Journalists’ Roundtable

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Ted Simons: Coming up next on Arizona Horizon's "Journalists' Roundtable," Mesa mayor Scott Smith announces that he is running for governor. A three decades old case regarding mental health care is finally settled. And a preview of the Governor's upcoming State of the State address. The "Journalists' Roundtable" Is next on "Arizona Horizon."

Narrator: "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 Journalists' Roundtable." I'm Ted Simons. Joining me tonight are Mary Jo Pitzl of The Arizona Republic, Howard Fischer from Capitol Media Services, and Luige del Puerto of the Arizona Capitol Times. Add another name to the list of candidates running for governor. Mary Jo, Mayor Scott Smith, surprised at all.

Mary Jo Pitzl: No -- I was a little bit surprised, I thought maybe the mayor gig and national platform that he has with the conference of mayors was enough to tide him over for maybe a cycle or two, but as we got into late 13, and early this year, the signs were quite clear that he was going to jump in. That makes for a very crowded GOP field for governor.

Ted Simons: Is he a viable candidate?

Howard Fischer: He is definitely a viable candidate. The question is how he will position himself. The nature of republican primaries, tends to be the folks on the right wing of the party that turn out. On one hand, he is antiabortion, antigay marriage, a strong second amendment supporter. We have him on record from last year that he would support additional background checks. He has supported publicly financed stadiums. He's made statements about immigration and dreamers that may not play well with that particular wing of the party. With a six, seven-way republican primary, anything is possible.

Ted Simons: Exactly if he is, I know the word moderate is -- if he is a moderate and everybody else in the race is fighting to be the most conservative, is he a viable candidate?

Luige del Puerto: If he is a very crowded race, you don't need to win 40%. You may just need what, 25%, 27%. And 30% of the vote, and you could secure that nomination. Also, you know, one of the things that we have concerned from the politicians that are close to him is the -- this narrative that he is a mayor, he is a non-partisan mayor and therefore he can go to a statewide audience, here is what I've done in Mesa, and since he is largely unknown to the rest of the state, he can paint his own canvas and maybe zig and zag and be as conservative as he would want to be perceived.

Howard Fischer: He has a story to tell in terms of Mesa. They cut their budget without raising taxes. No temporary one cent sales tax. The Cubs Stadium, even if you question that, the fact is that the voters voted for it, even in the republican precincts they voted for it. He does have a story to tell.

Mary Jo Pitzl: I think although some of this presumes that Smith is the one that will differentiate himself from the pack. We have not seen the campaign start yet. Where does Christine Jones land on this? Ken Bennett put down some markers, Doug Ducey has not spelled out his priorities very clearly. Scott Smith may not be this sort of departure from the pack that everybody is assuming that he is. I mean, let's let this campaign roll on a little bit.

Luige del Puerto: And the -- from southern Arizona, really this race will hinge on two things. Money raised, that would determine how much they can -- how much -- their ability to get their message out and also how they navigate the fissures within the republican parties. If you look at the one cent sales tax, she said 15% of -- I'm sorry, republican men voted against it by a 15 point margin, but republican women voted for it by exactly the same margin. There is a split within the republican party and how you finesse those could be a key to winning this race.

Mary Jo Pitzl: And the other thing that we don't know, the primaries generally are very -- generally very party centric. How much will any of the camps to try to activate independent voters to come out in August --

Ted Simons: If you are a leaning democrat, there is nothing going on as far as a primary race is concerned, you may test the waters on the republican side.

Howard Fischer: There are more independents than democrats in this state, and as Mary Jo the problem has been activating them. They can walk in and say I would like a republican ballot. They don't. And that's the issue. Could you tack those republicans? Could somebody, you know -- the question is, who are these people? Are they the vast middle? Or are these the tea partiers for whom all of the parties too liberal for them.

Luige del Puerto: No one has yet figured out a way to get into the ballot.

Ted Simons: Impact on Bennett, Ducey, Jones.

Howard Fischer: Well, I mean, you've got Ducey who was at least jumped out in front. You know, I think he was trying to scare off everybody with the million dollars. Look what I've already got in my pocket. Obviously Scott wasn't going to go ahead and do that. I think he may have a higher impact on Bennett who is running with public money. Bennett has already been outspent in January. Only going to get $750,000. So, you know, Scott is going to run with private money. But, again, back to Luige's point. You have this many people in the race, and the metrics of how that all divides up is too hard to tell until we find out positions and where everyone is.

Ted Simons: Does the announcement impact at all the Fred Duval campaign?

Howard Fischer: I don't know -- Fred is doing what Fred is doing.

Ted Simons: Sure.

Luige del Puerto: Everything expected that Scott Smith -- I mean late -- Mary Jo is right, late last year it was clear that he was preparing to jump into the race. Nobody was surprised among the candidates that he is in. I don't think it impacts Duval at this point.

Mary Jo Pitzl: Maybe Duval campaign is lighting more voter candles than --

Ted Simons: We have the governor's state of the state address set for Monday. Legislature set to begin as well. Howard, we will expect with you. Chamber of Commerce luncheon today, not a lot said there as far as the Governor's address. Is she saving it for money?

Howard Fischer: Half of what we're going to see, aren't I great. I took over. Janet Napolitano left the state in a mess and now we have a balanced budget. Which isn't actually true with the structural deficit -- obviously CPS, how shocked she was with all of this and we are going to get to the bottom of it. I don't see her firing Clarence on the podium, although that would be one hell of a headline. K-12 funding is an issue. The programs that she tried last year, students -- she is not taking money away from the poorly performing schools. University funding issues, fire issues, perhaps, whether it is a question of just more money for the state forester, or also perhaps some other issues in there in terms of staffing.

Ted Simons: And those issues were all brought up at the Chamber of Commerce luncheon, which was expertly moderated I did want to point out.

Howard Fischer: Who do we know that might have been there?

Ted Simons: But, with that being said, the relationship, governor, legislature, this go around. You can want X, Y, and Z, but is anyone listening?

Luige del Puerto: We don't expect this year to be as contentious as this year. We don't have the big giant Medicaid fight that we had in 2013. We expect some of that contentiousness to spill over into this year. Of course, there is always -- there are questions as to whether a speaker is going to keep -- chairman, and what that means, what that bodes for the chamber, etc., etc. I guess at the end of the day, one thing that may unite them is the fact that it is an election year and they may want to get out of there as quickly as they can.

Ted Simons: That is a big factor.

Mary Jo Pitzl: Yeah, that is a big factor. You, preach GOP unity. It would be nice to show that the republican party is united and legislative leaders and the governor are on the same page. That said, we will know more after she speaks Monday. The governor has already put out markers of how we outline that we're getting feedback from legislative leadership. They're not all nuts about it especially the funding figure on CPS. That's -- that's going to be a real hard one.

Howard Fischer: And here is the problem. We are still spending more money than we're taking in. That's that structural deficit. We're living off of the one cent tax that we managed to get and that expired. If you just keep up funding, where it is now, just baseline increases, inflation, and number of students, we could end up $500 million in the hole by 2017. Lawmakers don't want to add anything to that. They recognize there needs to be some CPS money. John Cavanaugh -- the issues of university money, issues of K-12 money, all nickel and dime because they're afraid of what happens down the road. She is going to be gone. I know she doesn't believe it but she is going to be gone and it is not going to be her problem.

Ted Simons: I asked whether Medicaid -- is that a settled issue -- you would think that is a settled issue. Biggs said down the road there could be corrections. What does that mean?

Luige del Puerto: Speaking with a county party official the other day, and he said, well, this is going to be a front burner issue, Medicaid expansion. We will closely watch this issue. We want to repeal the Affordable Care Act and this is a key part of it. I mean, it will remain a mission. The fact is that it is in the court system right now. We do not know what the court will do. Interesting thing, what the courts decide that he needs a platform -- mechanism and sends it back to the legislature. What happens next?

Mary Jo Pitzl: I think first of all that president Biggs is right, any kind of legislation such as Medicaid expansion, restoration, with this new assessment, there probably will be tweaks needed. That happens. I suspect he is alluded to larger changes and I think he also is signaling that he is not going to be the one to bring those about. However, he and other republican lawmakers are plaintiffs in a lawsuit that we're waiting to see if they're going to be able to get their day in court to argue that the whole ball of wax was passed unconstitutionally.

Howard Fischer: And that's really the point of what Luige said. If the court A, concludes the legislature is standing to sue, and, B, that you need a two-thirds vote, because this is a tax hike. It is not an assessment. It is not a fee. Then, therefore, where do you -- you know, where do you find 20 senators and 40 reps? I mean, I can't see it in an election year. I don't know what you could give them.

Ted Simons: In an election year is an emphasis there. And the last point on those lines, are we going to start seeing referrals or ideas late in the session aimed at exciting the base now that you want to get the folks in your district out there at the polls?

Howard Fischer: We're already seeing them on a few things. Both Luige and I -- we are going to say that the rabbis and priests are not going to have to perform gay ceremonies. The place where it is an issue, which is private, issue in New Mexico, a photographer refused to do a gay wedding, this bill does not even affect it. John Cavanaugh, a few interesting things, he wants to create a data base, much like a sex offender data base of people guilty of animal abuse. If you have been to a cockfight, then you're going to have to register with the Sheriff-- this will be a wonderful year for interesting bills.

