Journalists’ Roundtable

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Join us for another edition of the Journalists’ Roundtable, as local reporters recap the big news of the week.

Ted Simons: Good evening. Welcome to Arizona horizons' journalists roundtable. Joining me are Mary K. Reinhart, Howard Fischer and Mike Sunnucks. Arizona Senator John Mccain calls for states to review stand your ground laws and I am guessing he thinks Arizona's going to do that.

Mary K. Reinhart: Right away. Any minute now the governor will call a special session I'm sure. I say sarcastically. I don't think we'll see immediate action on the part of Arizona lawmakers or the governor to change the state's 20-year-old stand your ground. We have had a law like that for a long time. You know, I think given the emotion and the concern frankly and the outcry over the verdict in some circles politicians need to at least make a stab at this, say let's take a look at it. Some state lawmakers say we're willing to take a look. I don't think anybody wants a bad outcome. So I think it behooves them to at least consider a discussion.

Howard Fisher: What's important to remember is what we have had laws on self-defense and we added the castle doctrine in 2006. You don't have to enter your house. The version that compares to Florida only goes back to 2010, put in at the behest of the NRA and some groups like that. The concern is in saying there's no duty to retreat if you're in a public place, a la the Trayvon Martin thing, the question becomes should there be some other test? I talked to house speaker Andy Tobin. He said I don't have a problem saying if you're in a public place you shouldn't have to retreat but when a 9/11 operator tells you don't get out of your car, don't follow somebody, maybe there needs to be a tweak there on the other side of the equation people like house majority leader David Goughan who says I don't want to repeal it. We're only caving in to bullies.

Mike Sunnucks: It never was argued in the trial. It was talked about a lot but they went for straight self-defense argument in the Trayvon Martin thing. But it is still sitting out there as something to look at for other states. You've seen this metamorphosis of John McCain where he's now commenting on all these issues. He's taken on Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, the Tea Party wing. The party now is back in CNN's good graces and they are asking him questions of the day on everything from Syria to now he's taken a stand on stand your ground where I don't think -- like you said I don't think there's much appetite for changing that here.

Ted Simons: Didn't the jury instructions include aspects of the law?

Mike Sunnucks: It did but the defense never really argued that. They argued the traditional self-defense thing, he didn't have any place to go. His wife was in danger. Obviously stabbed your ground is different from that but that's a reaction from a lot of politicians trying to maybe address some concerns about the case. What are you going to do? Stand your ground is something people can talk about.

Howard Fisher: I think the concern is now that people -- look, six months ago actually a years ago we would not be talking stand your ground. Nobody knew what the heck it was. Now that people are aware of this, I think the concern is, well, now that I know I don't have to retreat, and since in this state anybody can carry a concealed weapon, you don't even need a permit, it's going to take situations where normally you would walk away and escalate.

Ted Simons: We did have our version of Mr. Fish and the hiking trail appeared that sort of situation. Not the same obviously, but it was very much a part of what do you do to defend yourself, how far do you go, how far do you retreat. All these things.

Howard Fisher: Yes. The Fish case had to do with the burden of proof. It used to be in Arizona if you claimed self-defense you had the burden of proving self-defense. Usually there's only one survivor. The Fish case and the change in the law turned it around, said once you say I was in self-defense the prosecutor has the burden. We have done this over the years with the castle doctrine stand your ground. Over the years we have become a more pro gun oriented state.

Ted Simons: With that in mind chances that the legislature will at least look at this, chances that something might change, chances that the governor who supports stand your ground would sign a change.

Mary K. Reinhart: Zero. Look, this is a state that has made very easy to carry guns in all kinds and use them in all kinds of different circumstances this. This instance now six months out from the next legislative session isn't going to get anywhere. There may be a couple of Democrats, Steve Gallardo, introduced a bill. If it gets a committee hearing I'll be surprised.

Mike Sunnucks: The only thing I can see them having a vote on is for conservative Republicans to brandish their NRA credentials.

Mary K. Reinhart: To revote it in.

Mike Sunnucks: But zero chance of it passing. One issue that was overshadowed, Mr. Zimmerman did not have a gun, pepper spray or not a gun we one be in this situation.

Ted Simons: You wonder what the situation would be if Trayvon Martin were the one that had the gun and saw someone following him and was feeling threatened by the guy following him for no apparent reason.

Howard Fisher: Well, that gets to the issue, the broad national issue of race and politics and the fact is like it or not, if you're a black teenager walking down the street and somebody is following you versus a white teenage were a black person following you there's a different perception.

