Get the latest news from the state legislature in our weekly update with Arizona Capitol Times reporter Luige del Puerto.
Ted Simons: Thank you. Good evening, and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Medicaid expansion is still topic one at the state legislature. It's the primary condition that lawmakers are still in session. Joining us now for our weekly update is Luige Del Puerto of "The Arizona Capitol Times." Good to have you here, what is the latest on Medicaid expansion?
Luige Del Puerto: Nothing happened in the house this week on the Medicaid expansion front. And we are not expecting anything this week. However, as I had mentioned earlier, there were three options about how to proceed, and right now there's really only just one, and that's the governor's proposal. That's because speaker Tobin had concluded he cannot get the votes to pass his proposal to ask the voters what to do with this issue.
Ted Simons: Could not get the votes in the house or knew he couldn't get the votes in the senate?
Luige Del Puerto: He said he could not get the votes in the house. It is also very certain he could not get the votes in the senate. It sounds to me like lawmakers in the house either get it passed, get it out of here, or kill it and let's go home.
Luige Del Puerto: Certainly we are seeing that sentiment, that anxiousness, the get going and get this thing wrapped up.
Ted Simons: I thought Tobin, one of the reasons he was going to route is because he was concerned about prop 108, the idea a two-third mass jotter is needed to vote in a tax increase, which he sees this as, others of course don't. What happened to that argument?
Luige Del Puerto: He believes that's still the case. But of course his idea of resolving that issue by sending this to the voters is not going anywhere. And so even if he still believes this needs a prop 108, therefore two-thirds vote to pass, he can't get the votes to refer it to the ballot. So he's conceded that point.
Ted Simons: What about the idea of getting enough votes just to pass the house? Not the two-thirds, just the majority. Are those votes there?
Luige Del Puerto: The sentiment all along is the votes are in the house to do it. There are eight Republicans we know of that are willing to support the governor's expansion proposal, that's enough, along with the democrats to pass this.
Ted Simons: So the votes are there, but it sounds like he's not convinced the votes are there.
Luige Del Puerto: Well, what's happening right now is that he is trying to work for ways to amend the governor's proposal in order to include what he thinks are necessary to satisfy some of his concerns. And he wants to, for example, put in some accountability measures in the proposal.
Ted Simons: So this is that tighter circuit breaker, if necessity -- If the feds go below that threshold, boom, the whole thing is over.
Luige Del Puerto: Yes. He doesn't want 25% drop before we terminate this program. In addition, I think he wants to ensure that this assessment fee on hospitals is not going to be passed on to patients. Some of those provisions have absolutely already been included in the current version. So it's -- It would be interesting to see what else he could get, and what else would be added to this proposal. When they are ready to address it.
Ted Simons: Is it -- Is the consensus that he can provide cover for Republicans in the house if he goes ahead and votes, let's get it passed and move on? And allow for a lot of folks to say no, even though it's going to be a yes?
Luige Del Puerto: Certainly if the speaker of the house got some of the things he wanted, and it satisfies his concerns-- he ends up voting for this proposal, it would provide his colleagues, Republican colleagues a lot of political cover. They could then say, our leadership voted for it. We fought it, we had concerns about it, we tried to get the best deal that we could, and our -- The speaker tried to do that for us and this is the best deal he could get, and therefore we went with him.
Ted Simons: Now, so the idea of the speaker sending this, referring this by way of the legislature to the ballot for a vote, it looks like it's pretty much --
Luige Del Puerto: That's dead.
Ted Simons: But there's a move from former lawmakers to get this on the ballot in another way? Talk to us about.
Luige Del Puerto: So the Arizona constitution, which was created during a more populous time, allowed for the voters to challenge any law or any section of the law Via what's called the referendum process. You only need 5% of the signatures that were cast in the last gubernatorial race for governor, therefore there's fewer signatures you need to challenge the law. Essentially they are thinking that they could get the signatures. So what's going to happen, assuming they can get the signatures to challenge this law is that in the meantime, this Medicaid expansion would be put on hold because the Arizona constitution says we have to wait until the next general election. Of course that creates all sorts of complications about this whole process.
Ted Simons: It sounds as though, let's say they get the 86,000 whatever they need as far as putting this on the ballot, just getting it on the ballot delays the whole thing because you can't go through with the law until it's voted on. That's with November 2014?
Luige Del Puerto: Yes. And precisely that's what some of them are hoping for. For example, a former lawmaker might be spearheading this effort along with former senator Ron Gould said, if we can delay this one that would be a big win.
Ted Simons: But can you do this constitutionally? I read as well that if it's part of the budget, that you really can't do that. Is there arguments pro and con on that?
Luige Del Puerto: The legal route to this issue is circuitous. The governor's office thinks there's a shield against a referendum challenge to Medicaid expansion. The governor's office has presented -- Dug up a 1992 court of appeals ruling that basically says there's flexibility in some broad interpretation as to what is considered an appropriations measure, rather, what could be excluded from the referendum challenge. And if a tax measure that's meant to support a budget plan, that would be off limits through the referendum process. Obviously if there's a referendum challenge, it will get hammered with a legal challenge with those -- From those who support expansion plan.
Ted Simons: That should be fun to watch. That will be very interesting to see if they can -- But it sounds like rank and file GOP, precinct and committee folks, they're saying we can get those signatures no problem.
Luige Del Puerto: It's always very tough to get a proposal, an initiative on the ballot without paid circulators. Would be the safest route, for them to have the money to hire paid circulators and get the signatures. They have three months to do this, they have to gather 86,000 signatures, within three months.
Ted Simons: We've got about a minute left. The Arizona Supreme Court is going to look that the idea of funding education with inflation increasing. What's going on?
Luige Del Puerto: So three years ago, two, three years ago we passed a law that basically said we're going to not fully fund inflation, inflation or adjustments for our schools. And several school districts sued, and it went through the superior court and the appeals court, and the appeals court sided with the plaintiffs. The state appealed, and now the Supreme Court has decided they will take a look and review this case.
Ted Simons: Alright. By the way, has adjustments for inflation, are they included in the adjustments floating around?
Luige Del Puerto: The prevailing sentiment is let's go and do this one. In the meantime, so they did set aside $82 million for now.
Ted Simons: Alright. Good stuff. Thanks for joining us.