Journalists’ Roundtable

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Three local journalists will discuss the week’s big stories.

Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Arizona Horizon's Journalists' Roundtable." I'm Ted Simons. Joining us tonight, Mike Sunnucks of "the Phoenix business journal." Howard Fischer of capitol media services. And Bob Christie of the associated press.

Ted Simons: Well, the controversial real I.D. bill is advancing in the legislature. Let's define terms here. What is this all about and why -- what is it all about?

Mike Sunnucks: The state is in a bit of a pickle on this because the feds back in post 9-11, the Bush administration passed new rules on driver's license and I.D.'s, and -- trying to improve metrics and standards for those. States have to adopt those. Arizona is kind of one of the last ones to do that. Next January, if we don't have this approved, we are going to have to show a passport to get on a plane. A driver's license won't be allowed. Legislature is trying to figure out how to pass this thing. Conservatives don't like this because it is from the feds. National I.D. card. Past legislation when Janet Napolitano was around, they didn't like this either. So now we're trying to figure out something in the end to get this passed. How much are we going to assess people for a new license, are we going to charge them at all? How long the license would be good for. The current proposal under the standards, would be eight years, until you're 65 years old. It would change how we get driver's license here. I think you will see some panic among business folks, among travelers if we don't get something passed or maybe we do a special session after this session if we can't get anything --

Ted Simons: Are we going to get something passed?

Howard Fischer: I think we will. The way that Bob Worsly is doing it -- calling it real I.D. licenses for everyone, we're going to create it optional, we're not even calling it real I.D. now remember it's like common core is not common core. It is a voluntary travel document, which would be a driver's license, if you want and are willing to provide the extra documentation, willing to have a license that has to be renewed every eight years with security features and a little gold star on it, you will be able to use that at the airport to get on the plane. We have had this deadline pushed back. If the feds stick to it, come January, go to the TSA gate and they will laugh at you when you pull out your Arizona driver's license, maybe.

Bob Christie: Maybe, that probably won't happen just that way, you have to figure that there are seven states now that don't have the real I.D. compliant licenses. On January 1st the TSA isn't going to say nobody can come on the airplane. Right now, if you show up at an airport, and you don't have proper I.D., they have ways to double check and to make sure. But what this proposal will do, allow a voluntary opt in for a license which has all of the security features that the feds say and has the data base connectivity with the federal government, they want to double check that people are real. And several other features too. Back in 2008 when the legislation was passed that barred Arizona from participating, was cost, Napolitano's issue, unfunded federal mandate, but conservative republicans, it is a privacy issue.

Howard Fischer: And the question, this was another thing that came up, there was a concern, because the new passports have an RFID chip. You go buy something, and all of the sudden it says hey, Howie Fischer just passed by here. Bob Worsly made sure to tell everybody that this license, unlike the new passports, will not have a chip. It is not going to be like Michael's boss has chipped him so they can tell where he is. But they will not be able to track you.

Ted Simons: Why again are we doing this? I understand privacy concerns. We are talking about security concerns as well under a system that was instituted under a republican, relatively conservative president.

Mike Sunnucks: I think a lot of conservatives see a national I.D. card, and data base where government will track you. Another major split between the right wing of the republican party and business folks. If you're going to try to think about locating a business here and you have worries about whether you can travel here or workers can travel here, if we are the last ones to do this -- if the wheels fall off of all of this, it could be a big image hit for the state. It comes down to that big government, 1984 fears that you see on the right sometimes.

Howard Fischer: Let's also understand, talk about this being enacted during the Bush administration, so was "no child left behind." And the conservatives think that -- you know he was sort of a Manchurian candidate on that one too. There is, as Michael points out, we have seen the split. There are two republican parties in this state. There is a business republican party that wants to do things that make Arizona business friendly that do not want things like what Indiana just enacted, the kinds of antigay laws as that. And there are the intellectually pure, quote unquote conservatives, less government, pure private enterprise, you know, we don't want anybody telling us what to do. It is the same fight we're seeing over things, you know, like even the plastic bag ordinance that we have been talking about.