Mike Sunnucks: I think there's a political appetite on both sides to continue to talk about this because it touches both parties. People are very upset on both sides. That's why you can see them actually holding a vote in the legislature to say, look, I'm pro gun rights, pro self-defense.

Ted Simons: How the Supreme Court looked at the clean elections suit and basically said one that raises campaign contributions limit and they basically said, go away.

Howard Fisher: They said, no, thanks. The Supreme Court has the option of original jurisdiction on cases that only involve questions of law. The argument is that in adjusting the contribution limits for nonparticipating candidates, people who take private money, you effectively affected the 2000 votary proved clean elections law. It said whatever the limits are on nonparticipating candidates goes down by 20%. They took it to the Supreme Court. They would obviously like a ruling before received when the law takes effect and people start gathering more signatures. The Supreme Court said we're not going to do it. None of it undermines the case. They can still go and ask the trial judge to look at it and they are going to ask for an injunction, but it suggests the Supreme Court doesn't see this as an emergency as the challengers do.

Ted Simons: The key here is whether or not it changes a voter approved measure, the legislature changing the voter approved -- without the three quarter majority and without voters doing the changing, correct?

Mary K. Reinhart: That's exactly the idea. Once the voter protection act was put in place to prevent the legislature from undoing things voter did at the polls. It says three-fourths of the legislature is needed to make a significant change. This is considered by the folks who filed the special action with the Supreme Court a significant change. Significant increase in the contribution lives. Victoria Steel, they are going to superior court next week to go that route. It's a big change financially for candidates. People when you have the clean elections law without matching funds any more, looking down the road to the 2014 elections and primaries people are concerned the average guy out there who doesn't have a lot of money, who doesn't have a lot -- chamber of commerce backing, is going to have a very difficult time getting somebody to write him a $4,000 check. Competing against somebody with the backing of the business community.

Howard Fisher: There's a threshold issue here. Nothing in that bill amended the statutes approved by voters. The defense of the legislature is clean elections act still exists. The new limits we enacted are still reduced by 20% by the clean elections act, therefore we did not need to take it back to voters. We didn't need the supermajority vote. I think there's a claim to be made that in simply saying individuals can contribute unlimited amounts of money to PACs now does not affect the clean elections act.

Mike Sunnucks: The business community were the big pushers of this. They wanted to spend more money and back more candidates. Current rules limit them. The courts have sided with the legislature in some past cases where there's this gray area nuanced area. Not everything is literal 100%. You're messing around with the edges of the laws and the courts have shown a propensity to side with the assembly.

Howard Fisher: The U.S. Supreme Court has equated money with speech. They have also said if limits are so low and they did this in Vermont a number of years ago, that you cannot wage an effective campaign, then you've effectively infringed on first amendment rights.

Ted Simons: We have had debates on this and it always comes up. That's an interesting argument not being argued. The argument is can you change something that voters approved. The Supreme Court did here the education funding case regarding inflation and that sort of thing. Is that another voter approved -- that's involved in this one as well, isn't it?

Mary K. Reinhart: It's something that the legislature is supposed to be doing and hasn't done for most of the past decade or so. The court I think essentially has heard oral arguments, one for inflation funding is that the legislature gets to decide how to spend its money. It's the propose rater and no law voter approved or otherwise can bind the hands of the legislature and tell them how to spend the money that it's allowed to propose rate. The same argument with access, when the governor and lawmakers froze the Medicaid.

Howard Fisher: Except for one small fact. The ballot measure, prop 301, was not crafted like the access thing expansion by outside -- it was crafted by the legislature. That led to a fascinating back and forth where the Assistant Attorney General said to the court, well, Your Honor, the voters never had the power to mandate us to do this. Chief justice Byrd said let me see if I have this right. You crafted the bad language, you put it on the ballot and now you're saying you don't have to obey it? Ms. Sweeney said, perhaps, Your Honor. I don't think that's going to sell.

Ted Simons: The appeals court ruling did not buy that particular argument. Now we're at the state Supreme Court. Again, how do you get past the fact that whether times are good or bad, that's not written in there. You're supposed to fund with inflation adjustment as well.

Mike Sunnucks: That seems to be the pathway that courts are on concerning where this case has gone but we have seen cases where it looked like that too. Medicaid, you thought this was voter approved, then the courts come down with a decision on the other side. There's been a lot of gray area. that's why I keep seeing the legislature go after these things seeing how much they can push the envelope.

Howard Fisher: The other piece we'll see let's assume for argument sake the court decides that the funding is not optional. Courts don't propose rate, court isn't going to raise the tax to do it. Legislature says we're out of the money. Make us. Now we have a constitutional crisis on our hands.

