Journalists’ Roundtable

More from this show

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 Mary Jo Pitzl of the "Arizona Republic." Howard Fischer of Capitol Media Services. And Jim Small of the "Arizona Capitol Times." The Governor calls for the Legislature to focus on her Medicaid expansion plan. Was this a gentle nudge in the ribs or was this a veiled threat or not? What was this?

Mary Jo Pitzl: It's probably as things go a gentle nudge to the Legislature. A little bit of a push. When the Governor wants to get, when she is really mad they will know because she will be voting bills. But what happened is this week, everybody was waiting for the Senate to pass a bill on lottery winner secrecy. Seems like it's pretty much a salad. It's moving through -- slam dunk. President Biggs didn't bring it up for a final vote. Why? And he says, well, the Governor has asked us to pace ourselves, he says. The Governor's office says, no, we actually want enemy to speed up. We want them to speed up on the important issues like Medicaid expansion and sales tax reform and, O. getting the budget out. By the way, Tuesday was the informal deadline for having a budget out.

Howard Fischer: But what's lost in all that is that deciding lottery winners' names should remain secret is a lot simpler to do than dividing up $9 billion or dividing how we are going to simplify the sales tax system and whether the cities wind up under the bus on that one. Somehow that got lost in the equation. These will all happen at some point. If the Governor thinks she can hold up the process, I don't know. She did manage to Stein a few bills the other day. But if she thinks she can hold her breath and stamp her feet and make it happen, not going to do.

Ted Simons: Slow down the pace. Has the pace been unusually fast to begin with?

Jim Small: The pace has been, the last couple weeks have been deadline weeks. They have been operating under trying to get under a deadline that is basically at the end of the day yesterday. So things have been fast and furious in committees and somewhat on the floor but mostly moving bills from chamber to chamber. We are getting to the point, though, where now that they are done about all their committee work the bills are going to the floor. They will go for final vote and into conference committees, things like that so this really puts the brakes on all of that. You will see bills get passed in one chamber if they have to get back from the Senate to the house or the house to the Senate. But those bills that are ready to go to the Governor's desk those aren't going to be moving.

Mary Jo Pitzl: Things will slow down in the sense that when the house and the Senate meet in their full floor sessions, their calendars are probably going to have already been getting a little lighter. They are not loaded up with lots of bills because they have to start pacing themselves so they keep the members busy while all the negotiations going on behind closed doors about the budget and Medicaid and sales tax.

Howard Fischer: Well, here's the other piece of the problem as we saw this week. No matter how much focus you put on Medicaid, the votes are not there for this plan. The house speaker said he will not put up her plan as is.

Ted Simons: Straight votes or 2/3?

Howard Fischer: Either way. I think, well, let me put it this way. If you could go ahead and get all the Democrats and a few Republicans on board, you might. But neither the speaker nor the Senate president is going to let the bill go to the floor where it has only seven Republicans voting for it and twenty-four Democrats. So I think certainly you are not going to get it out with 2/3 with almost no matter what. I think even the simple majority, the speaker said, we need some other things in there. We need to make sure that the circuit breaker works. We need to figure out, is this a tax? How does this all fit together? The hearing this past week was ugly. People talking past each other. This is supposed to be an informational meeting. It was an airing of the grievances.

Ted Simons: Was there much information in this informational hearing?

Mary Jo Pitzl: I think the most startling thing that came off the it was the County Republican chairman's comment about the government he is talking about the Republican Governor of his party. And he said, Jesus had Judas and Republican v. Jan Brewer. That's what everybody focused on. There's more on that story. But the information that came forward, no, it's nothing that people haven't already heard. Yes, access has been good. It has help immediate keep my eyesight. It has healed the sick. And then on the other side, this is very expensive. How can we know that there will be money down the road from a bankrupt Congress, a bankrupt Federal government, to pay for this program? Then it will drop into our lapse. We have heard these arguments.

Ted Simons: Sounds like familiar arguments. We certainly heard it on this program when we discussed this issue. Are people talking, clashing? They were veering off into areas that have absolutely nothing to do with Medicaid expansion?

