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" Journalist's Roundtable. I'm Ted Simons. Joining me tonight are Jeremy Duda of the Arizona Capitol Times, Mike Sunnucks of the Phoenix business journal, and Mark Brodie of KJZZ radio. The governor makes it clear that she wants to see progress on plans to expand Medicaid coverage in Arizona. Jeremy so clear she's basically saying don't talk to me about anything else. Huh?

Jeremy Duda: Based on what seemed like a total lack of progress on the issue on the legislative side in terms of doing what the governor wants them to do. She said stop sending me bills. She didn't explicitly say I will veto anything that hits my desk but a spokesperson says I don't know of anyone who wants to be a Guinea pig on this.

Ted Simons: When it comes to Medicaid expansion, lets define terms here. This is talking about expanding for childless adults up to 133% of the poverty level.

Jeremy Duda: Part of the affordable care act, aka Obamacare, the Feds provide a massive matching rate. The states do not have to put up that much money, and ya know the Governor wants to pay for the states portion with a tax on hospitals. Most hospitals are already on board with this. A lot of folks in the legislature are not happy with this on the Republican side. You have the Senate President vowing to block it. The governor is fed up with it.

Ted Simons: Why are so many not happy with this?

Mike Sunnucks: The opponents have a couple fronts. Obviously it's part of Obamacare a lot of conservatives are worried the state will be beholden to these mandates, the Feds won't come through with the money and we'll have this law sitting on the books we'll have to pay for. They point to the previous proposition back in that expanded AHCCCS where they promised a certain amount of people would join and that was a lot more people and more cost. There's a lot of fiscal concerns about it. Then there's the abortion issue. A lot of anti-abortion Pro-life folks want some kind of anti-Planned Parenthood plank in there. They want to tie to that. That's probably one of the bigger issues as we move forward.

Mark Brodie: Jeremy mentioned that the plan has run into some opposition at the legislature specifically opposition from the house speaker an Senate president who generally nine times out of ten need their support to at least get a bill on the floor for a vote. The governor has been working with individual members trying to convince them try to allay their fears, their concerns that Mike brought up. She's trying to work with members to get them maybe to convince the leadership to bring the bill up or potentially go around them.

Ted Simons: This sounds like it could be a concerted bypass around the president.

Jeremy Duda: They only need a simple majority of votes. One is discharge position but the more likely one is a simple majority vote but you need at least three Republicans to join the 13 Democrats to bring it up without the Senate president's approval. Looks like they have the votes to do that. In the house they may have enough Republicans to pass it but not enough to push it past house speaker Andy Biggs. On the abortion front, an interesting twist from a couple of members staunchly opposed to the plan to begin with but they are posing what they call an abortion prohibition circuit breaker, a provision added to whatever bill the Medicaid plan is on that would basically cut off the funds for the expansion if it couldn't be guaranteed none of the money would go to abortion providers and since that probably can't be guaranteed legally he openly admits it's a way to kill off Democratic votes.

Mark Brodie: Based on what happens with the abortion issue the governor has said she's looking at maybe trying to deal with some of the concerns that Kathy Harrod and others have brought up. That could lose democratic votes and the governor is counting on Democrats who are in general supportive of the idea of expanding Medicaid but not so much if there's certain abortion language in the bill.

Ted Simons: Talk about that particular dynamic. We're not hearing much from Democrats but I imagine if this becomes a focal point we will.

Mike Sunnucks: It's a tough choice. Most of them are pro-choice. If there's some anti-Planned Parenthood pro-life language in there do they vote against that even though they want to see Medicaid expanded? The governor has a few sticks she can stop bills, those types of things but what can she offer Republicans on the fence? All the noise these Republican lawmakers are hearing is from the opponents, tea party folks, anti-abortion folks.

Jeremy Duda: Some of the Democrats are saying if there's some sort of Pro-life anti-abortion thing they may vote no. Some explicitly are saying no. Some say they will even vote no if that's a stand-alone bill. What I'm hearing from the governor's office is a lot of skepticism whether they would do that or whether it's a bluff. This is such an important issue to Democrats, more so than to Republicans, excluding Jan Brewer. They don't think the Democrats will go through it and have to explain why they voted no on expanding Medicaid.

Mike Sunnucks: The fact that Jan Brewer is depending on Democrats staying in the followed shows you the challenges she faces.

Ted Simons: Possibility of a special session, possibility of referring this to the ballot, letting the legislature say to heck with it?

