Journalists’ Roundtable

More from this show

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

Ted Simons: Good evening. Welcome to "Arizona Horizon" journalists roundtable. I'm Ted Simons. Joining us tonight, Mary Jo Pitzl of the Arizona Republic, Jeremy Duda of the Arizona Capitol Times and Mike Sunnucks with the Phoenix Business Journal. Governor Brewer makes the rather curious announcement that she won't run for another term and that she's prohibited from serving another term. Mary Jo, what is going on here? How did this talk get started?

Mary Jo Putzl: Well, it all got started by Jan Brewer, who wanted to make it seem like she's still a very viable governor, which she probably is anyway, but the state constitution says elected officials on the state level can serve two terms and a term is defined as any part thereof. She inherited the seat from Janet Napolitano. She's served two years and then had to run in her own right. That constituted two terms. Therefore, the constitution says you're out. But Governor Brewer started to float the idea a year or two ago maybe she would go for a third term and kept that alive. A lot of people bought into it although I think it became a punch line.

Ted Simons: Did people buy into that?

Jeremy Duda: I don't think so at all. You always heard people say, well, she's doing this so people won't view her as a lame duck. I don't think it worked. You would have trouble finding a single person at the capitol who thought there was a chance she might still be here a year from now. You have about 1,000 people running for governor, not a single one waited for her to make her decision before they started launching their big campaigns. I don't think anyone took this seriously.

Ted Simons: This was quite the announcement. Bands playing, kids there, friends hanging around.

Mike Sunnucks: That's where she got her start. Her sons went to that elementary school and the media bought into it. Everyone there tweeted dutifully that she wasn't running. It was kind of her LBJ moment where she wasn't going to run. She's been a master at it. She knows how to use the media and she casts it as she was leaving on her own terms. From a media perspective we all covered it, we're talking about it. Politically, legally, no, she didn't have a challenge, but it got her some attention, got her attention nationally too.

Ted Simons: Did she take questions on anything? Was anything of more substance -- was anything discussed?

Jeremy Duda: That was queue the band, speech, she was out of there. Lots of reminiscing. Kind of a farewell address even though she will be around for a while.

Mary Jo Putzl: This is the speech she didn't give when she delivered her state of the state in January. Typically you would expect that in a governor's last year. This was the -- this is her last year, but she held off on that, tried to keep the drama going. I want to say people bought into it, I sort of meant everybody was like, they played along with it. I agree with Jeremy, I don't think anyone took this seriously. Nobody was surprised by this. Even at my hairdresser's salon the night of the announcement, one said, isn't she have to go? Yeah.

Ted Simons: The idea of staying relevant and not being a lame duck, she still -- the caucus of one. She's still very relevant regardless of what this -- she didn't have to make this decision.

Mike Sunnucks: Her veto pen and stamp is at the ready she said. Still she's going to work, but she has been running for something for decades, right? She's a professional politician. This is new territory for her. So maybe this was kind of a vetting thing that she got this out of her system that she could say she's not running for something. This lady has been running for different offices for, what, 20, 30 years.

Ted Simons: Is she going to run for something else?

Mike Sunnucks: You never know. The best way to become Arizona governor is to become Secretary of State. So she knows that. Maybe she could put her hat in the ring for that.

Ted Simons: Let's move on here. We got some information, Capitol Times reporting regarding the new child abuse agency whatever it winds up being, the concept of oversight. Talk to us about that.

Jeremy Duda: We have a committee putting together draft legislation for the new agency. We just saw the second draft. The thing that focused on is something we have been hearing since this whole mess blew up last fall, the need for external oversight as well as internal. For people to be looking over this agency's shoulder and figuring out what they are doing. This would create a citizen oversight board to evaluate policies, kind of look at the way they're doing things, and then also an inspections Brewer that will have an external auditor. They will audit at least once a year, make sure no one is stuffing 6,500 case files in a drawer. Make sure we don't have this problem and a lot of the problems we have seen in the past.

Ted Simons: Draft legislation kind of in the works now for this new agency?

Mary Jo Putzl: Very much. They are aiming for a May 1 date to deliver a draft bill for lawmakers to start picking it apart. From what I see changes from week to week. You can't really hang your hat on this, but I think some of the broad concepts like having a citizens panel, an outside advisory board seems to be gelling. That was mentioned this morning when the CPS legislative oversight committee met. That's committee will expire the end of this year or next. But they want to keep going on. Kate Brophy-McGee, one co-chair mentioned the need for a citizens advisory panel to keep an eye on CPS. People from the community, people who have experience being foster parents. Maybe people who have been foster kids.

