Journalist Roundtable

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Join us for another edition of the Journalists’ Roundtable.

Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Arizona Horizon's" "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 Steve Goldstein of KJZZ radio. Medicaid expansion is still lingering or loitering in the house as the case may be. Give us an update now. What's going on?

Jeremy Duda: The latest is there is no latest. The Senate passed it a few weeks ago. The Governor and House Speaker Andy Tobin are talking, the Governor's office is talking with legislators. There's really no movement so far. No one's expecting anything to happen next week, the House is still on a three-day schedule. Probably a couple weeks. The Governor was very optimistic today, she expects a vote next week. Tobin told me basically, sure, anything's possible.

Ted Simons: The Speaker doesn't think there are enough votes to pass, but everyone else thinks there are. What's going on there?

Jeremy Duda: Most of the people around the capitol believe there are eight to Republicans, the Governor needs seven. Tobin says there aren't enough. There's probably enough votes for it, but you need Tobin to give the green light. They need him to bring it to the floor first.

Ted Simons: Do they know what he's aiming for? More accountability, oversight, these things?

Mike Sunnucks: There's that camp of skeptics who want to peck around the edges. Then there are a lot of Republicans just totally opposed to it. Obviously the Governor and her camp and hospitals hope to get it through with some reasonable oversight. There are concerns about how much power the AHCCCHS czar has. The split is pretty even between constituents who support this and oppose this. Neither side is dominating in terms of phone calls and an informal survey.

Steve Goldstein: The political situation comes back to the majority of the majority. Andy Biggs talked about it in the Senate, which he didn't get. Even if there are eight to 10 Republicans, that's still barely a third of the caucus. That is really enough to make it go forward? I think this illustrates maybe the disconnect people think with the legislature. If the majority of Republicans want this, why is it being held up?

Ted Simons: This also gives the Speaker an opportunity, if he can't get more than he's got right now, he can provide some cover for those who say no, can't he? They can go back and run their campaigns and say, I voted no.

Jeremy Duda: Some of the things he's looking for is stuff that could give a bit of cover for Republicans on the fence. He wants legislative oversight, the AHCCCHS director would have a tremendous amount of power. He wants a tougher circuit breakers that would end the program if federal funding dropped blow 80%. He wants 85, but I don't think the Governor will go that far.

Mike Sunnucks: Really it comes down to whether there are enough Republicans to vote for it, who think it's not a third-rail issue. Guns, abortion, marriage, immigration, if you're on the wrong side of that issue you're going to be challenged in a primary and probably going to lose. This is a more complicated thing. I think that's the deciding factor, I can still vote for this and not lose my seat.

Steve Goldstein: I think an interesting development, Jeremy's down there every day at the capitol this. This idea that Andy Tobin has to give in, there's not going to be a ballot marry. It's going to be up or down in the legislature.

Ted Simons: Why did he give up the idea of referring to the ballot?

Jeremy Duda: Very little, I think we found one or two members of the Republican caucus who supported this, as well. But most of them, whether for it or against it, they didn't like it, the legislative Democrats didn't like it, the Governor is absolutely opposed to it. He talked to people and found not nearly enough. So he had to abandon that.

Mike Sunnucks: That's a bit of a surprise, a perfect way to punt politically. Let the voters decide. It gives them some protection on the Republican side. It is a little surprising you didn't see a little more interest in that.

Ted Simons: Were you surprised by that?

Steve Goldstein: I'm not surprised not a lot of people jumped on. The Governor still has a majority-majority against Medicaid expansion. There's kind of that feeling that if you have eight to supporters in the House, you've got six or seven in the Senate as far as the Republican side supporting this, I would still think there would be some rabble rousers pushing this, saying let's not give up early in the game.

Ted Simons: Either pass it or kill it, let's go home?

Jeremy Duda: Some are saying we've been elected to do a job, we need to do it and not punt it. Prop 100 expires tomorrow, but there are a lot of people kind of nervous about it. If you put it on the ballot you have to get a campaign going. The money for the yes vote will come from the hospitals, chamber of commerce, the Governor's allies. A little more uncertain for Republican groups. If it passes it's voter protected.