Jim Small: There was some of that. It was certainly an exercise in theology, I think. There was a lot of discussion about what was right from a moral perspective and a theological perspective. The discussion kind of got sidetracked on those grounds. Yeah, right now they are still talking past each other in the sense that you have two groups of people who believe different things or view the situation, I think, even more to the point, they view the landscape as completely different. One side sees this as being absolutely essential. And the other side sees this as an affront to the American way of life. And so when you are in that kind of situation and that black and white starkness, it's really tough to get people to even agree that there is common ground to find much less to find a common ground.

Mary Jo Pitzl: One of the points Howie made is the hospital assessment that this plan would need, is that a tax? Well, you know, one way to figure that out is bring a bill up for a vote. You have to have something to challenge. You have to have something at least for the rules committee to chew on. And that can't happen until you introduce a bill and get the process moving.

Howard Fischer: The problem is that there is precedent for the Governor's logic. In other words, for example, you might have told the game & fish department or board of cosmetology, you can raise such fees as you need to cover certain costs. We are not going to set fees because that would require 2/3 vote. Now we are talking $300,000, versus $250 million. It's -- we know what we are and we are just negotiating the price is the old joke goes. Is the ability of the access director to levee an assessment to Levy up to $250 million a year a tax? Is it, in fact, giving too much power to tax to the executive branch of government?

Ted Simons: Why don't you if you are pushing for this and you see the 2/3, isn't going to happen? Why don't you go for the straight vote? If you get the straight vote, wait to see if there's any challenge?

Part of the problem is if there's a challenge to it, if it's held up, we have a December st deadline when the Affordable Care Act kicks in. If there's no money coming in. If the judge enjoins access from collecting that money there's no money to put up.

Ted Simons: As far as Heather Carter, who is the point person for using this in -- is she making some waves here? Is she making some heavy footprints here?

Jim Small: Yeah, I mean, activist Republican activists have promised to mount challenges against anybody who the Republicans who support this. Heather Carter was one of the most prominent supporters of it early on. And this past week she got a challenger. It's a precinct committee woman from, in fact, the same precinct as Heather Carter. She lives in the same neighborhood as her -- her name is Heather Casey and she filed paperwork to form a campaign committee and they held a brief and somewhat unusual press conference at the statehouse this week.

Mary Jo Pitzl: It might be interesting to see a recall actually develop for the pure theater, isn't there a movie call would "Heathers" and we could see this.

Ted Simons: I thought Heather Carter, Heather Casey, did they recruit someone with the same name to get confusion?

Howard Fischer: You are assuming that the folks in either political party are that bright. Number one. Look, every time the Tea Party element of the Republican party sees something they don't they threaten action. Common core which we will talk about. Medicaid. The prop tax. It's always, we are going to get rid of you. The Republican party is at war with itself. And that's the big problem the Republicans have. They are really two Republican parties.

Ted Simons: You mention common core. This is an education standard and assessment along with a test that goes along with it. This thing has been first through third grade for maybe three years. And all of a sudden now it's being compared to agenda and the U.N. takeover. What is going on here?

Mary Jo Pitzl: Well, people have taken a look at this or perhaps not taken a look at this. And seen this sort of one world rule being imposed. This is a program that I think there's 36 states now that have adopted common core. Arizona is one of them. They are moving towards it. What's happened this year? I can't really say except that a couple of groups that got ahold of some talking points and to their credit they have made their voices known very, very clearly and loudly at the capitol.

Howard Fischer: Well, there's really two issues here. Number one this idea that there's some set of national standards and we want to control what our kids think. And then I think the other half of it gets maybe down to the weeds. But there are a lot of folks in Arizona who are the very basic see spot run type of teaching. Common core doesn't say how you teach but it says, in third grade, you should be able to analyze this. In fifth grade you should be able to figure that. And there are a lot of folks saying, no, I was taught this way. And we are going to do it this way and the rote learning is the way to do it. You are rote learning to the test and it doesn't prove anything.

Ted Simons: Is it really the teaching method? Or just the fact that it's called common core, it's a Federal grants are involved. Other states are cooperating. And there's a threat to Arizona not being able to teach kids the way maybe a school district wants to.