Ted Simons: Is this relatively both sides on board? Any fighting on this? Anyone nay saying?

Mike Sunnucks: You see Biggs and some of the conservatives talking about price tag, and scrutiny, top to bottom audits, people saying why aren't we looking at other states. What's the role of law enforcement, do we give them more power to investigate? What is the role of them cooperating with CPS? It's frustrating because shouldn't they be doing these things already. Shouldn't some safeguards like audits be there? We have an auditor general, the legislature has oversight. I don't know how much Monday morning quarterbacking will be going on but people want to get something done and I think they are moving towards that.

Mary Jo Putzl: The working group itself, a fairly small group, mostly lawmakers and law enforcement and one or two community members, they are not having big disagreements yet, but they consider their book ends or ideological book ends to be representative Eddie Farnsworth and representative Debbi McCune Davis, Farnsworth a republican and McCune Davis a democrat. They are convinced, they are committed to coming out with a product that both ends of the spectrum can agree with.

Mike Sunnucks: I'm interested to see the price tag, if that's when the trouble starts. If we're willing to -- what we have to pay to have a system that actually works and if the legislature is willing to pay that.

Jeremy Duda: We're already seeing Andy Biggs wondering how much we'll have to put up front to pay for this or how much of the work has to be done immediately. This is a multi-year project probably, President Biggs emphasizing that, can we just get the infrastructure in place and figure out the details as we go along, which would require less funding but probably flexibility in the funding too.

Ted Simons: Is there enough fuss and fight in terms of possibilities here to make this a sticking point as the session goes on?

Jeremy Duda: Could be. I think Governor Brewer probably wants this done on her watch while she's still here. As we mentioned of course she will be gone this time next year. Kind of the last big item on her agenda of a six-year governorship, she may want to get that done on her watch.

Mary Jo Putzl: What's going to be interesting, all indications seem to be at this point perhaps the state budget will be done before we have a CPS bill. CPS might be segregated into a special session so you just pick a number and put it in the budget as a placeholder for CPS funding and see what this task force comes up with that the legislature massages. The money is a big question. How much of that goes to a physical move of the agency, how much goes into services, a lot of services got cut during the recession and they have been slow to return. Even to pre-recession levels.

Mike Sunnucks: I'm anxious to see how much the governor views this as part of her legacy. She's obviously looking at that, she talks about the economy, the fiscal state of state government. A lot of other governors have kicked the can on this. They haven't solved this. We have had a lot of reports, task forces and we're here at this horrible moment with this agency. Does she view this as her legacy, is she going to put a lot of capital toward fixing something that's been a long-term problem in the state?

Jeremy Duda: She spent so much time in the past six years talking about protecting society's most vulnerable. That was her speech coming in, that may be her speech going out. This is going to be the manifestation of that, this session.

Ted Simons: With that in mind I want to keep that thought because I want to get to Common Core, college career ready and assessment standards - Chrysler, Lincoln, mercury -- understanding that this could be something else that could be a real sticking point at the legislature. This idea the new education standards not being to everyone's liking.

Jeremy Duda: There's a lot of opposition among grass roots conservatives, tea party types this is the new rallying cry, no Common Core. The supporters will tell you there's a lot of misinformation, people believe it's federally mandated or controls curricula decisions that are made at the local level, but whatever it is, people are opposed to it. A lot of conservatives are opposed to it. The governor wants the money for this in the budget. It's not that much money, probably like $15 million for testing but this may be a new battle line. We're hearing more and more that people are going to drive that one in the sand and really fight to keep that out of the budget.

Ted Simons: There are all these bills floating around now to kill in some way or stomp down what is referred to nationally as Common Core, and basically -- Andy Biggs is very dubious of this program. How far is he willing to go on this?

Mary Jo Putzl: Well, depends how far his caucus is. If you recall two weeks ago, there was a bill to kill off Common Core, or the educational program formerly known as Prince as one lobbyist called it, the name got changed last year. That bill to kill it off was itself killed off by all the Democrats and some Republicans joining ranks to say no, we're basically the message is we're proceeding with Common Core. If they let that proceed, President Biggs might have his objections but can he keep all his Republicans voting for these bills to slow down or alter or modify Common Core. That remains to be seen.

