Journalists’ Roundtable

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Ted Simons: Coming up next on Arizona Horizon Journalists' Roundtable, the Governor signs close to three dozen bills and a law this week. A bill that did not make it past the Governor's office called for an external review of CPS, and questions over just how much DES Director Clarence Carter knew of problems at CPS. The Journalists' Roundtable is next on Arizona Horizon.

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Ted Simons: Good Evening and welcome to Arizona Horizon's Journalists' Roundtable, I'm Ted Simons. Joining us tonight Mary Jo Pitzl of the Arizona Republic, Howard Fischer of Capitol Media Services, and Mike Sunnucks of the Phoenix Business Journal.

Ted Simons: Well a variety of bills were signed into law this week, had a couple of vetoes here and there as we will start with the bills that were signed here, uh what 35, that makes 270 overall, is that is that normal?

Mary Jo Pitzl: Um I think it's a little bit below normal but amazingly somebody shared with me statistics, and every year the percentage of bills introduced, the percentage of bills passed to the percentage of bills introduced order number introduced it's about consistent.

Ted Simons: Isn't that something?

Mary Jo Pitzl: Which sort of suggests there's a certain capacity for work at the Legislature.

Ted Simons: As far as these latest bills now, apparently a revenge porn bill was signed. That may be among the toughest bills of this kind in the country. What's going on here?

Mary Jo Pitzl: Well that imposes felony sanctions if someone takes a picture of someone or transmits a video that was taken of an intimate act of someone, and transmits it, broadcasts it publishes it without the consent of the person in the image.

Howard Fischer: And the key of why it's called revenge porn is you are most likely to get that image with a lover, with a spouse or something else. And you know, couples particularly now with digital photography, oh here let me shoot this naked picture of you, oh hey let's shoot ourselves doing something and then the relationship breaks up. Guess who's got the file? And they say, oh, yeah, I'll show you. I'm going to put that up on the internet. Now they were probably already some privacy laws that applied but this made sure we are talking criminal acts rather than some, having to go to court civilly to sue for your likeness.

Ted Simons: I guess a definition of "I will show you" in both terms there. It equals domestic abuse. I mean that's, that's pretty--

Mike Sunnucks: They added that in. The original intent was they looked at some of the horrific bullying cases across the country in New Jersey, California, where you had some kids that were bullied, some people committed suicide. People would post embarrassing photos of them and really go after them online. So they add the domestic abuse because it can be that if you are going through a divorce or a DV situation where somebody continues the abuse through digital methods.

Ted Simons: Was there something happening here in Arizona along these lines?

Howard Fischer: One of the big discussions that came up during the session is you have teenagers who do selfies of themselves. In less than dressed situations. And then they post it themselves which gets to an interesting question. So you have posted it on the internet. And you have put it up and obviously it's with your consent somebody else repeats it and maybe sends, you have sent it to two friends, they send to 27 others, that's been the problem. The teenagers have been the issue of a lot of kids who don't think, well, gee, when I hit the send button, where does it go?

Mary Jo Pitzl: It goes viral.

Mike Sunnucks: It's mean spirited things that have gone on in high schools. Here in and in other countries.

Ted Simons: I don't want to get to too many of the other bills. Optometrists can prescribe some drugs? They're not MD's but they are, what's this?

Mary Jo Pitzl: This was the bill that was the very last one out of the hopper and kept the Legislature there, at 1:00 in the morning with some fairly long floor speeches when people were pretty tired of it. But opponents felt it was very important that they needed to make the case that they didn't think it was proper to let optometrists to have the authority than what, eye drops, I think, and prescribe, they are opposed to the idea of prescribing certain, I think schedule drugs because they argued they are not medical doctors.

Mike Sunnucks: It's the old optometrists versus ophthalmologist rivalry. It's like a high-stake or the Yankees and Red Sox. They always see these things come up in different states. What kind of power do optometrists have other than prescribing eye drops and contact lenses?

Howard Sunnucks: It's larger than this. Every year I've been down there, you know doctors say we are the only one who can do certain things. They have fought the chiropractors. They have fought some of the podiatrists who are actual medical doctors. They have fought the naturopaths. And the question who should be able to do what, this bill goes back, its roots were in the 80' s when the optometrists didn't even have the power to put in the drops to dilate the pupils. They have since been given things like certain anesthetics on the eyes, this just takes it a step farther. The ophthalmologists are saying where does it end? I mean it's one thing to say optometrists are everywhere but they are not doctors.

Mike Sunnucks: The scourge of optometrists throughout the state. What do you go to Fischer? Do you go to ophthalmologists?

