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's" Journalists' roundtable. I'm Ted Simons. Joining me tonight are Rebekah Sanders of "the Arizona Republic," Steve Goldstein of KJZZ radio and Luige del Puerto of "The Arizona Capitol Times. Medical marijuana is open for business in Arizona. In Glendale, correct?
Rebekah Sanders: That's right. We've got our first dispensary open, opened yesterday, Arizona organics in downtown Glendale. It's been a long time coming.
Ted Simons: And apparently a line there?
Rebekah Sanders: There was about 250 people I believe. A lot of people waiting.
Ted Simons: Yeah, and we talked about this earlier, because this has opened in Glendale, there's a 25-mile radius where you can't grow your own, correct?
Steve Goldstein: And I think the most interesting comment I heard from that was that this is better, even with all the conflict or not. He says we can control this a lot better and you'll have people, gray market, black market, you won't have marijuana unaccounted for, which people can grow it in their homes, there can be some examples of that.
Ted Simons: This comes after a court case deciding that the federal law is not necessarily trumping state law here.
Luige del Puerto: Right. Maricopa county attorney bill Montgomery has been fighting the opening of the dispensaries and presented two arguments before the court. One is that the government employees that administer the process could be on the hook under federal law. This is a prohibited drug, and the other argument he presented is that it's preempted by federal law and the judge said nothing in the state law prevents the federal government from enforcing its laws. So he found no reason why we can't have this dispensary.
Ted Simons: That's an interesting idea, isn't it? The idea that federal law doesn't supersede so long as you don't get in the way of federal law not superseding?
Steve Goldstein: And judge Gordon thought this was going to make it easier if, in fact, the feds do want to go after the controlled substances law and have this be a part of it, it will be easier to prosecute, which bill Montgomery disagreed with.
Ted Simons: And bill Montgomery does plan to appeal correct?
Luige del Puerto: He does plan to correct. The judge said it will be easier because the records will be kept. So if you want to prosecute anyone, the records are there.
Ted Simons: So we've got medical marijuana and the next one, Tucson is opening next month, something along those lines? It's off and running?
Steve Goldstein: And I have to say this. You've talked about this on every show about marijuana. I don't know whether the U.S. attorney's office or President Obama has to say it themselves that we're not going to be prosecuting people that use -- medical marijuana. SO I wonderif that argument has any heft. That's where the preemption argument is interesting. Federal law does, in fact, trump state law but if no one's going to enforce the law, are we in the tree falls in the forest and no one hears it?
Ted Simons: It's that vague area where and again, I think Montgomery's saying it's either a law or it's not. Either these people are subject to prosecution or they're not.
Luige del Puerto: That's actually why he inserted the argument about preemption because he wanted this issue decided once and for all. If you recall the governor, this is one of the things that the governor had raised, you know, what, several months ago, that she's afraid that government employees that administer this program could be prosecuted and she wanted this issue decided. So that's why the county attorney included this argument.
Ted Simons: Also this week, a bipartisan immigration plan has been announced. This is an interesting idea. I think one of the biggest plans here is for the congressional delegation, someone in the congressional delegation to throw these ideas at capitol hill and see if some sort of immigration reform is going to happen. Is that likely at all?
Rebekah Sanders: We've seen senator kyl who is retiring kind of make the first move last week. He and Bailey have been unveiling a plan that they say they've been working on for a year to kind of address some of these questions, for instance, about how to deal with children who were brought here illegally by their parents. It perhaps was just a trial balloon. And a lot of people are saying let's watch to see if the congressional delegation, if someone there really picks up this ball and runs with it, which is definitely possible.
Ted Simons: Is anyone making any early noises?
Rebekah Sanders: Well, it could be interesting to see, for instance, where the U.S. senator-elect Jon kyl- Jeff Flake goes with this. He worked on immigration years ago as did McCain and kyl and it became an issue in his primary this summer. He kind of backed off but has shown an openness to see if this issue can be resolved.
Ted Simons: This really is a bipartisan effort here. We've got business, we've got political folks who usually aren't on the same side of much of anything. How far can this go?
Steve Goldstein: Because of the results of November's election and the fact that more Republicans want to be on board with this, certainly something can happen. One quote that senator kyl had was that they didn't really address the aspect of citizenship. So the question of amnesty can't come up with this and that's been the blockade. It's amnesty. You can't think about citizenship for people who have violated our laws but to think it's going to go somewhere in this form, it almost sounds too sensible for to go anywhere. They keep using the acronym sane. That suggests what's going on there. If I may jump in there with someone interesting- A wildcard is Matt salmon who has, who knows what goes on in Congress and is back, he's moderated himself and he wants to come back and get things done. Should be interesting.
