Republican Legislative Leaders

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Senate President Andy Biggs and House Speaker Andy Tobin will make their monthly appearance on Arizona Horizon to talk about the latest issues from the State Capitol.

Ted Simons: Good evening, welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Each month during the legislative session, senate president Andy Biggs and speaker of the house Andy Tobin give us their take on what's going on at the state capitol. And tonight we welcome president Biggs and speaker Tobin. Good to have you both here. Good to see you again. Let's get started. There's so much to talk about, but this ruling that came down regarding the Medicaid expansion lawsuit. I want to get your thoughts, a judge dismisses it, again, thoughts.

Andy Biggs: I think her logic was really twisted. Basically what she's saying is you have -- A simple majority can determine whether prop kicks in you need a super majority vote. That's what she's saying, and so there's two aspects to that that really undercut what she's saying. That means prop 108 doesn't mean what it says, so she emasculates prop 108, and the second thing you could say, is that the same logic you'll use for voter protected or prop 105, the simple majority can determine what applies and what doesn't apply?

Ted Simons: She basically said the lawmakers, you guys, don't have the right to sue because there was no injury there.

Andy Tobin: Well, I think to the president's point, when you say you only need 50% plus one when you're required to have two-thirds, that completely blows apart the voter initiative on 108. So for the judge to say, you know what, you guys passed it with 50% plus one, so obviously you don't have standing because you're the legislature. But it flies in the face of the voter initiative. From my perspective, I'm like, how do you not have standing if you're harmed? So we believe we're harmed because two-thirds was not crossed, and I think that's where the differences with this judge's ruling.

Ted Simons: It sounds like she's saying you, the legislature, you're the one, you determine if the two-third majority is needed. And by virtue of the vote, apparently most of the legislature did not think the two-third majority was needed.

Andy Tobin: I take that -- I think that's the point the president is making. The voters said you need two-thirds to raise fees, and in order to decide whether that fit, you only need 50% plus one to say it fits and then it applies. Which I think is an absurd ruling.

Ted Simons: Again, I'm trying to figure this out here. It sounds as though --

Andy Biggs: welcome to our club.

Ted Simons: She's basically saying you determined this. It is your determination. And you and the governor's office by the way, determined this was not a tax, it was an assessment, assessments are determined by the legislature all the time, the legislature determined this time this was an assessment.

Andy Biggs: Yeah. I think that's what she's trying to get at, but I think the point we're trying to make, that's really screwy logic. Because what she's also taking out of the mix is saying, guess what? There will be no judicial review in the future either. Because whenever the legislature says goes. Now, if that were the case, if her logic follows, then there's a whole mess of case law that probably should be overturned because there was no standing, there was no ability, or capacity to come in and say that it should have been a prop 108.

Ted Simons: Can you say anything that would be protected by prop 108 is now in danger when in this particular case it was an assessment as opposed to a tax, and again, assessments have been agreed to before.

Andy Tobin: The taxpayers lost here. The taxpayers voted to say listen, we don't want taxes unless it reaches a certain level. They said it was two-thirds. We're just asking them to apply that logic to what we vote on in the Medicare expansion. This wasn't just a few for $10 to go into the park. This was a quarter of a billion dollars a year in new fees. If that doesn't apply, I don't know what does. We'll go on appeal, because we want it resolved. I think the voters will want to know. If this is how it's going, to maybe we should go back with something else that's stronger. I don't know.

Andy Biggs: Just one last point of that, I agree with what the speaker is saying. The prop doesn't say any tax, it starts talking about any new revenue. That's what it's talking about. And this is new revenue as the speaker pointed out, in excess of a quarter billion dollars a year. I mean, I don't know how you can say golly, legislature, you can say that's no increase in the revenue. That's no increase there. So prop 108 doesn't apply.

Ted Simons: Basically when the speaker mentioned, it's very different than a $10 fee, are you saying the $10 fee in and of itself should not have been approved in the past regarding assessments?

Andy Biggs: That isn't what has happened in the past. In the past what we've said is we're going to give fee setting authority to the agency, and that, the courts have said, that seems to pass muster as not qualifying.

Ted Simons: Did that not happen here?

Andy Biggs: That didn't happen here. No. What they did, they say they knew what the amount was going in, this is what it's going to be, here's what the assessment is going to be and here's who we're going to assess.
Andy Tobin: I have to tell you, just the year before, we had passed legislation to allow the nursing home community to draw down dollars from the feds to tax themselves. We had two-thirds vote. So the process does have a way of working itself through. So it's just a continuing argument we're going to have and the courts will have to resolve it. I hope they resolve it more quickly, because the voters may be interested in doing something else at the ballot box.

Ted Simons: The governor said the judge's ruling honors the will of the voters. You got 100,000 some-odd Arizonans gaining coverage since this has gone through. Do you think Arizonans want you to challenge this?

Andy Biggs: I think so, yeah.

Ted Simons: Do you?

Andy Biggs: Oh, yeah, absolutely. Absolutely.

Andy Tobin: This is a constitutional provision. It's a ballot initiative. That's what we're fighting about right now. And I do think they want some clarity if nothing else. What fits? I think if somebody went back to the day was passed, if somebody said would this apply for a quarter billion dollars in fees to be passed by 50% plus one? I think they would say yeah, this applies. Then we have a judge that says it doesn't.

Andy Biggs: If you think about it, and you just take it back and say, go to somebody, a person on the street and say, look, if there's going to be an assessment, and knowing what prop 108 is, that when you do this it's supposed to take two-thirds vote, are you comfortable with 50% plus one of the legislature saying, hey, we don't think that applies. And I think most people in the street are going to say, that's kind of screwy. That isn't what prop 108 is about to begin with. So I think that the whole motif about prop 108 was to prevent this type of thing from happening, and that's why the legislature -- They wanted to actually bind the legislature and say, you can't -- We don't want you to be the arbiters of a new tax. We want you to basically have to do this by a super majority. Which the speaker point out, we've done it in the past on a few occasions.

Ted Simons: Do you think that same person on the street, if told that a minority group in the legislature, the group that lost this particular vote, could come out and say, no, you're wrong, you thought -- You made the determination this was not a tax, we lost, but you're wrong, do you think they would agree to that?

Andy Biggs: I don't think that's the right frame of the question. I think the right frame of the question is, if you had elected officials who were there -- Demanding this receive the proper attention that prop 108 is supposed to get, which is a two-third vote, would you want those people, let's say from the to the two-third to protect the interest of the voter? I think they'd say yes.

Ted Simons: You have introduced a bill regarding tighter regulations for using access. First, explain why you're doing this, what achievement are you looking for?

Andy Tobin: Here's the point. We're watching just this morning, I got the latest telegram from the White House, president using his pen to change the rules again, the law we said, OK, the law is finite, here it is, everybody get over it. We passed Obamacare. Except every week we seem to have a change. That change today is like, OK, now we're going to give businesses who are 50-99 three-year waiver. So when I said, we need to be in a place where we can consistently request from secretary Sebelius or CMS, whoever, that some of these issues are going to be very expensive for us, emergency room copays are one of the ideas I put out. People continue to find their way into these emergency rooms. We're going to have to have some tools in the toolbox to help us reduce costs. So when I had the press circle me and say, how do you -- They're never going to approve that, my argument is, how do you know they're not going to approve it? They've changed their own law almost on a weekly basis. My view is we need steps that are going to be in the toolbox when this unravels and the costs get so high, you've got to request some from CMS. What we're saying, let's request something every year that talks about how to keep control of our costs.

Ted Simons: There's another bill that -- The person who introduced this says your bill is baby steps. If it's that bad, stronger action is needed, repeal the whole thing. Why not?

Andy Tobin: Well, I think the representative who decided that was theirs, that's fair, that's what we're paid to do, we write law, the problem is the dynamics of that law has not changed. You're talking about repeal of the Medicaid expansion we just discuss on this 108 issue. There's not enough votes have not shifted at the legislature. This isn't about a change in throwing out Medicaid expansion. This is about, hey let's start taking some steps along the way that's going to help us control things down the road.

