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" "Journalists' Roundtable". I'm Ted Simons. Joining me tonight are Jeremy Duda of the "Arizona capitol times," Steve Goldstein of KJZZ radio, and Luige del Puerto of the "Arizona capitol times."

Ted Simons: The battle over Medicaid expansion in Arizona is center stage at the legislature after the governor releases her ideas in terms of draft legislation.

Jeremy Duda: We have been hearing about this for awhile. A lot of lawmakers going to withhold judgment until they see the plan. Now they have seen the plan. This begins the effort in Ernest to get this through. It been a theoretic excersize. We have a bill that you can look through and you can pick apart and see what you like and don't like. You will have informational hearings in the house appropriation committee next week. It is hard to say where it will go from there. We don't know what kind of strategy they will use to push it through the legislature, whether it will be a stand-alone bill, or part of the budget as a lot of lawmakers are asking for. Things are getting started now.

Ted Simons: It sounds like it is going straight to appropriations, house appropriations committee. Wouldn't that suggest a budget bill?

Jeremy Duda: That is what the republican leadership is pushing for. This informational hearing actually which is kind of interesting, initially, had been planned to have in the house committee, which is chaired by Heather Carter, ally of the governor's, basically the most vocal supporter of this in the legislature. And house speaker, Andy Tobin said this is part of the governor's budget. We think it would be better fit for props-- chaired by John Kavanaugh - whos one of the most vocal opponents.

Ted Simons: As we heard last night when he was on the program debating it. Stetve, any surprises -- this is pretty much what the governor laid out earlier?

Steve Goldstein: Right. I wouldn't see any surprises. She was pretty straight forward, even in her state of the address. We had a good idea this was the direction she was going to go. What suprises me slighty, not saying there is going to be any movement as of yet, but when we consider a couple of sessions ago, Senator Andy Biggs, not the president than had even floated the idea of elimating access all together. He actually seemed at least slightly receptive to at least hearing the bill than Speaker Tobin does. So that is an interesting dynamic to watch.

Ted Simons: We had both of them on. Not a lot of excitement here. Can this be comprised, can things be picked and chosen and move around?

Luige del Puerto: Always room for comprised. What we are hearing is that it is even possible that Andy Biggs would let this go to the floor for a vote even though he will not vote for it. Of course Andy Biggs is one of the biggest critics of this proposal, as Steve had mentioned tried to eliminate access a few years ago. He wanted to just have a discussion about it. Immediately after the governor unveiled the specifics of her plan, Andy Biggs dug in pretty hard. He said well, look at this provision that would require the state to ask the federal government for their approval of our assessment and our methodology of how we arrive at this assessment, and he said that is unconstitutional. And the fact that speaker Tobin essentially transferred the hearing to a less friendly committee next week, we are seeing this dance getting intensified.

Ted Simons: The governor said basically that people will blame republicans if folks in mid-treatment are knocked off of the rolls and if hundreds of thousands don't get coverage. She is appealing to their political instincts.

Steve Goldstein: Her strategy is pretty interesting on this. Chamber of commerce, Glenn Hamer came out saying this is going to get through. Reminds me of Proposition 100, for example, all of the immigration bills. Business community was quiet. Now they are out front and being loud on this. They said they will support republican lawmakers against primarily challenges if they support this. Which I think is interesting as well.

Ted Simons: Who is louder? Business community, rank and file, grass roots republican party --

Jeremy Duda: Grass roots is louder and the business community has more money. This will be an interesting match-up next year, if we see some of these lawmakers who vote for this get primaried. The opponents, their strategy is they're going to the district meeting, the country party meetings, the priest and committee men getting pass resolution, asking the governor to oppose this, and, you know, another -- we have seen this on other issues, threaten the primary, republican lawmakers -- immigration, legislation, seeing that threat on the governor's sales tax stuff a couple of years ago. But, you know, a -- people are talking about recruiting candidates against lawmakers like Heather Carter and the other five republicans that stood with governor Brewer during the roll out on Tuesday.

