Legislative Update

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Reporter Ben Giles from the Arizona Capitol Times will brief us on the latest from the state legislature in our weekly Legislative Update.

Ted Simons: Sawed-off shotguns, silencers, and nunchucks would be legal in Arizona under a bill being proposed by state senator Kelli Ward. For more on that piece of legislation and other state lawmaker activity, we welcome Ben Giles from the "Arizona Capitol Times." Good to see you.

Ben Giles: Good to see you.

Ted Simons: I want to get to that in a second. A lot of things happening with the superintendent of public instruction, Diane Douglas. Apparently there were some death threats against her and --

Ben Giles: The superintendent's office turned over to the Phoenix police department threats that were made, emails sent to Diane Douglas and one of her deputies, former senator Taylor. There was a letter sent to her home, meetings that the superintendent's office has had with the African-American community, NAACP this week and she suspects that her tires were slashed. Apparently she was driving this morning and a tire blew out and it looked like someone maybe cut the side wall on her tire. Those are being investigated at this time.

Ted Simons: And no ideas as to who or why --

Ben Giles: No more information than that. Although, I guess there was the indication that maybe it had something to do with the meetings with the African American community leaders.

Ted Simons: Interesting. Regarding Diane Douglas, dispute with the governor and who has what power over the board of education, are we going to get a resolution to this thing?

Ben Giles: There could be one tomorrow. A bill Kelli Ward was preparing earlier this week, just -- that would have basically settled the dispute legislatively. It would have taken out language that created this murky situation where Diane Douglas was claiming that she had the authority to fire employees that were essentially hired by the state board of education. State board said no, we don't think you do. Ducey, the governor, said no, we don't think you do either and reinstated them. What Douglas has always said why don't we solve this legislatively and we won't have this legal fight here. Senator Ward is trying to strike an amendment to a house bill and a Senate education committee tomorrow morning. Word just came in from the superintendent's office. And that could at least settle this one issue that the superintendent has squared off with the board.

Ted Simons: Original bill that was held, because of some language considerations, and then obviously the amendment, striker was going to be advanced.

Ben Giles: At this point not enough time to send a bill through the normal channels. Deadline passed last week for a Senate Bill to be heard in Senate committees, same for the house. That is why you are seeing a strike everything amendment to change a house bill.

Ted Simons: The board supervisors, workers duties, not the superintendent. Workers get travel reimbursement from the board, not the superintendent. She is going to get a clarification, but it is not to her liking, I would imagine.

Ben Giles: Well, she has claimed all along that under the current law her claims are valid. That she does have the authority to supervise, to direct these employees at the board of education. So, maybe it's not something that she wants to happen, but at least this will set aside this, you know, what seemed to be this giant legal storm brewing between her and the governor's office when the firing and the not firing happened. So, at the very least, it will put that fight behind everyone.

Ted Simons: One last education note. Senate votes to preserve common core. Surprised by that?

Ben Giles: No, last year, in fact, Senate fought back multiple efforts to attack the common core standards in a variety of ways. Latest this week, another bill sponsored by senator Ward that would have allowed local school districts to adopt their own standards rather than as we do now. The state board adopts standards for everyone and the school districts have to implement those. And it was killed pretty resoundingly, with 19 votes in the Senate. For the house has passed measures as well to try and attack these standards, but I think as long as the Senate and a couple of Senators are around to fight it, it seems like common core will be here to stay.

Ted Simons: Interesting. Common denominator on everything we have talked about so far, senator Kelli Ward. We will finish up with what we started with, sawed off shotguns --

Ben Giles: Not grenade launchers, but silencers as well. An amendment to a bill of her's, fairly noncontroversial one, served their felony -- after they served their time, basically, they can get their gun rights restored if they have had one felony conviction. That seemed to be skating through, skating by in the Senate until there was an amendment that she added that repealed all of these bans the state has on things like as you said nunchucks on sawed-off shotguns, silencers, muzzles for firearms. The amendment passed but it seemed like in a matter of 12, 24 hours everyone realized exactly what passed, and now the bill had been scheduled for a final vote in the Senate earlier this week. It has been held. I haven't seen anything about it since, and the Senate president, Andy Biggs said, I think senator Ward needs to count her vote on this one.

Ted Simons: Interesting. Before you go here, is senator Kelli Ward, is she the star of the session so far?

Ben Giles: She has dozens of bills she is sponsoring. A lot of folks at the capitol say she is a fighter for her legislation and that makes her a good sponsor. She is not one to give up very easily. On the other hand, she is not afraid to tackle controversial stuff, and it -- sincerely held beliefs about second amendment rights and that's popped up several times in her two, now going into her third year tenure at the capitol.

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

Ben Giles: Thank you.

Ben Giles:Journalist, Arizona Capitol Times;

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