Jim Small: Well, I think certainly the fact it's coming, at least at the moment from the Obama administration, adopting the common core standards was a requirement for the race to the top grants which Arizona applied for. And got some money from. And so there's a lot of that segment of the voting populace that is so adamantly opposed to anything that Obama has his hands on that that's driving part of it as well. That goes along with a number of the things we have been talking about and that the Legislature is going to have to deal with.

Howard Fischer: They also oppose anything national. No child left behind which goes back to the Bush administration, salmon sort of arguments. Why are they cooperating with these folks? We want to do things our way. Oh, keep that Federal money coming, by the way.

Mary Jo Pitzl: And the opponents have been successful to the point that, yesterday there was a bill in the Senate education committee, that was a necessary component to keep the state moving on the path towards common core. It would allow the transition from aims to a new test call called the park. And they wound up having an informational hearing and no vote so the bill to create that died. Later in the day the Senate picked up an amendment, amended a bill and put a few little pieces in this amendment that will at least keep that effort moving forward. It doesn't get to you common core.

Ted Simons: Yeah.

Mary Jo Pitzl: But at least keeps it moving in that direction and it spares the state from being in a situation where you might have kids having to take the aims test as well as another high-stakes test to graduate from high school.

Ted Simons: Real quickly, wasn't Arizona at the forefront of developing this particular --

Howard Fischer: It was very early on. I mean, the fact is Governor Brewer had commissions and meetings and was very interested in the idea that we need to change how we teach and what we teach and have the goals. One of the advantages of common core is, we keep hearing, where we are, we are 47th in funding or we are this much in academic performance. The problem is aims is not comparable to anything. If you go with the standardized tests, we could find out if our third graders learn the same things as the third graders in Utah or Maryland.

Mary Jo Pitzl: One of the consequence of this is another bill that would have given school districts more money if their school, I would have schools more money if they opted to expand the consumer year to days. That thing was moving along. It got killed yesterday.

Ted Simons: Wow.

Mary Jo Pitzl: Sort of by with the same kind of logic. I know in the house, in its early stage, representative john Allen felt that this bill takes away from family time. It's just a bad idea. I think others as time went on embrace that this was a bill brought forward by Paul Boyer, a Republican from Phoenix.

Ted Simons: All right. Let's keep it moving here. And, Jim, the idea of a bathroom bill. That the Legislature has to regulate bathroom use. Really?

Jim Small: Well, apparently so. Apparently not this past week, though, because there was a procedural hangup that kept the bill from being heard. It's a technical rules issue and supposed leaf it's going to be coming back next week in some form. The idea is to require that people can only use the bathroom for the gender that is on their birth certificate. And it's aimed I think basically at the city of Phoenix. They expanded their anti-discrimination policy. Critics seized on a component of that that would have allowed transgender people to use the bathroom they are comfortable in. There was concern about whether this was good public policy for children, hence we have this bill to go ahead and say, no, even if you are I guess a post-oped transsexual you have to use the bathroom you are born to use. So it will be interesting hearing when this thing goes before a committee.

Howard Fischer: What's interesting is, I check would with the city of Tucson which has had a similar audience or ordinance now for years, and I asked the human rights director, so, have you had a problem with that? Bathrooms? You're kidding! It doesn't seem to be a problem. Bathrooms, there are stalls. People go in. There are a lot of people with unisex bathrooms. You to go a certain football games and because of the line to the women's room is long, occasionally you see a woman duck into the mental's room because the lines are shorter. Do we really want to make people go to jail for six months?

Mary Jo Pitzl: Beyond a city like Tucson which has an antidiscrimination law there's lots of places in Arizona that don't. I would assume transgender people have been using the public facilities for many years. I think there's another issue, too, representative Kavanaugh told me, well, it's got a match your birth certificate. The little symbol on the door has to match the gender on your birth certificate. And he would assume that if someone has had an operation, that they would have their birth certificate changed. But I don't know if you can change the gender on your birth certificate.

Howard Fischer: I did check and in Arizona there's a problem. It's interesting because there are two things. Either you get a certification from a doctor you had gender reassignment, or you get a certification from a doctor you are now chromosomally the other gender. I haven't figured out exactly where that fits in, whether the plumbing matches the chromosome.