Mark Brodie: You hear people bring up the ghost of proposition , the temporary one cent sales tax that governor called for in ‘09 -- they voted to put it on the ballot after a year of trying to have the legislature approve it they decided to put it on the ballot. You hear maybe this is the same thing but you're also hear from the governor and from leaders they are not interested in doing that, it's enough already, the legislature has to -- we're elected to make decisions, we have to make them one way or the other. Who knows? Nothing is really certain probably until sine die.

Ted Simons: How possible?

Jeremy Duda: Hard to say. I have been hearing more about the ballot measure from Republicans but the ninth floor seem pretty adamantly opposed. what makes it different from proposition 100 is, ya know back then the governor said yeah, "I would like you guys to pass this out of the legislature with a two-thirds majority but if not…" but it seems obvious from day one the ultimate goal was to get a ballot referral. For this, they are not interested. They want the legislature to pass it and get it out of the way.

Mike Sunnucks: I think a lot of Republicans would like to see it go to the ballot. That would take heat off of them for voting something that's Obamacare with the abortion issue in there. A lot of people consider this a tax increase, whether you call it an assessment or not. A lot of the anti-tax crowd sees it as a tax increase. If they don't have to vote that protects them in the primary.

Ted Simons: Is this the kind of thing that would pass if it were on the ballot?

Mark Brodie: You would have to think an off year election would be fairly low turnout. Proposition 100 was fairly low turnout, a special May election, not a presidential or congressional election. You would think in 2013 the turnout wouldn't be that strong. Given that you would imagine that people who support it would probably get their people to the polls. Conventional wisdom would suggest it would probably pass. But who knows? Once something goes to the ballot all bets are off.

Jeremy Duda: Keeping in mind how much money would be coming in, chamber of commerce, hospitals, the governor raising money, this would be just like Proposition 100 where they brought pretty much every business and special interest in the state to support this. The other side had like 50 bucks to its name.

Mike Sunnucks: All things being equal it would have a good chance of passing but if you get the tea party financiers to come in nationally, there's big money, to try to oppose this as a national issue, then all bets are off. It could be very close. You could see treasurer Doocy, who came out against the sales tax renewal, step in there.

Ted Simons: Then all of a sudden that particular vote and who was on either side of the fence become a factor in upcoming state and local races, does it not?

Mark Brodie: You would have to think so, yes. Although even if it's in the legislature this obviously wouldn't affect the treasurer and the Attorney General, those people. It certainly would affect people in the legislature some of whom are running for corporation commission, some may be running for other offices, running for reelection. Regardless whether it goes to the ballot or whether it's dealt with in the legislature, these votes will probably be among the more looked at you would think next year during elections.

Mike Sunnucks: As this thing drags itself out, it starts to seep into the governor's race, especially the Republican primary. Where do different Republicans stand on this: Scott Smith, Hugh Holman.

Ted Simons: It becomes a defining issue if it gets that far you know it's going to be huge.

Jeremy Duda: A lot of people have been pretty quiet about their thoughts and plans, not forced to take a position.

Ted Simons: Last point, it sounds like absolutely nothing else is getting done down there.

Jeremy Duda: Nothing else is going to get done now. If they send any bills to the governor she will veto it several bills were passed after she gave this warning apparently earlier in the week but haven't been sent to the governor's office. We'll see if she's willing to follow through.

Ted Simons: Let's talk about some of the bills here. The foreclosure -- you have to notify a tenant if you're repossessing a place foreclosed upon.

Mike Sunnucks: This has come up a couple times. An issue in past years, not as much now because the foreclosure wave has end a little bit, people would rent a house and then they get evicted because their landlord was foreclosed on and they weren't notified. The ironic thing, a lot of people victimized were foreclosed on themselves, were forced to rent, now they are getting booted out again.

Ted Simons: Five days I think.

Mark Brodie: This is a bill that got if not unanimous pretty close to unanimous support in the legislature. It's one of those as Mike said a consumer issue. It's one of those that legislators say it only seems fair that if you're going to get kicked out of the place you live, you should have a little bit of time.

Mike Sunnucks: Mark made the point something they should probably have passed in or 2008.

Ted Simons: 28-0 in the Senate, 52-2 in the house.

Jeremy Duda: I believe this is one of the handful of bills on its way to the governor.

Ted Simons: Dead letter office, in other words.

Jeremy Duda: Stuff like this has introduced a lot since the foreclosure crisis started and the governor signed a similar bill in 2010. That required notice of landlords to inform prospective tenants before they rented if they faced foreclosure this. Affects people who are already in a lease agreement saying you have to notify them, let them know they may have to move out.

Ted Simons: The governor did sign a law regarding marijuana research on college campuses. Wasn't this banned a year -- a law that was banned a years ago?

