Legislative Leadership

More from this show

Join Senate President Andy Biggs and House Speaker Andy Tobin as they discuss the latest news from the state capitol, including whether progress is being made on the state budget.

Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. The push to expand Medicaid is still a major issue at the state capitol. How long before lawmakers make a decision? And what are the state's options if the decision is no? Joining us now for their monthly appearance on "Arizona Horizon." Senate president Andy Biggs and house speaker Andy Tobin. Thanks for joining us. What's the latest as far as the Medicaid talks?

Andy Biggs: I think when we start talking about Medicaid, I think you start talking about whether there's enough votes to get it out of either house, how it's going to get there, what's it going to look like. I'm not sure we have a real bill that's out there yet. We have seen some language proposed. I think just going back and forth on that right now. I'm not sure that there's the momentum to cross the finish line on that.

Ted Simons: Would you like to see more effort on one side or the other?

Andy Biggs: Well, Ted, I have always said I'm opposed to it.

Ted Simons: I know that.

Andy Biggs: If I want to see more effort I suppose it would be on that side.

Ted Simons: you're saying not a lot of movement and not a lot of movement to get more movement.

Andy Biggs: Well, I guess I don't want to give a false impression that nothing is happening. We're seeing at least on the Republican side of things the grass roots have said they don't want it to do this. You see resolutions, you see people trying to make that, communicate that. On the pro side, you're seeing some TV ads in different jurisdictions, some mailers. I think that there's polling data that now I think there may be two or three polls that are out. So I think that you're seeing the pot simmering, getting ready to boil.

Ted Simons: how long before the pot boils?

Andy Tobin: We both have been down there when things have boiled for a long time. This is something we have to get right. There have been pieces of this I think puzzle that folks in the public are not aware of. The president and I have clearly agreed and the governor is aware we're not going to let folks that are on fall off. It's not like we have a population today that's going to crash that's already getting served. So the question is we have a $10 billion bag of federal money. In order to get it we have to tax $1 billion of public money. The question is are you remembering there's a $17 trillion big bag of debt that somebody eventually has to pay for, and then the other questions come in as things are changing in Washington I think we were seeing this week they actually talked about not having some of the taxes for Obamacare they said would be part of the equation. Not only recently, in January, they spoke of, oh, by the way we're going to cut Medicaid reimbursements. There's a lot of diss concern with what's going on in the federal government. I think that's what is reflected at the capitol.

Ted Simons: the president mentioned a couple polls. There's been three at least. What kind of impact? One shows a lot of support, one shows some support, another mild. Most seem to show varying levels of support.

Andy Tobin: what most people agree is we have a health care crisis, an insurance crisis. The problem is we only really have this one solution over here called Obamacare. By solving it we're boring money from China to do so. It's hard to find another solution when you have so much of the national health care Obamacare bill that passed for us to implement ourselves. So I think it's really hard to gauge. A lot of folks like what's happened with access. They think we have run a good program. But over here you're like do you want the federal government to be playing more of a role in that process? So on this side I think they say no. On this side they think we have done a good job with the resources we have. Then it's all about expansion and taxes and it's more convoluted than any poll could play out to be.

Ted Simons: if the no side succeeds, I believe you've mentioned you are on no side, what does the state do? What are the options?

Andy Biggs: There's a whole series of options but I think one option you could look at is we have a status quo right now. We have a prop 204 freeze in place. We are Catering and serving about , people on there. These are people -- we agreed to cover. We have frozen it. We got permission from the Feds to do that, which is part of the problem we see on everything is that we have to say, can we have permission to do this? A lot of people have a problem with that. But it seems to me that's your most basic option is to continue the status quo and then you implore the Feds to allow us to continue to provide that coverage, maybe we can get that match rate they have been giving, maybe we can't. But that's probably your number one option.

Ted Simons: The hospital, the hidden tax we keep hearing about that hospitals are being inundated with costs for the uninsured, is that good for Arizona?

Andy Biggs: You have to appreciate some of this as well. When you hear the hidden health care tax, uncompensated care isn't uncompensated care. That money is in the system. The other thing you have is in the proposal out there for Medicaid expansion, as the speaker pointed out, you have to recover $1 billion. The way you do that in the proposal is you impose a tax. When you impose that tax that will then be passed on to the commercial side, the consumer will have to pay that and you'll have a hidden health care tax. I'm not sure that the argument that this eliminates a hidden health care taxis the right way to go. Either way you will continue to have that.

Andy Tobin: We have had this conversation before. I have been very up front saying wait a second, if I solve president Biggs's hospital problem because this hidden health care tax how do I know president Biggs' hospital isn't going to charge Ted Simons company through his insurance rates more money? I don't think that's a big ask for the hospital association and medical providers. If we're solving this problem you should be able to say, well, that helps us. We don't have to pass that tax on. We don't have to pass those costs on. But I don't see any of that in the language. I have been asking for that language now for quite some time. And we haven't been getting any of those solutions solved.

Ted Simons: Is that something that will occur anyway if nothing is done?

Andy Tobin: To your point if the answer is that that should occur just because of this huge influx of federal dollars, then they should be able to supply us with a guarantee that it won't occur. I would think if you're getting all this cash you should show up and solve some of our problems which are auditing, which are -- clearly oversight. Besides the 108 issue, you clearly have the separation of powers problem when you start talking about under the current plan giving one guy one director, one paid state employee the ability to go ahead and change rates and also whether or not they are going to lower reimbursements. It's a tough -- it's not so simple as you might want to make it.

Ted Simons: With that in mind, does this go to the floor as a stand-alone vote? Is this rolled into the budget? We hear both we had a report where you said you're ready and willing to send it to the floor.

Andy Biggs: Let me clarify what I have always said. I have always said the bill gets to the floor. I believe the bill gets to the floor.

Andy Tobin: I always said it doesn't. [laughter] But that I believe it gets to the floor just because there are ways that bill gets to the floor, but so the question is what form is it going to look like? You have to have a bill. Right now there is no bill. That's a big hurdle to cross.

Andy Tobin: The way the language is right now I would never put that on the floor. It has none of these protections. These are just some of the simplest --

Ted Simons: The idea would be to work toward the auditing and get it there. If it would get there stand alone?

Andy Tobin: You mean aside from the budget?

Ted Simons: Yes.

Andy Tobin: there can be different budget bills. It depends what we're talking the budget. Certainly we can't do a Medicaid expansion and pay for it with state dollars. The president just described it's $1 billion over three years. We don't have that. To be able to sustain the additional spending that's in the governor's or the executive's budget plan, we can't do that without an assessment. What folks need to understand is if you're talking expansion you're talking we have to raise taxes. Whether or not that gets a match or not you have to understand that that comes along for the ride. That's where there's difficult choices down there to make. I think the providers have an obligation to be helpful with those pieces and should be at the table, not just talking to members in their districts but coming to the table saying maybe this solves your problem.

Ted Simons:Let's move on to another issue. Attorney General's Tom Horne wants money again to patrol Colorado city, Mojave County deputies patrolling that municipality. What do you think of that?

Andy Biggs: I haven't seen the idea. it's hard for me to gauge it because I haven't seen T. that's really not his jurisdiction. I don't know what it is he's hoping to accomplish or achieve. I can't comment on that because I haven't seen that proposal.

Ted Simons: He says right now that followers of Warren Jeffs are in control of the police department and law enforcement and not law enforcement protecting, serving the law. He says that's a problem. Did it last year, looks for money this year. Again, is it something viable or something that never gets a start?

Andy Biggs: Again, I would have to see it. I would have to see what he has in mind. I'm not sure what he's hoping to do. You have to realize that there's been similar proposals in the past. They have been held because they were problematic. Everyone from law enforcement on opposed some of those previous ideas. So we have to see -- I would have to see and understand more clearly what he's trying to do. I haven't heard that.

Ted Simons: Is doing nothing the right thing to do in regards to Colorado city?

Andy Tobin: Well, I know we have had legislation moving down at the capitol but I would share with you you talk about how much it is, I haven't heard from Tom Horne. I haven't heard from the sheriff of Mojave County. I haven't heard from my members in Mojave County telling me they need this. I haven't seen anything on it at all, Ted. If they need $450,000, maybe if there's a crime that's been committed maybe the Attorney General should go file charges or something. Have an investigation. Instead of coming to the capitol looking for half a million dollars.

Ted Simons: Again the question doing nothing would occur if nothing gets done. Okay by you?

Andy Biggs: Well -- what you're suggesting is that the legislature is hindering -- if the A.G. thinks he has jurisdiction, if he thinks he has probable cause, he can go investigate that. The Attorney General can investigate that now. He's got money. We knows he's got money. He just got 50 million bucks off a big settlement from last year that gives him broad latitude to use. He has some money. If he thinks there's something to be investigated he can do it.

Andy Tobin: I would encourage him to do it. If he has a case, I'm not so sure we're doing nothing. We have budgets to do at the capitol. We're not the law enforcement agency of the state. Should be going after whatever crime is committed.

Ted Simons: Was there not a bill regarding a special master over the area Northrup? Did it die in the Senate? First is it completely dead, secondly, what happened to that? Didn't that pass the house like 88%?

Andy Tobin: Yes. We got that out of the house weeks ago.

Ted Simons: What happened in the Senate?

Andy Biggs: It got assigned to committees.

Ted Simons: You're the president. Was it --

Andy Biggs: It came over on march 4th. I signed it -- no, march 8th. I aside it to committees on march 12th. The last week we were going to have committees. The chairman apparently chose not to hear it.

Ted Simons: Is it unusual to have 88% approval in one chamber and not heard in the other?

Andy Tobin: I'll jump in there. There are some bills that come over, no disrespect to the Senate, I have some bills that come over 28 votes, my gosh, how did this happen? Each chamber has their own rules. I don't tell the president how to run his building and he doesn't tell me how to run mine. I think if there's -- members know how to communicate with each other. They should continue to try.

Ted Simons: last point -- please.

Andy Biggs: just want to piggyback on. That it's not unusual for a bill that's wildly popular in the house or in the Senate whether it gets to the opposite chamber it gets assigned to a committee and the chair says, I don't like this bill. I'm not going to hear this bill for whatever reason. I would say that's not unusual because that's why you have 1400 bills come through and you get maybe passed.

Ted Simons: last question before we let you go. The guns in small remote schools. Success so far at the legislature. Yet Democrats try the tactic of adding on amendments of bills not heard. Simply because they thought these ideas should be heard when it comes to gun control. Was the tactic wrong? You just didn't want to hear these? What happened there?

Andy Biggs: We didn't want to hear -- we're not trying to kill bills necessarily, but the realty is we let maybe two gun bills out, two, three gun bills out and those were the most benign gun bills we could think of. We're looking at this particular bill saying we are concerned because a rural district can't even get an SRO, can't afford them or there's none close by. Let's see what other jurisdiction versus done. This particular idea alive and well in Texas, let's see if it works in Arizona. That's why I let that go through.

Ted Simons: We have seen national opinion polls, 90 some odd percent approval for background checks. Shouldn't that be something at least debated at least heard in the Arizona legislature?

Andy Tobin: Well, we have background checks. Are you talking about probably going to the gun shows and stuff like that. I don't have a problem having these debates. My issue is that we had a shooting in Colorado, we had a shooting in Connecticut, for heaven's sake these are horrible events. I haven't seen a gun that came from a gun show. I get it. Folks want to make a story about okay if we do the background checks that solves the problem. I don't see where that worked in any of those instances. That doesn't mean that that shouldn't be there. I'm worried about those folks who have mental health issues that shouldn't be carrying weapons. I worry about the bad guys with weapons. Of course we do. Bad guys don't register weapons anyway. Those folks who have mental health issues need help. So from my perspective we have background checks now. I'm not opposed to having that debate and looking at background checks in gun shows if we think that's helpful but knowing is showing me how that's helpful anywhere.

Ted Simons: In the U.S. Senate we had Senators Mccain and Flake leading the charge say forget the filibuster. Mccain's quote was this issue is as important as we think it is, why not debate? Why not at least hear this at the Arizona Legislature?

Andy Biggs: My own opinion is we had so much going on on our plate, I agree with the speaker there was no indicia that this is going to solve any of the problems. None of the issues that we got to that we heard about showed anywhere where any of those additional checks or background speed bumps would have stopped this. In fact all those guns were purchased legally. Background checks were done. Bad guys got hold of them and did bad things. I'm afraid to say that that's what continues to happen. So we need to take I would think what we're trying to do is put a moratorium on gun bills. To categorize what this is is a gross mischaracterization. That is a school safety issue. That's why we did that. The rest of the gun bills still remain unheard, whether they are Republican or Democrat. We want to get a moratorium so there's not a visceral reaction or emotional debate, but this was a school safety issue. That's why we let that go through.

Ted Simons: That involved guns.

Andy Biggs: Sometimes you need guns to protect schools.

Ted Simons: all right, we'll stop it there. Good to have you.

Andy Biggs:Senate President, Arizona; Andy Tobin:House Speaker, Arizona;

Arizona ArtBeat: Sky Train Art

Lucy Worsley on the Mystery Queen
aired Dec. 3

Agatha Christie: Lucy Worsley on the Mystery Queen

Pavlo: Live in Santorini
aired Dec. 3

Don’t miss ‘Pavlo: Live in Santorini’

aired Nov. 28

Stewart Udall: The Politics of Beauty

Proposal for Phoenix Latino Cultural Center

Don’t miss ‘Horizonte’ Saturdays at 6 p.m.

Subscribe to Arizona PBS Newsletters

STAY in touch
with azpbs.org!

Subscribe to Arizona PBS Newsletters: