Legislative Update

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Jim Small from the Arizona Capitol Times will brief us on the latest from the state legislature in our weekly Legislative Update.

Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Each week we focus on what lawmakers are up to at the state capitol with our legislative update. Tonight we get the latest from Jim Small, the Arizona news service editor of the "Arizona Capitol Times." Want to get your full title in there now. Good to see you again.

Jim Small: Thank you.

Ted Simons: We kept hearing that the legislature was going to be quiet until the Super Bowl left and then all you know what was going to break loose. Is anything breaking loose?

Jim Small: Not so much. I mean that was one of the theories, there weren't some of the quote, unquote crazy bills that had been introduced. There hadn't been a lot of that. People speculating as to why not? It is not as though the makings of the legislature is dramatically different than it has been in the past couple of years. That was one of the theories. Word went out from the governor's office, new governor, let's wait until before at Super Bowl, leadership said wait until after the Super Bowl, we will be out of the spotlight, then we will not be embarrassing the state, or -- already have the spotlight on us let's not do anything to amplify that spotlight. Super Bowl has come and gone. Senate had the deadline for introducing bills on Monday. There wasn't really anything much in the way of bills that are making a lot of waves. And the house has its deadline next Monday. The final deadline for introducing bills. I don't know. We will see what we get by the end of the week. There is some thought that some stuff may be still in the pipeline coming down. But also another school of thought that the governor's office, governor Ducey was proactive and that he and his staff and allies had reached out to lawmakers and said, look, we have a lot on our plate this first year. We have a massive budget deficit. We are all kind of new here. A lot of new faces and new people trying to figure out these jobs, let's go ahead and hold off. Let's just focus, keep our heads down and focus on what we need to get done and let's not worry about some of these extra curricula things, some of the things that will put us in a negative light nationally. Let's get the budget deficit solved. Legislators you will all have a second year down here --

Ted Simons: You know as well as anyone, some lawmakers down there who wouldn't agree with something like that at all. They want their issues taken up and taken up now.

Jim Small: Sure. So far it looks as though governor Ducey and republican leadership have a good working platform, which is something that was difficult to say I think between governor Brewer and the republican leadership. They were most often, you know, kind of --

Ted Simons: Yeah.

Jim Small: Butting heads on a lot of issues. So, if she were to come to them and say look, could you put the kibosh on these issues, they may not have been receptive to it. Even if rank and file members are going to introduce something that maybe the governor doesn't like, you know, no guarantees that that bill will ever get a committee hearing, ever see the light of day. 90 people down there can introduce 1,500 things every year, at the end of the day, half of them move forward to a committee hearing and 300, 400 ever become law.

Ted Simons: I know in that story you had a lot of folks quoted in saying I'm just tired. There's a lot of fatigue down there. Representative Schope was saying the governor's office told him they don't want another 1062.

Jim Small: I don't think they do in the first year. I think governor Ducey ran on this platform of transforming Arizona and in a lot of ways. I think one of those ways, certainly, is from the PR side. And the perception of Arizona side and not having Arizona be at the forefront of this, you know, these national stories being on the daily show, you know, being lampooned in the national media for, you know, legislation that, you know, some people are going to say is crazy, extreme, or, you know, ridiculous, or whatever. And, so, it seems as though his office has really tried to make sure that they have the bridges in place with legislators, with leadership, to A, prevent some of the stuff from even coming forward at all, and, B, if it does get introduced, to make sure that it doesn't get a chance to germinate and turn into a national spectacle like maybe 1062 did.

Ted Simons: Sounds as though -- the budget still the 900 pound gorilla sitting in the corner of the room, but this could be a short session if this holds true.

Jim Small: It could be but I there is a big caveat there. The budget that governor Ducey proposed has the buy-in so far from the Senate president Biggs and house speaker, and it looks like a lot of republicans generally I think the broad strokes of the budget plan they support. The issue will be that budget plan doesn't account for the K-12 lawsuit, funding lawsuit.

Ted Simons: Yes.

