Journalists’ Roundtable

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Join us as local journalists give us their insight into the week’s big stories.

Ted Simons: Coming up next on "Arizona Horizon," journalists roundtable, a federal judge rules Arizona can require voters to prove citizenship when registering with a federal form. The Senate approves a budget. We'll look at more ill-fated attempts to undermine the state's new education standards. The journalists roundtable is next on "Arizona Horizon."

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

Ted Simons: Good evening. Welcome to "Arizona Horizon"'s journalists roundtable. I'm Ted Simons. Joining us, Luige Del Puerto, Howard Fischer, and Steve Goldstein. A federal judge rules on Arizona's attempts to have federal voter registration requirements conform with Arizona's requirements. Apparently the judge said okay.

Luige del Puerto: The judge said okay. The judge ruled that because Congress has not preempted the state to pass tougher requirements in order to become -- to be eligible to vote, therefore Arizona, Kansas may require that those who want to register prove they are citizens of this country.

Howard Fischer: It gets more complicated than. That certainly the state is free as far as state elections to decide who can vote. The question comes down now to federal elections, particularly the fact Congress said while the state could have its own -- if you want to use the state form, require blood type and mother's maiden name that's fine but Congress directed them to come up with a uniform federal form to make it easier. They said, how about an avowel. I'm eligible to vote on penalty of perjury. No Proof of citizenship. It went to the Supreme Court last year an they said, no, Arizona can't add it but you can petition the election assistance commission. There's no one on the commission so the acting director said you don't need it.

Ted Simons: They went back to the federal judge, not in the 9th circuit, by design.

Steve Goldstein: as you discussed with Paul bender last night, that's a court that tend to -- that tends to lean left, or at least as it's perceived. So a judge in Kansas went ahead, could be appealed to the 10th circuit. I don't know much about that, it's in Colorado, but I'm not sure what way they lean. One interesting thing to me, because it's an election year, again are we going to see voter fraud versus voter suppression groups getting people amped up? There's not necessarily that much smoke with this fire.

Howard Fischer: what's interesting, very few people use the federal form but a lot of voter registration groups like it because of the fact you don't have to carry around documentation. In Arizona if you have a driver's license issued after '96 that's proof of citizenship, but if you don't have a driver's license, what are we talking about, birth certificate, past port, things like that, it makes registration of harder which groups like the fact the federal form doesn't have that requirement.

Luige del Puerto: It seems clear this issue will go before the Supreme Court again. They indicated there appeal this decision, so this will play out before the U.S. Supreme Court and presumably at that point it will be clear what we can or can't do.

Ted Simons: Until that happens, we have a two-tier system all ready to go. You would think it's gone now with this ruling, no, it's not, because it's likely to be appealed.

Steve Goldstein: we may have to go. Looking forward ahead to when the ballots need to be done we could be in a real confusing situation. Ken Bennett says he's going ahead with it. He's thrilled. He doesn't want to go ahead with this dual track. It's a very bad idea.

Howard Fischer: We're spending thousands of dollars, fewer than a thousand people. Even some of the people used the federal form eventually turned in proof of citizenship. We're talking about running a whole parallel system for fewer than a thousand people.

Steve Goldstein: Paul bender says we know which people will be affected. These are people mostly low income folks, people who live in this country who are legal citizens yet it's hard to get a birth certificate, perhaps they don't have the basic money even to get to the polls. We're running into a situation, it could turn into voter suppression.

Ted Simons: out of state college students. Arizona Republic did research on this and found 34 cases since , only two of those involved people in the country illegally. The others, not citizens but legal residents appeared thought they could vote because they had been here for decades. They thought they would be able to vote. So how much of -- this is --

Howard Fischer: You're trying to prove who is it talking about. Unknown knowns. That becomes the real issue. Depending who you talk to, occasionally they will send out a jury questionnaire. Somebody will say I don't have to be on the jury I'm not a citizen. Then why are you registered to vote. There's that confusion about legal citizens versus permanent legal residents. But you also have the question that there's a finding that there's some, the judge when she upheld the requirement said there's some. No one has found anything rampant.

Ted Simons: the Attorney General says you and the rest of the media, not including myself, the rest of the media is hiding this issue. You're hiding it, Howie.

Howard Fischer: this is fantastic. I talked to Tom Horne. There's a media coverup on this. What mete media coverup? We looked at the numbers from the court. He even misquoted the judge. He said the judge said there's massive voter fraud. That's not what she said.