Howard Fischer: I go to whatever is cheap.

Ted Simons: Well we got that settled. Another bill helps Prescott with the Yarnell firefight costs. It spreads it around the pension system as opposed to what having the city of Prescott pay for it all.

Mary Jo Pitzl: After the firefighter deaths and the claims that came in from the survivors, the city of Prescott said we can't afford this. It will kill us. It will break the bank. And inner looking more and more like Glendale that way. So house speaker Andy Tobin, this is part of his district, push to have sort of the burden spread. I think you put that correctly, throughout the retirement system. So that that burden is absorbed by the larger system.

Howard Fischer: And the issue is, because of the fact the retirement system does cover the whole state, it's like auto insurance. You are rated on your experience. And if all of a sudden you have a small town like Prescott, few employees and all of a sudden 19 deaths up against your rating, that's what killed it. So they say, to a certain extent over a certain amount that should be a state umbrella and understanding that this is a state responsibility.

Ted Simons: Saves Prescott about $ 5 million, something that Tobin can certainly run on.

Mike Sunnucks: Absolutely. He is running for Congress against Ann Kirkpatrick. This is huge for his campaign.This makes a good mailer. This makes a good thing to bring up in forums, helps make good television commercials.

Ted Simons: Any other bills signed of note, any other bills still that are still awaiting a decision?

Mary Jo Pitzl: In this most recent package was the Yarnell hill memorial. The state budget had a half million dollars for it. This bill authorizes the state to go out and attempt to purchase that chunk of state land where the 19 firefighters died. And the idea of the memorial has been controversial to some of the people that live up in that very area. It's remote. It's sort of far away but the people that live nearby are concerned about what that might mean for access, what the impact might be on their neighborhoods. Others argue its so remote after a year or two everybody is going to forget and it nobody will go.

Howard Fischer: There's an interesting bill on the Governor's desk and its part of the omnibus bill and it deals with advanced deposit wagering. Right now you can to go the track and wager. You can do off-track betting in certain bars. This one says you put money in an account and dial up and say I want to bet on the fourth race. We are getting real close from the Governor's perspective I think to internet gaming to electronic gaming. And I think that's part of the reason we haven't seen the action on that yet. The tracks want it because they say nobody goes to tracks anymore because, you know, why bother? So the tracks are looking for this, for some money for winnings. You raise some interesting questions there about how much electronic gambling do we want?

Ted Simons: Interesting.

Mike Sunnucks: The tracks really struggle competing with casinos, people can hit a slot machine button a million times in-between races. If people want to go see horse racing it's cool, but if they want to try to win money. You have to have a line of credit with your bookie already, Howie don't you so you can make those bets?

Ted Simons: He seems to be going after you for some reason? Certainly not going to stop him. There were some vetoes of note. The one that I think got everyone's attention was this idea of an external CPS audit that Senate president Andy Biggs knows to toes that he has been talking about throughout the session, the Governor decided to kill that. What was that all about?

Mary Jo Pitzl: She says, look, it's basically it's leverage. As you know there's going to be a special session later this month, maybe early in June, to deal with creating a new child welfare agency. The Governor needs some leverage to get lawmakers to buy into this, not so much the idea of creating a new agency. People are on board with that. But how much money does the agency need to operate and to prevent a bunch of cases being not investigated as we have just seen? Biggs wanted a quarter million dollars to do an external review to say, is everything functioning properly? Are we using the best practices? A lot of people thought that made a lot of sense. But the Governor is thinking, let's have that conversation when we are in the special session and we will see.

Howard Fischer: That's the chicken and egg situation. Look. The external review couldn't be done by the time of the special session, either later this month or next month. I think his thought was we have had several different committees looking at it. We had this care committee. We had the DPS investigation.

Mary Jo Pitzl: Oversight committee.

Howard Fischer: Overnight committee. Do we need somebody from the outside to say, all you are doing is taking the same problems and giving it a new name of the new Department of Child safety and family services versus child protective services? And there are times, sometimes an outsider looking in, works. Because some of these overnight committees are same people who either were involved with CPS or have a vested interest because of the fact that they are providers or they are involved with things like children's action alliance.

Mary Jo Pitzl: But what remains to be seen is how much does the Governor buy into an external review? As we started down this path, the work group that's creating this new agency said we are doing this kind of external review anyway. And the suggestions are between the lines is, might this money be better spent on hiring caseworkers rather than some outside analyst to come in? I think you will see that tension play out.