Ted Simons: You mentioned the acronym sane, the letter "S" is securing the border. This is something that we hear a lot. We had a couple of representatives from the group on this week and my question always is at what point is the border secure enough?
Luige del Puerto: And I guess the big question there, when you hear Republicans talk about the illegal immigration problem, they always talk about two things. One is internal enforcement or how to solve the problem of people who are already here, and the other is about securing the border. Now to many of them, securing the border always comes first and in previous discussions, that's always of the one thing that's stopped anything from moving forward. Are you referring about putting a two-layer fence along the border? What about those areas that you can't put those fences? The fact is that the Obama administration putting more guards on the border, security, illegal immigration is down, does that mean the border is secure, more secure? I guess they have to define that one first and once they get to a definition, I always wonder if that's going to be the one thing that stops things from moving again.
Steve Goldstein: The comparison I keep hearing and I heard this from a Congressman Flake is to make the Tucson sector more like the Yuma sector, it's pushing people somewhere else and I don't know necessarily think it comes down to numbers because no one can give you a hard, solid number that says if we only have 500 undocumented workers coming across a year, we're set.
Ted Simons: When you were covering the congressional campaigns and flake's campaign and the folks heading back to Washington throughout the summer, did you notice, was the immigration talk going like this? Or was it ratcheting up? What were you hearing?
Rebekah Sanders: That's the interesting thing is it seemed in the recent elections like immigration was the, you know, rote talking point or rote question that we had to ask in the media and they had to answer but there was not a lot of focus on it and, all of a sudden, now that Obama took 70% of the Hispanic vote on November 6th and the GOP is wanting to rebrand themselves for Latinos, it's definitely gained legs. And as far as how to secure the border or measure it, I mean, that's the thing that's never been -- you've never been able to pin someone on. But when I asked senator kyl does your legislation mean that you think the border is secure? Of course, he says no. So how to determine that is unclear.
Ted Simons: It's an interesting point, too, and I asked this, as well. We hear a lot and Republicans especially saying we've got to do something. The reason is the message was clear was that you also have to present this as more than political expediency and you also have to present this as more Arizona's got a black eye, we need to do something about that as opposed to this is the right or wrong if you're against this thing to do.
Steve Goldstein: And I think the black eye point is interesting. Because it feels like, I don't want to say he's by himself, Russell Pearce, when he talks about saying this is going to be amnesty, giving in on things like this, you have more people on board, whether it's the business community, and the emphasis now is a lot more on the "E" being economy rather than enforcement, the idea that Mexico's an important trading partner. We have a lot of undocumented immigrants that people would like to hire. With the economy becoming number one, it may make it fitting in more in that sane definition.
Rebekah Sanders: The Republicans like the idea of visas that are targeted for economic sectors that need workers and need certain skill sets and things like that and being a lot more specific in who gets citizenship and who can come to the country.
Steve Goldstein: And as you saw in the U.S. house last week, having spoken to some migration experts, this idea that it's an easy bill pass, that the highly skilled immigrants which for the most part everyone wants to have more of them, you want to have folks who are educated in the U.S. perhaps stay in the U.S., that's one of the easy parts. Then when you start getting into employer enforcement, border security, then it becomes a lot harder and you wonder whether comprehensive reform is really possible.
Luige del Puerto: And you wonder if to do it piecemeal, it's sort of a feasible approach, versus doing it in a more comprehensive manner. Do something great, do something grand, solve it rather than do bills that deal with specific elements of the problem.
Ted Simons: And the question remains again we're just after an election, everyone's kind of, you know, taking a deep breath here but we're going to have another vote, coming up in a couple of years, sooner as far as the campaigns are concerned. How long before an S.B. 1070 is still popular in Arizona? How long before immigration- these ideas, we start seeing the primaries especially complaints, concerns bubbling up again?
Luige del Puerto: And the interesting thing about SB1070 that, you're right about it being very -- remaining very popular in Arizona but Arizona has always had sort of a mixed kind of a nuanced approach to this illegal immigration problem. They are supportive of enforcement of immigration law. But at the same time, they are also wanting to see something to deal with the people that are already here. So there were studies done recently, a recent survey done that show that Arizonans would like to see the dreamers, if you will, absolutely have some path to citizenship or have a way for them to stay here legally. So on the one hand we would like to see enforcement but on the other hand, we would like to see the problem of the people that are already here, that's always been the approach that I've seen Arizonans have. And it would be interesting to see if that actually happens.