Steve Goldstein: You are down at the capitol every day. There are the votes for this. The Senate absolutely positively the votes are there. The question is if the leadership lets this get through or not. This is where the governor's power, if she has any left, is she going to force the holding of bills? Is she going to try tricks herself to be sure that it gets heard.

Ted Simons: there are votes for a straight-up vote. What about this two-thirds business? Is there going to be a straight-up vote and immediately challenging no, 108 applies here?

Luige del Puerto: The governor and her proposal does not include a prop 108 clause which would require two-thirds vote. If this proposal gets through, likelihood of it getting challenged is pretty high.

Ted Simons: Do you agree with that?

Jeremy Duda: Definitely. If you read the language of prop 108, you can argue this violates the spirit of it, raising a quarter of a million dollars plus in tax every year and not having a two-thirds vote, but the language allows you to authorize a department head to raise a fee. This has never been used anywhere near for as much money as this. But under the strict language of the law, it seems like it doesn't require two-thirds--

Ted Simons: Back to the governor's strategy. An interesting quote, I believe on KFI radio, but I'm not sure, "I'm pro life, we're talking about saving people's lives." That is an interesting quote.

Steve Goldstein: Another source, EJ Montini, wrote about that in The Arizona Republic. This column where was the governor on saving lives before the people were kicked off the rolls before. The strategy is very interesting. I would think that the business community would tend to be, chambers of commerce, that is where of the money is. Yet if you want to hit some of the grass roots folks, hit them on the social issues, thinking about pro life aspect of it. It is very interesting. So many different angles to the strategy.

Luige del Puerto: In fact, that to me was the most interesting comment that the governor made. Everything else we expected. For her to make the argument, compelling case that this is a pro life position, that surprised a whole lot of people. Some don't -- just don't agree with that that this is too severed from the pro life issues that we see. An advisor to the governor, and one of the lobbyists pushing for Medicaid expansion, he said, you know what, the governor has been very clear when it comes to the most vulnerable, that to her, one core function of government is to ensure that those folks are taken care of. And that is why even though she had made cuts a few years ago, she did it, very difficult and very tough for her but she did fight for softening of the cuts for the mentally ill, for example. She fought for the homeless folks when she was on the county -- Maricopa country board of advisors, so to -- governor to say this is pro life, not really -- not really that surprising. This is in line with her views of government, function of government.

Ted Simons: Who is Heather Carter? And how much pull does she have to get this thing through?

Jeremy Duda: Well, if it goes before her committee, that is where it goes, she will probably have a lot more pull. There is a lot of people over there who support her. Second term republican representative from the cave creek area, known as more of a moderate than some of her colleagues. She immediately jumped on board when the governor unveiled the plan state of the state, one of the supporters, and it became apparent that she would be leading the charge at least over at the house on this.

Ted Simons: Down there at the capitol, is this the kind of person who can lead a parade, a March?

Luige del Puerto: She is very good at what she does. People respect her. She doesn't have as much clout as someone within leadership. Ideally, in big proposals like this one, you would typically see members of leadership carry the water for legislation like this one. She may be the perfect lawmaker to carry this and introduce it as a bill.

Steve Goldstein: Political point related to leadership -- interesting to see - former Senator Steve Pierce so far upfront on this probably wanted to give Andy Biggs a swift kick somewhere, and that is one way he can do that. I think he sincerely supports it and there is a little bit--

Ted Simons: I think Bob Worsley was up there as well making his presence known.

Ted Simons: All right. We had a court decision, Arizona court of appeals ruling on this, regarding mortgage settlement fund that some thought was supposed to go settling mortgages, but apparently it went to, some of it, to the state's general fund. Talk to us about it.

Luige del Puerto: Right, Arizona is one of those states that got about $100 million from the settlement with five big mortgage lenders for their lending practices. That money is supposed to go for house counseling, legal aid, and helping those folks who are facing this difficulty. What the legislature did last year, sweep $50 million from it and say we are going to put it in the general fund. If it is in the black hole of the general fund, you can use it for any other reason, other than helping out those facing this mortgage difficulties.