Mike Sunnucks: I think that you can see that they are afraid an outside person will blame somebody on the ninth floor. For what went on. Or when people knew stuff. You turn on the lights, you see this with Joe Arpaio. He's fought these types of external things in the past also. I think there's a vested interest here. The vested interest has also been the Governor's office and her administration, they have been running these things, and--

Howard Fischer: Wait, wait, wait, wait, look. I am willing to follow you part way down this rabbit hole here but the idea of the external review if you look at the language had to do with the operations. You have got this sort of weird paranoid thing that the Governor is worried that somebody is going to go after her. It wasn't even within the scope of what this was about. This was about the operation--

Mary Jo Pitzl: Yeah.

Mary Jo Pitzl: Going forward.

Howard Fischer: This had nothing to do with who is responsible --

Mike Sunnucks: Why not have an outside person? You see people come on this show and not be, looking what other states are doing. We are in a rabbit hole and it's called our state Capitol down there. And even going forward, someone outside could say, look, you are doing this wrong. They are certainly going to look at what has gone on before. Not just looking forward and have tunnel vision and why would the Governor be opposed to that? Doesn't she want a better agency going forward?

Howard Fischer: Well I'm not willing to buy your presumption that she vetoed this because someone would come around and bite her in the tush, that's where I think you've fell off the trolley here.

Ted Simons: I will say there are other people on that trolley. There are some people wondering why she vetoed that and if she does have quote-unquote, something to hide and with that, we move over to the fact that Clarence Carter still is the leader of DES. You wrote a very a very comprehensive piece here that some of the staff at CPS think he may have known about some of these problems before.

Mary Jo Pitzl: This is contained in the Department of Public safety administrative review that Clarence Carter had requested of the whole not investigated fiasco at CPS. And as you read through all the interviews with various staffers, there were at least four staffers who said, whose interviews suggested that Carter was aware, yes, the director knew about this, he was in the meeting, or suggested that he should have known because he was in the loop. But there was no solid proof. There's no email. There's no memo. And absent that, the ninth floor is not going to take any action. The people who were fired last week, there's a paper trail that you can point to that would show what their supervisors felt was malfeasance on their part.

Howard Fischer: And the tricky part of this whole N.I. thing, Clarence told us both of us at some point early on, the Legislature should have known because I said these cases weren't being investigated, but the question is, did that mean that they were getting an alternative treatment? And so you have the definitional question here. Did Clarence know cases weren't being investigated? Sure. He admitted that, but he thought or claims that oh I thought they were being handled through some alternative assessment or something like that. That is certainly not enough to fire him.

Mary Jo Pitzl: That's when you start going down, talk about rabbit holes. Because they had alternative investigation and then they changed the terminology to call it an alternative assessment. And you are like, what? What are these different things? They were all basically different names for the same thing.

Ted Simons: In your story, one of the cases, he was aware that the terminology being changed to assessment. Shouldn't you as a director, if I am telling you I am changing my terminology from A to B, why? Why are you changing it? What's wrong with A? Aren't those questions that an administrator would ask?

Howard Fischer: That's that gets to some interesting questions about policy and where does the buck stop? Should somebody be responsible? We saw an example in South Korea where a major government official resigned over that ferry sinking saying ultimately it stops with me. Does it stop with Clarence? What should he have known even if he didn't know? I recognize it's a huge agency. But should he have known something? Again, he clearly knew cases weren't being reported as N.I. as in not investigated but for some reason, he chose not to question further, as you point out. What does this mean?

Ted Simons: He is hanging around that rabbit hole again because if the buck stops there does it go any further? Don't go down that rabbit hole, stay away from it.

Howard Fischer: Well the question is ultimately is the Governor responsible for anything that occurs in state government? Sure. Can somebody point that the Governor knew? Now, Clarence, in a statement that he made to us last fall said, well, I gave those reports to the ninth floor. And, of course, Andy Wilder who is the Governor's press secretary said he didn't explain what N.I. meant. No investigation versus alternative investigation. Everybody has got plausible deniability here.

Mike Sunnucks: There's a lot of elected officials, senior department heads throughout the country, who don't have paper trails. We have a sheriff that's that way. We have senior Senators who don't have, who protect themselves that way. So when you don't see emails or Memos to certain people, sometimes that's by design. DES does do a lot of things, food stamp, a lot of social welfare programs, unemployment insurance, but I don't know if they do anything more important than DPS. It would be like a police chief not paying attention to the area of town with the most homicides, or the part of town with the most crime.

Ted Simons: And having discussions about changing terminology and describing what's going on in those dangerous parts of town.

Mike Sunnucks: It seems very semantical. It's government speak. It's political speak.