Jeremy Duda: What she signed last year banned medical marijuana from schools including higher education institutions. What that did, that bill from last year, it prevented people from doing research. You had a researcher at U. of A. who wanted to study the effects of marijuana on posttraumatic stress disorder in combat veterans. She got approval from the Food and Drug Administration but couldn't do that because of this law. Now they will be allowed to do that. U. of A. wanted it to be passed and looks like it will move forward.

Ted Simons: That got signed before the moratorium.

Jeremy Duda: Before the buzzer.

Ted Simons: Yes. The proposed casino out there near Glendale. Have they lost a court decision yet?

Mike Sunnucks: I think it's 10-0 they have won all of them. They continue to win because of the federal law that allows them to add to their holdings in unincorporated land. The other tribes that have casinos, the city of Glendale, a lot of folks oppose it but the courts seep siding with them and the opponents are starting to run out of legal options. There's a few more appeals they can go through, but you're starting to get to the end of the game where they may actually start moving dirt sometime soon.

Ted Simons: Give us an overview. The tribe was given land because their land was flooded I believe by a federal dam.

Mark Brodie: They were allowed to buy land. They did although they did so under a corporate name that did not make it clear who was buying it. They sat on the land for a while. A few years ago they announced, it's us and we're going do build a Vegas style resort and casino. This ruling is a little different. Last the court cases have dealt with as Mike alluded to federal laws dealing with whether or not tribes can buy land to be put into the reservation, whether that land is then eligible for gaming. This one dealt with the state gaming compacts, more of a state issue. It was another one of the arguments that critics have brought up that it would basically shatter the state tribal gaming compact and allow casinos on every street corner in the valley and everywhere else. This is a little different in the sense it dealt more with the gaming compact but still it's an important win for the tribes.

Mike Sunnucks: I think you'll see the opponents, their last gasp is a bill in congress that Trent Franks and some of the others have put forward to undo the law that has been the basis of this. It's interesting that some of the lawmakers are in districts with other casinos and tribes. The Gila river, Salt River are the two big opponents. They have casinos here. This one would just bite into their market share.

Jeremy Duda: Sounds like the cities in the west valley that have been very opposed are starting to accept their fate. According to the Republic, Peoria passed a resolution supporting it. Officials in Glendale are saying, maybe we need to make nice to the tribe, figure out how to incorporate this into our business onto tourism plan.

Mike Sunnucks: They were so opposed to this they really led the opposition, brought in other tribes, they're both obviously gone, so you'll maybe see some gradual change out of Glendale.
Mark Brodie: The bill Franks introduced he basically introduced the same bill approved by the House, didn't go anywhere in the Senate.

Ted Simons: Is there any chance on earth that thing gets passed and signed and becomes law?

Mark Brodie: Signed by the president?

Ted Simons: Yes.

Mark Brodie: Seems unlikely.

Ted Simons: Peoria is already saying we don't want any part of this.

Mark Brodie: Peoria's mayor has been supportive of the plan for several years. But a lot of the other west valley cities, Jeremy's right, were at the very least nervous about it

Ted Simons: Do we see an appeal? How many times can you get knocked to the canvas here?

Mike Sunnucks: It's a lot of money on the table for all the tribes. The longer the other tribes can drag it out the better for them. This thing is eventually going to get built. There's a lot of patience on both sides.

Ted Simons: Compact runs out 2027?

Mike Sunnucks: It will get built before then. [laughter]

Ted Simons: You never know. Tom Horne pleads no contest, pays a $ fine, couple hundred bucks administrative costs, settles the traffic charge and that's that, right?

Jeremy Duda: We'll find out. He has pleaded no contest to backing into another car in a parking garage and leaving the scene. Apparently there's some paint scratches. He says I don't remember it and I don't know that I did any damage but I would have settled it then. You get a $300 fine, and $208 in surcharges and that's it. He still has plenty of other cases, now you have Democrats wanting to start impeachment charges. I can't imagine that will go anywhere. But people are agitating. Just piling on to him more. He has faced a string of legal problems and issues.

Ted Simons: What do you think about Tom Horne's response? I didn't sense a lot of contrition there.

Mark Brodie: No. You hear -- we have heard in the past how when the legislature is in session and there's not a lot going on that's when goofy things start happening. I have had legislators say we all have too much time on our hands. I think Jeremy is right on this. They would have to have a lot of free time for --

Ted Simons: For impeachment proceedings.

Mark Brodie: To gain any traction.

Jeremy Duda: We spoke with speaker Tobin earlier. The house has to impeach someone then it goes to the Senate for a trial. The first he heard about was from me. He thought this was political grandstanding by Gallardo.