Ted Simons: Let's take that point and then move forward. The legislature may not be interested in punting but there are a couple of strong legged folks who used to be in the legislature who can't wait to tee this up.

Mike Sunnucks: Yeah, Ron Gould and other former lawmakers are ready to lead this effort. More conservative groups don't like this and they are ready to get on board. The question is how much money can they raise and how much organization they can have. I do think there is momentum politically on the right to get after this thing and try to do this thing, especially after they defeated the sales tax extension. You're seeing what's going on with the Tea Party nationally, the IRS stuff has kind of reenergized them. They are feeling their oats a little bit after this. Anything with Obama-care next to it, some folks there will be interested in that.

Ted Simons: 86,000 signatures within 90 days of the end of the session, you get enough grass roots Republicans and Libertarians and those folks together, it doesn't sound like that difficult a task.

Steve Goldstein: You really have to get folks fired up. When you think of how huge a program AHCCCHS is, if there's another suit that puts this on hold, where does that put funding in flux?

Ted Simons: And if this is on the ballot, everything has to wait for the vote next year, correct?

Jeremy Duda: And that's really going to complicate things. The AHCCCHS agreement with the federal government, known as the demonstration Waiver, that expires at the end of the year. We seriously doubt the Feds will let us continue what we're doing now with the enrollment freeze agreement with childless adults. You have to put it on hold until after it's approved, November of 2014 if the voters pass it. We're stuck in limbo. As much as $300 million out of the state's coffers to pay for that. These people speak in riddles at the best of times.

Mike Sunnucks: The issue has fest erred so much, it's dominating things at the capitol. If you look at the national picture, conservatives are feeling some momentum. I think you could see people really get behind this. You obviously have the antiabortion crowd that's looked at this issue too, in terms of Planned Parenthood funding and Medicaid. If you get them on board even a little bit, this thing will get enough signatures.

Ted Simons: What about the idea that this would be unconstitutional because it's a specific part of the budget and you're not supposed to put that kind of stuff to the ballot, to the vote.

Jeremy Duda: You can't put an appropriations measure up for referendum. But you can take certain parts of a bill. You don't have to put a whole bill up for a referendum. You can't put a tax for continuing services up there. It's an old court of appeals ruling saying that blocks us from going for a referendum, too. You can take the expansion provision and put it up and that would kill it.

Steve Goldstein: I already see voters' eyes glazing over on this. People probably won't even know what's actually on the ballot.

Mike Sunnucks: Critics will challenge on whether it's a tax. It's a tax, not an assessment fee, it needs a super majority.

Ted Simons: Before we leave this, I think you guys are worried about fallout in the Senate. The dynamics of leadership in the Senate seem like they have changed big-time. What's going on over there?

Jeremy Duda: Very contentious fight after the election in November. Andy Biggs unseated Steve Pierce, that left some bad blood. A lot of folks with the losing camp rolled Andy Biggs and forced a yes vote over his head. Nerves are pretty raw. Most of the majority of the Republican caucus in the Senate is opposed to Medicaid expansion. So --

Ted Simons: You've got a leader in the Senate whose leadership team is out to lunch with the other crowd.

Steve Goldstein: Team is the key word there. When I saw they were going to be up there, this was a bone to the Steve Pierce camp. These were big supporters of Steve Pierce. The budget out of the Senate is very pro Andy Biggs. The Medicaid expansion obviously throws things out. Whether people hate him or not, I think it took a lot of guts for McComish to step out and do this.

Ted Simons: He took the lead on this and may take the folks like, A.J. Lafaro, and why is he calling this a historic event and it was a mugging in the Senate.

Mike Sunnucks: He's always been more of a moderate, a chamber guy in Ahwatukee, very moderate, a nice guy, too. If somebody's going to be challenged in the primary, here's the guy that went with Obama-care and Medicaid, John is the guy.

Steve Goldstein: I'm waiting for A.J. to come out and say, give me liberty or give me death. He has even called the Governor a traitor -

Jeremy Duda: He called her Judas actually.

Mike Sunnucks: A lot of Republicans are talking about this. Why are we in the majority? We do all this stuff and then this comes up and we don't flex our muscles. I think it's playing it's out in the House, too. People say if the majority of the caucus doesn't improve approve we shouldn't move forward.

Jeremy Duda: If the Republican grass roots are unified against this, the committee men, Republican grass roots, these are the people who will go out in thousand-degree temperatures in the summer and collect signatures for that.

Ted Simons: We shall see about that. The Supreme Court, Arizona high court looks at education funding and specifically adjusting for inflation. What's this all about?

Steve Goldstein: I think Jeremy can explain a little more. The core where is where does the voting right side sit. How many how much power do the voters have in deciding these things. Funding along with inflation education increases. In the state budget was in the absolute hole, they decided to put that on hold. What the voters decided before the Voter Protection Act, is that going leap over the other except of what the legislature is satisfying, we don't have the money, we can't provide it.

Jeremy Duda: Wolf Blitzer interpreted the proposition kind of creatively a couple of years ago. You have to increase base funding or other factors by 2% or inflation, whichever is greater. The court of appeals ruled that basically means and, not or. It's clear they meant and. So they said if you say or other factors, we can kick up transportation fund by 2% and leave the base funding cut because we've got find somewhere to get some money.

Mike Sunnucks: The legislature is always chomping at the bit with these cases. They take the football and run with it. It's like a free pass for them to keep pushing the envelope.

Ted Simons: Now the court reporter is saying, you've got to do this.

Mike Sunnucks: This is a step back for them. They went through this with income and assets. They will keep trying these things, they get in these tough budget times and they testify to giving out ways to get around it.

Jeremy Duda: The original court ruling see the -- was the voters cannot force lawmakers to make an innocent year after year, the court of appeals disagreed.

Ted Simons: ACLU suing over an abortion law that basically says you can't target sex or race?

Steve Goldstein: This is why I have my notes. This is the official title of this 2011 bill sponsored by Steve Montenegro became law. The Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglas Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act of 2011. It's a felony if you were to either -- if you were to be an abortion provider and do the abortion in a situation where you know for a fact it is because of the race or the sex of the child. In the background for this, a lot of things that were cited were Asian people, African-Americans. Numbers said more African-Americans get abortions. This is already a discriminatory act, we have to overturn this.

Ted Simons: The issue of targeting sex or race in abortions, obviously a major problem or the legislature wouldn't address it, correct?

Mike Sunnucks: I don't know if we have any evidence at all of that in 21st century American culture. The NAACP and other groups are signed on as co-plaintiffs. They want to discourage abortions so their goals is to pass as many laws as possible at the state and federal level to try to discourage these things. I don't think there's any evidence of any of these things going on.

Ted Simons: Any evidence at all?

Jeremy Duda: The sponsor, Steve Montenegro, he was showing a study showing gender selection going on in Asian countries, in China, China, where the government allows people to only have one kid. They said some statistics show there's a greater gender imbalance among some Asians in America but never made the leap to saying, this is-actually happens here.

Steve Goldstein: I don't know how often we've said unintended consequences. This is a solution in search of a problem. Let's sort of incrementally take away certain abortion rights. That's where the ACLU is concerned. Is it an incremental step that could lead to simply bigger?

Ted Simons: The law is currently on family in Indiana. Some way, shape or form could wind up funding abortion. This did not make it to the Supreme Court this, Indiana law. That could impact what's happening in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals with Arizona's law.

Jeremy Duda: It was appear attempt to pull Medicaid funding from any organization that performs abortions, Planned Parenthood being the example. You know, most of the services Planned Parenthood provides are not abortion related. They do a lot of screening and stuff like that. The District Court said to us a few months ago, you can't do this. The Indiana law has gone further, gone to the appeal's escort and stuck down there again. Unless the court goes for the law here--

Mike Sunnucks: That's a tough one for the abortion folks. They pushed this as part of the Medicaid expansion, too. The argument is your giving no one Planned Parenthood. That frees them up financially to provide more abortions but they can use a bigger pool of their own money for that. And kind of gives fuel to the fire for the folks on the right who don't like these Medicaid expansions. Look what happens when you sign up, you're stuck with the federal mandates, stuck in the federal courts, going through the 9th circuit.

