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" Journalists roundtable. How the Federal government shutdown is affecting Arizona including the closing of Grand Canyon national park. And a federal judge orders a monitor for the Maricopa County sheriff's office. The journalists' roundtable is next on "Arizona Horizon."

"Arizona Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the friends of 8, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

Ted Simons: Good evening. Welcome to "Arizona Horizon" journalists roundtable. I'm Ted Simons. Joining me are Jim Small of the Arizona Capitol Times, Howard Fischer of the Capitol Media services and Hank Stephenson of the Arizona Capitol Times. The government shutdown is now 4 days old. Jim, what kind of impact are we seeing around the state?
Jim Small: Arizona has 40,000 some odd thousand workers here. A lot of them are furloughed. You'll have a large number that are furloughed. You mentioned in the lead-in the Grand Canyon is closed another national parks, Havasu, Lake Mead closed. It's certainly near the end of the summer season but that's still an impact for businesses there. You've got a lot of people at the military bases; civilians associated with our large military bases are out of work now. I think temporarily it's not terrible but the longer it drags on the bigger the impact is going to be.
Howard Fischer: It's mainly a localized effect. From a statewide perspective we're not very dependent on federal dollars. We saw this during sequestration. If we go over the financial cliff and don't raise the debt limit there will be some of that but we're not as dependent. You're in trouble, obviously.
Ted Simons: You got campgrounds, national parks, but you have DES, with welfare checks, these things. Some folks are feeling it now.
Hank Stephenson: Yes, there's already been some benefits cut off, some things that were paid for through the federal government run down through state agencies. The women and infant children program which gives money to poor people essentially has been cut down. Other programs are going to be kind of phased out as we keep going through this depending on how long the whole thing goes.
Howard Fischer: This is really the key. One of the things we learned about federal budgeting is for a lot of these agencies they actually budget a quarter in advance. In the case of the women, infants and children's program originally we thought we would be good through Friday. Well, gee, USDA found some money in the cushions of its couch and said, we can keep you running at least through October and maybe longer because of the fact that we're budgeted a quarter ahead. So again, depending on how long this lasts. If it lasts over 21 days we'll have to see.
Ted Simons: BLM, National Guard, Luke Air Force base. A lot of these things are impacted but the big headline grabber is the Grand Canyon. Earlier in the week it sounded like the governor's office, the governor in particular, not all that interested in opening the Grand Canyon with state funds or trying to. Now later in the week, interested but the Feds aren't. What's going on?
Jim Small: A week ago when we asked the governor about the impending government shutdown, they downplayed the issue. We don't think it's a big deal. We think they'll avoid it. We're not worried about the Grand Canyon. We're going to be okay, it's really not that important to the state. Interesting it's on the license plates and it's the state nickname. After it happened and closed I think they realized this is bad P.R. for Arizona. We should make an effort to try to do it like they did 20 years ago. Howie wrote a story about how the federal government and park service said you can't do that.
Ted Simons: Talk about what happened 20 years ago.
Howard Fischer: This is the fascinating thing. Part of the pressure, he said, let me tell you how we got them to come to the table. First shut down in 1995 I marched up there with my national guard, my parks folks and made a big, dramatic scene and that went nowhere but that resulted in some negotiations between the state and Department of Interior who agreed, you know, if you can come up with 17,000 a day, we will keep open the park up to mather point up to Grand Canyon Village. Part of the park. They did. John F. long came up with three days' worth. The parks department found some money in its couch, and they did it. Kept the thing open 21 days. This time I think there's a couple of things going on. First of all I think this governor didn't like to be embarrassed by the former governor said, I managed to do it. What are you doing? But what's happening in Washington with all the continuing resolutions. The position of the White House is we're not going to partially open government. Yes, World War II memorial was shut down, it caused a stink, but to the extent we play favorites we don't put the pressure on the Republicans to do it so we're going to keep everything shut down. Dave Ubaraga, the Grand Canyon superintendent, said this is a core government function. We're not going to take your money. We'll just stay here and when Washington gets funded again we'll see our guests.