Mary K. Rienhart: We get back to the Medicaid debate all over again. At least in voter approved Medicaid expansion in you had available funds language in there. Well, we can't tell the legislature what's available. It could make an argument if the economy goes south just because they want to spends money on something else, sorry, it's not available.

Ted Simons: We have a new candidate for governor. Well, exploring his candidacy. Doug Ducey, state treasurer,. Is anyone surprised?

Mike Sunnucks: There was a draft Ducey website in which he had a lot of support. A big Tucson car dealer big Republican financier, pretty important supports him. A lot of business folks on there. A lot of political folks on that list. It went from draft Ducey to exploring. He's going to run. Cold stone creamery, got a lot of private sector background. Campaigned against the sales tax extension. I think he's the kind of favorite son of a lot of conservatives out there.

Howard Fisher: Partly because of the fact he took the position against the sales tax extension. That made him a favorite of conservatives. Now, it's a good year for a Republican to look figuring it's no con seat, third term notwithstanding, an open seat, but that gets real interesting in terms of having so many people there. I'm not saying Al Melvin will be the next candidate or Andy Thomas but you certainly have the Tom Horne, certainly the Secretary of State wants to go first. [speaking simultaneously]

Mike Sunnucks: That would really shake up the race.

Howard Fisher: That comes down to the fact you get six people in the race, somebody with 20% of the vote walks away with the primary.

Mary K. Reinhart: The thing about Ducey, he did run in the anti-don't extend the sales tax campaign then he kind of disappeared. We didn't see him. One of the arguments and promises made during that campaign is if we don't extend that 1 cent sales tax we'll come up with a plan for education funding. Don't worry about that. We didn't see a plan. We saw a little bit of extra funding but we certainly didn't see Doug Ducey running around with a plan to fund education. Maybe we'll see more of him next legislative session.

Mike Sunnucks: That's a real tough one. It was tough for folks and a lot of them have avoided that.

Ted Simons: Do we know, how do we know this? From a distance do we know that he really wants to be governor?

Howard Fisher: Oh, he likes the limelight. He enjoys --

Ted Simons: He has been state treasurer, but --

Howard Fisher: Look, you can find -- [speaking simultaneously] Dean Martin had the benefit if you will of having Janet Napolitano, a Democrat, as governor. Dean figured out we have this little committee that determines state debt which consists of the governor, the treasurer and then I think head of the Department of Administration. He got the call and forced the governor to come to his office. Dean enjoyed it. Doug we don't know. You're right, he's been invisible but I have a feeling we'll be seeing more of him. He's going to try to raise that name idea.

Mike Sunnucks: I think he was interested in running for governor before but the treasurer spot was open, it's a good stepping stone. It shows you held statewide office. It's always a challenge from somebody to go from the private sector to the office like governor. Now he has this experience of a statewide office. He's run statewide and even though he's had a low profile he's been working events, reaching out to the base. The business folks.

Ted Simons: Memory fades here, wasn't Fife Symington involved -- am I getting that right? That was like the first, everyone went, wait a minute, this guy could be governor.

Howard Fisher: He got to be governor on a couple of issues. One curiously enough, the Navajo generating station, he actually came out prior to being elected governor telling them to clean up your power plant. He also was one of the people who called on -- to resign.

Ted Simons: There are activities you can do, yes, to raise your profile. I want to talk about this because you are our expert on this Glendale near Glendale, it's not in Glendale, it's near Glendale, the casino. The house committee, U.S. house committee is now getting involved. What in the world is that?

Mike Sunnucks: Trent Franks opposes it. Sponsored bills to block the casino, rescind this 1980s era law that allows the tribe to buy unincorporated land. They did that by dark of night, Trent Franks, a lot of folks don't like it so he's run these bills in Congress to try to block this. Of course you can make it through the Republican house, made it through committee, it may make it through the full chamber, it's not going anywhere in the senate and it's not going to get signed by the president. There just trying to delay it as long as they can. They have lost every case in court against the tribe trying to build this. The other tribes that have casinos have gotten other representatives to also co-sponsor this bill. But it's just delaying tactics.

