use the term loosely, moderate since I don't know what it means in Arizona for the Republicans who say, wait a second, we're the pro business folks. The economic growth, you know. We don't necessarily say never a tax hike. And you are going to have this squabble playing out over and over again until the, either the Tea Party folks split off, or until they finally resolve their differences.
Ted Simons: So if we look at the box score, moderates versus Tea Party, if you will, moderates win.
Jim Small: Yeah, they definitely did win this. And that was part of the allegation was that, that while the county party, which is allied with Russell Pearce stepped in and threw out the elections because the Russell Pearce-backed candidates didn't win the party, the district official positions. And they generally got trounced in the state delegate race. So that was what it was. They are throwing there out so they can get a do-over and have more time to Marshall their forces and show up and get their people elected. Didn't come to pass. They ended up just the other night approving the elections from November that originally were tossed out. They ratified them, and formally gave them a stamp of approval. So the issue is settled for snow.
Ted Simons: It's a lot of inside politics and baseball here, but Mary Jo Pitzl, it's not the best of times for Russell Pearce and his allies.
Mary Jo Pitzl: No, this is, you know, this is -- the effort, the repeated effort to tamp down the forces, and it takes more than, than one recall election, apparently, to do that.
Ted Simons: And ok, and Senate Bill 1070, thinking of Russell Pearce, hurting convention business, and I say still because convention business is interesting. That starts way back there and hits at a delayed basis.
Howard Fischer: That's the problem. We were told by folks not only in Phoenix, but in Tucson and other communities, that, that once 1070 was approved in April of 2010, and right when the Governor signed it, all of a sudden, they could not get people to return their calls. Their sales people were saying, come to Arizona for your convention, and in 2012, 2013, 2014. And we were not going out there. We don't want to be in the middle of controversy. So, even though much of 1070 is not in effect. Some of it was overturned by the supreme court and some of it was on hold. This is the fallout. This is the multi-year tail on the problem. And it may be that by 2018, we can be sitting around the table saying convention business is back to where it should be but this is the fallout that happens. You don't plan, major national convention overnight. And, and we're going to be seeing this now, I think, for another 12 to 24 months.
Ted Simons: Republic reporting that convention business was, the convention center business, the bookings were down up to 30%. That's pretty significant stuff.
Mary Jo Pitzl: It is. And it's not recovering when, what, they measure this against the rate of recovery. They believe there is a delayed effect, so we have had things like the Mayor, and others, making the rounds trying to say, look, Arizona is not all about 1070. There is lots of other things to recommend Arizona and, and Phoenix in particular, trying to, you know, to nail down that convention business we might see three years hence.
Howard Fischer: But the problem becomes if you want to find out what conventioneers are thinking or seeing about Arizona, just watch the Colbert report. The fact is every time one of our politicians, our Governor, our lawmakers wind up on the Colbert report. They say, these people out here are crazy. Why would we want to be in the middle of this? Why would we want to be in the middle of some controversy because by going to Arizona, somehow we are taking side. Whether it's guns or school enrollment or anything else. And that kind of stuff will continue to hurt Arizona.
Ted Simons: Is that kind of stuff, is the legislature paying attention to that kind of stuff?
Jim Small: Well, you know, yes and no. I think that a lot of it depends on, you know, where people are starting from, at what the starting point, and that influences how they view these things, and, you know, we have heard, there have been Democrats and Republicans alike who have talked about this issue, this image problem issue. Bob worsely, for goodness sake ran a campaign, basically, on that image issue. He won in his district. What kind of foot hold that gets at the legislature, I don't know. But, at the same time, I don't see that we're going to be doing much more in the way of immigration. I don't know what else there is left to do. There is not -- there are not really many champions of it down at the legislature right now, and there is a lot of issues that have cropped up. And have taken control over that, and there is a certain level of fatigue on the immigration issue.
Howard Fischer: That's the issue. When we get the gun debate, which is coming, and Arizona back on the news, remember when, when they did a report on the fact that randy graf, a house Republican leader, you know, talked about, you know, guns and bars. And I remember they came down here and poked fun at him about what do you do if bear walks into bar? That kind of stuff is what people think of Arizona.
Mary Jo Pitzl: But that's it. I'm picking up for talking to lawmakers, that they are just tired of this. They don't want to produce stuff that will be fodder for late-night shows. They have budget to pass. They want to do more for job creation, and we have, yeah, they have run out of stuff that they can do on immigration. Yes, there are other areas but I don't think those things are going to get as far. Even guns on campus, guns in public buildings, they have been vetoed.