Ted Simons: Basically the Feds are saying what the state said earlier, that is this is not 1995, this is a different time and a whole different set of circumstances. Again, the governor's quote, the one I think raised eyebrows, and Jim you kind of paraphrased, I don't know if the Grand Canyon is a high priority for the state of Arizona. What did she mean that?
Hank Stephenson: I kind of- she started walking it back towards the end of this interview. I think she had realized she said something that isn't going to play well, but it's one of those things where there's no real reason we couldn't. It's that federal government won't. They have their reasons for it. But there were funding mechanisms in place in the past where we could enter into kind of intergovernmental agreements and make sure the money is there to at least keep it partially open.
Ted Simons: You have a rainy day fund, don't you?
Jim Small: Well yeah, you do. You've got $450 million there, a few hundred million in just carry-forward budget surplus for lack of a better word. One thing that is interesting one of the big differences between now and last time this happened is Howie mentioned the state parks department finding the money among amongst its budget to do that. State parks department in the last five years has been cut to the point where they closed state parks a number of years ago. They have only now started to get that money back. They don't have a surfeit of extra cash to dig into without affecting some of the state parks which are already struggling stay open.
Howard Fischer: This is a micro cause of what's happening in Washington. Everyone is casting blame as to why Tommy can't go to the park. Same thing happening with the statue of liberty, with the WIC program, everyone casting blame. Believe me there's plenty to go around.

Ted Simons: It's an interesting time with the federal government shut down and interests in support for Congress almost an all-time low here in a variety of ways. We had a couple of announcements from folks who say they want to join that crowd in Washington. Start with Andy Tobin. Seemed like this is the worst kept secret. He's going to run. He is going to run. Talk to us about the race.
Hank Stephenson: Yeah, he made it official earlier this week. Came out in a cowboy hat, crisp rancher shirt, backdrop of his area near Prescott. Basically said what we all knew was going to happen for quite some time. He's running for Congress in CD-1. Stretches from the northeast corner of the state down all around. It's a huge district.
Howard Fischer: Except it doesn't stretch to his house. Of course his argument is I can see it- like I can see Russia.
Ted Simons: Another quote where you walk away from that. That doesn't play all that well. He's not going to stop being speaker, correct?
Howard Fischer: Well, this is always an interesting question. Every time we see this, on one hand you do have the attention of the media at the capitol and you keep your name there. On the other hand, given everything that can go wrong with the budget, and we found out today we're going to be back in red ink in a couple of years, given everything that can go wrong with fighting the governor over the Medicaid, over redistricting, you're not sure whether that publicity is always so helpful.
Jim Small: Well, the last time we saw a sitting leader run for Congress was Tim bee. You remember Congressman Bee, of course. Running for a district not in Maricopa County, running largely in Pima County. He certainly was burning at both ends. It was kind of a rock and a hard place situation where you have to attend your business at the legislature but you need to be down in the district making appearances and raising money. It's tough to do both those things and negotiate a budget and in this situation you have got a caucuses that's divided, you have Republicans that are fighting end of the session with a very bitter taste in everyone's mouth. There's a lot of real different dynamics now. Tim bee got criticized by both sides for not leaving or for running for Congress from the capitol.
Ted Simons: This is not a small district. This is a district larger than some states.
Howard Fischer: This stretches from the northern edge of Tucson, all around northeast Arizona in obviously to just the edge of Pullman as we mentioned. That's a lot of ground to cover. If you want to meet people, if this were an urban district and you can get on the local radio station that's fine. You have got to go out and hit every tiny watt radio station, every Republican club, every newspaper.