Howard Fischer: They are not homicides. They are unfortunate deaths. They are just changing the terminology.

Ted Simons: Again we should mention the DPS report says that Carter was not -- he was not directly implicated. They found no direct implication. Nothing.

Mike Sunnucks: This is the Brewer administration report protecting a Brewer --

Ted Simons: Uh-oh there's that rabbit hole again Howie. We'll protect the rabbit hole.

Howard Fischer: Look, I am not --

Mike Sunnucks: People can make that jump. Other people have made that jump.

Howard Fischer: Well, look, I see it more as DPS looks at it like cops. What can we prove? What can't we prove? DPS normally takes cases and they present them to attorney generals and county attorneys. What can you prove? If you can't prove it, why throw it out there? You know.

Mike Sunncks: This is a court of law. This is why this guy should keep his job and I think you can say the administration, the Governor's office has managed this thing throughout. They were the ones that released this after the detective went to them. They were the ones that put together the task force. She was the Governor, pick the these people to run the care task force. Maybe they did good work but they have managed this throughout. If you want to say that management is a rabbit hole that's fine.

Mary Jo Pitzl:Well I think there's a suggestion that you talk to lawmakers, and there's a couple that are intensely involved with the whole CPS thing who have mostly members of the Democratic Party, who have some pretty strong things to say. Others like, well, I haven't read the whole report. But you got to wonder if Carter were to come up for confirmation in the next couple of weeks, I don't know if that vote would --

Howard Fischer: I could tell how that vote would go.

Ted Simons: Well with that --

Mike Sunnucks: Republicans down there aren't engaged in this as much. They exist and you mention some folks but -- this has gone on for years. That is problem with the agency.

Mary Jo Pitzl: When I did the story, I talked to representative Steve Smith because is on this reform human services committee and they had a lot of CPS players in after the N.I. fiasco and he came down and he kept asking who is responsible? He definitely wanted to basically see some heads roll. So I called him up after the report came out. He had the great quote. I guess he -- I guess he reads Spiderman, and he says what would Spiderman say? With great power comes great responsibility. And I think he is suggesting the buck stops with the director.

Howard Fischer: His Spidey sense was tingling.

Ted Simons: Let's move on now. The Phoenix V.A. chief put on leave. This story in the Republic has obviously done great work on this. It's a national story because it's happening in some respects to other V.A. facilities around the country. But Sharon Helen on leave, I think two others are placed on leave. What's going on over at the V.A.?

Mike Sunnucks: There's a lot of farewells to CPS. We were talking in the green room. An agency has been overloaded for years, underfunded and had lots of mismanagement and problems. And they were allegedly putting patients on waiting lists, some of them died while they were waiting. This has been a problem with the V.A. and they basically tried to avoid answering questions on this. And surprisingly enough the administration put her on administrative leave unlike a state director who will stay in his job until the end of the term. This is pretty -- people die. You have people really waiting. This isn't just the Phoenix V.A. You have seen this in other cities, too.

Howard Fischer: It comes down to who should have known, what did you know, when did you know it? The problem is when the top administrators hasn't been there, wasn't there when this started. So the question becomes what's her culpability? What did she know? What could she have known that there were two lists? People were kept on one list and then when they were finally ready to see them they put them on the other list. So look hey--

Ted Simons: Not only that when you say hey, that means hey we get bonuses because the wait times are dramatically dropped because we are keeping a couple sets of books. While these people were waiting for treatment and/or appointments, some died. Not maybe because of the delay but during that time, at least 40 died.

Mike Sunnucks: This agency I was looking up is just overloaded with cases, with claims from veterans, with claims for veterans trying to up their benefits. Appealing decisions and of course the delivery of health care which seems kind of foreign to us that someone would be waiting and waiting and waiting to get an appointment. There's a lot of problems with this. But again maybe they changed the terminology and that threw her off.

Ted Simons: Yeah. OK. Governor vetoes a business tax cut bill. Is it a bit of a surprise there?

Howard Fischer: Not really. To the extent that she's watching out for CPS funding. Right now, there's a Federal form called section 179 anybody in business has seen it. You buy equipment and if it's over a certain amount you have to depreciate over a number of years. Now $25,000 you get to write off immediately. This would have boosted it to $500,000 which maxed what the feds do in some stimulation but it would have kept there even when the Federal money deduction came back down. She said wait a second. We are not just conforming with feds which is normally what we do. We are keeping it here permanently at a loss immediately of perhaps $ 25 million dollars. She said wait a second. I think I know what I can do with that money and how we really want to go that route on just our own.

