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 Doug Maceachern of the Arizona Republic, Howie Fischer of capitol media services, and Luige Del Puerto of the Arizona Capitol Times. The Governor and the legislature waste no time in cutting a check to hire more cps case workers emergency funding here, Doug?

Doug Maceachern: Well, it was one of the promises that she made in the state of the union, and she made it clear well before that, that she thought that this was a crisis that needed addressing immediately, so, and apparently, lawmakers agreed with her, that they have, they have cut checks for, I think, enough for 50 additional cps workers with a total of 200 to come.

Howie Fischer: And part of what, what you have -- perennial disputes now at the capitol over the role of cps, do we air on the side of taking children as soon as possible in case of, they could be harmed as opposed to the other side? The other side, which is preserving the family. This is very clear. The number of complaints has gone up like 40% in three years. Now, some of that is public awareness. But, some of it is more population, you know, hard times economic, tend to cause more cases of child abuse, and if you can't investigate, if you have the average caseworker, trying to monitor 28 kids out after home, you are never going to do a good job.

Ted Simons: 4.4 million for 50 more caseworkers, and anyone against this move?

Luige Del Puerto: There were a couple of Republican lawmakers who voted against the proposal, but, the Republican leadership are very supportive, in fact, in the Senate, it was Senate President Andy bigs who introduced the bill. To fund the, the higher the fund, I mean to fund a hiring of 50 workers. I think three Republicans in the Senate voted against it, but you could clearly see that the majority of the Republicans, even biggs, himself, support it had.

Ted Simons: Was there much in the way of conversation that yes, they need the money, but cps still needs to overhaul x, y, and z?

Howie Fischer: Clarence Carter, the director of the Department of Economic Security, has done a good job of convincing them that they have done an overhaul, they are doing things differently, they expedited processes, and he also warned them, in fact, when the Governor signed the bill, that this is not the end, not only the additional 150 case workers that Doug is talking about, more money for foster care and doubt of could you tell of home placement, that if you are going to, to protect children, you can do so much on prevention. So much in streamlining the process, and so much on better training of cps workers, but at some point, you are going to need the cash.

Ted Simons: So much is ideological down at the capitol, this sounds like ideology took a back seat to pragmatism.

Doug Maceachern: It did, and I think that, you know, I don't want to pat the media on the shoulder too hard but we have hit this hard. We recognized what kind of problem that there is here and, and I think that everyone realized that, that this went beyond that.

Ted Simons: Lori Roberts, especially.

Doug Maceachern: Right.

Ted Simons: It seems like the column, is all too often on the situation.

Luige Del Puerto: And what I want to add, I don't think that it is a matter of, of being conservative, not being conservative. And what it, what I mean is that, is that it's true, it passes through swiftly. The Republican ready, which is very conservative in the chambers, agreed to support it, but it's not surprising in the sense that public safety is a, is, is something -- is a core Government function. When it comes to public safety, and in this case, and comes to children, even fiscal hawks has been very supportive of providing funding for public safety.

Ted Simons: So we had fastracking for that particular set of funds, we also had a fastrack for something that probably wasn't quite as loved down there? That's the, the redistricting commission, talk to us about that.

Howie Fischer: Well, it was sort of, of through gnashed teeth that a number of Republicans voted for this, and the redistricting commission has never been popular, particularly this last time around, the Republicans contend that, that the, the district were Jerry mandered for the Democrats. There are three lawsuits challenging this, including one by the legislature, while the commission came in and said, we need money. We are going to court on the first of the lawsuits on March 23. And so, they said, give us 2.2 million, and well, they did a little negotiating and said, what's the least you can get by, to get you up to the trial, and ended up being a half a million dollars. And you still had votes against that, people who said we just a soon put the commission out of business. The Governor and the -- fire the chair but they did approve the money. I think the recognition is the voters created this as a constitutional body, which in some ways is co-equal with the legislature, and one branch cannot defund another branch of the legislature.

