Journalists’ Roundtable

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Join us for another edition of the Journalists’ Roundtable for a recap of the week’s news from three local journalists.

Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Arizona Horizon's" journalists' roundtable. I'm Ted Simons. Joining me tonight are Alia Beard Rau of "The Arizona Republic," Howard Fischer of capitol media services, and Mark Brodie from KJZZ radio. Quite the week at the Supreme Court as a number of landmark decisions were handed down. Let's start with the defense of marriage act. What was the court looking at, what did they decide?

Alia Beard Rau: The court was looking at the portion of the act that basically defines marriage as between a man and a woman only as it pertains to federal law. Social Security, taxes, any sort of federal benefit, I think there's about 1,100 1,300 of them.

Ted Simons: Was this decision a surprise?

Alia Beard Rau: I don't think so. The general population, I mean there was a lot of excitement, a lot of response but it seemed like the lawyers seemed to think this was expected.

Howard Fischer: The basis was curiously enough states' rights. What justice Kennedy said was we depend on the states to define who can get married, some states first cousins can get married. We allow the states to do that. Having allowed the couples of the same sex to marry in California now, obviously, with prop 8, New York, anywhere else, then the federal government frustrates that by saying, except for federal benefits, the inheritance tax, filing jointly and all that and they said you cannot have the federal government usurping the inherent power of the states.

Ted Simons: And as far as Arizona, same-sex couples in Arizona, what impact?

Mark Brodie: Not much. There's some question about folks who are on military bases, there's some immigration related green card type benefits that could be changing for folks here in Arizona but the state Constitution says marriage is a union between one man and one woman, so if gay marriage, same-sex marriage is not really much of an issue here, at least not right now.

Howard Fischer: And the important part is that it even says if you are legally gay married in New York and you move here. New York you can file joint returns. Here you cannot because Arizona does not recognize your marriage. So there's a whole set of new lawsuits I think coming because of the fact that you now have unequal treatment, this treatment in New York and you move to Arizona and you get a different treatment because of Arizona's recognitions.

Ted Simons: It seems like an invitation for lawsuits.

Alia Beard Rau: The Supreme Court did not say that gay marriage is legal nationwide or the Constitution says you should have gay marriage, you should allow gay marriage. So basically, it seems to set it up for a couple in Arizona who attempt to get married and then file a federal lawsuit saying well so and so in California can do it, I can't, let's go to the Supreme Court and get them to make the decision as to whether same-sex marriage needs to be a constitutional right.

Howard Fischer: There's one other little point in there. Scalia's point was they they could have used the California prop case. But DOMA has two applicable sections. The one that was overturned deals with the federal benefits. There was another section that says states do not need to give full faith and credit to the marriages of another state. Now, this has got a constitutional problem, too, because in general if I enter into a contract in New York, that contract is presumed valid here, except for that and I see another challenge coming to that section of the defense of marriage act that says whether Arizona wants to allow people to marry here is one thing. But if I am legally married in New York, I get to stay legally married here.

Mark Brodie: And the issue with the defense of marriage case was not it's not fair that same-sex partners can't be married across the country. It's a woman whose spouse died and had to pay a lot of money in taxes, that she wouldn't have had to pay had the federal government recognized legal marriages, and the prop case, it wasn't, you know, prop is unconstitutional, it's the people challenging the lawyer court ruling didn't have standing. So the justices really didn't say one way or the other yes, same-sex marriage bans are unconstitutional or same-sex marriages have to be allowed everywhere. The prop 8 case was almost more of a technicality.

Ted Simons: Prop 8 case I think was a technicality was in the sense that correct me if I'm wrong, the court said if the state's not going to defend a trial court decision, a bunch of citizens can't do it for the state.

Alia Beard Rau: Exactly, the state refused to defend proposition 8, which basically defined marriage as only between a man and a woman. And so the state wouldn't do it. This group that actually pushed the proposition decided they were going to be the defendants and the Supreme Court said, no, we don't recognize you as legal defendants.

Ted Simons: And so back to the trial court decision, it stands.

Howard Fischer: In fact, I heard on the way in this afternoon that the clerks, the ninth circuit lifted the stay and they are issuing marriage licenses again in California. There was one other interesting case dealing with gay rights that came out of the courts that does involve Arizona. You may remember back in 2008, Janet Napolitano had the rules redefined for the benefits for state employees to include the domestic partners of employees, gay and straight. The legislature came in in after Janet high tailed it off to Washington to play with the Obama administration and said no, no domestic partner benefits. They said the straight employees have an option, they can get married. And both the district court and the ninth circuit said no, that's discrimination and this week, the U.S. Supreme Court said we are not going to disturb that, left the injunction in place against Arizona cutting off those benefits. There are close to state employees who are involved.

