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," for "Journalists' Roundtable," I'm Ted Simons. Joining me tonight are Jeremy Duda of the "Arizona Capitol Times," Mike Sunnucks of the "Phoenix Business JOurnal," and Luige Del Puerto from the "Arizona Capitol Times." AIMS is out and common core looks to be in, although technically they haven't said it is going to be common core and that PARCC test. But AIMS is adios, correct?

Jeremy Duda: Yes, AIMS is gone. The Governor signed a bill that would eliminate the AIMS test. It doesn't say what will replace it, it's up to the board of education. The test called PARCC is what people are looking at, I forget the acronym but it's higher standards, Governor Jan Brewer is very big on these and wants to implement them in the schools. It's met some resistance from Republicans, some say it feels like a power grab or a U.N. plot or something but one thing's for sure, AIMS is gone.

Mike Sunnucks:Well we got through these things like what? Once a decade we bring in a new set of standards, and various officials think it's a good idea, it'll prepare our kids for the future, they implement it and nobody likes it. It costs too much, people don't like it. We'll see how long common core lasts, probably years.

Ted Simons: Isn't that one of the criticisms of the common core and the PARCC test, we don't know how much it's going to cost?

Luige del Puerto: That's correct. Even the Governor's office admits they don't know how much common core would cost. Estimates run up to several hundred million, but we're not sure how much it'll cost to implement the new program.

Ted Simons: We had the Tea Party on the program and they were very much against this, this is a kind of consortium of states getting together saying, at least we'll have something to compare and contrast with.

Jeremy Duda: I remember when the Governor first started advocating for common core, one of our arguments was it was from the federal government, this is developed by a bunch of states, more rigorous, higher standards that are going to get Arizona schoolchildren to compete in the global marketplace. You mentioned, we don't know what it'll look like, what it costs, they haven't even chosen the new test yet. It's not supposed to go into effect for a year and a half.

Mike Sunnucks: U.S. students lag behind other countries in math and science and high-wage jobs in engineering and those types of things. You see the business community talking about these things are good, but implementing it, how much it's going to cost the state. No Child Left Behind was something that Ted Kennedy and George W. Bush worked on together, and a year later everyone hated it. There are always a lot of unintended consequences.

Ted Simons: This test is not fill in the blank, pick one, A, B, C or D. It's explain to me, write it out. There's much more of a sense of understanding the topic, as opposed to I think I'll pick B and see if that's right.

Luige del Puerto: Instead of a multiple questionnaire, what's required of students is more analysis of the question. And also, by the way, this is going to be conducted online, and one of the questions is whether the school districts are actually capable of implementing this technology-wise.

Ted Simons: Do you think there's appetite at the legislature when they found out it's going to cost X, but X plus Y? Are they ready for this?

Luige del Puerto: If you remember, there was a giant -- big giant debate over the issue a few years ago over a few million dollars. If the cost runs up to $200 million or so, just to prepare the technology, to ensure that we are indeed able to implement this test, it would have a difficult time sailing through in this legislature.

Mike Sunnucks: A good point on the digital divide. How do different school districts implement this? Do wealthier districts have a much easier time, other than districts in the poorer parts of the state? That's always a challenge.

Ted Simons: There's a concern that it's a national takeover or a power grab by the U.S. government or the U.N. over educating Arizonans. There's a similar argument over expanding Medicaid and being part of that whole process. And now a new factor has been put into the debate. Talk about this.

Jeremy Duda: The Governor and her allies really need this to become more complicated at the legislature. But the abortion issue has emerged in the debates. Some conservative pro-life lawmakers like Carl Seel are raising the issue on whether or not dollars will go to organizations such as Planned Parenthood. Now, state and federal law already prohibits Medicaid and tax payer dollars from being used to conduct elective abortions. If Planned Parenthood treats Medicaid patients, and it treats some --, not that many compared to the overall patient load, but they use some of that money for administrative things that apply to all of their patients. Speaker Tobin and the president going for pro-life language preventing that to be inserted into this plan, which may or may not bring along some Republican votes, but it'll probably cost some Democratic votes.

Ted Simons: How does it change the dynamic Luige?

Luige del Puerto: It essentially changes the debate a lot. I think it was Jeremy he had spoken with earlier and said, you know, f this true, if this would result in providing more funds to abortion providers, not to pay for the procedure, per se, but to free up some of their funds and help with their overhead costs, then it might cost his vote. On the other hand, if the governor agreed with the request from the Center for Arizona Policy to include pro-life language in Medicaid, it might cost them some Democratic votes, as well.