Ted Simons: And really, at the court, how are you going to enforce this? Who is going to be looking places and --

Jim Small: I think that's going to be a great question for the committee. And I am sure that it will be asked. That was I think one of the things people said. They said, people said, really, you have to show papers to go to the bathroom? You have to carry around a birth certificate in order to go to the bathroom and not get thrown into jail?

Mary Jo Pitzl: Presumably it would be complaint-ways based and if somebody gets hit with a disorderly conduct charge, then, somebody would have to do some fact finding.

Ted Simons: OK. Let's move on.

Mary Jo Pitzl: Yes.

Ted Simons: The Arpaio recall effort looking like some financial difficulties and even legal concerns here?

Howard Fischer: The bigger problem I think is the financial one. Because after the Russell Pierce thing, and there was a lot of, hey, we can do this, and there's a certain burnout that took place. Russell Pierce, you needed a very limited number of signatures because you are talking within a district, within a Republican party. You need, what 300,000 signatures, in a short period of time to do this. And a lot of folks said, didn't we just could this election? So the money is short. There are legal questions as to, you know, can you do it so soon after the election? Is it targeting? Everything else? But at this point, you know, as one of our columnist friends said, he can keep his pink underwear. He doesn't have to pack it up.

Ted Simons: It sounds as throw the folks leading the recall are wade Waiting to be helped out here by some big-name Democrats and were not seeing a heck of a lot.

Jim Small: That's certainly what they said. I think a lot of people just observer from outside were expecting that you see some money coming from out of state or some of the unions or something like that. Just the traditional Democratic groups. We don't know where they have gotten their money from so far. Certainly don't know who has rebuffed their attempts, requests for money. Yeah, that was what they said was there were Democrats in Arizona who they expected to really kind of step you want to bar and they didn't.

Howard Fischer: One other fact. If they can get through the bill to change the recall process, you have a primary and a general, make it retro if I have to January 1st, now we are back to a situation that even if there is a recall, Joe wins the Republican primary, then you have a Democrat running against him and we are back to where we were in November.

Ted Simons: If that were to pass, though, what about the timetable? Is it an emergency clause?

Howard Fischer: Well, you make it retroactive.

Ted Simons: Once it's signed into law.

Howard Fischer: Well, if you get an emergency clause, it can be then retroactive. If the petition were somehow already filed before the days --

Ted Simons: Right.

Howard Fischer: Now we have a lawsuit here.

Ted Simons: Exactly.

Howard Fischer: Because of the fact while the petitions were put in, the election has not yet been hold. Now we are past days. Can you say Supreme Court?

Ted Simons: That's what I was wondering about the time frame here. Voter registration law, argued in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. I know you have been covering the entire election process in Arizona. Good luck to you. I know it's complicated at best. This was interesting in that the Supreme Court decided to hear this case in the first. This has been throughout 9th circuit a couple of times.

Mary Jo Pitzl: I think so. This all stems from proposition 200 which voters approved I believe in 06' or 04'. And it says you have to show proof of citizenship to register to vote as well as you have to show I.D. at the polls. So finally this gets its day in court after lots of lower court challenges. Attorney general Tom Horn went back to argue the case on behalf of the state and says there's something unconstitutional about this. Prop 200 simply adds, it doesn't take anything away from what Federal law requires. It just adds a state requirement.

Howard Fischer: This is trickly because the certainly first of all the voter I.D. part was upheld. The registration part, the court said, and they never challenged the fact that Arizona's own form, which is 90 some % of the people use has a proof citizenship required. That was never challenged. There was a Federal form Congressman date, and that simply has an avowal, I am a citizen, penalty of perjury. It's been that issue that Horn is saying we don't have to accept that Federal form absent the additional. That's going to be tricky. Because when Congress says, this form is acceptable for voting for all Federal purposes and again it's local elections, how can a state say, well, no, but we want to add something else to it.

Ted Simons: Basically it becomes yet again Federal, does Federal law trump state law?

Jim Small: Preemption was actually at the core of what this was.