Ted Simons: So this is a situation where probably the commission has to go back and, and, instead of giving more than enough or enough as far as the commission, they are going to have to do dribs and drabs.

Doug Maceachern: That's the way that they work, and, on cases like this, and I'm not really surprised they do that. But the fact remains, that they were outmaneuvered by Democrats, and if nothing else, they have proved that even if you have an independent redistricting commission, that there is part of the politics saying that these things are too important for the parties not to try and play, place them, you know, play games with them. And the Democrats are smarter about it than the Republicans were, and they are paying the price for it.

Luige Del Puerto: The funding for cps was proving the Senate unanimously. Everybody voted for it, and it was -- this bill that, had a couple of Republicans who, who were balking at it, and, but still, it is something that was proved and support by the leadership, and in the case of the Senate, it was also Senate President, the Senate President introduced this bill.

Ted Simons: The Federal immigration reform out of Washington, we heard from a group of Senator and is from the President, what are we hearing from lawmakers and folks here in Minnesota regarding these ideas?

Doug Maceachern: Well, in Arizona, everything is about the border. And border security, and so, I think that, you know, it seems as though, you know, the entire discussion is framed around the definition of what a supporter is, and which doesn't sound at all, doesn't ring at all that, that, at all different from, from the last time that we, that the subject came up. Everyone was trying to define what a security border, is and, and

Howie Fischer: And that's the problem. I mean, look, we have 20,000 border control officers, which is more than double what it was six years ago. The number of people being apprehended down, but the fact is, if we live on the border, you are still seeing the problems and the burglaries, and the smugglers, and you never are going to seal off -- they could not even seal it west Berlin from east we are Len so the question is, what becomes the touch stone, and that's the key. A gang of eight said that, that these 11 million people would get legal status after a background check, but in order to get the next step, the green card, with the path to citizenship, we need a commission which is composed of Governors and lawmakers and experts, to declare it secure. What they think the border is may be very different than from what brown does.

Ted Simons: If you have a commission of border Governors, attorneys general, and the sheriffs alike, you would have a hard line on what secure really means.

Luige Del Puerto: You are going to have a hard line, and I am assuming that they are going to be all over the place about what constitutes secure border. The Governor said that the Yuma sector is a model for, for border security, and I have heard people talk about it. I haven't heard people talking about a double layer fence. I have not read anything about it, but definitely, people have different ideas of what a secured border is, and does that mean if only a trickle of people come across, it's secured now? And can we declare that it's secure? Its, it's a difficult question.

Howie Fischer: Let me come back to where you started, the reaction of the legislature, predictably there were a lot of folks saying this is just amnesty, this is what we did during Reagan. We said we're going to secure the border, and we let some 3 million people get, get legal status and, and we still don't have a secure border am but, there are a few surprises. One of them is house speaker Andy tobin who said look, 11 million people are not going to go home. It does not matter whether we use the E-verify and they cannot get jobs, they are not going to go home so let's deal with that as the facts on the ground. The other piece of it is, you have some, I guess you could call them pro business Republicans who are concerned about workforce. You know, particularly in the agricultural areas, that you need these people that, the economy has been built on it.

Ted Simons: The, and the response by some is, is, obviously, that Republicans are doing this nationally, and perhaps, in Arizona, as well, because of the results of the last election. They see the writing on the wall as it were, and first, is that what you are hearing? And secondly, if that's the case, will Latinos go, gosh, they are doing the right thing? Or they are doing the expedient thing?

Doug Maceachern: Well, that is -- and honestly, I am shocked about this, it was, the President has told us many times, that the elections have consequences. And elections do have consequences. The fact that different parties' motivations are being -- that, that, that their reasons for, for suddenly discovering that, that immigration reform is an important thing, is, is -- well, I guess it's good to know that the people have good intentions, but the fact is, that they are motivated by self-interests, that's the way the world works.

Howie Fischer: And it was fascinating because it was John McCain who was warning some of his colleagues, we are in danger of becoming a minority party, particularly in states like Arizona with the changing demographic.