Ted Simons: This argument was the state saying you have the option to get -- you can't have these benefits because you're not married, and, by the way, you can't get married.

Mark Brodie: And the other thing to keep in mind is that there's a group that is working to put the issue of same-sex marriage back on the ballot in next November that would change the state Constitution. A few years ago, Arizona voters amended the Constitution to specifically define marriage as a union between one man and one woman. This initiative would change the Constitution to say it's a union between two persons, which is a great broadcast word, persons. But it would basically allow for same-sex marriage and Saturday morning, they're going to have their big kickoff for gathering petitions and they have to get 250 some odd thousand signatures by basically next year at this time. So it will be interesting to see A., if they can get that on the ballot and B. if emotions and sentiments have changed in Arizona that votards, how voters would vote on that.

Howard Fischer: And that's going to be interesting to see the measure in passed by like -. Since then, we have 13 states that have legalized it, and it's sort of like medical marijuana where people have said well other states, horrible things have not happened in the states where gays are allowed to marry and you're finding more and more people who say well, I know a gay person, and the attitudes may have changed sufficiently to allow this to pass.

Ted Simons: I want to get to this regarding the reaction to these Supreme Court rulings and and even the one regarding Arizona, which is basically we're not messing with this, leave it alone. What are you hearing from both sides and who's galvanized more by these rulings?

Alia Beard Rau: The folks supporting same-sex marriage are galvanized. It was really interesting this week. We saw with the voting rights act, we saw both sides come out. Supporters, opponents, very party line come out. With the defense of marriage and the proposition case, the supporters came out, the state lawmakers supporting the ruling came out but the state lawmakers who consistently have supported the traditional definition of marriage, there was nothing. There was no press releases, there was no press conferences. It was interestingly quiet from them.

Ted Simons: Why do you think that was?

Howard Fischer: I think -- I'll give you the best clue, which is the center for Arizona policy. They put out a release saying this was sort of a victory for us because the courts could have used prop 8 to declare gay marriage legal. So she's saying look it was a victory, at least in that sense. We're disappointed on the DOMA case but it doesn't change Arizona law which the prop 8 case could have.

Ted Simons: And yet when you have to send out a press release to explain why you won, it's kind of a rough victory there isn't it?

Mark Brodie: Perhaps. And, you know, the line was something you should know the court has not ruled that there's a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. It didn't trump Arizona's -- the will of Arizona voters who decided that marriage should be between one man and one woman. So and she also said in that same e-mail that her organization and presumably others will fight to keep the status quo as far as marriage in Arizona. So if this measure gets on the ballot for next year, you can expect her group and probably others to be fighting it.

Ted Simons: What does it do to the ballot next year if this issue is -- and marijuana will likely be on --

Howard Fischer: Perhaps even Medicaid.

Ted Simons: We don't know about that. Again, who does it galvanize? Who benefits, who loses?

Alia Beard Rau: I think the pro folks may be galvanized. Several people said wait until 2016, that's what gets the young people out, and the young people in polls seem to generally support same-sex marriage. So 2014's a little bit iffy because we don't have a presidential election.

Howard Fischer: Are you suggesting Fred Duval versus Al Melvin as governor is not going to bring people out? [ Laughter ]

Alia Beard Rau: More conservative voters. That could hurt them, I don't know.

Ted Simons: There you go. If this issue is on the ballot, what does it do to everything else on the ballot? It could be a very interesting ballot.

Howard Fischer: I think it moves the needle, I think it moves the needle a little bit to the left. I think that if you get enough issues there of individual rights, let's take a look at marijuana, for example, which also brings out the libertarians who may have some changes in the law, you bring out the libertarians who tend to be marijuana, for gay marriage, individual rights.

Ted Simons: Not for Medicaid expansion.

Howard Fischer: Not for Medicaid expansion. I have a feeling that may end up in court and we may not be seeing that in the ballot. I think it does bring out a lot of people who believe in individual rights and that the conservatives -- there are always folks, I like to call them the sun city folks, they're going to turn out anyway. This may galvanize people who might not come out, either.

Ted Simons: Do the sun city voters, who may have been a son or daughter that are gay, are they going to be again -- do we know how they're going to vote?

Mark Brodie: I think that's probably the big question. Especially on some of these social issues that touch people's lives individually as opposed to sort of the hypothetical of well whether or not you support same-sex marriage versus, you know, I know somebody or my grandson or granddaughter can't get married, that's going to be the big question with an issue like same-sex marriage.