Mary Jo Pitzl: This is an attempt for the last election cycle, we had a two-track registration process. You could register on the state form, which has one set of requirements or register with the Federal form which had a different set of requirements. A lot of students, especially at ASU, got caught up in this because they use the Federal form. Because they could not, they don't have -- they don't walk around with their birth certificate when they are coming out to college if they are coming from another state but they want to vote here. Whenever the Supreme Court rules and I believe they said they will do this by June, their decision should at least resolve this two-track process that we have. Or perhaps it could set the state off on setting up its own requirements for local elections as Howie alluded.

Ted Simons: It will be interesting to see how that vote falls. Scalia was asking some interesting questions and some scholars of the Supreme Court think he could go either way.

Howard Fischer: Surprising although I could tell you you could lose a lot of money betting on Supreme Court justices.

Ted Simons: Tom Horn had his campaign finance case looked at by an administrative judge and the judge basically said, if it were up to me this thing is tossed.

Howard Fischer: This is fascinating. Because the Arizona law says very clearly if you have a campaign finance law violation the Secretary of State investigates and refers it to the attorney general's office. The Secretary of State and I don't know that Ken Bennett and Tom Horn are friendly in the first place but the Secretary of State said why would I refer it to the guy going investigated and concluded he had the authority to send it to Maricopa County attorney. The administrative law judge said, well, it doesn't matter. You have to follow the law that it's up to the attorney general to declare a conflict. And then it can be farm would out somewhere else. Because those procedures weren't followed there's no case. Now, bill Montgomery who is the County attorney says this is ridiculous. We will get to the same place. And just because we didn't go through this particular tunnel to get there, is no reason to toss the whole complaint.

Ted Simons: Bill Montgomery is fighting back. Tom Horn gets a little air, a little breathing room here on this case. Ken Bennett and Horn himself I think Tom Horn still considers the gubernatorial race perhaps a distant --

Howard Fischer: Yeah.

Ted Simons: But the political fallout from all of this. What are you hearing on this? Anyone win? Anyone lose? Anyone --

Jim Small: On this particular issue? I don't think this changes anything. Howie is right. They are going to get to the destination. They will find another tunnel to get there. It will happen. Whether it goes to Bennett and then they invoke a session law that was passed last year to let him hire his own counsel to do this surf instead of referring to the A.G. There's a couple of options they are exploring how to best do this. The one thing they say they don't want to dies send it to Tom Horn not because they think he will do anything wrong for it but it's the appearance, they want to avoid any appearance of impropriety at all even low he is not allowed to touch the case except to forward it on.

Mary Jo Pitzl: It shines a light on a bill that would take election enforcement away from the attorney general's office and put it, away from the Secretary of State's office and put with it clean elections commission. That way you get it out of the hands of the elected officials. Elected politicians. And you put it in hands of a five-member appointed commission.

Ted Simons: How likely is that?

Howard Fischer: Well, not only that, this is the same Legislature that's also trying to put something on the ballot to defund the clean elections commission.

Ted Simons: I was going to say clean election, the two words together --

Howard Fischer: So look. This has been a year as you point odd to Mary Jo, all sorts of elections bills. We are fixings everything. Heaven help us when the Legislature fixes the elections laws.

Ted Simons: All right. With that sobering note we will stop it right there. Good to have you here. Thanks for joining us. Monday on "Arizona Horizon," famed ASU physicist Lawrence Krauss makes his monthly appearance to talk about the latest science news, including new results on the search for the Higgs-Boson. That's Monday evening, 5:30 and 10 on "Arizona Horizon." Tuesday we will find out why a solar panel assembly plant in Goodyear is cloaks. Wednesday it's our weekly legislative update with the "Arizona Capitol Times." Thursday we will hear about how to navigate the valley's real estate market and Friday it's another edition of the Journalists' Roundtable. That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us. You have a great weekend.

Illustration of columns of a capitol building with text reading: Arizona PBS AZ Votes 2024

Arizona PBS presents candidate debates

Three main characters from mystery shows premiering this summer

It’s the Summer of Mystery!

Graphic with the words
airs July 19

Psyche mission

James Percival Everett Joins the PBS Books Readers Club
July 31

Join us for PBS Books Readers Club!

Subscribe to Arizona PBS Newsletters

STAY in touch

Subscribe to Arizona PBS Newsletters: