Legislative Update

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Join a reporter from the Arizona Capitol Times for a weekly update on the legislature.

Ted Simons: Two new polls show conflicting results regarding plans to expand Arizona's Medicaid program. We get the latest from Jim small in our weekly legislative update with "The Arizona Capitol Times." Good to see you. Thanks for joining us. So we got one poll says what, and one poll says something else.

Jim Small: Yeah. A poll that was paid for by the state, Arizona state chamber of commerce, which is for the expansion, shows broad support for among voters for expanding the AHCCCS program, and even among all the different partisan groups, democrats, independents, and most importantly, Republicans. On the flip side, there's another poll also done by a national polling firm, we don't know who paid for it, but it seems as though it was opponents of the expansion who did -- Who funded it. And it shows narrow support overall, but among Republicans, like 2-1 opposition to this, and 3-1 oppositional most to legislators who vote to put a tax on hospitals in order to pay for the expansion.

Ted Simons: The first poll was done by public opinion strategists, a pretty well-known outfit, the second poll by Magellan Strategies, these are reputable companies.

Jim Small: They're both Republican polling firms, they largely do congressional races, senate races, presidential races, and different states, stuff like that. Magellan in the past here as polled the flick car moan -- Flake race, the Romney-Obama race, public opinion strategies has worked for -- More congressional candidates than you can count.

Ted Simons: How do we explain the disparity?

Jim Small: You know, a couple things. I think the biggest reason for the disparity is the way the questions were posed. In the public opinion strategies poll, we haven't seen all of the questions they asked, but we've seen some of them. And there's a lot more information. They try to lay some of the ground work for the actual facts. This is a complex issue. There's a lot of things going on whereas the Magellan strategies poll was an automated poll, and the question was fairly short and simple, and really didn't explain some of the financial underpinnings to this move, and what state would stand to gain from expanding its Medicaid program.

Ted Simons: With these two polls floating around, are we getting any new information regarding talks? Down at the Capitol.

Jim Small: looks like you've got the two sides digging in. I talked to one person today who likened it to trench warfare in World War I, where you wake up every morning and you haven't moved. You're in the exact same place and you're fighting the same fight over and over again. And no one is making any progress. So the polls -- I think each speak to -- They reinforce each side's view, whether they're accurate or not or whether they're viable representations of how the electorate feels, I think both sides can use the poll they like best to their own advantage to bolster their view and defend either supporting the expansion or opposing it.

Ted Simons: all right. A bill to raise caps on campaign donations looks like it's passed the senate, party line vote. What are we talking about?

Jim Small: This is a bill that's gone to the governor's desk now that it will essentially dramatically increase the campaign contribution limits to statewide and legislative and local candidates. Right now Arizona has some very low campaign finance limits, that were set back in the 's and in the mid- to early s, and this would increase them from about 440 dollars for a legislative candidate, that anyone can write a check for, to $2,000. And it would increase Pac contributions up to $4,000.

Ted Simons: This is the reason among the many reasons here is that some figure this could be unconstitutionally too low. Correct?

Jim Small: There's been an argument for years that because we artificially set our campaign finance limits low, and ratchet them down a lot, that following some of the Supreme Court decisions and court rulings in other states striking down low campaign finance limits as a violation of the first amendment, that Arizona's limits were potentially unconstitutional. The only problem is no one has ever sued over Arizona's campaign finance limits, so we don't have a ruling. The rulings in other states don't apply to our situation, so we've been left with these low limits.

Ted Simons: So what are we left with as far as candidates who run on clean elections, and those who run -- It sounds like those who run private now could raise more than the clean elections candidates.

Jim Small: Oh, yeah. There's always been the potential for them to raise more than the clean elections candidates. This would make it easier. If you're running for a legislative office, to go out and raise $20,000 in $400 increments is one thing, to do it in $2,000 increments is something entirely different.

Ted Simons: And this is a party line vote here. Any word on the governor's likely to sign this do you think?

Jim Small: I think a lot of people are hopeful she will. Certainly she's -- I think this is viewed as a conservative issue and a pro-Republican issue. So I think there's the hope she will. There's some constitutional questions that have been raised about whether doing it the way they're doing it is actually legal, because there's some intertwining between the campaign finance limits and the clean elections act, and some questions that I think haven't been litigated as to what needs to be done to help clean elections, whether anything needs to be done to help clean elections to raise the campaign finance limits.

Ted Simons:Got about 30 seconds left, Tom Horne wants more money to patrol at Colorado city. An effort earlier in the session to do something about the Colorado city police department did not get out. Will this get in?

Jim Small: It will ultimately be rolled into the budget talks. And so those will only progress -- We'll only see something move really quickly on budget once this Medicaid thing gets done, because that's the linchpin for everything. He wants about $400,000 to fund some patrols, outside patrols to provide law enforcement other than the law enforcement that they allege is controlled by the fundamental Latter Day Saints church.

Ted Simons: We should mention, the previous legislation in this session I think passed the house with flying colors, got to the senate, and nothing.

Jim Small: Yeah. And that's -- This is an issue they fought really hard for last year as well there. Were two or three different versions, and same thing this year. Just trying to push this thing across the finish line and haven't been able to do it yet.

Ted Simons: Thanks for joining us.

Jim Small: Thank you.

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