Ted Simons: And we have a governor that wants to be all things to all republicans, at least. What is he going to do with this kind of problem?

Bob Christie: Well, David Gowan, Speaker of the House came up with a miracle solution. At 11:00 on Wednesday night, they decided they would take Bob Worsly's real I.D. bill, add on to it a provision that requires Arizona ask for a waiver from the Federal Government, going through the motions and saying hey, we don't want to do this. Remember, we really want to do this -- if it gets rejected, we will opt in.

Howard Fischer: Let me tell you what else is in the bill. This is the way things get built at 3:00 in the morning. There's also a provision, back in the 1980s, during the Arab oil embargo, we put in something that says we can drive 65 in a 55 limit for a $15 fine. Well David Stevens says you know, that's really good so we're going to take every speed limit on every highway and say, it says 75, asterisk say if you do 85, it is a $15 fine. This has been packaged in an ADOT bill, which also deals with privatization of things like the driver's license manual and selling off pieces of property. They have packed so much crapola in here, that it will sink or swim --

Ted Simons: Is there too much crapola --

Bob Christie: I think there is. The Stevens' proposal is vehemently opposed by the insurance companies because there is no driver's license points. And so they say how can we rate, how can we keep Ted's cheaper that Howie's -- Howie speeds all of the time and Ted doesn't --

Ted Simons: Oh, sure.

Bob Christie: So, the Senate killed it. 11:00 on Wednesday night David Stevens figured out a way to attach it to a bill that must pass.

Ted Simons: Is the governor going to the sign the whole nine yards?

Howard Fischer: I think if it comes to him this way, he will sign it. ADOT has things that they want in there. Does he really care about the $15 fine? I don't think so. He wants this. Because the back-up plan is, if he doesn't sign this and they go home and they don't come back until about the day this is supposed to take effect, he has to figure out, does he tell businesses you can't get on planes here or does he have to find a way to do an executive action to create an alternative license and that is fraught with all sorts of issues.

Ted Simons: We talked about this in the past, election law changes last year, and omnibus kind of a thing, and people said wait a minute. We have to get signatures. We have to fight this thing. They dumped it. It is back. But it is back in little pieces.

Mike Sunnucks: Yeah, it was chopped up. Now it has come back to life. And they're bringing it back and the biggest thing the so-called ballot harvesting because republicans down at the legislature think somehow democrats are collecting all of these ballots and bringing them in and there is some kinds of fraud involved with that. This is -- one of the most controversial parts of the larger bill. And now they're bringing it back again. It fits into this republican -- I don't want to say myth, but thought that there is widespread voter fraud that democrats take part in that unions, college students and cohort groups -- somehow conspiring together, I will pick up these guys' ballots and fill them out for them and take it down to the ballot.

Howard Fischer: A lot more -- part of the reason I think they're splitting it up, if you do a referendum -- everything in one bill, a single referendum. Six bills, six referenda you need. They set up a system, now parties nominate people based on the percentage of people registered to the party. A system that says we will count the independents. For republicans, the number of signatures for statewide races is going up from 5,500 to 5,600 -- Libertarians, it's going up from 139 to 2,600. Now, it is not because we want to keep Libertarians off of the ballot. Even though J.D. Mesnard -- admitted during discussion two years ago - we think the Libertarians kept us from winning Congressional seats, no political chicanery here.

Ted Simons: Referendum, initiatives --

Bob Christie: Exactly, referendums and initiatives will be under what is called strict legal scrutiny. Which means if you have a period out of place, one word out of place, it gets thrown out. Whereas before, initiatives several years ago, there was a minor technical flaw between what was filed with the secretary of state and circulated and the judge said it is substantial compliance, voter intent. We are going to accept that. We have three major issues here that are all designed to limit voter ability to make change.