Jim Small: This district is bigger than Pennsylvania. That's the size we're talking about here. It's about 40% of the state's geographic mass. People who have run in similar districts in the past say the way you do it you run for mayor of 13 towns. That's basically what you're doing. In order to do that you have to be on the ground, there all the time. The longer session goes on and there's no guarantee session will be quick, no guarantee it's going to be long but the longer it goes on the tougher it becomes to be at the capitol and run.
Howard Fischer: You had the point right. The fund-raising. You have to be pressing a lot of flesh, you've got to raise a lot of money for congressional races.
Ted Simons: With that in mind is there someone he trusts, a second in command that he feels comfortable with that he could say, all right, I'm gone off. Here I am gone again. You take command. Watch out for this, that and the other.
Hank Stephenson: It's interesting. His leadership team isn't necessarily made up of Tobin people. People he trusts, people who are on his side. You know this, but he does have his speaker pro tem, J.D. Mesnard, who has been at his side, does a lot of the pull around the capitol or the house for him. Who I think he will entrust a lot of things to as he works the district.
Ted Simons: C.D.2, Martha McSally, announces again that this is the third time against this particular opponent. Why is she running?
Hank Stephenson: Why not? That was her campaign platform on the day the federal government shut down. Didn't really take a lot of questions from reporters from what I have heard from people in Tucson where she was running around the district that day. Wouldn't say how she was going to vote on the continuing resolution, how she would have voted had she been elected last year. On the continuing resolution to keep federal government running, just doesn't answer a lot of questions out there.
Ted Simons: I bring up these races and the timing of the announcements. They were announced as all of Washington was showing it was just completely gridlocked. Regardless of what side you're on is it the wisest of times to say I want to join that club?
Howard Fischer: But of course if you want to run as an outsider, lord knows we have 535 outsiders there, it's amazing how that happens, this wouldn't happen if I were there. If I were there I would work.
Ted Simons: are they saying that? What I'm hearing from Tobin I'm against the affordable care act, EPA mandates at the Navajo generating station, kinds of things I don't think separate him from that GOP caucus.
Howard Fischer: The arguments always come down to but I'm bringing in my experience. I run a small business. I understand issues. I understand how to talk to people. You're right, in the Republican primary you have to run to the right wing against Obamacare, you have run against the EPA rules on the Navajo generating station but as a whole, you want to get elected you run as an outsider. Look at Rand Paul. Look at Ted Cruz. They ran as outsiders. I don't think either of those folks are particularly in the exact tea party mold although there's elements of Martha that fit that description.
Ted Simons: That general election against Barbara was pretty darn close. Got a shot this time?
Hank Stephenson: It was within a percentage point. Couple thousand votes. It could go either way depending on kind of the national mood. I think a lot of this will boil down to which side the public chooses to blame over the shutdown.
Ted Simons: We have lawmakers standing in this medicate suit. Sounds as though the governor- I'm hearing the governor isn't speaking to some of them. We're talking about Medicaid expansion. Again, will lawmakers suing the governor over this and the governor says you don't have any business being here.
Jim Small: Some lawmakers have told us they can't get a response out of the governor's office from policy advisors or staff. Couple of them went to access the agencies that they are suing to get information on implementation of the expansion and some other information appeared they are supposed to get back was have your attorney call our attorney. You're suing us so we really shouldn't talk to you. You know, we don't want to violate that lawsuit.
Howard Fischer: Which is such a pile of fertilizer given that the legislature and the governor has sued each other over adjudication of rights all the time it happens all the time. This is the Brewer administration in a snit. That's purely what this is.
Ted Simons: We're talking 36 lawmakers here basically the governor's office saying you don't have standing because, what, you are not personally injured by this particular action?
Hank Stephenson: Yes.
Ted Simons: Expanding Medicaid?
Hank Stephenson: Yeah well the argument goes the only people who can sue us are those impacted by this. That would be the hospitals and the way they are impacted is they are going to make money off of this so that's probably not going to happen.
Howard Fischer: Here's another fascinating part of the thing. Part of the question is, is this a tax and did require two-thirds vote.