Ted Simons: But I would have to ask again, is that the message that you would to get out there? The fact that we better do something here or this is the right thing to do?

Luige Del Puerto: I guess, really, they don't have much choice. Whether it's a message that they wanted to get out, or want to focus on. The fact is that people have said, and many of the, the members of the Republican party, including those who have opposed any amnesty plan before, recognizing that, that if they cannot reach out for, to the Hispanic voters, that, that the future of their party is at stake. Especially in Arizona where 25% of the voting population is Hispanic.

Howie Fischer: But, let's come back to Doug's point. Elections have consequences, and you know, it's not hard to read the writing on the wall. I mean, give you a perfect example coming back to the immigration issue. For years, we had a lot of immigration bills. And all of a sudden we had a recall, and in east Mesa, and we had several of the more, I will use the term rabid anti-immigrationist who is had a hard time getting re-elected. But you notice, we're not seeing a lot of immigration bills this year in the Arizona legislature. And there is a message here.

Luige Del Puerto: And in fact, you are not just not seeing those bills, those bills were tried even when we had a supermajority in the legislature, and those bills failed.

Ted Simons: Yeah. And all right, let's move ahead here, anti-union legislation, we have three bills making the rounds here, are these all goldwater institute inspired or most or what do you have here?

Luige Del Puerto: Inspired in some way, yes, but, not all of them are back, backed by the goldwater institute. Now, many of the bills, we have seen them before, and one in particular is about paycheck deduction, essentially, the legislation would prohibit the local Governments, the Government from, from automatically deducting dues for the union membership, and they have been fighting this for the last two years, it's back again and, and that was the, the subject of the suggestion in the committee hearing. And we also, have the same issue come up. It will be coming up in the state Senate, as well, and so, it's a battle that they have done before, and they had to vote and pass it in the Senate, and then it, ultimately, never got a vote in the house.

Doug Maceachern: Talk about elections having consequences, and Wisconsin did, and this is, this is Wisconsin reverberating into different states including Arizona, and which -- there are significant differences between Wisconsin and Arizona right now, so, in a way it's surprising to see these bills pop up because, they are, actually, more, more stronger. They are stronger than, than the legislation in Wisconsin, in one key factor, they include -- they don't exclude police and fire, if I'm -- And, you know, the response from the police and fire departments have been, have been the most vociferous, and they excluded them because they knew they would not pass it.

Howie Fischer: In fact, one of the bills here, the one about the release time to, work on union workers, is aimed at the Phoenix Police Department. The most interesting of the bills is one that says, if you are going to do negotiations with labor unions, you do it in public. Now, leaving aside the issue of how much gets done if we are negotiating the public. This bill, actually, initially went down to the, to defeat because on the Government committee, you have two Republicans who were former city council members. Doug coleman from Apache Junction and sonny Barelli from Lake Havasu City. These are the people who say what? First, why would we mandate this and second of all, it does not work that way. The city council gets the result if they don't like something in there, they send it back. Now, what happened is because of a procedural move by a democrat to try to kill it. They were forced to vote for it, but this bill is in trouble because you have enough people on city council who say that, this is none of the state's business.

Ted Simons: Are any of the bills a, likely to pass and b, likely to get signed?

Luige Del Puerto: Those are very good questions. It's tough to say. Last year they had more Republicans in chambers. They failed to pass I of this union legislation, and now we have fewer Republicans, and as Howie pointed out, the Republicans served on city councils, and I am assuming it will be tougher this year to get this proposal through.

Doug Maceachern: These are tough bills.

Ted Simons: Yeah. We'll see how far they go, and real quickly, the Governor wants to put kind of stake pay hikes on whether you are an at-will worker. Is that legal? And secondly, what's going on here?

Howie Fischer: Well, this is an extension of what she did before. You remember, last year they pushed quote/unquote personnel reform, to convince people to move from merit protections to, to uncovered. And she said what we will do we will give you a one-time bonus of 5% of your salary for nine months, and to go ahead and do it, and now, if the legislature leaves that alone, these people lose 5% of the money. So, what she has done say, we will keep, we will do additional pay, but again, only for people who are uncovered. Now, is it legal? I think that the state can, can parsette any way it wants to. Labor union people, covered people are not a protected class, not like she's saying, I'm not going to give it to women or to gays.

