Republican Legislative Leaders

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Majority Leader John McComish and House Speaker Andy Tobin make their monthly appearance on Arizona Horizon to talk about current legislative issues.

Ted Simons: Coming up next on "Arizona Horizon," our monthly visit with legislative leadership to discuss a variety of issues from the state capitol. House and Senate leadership, next on "Arizona Horizon."

Narrator: "Arizona Horizon" is made possible by contributions 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. Every month during the legislative session we visit with the leaders of the State House and Senate to talk about the latest bills and issues making the rounds at the Capitol. Joining us tonight and pinch hitting for Senate President Andy Biggs is Senate Majority Leader John McComish. As always we welcome Speaker of the House Andy Tobin. Good to see you.

Both: Good to be here.

Ted Simons: Before we move on, let's look in the rearview mirror and do a little post-mortem on 1062. We've got you here, we'll talk about this. Your thoughts on the whole thing. What lessons were learned out of this?

John McComish: I think we need to look at bills a little more from what the perception is going to be, and not quite so much as what they actually do. Perception is reality. Where we missed the boat on that was looking at it more clinically and legally and exactly what it did and did not do, and we didn't look at it the way that the public was going to look at it. They saw something that we didn't intend.

Ted Simons: The idea of the public seeing something that lawmakers may not have intended, how important is that to what goes on down there?

Andy Tobin: I think the Governor really wrestled with this, I think it's very important. Ted, you and I never had this conversation a year ago when I was here. Perception could be annual. Sometimes what's really important today wasn't at all important a year ago, the governor vetoed this bill mostly because the bill was awry according to budget reasons. It appeared the Is were dotted and Ts were crossed, they were sharing information and things were going back and forth, I don't think they lost a single vote. It's not the far right or far left, the entire caucus was on board. It had all the appearances that everything was being followed. Nobody at this table is discriminatory. The last thing I think members want to find themselves in is a place where they think those perceptions create that reality for them. That's not the case here. I know a lot of these good and decent people. Democrats came up and said, God, I didn't know there was going to be an issue until it started flying around after it was over. I think it was a lesson learned, to try to be especially careful and make sure people's feelings are taken into account.

Ted Simons: Is this the kind of thing, again, we hear -- the outcry was I think surprising to most. With that in mind, is this an example of the legislature out of touch with the public?

John McComish: I don't think so. I think it was more an example of what I said earlier, that we were looking at things not exactly as the public would look at it, but clinically, what does it do, what does it not do, that kind of thing. If the discrimination is not in your heart, you're not necessarily going to see it in the bill. And -- but people from the outside, the public reading the bill, they clearly saw it and that's what they missed.

Ted Simons: They saw that, and again, I've heard the word mischaracterization, the words perception over reality. Did they see reality or do you think it was all just one big misunderstanding?

Andy Tobin: I think it's mostly perception, it got caught up in that. You ask the question, is the legislature out of touch.

Ted Simons: Yeah.

Andy Tobin: This legislature is not out of touch. Obamacare is out of touch, the polls are clearly identifying that. Today just in the House, just before I came over we were passing tax credits for veterans, we were passing a victim rights act, money for wild land fire, issues on land, DPS, highway dollars, that's not out of touch. A lot of those bills had less vetting than this one did. They are not out of touch. I think the members are very, very sensitive to their communities.

Ted Simons: If they are, how did this happen?

Andy Tobin: The same reason we talked about earlier. Folks are concerned that a lot of these pressures coming from Washington are eroding some of those rights. You saw it last year and the year before, but you didn't have the furor over it. The press wasn't making anything out of it.

Ted Simons: I know it can be argued from the press' angle, but things have changed in terms of everything from a gay marriage issue to marijuana, the world is different than it was a year ago.

John McComish: I think you're right. I think there's more sensitivity to discrimination issues than there was a year ago, and I think we can attribute a lot of it to that. And we missed that. We in the legislature missed that, but that's a lesson learned.

Ted Simons: Last point on this. There is talk, I think three folks in the Senate said they voted yes to keep the caucus from fracturing. I want your thoughts on that. I've had some folks who aren't all that politically involved saying, are they there to keep the caucus from fracturing or doing the right thing?