Steve Goldstein: Complex problems take complex solutions and people who are really willing to dig in and take the no for a while but keep fighting back and that's one of the things Jon kyl said he got so frustrated with in 2006, working with senator Kennedy and he got a kick in the pants because more conservative members didn't want to do that.
Rebekah Sanders: That is the skepticism I think for all the talk that this is something that needs to be accomplished, the question is, you know, for people's campaigns, do they really feel like their districts have this as the top priority to want to deal with immigration reform? There will probably be a lot of calculation that says no and so if that's too many members, it's not going to be finished.
Ted Simons: And the same kind of argument can be made for the fiscal cliff as we move here to that particular pressing issue and we've got a congressional delegation that has to deal with that and you've got representatives who came out, I think he wrote about this, saying I told, I ran on not raising taxes, backing away a little bit from the Norquist pledge but they've got to answer to constituents, the ones who put them into office and you've got to wonder how much collaboration is there.
Rebekah Sanders: Certainly for Gosar, he was hammered in his primary for not being fiscally conservative enough and so he has been trying for months now to champion the positions that he's taking that show he's fiscally conservative. But it's an interesting rock and a hard place because he's saying just, you know, we can go over the fiscal cliff, that's how we're going to get our bargaining position back. This isn't about taxes, it's about spending and yet if that happens, all the constituents' tax rates are going to go up.
Ted Simons: How can you say that you are against tax increases and if we've got to go over the fiscal cliff, we're going to go over the fiscal cliff. That means taxes are going to be increased.
Steve Goldstein: That's a passive choice. I think about proposition 100, the idea that legislators allowed that bill go to the ballot means you violated this pledge. I don't know what to make of that. I think Gosar's in a tough position but he just got re-elected so you can move a little bit more to the middle I think.
Rebekah Sanders: He's not going that way. [ Laughter ]
Ted Simons: As far as the state legislature is concerned. The idea of a pledge, no taxes, I'm guessing that stands a little stronger there, still holds that water?
Luige del Puerto: It holds some water and especially in those districts that are heavily Republican, especially in those areas that the activist Republicans are very strong and there are a good number of districts. I remember the participants in the state Senate is 75 to 13 , the house is 25, 35, but that means that the districts are more participant than ever and there are fewer that are, in fact, calling them competitive or more competitive. That means there are more Republicans that have been elected because they hewed to the wishes of their constituents and many of them are quite conservative. And you saw that problem last time. I mean, the governor offered all sorts of variations to the proposal and offered, you know, to do this or do that in order to get people to vote and you saw two of them who said we're not going to do it. We pledged not to raise taxes and we're not going to do it.
Ted Simons: Back to the congressional delegation, what are we hearing now of Matt salmon basic suggesting monthly meetings, a way to get the congressional district. Is it kumbaya for a while?
Rebekah Sanders: I remain skeptical that there is going to be a lot of great cooperation but who knows? We've got three members who are in tossup districts, kirk Patrick and barber and sinema who want to show that they're working across the aisle and it's been a few years since the delegation has really met on a regular basis and cooperated but again, maybe immigration is something that brings them together that they can compromise on. We'll see.
Ted Simons: The idea that the threat of cooperation to break out on capitol hill, is that something that our delegation looks at and says what the heck, let's give it a try?
Steve Goldstein: I think it's my first cynical note of the evening. I think cooperation can be different. We think back, I grew up here, I think about Barry Goldwater, Bob Eudal they disagreed on almost everything, so I think you can have a delegation that works well together that respects each other's opinions. I'm not sure if we had that. If we can at least get that step, that's good.
Ted Simons: And as far as the delegation right now, they're getting themselves settled, the ones that are new getting themselves settled. Was Schweikert kicked off a committee already? Was this some sort of payback thing?
Rebekah Sanders: He's saying that he lost a position on the powerful financial services committee because he didn't go along with speaker Boehner and the GOP line enough. He hasn't quant a straight -- gotten a straight answer from leadership about why that is but also, there's probably just some political calculations going on. I mean, this is a committee that helps members get re-elected because you can get a lot of contributions by sitting on it. He's got a really safe seat. Also, he ran against representative Quayle, was a member on member primary. That's a no no.
Ted Simons: And Quayle was considered somewhat of a favorite of leadership, was he not?
Rebekah Sanders: That was -- that's what it seemed like, yes.
Ted Simons: It seems like retribution to me.
Steve Goldstein: I respect his press release and there's also part of me that thinks this could be style versus substance. He likes to talk about how much he knows about finance and the economy and he has the credentials to back that up but he's not shy about explaining how much he knows and I would think speaker Boehner as he's trying to move forward and perhaps come to the middle a little bit, maybe he doesn't want someone who probably agrees with him on 95% of the things, but I'm tired of hearing this.