Mike Sunnucks: I think nationally conservatives see this as another Obamacare, their nationalizing education, it's going to take it over, Mary Jo mentioned this is the new Medicaid. Conservatives that lost on Medicaid to the governor are maybe looking for a battle line somewhere. They got beat on 1062. The governor vetoed that. Maybe they are looking for a place to stand up to her on something, certainly the tea party and folks with the pitch forks -- another split between the business side of the party, the chambers are for this, versus the tea party folks.

Mary Jo Putzl: This is an election year. You got to have something to take back to the base to say that you fought for at the legislature. If you got an objection to these education standards, which frankly were adopted four years ago and we have not heard much fuss about them until last year, this would be a good thing to take out on the campaign trail.

Jeremy Duda: This is bringing back some of the fault lines on the business community versus tea party. That well might come up during the elections too; the business community is very strongly behind this, very strongly fighting these attempts to undermine Common Core. This may also think with Medicaid be one of their big issues for the year too, something they use to determine who they are going to support. You're seeing especially among the gubernatorial candidates a lot of positions some are dead set against it. So this is an issue that's probably going to develop, especially when the grass roots are asking the candidates about it.

Ted Simons: Is this the kind of thing where perhaps leadership says, let 'em run, let them do what they gotta do. The governor is going to veto it anyway. Give them some points to go back home with and we'll move on.

Jeremy Duda: You let those bills go, of course they will get vetoed, the governor is very supportive of Common Core, but if you start fighting it in the budget and make it a sticking point that holds things up, things get stickier.

Ted Simons: All right. How much -- I don't want to -- it's so difficult to go back to 1062, it's so far back in the rearview mirror, but you guys are writing, did the governor's office help write SB 1062? Do we know how much input the governor's office had to the bill that she wound up vetoed?

Mary Jo Putzl: Emails released by her office show they had input. I wouldn't say they wrote it. The center for Arizona policy came to the 9th floor with this bill which she had vetoed a version of that last year. They said we want to talk to you about this. They want the bill to pass. This is not uncommon at the legislature. So you work, you try to engage the chief executive and see what you can do to make it more palatable. A lot of people say just because they talk with you and maybe work with you, ask questions, you alter your language, is not to imply support or opposition. They are just sort of trying to work the bill.

Mike Sunnucks: I think if you talk to some of the conservatives that voted for it they felt they didn't get a stop sign or red light on this and so it got sent up there. I don't think anyone expected the firestorm. They were all caught off guard by that including the governor's office. I don't think she wanted to see that bill as the first bill with CPS and all that going on but I don't think they felt like the governor said don't send this to us, that's why it kind of moved forward and then everything exploded in their face.

Ted Simons: It sounds like Kathy Harrod said this was fully vetted by the governor's office.

Jeremy Duda: Clearly vetted, someone' changed it to make it more palatable. They presented it as not necessarily a sign she would sign or veto it, but if her office is that engaged in a bill that's definitely sending a sign. They don't do that with everyone. I don't know if that says more about how serious she was looking at the bill or how much access for Arizona policy has. I talk to legislators, especially whose bills got vetoed, I never got a chance to sit down with them and talk with them about this. If they could have given me some input and told me their issues things would be a lot different.

Ted Simons: Okay. All right. I just am trying to figure out how much input was there and she still has not commented on the veto at all.

Jeremy Duda: No, she didn't take questions after her big announcement the other day, so we didn't have a chance.

Ted Simons: Let's move on. Suit filed against the same-sex marriage ban. Laws in Arizona against same-sex marriage and the law defining marriage in 2008, voter approved. Is this kind of an academic exercise considering so many other states have cases in the court pipeline?

Mike Sunnucks: With all the challenges, Texas, Utah, other states where it's due process, equal protection argument from same-sex couples, you know you'll see what the courts do. Obviously it will all go to the Supreme Court again, and you just see the shift in the legal system, in the political system on this issue. We might see a ballot measure. You see polls both in Arizona and nationally changing. Obviously 1062 was also a sea change for the gay rights movement on these types of issues. It's part and parcel of the challenges in other states.

Ted Simons: The plaintiffs are three groups here, couples who can't marry, second group is couples who are married in other states but don't have the same rights and benefits here, and there was a woman whose partner died and she was not allowed the same rights and afforded the same privileges she would have been if the marriage had been recognized. What does this do to perhaps an initiative in 2016?