Howard Fischer: Something else making the way through here, not part of this. Couple of years ago, they decided we need to raise the amount of money that politicians can get from special interests. If you were running for the legislature, it was $418. We need to take that up to $4,000. That wasn't enough. Now we will take it up to $5,000, Lord knows we have had 25% inflation in the last year, even as they are working to kill public financing. Nothing political about this.

Ted Simons: I want to go back to this piecemeal thing. I thought I heard from those in charge, those pushing this, oh, no, we are not going to come back piecemeal on this. We wouldn't do something like that.

Bob Christie: If you look at the quotes and I specifically asked a lot of lawmakers when they repealed this last year, democrats are scared you are just going to put this back together. I personally would never do that but I am not going to make any promises that another member of my party won't. That is what happened this year. Four major provisions in the bill that are -- as democrats say, being reassembled like Frankenstein.

Howard Fischer: But it is some of the same people. The other thing in terms of understanding the promises made, it was sort of a promise, I'm not going to do this this year.

Ted Simons: Right.

Howard Fischer: Oh, we've had an election since then. It doesn't count anymore.

Ted Simons: Governor is likely to sign these one by one.

Bob Christie: One would think the governor would sign them. Ballot -- both parties do this. They have ballot -- they have parties. AJ picking them up at a fundraiser last year. Democrats are much more successful. They go out into low income communities where voter turnout is low and go door to door and say fill out your ballot we'll make sure it gets there.

Ted Simons: Last point on this. Because of this bill we must have many examples of fraud involved here, correct?

Howard Fischer: No, Don Shooter kept talking about things that were happening, which didn't get affected by this bill. Here is the really fun part about it. Shooter's argument, somehow these groups, labor unions in particular, have an interest in the outcome of the election and therefore, we don't trust them. Candidates and their spouses, obviously, they have no interest in the outcomes of elections.

Bob Christie: And senator Shooter said that he heard, he has heard, thirdhand, that they collect all ballots and they put them in a microwave --

Ted Simons: What was that all about --

Bob Christie: You steam them open, and if you're a democrat and it's a republican ballot then that one you don't deliver.

Ted Simons: How many folks have been prosecuted for this?

Bob Christie: Zero, as far as I know.

Ted Simons: We're hearing about it but no one is doing anything about it?

Howard Fischer: This is anecdotal. I asked them, okay, did you talk about any of this stuff to the police about it early ballots or -- well, they looked and nobody wanted to talk about it. Isn't that convenient.

Mike Sunnucks: They know it's true.

Howard Fischer: It's like Steven Colbert, it's truthiness, it feels right.

Mike Sunnucks: I think republicans still think of 1960, they think of Kennedy and Nixon, they think of Linden Johnson, they see these big-city Chicago politics and subscribe it to stuff that is going on here. On the left, they always talk about republicans and voter suppression, these things. This accurately fits into that theme. This is nothing but to keep the voting pool small.

Bob Christie: If you look at states like California and Oregon. Oregon just passed a law -- automatic election enrollment as soon as you turn 18. California is considering that. They're democratic states. They want a broader --

Howard Fischer: Yeah, they smoke marijuana there, too.

Ted Simons: We have some gun bills advancing now. Talk to us about what we're going to perhaps see at every public building in the --

Mike Sunnucks: Speaking of bills and ideas that have been born again at the legislature, they keep bringing these guns in public buildings bills back. You take them into libraries, animal shelters. Or you can put in a TSA type checkpoint. I'm sure all these little cities and towns you know, can afford that, and so this could go back again, this has been vetoed before --

Ted Simons: Before, it has been vetoed like three times.

Mike Sunnucks: This is something that I think Ducey also vetoes --

Howard Fischer: There is an argument for this that they're saying, look, right now, you know how you keep guns out of public buildings, you put up a sign and you put up a locker. Well, truthfully, nobody is searching me. If I want to bring a gun into -- if I want to bring a gun into the state Senate right now, nobody is checking me out. Argument is for people with a CCW permit, concealed carry permit, through a background check and fingerprinted, we should let them come in to defend themselves. Good guy with the gun can take out a bad guy with a gun.