Luige del Puerto: The funny thing is I ran into state senator ron Gould the other day. They said they gave him the ron Gould treatment. Most of the time, he would vote no on bills and make his caucus angry at him, upset at him at times. And at one point, they gave him the way they described it a nothing committee to chair. And of course, it was a one committee where they put bills and, you know, ron Gould, he would rather kill bills than do anything about it.
Rebekah Sanders: Gould takes that as a badge of honor and I can see him using this as a badge of honor, as well.
Ted Simons: And you mentioned ben Quayle. Do we know what his ambitions are? What's next for him?
Rebekah Sanders: He was working on his resume on the plane to D.C. the other week. He was saying that he would like to get back into the private sector. He did mergers and acquisitions before Congress but most people don't think he's going to stay out of politics for long. He has a chance probably at winning his seat back from sinema and we may see that machine going soon.
Ted Simons: I was going to say it depends on how well sinema does in office. She could either have a relatively safe return I don't think anything's really safe or there could be a stampede in a couple of years.
Steve Goldstein: I suspect there would be a stampede. It takes a couple of terms until a member of Congress is somewhat safe. Hayward, we've seen that with many other examples. But Quayle initially I thought he might be the first Arizonian to become president. I guess that's not going to happen.
Ted Simons: Not for a while. You never know. Last thing on the congressional. What is going on between gosar and this bombing suspect who contacted -- that bomb happened like a block away from Gosar's office.
Rebekah Sanders: It's a bizarre story. There was a man who set up a bomb outside a Social Security building last week. One of Gosar's staffers recognized the man on TV as a constituent who had come into their office about a year ago asking for help with immigration paperwork and he was denied based on what immigration officials said were terrorism-related grounds but didn't elaborate. It turns out that this man participated in the Iraqi uprising in 1991 and that's how he was flagged with terrorism. But there's still a lot of questions about what was this guy really up to? Is he terrorism related or just a bungled bomber?
Ted Simons: And again as far as this particular gentleman is concerned, Gosar is saying what was he doing here in the first place? Why was he contacting my office, if he's not good enough for citizenship, why is he here with terrorism related concerns?
Steve Goldstein: And the department of homeland security says we don't know what went on in Iraq and if you're going against Saddam Hussein. Bungled bomber, did he know no one was going to be at the office? Is he trying to make some statement? I don't know.
Ted Simons: And again, it wasn't that far from the office.
Rebekah Sanders: They don't feel like they were targeted because they say he had visited their office. He knew where it was. He would have known the location to go to if he was targeting Gosar. But it is still very strange.
Ted Simons: It is. Speaking of strange, the governor had an interesting week. We didn't know where she was and we found out where she was, and then she punches some guy, and then she doesn't punch some guy? The guy is Dennis welch. I wanted to punch him a few times. I didn't do it.
Luige del Puerto: The bizarre thing about this, we wouldn't have cared so much if she didn't skip the official canvassing on Monday. By law, she was supposed to be there with the attorney general and chief justice what happened was the week before, her office informed ken Bennett that she would not be able to attend and interestingly didn't explain why, except that she was going away and didn't exactly say where she was going. So on Monday we're like where's the governor and why is the governor's office not saying where she is and why can't they say why they're not -- they're not saying? There was a shroud of mystery for three days. Now on Tuesday, we started getting some rumors about her going to Afghanistan. Tuesday afternoon we found out about it and Wednesday, the governor's office had set up a conference and confirmed that she was in Afghanistan. She was -- at that time, she was there and she was on the phone and she had just landed on a chopper, I think they were going around touring the country. She was invited by the department of defense and so she left for D.C. on Sunday, spent a day touring the Walter Reid hospital and went to Kuwait and stayed in Afghanistan, went to Kandahar, Khabul and she's back tomorrow.
Ted Simons: And about 30 seconds left, all that experience, it was before she left, she prepared by slugging Dennis welch?
Steve Goldstein: Dennis asked her opinion on climate change and basically, she wasn't sure and that was a topic that was going to be discussed at the governor's conference she was attending and apparently, she didn't like that Dennis asked the question and maybe forget that Dennis is no longer in print but has cameras with him and decided to give him a shot.
Ted Simons: Just a little bit. It wasn't even serious.
Steve Goldstein: He didn't cover up.
Rebekah Sanders: She's got the finger wag, arm slug, what's next, the next -- the arm around the neck.
Ted Simons: We'll keep an eye on those particular stories. Thanks for joining us. We appreciate it. 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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