Ted Simons: Your thoughts, because I remember the chamber lunch and I asked you specifically, do you think anything will happen to Medicaid expansion restoration, will the bill -- The law be left alone? And you said yes, but then you said there might be some corrections that would be needed. Is that a correction? Are we hearing a correction?

Andy Biggs: Well, I'll be honest --

Ted Simons: The secretary said so.

Andy Biggs: Yeah. I haven't read the speaker's bill, but what we're seeing is that the same people who rolled out the exchanges so successfully are botching the implementation of Obamacare. And so you're seeing things like, we're going to give this one small -- I won't say small, but a large segment of society, we're going to give them a break? We're not giving a break to families or anything else. I assume the speaker's rationale is we have to get to the bottom and clear some things up. And yeah, the dynamics haven't changed, so you're not going to see a repeal of what was done last year.

Andy Tobin: You know, look what's going on. We're robbing from Peter to pay Paul on this Obamacare, we're taking from Medicare. That's what's going on right now. We're taking from Medicare to put it into now Obamacare. At the end of the day, there's not enough money to go around. That's why the president keeps changing the rules and moving the target. So my view is, OK, we're a state, we're now starting to get under obligations for our Medicaid system, we're going to need some of these tools going forward at the very least, can't we send a message back to Washington, secretary Sebelius, when things continue to fall apart, instead of worrying about this change or that change, how about giving us tools the states can use in their own system to control some of the costs?

Ted Simons: And again, if the feds who have not been prone to give these kinds of waivers for eligibility requirements for Medicaid, why go through -- Is it a formality? Is it a message and that's it?

Andy Tobin: I don't think it's a message. I think it's a crisis. As they keep changing the rules, they're not changing the rules because they think they wrote it wrong or the website didn't work right. They're changing the rules because an election is coming up. Their concern isn't about whether these people are going to get on the system or in the system, our concerns are about our state budget, our concern is about having an economy -- They're wondering about what's happening in November. And that's where the crisis is. If they don't want to listen to a couple of suggestions, all we're saying is, please listen, give us a chance at some waivers, and at the end of the day if they're just going to worry about an election, maybe you're right, it's hardly worth having the conversation.

Andy Biggs: If I could just make two points real quickly, they have not universally said no to Arizona's request. Even though we were on their black list for a while. We made requests --

Ted Simons: A long while.

Andy Biggs: We've made requests to CMS for changes, and they have grand those changes, including with the children, the adult -- The childless adult population. So we were able to do something major with that. The second thing is, I have at least several at least a couple of members of mine who voted for the expansion, who have said, We need to be doing something to plan for when the circuit breaker is tripped. Because they know it's going to be tripped. So they're looking, and I said the big concern for me is, not when you get to 80%, which is the circuit breaker, I'm mostly concerned about from 90 to 80, because that's about a $400 million a year hit to us. So what are you going to do about that? So we've got people who support the expansion, who recognize that this is not -- The federal funding is not going last, things have to be done. They have to look at this.

Ted Simons: All right. Let's talk about dark money. This seems to be the topic du jour these days. Bills have been introduced, the question is, should these independent expenditure groups, should they disclose anonymous donors?

Andy Tobin: Well, I think that bill is running over in the senate.

Andy Tobin: I'm very frustrated with the dark money, just like a lot of people are I have run in races, I remember getting a call from a friend who says, boy you look good on that TV ad. And I'm like, what TV ad? I didn't do a TV ad. I think there's people who are well meaning saying, maybe there's too much of this going that we don't know where it's about. I get it, but on the other hand, the limitations of what people are allowed to do with their money is also striking. I think when folks look at it and say, why can't I use my money for what I want to do with it? OK, let's just open it up, let's have everybody write -- Put down on what they're filing for everything, is that the answer? And it's shifted to this dark money I guess that they're struggling with.