Luige del Puerto: On the democratic side, the measures that we always see every year and -- measures like maybe get rid of the death penalty, you know, texting while driving, and penalizing each other.

Mary Jo Pitzl: And closing tax loopholes. The infamous tax exchange for the 4-inch pipes --

Ted Simons: Are you suggesting that the Montenegro bill doesn't have much of a chance?

Howard Fischer: No -- as given we were probably go to discuss for segue, we have an active lawsuit in Arizona by four couples challenging the long-standing state law and 2006 voter approved constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman. There is a good possibility that Shawn Akin, and I know you had him on the other night could win at least part of this. It is one thing to say that Arizona has to allow marriages to be performed here. That is going to go to the Supreme Court. That is an interesting question of state's rights. But the better question is, if you are legally married in California, and you come here, are you entitled under the full faith and credit clause of the U.S. constitution to have that contract honored? That's the nature of it.

Ted Simons: And in Utah right now in the 10th circuit court of appeals.

Howard Fischer: The only thing that has stopped it so far, defense of marriage act has a provision that says that states don't have to do that. That was the one -- DOMA that the Supreme Court didn't deal with. That portion is going away. I will make my prediction here that at some point states are going to be forced to recognize each other's marriages.

Luige del Puerto: In the Utah case, the judge, federal court judge that ruled, that the ban on same-sex marriage in Utah is unconstitutional said what we have here is a clash of two interests, one is individual rights and the other is states' rights. He said this issue is not really about states' rights, it is about individual rights. And if it is about states' rights, he basically said that individual rights precede, overrule the states' rights. And that's what we have here. That's what Akin is arguing. This is a very similar argument that he has raised in the Arizona case.

Ted Simons: He has that federal in his eyesights there. Okay. If something makes the ballot reasonably soon, relatively soon, same-sex marriage in Arizona, does it pass this time?

Howard Fischer: Not in 2014.

Ted Simons: 2016?

Howard Fischer: 2016 more likely. That is part of the reason there was a proposal out there for that and for marijuana, that the supporters have said well we want a presidential election year. Do we want a year where the governor is the top race on the ticket? I think in 2016, I think enough people now know gays who are wed, folks have -- I hate the term, but come out of the closet and all of the sudden you're realizing, sports figures are gay, people next door are gay, and by George, the world hasn't come to an end.

Ted Simons: 2016 as opposed to 2014 more likely --

Mary Jo Pitzl: Presidential election year, a broader base, organizers of these efforts eyeing 2016.

Ted Simons: With the larger, broader population base, is there a chance that this still could fall?

Luige del Puerto: Yes, there is a chance that it could fall. There is a chance that -- remember, the last two ballot measures that deal with this one, one passed with a slight majority. The other failed also with a -- with a slight majority. And so this is an issue that has always divided Arizona. And I think the divide is very close. But if you look at the nation, for example, you look at the map, five years ago what the map looked like. Two states allowed same-sex marriage. Today 17 states plus the District of Columbia do. And, so, and the change in the attitude of more Americans, especially very stark -- I mean now it is 50% or more of Americans who favor same-sex marriage. That's a dramatic change from what it was five years ago.

Howard Fischer: And that's not to say we won't see Kathy Harrett out there -- there are a lot of people who say look, marriage is different than civil unions, perhaps, or something else. But there are a lot of folks -- this is a very touchy issue. You know, it deals with belief in the Bible, belief in God and everything else.

Ted Simons: Real quickly, would the business community get involved in something like this, considering you have an Apple which decided that Mesa is a nice place to be, is Mesa still a nice place to be if the state or legislature is that strong against this kind of issue?

Howard Fischer: I don't think it will affect the business community. It is one thing if what happened in 2006 were to happen now. In other words, taking away something, and even then, you really weren't taking it away because it was already statutorily prohibited -- -- in terms of state voting one way or the other --

Ted Simons: All of the state surrounding it going in one direction and Arizona going in the opposite direction, again --

Howard Fischer: What it will lead to is not so much the companies here getting involved, but it may be become a detriment to trying to attract new firms. A lot of firms -- take a look at the top firms in the state, when the Republic puts out the list, I bet you 75% of them already offer domestic partner benefits.

Ted Simons: I want to make sure that we touch on the Arnold v. Sarn settlement, something that was around even before you, Howie --

Howard Fischer: I was a -- I was only 31 at the time. The issue is back in the 's, the state made a decision to decide -- decision that we're going to get folks out of mental hospitals, deinstitutionalize them. Good decision, except they never provided the follow-up care so that folks could live in the community. This lawsuit was filed and in 1985, Judge Doherty said you are not following even your own laws which require you to provide this care. And there have been a lot of false starts. Mary Jo and I have both lived through these. A lot of credit going to Jan Brewer, you know, she said I want this resolved and they finally said, look, we think we can make this happen. Particularly if Medicaid expansion comes. Sure enough they signed off on it.

Ted Simons: Medicaid expansion a big factor here. Back to the history lesson, we're talking from '81 to the late 80's. Supreme court says do something. A couple of years later an agreement, a couple of years later to a couple of years ago, I mean, what was going on out there?

Mary Jo Pitzl: Well, I think it shows you one, where the issues rank in terms of public priority in Arizona. You know, the governor, herself, said it is a very difficult issue. It's hard for the public to get its arms around this and understand the complexities of mental health. And at the end of the day, it all revolves around dollars and the state has always had other priorities.

Howard Fischer: And one other piece of this, which is why I don't think that the plaintiffs pushed too hard for immediate funding. The basis of -- the state was not following its own laws. There were threats from time to time. We will just repeal the laws that requires us to provide the care and you really didn't want to -- that mutually assured destruction I think scared everyone.

Ted Simons: Timing of the announcement, before the State of the State address, in the middle of CPS getting some really bad press, coincidence?

Luige del Puerto: Not sure if it's coincidence or not. What I'm certain this will be one of the biggest legacies that the Governor will leave to Arizona. A final, or at least for now, resolution that is a 33-year-old case.

Ted Simons: All right.

Luige del Puerto: And that's great for the state.

Ted Simons: Let's get back to the state of the state address on Monday. Are we going to see raging headlines? Is the governor going to come out and surprise a lot of folks with a lot of different things or is this going to be somewhat boilerplate?

Mary Jo Pitzl: I think it will comport with what the expectation is that she will talk a lot about economic development, about CPS, about education funding, and reference Arnold v. Sarn as a way to draw attention to some of her accomplishments. I don't anticipate that anybody will walk out on her. And I don't see raging headlines, although, you know, I don't write them anyway.

Howard Fischer: And part of it is that some of the details will have to wait until next Friday when we actually see the budget. For example, we know that she is going to talk about economic development. Maybe even the idea of some changes in tax law. We know that she has got money in there for some universities. We know there is money in there for K-12. We know some of what is there. $40 million for K-12, a lot is going to come out is the details in the budget. We may see when the rubber starts to meet the road.

Mary Jo Pitzl: From a political perspective, what -- is any indication that this is in my last State of the State address, my final budget proposal, anything that will suggest that she is closing the book, you know, on her tenure at governor. Jan Brewer has often said she makes all of her political decisions in February, and Monday is January 13th.

Luige del Puerto: And even if she does, for the next five months it wouldn't matter much. She is still the governor. Still can still veto bills. She has all of the powers of her office. She has all of the advantages that she had when she started.

Ted Simons: You can tell from the tenure of the conversation, you wouldn't want to waste that opportunity to tie up my administration and my career in a bow.

Howard Fischer: But that starts off where we started 20-some minutes ago. I think half of the speech is going to be look at me, look at where I've taken us, from a billion dollars in the hole -- $3 billion in the hole to where we are now. She will use the term balanced budget, a little shaky, from a fact perspective, but this will be, I'd say that 40% of the speech will be looking back and looking at the accomplishments.

Ted Simons: And as far as funding cuts, will that be emphasized, restoration of previous funding cuts or will that be -- will we see a molding, outline framework sort of thing?

Mary Jo Pitzl: I wouldn't expect that. I think as money is restored, it comes in the framework of restructuring and creating efficiencies and the emphasis would be more on that restructuring rather than the dollars.

Ted Simons: We will stop it right there and look forward to Monday's speech and the start of the session. Good luck, everyone.

Ted Simons: Monday on "Arizona Horizon," the governor gives her State of the State address marking the start of the legislative session. We'll run the speech in its entirety and then get reaction from political consultants. That's Monday evening at 5:30 and 10, on "Arizona Horizon." Tuesday, hear what republican leaders in the house and Senate have to say about their legislative priorities. Wednesday, our weekly legislative update with the Arizona Capitol Times. And Thursday we hear from democratic leadership on what they're looking for this session. And Friday, it's another edition of the "Journalists' Roundtable." A reminder, if you want to find out what we're doing in the past -- or what we have done in the past, what we're doing in the future and right now, check us out on the web, That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us. You have a great weekend.

Howard Fischer:Journalist, Capitol Media Services; Luige del Puerto:Journalist, Arizona Capitol Times; Mary Jo Pitzl:Journalist, The Arizona Republic;

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