Ted Simons: Even those I'd logically inclined to go in these directions, and to push for these things, may not push?
Mary Jo Pitzl: They may not. I don't know. We'll probably see a bill again but I don't think it's going to get anywhere.
Jim Small: I think the big difference is, is just, just from legislature to legislature, we just went from one that was Tea Party, a legislature with a lot of Tea Party influence where you had the supermajorities where they could push through things like that with relative ease, and those bills get introduced every year but we see them every year when they get filed. The difference between the last two years and in the past was that they went through the process the last two years, in the past, they would be lucky if they got a committee hearing, everyone knew that they were doa when they got to the floor, so the chairs would not waste their time on them.
Ted Simons: Couple of bills here, already, expected to be, to be debated early on, call for limits in terms of joining the state retirement system. And also, the idea of, of internet impersonation, limits there, filed by the same lawmakers, some suggesting more here than just public policy.
Jim Small: Yeah, and representative Michelle, the second term lawmaker from Scottsdale, she sponsored the bills, and person with the retirement system, is you know, the critics say this is aimed at the league of Arizona league of cities and towns, essentially, it's a group that represents state cities and towns down at the capitol. Represents their interests. And they are -- their employees under state law are members of the state retirement system. Considered to be, basically, de facto, municipal employees. Bill would say no, we're going to kick these people out of the state retirement system. And the critics of it say this is all because she got into fight with this, with the league, last year, over the consolidated election bill. The league opposed it, vociferously, she was the sponsor of it. They got into fights, and there was a dispute over some polling, and that was not released to the public, and she got that, so the argument is this is retaliation against that. And it is a way for her to, basically, you know, Poke at them. The other issue is going to be that there is other groups similarly constructed to the league of cities and towns that are also affected. They say well, we're in the crossfire here. We represent the counties down at the capitol. And why are we getting dinged for something that, you know, when you have problem with this group.
Ted Simons: And the internet impersonation law, what's this -- what's this?
Howard Fischer: I'm shocked.
Mary Jo Pitzl: Well, he says this is something that, that she's doing for constituent. She won't name the constituent. So make it crime to do any impersonation like with a fake Facebook page. A fake, maybe, Twitter account. Email where you are representing yourself to be something that you are not, and she pointed out to me today that she had this striker language last session, so, and the importance of that is that, that happened before this Twitter parody account cropped up during her campaign this, this past summer, and that is a rather raucous look at, at the representative ugente, and she says it has nothing to do with her being the target. She does not feel like a victim because of that. This is all to address a constituency.
Howard Fischer: Well, and the interesting thing is, I took a closer look at that bill, if this would, was that I can't start a, a, you know, let's Poke fun at, at Ted Simons thing, I would be very alarmed about it. But there is language in there to her credit that says you need to do it with the intent
Ted Simons: to harm, defraud, intimidate, and threaten, I think was the word.
Howard Fischer: So, you know, look, could you say that, that by Polking fun at you, I am harming you because of your stature in the community? Maybe, but, I don't see this as, as that big of an infringement on the First Amendment. I don't want somebody putting out something misrepresenting, putting out a page that this I'm Howie fisher and misrepresenting my views, God for bid on medical marijuana.
Ted Simons: We don't want that at all. [Laughter] Possibility for these things to pass?
Jim Small: Well, we'll see. We'll see what committees they get assigned to and where they go, what the legislature is kind of doing and where their focus is.
Mary Jo Pitzl: There is another uggente bill that would require counties, cities, counties, fire districts it take a vote on whether they should allow public employee unions to have their dues deducted from their paycheck. Again, this is part of this sort of anti-city movement. It's not as Draconian of a bill introduced last year that got through the Senate and died in the house. This could, this puts the option on the local Government instead of requiring them to get rid of the dues' deduction.
Ted Simons: Things are active already and we have not started yet. Good to have you here. Thanks for joining us. Monday, on "Arizona Horizon," democratic leaders of the Arizona State house and Senate talk about their priorities for the 2013 legislative session, and what a local nonprofit is doing to connect talented baby boomers with organization that is need their help. That's on the next "Arizona Horizon." Tuesday, we'll look at a report on the economic sustainability of health care. Wednesday, the author of the encore career's handbook talks about sending baby boomers to work instead of retirement. Thursday, with the anticipated US Airways American airlines merger, could mean to the valley and the airline industry. And Friday, we're back with another edition of the Journalists' Roundtable. That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you very much for joining us. You have great weekend.

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