Ted Simons: I ask you, should it be a crime to hide the identification of contributors through other entities?

Andy Biggs: I mean, that's really part of the problem. Now we're going to elevate to a felony, and say, look, if you -- The way the proposed bill -- The way the bill is worded, it's really hard to determine what somebody's intent is. You can say, Joe Blow has $200 thousand they want to participate, they find out if a couple committees, they give those committees money, guess what? It's not unusual for those committees to say, we haven't raised as much as we thought, or whatever, we're going to give it to this committee, because we kind of align. And away they go, and next thing you know, Joe Blow based on the bill, he's looking at a felony. Because there seems to be saying -- Presumption that if you do through a couple committees, maybe what you're trying to do is hide the money. So the intent clause is really difficult to show.

Ted Simons: But still, if you know that it's Joe Blow who is behind all this, the original money comes from Mr. Blow, is that not an improvement over what we have now?

Andy Biggs: I don't know, because you do have groups that really are not they're going to be affected -- I'm talking labor unions. This bill doesn't get into saying, you labor unions are going to have to start disclosing --

Ted Simons: You've got LLCs involved and corporations, along with labor unions. All these folks have been hiding their money. The question back to you, is that healthy? Is that a good thing?

Andy Tobin: I think my personal view is that with all the money that's going in, I think public should want to know who's making these contributions. I get it. That's why as a candidate, you're required to be showing where does it come from, how does it work and everybody can see. But you have Joe citizen who maybe they don't like prop 108. Maybe they say hey I don't like prop 108, I want-to-my family to get involved, I want these guys to get involved. But they don't want the press saying, we want an interview on 108. I get it. The way they look at it, they've got freedom of speech right too and that's where these things are pushing back on each other. The end of the day, both sides are using these dollars and I think that's where it gets ginned up. There's a race for these folks to compete with that. But it's hard to argue your first amendment rights and yet as a candidate, I'm fine with making sure we completely disclose.

Ted Simons: Quick mechanics question. How important is bipartisan support to you as senate president?

Andy Biggs: The bottom line is I assigned it to the committees, I'm letting them work it through the system. I've not said don't hear it, I've not said you hear it, but it's -- One last point, if you look what happened to prop 8 in California, where they have more transparency type laws than we do here, what happened to people on one side of that issue new donated money, guess what? All of a sudden your a target. They're not just picketing, they're trying to shut down your business, they're trying to vandalize your home. This is the problem so what do you is chill speech as well. So that's the balance we end up having to look at. You want to encourage speech, you do it want to chill it, you want transparency, you want people to know, is this person being favored? One other thing, part of our problem is that representative Tobin and I, when we run for election these days, we don't control our campaigns. We can raise money, you'll know who we get the money from, you'll know where we spend our money. But there's this whole -- All the groups out there, this is what people are concerned with, whether you're a candidate or the public, they control the campaign and the messaging. That's part of the problem.

Andy Tobin: You make a good point, let's say it's a gun rights group, they're receiving member money, millions, who knows? They want to put an ad out there. For president Biggs. How are you going to find -- What do they have to do, give you a list of all their members and show every contribution, here's my five, your 10? So you can see how it gets onerous.

Ted Simons: I think the argument works as long as you had some idea where it started, it goes through 14 different entities on the way to you, then at least you know where it start and good luck -- OK. I want to move on, because we had a discussion yesterday on the program regarding broad band service for Arizona and specifically having schools pay for that broadband service. Come out of the governor's office, the idea seems to be getting traction in the legislature. What do you think of that idea?

Andy Biggs: Let's face it, there are some places that need broadband service, there's some places that already have broadband, and that's where you get into it. The other problem you have is the governor is saying, we're going to basically take $15 from every student's ADM. And we're going to use it, and once you get into the particulars, which we're just finding out more particulars, they're hoping to leverage grant monies and other monies, and when you talk to these providers, they're like, it isn't the infrastructure, the infrastructure goes right up to the school. It's moving -- Connectivity from the school to the infrastructure. So that's a bit of a problem. How much is it going to be? You've got schools that have bonded, school districts that have bonded to put this in place, and then you're going to take their bond money, some of the money they're going to use to pay back their bonds, and you're going to say, we're going to use it to subsidize somebody else's -- These are some issues that are real. I think --

Ted Simons: You also have schools that don't even have the internal wiring for broadband.

