Legislative Update

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Luige del Puerto from the Arizona Capitol Times will brief us on the latest from the state legislature in our weekly Legislative Update.

Ted Simons: Coming up next on "Arizona Horizon," it's our weekly update of what's happening at the state legislature. And we'll have another edition of our popular science news update with physicist Lawrence Krauss. Those stories next on "Arizona Horizon."

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Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Each week we take a look at the latest from the state legislature with a reporter from the "Arizona Capitol Times." Joining us tonight for an update of bills being considered and those still waiting for assignment, we welcome Luige del Puerto. Good to see you. Thank you for joining us.

Luige del Puerto: Thank you.

Ted Simons: Before we get to the bills, what's happening or not happening down there at the state capitol, what happened today at the board of education?

Luige del Puerto: Right. Last week, remember the board of education set a deadline for superintendent Douglas to comply with the order to let two board education staffers back to work. And today, Diane Douglas complied with that order. Essentially she blinked.

Ted Simons: The two workers this morning got back to their offices -- the doors were unlocked. They could -- could they log into their computers and do their work?

Luige del Puerto: I'm assuming that all of that happened. They were allowed in. No problems. Presuming their I.D.s were working and they're back to work. And Diane Douglas, however, even though she backtracked from her confrontational stance a week from last week, she also said, and she made it clear to the two staffers, and basically to everybody else, that she's the boss. I'm the boss. That's what she said. Two staffers are required to update the superintendent of their daily work routines, their schedules, time they get in, the time they get out. They even have to report or let her know, you know, if they have vacation days or they're sick and have to take days off, and all of those things they have to do now. Diane Douglas is saying you have to do this.

Ted Simons: Basically, Diane Douglas is saying all right, I said you were fired. Obviously I was wrong. Did she use the word wrong?

Luige del Puerto: No, no, she is not conceding that point at all. In fact, her attorney, former house speaker Steve Tolley representing her basically said we're not conceding the point. What she did was she allowed them back in. That whole legal argument is moot for now. But in the future, if you do this again, she won't blink. She won't blink in the future.

Ted Simons: If you don't report to her with your hours, time in and time out. If you don't report to her for approval for trips and conferences and for expenses, if you don't give her details of meetings, schedules of meetings, if you don't do that, what is she going to do?

Luige del Puerto: That's a really good question. Does she fire them again? I think there has to be some sort of meeting of the minds where they're allowed to do their work and she's allowed to have some supervisory rollover them. Superintendent does - basically she is in charge of directing the work of board of education staffers. That's her job. But yet it would be interesting to find out if they defied her again -- what happens next. Her attorney did say, you know, we are not going to allow this thing to happen again. We will make sure that any kinds of defiance will be opposed.

Ted Simons: No responses yet from the workers, I take it. Pretty quiet.

Luige del Puerto: Yes, I think that is pretty smart to stay quiet. Diane Douglas office did say that they could intermingle socially with other staffers.

Ted Simons: Intermingle socially, but didn't she say you can't discuss policy --

Luige del Puerto: No, you can't, you can't. They can, I don't know, have coffee together or something like that, but they can't discuss substantive work with non-board of education staffers.

Ted Simons: If they want to discuss substantive stuff, they do have to go through her first.

Luige del Puerto: They have to go through her office. They have to go through the superintendent's, chief of staff.

Ted Simons: No response from the workers. What about the governor's office?

Luige del Puerto: I think the governor's office is just happy that, you know, this thing is going away, it seems like it. Remember, what's remarkable about this, Diane Douglas made two serious allegations against the governor, if you recall. One, basically the governor's office is going to siphon off dollars from public schools to charter schools. Second allegation, also a quite serious one, he is basically conspiring with the board of education president to move more students from traditional schools into charter schools. One of my sources said that is a serious allegation. Basically she is saying that the governor is using his office and essentially shades of corruption there. At least that is the charges she is making. Now it seems like nobody is raising that point anymore. She is happy to move along and the governor is happy to move on. I asked the governor spokesperson about it, said, look, that was last week's news. We have lots of work to do. Let's move on here.

Ted Simons: Okay. We're not going to move on here. We will definitely keep an eye on that. A bill now that redefines a political committee. This is now advanced -- this is a pretty important bill. Talk about it.

Luige del Puerto: It is hugely important. Remember last year, federal judge struck down our definition of political committee and our campaign finance laws hinge on that definition. Basically what happened, because we don't have a definition of what a political committee is, we can't enforce our campaign finance laws. If we don't know what a political committee is who knows who's supposed to report what in terms of company finance expenditures and all those disclosure requirements that political committees are required to do. This bill attempts to fix that. And it fixes that by offering essentially a two-prong approach. Basically two tests. One that there has to be spending threshold that a group of people has to meet, or to spend, and then you have to register as a political committee. And the second test, your group must be primarily intent, rather your group must have been created with the intent to spend money on the elections. Basically there's an intent to spend money on elections and engage in electioneering, and meet the $500 threshold before you are then required to register as a political committee.

Ted Simons: This was necessary because there was a definition of a political committee in the past, but it was so broad and vague, a judge said I don't know what it means.

Luige del Puerto: Not just a judge, many election lawyers really confused about exactly what it means. I mean, 183 words. One sentence. Period is at the very end. And so the secretary of state's office is -- has offered to fix. More punctuation marks, more periods and more semicolons.

Ted Simons: Like Henry James wrote the original definition and now we are getting down to Raymond carver or -- Before you get out of here, timeline for bills, we're up against it, aren't we?

Luige del Puerto: It is a very hectic week in the Senate and house this week. On Friday, the last day for each chamber to hear their own bills. So, basically by Friday if a committee hasn't heard your bill, your bill is dead. And the only way for you to revive it is to offer an amendment when the chambers cross their bills, started to send the bills to the other chamber. That's the time, rather -- so, this Friday, that's a deadline for each chamber to hear their own bills. Next week we will start getting those -- seeing those bills getting approved on the floor during what's called a committee of the whole debate. That is your second opportunity. If you have a bill that's not been heard, that's your chance to push that bill again.

Ted Simons: A lot of them still to be assigned --

Luige del Puerto: Yes, quite a lot. In the house, for example, 189 bills as of yesterday morning that have yet to be assigned in committee. Many of them are democratic --

Ted Simons: I was going to ask, how many, do we know?

Luige del Puerto: I don't have the exact number of democratic bills, many of them are. Senate, however, only 15 bills have not been assigned to committee. Having the bills assigned to committees doesn't mean that the committees will hear them. I mean, you know, and obviously, this is the week to start pushing and making sure that the bills goes on those hearings.

Ted Simons: It seems generally, before we go, in general, that it is kind of quiet down there. Not a lot of fireworks --

Luige del Puerto: Except Diane Douglas.

Ted Simons: I mean as far as the legislature is concerned.

Luige del Puerto: That's true. We are not seeing the kinds of controversial bills that we saw last year. For example, there is no 1070 type of bill this year. We are not seeing, you know, 1060, 1060 type of a bill this year. What we are seeing is a whole lot of those bills that we have seen previously, controversial, but not very big bills. Measures that deal with guns, with the state's rights and federalism, but not very big controversial measures. Not yet anyway.

Ted Simons: Not yet. All right. Keep an eye on that as well. Always a pleasure. Good to have you here.

Luige del Puerto: Thank you.

Luige del Puerto:Journalist, Arizona Capitol Times;

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