Ted Simons: But she is saying that, that I'm not going to give it to someone doing the exact same job.

Doug Maceachern: That's what she is doing, and that's why it's, it's -- it seems kind of dicey as to whether it's, it's legal or not. But, it's a Governor's effort to try and soft pedal this legislation that, you know, that, that she has wanted for two years now.

Howie Fischer: And I suppose the part that is, that is a little offensive, and I actually asked about this, talked to our Governor, the Governor's budget director, John Arnold, and I said so if you have a person who was hired ten years ago, merit protected, decided didn't want to give up the protection for whatever reason, it's doing a bangup job, the best person in the agency. Not only don't they get the raise but they are ineligible for another round of money, and John said, that's the way that it is.

Ted Simons: Is this -- will they ever get a, the uncovered ever going to get a raise out of this or how does that work?

Luige Del Puerto: I think one of the reporters aptly asked this question, are they ever going to get a raise? And I'm not going to preclude them from getting a raise, and you know, the Government clearly, has stated what her goal is, which is to move those who are in the covered position, into the uncovered position, and to be able to fire them at will. And she's trying to achieve that goal. But, I'm assuming at some point there could be salary increases for those who are remaining in the covered position. Even now, in the law that they passed last year, there are classes of workers who may remain to be covered. And, and those are in the public safety department.

Howie Fischer: That's one of those areas -- we're going to leave the dps out of it because we are afraid of these people.

Ted Simons: but they would also say they do a different job. With different kind of results and different hazards and these things. And real quickly, I don't want to spend too much time on this because I don't know what to make of it The idea of a class 6 felony for a Federal agent to enforce Federal gun laws in Arizona. Are we going to see sheriffs telling FBI agents the feet back and spread them?

Howie Fischer: Well, that's exactly what I asked Kelly ward, the first-term lawmaker from Lake Havasu City. Her bill was heard this week, and I said, let me see if I have got this right. So, Charlie a local Sheriff's Department and says there is a guy from the FBI here to take my, my magazine because it has 20 bullets and the Feds may have passed a law that says you can only have ten. Do you see a problem with these? The Sheriff's Department going out, armed, to, to arrest an armed FBI agent. You don't see a problem? He says oh, I'm sure the agent will go willingly because that's what he would want someone else to do, I'm not sure the FBI and the agent is ready to be handcuffed by the deputy.

Ted Simons: Obviously, it's not probably going to go too far but if, for some reason it did go far enough, it has a lawsuit written all over it, doesn't it?

Doug Maceachern: It does and, and it's, it's part and parcel of, of a lot of hysteria that, that is, is, has been created since the issue of gun control, and started coming up. I mean, the magazines are, are, you know, certainly an issue that people can debate, but, making it a felony, you know, that's, that's --

Ted Simons: But, once again, it's a premisy clause, how many times do we mention this with something coming out or trying to come out of the legislature?

Howie Fischer: Well, part of the argument, Steve Smith has an identical bill in the Senate. He said you can parse this into two areas. One done by an agency, atf does something, and we think that the state laws trump Federal regulations. Well, again, how you put, put three attorneys in a room and I will give six opinions whether that's the case.

Ted Simons: So when they say the county sheriff is the sovereign law enforcement official, he is in any realm? Really?

Howie Fischer: He claims 1,000 years of law going back to the sheriff of Nottingham chasing robinhood, that the sheriff is the prime person and that everyone else, everyone else is inferior to him. Now, as I say, it was, in fact, common law, I'm not so sure I would like to fight that in court in 2013.

Luige Del Puerto: That's what he was referring to, I asked him about it because 1,000 years ago, the native Americans lived here in the southwest, and I didn't think that they called their chief law enforcer sheriff then, but, he said that he was aptly referring to, you know, the English common law, and the fact in that, that the idea after sheriff has been around by, by 19th century England. And, and, you know, in England, by the way, that the sheriff has lost its power and responsibility, and we, in the United States, we have retained someone else for our sheriffs here.