Jim Small: Two components of that very much up in the air. And, you know, specifically the money going forward. Resetting of this baseline funding level, accounts for the amount of legislature is arguing in court that they should owe not what a trial court already said they owe. That issue is before the appellate court, if the appellate court issues a ruling sometime after they get out of session -- if they were to pass a budget by the end of the month and two weeks later the appellate court said, no, you owe this extra money to K-12 schools, that blows that budget to pieces and that means they have to come back and fix that.

Ted Simons: I have asked this numerous times and it sounds like I keep hearing no, not really. I keep thinking there has to be a plan B on some shelf somewhere, some drawer hanging around. You have to have a contingency plan --

Jim Small: I think there is contingency planning, and I don't know that they have a contingency plan yet.

Ted Simons: Or just an outline, idea where you are going to do, what you're going to do.

Jim Small: I think that there is, and there are options to probably deal with that. They haven't been released publicly. No public draft of anything that they have put out -- worse case scenario, here is what the budget looks like. I think that is because the scope of the problem -- it becomes tremendously larger than what we are talking about now. More than roughly doubles, maybe a little more what the problem is. And so, I don't know that there is necessarily agreement on how you deal with that, whether it is between the house republicans, Senate republicans, and governor's office. I think -- I'm sure they all have ideas and all actively working on figuring out what they do, you know, in case of emergency, what -- when we break the glass, what do we pull out of here? But I -- my guess is that they don't have anything finalized. If they did, I think we would probably -- we probably would see some of that and probably be some indications of it.

Ted Simons: Before you go, it looks like a push to scale back the open meeting law. What's going on here?

Jim Small: Yeah, bill that was introduced this week by senator Allen from snowflake, republican, that would, in the words of some of the first amendment attorneys in open government, media attorneys that we spoke with, said would essentially gut the open meeting law. A law that requires that public bodies, school board, city council, legislature, county board of supervisors, planning and zoning commissions, that all of these bodies meet in public, that they publish agendas in advance of the meetings and let the public know when the meeting is going to be, let them into the meeting, you know, follow this agenda of what's going to happen and essentially what it would say is a meeting is no longer a quorum of this body that is going to discuss and act on policy changes. It is just a meeting of the body when they act on things. Not when they discuss it. So, essentially what it would allow for is for any government body, any public body to carry out all of its discussions behind closed doors and then only have to go before the public when they vote. And the idea behind it is to try to lessen the impact of quorum rules, open meeting rules in -- on boards and commissions where you have only a few members, maybe three members or five members where conversations amongst one or two, two or three people could potentially trigger an open meeting law violation. But it goes about it in a way that essentially undermines and guts the law for every level of government.

Ted Simons: No kidding. Real quickly, this is being pushed by Senator Sylvia Allen -I can't understand why someone who's so anti-government thinks it's ok now to have the government meet secretly.

Jim Small: You know, her defense of -- her explanation and defense of why she is pushing it, she came to legislature -- three-member board. Her argument, I can't talk to my fellow elected official. If we ride in an elevator together, that -- her point being that essentially it limits her ability to have conversations with these people, but in essence, yeah, that is exactly what the law does because the law is designed to make sure that government officials aren't dealing -- aren't essentially rigging the system before they go into a public meeting and are carrying out these discussions in front of the public, who they're accountable to.

Ted Simons: Interesting. Jim, good stuff. Good to have you here. Thank you for joining us. We appreciate it.

Jim Small: Yeah.

Video: Drive a few miles north of strawberry on highway 87, nearly 20 miles on rugged forest roads along the edge and into the deep woods atop the Mogollon rim, and scamper 500 feet down the southern edge of a rocky canyon, and you will come upon a monument to the battle of big dry wash. The site looks much as it did on July 17th, 1882, when a party of over 50 Apaches waited to ambush calvary. The troops were guided by a legendary scout who discovered the trap and warned the soldiers. The Apache had no idea that they were surrounded, outnumbered and had lost the element of surprise. Nearly half of the Apache were killed. Only two troopers died in the Melee. The names of the calvary who took part in the site are listed on the back of the rarely visited massive stone monument, lieutenant Thomas Cruz who won the medal of honor. The battle was the last battle fought between the Apaches and army regulars.

Jim Small:Journalist, Arizona Capitol Times;

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