Alia Beard Rau: And money is going to be an issue. Cathi Herrod said it's going to be a fight and probably the defining factor may be money, how much money can each side raise, you need a lot of money to do advertising.

Ted Simons: Are you going to get a lot of money, though, and regardless of where you stand on the issue, it sure seems like the tidal wave is moving in one direction. Does the money want to fight that wave?

Howard Fischer: I think there are always groups that want to fight and, you know, it's easy for us to throw out names, the Koch brothers, writing out a $250,000 check is pocket change for them. If they're interested in the issue, they can do that. There is money on both sides but who's willing to write out the checks, who's willing to fund this and if we become a national focus, particularly if Medicaid is on the ballot, we do become the national focus.

Mark Brodie: If there is a tidal wave, folks who want to stop that tidal wave might feel here's our chance, we need to make a stand here.

Ted Simons: Well, speaking of a stand, the United States Senate passed immigration reform. Again, this is just the Senate passing reform. Now, you go to the house, a whole different ballgame there. What did the Senate do?

Howard Fischer: They created a package that makes everybody a little bit unhappy. It's basically the way of talking about it. They've created a path to citizenship. They have created a system designed to give more workers for agriculture, they've created a system that's designed to provide more border security. I think the last count was 20,000 more border patrol officers which doubles what we have here now. And designed to create a system where certain people go to the back of the line, certain people come to the front of the line but the real key is it provides a path for citizenship and if you've got 11 million people living in the shadows, the argument is it you want to know who's here and that's a powerful argument. You add in the security, which the governor last weekend said she's in favor of the security part of it.

Ted Simons: What exactly did she say?

Howard Fischer: It was one of those things where she was talking about the specific amendments on the security and John McCain and Jeff Flake heard about it and put out notices and tweets saying look, Jan Brewer's in favor of our proposal which forced her to come back and say no, I didn't say that. She was talking about the security amendment and she's withholding judgment on the rest of it.

Ted Simons: The congressional budget office comes back and says this will save untold numbers of dollars and the senators will get some more votes.

Mark Brodie: And Chuck Schumer made that a point, saying basically this bill does a better job of reducing the deficit than deficit reduction bills and that was a way to get some more deficit hawks on the Republican side joining the pro side of the immigration bill.

Howard Fischer: Of course, the tricky part is some of the assumptions in there is these people are going to start paying taxes. You're making an assumption that a lot of these people aren't paying taxes now with fake Social Security numbers and somehow all of a sudden this new revenue is going to come in.

Ted Simons: The roll of John McCain and John flake in this particular legislation, pretty big.

Alia Beard Rau: Tremendous. Especially flake, very conservative. He's kind of pulling some of that conservative side, making people think about the issue in a different way as opposed to being just a democratic immigration dreamers kind of an issue.

Ted Simons: Are Republicans thinking about this issue in a different way?

Mark Brodie: I think some of them are. I think John McCain has said and other Republicans have said we're in a lot of trouble if we don't do something on this issue come 2014 and 2016. I think some Republicans are thinking about this differently but when you look at the house, there's a lot more talk about enforcement first, border security first and no path to citizenship for folks who are here illegally now.

Ted Simons: But it sounds like in the Senate at least the concept of some odd billions of dollars for just security, untold numbers of billions of dollars just for building the fence and getting that, that is over a -year span by the way, which would coincide with getting that permanent resident card, you've got to go through the motion and show the measurements, it sounds like what else do you want?

Mark Brodie: I think that's the big question. I think there's some in the house who want more enforcement and less path to citizenship.

Alia Beard Rau: Or no path.

Mark Brodie: No path.

Howard Fischer: You also have another interesting question. Curiously enough, Joe Arpaio piped up and said you will never secure the border, no matter how much you throw down there. There's always people who can find their way across and to the extent that you have that as a belief of some Republicans, we might as well spend on the money on enforcement, it's not like we're going to make a difference. This is going to be a fascinating argument in the house, which has always been much more conservative on the issue, the Republicans control the place. And you've got a lot of freshmen there who are very set in their ways.

Ted Simons: Okay back to actions have consequences. If the house goes ahead and just tramples all over this or does something that is perceived as negating the whole thing, impact on elections?