Ted Simons: That is the question, isn't it?
Howard Fischer: There's another question of delegation of powers. You are going to love this argument. It's the legislature's decision to decide whether it requires a clause to say it requires a two-thirds vote and the decision of whether it requires a two-thirds vote can be made by a majority of the legislature. Now, if that doesn't make your head spin…
Ted Simons: We're way off the dot here. Out in deep water here.
Howard Fischer: Exactly. But the argument is a simple majority of the legislature can decide if a two-thirds majority is required. No.
Ted Simons: Basically the governor's office just called them a bunch of disgruntled legislators.
Jim Small: Yeah more or less. They say if the courts grant this for the legislators it's a pandora's box. Legislators who lost on an issue can file suit over anything is the argument. I mean realistically the sky probably isn't falling that way. But it's an argument in court, then that's what the attorneys are paid to do.
Ted Simons: We'll see how that works out. Whether it's an assessment or a tax.
Howard Fischer: It's a levy.
Ted Simons: Let's talk instead about Joe Arpaio, Maricopa County. This thing has been going on for six years. Monitor, the court apointed monitor that the department did not want is going to have it along with other things.
Howard Fischer: This is interesting. I don't want to say it was clear Joe was going to lose the lawsuit but given the testimony presented including a person who was an aid to the Phoenix mayor that was singled out it was clear the department would be found guilty of racial profiling. The plaintiffs weren't asking for money, for relief. You need to stop them from doing that. Well how do you get that? You need someone to watch ongoing. It's not well we didn't do it we won't do it again. Some of it is training. Some of it requires if you're going to do certain things with more than ten deputies, you have to let us know a certain number of days afterwards. Some of it will require real money. A camera, for example, in every vehicle. So that when you pull over somebody we have a record of that and if you happen to be stopping a lot of people for the crime of driving while brown we'll know about that.
Ted Simons: Audio and video documentation there on the stops. Also he has to tell the ACLU and this community advisory board, this group 24 hours in advance of a planned immigration enforcement activity. They worked for months on this agreement. Took six years to get here. The sheriff's office is acting like they won while the ACLU is acting like they won. Will there be an appeal?
Howard Fischer: The appeal will come when somebody is accused of violating it. For the time being does it make sense for the sheriff to appeal? Well he loves going to court. He may do it anyway saying judge snow didn't have the power to do what he did, in terms of the monitor and everything else. But the judge was careful to say the monitor will not control, the monitor will monitor. I don't think the judge exceeded his authority here. The next time it goes to court will be implementation. You didn't let us know something. You didn't put in the cameras in time. You conducted an investigation. We think it was a sweep. No, this was something different.
Ted Simons: I think Joe Arpaio is sharp enough to realize that that comes up you're talking contempt, talking serious business as far as- well.
Howard Fischer: Look, he would say, this judge can't jail the sheriff.
Ted Simons: Okay. He can say that but he will also understand contempt is a whole new ballgame. Let's move on. Explain what's going on with the clemency board. Please. [laughter]
Jim Small: So couple of inmates who have been scheduled to be executed soon, sued said they don't think they will get a fair shake from the clemency board because the governor's office has been leaning on board members to make sure they don't approve clemency, they don't delay execution. They uphold the sentence they were given. So they went to court, filed that to try to delay these executions, and on the witness stand the members of the clemency board said, no, we haven't had that. The judge said, okay, I believe they will be fair. They said they would be fair, that they haven't gotten undue pressure from the governor's office. I don't see any reason to stop these executions.