Ted Simons: And Tom Horne was among those saying this is perfectly appropriate. The state was hurt by the mortgage crisis so help --

Luige del Puerto: Initially he was against this sweep. Eventually he changed his mind and said this is the property of the state and the state could do whatever it wishes with it.

Ted Simons: Vindication for Horne

Steve Goldstein: I dont see it that way. I see it as Tom Horne kind of rolled over--- he said he initially was going to fight this. So I guess Tom Horne can take vindication, whichever side he wants to be on this one.

Ted Simons: So, basically, do you think it will go to the supreme court?

Luige del Puerto: Very likely it will.

Ted Simons: Very likely. Okay. A bill to raise campaign contribution limits as well. Increase with individuals and with the PACs and super PACs. What is going on here?

Jeremy Duda: Well, Arizona has some of the lowest campaign contribution limits in the country. A lot of folks here, especially conservatives want to raise it. This proposal would raise it to the federal limits, which is $5,000 per person, $2,500 for the primary and $2,500 for the general. Now it is $912 for a statewide race, $440 for a legislative race. This is a massive increase.

Ted Simons: And this is the kind of thing that will make it won't make it? Bumps along the road?

Steve Goldstein: I would be very surprised if it didn't make it. There has been a -- with clean elections that the limits have been too low. I see this as another way for the business community to reassert itself again. We're going to have more -- the mainstream people --

Jeremy Duda: You mentioned clean elections. One thing that is very interesting about this, the path that the legislature is taking may not actually work. Clean elections act, green elections commission, that actually regulates the contribution limits for private campaigns. It says in a round-about way, whatever the statute says the limit is we're cutting it by 20%. Under the interpretation used at the legislature, that means this is subject to the voter protection act which means you can only change it with a 3-4th vote and further the intention of the voters.

Ted Simons: Will that pass, a 3-4th vote?

Luige del Puerto: It is very unlikely. The way this is physically done, if you want to do something that would directly impact clean election statutes, you get everyone to agree. So then you don't have a lawsuit and get 3-4th vote. When they did this giant compromise a few years ago with clean elections, they had pretty much everybody on board and that is the way to do it and the way they have always done it, to avoid requirements -- not to avoid the requirements, but satisfy those requirements.

Ted Simons: Along with the clean election -- those opposed say discourages the non-rich from donating to campaigns.

Steve Goldstein: Always in the argument.

Ted Simons: Photo radar restriction -- are we still fighting the photo radar fight?

Steve Goldstein: Ted, I was going to say, I normally wouldn't feel empathy for an inanimate object, but I look at the enforcement cameras and I feel sad for them. Initially there was that pilot project on the 101 and Scottsdale, Engineers, transportation folks thought it worked fine. Governor Napolitano mentioned how it would help the state's coffers and it opened up the flood gates. Representative Debbie Lesko has introduced and it passed 47-12 in the house. It passed very easily. Going forward to limit cities have -- cities and A-dot have to show the cameras are there for safety purposes and have numbers to prove it.

Ted Simons: You have to present some sort of research, some sort of matrix here.

Steve Goldstein: Exactly. It is not just saying we think this will do the job. This is the reason we need it. These roads are unsafe. These are some of the accidents we have seen. People are speeding and causing the accidents --

Ted Simons: And also, cities happy about this? This sounds like the state intruding on city business.

Jeremy Duda: The city has typically opposed any measures that would eliminate photo radar. Earlier this year, to ban it throughout the state and that failed. This would not completely eliminate the city's ability to do this only if it is on a state highway and there are about 10 cities . This was all inspired by one photo radar camera on Grand Avenue and El Mirage that some people complained to Debbie Lesko.

Luige del Puerto: And to eliminate the responsibility to set up the camera, you have to prove, justify their use. They're saving lives and there for public safety reasons. The town of Prescott, cameras on route 69, state route over there, and very prominent by the way, they're saying that, yeah, we can show -- we don't have a problem with this because we can show that there has been a 30% reduction in accidents in this area.

Ted Simons: Who do we have to show it to?

Steve Goldstein: They will talk to A-dot. Wording in there that A-dot has to talk to folks anyway to determine if there is a safety reason. Appreciate the letter of the law, this is another incremental step to say whether it is I need to face my accusers, shouldn't be used for money, all of these underlying issues. People want to get rid of this completely. I wonder what paradise valley thinks about that--

Ted Simons: Controversial gun bill passes where this is the one where a rural district, a certain number of miles away from law enforcement for the military, who can carry --

Jeremy Duda: Schools can designate a teacher or administrator to carry a gun, trained and certified by the state's law enforcement training organization. If you are 30 miles and 20 minutes -- if you are less than 600 -- talking about small towns in rural areas away from larger population centers. This is -- for all of the gun bills that got introduced this year, following the Newtown shooting so much talk about this. This is the only one that has moved forward. The federal nullification law-- there is one prohibiting cities from destroying guns, that has not gone anywhere. Tom Horne's proposal, that is not going anywhere. This one is the only one moving forward.

Ted Simons: This one likely will pass considering how much its gone so far--

Luige del Puerto: It seems very likely to be the only bill that would pass that would address safety at schools and amended to stay that you can't have a shotgun or rifle, and there was definitely an idea pitched by steve gallardo that was also adopted into the bill that you should have a secure locker at school. Safety requirements that come along with having the ability to carry a gun in school in this particular legislation.

Ted Simons: You mentioned that bill regarding enforcing of federal gun laws and prohibiting enforcement of federal gun laws -- these kinds of bills are popping up right and left. They don't seem to be going anywhere. Do we know why? Is this appeasing the far right --

Steve Goldstein: Such a complicated issue. Is it mental health? Do we make sure someone is armed on the campus? I think we go to the point that we are risking federal lawsuits, that is a real question.

Luige del Puerto: I just don't think that the legislature has the appetite. A few years ago, had fights with the federal government, going to pass bills that would be potentially struck down by the courts. This is one legislation that I think Senate rules -- said would have constitutional questions and that is why one of the reasons why it was -- it was held so long in the Senate rules committee, and I just don't see this legislature wading into the fight that we waded a few years ago.

Steve Goldstein: The latest thing, last hurrah for moderate republican, Rich Crandall, one of the few left, maybe that is why. Maybe that is one of the reasons this one is going forward, even though many democrats are opposed to it even the fact that he was willing to talk to Gallardo to make modifications--

Ted Simons: Before we go, a couple of research reports showing that the governor's plan to simplify the state sales tax a TPT, going to cost perhaps more than anyone had anticipated.

Luige del Puerto: Joint budget committee, nonpartisan research arm of the state legislature came up with a report that basically said look, this would either increase state revenues by $19 million, or it would hit the state general fund by $137 million. And then just yesterday, the Grand Canyon institute, sort of a centrist research group said, well, it would probably impact the state with -- hit the state's general fund with about $85 million. They are using different sets of assumptions, but the idea is that maybe this is not the time to do something. If you are not willing to risk $137 million.

Ted Simons: You got that on one side. Point of purchase controversy on another side. Is the simplification plan not ready for this yet?

Jeremy Duda: Grand Canyon institute report just comes as a -- just as the governor found kind of a compromise. A lot of cities were opposed to this. Based on that point of sale thing, they split up the revenues on construction materials, and now they finally found something that might be able to get rid of the -- now you have this new thing where it is going to cost the state a bunch of money which could drive more opposition.

Steve Goldstein: I think the negotiation was interesting. I talked to mayor Stanton recently who seemed to hide his giddiness over this because phoenix will not be impacted . Could be the small towns and cities.

Ted Simons: That is a wonderful opportunity to mention that we will have mayor Stanton on the program Monday.

> Monday on "Arizona Horizon," the U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments on the Arizona voter registration case. And we'll discuss the latest issues facing the city of Phoenix with Mayor Greg Stanton. That's Monday evening 5:30 and 10 on "Arizona Horizon.

Jeremy Duda of the "Arizona capitol times," Steve Goldstein of KJZZ radio, and Luige del Puerto of the "Arizona capitol times

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