Mike Sunnucks: A couple weeks ago Planned Parenthood came out in favor of this Medicaid expansion. They are usually not on the same issue as the governor. A lot of people when they saw the e-mail thought, well, does this kind of stir the pot a little bit, and obviously it has. Conservative opposition to this thing, this is a big expansion of government, it's glomming on to an Obama-care thing. The Governor's pushing it, and she has a lot of other Republicans, business folks in her camp. I think they have been looking for an issue to get behind, and abortion certainly gets the base going.

Jeremy Duda: Last year the legislature passed House bill which prohibits organizations that perform abortions like Planned Parenthood from partaking in Medicaid, and a federal judge threw that out just a month or two ago. If that stands up, there's no way to prevent the expansion from including groups like that.

Ted Simons: But the Governor did come out and say, allowing and encouraging the expansion of Medicaid in this fashion was a pro-life thing to do, which caught a lot of people by surprise. Is this coming back to bite her a little bit?

Luige del Puerto: I've heard people say maybe she opened a can of wormed by proposing that point, this is a pro-life position. I think whether the Governor intended it or not, it was still the right thing for her to do. It allowed the governor to sort of prevent her critics, who at one point or another would still come out swinging against Medicaid expansion, trying to find a reason, and now they have found one reason, abortion. They are still going to oppose it, still say this is not a pro-life position. The Governor prevented them from essentially monopolizing the claim. The Governor can also say, you know what, this is a pro-life position and we may disagree with that. But you don't have the monopoly of the claim that yours is the only pro-life position.

Mike Sunnucks: Just because someone's fiscally and socially conservative, there's a difference between that. You can be opposed to abortion and opposed to the death penalty. Politics puts a lot of people into their different corners. Social conservatives who are concerned about children and of course abortion and the death penalty.

Ted Simons: Let's keep it moving here. The gun bill I think Rich Crandall was behind for small schools, rural schools, these kinds of things that are far away from law enforcement, that seems to be moving along.

Jeremy Duda: It's already passed through the Senate, it got out of a House committee this week. The bill would allow rural schools that don't have resource officers to have teachers with guns. You have to have fewer than students, you have to be miles and minutes from the nearest law enforcement agency. It's got limited applications. But of course this is very controversial, Democrats don't like it. If you do this, it's only a matter of time before a teacher shoots a student or a teacher or a parent or something. Teachers have to get training from Post, the state organization that trains police officers. They are actually opposed to this, they don't have the resources to conduct extra trainings.

Mike Sunnucks: There is a bill in Texas that's been in place for a while, and I don't think they have had any problems. This legislature loves bills in Texas lately. It's been in there for a while. There are some comments, paying for it is an issue and figuring out who can have them, what kind of guns, that kind of thing.

Ted Simons: Liability is a concern, as well, I've heard. Much concern there?

Luige del Puerto: People express the concern about liability. If you're bringing a gun into a school, and at some place storing it and allowing a teacher to access that gun, I mean, there are issues about liability there, absolutely, yes.

Ted Simons: And I could see a scenario where perhaps an angry grandparent comes to the school and people are armed, tempers flare, and what is going on with Don Shooter?

Mike Sunnucks: It was quite a headline to see shooter barge into the school from the A.P., that was pretty interesting to read, that he had some kind of -- his grandson goes to a school for troubled youths and teenaged moms. He really had at the teachers, a lot of obscenities and finger-wagging. Quite the incident succumbing from a state legislature. It's quite a story down there, so you got to kind of see what happens down at the Capitol.

Ted Simons: And who is Don shooter again?

Jeremy Duda: A two-term state senator from Yuma, very conservative. It makes him one of the most powerful people at the capitol.

Ted Simons: He wanted people to know he was one of the most powerful people. Afterwards he got ahold of people in the education community down there and reminded them of who he was.

Luige del Puerto: He had called somebody from the state's charter school association and basically wanted that person to call the school and to try and defuse the tension. Just to be clear, there were no arrests made, he has not been charged of anything at this point. They are still investigating the case. And even if he were charged, for example, we would probably see this case move on somewhere after the session ended because he has legislative immunity. The reaction we're getting from lawmakers at this point is let's not get down in too deep. Possibly an ethics investigation at this point. Let's have the police investigate and find out what exactly happened. Today he released a statement saying he had gone to the school because it had something to do with bullying and he wanted to square that with the teacher.

