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: Coming up next on "Arizona Horizon's" journalists' roundtable, the Grand Canyon reopens as the government shutdown continues. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upholds an injunction on a portion of S.B. 1070. And we'll talk about the state's plans to implement a dual-track voting system. The journalists' roundtable is next on "Arizona Horizon."

Announcer: "Arizona Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the friends of Eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Arizona Horizon's" journalists' roundtable. I'm Ted Simons. Joining me tonight are Mary Jo Pitzl of "the Arizona Republic," Mike Sunnucks of "The Phoenix Business Journal" and Jeremy Duda of "The Arizona Capitol Times." The federal government shutdown continues, but moments ago, as we start our show here, at 5:30 Pacific Standard Time, moments ago it sounds like the Grand Canyon National Park will reopen. What happened?

Mary Jo Pitzl: Late in the day, the governor's office announced, Governor Brewer's office announced they reached an agreement with the Department of the Interior. There had been a conference call this afternoon preceded by a lot of back-and-forth, but this deal will keep the park open for seven days using state funds and private funds. It will be a full opening of the park. So, presumably, trails down into the canyon are open, river trips will continue. It's not a partial opening that brewer had been pushing for.

Ted Simons: Not the partial opening. Do we know if there will be any guarantee of federal reimbursement? Because that was a sticking point as well.

Mary Jo Pitzl: It depends on Congress, but they are hopeful that Arizona's congressional delegation will work to secure refunding. Which is an interesting point because many members, or at least the Republican members of Arizona's congressional delegation in the House have been among the most vocal saying we need to keep the government shut down, we've got to keep our feet to the fire, we're spending too much and mostly this is the way of trying some concessions on Obamacare. Reimbursing the state is one more expense to the federal government.

Ted Simons: How much did Utah getting a deal with the federal government impact what Arizona did?

Jeremy Duda: It's hard to say, but I can't imagine they really liked seeing the press of the governor of Utah talking about how their national parks are suddenly opening and here's Jan Brewer and the department of the interior still hashing out some details. She's been taking -- initially she said that this was not a high priority, that there are other priorities. There's a lot of other federal funding the state gets, programs for the children, the elderly, those are the priorities. She said the Grand Canyon is not a big priority. It very quickly became a high priority. She spent the last week and a half badgering the Obama administration, they denied it. She fought back and asked them to do this.

Mary Jo Pitzl: I talked to someone in the Utah governor's office and they said, you know, tell your people, Utah's open for business. So to your point about how much does the Utah situation put pressure on Arizona, there's a bunch of national parks, they're just over the border, that can't be a good message for tourism in Arizona.

Ted Simons: But for seven days, a good message for businesses up there at the Grand Canyon.

Mike Sunnucks: Oh yeah, that was kind of the cause du jour with the shutdown. Other places, people are talking about NIH funding and sick children. This really became the top issue over a lot of those other programs, the business and tourism sectors were really concerned about this as a high time for them. You saw McCain and Flake get on board. The Utah stuff really pushed it. The governor has pushed her economic recovery agenda and it kind of worked against it when she said it wasn't important.

Jeremy Duda: You have the town of Tusayan and a lot of local businesses up there that are very dependent on that tourism. They already said they put $400,000 to keep this open. So it's obvious how important it is. This is the Grand Canyon State, it's one of the main reasons people come here.

Mike Sunnucks: It was the precedent of Symington, what he did the last shutdown. I think that put a lot of pressure on her to kind of follow suit and do that because he was a Republican conservative governor that kept it open during the Gingrich-Clinton shutdown. So I think she felt some pressure to do the same.

Ted Simons: Where is the money going to be coming from to keep the park open?

Mary Jo Pitzl: They've identified some money in the state parks budget that has not been appropriated, and then they talk about other funds which presumably is money from business people in Tusayan and other contributions. We really don't know what the other sources are. And despite, maybe even with these late-breaking developments today, there's a van full of state lawmakers that were planning a trip and they're still going to go tomorrow. Their main intent is to show support for the businesses up there but Representative Bob Thorpe, who's one of the folks who's going to be going, his initial plan was to try to get into the park, walk up to the gate and very politely ask to visit with his constituents. His argument is that Grand Canyon is within his district and he needs to talk to these people. He won't have to get anybody's permission, although he may have to pay an entrance fee to talk to those people.

Ted Simons: Interesting.

Jeremy Duda: They may get their chance, too. This is an agreement for seven days and who knows how long the shutdown is going to last.

Ted Simons: So as far as the money is concerned, what happens? It sounds like things are moving back in D.C. but what happens if after seven days...

Mike Sunnucks: A lot of pressure to keep it open beyond that. How do you go back on having it and reopening it and closing it again? I think they're banking on something happening but who knows back there with all the gridlock and the inability to get stuff done. It is a valid debate. We're spending this money on the Canyon, all the other things that have been shut down, the poor people, the sick children, NIH, all that type of stuff, important programs that aren't being fund asked we have a couple of states opening national parks which have their place but you can make an argument for other stuff.

Mary Jo Pitzl: What I find interesting about the whole shutdown is that it makes the argument despite what people said that this isn't going to affect anybody, you're not going to feel it well, you know, every day there's a couple of stories that come out about how the shutdown is affecting people in different constituencies. So, you know, it's the Grand Canyon, are we going to hear people from the national monument. Nobody's stumping for them. So it sort of makes an argument that there are reasons that all these things are in it together in something called the federal government, the federal budget.

Ted Simons: And there was earlier before this controversy regarding welfare payments, Arizona the only state to not get those out as the government shut down. That was quickly remedied.

Jeremy Duda: Yeah, the temporary assistance for needy families program, monthly cash payments to low-income families and that looked like it was going to be one of the first casualties at the state level of the shutdown, they said it's not going to be funded now. And after a few days, there were some press stories alleging that Arizona was the only state that cut this off and the governor's office is saying we don't know if it's true but that looked bad. And apparently, Arizona's one of 11 states that only uses federal funds for this program in the first place. So there's only 11 states that would have been affected. That's a very visible impact from the shutdown is very low-income people who are depending on this money.

Mary Jo Pitzl: It also shows that when it comes to low-income people in Arizona, the state's not there for them. The state depends on federal money for those payments and when there ain't no federal money because of the shutdown, there is no state money, except in this kind of emergency where miraculously, the department of economic security, after initially saying they couldn't do it, found a way to shuffle money and bring it in. But what I thought the lesson was is that Arizona is very dependent on federal funds for that assistance to the very low-income. It's not going to come from the state.

Mike Sunnucks: I think the media coverage of both of these things really drove the changes from the governor's office and other folks to reverse the course. Just the negative press that again here's Arizona the only one not doing that played a big role in that.

Ted Simons: And we should mention, as well. This is only until the end of the month. When November comes, not only do you have it to worry about, but nutritional health programs, a whole bunch of other things that again the state -- this is provided the government shutdown continues, if it does, the state's going to be in real trouble here.

Jeremy Duda: $650,000 that the DES is shifting from elsewhere, that is only for about 3,200 of 16,500 families receiving the assistance. Recognized that for all 16,500 for a full month after that, that is going to start costing a lot of money and I don't know that the state can afford to do that. You mentioned there's the nutritional assistance program, money will dry up after the end of October and there's a lot of other state agencies that are using money they had already gotten for a lot of the federal programs.

Mike Sunnucks: That puts more pressure on Republicans in Washington and our congressional delegation that support the shutdown because all these stories, all these programs, that's going to start putting more pressure on them and puts them at a disadvantage.

Ted Simons: Do you think they're feeling the pressure, though?

Mike Sunnucks: The public opinion polls show Republicans getting hammered but they're in that echo chamber trying to figure out what to do within their caucus with the Tea Party and their vocal contingent within the party. So I think it's starting to increase and as you see things like this where state governments are starting to feel the strain and won't be able to fill these gaps, I think the GOP feels more pressure.

Mary Jo Pitzl: And then attention becomes do you rely on the states with I guess federal permission to piecemeal, reopen parts of the government or do you just keep the pedal on the accelerator and say we've got to until everything can come back up, pedal I guess on the brake rather and wait until everything comes back up all at once.

