Legislative Update

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Ben Giles, a reporter from the Arizona Capitol Times will give us the latest news from the State Capitol in our weekly political update.

Ted Simons: Good evening. I'm Ted Simons. The governor announced she will not run for another term, a curious pronouncement considering the constitution prohibits her from serving another term. Here to make sense of it all, Ben Giles of the Arizona Capitol Times. Good to see you. Sounds like the governor announced the obvious. What's going on?

Ben Giles: This was not unexpected. If you ask just about any attorney in the state of Arizona they would have told you constitutionally even the partial term that Governor Brewer served when she replaced Janet Napolitano, who left for D.C., any lawyer would have told you she can't run again but she's been keeping everyone on pins and needles for the last couple of months, delaying announcements about whether or not she would try to challenge this in court. Today she still said she truly believed if I had gone to court I think I would have been successful in arguing that I get another crack at reelection.

Ted Simons: Why didn't she go to court?

Ben Giles: I think it's time to move on, as she said, she used the phrase pass the torch. She's done a lot at the capitol with Medicaid expansion appeared is still trying to do a lot this year, she made clear her veto stamp and pen have a lot of ink. She wants to improve education standards in Arizona. That's going to be a big load at the capitol this year. She has her work cut out for her but she can still be an influence in coming years. She has millions in campaign covers that now she won't use.

Ted Simons: How did talk about another term even get started when the constitution seems quite clear on this?

Ben Giles: I think as we have seen countless times at the capitol, the lawmakers of any variety be they the representatives in the house or the Senators or governor, they take a look at the constitution and they interpret it in ways that they see fit. I sit in Senate Rules Committees all the time where attorneys will raise constitutional concerns about a bill and it's acknowledged and the bill is still voted forward because at some point a lawmaker will decide we think this is worth a court challenge because we don't agree with the interpretation of the constitution.

Ted Simons: On we go. Oversight ideas for this new child abuse agency. Sound like you've seen a draft or ideas out there. What kind of oversight can we expect?

Ben Giles: Seems like a lot more than there is now. There's been a group of lawmakers, the governor's staff, a couple of child -- experts in the child welfare field have been making appearances at these weekly Friday meetings in the governor's office drafting a bill what they call the independent department of child safety an family services. In the latest draft that we received a copy of from the March 7th meeting, the draft explained that one of the things they are considering is creating a citizen oversight board which would include constituents and clients of the department to have a say in the best practices but also similar to something that the juvenile corrections department has, an inspection agency charged with ongoing looking at quality assurance issues within the department to make sure that procedures are being followed. Then also to make sure those procedures are the most effective way to keep children safe and protect children from abuse.

Ted Simons: It's the citizens oversight board made up of what kind of citizens?

Ben Giles: The language specifically says clients and constituents, which I believe would mean parents who have gone through a child protective services investigation. Folks who have real life experience with dealing with cases of abuse and neglect. I think constituents might be some of the child safety an well favor organizations in Arizona that are already working to keep children and vulnerable adults safe.

Ted Simons: I think you wrote the draft could be ready for legislative consideration by May 1st. Most folks thought that this was going to be the lightning rod, this was going to be the biggy if there was going to be a problem this year that would be it. Now you're thinking common core might be?

Ben Giles: Could be. That is at least it appears in votes in the Senate last couple of weeks. That is an issue that seems to be splitting the Republican party in the Senate. There was a bill sponsored by Senator Al Melvin that would have done away with the common core standards in Arizona. It was preliminarily approved but there's one more vote in each chamber before it passes, and it was defeated 12-18. Pretty resoundingly on the Senate floor when you had five Republicans vote against it plus the 13 Democrats who are vocally opposed to it. This is an issue that Senate president Biggs has taken a more vocal role in this year. He has been beating the drum against common core. Just today he pushed two more anti-common core bills for preliminary votes on the floor. They did pass. But I think the expectation is with this strong backing of common core, new standards, education standards from the business community, that they too will be defeated maybe in a similar 12-18 vote.

Ted Simons: Again it sounds like the proverbial tempest in a teapot. The governor is all for this college and career ready standard as common core is now known. They can put all the repeals they want to her desk. She's not going to sign those.

Ben Giles: That's where there's been rumors about how this could be the Medicaid expansion of 2014, an issue that dragged the budget process along into the late summer months and kept a lot of us, lawmakers and reporters included, longer here than we wanted to be. We were here until about mid- to late June last year until the governor finally called a special session on Medicaid expansion. It's not really clear, but we'll have to wait and see how long folks are willing to drag their feet on common core and the budget as part of it.

Ted Simons: Again, why is common core such an anathema to some factions in the Republican party?

Ben Giles: There is a narrative, a fear that this is naturalizing as neat president big said our public education system in Arizona, that states were basically suckered into accepting common core standards when they accepted race to the top funds from the federal government several years ago. However, there are signs that this is a more state-based consortium that is pushing these standards. For instance there's an assessment test being developed named park that education secretary -- superintendent, excuse me, John Huppenthal, is a governing board member. There are signs this is being developed at a more state-based level, but as we heard in the Senate today, there are strong arguments that local control is the best way for education standards and curriculum to be developed. Some of the bills are trying to give local school districts a bigger say in adopting the standards.

Ted Simons: That sounds like that one is long from over. Good to see you. Thanks for joining us.

Ben Giles: Thank you.

Ben Giles:Journalist, Arizona Capitol Times;

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