Andy Tobin: Oh, yeah. Come up to rural Arizona, the difference between running a wire in Gilbert, no disrespect, from Gilbert to Mesa is different than running something from Seligman to Ash fork or from Prescott to Prescott Valley. It's probably not close to $15 a student. I think we need to find out, should we not be on satellite with some of these classes? Should we not be changing the dynamic? I don't know how long it's expected to get all this broadband under wire and all this stuff to our schools, but the way electronics is changing and things are adapting, 10 years from now we might think, I wish we didn't spend that money putting wires down, we've got a satellite -- Maybe that's the answer. I'm not -- I love the idea that we're trying to high-tech. I love the idea that we're -- These kids are so smart, and they're on everything. Everything moves. I'm just thinking, boy, does that really get to the problem? I'm not finding it is in our areas. But I love the conversation. But I don't know how we can get out to Peach Aprings or Baghdad or --

Ted Simons: Sounds like some work still to do.

Andy Tobin: I applaud the governor for looking at the broadband process, though.

Ted Simons: We've got a few minutes left. I've got to ask about the election laws, the repeal of these election laws. Was it introduced yesterday in the senate?

Andy Biggs: The senate, we actually had the hearing on it. It passed out of committee yesterday.

Ted Simons: House, it already did --

Andy Tobin: I don't remember --

Andy Biggs: Yes, it has. I always have to check with the president. He's watching the bill.

Ted Simons: All right. Critics are saying this is simply an end run to avoid the bill dying by way of the voters. It's basically, let's kill the bill so we can let the bill live at a later date.

Andy Tobin: We're going to have to do something. Listen. This didn't just show up on our doorstep. We had bipartisan coalitions of folks in the elections business around the state talking about bundling crisis, and talking about how are we going to fix this issue that happened especially Maricopa County, where we had people -- We literally had folks knocking on doors of folks who would say, I'm with the election department, I know you got a ballot, would you like to give it to me, I'll take it there. They knocked on the doors of election officials in Maricopa County, who said really, who are you? So that's why you -- This is testimony, this is testimony in committee. It's embarrassing. It's frightening to think these issues go on. We made it too big. I think there's was too much to it, you had the third party piece, I think the bundling issue was something that we were getting close to, I don't think it was perfect. I think also the permanent voting -- There's good feedback on some of that, but at the end of the day you don't want to put this in the -- And have it 105 protected and not ever be able to fix it.

Ted Simons: That's the question. If it's that much of a problem, if the testimony exists, present it to the voters, let the voters decide.

Andy Biggs: Well, OK, so you have out of county recorders come in and say, we've got to do something with the people -- The early balloting --

Andy Tobin: Democrats and Republicans.

Andy Biggs: And you say, if we that I can that voter protected, you will never be able to do anything with that. So the reality is, we need to do something. So we're repealing it, and like I've told people, if you guarantee nothing will come back? I'm not intending to run anything this year, but I don't know if nothing will come back.

Ted Simons: Quickly, anything to revive any of the aspects of this law, anything that drops so far?

Andy Tobin: I'm going to tell you, the detail is compelling with this permanent voting list. We had 60,000 I think permanent voters not -- Permanent voting list people not use their list and that's what helped drag this election on for weeks, the Maricopa County elections. Because these people are getting ballots, having already received one. There's a lot of possibility for fraud. The bundling is a problem, I love the work with the minority coming up, but some of these things are simple voter protection. I haven't ruled it out, even though many have. But I think it's got to be repealed.

Ted Simons: We've got to stop you both. Thank you so much for joining us. And that is it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you for joining us. You have a great evening.

Andy Biggs:Senate President; Andy Tobin:House Speaker;

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