John McComish: I can't speak for the folks that made that comment. But I do know that many of us, myself included, have not hesitated to fracture the caucus when it was a matter of conscience. And sure, that kind of thing, you think about that kind of thing because that's your team and you try to go along with them. But you're really there to vote your conscience. I'm repeating myself, but I think we missed the sensitivity of it and how perceptions are changing.

Ted Simons: Indeed, the perception is, after hearing quotes like that, they are more concerned with the party than doing the right thing.

Andy Tobin: Well, I don't think that's the answer here at all. I think when you start transitioning into the Little Sisters of the Poor clearly harmed by Obamacare, when you transition into maybe Hobby Lobby, this is about protecting these people's rights. If the perception is that it went too far, let's have a conversation. Let's fix it and find a way and bring all those people to the table. But at the end of the day there's a challenge in Washington. The challenge continues to be that votes are being eroded -- I'm sorry that, rights are being eroded, especially in this case, religious rights. These religious freedoms are not new to the debate. But it certainly is an issue that's fracturing the caucus over this. I go back to last year, usually dot your I's and cross your Ts, when things are coming over from one building and the other and you have the entire caucus on. It's a mixture of rural versus urban versus conservatives, everybody's on board. It's got plenty of vetting. I think we need to sit down and find out how to make it better without harming people's feelings along the way.

Ted Simons: A couple of abortion bills are making the rounds. 2284, the surprise inspection of abortion providers, why is this law necessary?

Andy Tobin: I think the law is clearly necessary. I think I was in shock when I found out they can go into a hospital or emergency room, you can go into where they do nails, as well, and have an unannounced inspection. But you can't go into an abortion clinic. This wasn't a pro-life bill in my mind, this was the health of the mother. That's what this is about. I'm surprised folks wouldn't want the perceptions as part of a facility like this.

Ted Simons: The argument was the protections are for privacy as opposed to --

Andy Tobin: You have no privacy if you're a veteran and you have cancer and you go into the veteran's hospital, you have no privacy if you're a senior and you see your doctor on an Alzheimer's case. The answer is, hey, you know, shouldn't we have the opportunity to inspect just like -- they do that in meat facilities. I was a butcher in New York, for heaven's sake.

Ted Simons: I think the other side would say there aren't people picketing outside nail salons or Alzheimer's clinics or these sorts of things. They say it is different. Valid point?

John McComish: Certainly it's different, but any one of these others are different, whether it's a veterans clinic or a cancer clinic, they are all different and they are all private. I was going to give an example, my barber told me he's subject to surprise inspections from the barber board. That's not the same degree that we're talking about. I think there are other issues that are. I just don't understand -- what kind of an inspection is it if I tell you tomorrow I'm coming to see you, and you better -- so you get all shipshape.

Ted Simons: The critics will say, why is this even necessary? We haven't had much if any of these kind of situations. I think there was one -- five complaints in three years, on one warrant. Where is the problem here?

Andy Tobin: Doesn't mean you shouldn't have the conversation or the debate, just because you've only had a few. It was just on Friday I think there was a judge in Massachusetts who said it was okay to take pictures under women's skirts, for heaven's sakes. Had that been a problem before? I don't think so. But there are concerns about some of these issues as they pop up. I don't know if you're going to see some of that find its way to other legislatures, as well. I think you're just trying to look ahead, it's a problem that should be discussed.

Ted Simons: Those against this bill would say it's an invitation to harass and to intimidate. Do you trust the government entity here? Do you trust the DHS not to harass and intimidate?

Andy Tobin: They are already in all the other hospitals and clinics. You have to trust certain elements of what they do. I can't imagine that DHS would start intimidating any of these centers and not have the press all over them about that.

John McComish: If it was something different that was conducting the inspections than DHS, then maybe, if it was a political entity that was allowed to. DHS, that's part of their job, they're held to a high standard and they perform their job at high standard. I don't see an argument about harassment.

Ted Simons: Quickly here, there's a court challenge on restricting drugs and abortions. Why was this law regulating RU 486, why was that necessary?