Ted Simons: The police report suggests it had something to do with the instruction. The teacher does want to go ahead and press charges.

Mike Sunnucks: There are conflicts over what they were arguing about. A receptionist he barged by, he barged into the classroom. We have some state lawmakers that like some people to know they are state lawmakers in certain situations.

Ted Simons: And just to be clear, no one was armed, correct? Students, teachers, Shooter.

Jeremy Duda: Not that we know of, we'll see what happens if some of these bills pass.

Ted Simons:For now, no one was armed. We have yet another bathroom bill here. This is not the old bathroom bill, it's new and it's already advanced out of committee.

Jeremy Duda: It's a softer, gentler bathroom bill in response to the City of Phoenix's LGBT protection on -- There are a lot of concerns raised about whether transgender students can use the other bathroom. So John Kavanagh originally was going to run this bill that would make that a misdemeanor, a crime. Even some Republicans have some issues with that. Government should stay out of our bathrooms. The bill that passed the other day out of committee, Kavanagh's bill, would grant protections for individuals and businesses from legal action if they refuse to allow transgender students to use what would be technically the other bathroom.

Ted Simons: And again, proof would be the birth certificate defines restroom use here.
Mike Sunnucks: I think the State would regulate public rest rooms, which seems a little odd, but the State would take that over from cities. I think that would be one of the provisions. And a business or somebody could allow folks to use these bathrooms first if they wanted. It's in reaction to the Phoenix ordinance and it's a way to gin up the base on the right, which opposed that thing and lost, so they are taking the fight to the capitol.

Luige del Puerto: The original version talked about making sure that you go into the bathroom that had the same sex as your birth certificate. This latest one --

Luige del Puerto: Gets away from all that. It basically says that government cannot weigh into this issue of the transgender folks or gender identity in bathrooms and what have you. Local governments may not regulate this particular issue and businesses would not be essentially dinged or subject to any penalty if they for example decided whatever they want to decide, how they run their bathrooms.

Mike Sunnucks: Is this another instance of Republicans in that case, the legislature not liking what a city did in Phoenix and trying to take that power away? We see this all the time with other issues, impact fees and this kind of thing. This is a little more contentious, a little more made for TV.

Ted Simons: A lot of passionate voices, people yelling shame on you, some folks were weeping and stuff. This is -- this got a little rowdy there, sounds like.

Jeremy Duda: Some people were even cursing at the committee members, a lot of people very unhappy with John Kavanagh, which some folks tried to carry on into another issue.

Luige del Puerto: When you try to legislate social behavior, it's going to be very emotional. And it's going to be very difficult. Legislating social behavior is never an easy thing to do.

Mike Sunnucks: Folks of faith, conservative folks were worried about a Phoenix ordinance forcing them to hire folks they didn't want to. If they didn't want to hire someone who was transgender or something, they didn't want to be sued over this. This bathroom thing is kind of a salacious part of this. I don't think there's much that they were even talked about it. It's just hiring protections and city contracts and things, and it glommed on to this because of this Scottsdale incident in where you had some transgender folks at a nightclub.

Ted Simons: Anderson versus state, yeah. We mentioned that people were upset with John Kavanaugh. We are seeing people filing a recall petition against him?

Jeremy Duda: The recall madness continues, or as Kavanagh said, March madness. There are a couple of students, one is a member of the board of directors of the Arizona Students Association or used to be an intern there. They filed Kavanagh against some actions taken over the bathroom bill and some recall of the election laws, helping people specifically right now who could face a recall. This needs , signatures in days. I usually try not to pay attention to them unless I have some reason to think they are serious. People file a handful of these every year and none of them ever pass.

Ted Simons: This would make a third elected official facing some kind of a recall effort with Chad Campbell and Joe Arpaio. Chad Campbell's recall may be the start of his gubernatorial campaign.

Luige del Puerto: I walked up to him a few days ago and asked if that was a good thing. He smiled at me and he said I would think this would probably be the best thing that ever happened to him since he announced his intention to run for governor. It elevates his profile and he has a committee to raise money for that committee, and use it to prop his name up, give him a statewide -- more of a statewide proposal, and it's a good thing for Chad Campbell.

Mike Sunnucks: Gray Davis in California, the Russell Pearce thing, it's a chance for the minorities parties to kind of go after somebody, somebody with some transgressions, Gray Davis lost, Russell Pearce lost. It gives the minority parties a chance to raise money, organize people and kind of go after somebody. We saw it in Wisconsin, also.