Ted Simons: what are you covering up, Steve?

Steve Goldstein: I'm not meaning to cover anything up. The issue is folks who are rampantly passionate about this and those not in for political reasons, I know it's hard to find people like that, feel one violation is one too many. We're never going to find 100% perfection in anything we do.

Ted Simons: We'll see how far this goes. Until then we still have a two-tier system.

Ted Simons: We got a budget, all sorts of stuff going on. Give us an update. Senate okays a budget. Heads to the house next week? Is that the plan?

Luige del Puerto: Correct. The Senate this week -- the Senate leadership offered a budget that was marketed different than the governor's proposal. Then the middle of the week Andy Biggs said I got some sort of agreement with the governor's office and he offered a lot of amendments that moved his budget closer if you will to the governor's proposal. They passed that budget. That's sort of -- that came out of the blue, if you will, because Democrats until that point were expecting that this would be one of those budgets that would get out of the Senate but they would have to negotiate with the governor. Andy Biggs according to him had got in some sort of okay, Green light from the governor's office, maybe --

Howard Fischer: Maybe.

Luige del Puerto: Now we have a budget out of the Senate, in the house, and the plan in the house is they will vote it out Monday or Tuesday.

Ted Simons: does the house -- negotiations, are we talking about behind closed doors and this is a done deal?

Howard Fischer: As far as the Republicans in the legislature goes. The Democrats are sort of whining in the wings there. But this is one of those things that came down from on high. I'm of the point where used to build budgets from the bottom up with hearings and the public would get to talk.
this was something negotiated if not in the dark of night certainly behind a few closed doors. The house is going to look at it. I talked to John Kavanagh, he said we're pretty much bought off on what the Senate has done. We want to do a few tweaks, the nature of lawmakers. The question of the governor, which is why Luigi and I were smiling at each other, Andy Biggs said I talked to the governor. I'm very confident she's going to sign it. Scott Smith, chief of staff, says, not so fast.

Ted Simons: very significant issues still need to be addressed.

Luige del Puerto: That's something the governor's spokesperson also said. It's not exactly a deal but Andy Biggs, you remember, he said I don't know who he is or what he says.

Howard Fischer: The interesting thing is we know there will be changes. She's never going to accept the budget that does not add even more people to the child welfare agency. We know that's an issue. We have a 10,000, case backlog even before the 6,000 that they have had to fix. We know there will be more folks there. There's some nickel and dime stuff. Do we create a whole independent agency out of this new agency? Again, lot of nickel and dime stuff.

Steve Goldstein: From a political standpoint I always thought, especially when we talk about eliminating Medicaid, the way that he got rolled during the last session. I think Andy Biggs has a tin ear, frankly. The fact that he maneuvered in terms of CPS, common core, but when he says he and the governor have an agreement, I think he's still not in realty.

Howard Fischer: That's hard to say. It's close. Even the original budget while maybe close to 300 million between the governor appeared he, you're talking versus 50 billion, that's not a lot in the cosmic scheme of thing. million is rainy day fund. Some of that is funding for common core implementation.

Luige del Puerto: The key to me that Andy Biggs has moved a whole lot is the issue about common core. Initially in his budget he didn't provide any additional funding for a test that's aligned.

Ted Simons: zero.

Luige del Puerto: but then in this new one he added $ million, which is closer to the governor's --

Steve Goldstein: That's true but he's running into the same moderate Republicans. Maybe he figured out I'm not going to get this past them so may as well give it to the governor and it's on the governor to decide.

Ted Simons: on the governor to figure out if that's enough money for the common core assessment.

Howard Fischer: Part of the problem, there's a couple of issues where Andy Biggs has a point. We haven't even awarded and figured which tests to use so how do we determine if it's .13.5 or .8 or three. What's the one time cost of taking the old child protective services and making it an independent agency. Again, these are the unknowns here that he said, look, we can fix them later.

Ted Simons: dropping a lot of Donald Rumsfelds on us. Watch that. As far as the house is concerned it sounds to me like talk has already been done and there shouldn't be too much trouble in the house.

Luige del Puerto: That's the impression we're getting, in the main the house is in agreement with the Senate so far as the budget. I think they will go to the floor on Monday, I think that's the plan, to get them out Monday or Tuesday. But then there will be some tweaks, but so far as the main appropriations bill, the signal that we're hearing from the house that they are in agreement with the Senate.

Steve Goldstein: at what point did Chad Campbell and Democrats get any satisfaction?

Howard Fischer: They are never involved except for when they need the votes on the Medicaid expansion they cut a deal with the Republicans and the governor. There is money for some of the things they want. Is it all they want? No? They still have a 66,000 person waiting list for child care subsidies. There's more money for child care. There's some more education money. More community college money. So are they going to get what they want? No. Are we going to see 30 or 40 democratic amendments whining for what they want? Yes. But there is some stuff there that helps the Democrats' cause.

Ted Simons: before we go, this business of a few people involved in crafting a budget, how much of it is Republican rank and file even involved and are they a little grumbly about this?

Howard Fischer: They have what they call small group meetings. Here's what we're going to do. Can we count on your vote. They have a laundry list there. If somebody needs something, they may have to make some tweaks, but the way they bought most is we got another bill out here we could help you or maybe we can kill your bill if you don't want to go along.

Luige del Puerto: The fact is that it's been a couple of years we have seen a budget that's really come from the bottom up. Last two years this budget we would have appropriations here, mostly for show. Even in those hearings we have had the public speak less and less because everybody knows at the end of the day the speaker, Senate president and the governor decide the budget.

Steve Goldstein: Most lawmakers are hard working people but I think the public saw with what happened with SB 10626, brought on by national media or not, lawmakers admitted, I don't know if I read the whole thing. When it comes to the budget is it rubber stamp party base?

Howard Fischer: Individuals have their own priorities. Child protective services is a priority. You have Andy Tobin who says I want to restore some of the highway revenue money. So some of those things are in there. But they get added piece by piece but essentially it's up to leadership to cobble something together they can get votes in the Senate, in the house.

Luige del Puerto: politically this is a choice before the Republican leadership in the House and Senate. They can negotiate with the governor, bring it closer to where she could sign it, or they could let a small number of Republicans and Democrats craft that for them. I think Andy Biggs decided to go with the first route.

Ted Simons: We talked about common core. Sound like we had more attempts to kill or undermine or somehow affect common core. Again, these things keep getting voted down.

Steve Goldstein: I hate to make another reference but Al Melvin is so involved with 1062 prosecute common core -- I want to refer a little bit macro here. I talked with a conservative analyst very much involved in education who says he's tired of it being politicized. He thinks we need the standards and a lot of Republicans, conservatives, just don't like the Obama administration telling them which way to go. A lot of them didn't like No Child Left Behind with the bush administration either. They want local control. We can change the name, but it comes down to what I have heard don't tell was to do, especially the Feds, get out of our pocketbooks.

Ted Simons: there's still stuff to be shot down, isn't there?

Howard Fischer: There's a bill that got out of the house. Technically it doesn't abolish common core but says schools can choose their own standards, they cloaked it in student privacy things. This will also get to the Senate floor and meet the same vote as the other three. While you can get it out of committee enough moderate Republicans say we got burned on 1062. The parallel is the business community wants these standards. They have said, testified if we don't have common core and we can't be sure our high school grads with qualified we're not going to hire them.

Luige del Puerto: The conservative wing of the Republican caucus see they had voted for are a budget that included money for testing that presumably will be aligned with common core. I said, why did you vote for this bill, to Al Melvin. He said, when the time comes when I'm governor -- [laughter] We're going to have a different outcome -- he said there were some things they are to do that they didn't like. This is one of them.

Howard Fischer: I'm looking forward with those interviews with Al Melvin.

Ted Simons: We're talking about something different. It does involve education, Arizona Supreme Court has looked at the voucher system, said -- didn't say anything, up held the lower court ruling.

Howard Fischer: this is very significant this. Started off very small in to say students with special needs, if you can't go ahead the education you need in public schools we will give you a voucher-like account good for 90% of the what state aid would be. Then it got expanded to any student attend ago school in a D or F-rated school. That's potentially ,200 thousands kids. The bill awaiting the house vote says if you go to a school that is a title one school, which means half the kids are low income, you little could get a voucher and that would be 800 thousands , potentially once the caps are off. The argument was you have two constitutional provisions, one that says you can't have aid to private or parochial schools or in support of religious instruction. What the Supreme Court upheld is this isn't the issue. You're benefiting the students. The state any of given money to parents -- they are giving it to parents who are making the decision and it's legal.

Luige del Puerto: The court said the money from the state may not go to a private or religious school that's a key matter that this money is up to the parents to decide where they would want to spend it. But you talked about the bill that's before the house now, and the Senate, by the way, identical bills would do the same things. Those are stuck. They haven't been debated yet and they haven't had full vote yet. Representative Debbie Lesko told me that she thinks this ruling would help that bill get out of the house. Presumably get out of the chamber, legislature.