John McComish: I think there are those that look at it and see that it's abortion by another method, and that abortion is something that needs to be regulated. They think that that's -- you know, that's what should happen, it should be regulated.

Ted Simons: Yet this is apparently, according to those who know more about this than I do, this is the latest procedure, the latest medicine, the latest treatment. Why wouldn't you want the latest medicine --

Andy Tobin: I think part of conversation is that some gentleman could go in there and get that drug for an underage person, as well. I think that's a clear part about, well, who can have this medication and how is it distributed. You might start to think, oh, my gosh, who is this woman, he's taking this back, is she underage, is she -- you know, those are good debates to have.

Ted Simons: Indeed, sounds as though the case here is this is a burden on patients and their right to choose an abortion. Is it not a burden?

Andy Tobin: Is it not a burden?

Ted Simons: Regulating.

Andy Tobin: If you think that's inappropriate for a male to go in and get a drug for maybe an underage female, I don't know. In my mind I'm thinking, wait a second, this is -- some of these pharmacies don't want to be using that, as well, and they are being forced to use it. It goes back to some of the religious arguments. But I think it was a good debate.

John McComish: I don't think anyone who's even pro-choice would say it's a major, major step someone's going make to decide to have an abortion. If there are laws that slow that down, what's your definition of burden? My definition is if it slows it down, makes you think a little bit, you have to be a little more deliberate, I don't see anything wrong with that.

Ted Simons: Tying in a couple of issues here, center for Arizona policy, behind these bills, behind 1062, behind a lot of things that seem to go on at the Capitol there. Is it perception that they are too influential and that you can't say no to Cathy Harrod and her group? Is that perception valid?

John McComish: No, you can't say no to her group. I can remember a bill a couple years ago in the Senate that the Republican caucus said no to Cathy and the bill was changed. There is push-back. One of the reasons, and maybe the key reason why she and her group are viewed to have power, most of the people in the Republican caucus, if not all, agree with what her principles are that she's advocating for. It's not her having the power as much as what we're doing in most instances, what she wants us to do lines up with where the members are in the first place.

Andy Tobin: It's not just Republican, Democrats vote on this, too.

Ted Simons: It's mostly Republican social conservatives and there's the perception again, if you say no to CAP, you face a primary opponent.

Andy Tobin: I say no to the governor, I face primary opponents. Yeah, this is just -- I think the press just likes throwing that up. I think Arizona is a pro-life state, so she is not the one out there drafting everything, have you thought about this one lately. It just doesn't happen that way. But if she sees something coming along she's going to jump on board.

Ted Simons: If that is the perception, how do you change it?

John McComish: Well, I don't know how you change that perception. Because it is the perception, and I think it's a little unfair. And I don't know how you change the perception in people's minds. There's a little bit of a mythology I think that has developed about her power, you know, and those things happen. I don't know how you reverse that.

Andy Tobin: How much of Arizona really knows the Central Arizona Partnership and Cathy Harrod's name?

Ted Simons: They are getting to know it.

Andy Tobin: But why? You talk to lawmakers, Ted, and they are going over and talking to Cathy on this. This group does not make contributions to campaigns. They are a pro-life group, they believe in school choice, that's what they are. I would expect they would be in favor. I would expect they would come down and have these conversations. They are good people. Perception is that they are running the legislature, I don't see them around there at budget time or when we're talking highways. It's just absurd. For that piece that they absolutely participate in, I think it's appropriate for them. Just like the NRA would be down there on a gun bill or the AEA being down there for an education bill. What's the perception? Don't the AEA run the Democrats out?

Ted Simons: If they ever get back into power, I can't wait to answer that.

Andy Tobin: So --

Ted Simons: I think the influence of certain groups down there is something that needs to be discussed, especially from those of us on the outside who don't have that influence. We can't go wandering the halls.

John McComish: You have the influence.

Ted Simons: Oh stop it. We'll see what you think after this one. Lifetime cap on Medicaid. Why is this necessary?