Jeremy Duda: And this opened this whole Campbell thing. This exposed kind of a very quirky loophole on Arizona's campaign finance laws. Arizonans for Chad Campbell to help out Chad Campbell on the recall. We haven't seen them used much because there are so few recalls. The candidate can't actually coordinate with them. That's what Russell Pearce thought in 2011. Turns out Campbell can, he's helping them raise money. They can raise money in unlimited amounts, he can accept a $1 million check. He can't use to it tell people to vote for him but he can run a million dollars in ads on TV saying I'm Chad Campbell, oppose the petition.

Ted Simons: But it's quite a tactic, let's get someone to threaten to recall me so I can start raising some bucks.

Luige del Puerto: I would be interested to see the next recall commitee set up by whoever wants to fund a satewide office.

Jeremy Duda: You don't need an active recall. I'm worried about it, so I'm starting this committee now.

Ted Simons: We'll try to figure out the logic.

Jeremy Duda: Next Monday we will have a thousand recall committees formed.

Ted Simons: A lot of folks want to turn around the Independent Redistricting Commission's legislative maps here. It's under a lot of folks' radar, but it's important business.

Mike Sunnucks: Yeah, the Republicans continue to go after this independent redistricting commission because the independent chairman sided with the Democrats. They are trying to find all types of reasons why their actions were invalid. They colluded, they are trying to find ways to prove that to the judges. It's a challenge because they didn't like the result.

Jeremy Duda: Technically it's based on the allegation that the legislative map is unconstitutional because there's too much deviation in the population from one state to the other. You under populated the Republican districts to give the Dems a greater advantage. A lot of it seems geared at trying to expose what they have said is a conspiracy. They have had a trial every day for a week, but -- they have uncovered some kind of interesting stuff

Ted Simons: Yeah what Democrats would probably call it coincidence.

Luige del Puerto: There are two dems on the commission, and they are trying to show collusion back and forth between the officials and those Democratic commissioners.

Ted Simons: The fact that justice has already approved these maps, that's a pretty high hurdle to cross.

Mike Sunnucks: I'm kind of surprised they are not trying to look at going forward, how to address this, and work out a system that works for Republicans a little more. There were three votes on the Democratic side and two votes on the Republicans. Instead of litigating this after the fact, maybe take it to the voters again.

Jeremy Duda: They have eight, nine years to figure it out until the next redistricting commission. It does seem like there is a lot of cooperation between the Democratic Party officials and obviously the independent chairwoman sided with the Democrats. What a lot of people say is the problem wasn't that the Democrats tried to influence things their way, the problem is that the Republicans didn't. It's redistricting. It's one of the most underhanded shady parts of the American process in general.

Mike Sunnucks: You mentioned the Voting Rights Act, population levels, you could draw up maps a lot of different ways. It's hard to prove they were nefarious in drawing it up this way. This was just one of the options and they went with it.

Luige del Puerto: The fact is commissioners are allowed to deal directly with the public, including state lawmakers, basically it's perfectly fine for lawmakers to try to get them to redraw the maps to their liking.

Ted Simons: What are you hearing from lawmakers and leaders regarding the leagacy of Eddie Basha?

Luige del Puerto: Two days after he passed away you've heard the tributes to him reverberating in the halls of the state Senate and the statehouse. I might have mentioned earlier that T.J. Shope, who is a grocer, opened his warehouse to suppliers when some of the grocers had gone out of business and essentially saved his grocery. You heard it at the state capitol.

Mike Sunnucks: He was kind of a different business guy. He was an Arizona guy, had a huge art collection of Native American art, western art. A liberal guy, accepting of same-sex marriage back in when he ran against Symington, that was big issue in the race. Now it's a big national issue, the tide has kind of shifted on that.

Jeremy Duda: Basha is remembered most for his civic activities, got involved in a lot of educational causes and charitable causes. He will be remembered as the candidate from and the gay marriage comments. A lot of people feel that cost him the race, too. There is an outpouring of grief and mourning and sympathy for him.

Ted Simons: Appreciate you being here on the "Journalists' Roundtable." That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons, thank you so much for joining us. You have a great weekend.

Jeremy Duda of the "Arizona Capitol Times," Mike Sunnucks of the "Phoenix Business JOurnal," and Luige Del Puerto from the "Arizona Capitol Times

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