Ted Simons: And they're trained it defend themselves?

Howard Fischer: The training used to be a lot more. The training has been so weak several states have said to Arizona have -- we will not honor reciprocity for you. The training in terms of the judgement calls and all that has been a little diluted over the years.

Bob Christie: Nevada will not accept an Arizona concealed weapons permit.

Mike Sunnucks: You have a couple things conspiring here, you have gun rights, which they love down there, the republicans, and they get to pick on cities, which they love to mandate things to cities. We always talk about how much we dislike federal mandates like real I.D., but every opportunity to tell cities what they have to do, they do. On a gun issue, cities that might want to be more restrictive on gun rights, republicans at the legislature are jumping at these opportunities to tell Phoenix, Tempe, Tucson what to do.

Ted Simons: This idea of a compact with other states, other state does something, all of the sudden we are beholden and we can't do anything --

Bob Christie: It's one of those lowest common denominator bills. If you get into a compact with say Utah, Montana, and these gun rights state, and one of those states decides that they want to lower the limits and everybody would be obliged to do so under the so-called compact.

Ted Simons: Is that something that governor Ducey is going to want?

Howard Fischer: I think that may concern him. The way it is set up, even the attorneys in the house said now, wait a second here. This would preclude, if we get into a compact -- this would preclude future legislatures from changing the law, this would preclude voters from amending the constitution, and that is exactly -- you're right, and the -- citizens defense league say well, gun rights trump the rights of voters to amend the constitution. Well, I'm not sure I'm buying that. I think this one, if the -- if the governor is looking for a bill to veto to show that he has some independence, I think the compact is going to be a problem. You can only get out once every five years, or if he can get every other governor to agree to let us out.

Ted Simons: Speaking of the governor, he spoke regarding common core, board of education this week, what -- what --

Bob Christie: The governor campaigned on -- he disliked common core. Thought it was an improper federal outreach. There has been great anticipation of well, is the governor going to call for the repeal of common core outright? Is he going to tell the legislature send me the common core repeal bills? He went in front of the state board of education and talked for about 15 minutes, last three, four minutes, okay, I'm going to talk about common core. What he said was I want you to immediately initiate a review of common core. I want you to keep what is good and the things that don't fit with Arizona, I want you to consider changing. He did not call for an outright --

Mike Sunnucks: Kicking the can --

Ted Simons: What does not fit with Arizona?

Bob Christie: There is no definition. The governor did not define any part of common core that he wanted thrown out. He did define things he wanted to keep, reading, multiplication standards for third grade -- there are levels for every grade you have to be able to do as you get older, you have to be able to do critical thinking and analysis. You have to --

Howard Fischer: I think what the governor understands, these are standards. This isn't what book we are letting the kids in Sierra Vista read, which became an issue. By 7th grade you should be able to do this with your English skills. By 12th grade you should able to do this. He is saying look, let's review them. What's fascinating is he gave the speech which was, you know, nice and everything else. Afterwards he sat down, Bob and I were there, and he said, A, the bill to repeal common core standards, which is up in the Senate on Monday, is unnecessary. And, B, the AZ merits test, which is being administered now to students is here to stay. And that's linked to common core. For all of the talk about -- that he was -- he hated common core, somehow all of that seems to have fallen off the table.

Mike Sunnucks: Well it's a balancing act. We talked about the two republican parties. Business folks love this thing. They want common core nationally and in the state. They were big backers on this. And you got folks on the right Diane Douglas, anti common core crowd, and Doug is trying to split the difference on this and other issues. Best way to do this, we are going to review this -- and -- but he is not saying he is supporting common core. And he is going to -- I think it is going to be a hallmark of his time as governor, trying to balance economic development and business folks and state's image versus a totally republican conservative controlled state capitol.