Howard Fischer: Obviously, each side will put out press releases blaming the other. Sort of like the press release we saw today on the student loan rates and the democrats will say but for the Republicans, and the Senate Republicans will say, no, we had a plan and we understand our house colleagues and they'll blame each other. To the extent that you have Latinos who actually are getting registered and voting and that's always been iffy, we've talked about that how many years at this table, it does make a difference because as much as the Latino community says wait a second you promised us this would occur, I think they may look and say do we really want to leave the house in Republican hands?

Mark Brodie: Keep in mind with house seats, a lot of the districts are safe for one party or another. It's almost like you're entirely preaching to the choir when you go back to the district and there's no danger of ticking off your constituents by taking a hard line stance because these districts either on the right or on the left are so entrenched that it's just a matter of sort of degrees of either to the left or to the right of someone getting elected.

Ted Simons: But that's where leadership comes into play doesn't it?

Up to a point but I think mark's point is valid. Trent Franks is not going to get ousted by voters in sun city west because of his position on immigration. The thing is it's those kind of split districts which are occupied right now by democrats, the Ron Barbers of the world and the Anne Kirkpatricks.

Ted Simons: Let's get to state lawmakers in trouble. Let's start with don schuder. Misdemeanors here, what's going on here?

Alia Beard Rau: There are three misdemeanors and this goes back I think a couple of months where he went into his grandson's charter school, later said he had some concerns that his grandson was not being treated well at school and went in to talk to the teacher, kind of went past some office staff and went directly to the teacher in the classroom and they ended up calling law enforcement. So yeah, three misdemeanors.

Ted Simons: And it sounded like Yuma P.D. wanted more.

Howard Fischer: They had asked for an assault charge, which would have made it a felony. They ended up with a disorderly conduct, trespass and interfering with an educational institution, none of which are serious, class one and class two misdemeanors but it's still a crime and it still makes people say what was he doing there in the first place? I think he's conceded well maybe in hindsight, this wasn't the way to go.

Ted Simons: We're getting a little bit of that are we?

Alia Beard Rau: He should have done things differently, maybe he came across in a way he didn't realize he came away, that's kind of --

Howard Fischer: Always comes across the way he didn't intend.

Ted Simons: Does this lead to ethics investigations next? It didn't happen the past session.

Mark Brodie: Who knows? It's been a little while since we've had a meeting of the ethics committee. I don't know if this rises to the level, and even if somebody files a complaint, you're going to go through the same thing that we've seen before, where the person filing the complaint has to have had personal acknowledge of the issue, the ethical misconduct, and other than reading about it or hearing about it through a media outlet or from someone else they know. No one else in the legislature was in this classroom, no one else saw what happened. So maybe somebody files a complaint, maybe they don't. Even if they do, I think it's questionable as to whether or not there's a hearing.

Alia Beard Rau: There is video.

Howard Fischer: There's that and the fact is that the Scotty Bundgaard situation, you didn't have all the lawmakers seeing it. A lot of it kind of depends on I think the Bundgaard situation and even the Dan Patterson situation left a lot of feelings see this causes a lot of heartburn. In the end both of them quit and solved the problem that they would have otherwise had.

Ted Simons: But I don't think it's meant to be Tums here, it's supposed to cause heartburn.

Howard Fischer: It's not a good thing. You have to decide is this simply a question of lawmakers are held to a higher standard than other grandparents? Was it done in his role as a lawmaker if he saw I'm a state senator, you may have crossed the line.

Ted Simons: Real quickly before we go, rick Murphy, just astonishing but again, an investigation here. Let's talk about what Peoria P.D. and CPS, what are they investigating?

Alia Beard Rau: Both of them are investigating allegations that he molested one of the children, foster kids and adopted kids and I'm not sure if he has biological children as well but molested one of the children in his house.

Ted Simons: And again --

Howard Fischer: This is also tricky and always sensitive to this kind of stuff because it's the investigative stage but look, there's plenty of reasons to criticize rick Murphy for his actions. Here's a guy who's a foster parent, been involved with CPS, sponsoring legislation dealing with CPS and foster parents, which is not illegal, perhaps inappropriate. I'm always hesitant, particularly when dealing with these kinds of situations where any kid who is unhappy with a parent can raise an allegation. I'm not saying he is or is not guilty. We just got to be very careful on this kind of thing until things shake out. There was an earlier investigation which proved was not borne out. What does this mean? We're going to find out.

Ted Simons: We should emphasize not arrested or charged in either case, the one you mentioned prior or this particular one. But no comment from rick Murphy on this, either.

Alia Beard Rau: Correct, he issued a very short statement basically saying that he and his family weren't commenting.

Ted Simons: We will keep an eye on that one. Good to have you all here. Thanks for joining us.

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