Mike Sunnucks: That's going to be a huge split in the GOP between these governors, the very Republican governors in a lot of states trying to run a government and pay for those things versus the or ideological partisan folks in Congress which don't really run anything.

Jeremy Duda: We've seen governor brewer a couple of times hint that she really wishes the Republicans would knock it off with making the continued resolution funding contingent on the Obamacare stuff. She said she doesn't think the shutdown is worth it if you can get the delay of the Obamacare mandate. It's the law, there's an election, there's a Supreme Court case. She made some stronger statements a couple of days ago. She's still saying well both sides are at fault but she's kind of hinting that the Republicans need to knock this off.

Mary Jo Pitzl: And actually more than hinted. She said that if Obamacare gets shut down, which doesn't seem likely, that impacts the state budget. Arizona's state budget for this current year is built on the assumption that Medicaid's going to expand, that brings in money. If we don't expand it, if we don't have the federal healthcare reform, then that's going to have severe consequences.

Mike Sunnucks: That highlights the difference between a governor, even a partisan ideological governor like Jan Brewer, she's trying to run a state versus a legislative body back in Congress, folks that can just talk and so I think you're going to see that split highlighted, even from conservative governors.

Ted Simons: And real quickly, the feds are going to repay this money, the DES money, correct? I thought I heard that they would do that, as opposed to the parks.

Mike Sunnucks: They told other states they were going to reimburse them. Obama will be here on the tarmac and Jan can hand him an IOU.

We'll look forward to that. Arizona also making the headlines regarding a two-track voting system and this by way of an illegal opinion by Tom Horne.

Jeremy Duda: This stems from a Supreme Court ruling over our proposition 200, which required people in Arizona to show proof of citizenship to register to vote. The Supreme Court said you can't do that because there are federal forms. People can find federal forms that don't have the same requirements. You can require it from the state but you have to accept these federal forms that don't require people to show proof of citizenship so Attorney General Horne said we don't have to let the people vote in state level elections. The legislature, mayor, board of supervisors, sheriff, etc. They're going to create two voting systems, one where you vote federal only, Senate, president, congressional races and you registered using this federal form, federal races only.

Ted Simons: And the federal form and do not show proof of citizenship.

Mary Jo Pitzl: Proof of identification.

Ted Simons: If you can do the federal form and show that proof then you're okay but apparently very few people do that, just basically, under threat of perjury.

Mike Sunnucks: We were talking in the green room. I don't think most of us remember what I.D. I showed or not. So obviously, this is going to get sued and will face a couple of lawsuits. And boy, there's a lot of dangerous legal water here on who gets put on certain tracks and whether it becomes a racial ethnic thing also. But it's a challenge that conservatives want and a lot of other states wail watch us and see what we do.

Mary Jo Pitzl: Kansas is about ready to follow suit. In fact, Secretary of State Ken Bennett who asked for the behind that Tom Horne delivered this week is along with the Kansas Secretary of State, Kris Kobach, they're already suing the elections commission saying that federal form should have proof of citizenship on there. Now, the commission is nonexistent at the moment so the lawsuit's not going to go.

Ted Simons: Talk about a dual track voting system, there's a dual track attack on this situation.

Mike Sunnucks: It's yet another Arizona legal battle with the feds on state powers and what's federal powers and all those immigration cases, also.

Ted Simons: We had Tom Horne on last night debating this particular issue and this is the only way that you can satisfy the federal requirements which need to be satisfied and a voter mandate. Arizona voters demanded that state registration include that proof of I.D., proof of citizenship.

Jeremy Duda: It is the only way. If you're insistent on pushing forward with what the voters approved but you can't reject the federal forms, it comes to the logical outgrowth and you saw a lot of conservatives pushing this as soon as that Supreme Court ruling came out. It will be interesting to see how it works in practice. Because if not many people use that federal form, now, you have to create two ballots, Maricopa County said this will cost them $250,000 not counting the voter outreach they're going to have to do to inform people. Who knows what it will cost in other counties.

Ted Simons: Does this negate all of this election reform we saw? The idea was to streamline things, make it easier, and now, you've got two ballots?

Mary Jo Pitzl: I would think it may not negate it. The election reforms may not happen because they're subject to a referendum drive. But certainly you can envision if you're going to the polls, there's going to be a lot of confusion on Election Day, which ballot do I get and you've got to check all these records. And I'm not sure if that's the only way to -- I guess that's Bennett's position, this two track thing is the only way to satisfy the voter mandate of prop 200 but it raises the question of, you know, is fundamental problem here that we have noncitizens voting in Arizona.

Ted Simons: And Attorney General Horne will say that if you cross check people who try to get out of jury duty and other things and say they're not really citizens and you do that, but again, seven people have been --

Mary Jo Pitzl: I think it's nine.

Ted Simons: Nine have been prosecuted for this? I mean, is this really worth upending and messing around with the entire voting system and again, Arizona in the headlines. Two separate voting systems.

Mike Sunnucks: What do we do with early ballots? Do only the certain folks get early ballots going forward? There's lots of pitfalls and yeah people, a lot of people on the right that believe that there's more voter fraud that's out there, the numbers have not shown that.

Ted Simons: Let's talk about the ninth circuit Court of Appeals here. S.B. 1070, the injunctions on S.B. 1070. You forget what's still hanging in the balance out there but apparently, the harboring and transporting of those who are undocumented, that was enjoined and there was a fight to knock that out but the injunction continues, correct?

Jeremy Duda: And there's another chip away at 1070. There's not too much of it left. The Supreme Court last year already gutted some of the key provisions. Now, they uphold the injunction against the provision that adds criminal penalties for harboring or transporting illegal immigrants. This could be using for a family member visiting in your house. If you're going to church, are you transporting? The Maricopa County Attorney's Office said we wouldn't have to prosecute that but you can't guarantee in perpetuity who would and wouldn't do what.

Ted Simons: What are we doing?

Mike Sunnucks: Well, the same court, same judge that wrote the same opinion that struck own some of the other parts of it. He's a pretty liberal judge. It's not much of a surprise. I don't know. We'll see if the Supreme Court takes it up. It doesn't look like it to me from their previous decisions on this. And it's another bite away at the state trying to enforce immigration laws. The one thing, there was a provision in there that gave the states some rights to enforce things. That's what they need from these other things and it's not there in a lot of these federal laws.

Jeremy Duda: What's kind of interesting is a recent policy change by the Brewer administration seems to come back to bite them here. They have recently changed the policy on driver's licenses for people to receive deferred action. There's a separate court case going on that. Even though they're temporarily allowed to stay here, they're not legally in the country so we're not going to give them driver's licenses. One of the judges wrote well this would conflict with federal law then because you are prosecuting people for transporting or harboring who you say is illegally in the country but who the federal government says they can stay and work here.

Ted Simons: Is that the part they called incomprehensible or something? That it doesn't make sense?

Jeremy Duda: They called it vague.

Ted Simons: Okay. So there you go. S.B. 1070 is like that knight in the Monty Python film. The limbs keep getting cut off, but it's not dead yet. The torso wants to fight another day. Now, Begay, Hale, state government -- give us a grand view of this and what exactly -- who is representing the Navajo nation right now and is it true that Gilbert has two folks at the legislature?

Mary Jo Pitzl: Technically, the Navajo nation is being represented by two state representatives and a new state senator named Carlisle Begay. However when Mr. Begay was appointed to the post this summer replacing the senator who resigned to go to Washington, D.C. for a post in the Obama administration, there is ample evidence that he had been a longtime resident of Gilbert, which is very far from the Navajo reservation and also happens to be the home town of Senate president Andy Biggs. Some people smell a conspiracy that president Biggs was trying to find a democratic ringer who could sort of, if nothing else, spy on the democratic caucus and at the very least provide some support if there were to be a split vote on leadership in the state Senate next year. There were a lot of challenges to Begay's residency and he was registered to vote in Gilbert up until a few days before he was sworn in.

Mike Sunnucks: It's a coincidence.

Ted Simons: It seems relatively clear here. However Hale is not going to challenge this in court.