Steve Goldstein: When you have a superintendent that is so pro data a lot of Democrats say -- at least they say can you give us proof it's benefiting families in the sense the education their kids are getting is better? There is the common -- an drew morale from the AEA-- they are saying if you give us evidence we're pro students, pro kids.

Howard Fischer: the Democrats keep trying to attach amendments, look, if you're gig 55,000$ worth of public funds maybe you should have to take the standardized test. The counter argument is parents know if their kids are being educated. Well in some cases that that's true but in some cases the parents say I don't want my kids going to school where they teach that the earth is older than 65,000 years.

Ted Simons: Those caps in that ceiling, that's all gone.

Howard Fischer: After ,2019 It's one half of 1% per year.

Ted Simons: That goes away in five years.

Howard Fischer: theoretically using today's numbers that's ,800,000 kids out of 1 million who would qualify for the state vouchers.

Luige del Puerto: keep in mind it's only attracting a very small number of students and families. About 700 kids that are in this program. That's why you have John Huppenthal -- they wanted people to know about this program. So far it's not a whole lot. We haven't even reached that cap that we have for enrollment. We're nowhere near that yet.

Ted Simons: that's what some say is behind the Lesko bill, there aren't the number of people signing up that they thought so let's expand it.

Steve Goldstein: absolutely. You said it well.

Ted Simons: then we'll move on. [laughter] Howie, your Tesla that you have on order, will you have to go somewhere else to pick it up or buy it here in Arizona?

Howard Fischer: You can order it online like you go to Amazon. I would like a car. Arizona auto dealers push through a measure in 2000 that says you can only sell a car in Arizona through a dealership. You want a Ford, Ford cannot sell directly to me. Ford can't have its own company-run dealership. Has to be independent. The dealers said that's protecting us and the public. That's not Tesla's business model. Elon musk, the owner, says we want to market directly to consumers. We have a specialty vehicle here. So they had a -- you can go to Scottsdale fashion square, look at the car, kick the tires, open the hood, you just can't buy it there. You have to go to California, order it online. A bill got through committee that says we're going to create an exception for tesla. The auto dealers have come unglued as have the manufacturers who are worried, why should they get an exception.

Ted Simons: Where's the Goldwater Institute on something like this? Sounds unconstitutional.

Steve Goldstein: It's possible they may chime in. In essence this is an incentive because Arizona is going against Nevada, New Mexico and Texas. This is all about a hot brand. This is why Arizona wanted Google, wanted Apple to take over the Mesa plant because it's going to make Arizona look hot and happening even if Tesla cars can't be afforded by most. Arizona lawmakers are buying into it.

Luige del Puerto: It does make the state attractive. Some lawmakers say it has nothing to do with that. But this is happening now as we are courting Tesla to move to the state. It does make us a little bit more attractive perhaps when we are also saying, by the way, you have that here, you can sell to anybody. You don't have to have --

Howard Fischer: Here's the fascinating question, though. This goes back to the law, the dealers say they need protection. If you are stupid enough to invest a couple million in setting up a dealership and you don't get a contract that says Ford or Chevy isn't going to compete with you, that's your fault. Why should the state be involved in what's essentially restraint of trade.

Ted Simons: Tesla says it's a conflict of interest if you're selling gas vehicles and also trying to sell mine because you want to sell the gas vehicles more than mine, that's not fair. The dealerships say wait a second.

Howard Fischer: But they are selling.

Ted Simons: They are saying it's a conflict of interest because they are not selling as they would if they were dealers only for electric vehicles.

Steve Goldstein: this fight is really about community investment. The dealers say we have been here, we have the brick and mortar. Tesla is basically saying -- they know they're hot.

Howard Fischer: This is the same thing going on in the economy. Amazon, people buying from Amazon, not the brick and mortar. The economy is changing and it's about time the state laws caught up with T.

Ted Simons: Thank you, gentlemen. Monday we'll visit with Phoenix mayor Greg Stanton to focus on the finer points of his state of the state address. That's Monday evening and on the next "Arizona Horizon." That is it for now. Thank you for joining us. You have a great weekend.

Howard Fischer:Journalist, Capitol Media Services; Luige del Puerto:Journalist, Arizona Capitol Times; Steve Goldstein:Journalist, KJZZ;

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