Jeremy Duda: Hard to say. Hard to say even what it does to the legal challenge. We already saw another lawsuit a few months ago, in terms of the initiative, what this might do is make it unnecessary. You can't predict what a district court is going to do but every other state in the last six months or so, the court has struck down these gay marriage bans. There's more happening seems like on a weekly basis now. One case will end up before the U.S. Supreme Court well before ours finish going through. It's hard to say, the wheels of justice move slowly, especially when you get up that high, but if this is settled before November 2016, this ballot initiative may be unnecessary.

Mike Sunnucks: Democrats and moderates, folks on the left had looked at 2016 as a watershed year. They were going to have same-sex marriage, marijuana legalization, Hillary Clinton on the ballot, more competitive here than Democrats have been in the past. They have seen those as a trio of things to bring out the younger voters.

Ted Simons: With that in mind, Tom Horne is fighting this saying the definition of marriage is the key and the people should decide by way of the law and voter approved initiatives and referenda, not judges. What does this do to his campaign?

Mike Sunnucks: Probably helps in the primary. He's been getting hammered, Kyle endorses his opponent. A lot of bad press about Tom. He's not getting a lot of conservative support, so maybe this could help with the base.

Ted Simons: Help with the base. What happens when the general rolls around?

Mary Jo Putzl: Well, yeah. Keep in mind that the people that he's referring to did approve the ballot measure in '08 that defines marriage as between one man and one woman. That was a general election populace that did that.

Ted Simons: Is there a sense from all the activity recently that gay rights issues like this will be a factor come November in some of these races?

Jeremy Duda: Hard to say. You saw the way these gay rights groups got organized with 1062, and a lot of them are really looking forward to carrying that organization forward, using it to fight for their candidates, their issues. Whether or not it becomes an issue this year, it's hard to say. Like Mary Jo mentioned, voters had approved that gay marriage ban. Attitudes are changing but we're not quite sure how fast they've changed or how much they've changed in Arizona or at least if they have changed to the point where you can use that as an issue to hammer your opponent in November.

Mike Sunnucks: I think Democrats see the generational thing. Younger kids don't see this as an issue at all. Couldn't even understand why we were passing 1062. I think you'll see Duval and Rotelini and Democrats in statewide races, maybe the congressional races, really play that up. This is the new politics, the new norm. I think they are looking at younger voters.

Mary Jo Putzl: In terms of 1062, I think there's a contingent of Democrats that won't let that issue die. They're going to remind people of it. We have all the nice signs hanging up in businesses around town saying we're open to business for everyone. I suspect you may see those come late summer, early fall.

Ted Simons: We have about 30 seconds left. From what you're seeing, are we -- could this be as contentious a session as we move on as it wound up last year or close to it? Be it Common Core, be it CPS -- possibility exists?

Mary Jo Putzl: There's always the possibility but what mitigates it is it is an election year. You have the speaker of the house who is running for Congress, he has bigger fish to fry. There's a desire to get out and to leave the session early. You cut deals and don't make a big fuss.

Ted Simons: Good discussion. Good to have you here.

Monday world renowned physicist Lawrence Krauss is back for his monthly update on the latest in science news. It's that time of year. Weil hear about new tax laws and filing anymore a as from the IRS. That's Monday evening 5:30 on "Arizona Horizon." Tuesday a program that enhances computational skills and social justice awareness for adolescent girls. Wednesday Republican Congressman Paul Gosar with the latest from Capitol Hill. Thursday we'll look at some of the best existing American Indies petroglyphs. Friday another edition of the journalists' roundtable. That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us. You have a great weekend.

Mike Sunnucks:Journalist, Phoenix Business Journal; Mary Jo Pitzl:Journalist, The Arizona Republic; Jeremy Duda:Journalist, Arizona Capitol Times;

Illustration of columns of a capitol building with text reading: Arizona PBS AZ Votes 2024

Arizona PBS presents candidate debates

The four men of Il Divo
airs June 2

Il Divo XX: Live from Taipei

Rachel Khong
May 29

Join us for PBS Books Readers Club!

Super Why characters

Join a Super Why Reading Camp to play, learn and grow

Subscribe to Arizona PBS Newsletters

STAY in touch

Subscribe to Arizona PBS Newsletters: