Legislative Update

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Jim Small from the Arizona Capitol Times will give us the latest news from the State Capitol in our weekly political update.

Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. The Department of Public safety today released its administrative review of CPS and the agency's actions in not investigating 6,600 reports of child abuse. For more on that and other political news, we welcome Jim Small of the "Arizona Capitol Times." Jim, good to have you. We will have Charles Flanagan on tomorrow night. We will get pretty much into detail and depth on this but in overview what happened today?

Jim Small: Basically, this was the result of about a five-month investigation ordered back in the fall when the 6,600 cases came to light. The Governor's office said, we need an investigation. Ordered this independent investigation by DPS. Essentially what they came out with was a report that was pretty damning that showed kind of how, what led to this, to all these cases not being investigated, and what the response was within the division at CPS and also beyond that. But up the ladder, up the food chain into the administration of the Department of Economic security and trying to determine what sort of culpability various employees and supervisors had along the way.

Ted Simons: It sounds like a small group of supervisors were at fault. Five supervisors fired a top DES administer but Clarence Carter, head of DES, not fired.

Jim Small: Right, not fired. The six who were fired were put on administrative leave basically right when this whole thing happened back in the fall.

Ted Simons: Yes.

Jim Small: There was, I think, some expectation for a lot of people that, you know, these were the people that were singled out, put on leave. That probably doesn't bode well for them. Once this report comes out and that's what happened. Basically the report concluded that Clarence Carter, even though he was the head of the agency, that he was unaware of what was going on. There were a couple attempts to kind of rope him into the process, but meetings that just never happened, things like that.

Ted Simons: Again with that in mind Charles Flanagan will be on the show tomorrow with much on the report. However, as far at legislative activity is concerned, special session on a CPS success senior no doubt in the works. When could this happen? What could possibly happen?

Jim Small: I guess it company conceivably happen next week or the week after. There's a working group that the Governor's office has kind of corralled of folks involved, legislators, folks involved in the CPS arena, Charles Flanagan is involved in it and neighbor of other stakeholders in the process. And they have been meeting for a couple months to try to figure out what sort of legislation needs to be passed and that it has the tools it needs and doesn't fall into the same traps and doesn't, we don't end up right back in the same place a year or two down the line. And so they have said a May 1 deadline of figuring out this legislation. We are quickly coming up on that. All expectations are that they will hit that deadline and shortly after that I would imagine we will see a special session called.

Ted Simons: Much fussing and fighting expected in this special session? Or is everyone pretty much on the same ship?

Jim Small: Remains to be seen right now. The language hasn't been released publicly. There's some drafts that have been leaked out along the way. But the language hasn't really been presented to the 90 legislators so we don't know yet what exactly their reception is going to be. One of the things they did do in the process was they pulled in people not just, you know, folks who work in the child welfare arena, even at the Legislature who deal with that frequently them also brought in some people, folks like representative Eddie Farnsworth who has been critical of CPS, but also is somebody who comes from kind of the more conservative wing of the Republican caucus, to try to get his input and get him involved in the process. So that way they are addressing concerns maybe before they arise after legislation has been drafted.

Ted Simons: We should know a taping time now, the Legislature is still in session but you think a sine die could be later tonight, tomorrow?

Jim Small: All indications are they are going to work into the night and with the goal trying to get done. I think there's a big desire to wrap this up. There's not a whole lot of bills that are still alive. Obviously any time you end the session it means some people's bills and priorities aren't going to be addressed. That's kind of the reality and it looks like they are moving down that road and I think smart money says they will be done probably before the sun comes up on Thursday.

Ted Simons: All right. Before you go, I know that the, we had a court ruling today that the -- not today, yesterday -- regarding lawmakers', and the Medicaid expansion from last year challenged by Republican lawmakers, court says you got standing.

Jim Small: Trial court threw it out and said these lawmakers don't have standing, the Legislature is able to determine by a simple majority whether it needs to follow this constitutional mandate for a super majority. The appellate court reversed that and said, no, just because a simple majority doesn't deem that it's necessary doesn't mean that it's not necessarily, you know, applicable. So we will send this back to the trial court. These folks get to have their day in court. They ought to have their day in court. The appellate court didn't say, yes, the Legislature was wrong or, no, they didn't weigh in on the merits. Just merely on this issue of whether these Republican lawmakers could sue. Of course, it's maybe destined for the trial court right now but the Governor's office said they are planning on appealing to the Supreme Court to try to get the Supreme Court to kill the case.

Ted Simons: And again the idea is that they didn't have standing, according to the first court verdict. Because they weren't impacted by the assessment. Hospitals are impacted. But the appeals court said, no, they are impacted because their votes were compromised.

Jim Small: Yeah, basically because of the appellate court changed the way it looked at that / requirement for the super majority. They said these folks would have had their vote diminished and everyone in Arizona, be they a voter at the polls are an elected official, their vote is supposed to mean a certain something. And if it doesn't mean that something, if it means less than that because of a procedural mistake or something nefarious, that is standing. And they should be able to make their case that their rights were taken away from them.

Ted Simons: That is an interesting case and it would certainly make for a major change in what goes on in this state if that were overturned. The Governor has vetoed three gun bills. Any other vetoes that might raise some eyebrows or headlines?

Jim Small: She has vetoed these three gun bills. One was the third time she has vetoed a bill in the same vein about taking guns into public buildings. There's probably going to be a couple more vetoes, I would imagine there will be more that come our way next week or two. Hard to say whether there's going to be anything that raises eyebrows. I think really a lot of the controversial, kind of hot-button issues have already been dealt with or they are not going to make it to the Governor's desk.

Ted Simons: Stuff. Good to have you here. Thanks for joining us.

Jim Small:Journalist, Arizona Capitol Times;

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