Howard Fischer: What's really significant you have to understand this is the old board of pardons and paroles. Under the laws the governor cannot even consider clemency or commutation unless she gets a positive recommendation. The charges that Scott Smith, now her chief of staff, was deputy chief of staff, had talked to some former board members after they had approved two requests, one of a guy named Macomber who there's some question about whether his guilt is there, and Flebot, who was convicted of ten counts of child porn and sentenced to a mandatory 90 years. Now the guy is in his 60s. They say maybe time served might make sense. If forced by recommending clemency it forced the governor to make a decision. The argument of the attorneys is the governor doesn't like that. That's why she sends Scott Smith to tell some of these people she was unhappy. The question of what Scott Smith said is essentially -- I don't want to say uncontested. Smith was never called to testify. That's the former board. She got rid of the former board. She has a new board. All of them said, we're not being pressured.
Ted Simons: What happened to the former board's testimony? A whole bunch of folks said fingers were pointed in their faces and voices were raised and it was pretty confrontational.
Jim Small: They are the former board. They're not the current board. The suit was over whether the current board can give these prisoners a fair assessment and fair hearing. Former board members don't really factor into that. The judge essentially said, I have no reason to doubt what the current board members are saying when they say we haven't been pressured and we'll give these people a fair consideration.
Ted Simons: Still a stain on the clemency board in general?
Hank Stephenson: Of course. It's going to be a long-standing stain.
Ted Simons: All right. Quickly here, vouchers for kids with disabilities. I use the word vouchers because it makes the Goldwater Institute crazy, saying it's not vouchers. This has been fought in court so many times, upheld.
Howard Fischer: This is interesting because the Supreme Court rejected an earlier plan even though the folks had argued from the Goldwater Institute, the money is going to the parents, the parents control it. Supreme Court said we know where the money is going. They came back with this plan called an empowerment scholarship account. Essentially we give parents an account equal to 90% of what the kid would get in state aid and they can use it for private school tuition, parochial school tuition, they can home school the kid, they can even save the money for the kid to go to college after high school, which is one of those interesting secrets some of us just found out about. The judges said, well, because it's the parents who control this-
Ted Simons: Which has always been the argument for supporters.
Howard Fischer: That the because the parents control it and the state doesn't control it, it doesn't violate two constitutional provisions. One specifically prohibits state aid to private and parochial schools. They said it's not aid. Number two, specific prohibition against using state funds for religious instruction or education.
Ted Simons: So does this end this particular issue?
Jim Small: Well, no. I'm sure that the appellate court upheld this I'm sure there will be an appeal to try to get the Supreme Court to take this up or to get an En Banch Review at the ninth. I think what this is, this is a springboard into more of this. They have already expanded this program. It was initially aimed at a very small group of like handicapped kids then foster kids, then they added kids who are in failing schools. The goal is to incrementally expand this until it's a full-fledged voucher system for the entire state for any student in Arizona.
Howard Fischer: That's the crucial part. By adding the kids we add about 70,000 kids. 1.1 million kids are in public schools. If you say to the parents, look, we'll give you let's assume your kid gets 5,000 normally we'll give you 90% and you can use it as you want, maybe bank it, the question becomes, what are you doing to the public school system and the other part is once parents get out of the school system who lobbies for public schools in who lobbies for public education which the constitution requires the state to have?
Ted Simons: We have seen the trial judge ruling, appeals court upholding it. We'll see what we got going here. We got about 30 seconds left. I did not want to leave without talking about John Green.
Howard Fischer: John Green was an interesting character, Senate president. He was a moderate Republican, an oxymoron. Pro-choice, didn't have a lot of problem with gay rights, things like that. Had a few strange edges. He wanted tort reform to the point he was willing to torture a ballot measure to do it. He recognized that everyone needs to get along. This is pre-days of term limits and I think his belief was we make everyone get along the purpose of the legislature is compromise.
Ted Simons: Quickly, yes or no, would he be a player this this current legislature?
Howard Fischer: He wouldn't even be elected to this current legislature.
Ted Simons: Gentlemen, thank you so much. That it is for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us. You have a great weekend.

Jim Small:Arizona Capitol Times; Howard Fischer:Capitol Media Services; Hank Stephenson:Arizona Capitol Times

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