Andy Tobin: You have national health care running amok. The Democrats are running away from it as fast as they can. Years ago when things were in crisis mode, we would apply to HHS, hey, we need help, we need relief. From time to time they gave it to us. They gave it to us on childless adults. Katherine Sebelius will never do that, you'll never get that. All this bill does -- we all know this is crushing and it's going come down on the states. It's crushing. The debt's going out of control and the crisis will be getting bigger. All this bill said was annually let's have a conversation about things that can keep our costs under control, lifetime caps, emergency rooms, things like that. All it is, is a request to go from the AHCCCHS director to Secretary Sebelius, or whoever the HHS secretary is, give us tools in the toolbox so we can afford to do what we do well in Arizona, which is manage AHCCCHS.

Andy Tobin: Those are the same critics, Ted, you keep talking to who said you would never get them to gives us change on the childless adults.

Ted Simons: And they did.

Andy Tobin: You know why? We were going bankrupt if they didn't. That's what this is for.

Ted Simons: If 90 percent is paid by the Feds as far as this expansion population, is it really crushing the states as you see it?

John McComish: Not at present. There's a concern that it won't remain, and in fact it won't remain 90 percent. There's a concern that it goes down and it'll add to the state's burden and we're putting more people on. So even if it stays at 10 percent, there's more people at 10 percent. So sure, it's money -- It's federal money, too. We pay federal taxes as well as state taxes.

Ted Simons: We do. The idea that the state is hit when it's 90 percent, if it goes below 80 we're out of it anyway.

Andy Tobin: I'm fascinated by this conversation, the President has already changed the law half a dozen times. Give me permission, they have already written with the stroke of a pen on half a dozen issues going out on Obamacare. In my view these are protections Arizona should have in the toolbox, when I'm convinced it's going blow up. Maybe we have a few more years, but I'm going to tell you these are good things to be asking -- it's asking, can we do this if we need it.

Ted Simons: Doesn't the law say we have to review this in 2016 anyway?

Andy Tobin: Thank you for that, we do have to continue to review it. But that doesn't change the fact that AHCCCHS should be annually asking for things we might need so this is affordable in Arizona.

Ted Simons: But things like caps on employment have to look for a job, job training five years, unless you're a single parent and those things? I know you say they have granted waivers in the past.

Andy Tobin: One's an emergency room copay, those are widely -- remember, I'm in the insurance business. I understand how you try to get some costs under control. When this thing blows up, we have got to have some of these tools in the toolbox. We have to stop the pressures on our emergency room hospitals. We have to stop those who are not going to go out and buy a policy and sit there and not work. They're just simple tools.I know it's good, but the answer is that the national health care is in such a hard way right now, even the President is trying to find a way out of it.

Ted Simons: Only a couple minutes left.

Andy Tobin: Sure.

Ted Simons: I want to talk about vouchers for lack of a better word regarding public money. And those critics are saying this public money is going to private schools and now there's an attempt to up 70-some-odd dpercent of kids to enroll, initially it was just for disabled children. What do you make of all this?

John McComish: I think that's the question, how far does the state of Arizona want to go. And I don't know that answer. But I think I know in the Senate we're talking about that, just how far. My perception is that some of the vouchers for lack of a better term for some of the disabled kids is a great idea. And you don't hear much push-back on that and it seems to be working to a certain degree. The question is the one that you're asking, and I don't know the answer, is this a step too far in that direction. I don't know, it may be.

Ted Simons: 30 seconds. Step too far?

Andy Tobin: No, it's not, if this is related to children and DNF schools who are poor. If they are stuck in a D and F school because they are poor and have no other option, it's not too far. It's obligatory for us to consider those children. It's not about everybody, it's about those children who should, if they are in DNF schools, if they have an option.

Ted Simons: Will there be enough accountability if they're all lined up in private schools?

Andy Tobin: You're in a DNF school, Ted, I'm guessing there's some accountability. Remember what accountability is supposed to be, the parents are supposed to be the first ones on accountability.

Ted Simons: We have to stop it right there. Gentlemen, good discussion. Good to have you here. And that is it for now. I'm Ted Simons, thanks for joining us, you have a great evening.

John McComish:Majority Leader; Andy Tobin:House Speaker;

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