Legislative Update

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Ben Giles from Arizona Capitol Times will give the latest news from the State Capitol in our weekly legislative update.

Ted Simons: Coming up next on "Arizona Horizon," we'll get the latest from the state capitol in our weekly legislative update with the "Arizona Capitol Times." And we'll hear from "care of the soul" author Thomas Moore on his new book "a religion of one's own." Those stories next on "Arizona Horizon."

Narrator: "Arizona Horizon" is made possible by contribution-s from the friends of eight. Members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. State lawmakers plan a committee vote tomorrow on an effort to circumvent a referendum vote that targets a set of controversial election laws. Here to talk about that and more in our weekly legislative update is "Arizona Capitol Times" reporter Ben Giles. Thanks for joining us here.

Ben Giles: Thanks for having me.

Ted Simons: Let's talk about this. This is a move to repeal a law so that it might live again?

Ben Giles: Exactly. There is a collection of bills that went into HP 2305 last year, because for whatever reason, as individual pieces, they could not get passed the legislature. Then what you had was this platter of controversial election issues all clumped into one bill, a number of people, Libertarians had an issue with, Latino voters had an issue with, varying reasons, but it was enough of a groundswell report for people to refer this to the ballot. Unless it is repealed, the bill will be voted on in November.

Ted Simons: The concern among aspects of this bill, if the voters say no, that is the ballgame. It's over, not only that ballgame but other aspects of election.

Ben Giles: Exactly. It would create a voter protection is the concern, either way, if it is voted down or approved on the referendum, it would be voter protected. And the concern that lawmakers such as Senator Reagan, one of the prime sponsors of the couple of the measures in HP 2305 has had, if something is voter protected, you have to go back to the ballot to make any little change. There are also some not-so-controversial issues clumped into that bill. It would be an inconvenience. The real concern is these controversial issues, some of which would remove people from the permanent early voting list, that would increase the signature requirements that third party candidates have to get on the ballot. If those are rejected by voters, there will never be another opportunity for lawmakers to try and get those measures approved at the capital, and they want to have that chance.

Ted Simons: This is on the up and up. This is legal to say let's pull it. Let's wait -- the fact that we don't allow it to be voted on by the citizens. After that, let's vote on it -- that is okay to do.

Ben Giles: In fact, one of our reporters was looking at this this afternoon. There was an issue in 1996, 1997 that was due for the ballot. It was repealed by lawmakers before it made it there and that was the end of it. But the concern here is that some of the issues in HB 2305 are still popular enough that lawmakers want to after they repeal it, and after they get it off of the ballot, come back, piece by piece, and try to pass it again.

Ted Simons: Okay. With that in mind, how likely is the repeal to pass?

Ben Giles: The repeal seems to have a lot of favor at the capitol. I think there is a lot of Democrats out there who are opposed to measures in the bill and also want to respect the citizen referendum, respect the fact that voters collected enough signatures to send it to the ballot. Among Republicans, there does seem to be a consensus that it probably isn't the best idea to have some of these issues voter protected. But there is a divide among the republicans about how soon it would be appropriate to try and repass some of these measures. Rumors are that some lawmakers, if they repealed it, say, in the next couple of weeks, this session still would try and reintroduce some of the measures, which wouldn't look very good if you repeal it to get it off of the ballot and then try to pass it days, weeks later.

Ted Simons: You certainly would no intentions there.

Ben Giles: Exactly.

Ted Simons: Something else going on down there. I notice that representative Cavanaugh was quoted as questioning the need for university education. What is this all about?

Ben Giles: Cavanaugh was making a general point, which I guess he has made before, about the fact that not necessarily everyone needs to go to college for a research degree, which is an expensive degree. It costs the state money. It costs -- the state invests a lot of money into providing research degrees, you have to fund not only the teacher, professor teaching classes but also the time that it requires them to do research on the side. Cavanaugh's point, as the state is trying to decide how much it can spend limited resources in what areas was that -- the governor has rejected a request by the Board of Regents to include $100 million for Arizona research universities. His point was maybe we don't need to spend it there because maybe we don't need to be spending all of our money on these high-cost degrees. Maybe we can be funneling it into some of the, for lack of a better term, lesser degrees.

Ted Simons: Does he have any idea who should be the ones pursuing the lesser degrees?

Ben Giles: I guess -- one of the points that he made was that sales, for instance, or maybe somebody who is working in a mechanical field, you don't need that research degree for some jobs, and to an extent, there is a point that not everybody needs to go to college for the certain field that they're going to go into, but, at the same time, the big push for Arizona and a lot of folks cite this as a reason that Arizona was set back so much during the recession was that there aren't enough research degrees, there aren't enough high-quality degrees in Arizona for students to get and academic achievement is below what we would like it to be that that hurts our economy as a whole.

Ted Simons: Business interests are very concerned about Arizona, not only the education results but education reputation. This doesn't sound like it would do much to help the reputation.

Ben Giles: No, and that is the point that folks were making and criticizing Cavanaugh for saying this. If you want to increase Arizona's academic reputation, you want to spend that $100 million on the universities, on these research degrees, that will -- that will boost the state's reputation and hopefully boost its economy down the line.

Ted Simons: We will probably have more on that Friday on the "Journalists' Roundtable." Before you go, who is Andrea Delessandro.

Ben Giles: The newest state senator. Folks have stepped aside for jobs in D.C. and other states and the latest was Linda Lopez of Tucson leaving the Senate for a job with the Easter Seals Blake foundation. And Andrea Delessandro-- she served in the House of Representatives out of Green Valley. She was sworn in today as the newest state senator, which means we have another appointment process now to appoint her replacement in the House of Representatives. A very busy time for folks down in legislative district two.

Ted Simons: And, again, that is in southern Arizona. This is a southern Arizona, B a democrat in southern Arizona. What kind of impact on the caucus, what kind of impact on the Senate as a whole?

Ben Giles: Not much at all. Republicans still hold a 17-13 advantage, though I think that the democrats are glad that they at least have 13, not 12, as they have for the last week and a half or so starting session. I think they're glad that the process to appoint lawmakers actually moves a lot quicker during the session. So they weren't -- they weren't in a position where they had to take a pivotal vote down a man as it were.

Ted Simons: All right. Thank you, Ben. Good stuff.

Ben Giles: Thank you.

Ben Giles:Journalist, Arizona Capitol Times;

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