Howard Fisher: What's fascinating, the argument is if we allow -- if they were allowed to buy the land because back in the 1980s the federal dam flooded the district, you can buy 10,000 acres anywhere in Maricopa, Pinal, counties. Voters in 2002 were told no more casinos in the metro area. It was a little language in there nobody bothered to look at after acquired lands and the fact is the tribe pulled a fast one if you will. They got the language in there, they followed the law. Judge Campbell ruled they followed the law. Trents' bill, the one Paul Gosar helped Shepherd through committee, says that's true but we're going to amend the '86 law to say no casinos until 2027 on after acquired property. His argument to get colleagues lined up we'll set a bad precedent about off-reservation conditions. No. The case in Arizona is very specific to what's happening here. You want to kill the casinos, do it, but do it on an --

Mike Sunnucks: This is all about money. The Gila River Tribe and Salt River Tribes have casinos in the Phoenix area. This is competition. The longer they can delay it the more money they make and they aren't going away. It may take until 2027 but they are going to build it. It's amazing. This is how Washington works. It's not going anywhere in the Senate.

Ted Simons: Are we surprised that the cosigners of this thing we got every single Republican representative in Arizona and Ann Kirkpatrick?

Howard Fisher: She's looking at it from the perspective her tribes also have -- Navajos just opened up a gaming casino. She's also not in a very strong position whereas Hava, Ron Barber are saying not a chance.

Mike Sunnucks: They are the key to this. They are the ones going to block this with Harry Reid in the Senate. They are representing their tribes and their districts. That's what you're supposed do, but those Democrats in Tucson are going to block this like they blocked the resolution copper thing.

Howard Fisher: The other piece is the official from the BIA testified on this bill and said we oppose it. The administration opposes it. It ain't going anywhere.

Ted Simons: No charges filed against state Senator Rick Murphy. Peoria PD. They say no evidence to support abuse allegations. We only have a few minutes left. This is a rough story. What's going on?

Mary K. Reinhart: Well, you summed it up pretty well. They came out this week with a redacted police report that shows essentially adopted son of Senator Murphy recanted his earlier allegations against his adopted dad without his testimony, without his cooperation, without any physical evidence, without any witnesses, the Peoria police department don't think they can make a case. There was an earlier 2011 case, another foster child in this case, he has not recanted. They have re-interviewed this kid who is now 15, still in care of CPS. He stands by his story of. Still Peoria says this is going to be inactive. CPS, after having interviewed the Senator and his wife's four adopted daughters on the night of these allegations in late June, returning the children to the care of their parents with safety monitor in place and some sort of stipulations returning them three weeks later, the day after Penny Murphy, the Senator's wife, said the girls will not be talking to police any more about any of this. CPS took the four daughters.

Ted Simons: We need to mention it's interesting that they are not letting the girls talk because one of the allegations has been recanted is that one of the kids, the boys, may have been molesting one of the girls.

Mary K. Reinhart: The boy that came forward, man, 18-year-old, said self-disclosed that he had been molesting not a biological sister, one of the girls. And in the course of talking to a youth pastor about this also made this allegation against Senator Murphy.

Ted Simons: Murphy has refused to answer questions. Which I guess is not helping CPS move along either.

Mary K. Reinhart: On the advice of his attorney he refused to be interviewed by the police. The girls and Murphy have a legal right not to be interviewed but it does seem like the timing was coincidental. CPS took them the day after -- the CPS came in and took them the day after the parents didn't allow them to answer any questions. CPS is a whole different standard than the police.

Howard Fisher: We watched CPS over the years going we preserve the family to at any sign of abuse the first thing you do is yank the children. We have seen some of that here. The fact this is a high profile figure and CPS knows someone is going to be looking over their shoulder, we don't want to err on the side of we put these kids back in and something happened.

Mary K. Reinhart: Senator Murphy says in no uncertain terms he wants an explanation. He says he doesn't know when his next court date is with these kids. He issued an angry statement about this whole thing. CPS they have the ability under the law to confirm or correct anything in the public domain this. They have chosen only so far to say we have his kids.

Ted Simons: Quickly, about seconds left here, what kind of political future for Senator Murphy with all this?

Mike Sunnucks: That's pretty tough. Pretty tough go politically. Republican area. He might run for -- it's hard. There's a lot of holes in the system. The police mechanism, the police investigations are so much different from what CPS is.

Howard Fisher: The fact is a lot of it will depend on what gets released between now and the next year's primary in terms of have they cleared him, have they closed the case has he filed a counter-suit. He can come out swinging.

Mary K. Reinhart: He's co-chair of the CPS legislative oversight committee. It makes things awkward for everybody involved.

Ted Simons: Good stuff. Thank you, guys. Monday on "Arizona Horizon," state lawmakers Steve Gallardo and Kavanagh will debate the stabbed your ground law. Monday evening 5:30 and 10:00 on "Arizona Horizon." That is it for now. I'm Ted Simon. Thank you for joining us. You have a great weekend.

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