Ted Simons: We should see the 7th circuit court of appeals regarding Indiana law. Very different here, not the 9th. A threat to other planned parenthood service he and the superiority didn't want to look at it, period. Alright. I understand Steve there was an effort to recall the Maricopa County sheriff.

Steve Goldstein: That is Joe Arpaio?

Ted Simons: I think so. Yes. What happened?

Steve Goldstein: 335,000 valid signatures were needed. The recall organizers were not able to get that many. Head to give up the effort, needed to get them in by Thursday at 5:00. They were unable to get that many. They had hoped the momentum from Friday's decision by Judge Snow for his incriminate tore practices at the MCSO, we have Sheriff Joe Arpaio for at least another little bit. Organizers were trying to compare the Russell Pearce recall with Sheriff Joe Arpaio. This was 335,000 because it's the county. It's very difficult to pull off.

Ted Simons: Why didn't this effort succeed? If they had come close, you might have heard how many they collected.

Mike Sunnucks: The number of tickets, they had to raise the organization, money, you would have needed money behind this and some folks really out there beating the bushes. And Arpaio has not been in the public light as much lately. The issue has kind of died down. Immigration has died down a bit, too. If they tried this a couple years ago, they might have had a better chance when it was really out in the forefront.

Ted Simons: The criticism, just after an election what, are you recalling for? But when you had this judge's decision, the racial profiling case, the ruling coming down, you could say all right. You had --

Steve Goldstein: There were some supporters saying it would have been great if this decision would have come down a month before. It wouldn't have gotten even some momentum.

Ted Simons: That case drew enough attention months ago. When you read the ruling you understand how precise and defined it was, but still.

Mike Sunnucks: I just don't think that issue and the case drew enough attention to really energize folks.

Jeremy Duda: Remember, about a month, month and a half ago, they stopped paying, they started again, they didn't have the money. The writing was on the wall for a couple of months now.

Steve Goldstein: Those of us who have had to run to press conferences, the conflict after the Judge Snow ruling came down, I think it was seconds after it was put out. He put out a statement after the recall organizers couldn't get the signatures. He's still now the out there doing one of his patented press conferences. I thought that was kind of interesting.

Ted Simons: Critics of the effort noted there was not a lot in the way of high profile political leaders, Democrats or Republicans, get on board that political effort. I think Senator Gallardo stood up and said, where is the indignation?

Jeremy Duda: With the Democrats, a lot of them. Too late for people for jump on the recall effort by the time the ruling came down. You already knew it was done. You see a lot of Democrats coming out criticizing that. Legislators have, but you didn't see a lot of support or a lack of support among a lot of Democratic elected officials for the recall itself. Even though a lot of them hate Arpaio, we felt different.

Mike Sunnucks: Especially among political folks, they are very cost-benefit analysis. You didn't see Terry Goddard take him on in office. They still view him as a powerhouse because of his constituency, his support within the older folks as the grass roots. You don't see people come out, that's what these efforts need.

Steve Goldstein: Slightly contrary to Mike, I'm not saying this is accurate. He's 80 now, barely won his last election. Maybe some people feel like I don't want to take the political chance in case he's still that powerful. If he's not, he's not going influence that many people at all.

Ted Simons: They were changing the vans on Fox 10 last night, getting rid of the signage and call this number if you see an undocumented person.

Steve Goldstein: Before that I heard the sheriff same as say, illegal immigrants, they are trying hard, I'm not going to target them. But when it's politically dangerous, he pivoted.

Mike Sunnucks: It was not a surprise that he's kind of moving away from that. They will find the next things.

Ted Simons: You've got 30 seconds to tell us. Are the Coyotes getting a new owner?
Mike Sunnucks: Now there's a Canadian group that wants to buy them and keep them here. The NHL may give them some funding. We might see it soon.

Ted Simons: Same song and dance. Gentlemen, good to have you here.

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