Mary Jo Pitzl: This was being challenged by Albert Hale, he said look this guy's a fraud. They went through the channels. Apache County said we're not going to review this again. Attorney General's office took a pass on prosecuting this which left it to Hale to challenge and according to his attorney, he doesn't have the money or the time to do this, to get involved with this and perhaps we'll just wait and challenge Mr. Begay in a Democratic primary next August.

Ted Simons: It sounds like he's already planning on doing that.

Mike Sunnucks: Sometimes, that's the better path to go on some of these things. Let the voters decide, vote them out, all the Obamacare stuff, if they want to get rid of it, get the vote to do it. There is a merit to that, go in there and let the voters make the decision.

Jeremy Duda: Well, Begay may have reason to worry, if Hale does challenge him, for eight years was a senator up there, the former Navajo Nation president, well known up there, a lot of Democrats, a lot of liberals are very wary of Senator Begay and wonder if he's representing Democratic interests. It might be a tough fight for Begay.

Mary Jo Pitzl: The challenge would have hinged around at what point does your residency come into play? And Hale argued that look you need to be a resident of the district that you represent at the time that you're elected. He was appointed so it was the same thing. And his attorneys argue that no, he was appointed, he wasn't elected, there's a difference. That's not been resolved and, you know, it is a bit troubling that you have evidence that people don't really live in the district that they represent, which begs the larger question why do we have districting? Look at all the money and blood and treasure we spend on redistricting.

Ted Simons: A lot of folks up there, that's a big area that needs representation. Before we go, Capitol Times had its name in the news today, this week. In quoting or at least quoting the Facebook postings of a certain State Representative who compared Barack Obama to Hitler.

Jeremy Duda: She will tell you she wasn't necessarily comparing him to Hitler but all common sense and pretty much say otherwise. She was complaining about national parks employees keeping people out of national parks during the shutdown, she referred to Obama as der Fuhrer. Really only associated as the title that Hitler had when he was the leader of the Third Reich. She repeatedly made various comparisons to Nazi Germany and fascist Italy and Cambodia, kept going back to the Nazi Germany references.

Ted Simons: This is Brenda Barton representing the Payson area I believe.

Jeremy Duda: Yeah, in northern Arizona. Second term lawmaker.

Ted Simons: Okay. Is this unusual for Representative Barton?

Jeremy Duda: She's very outspoken. Not known for biting her tongue but this is a pretty outlandish statement.

Ted Simons: Do we understand why people want to - lawmakers, we understand why certain other folks, agitators, commentators, talking heads, talking mouths, whatever they are on radio, we understand. But when elected representatives compare the President of the United States to Hitler do we understand why?

Mike Sunnucks: It's a little different move because you've folks on the left compare Arpaio and Jan and George Bush and Rumsfeld to Hitler, but when it's a lawmaker, it's a different field of play. It's on Facebook and we see these Republican lawmakers get in trouble on social media a couple of times now and again, it's another Arizonian in the headlines: Arizona Lawmaker compares President to Hitler

Ted Simons: Very quickly, when someone mentions der Fuhrer, we don't think of German nomenclature here. We think of Hitler.

Jeremy Duda: That was a very specific title. She mentioned it's just the German word for leader. If I had called him the leader we wouldn't be having this conversation.

Mike Sunnucks: They probably shouldn't be speaking German.

Ted Simons: That's an interesting point that we'll stop on right there. Thank you all for joining us. Monday on "Arizona Horizon," The U.S. Supreme Court session is officially underway. ASU law professor Paul Bender will look at some of the bigger cases that the high court is expected to take on. That's Monday on "Arizona Horizon." Tuesday, journalist turned author Jana Bommersbach will talk about her new children's book. Wednesday, we'll discuss new proposed standards for after-school programs. Thursday, how will the government shutdown impact your tax filings? And Friday, it's another edition of the journalists' roundtable. That is it for now. I am ted Simons, thank you so much for joining us. You have a great weekend.

Announcer: "Arizona Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the friends of Eight, members of your Arizona PBS station, thank you.

Mary Jo Pitzl:Arizona Republic; Mike Sunnucks:Phoenix Business Journal; Jeremy Duda:Arizona Capitol Times

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