Howie Fischer: And all you do is need to ask the sheriff and he will tell you, I am the toughest, meanest, baddest person around.
Ted Simons: Speaking of sheriff Joe, I'm going to ask you this because you are so, so wrong about the Pierce recall. The Arpaio, same folks, same bunch of folks now, same -- not entirely the same group but a lot of folks that were leaning, that effort are leading the effort to recall sheriff Arpaio.

Howie Fischer: Well, one of the things that we all learned in the recall is, is including me, and my heirs, is the dynamics because it does not involve a primary and a general, and a single race, and everybody is in there, and if a single foe can be brought up against him, a Republican foe, as what happened with Russell Pearce, maybe. I keep hearing Romney's name being thrown out there as somebody they would like to draft. Romney has a lot of good P.R. and goodwill in this community. Joe Arpaio versus Rick could be fascinating.

Ted Simons: Doug, about the idea of a recall, we just an election a few months ago, and between then and now, what has the sheriff done to, to warrant a recall?

Doug Maceachern: Well, we were just talking about it before the, before the show, and how, Howie took the time to look up the applicable, constitutional section, and I think that, that, it sounded very much like, like there was a real question of, as to whether you can actually legally do a recall for somebody that is facing an election. For, for -- it does not stipulate anything other than an officer of, of an elected, an elected officer, that would seem to, to include the sheriff, it might mean that, that, that, that you cannot conduct a recall within six months of his first election, and in that case, you know, since he's been around since, since the sheriff of Nottingham.

Right. [Laughter]

Howie Fischer: But there comes back to, to you asked what has changed, people realize after Pearce, the difference, will sheriff Joe be defeated by a democrat in this county? Highly unlikely. But, in a recall, I think that they, the light bulb went off in their head after the pearce recall, if we can put up Joe against another popular Republican, that's what changed. They know, you can only do that in a recall. It's how Arnold Schwarzenegger got elected in California. In a recall.

Ted Simons: I understand that but the question is, usually, pearce was still doing things. Pearce was representing things, pearce was making noises about things, and the sheriff has been unusually quiet since the election.

Luige Del Puerto: And in fact, he's been doing what he's been doing before, to answer the question, I don't think that he's done anything particularly egregious to the minds of the folks, but, the fact that has done some things in the past that they did not like. The way that he ran the jails, and the way that he went after, after certain parts of the, of the population, the illegal immigration population. And those issues that they have raised against him before. And the fact that they are frustrated that they can get anything out of the, the county board. Do anything about sheriff Joe. And, and how he said, they have learned in the pearce recall election that they can put up a Republican against a fellow Republican and split the votes of the Republicans and get Democrats onboard, but, you know, hey, pearce, the pearce recall was a tiny district in the state. And they needed a few thousand votes. And I'm sorry, signatures, and they need about 335,000 signatures to be valid by, by four months or so? And that's, that's a, a tall task.

Ted Simons: Zero to ten, zero no chance, ten he's out of there, what are the chances?

Luige Del Puerto: Well, you know -- Ok. [Laughter]

Howie Fischer: The heat is on, Luige Del Puerto.

Luige Del Puerto: I would say it's very tough at this point.

Ted Simons: About a two?

Luige Del Puerto: Probably two or three. You know, who knows, right. The last time that people said the recall was not going anywhere.

Ted Simons: Including you, so give me a zero to ten.

Howie Fischer: I think it will be the first step is getting the signatures. I think that, that it's, perhaps, 3.5 to get the signatures, if they get the signatures and, and if they get a good Canada to run, it's an eight.

Doug Maceachern: You need a smoking issue. Just like we did with, with, with, with the, the Senate President. And three.

Ted Simons: All right. Well, we'll end it right there. Good stuff, and thanks for joining us, and that is it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you for joining us. You have a great weekend.

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