Ted Simons: A kind of recurring motif there isn't it?

Mary Jo Pitzl: I think she's using these vetoes and these bill signings in a lead up to the special session to sort of set the table on what she is expecting.

Mike Sunnucks: $25 million is the same amount that's in the fund which is the fund the Governor gets to use to throw money at Apple and Tesla so they they don't just spend money on CPS but that is the reason du jour for these vetoes.

Mary Jo Pitzl: But also $25 million is about the amount of money that if you add that to CPS, that brings, that would bring the legislative appropriation about up to the same amount that the Governor requested at the beginning of the year.

Ted Simons: Okay I don't want to leave without the this Federal panel looking at the legislative maps that were drawn, the challenge of the legislative maps that were drawn. The panel says go away with this. Is this the end we are going to hear of this?

Howard Fischer: Oh, come on! I mean there is two reasons this is not the end.

Ted Simons: It's end for this election cycle.

Howard Fischer: For this election cycle it is. The essence of this particular argument versus the Congressional districts is that the five-member commission which theoretically is two dems, two Republicans and maybe somebody who may not have listed their democratic roots, came up with districts and shoved some Republicans from otherwise moderate districts into already overpacked Republican districts, created unequal districts for political purposes. The court admitted that there were probably some political purposes here and there was evidence that they knew the political purposes. But the justices said that strictly under Federal law in terms of equal protection, one man one vote, they didn't violate Federal law. Now, the reason that's not end, is two reasons. One, it can go automatically to the U.S. Supreme Court Number two, the judges, the Federal judges said, you do realize you have a state law here that requires equal population districts? Hint, hint, nod, nod, wink, wink, why don't you take it down to state court and see how well you do there.

Mike Sunnucks: White Republican voters are disenfranchised so much in this state, considering the makeup of the legislature and state what offices. I'm glad that somebody is out there fighting, fighting for their equal protection.

Ted Simons: We should say this is was 2-1 decision 13 months after trial. It took an awfully long time at the Legislature where, I think people thought, OK, we have got this election cycle certainly figured out. But I mean really they didn't until we got --

Mary Jo Pitzl: It wasn't final until the ruling came down on Tuesday. But there were no, there was no evidence that there were lawmakers or would-be candidates sitting there wondering well am I going to have to move so I can stay in the proper district?

Mike Sunnucks: Where will Carl live?

Mary Jo Pitzl: It does keep the map intact for this cycle and we will see what happens if there are appeals.

Howard Fischer: Any other piece, we went through this a decade ago with redistricting when the court struck down one map. They said you can run in your old or new district until we get things straightened out. So it wouldn't have caused some major heart burn but it's certainly helpful if you actually live in the district even with the old or new lines.

Ted Simons: Where was the challenge to the Congressional maps? I am already lost on that one.

Howard Fischer: The same -- different three-judge panel rejected the argument that U.S. constitution says the time, place, and manner of Congressional elections is set by the Legislature. Who is the Legislature? Obviously, it's Andy Tobin and Andy Biggs. That's us kids. To the broader sense in Arizona, the people are the ultimate legislators and in 2000 they voted to give that legislative duty to the independent redistricting commission and say, you children are the legislator for this purpose. And the court bought that and said the people are entitled to do that. At least by a two to one vote and that now goes to the U.S Supreme Court.

Ted Simons: Real quickly, will the legislative map, the previous thing we talked about, that will likely go to the Supreme Court?

Mary Jo Pitzl: Oh, most likely unless they you know take the hint and maybe bring this back down to state court.

Ted Simons: But they are not going to give this up?

Mary Jo Pitzl: Oh, no, no, no, no. If you remember the last redistricting round the appeals went on until 2009. It will last the rest of this decade.

Ted Simons: Alright, we've got to stop it right there. Good to have you here.

Ted Simons: Monday on "Arizona Horizon," an update on the industrial and manufacturing real estate market in the valley. And we'll look at an effort to provide the healing power of the harp to valley hospitals. That's Monday evening at 5:30 and 10:00 on "Arizona Horizon."

Ted Simons: Tuesday, results of an Arizona town hall on the state's financially vulnerable.

Ted Simons: Wednesday, how does the new health care landscape impact businesses?

Ted Simons: Thursday, physicist Lawrence Krauss returns to discuss the latest in science news.

Ted Simons: And Fridays it's 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.

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

Mike Sunnucks:Journalist, Phoenix Business Journal; Howard Fischer:Journalist, Capitol Media Services; Mary Jo Pitzl:Journalist, Arizona Republic;

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