Mike Sunnucks: Very interesting too which came out there was a verdict from a young lady's murder trial that happened to be announced a couple hours --

Ted Simons: There was a murder trial?

Mike Sunnucks: Yes, you may have caught it on headline news.

Ted Simons: I'll look it up.

Mike Sunnucks: Horne decided to put it out after all the oxygen was sucked out of the air by Jodi Arias.

Ted Simons: He said he would have taken care of things personally if he had known there were scratches there. Again, that doesn't sound -- you're talking about the Attorney General here. I think that's what people are concerned about with this whole thing that a couple of FBI agents tailing him for another reason completely and got him bumping into the car and leaving. What does this do to Tom Horne?

Mike Sunnucks: Every time we talk about this the fact that FBI agents were tailing the state Attorney General on a campaign finance probe. That shows the bizarre nature of the whole thing. Obviously the baseball cap and the work friend he was visiting -- certainly this damages him and if there's a formidable opponent either in the primary or the general and or the general they are certainly going to bring it up. If they have the money to run commercials that's a big arrow to have.

Mark Brodie: He still has the campaign finance charges -- Bill Montgomery can't pursue it but somebody else will. The longer this drags out the longer it potentially plays into a primary getting involved in a primary, that sort of thing.

Mike Sunnucks: I think you'll see if it's Rotolini and him she's going to get a lot of support, probably national money. She could run for Senate or governor if she can win this race. I think it will be a big deal if it's her. She was his opponent during this probe.

Jeremy Duda: He has another court case pending, the civil suit from an employee alleging harassment, discrimination, retaliation. She's the one who initially tipped off the Feds on this campaign finance stuff, she alleges they retaliated against her for that. She's seeking damages. We'll have the inner workings, who is friends with who, that kind of stuff. There's no reason to believe it will do anything but make Tom Horne look bad.

Mike Sunnucks: This is going to fade away without a lot of money from the opposition. Otherwise he will dismiss it as minor.

Ted Simons: Is it a minor thing the governor's appointment to this naturopathic physicians medical board who was at one point telling anyone who would listen he had the governor's ear and he's a big shot when it comes to the governor, that this guy has quit before possible suspension, there could be charges here? It's a complicated case but it gets pretty close to the governor's inner circle.
Mike Sunnucks: Her husband was director of the board back in the early 2000's. He had to step down because much problems with his resume and the credentials he had claimed. This is obviously a very obscure board but this gentleman Robert Gear is accused of improperly selling medical marijuana out of his clinic. He denied the charges. You got the governor and her husband involved it makes it a bigger story.

Ted Simons: The previous executive director resigned because that director wasn't happy with some of the appointments that governor was making.

Jeremy Duda: Yes. One of them was appointed when this guy Gear got appointed. One was withdrawn an she was caught up in this indictment on medical marijuana stuff in Navajo County. The director resigned said he felt the governor was appointing inexperienced people, members were violating open meetings laws. Sounded dysfunctional. After that this guy got made executive director, a $105,000 a year job.

Ted Simons: Was he executive director?

Jeremy Duda: I believe director. Interestingly enough, these guys license naturopaths who can give recommendations for medical marijuana.

Mike Sunnucks: It's strange that all the problems seem to be on this one board. A lot of state boards, these thing pop up, there's cronyism and political favoritism but this one board which no one probably knows has had numerous problems over the last decade.

Ted Simons: But again, this board oversees medical marijuana in the state as well. That wasn't a problem in the old days when all you worried about was a couple of herbs.

Mike Sunnucks: There's been question how to regulate the new age and natural health practitioners, a lot of different takes on how to do that, how much regulation, how much licensing they need this. Board deals with that.

Ted Simons: We have about a minute or so left here. How long before the ICE thaws in this whole battle over Medicaid expansion?

Jeremy Duda: Who knows? June 15th - I'm trying to decide if that's optimistic or pessimistic. If they don't send the governor this Medicaid plan she wants, send her a budget without she will veto it, just like she did in '09. We could potentially be here through July or later.

Ted Simons: Mark?

Mark Brodie: I have been hearing that some folks are suggesting that might be another year where it's a full-time legislature.

Ted Simons: Really possible, huh? The air conditioning working down there?

Mike Sunnucks: I think the governor might turn the air up a little bit on them, turn it down, heat them out. I think the opponents are emboldened on this. I think they are stronger than they were maybe three, four weeks ago. They feel they have a chance of blocking this.

Ted Simons: Interesting. Gentlemen, good stuff. Thanks for joining us.

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