Bob Christie: To be fair to the governor, he said listen, this thing has become a political mess. So much confusion about the common core around the states that we have to look at it. It makes no sense to let it keep going the way it is. We have to have a rational, open, public review of it. Get all parents and teachers here and we will look at it step-by-step. It is a logical way to go about doing it.

Howard Fischer: One other point. He just got to name five new members of the board. One had to be a university president. There aren't a lot of choices there. But of the other four, he did name one guy who hates common core and one guy who was involved with actually crafting it. He is trying to do, as Michael says, right down the middle.

Ted Simons: Could we conceivably see standards that are almost a blueprint of a copy of common core but they're going to be Arizona's standards.

Howard Fischer: They are going to be called Arizona college and career ready standards. I think I have seen that --

Ted Simons: Everyone will be happy about that.

Bob Christie: It will be interesting. Hopefully during the off legislative session, during the summer when we have our - people who don't like common core can lay out what I don't like, this particular standard I don't like. Can we change it? It has become generic.

Mike Sunnucks: One thing that is going to press the governor is this is a national issue, a presidential issue in the republican primary. Jeb Bush is for common core. A lot of folks on the right that are very opposed to it. It is going to be in the spotlight. Even if he wants to do the review, and punt on this temporarily, it is going to keep popping up to him.

Ted Simons: There was a bill that the republic reported regarding a real estate investor with fees to record certain property deeds. He wanted some help there. He was getting some help there, but it looks like the legislature is not going to give him that help.

Bob Christie: Nope, the house turned him back twice. This is an investor who during the real estate downturn, there were -- across some of the developing areas of the state, there were whole sub divisions, all of the ground had been done, but then the developer went belly up. This guy snapped up 3,000 empty lots that had been bulldozed for the tax money, which is pennies on the dollar. He went to the recorder's office and wanted to record the new deeds. Recorder said no problem, $50 a deed. That's $300,000. And he said give me a break. They offered him a break and he went to the legislature and said, you know, write me a bill. Someone carried the bill that would cap it at $500. Instead of having to pay a couple of hundred thousand to register each of these individual deeds, he would have had to pay $500.

Howard Fischer: He should have taken the deal. He kept thinking I am going to be smart. I will find 31 house members willing to do this. Now, the Pinal county recorder says, excuse me, we are back to our $50 a pop fee.

Ted Simons: It sounded like from the story he basically told the Pinal county recorder, I'm going to change this and you can't do anything to stop us.

Bob Christie: And shame on us for -- kudos to the republic for seeing this small little under the radar bill that had sailed out of the Senate. You know, 1,500 bills out there and they all -- most of them look innocuous --

Ted Simons: Most of the county recorders and people who work for the county, Russell Pearce came out and showed up on this one and said he thinks it is a good idea.

Howard Fischer: Russell Pearce is trying to find a stage again, I think. I get his emails, bless his heart, he is still ranting about different things but I think Russell is feeling a little irrelevant these days.

Ted Simons: I thought it was interesting, he does work in a county recorder's office, does he not?

Bob Christie: Treasurers --

Ted Simons: That's right. I'm sorry, excuse me.

Bob Christie: They almost got it through the house, too. That's the issue. I think there was two votes that -- they got to vote it twice and both times they voted it down by a couple of votes.

Ted Simons: A minute or so left here. Business of not letting cities ban paper, plastic bags.

Howard Fischer: Well, city of Bisbee, you know, we have to worry about them, five cent deposit on the -- on bags. They have them in California. Tempe is looking at it and Flagstaff is looking at it. If we can get them to use recyclable, bring their own bag, we can keep it out of the landfill. Grocers association said oh, my God, we can't do that. Once again, saying we know better, guns, whatever it is, the house is -- passed the bill saying, no cities can't regulate paper or plastic, cannot mandate recycling, and, in fact, tell building owners to have energy audits on their buildings.

Ted Simons: Does anyone note the irony of the legislature that wants the Federal Government to leave them alone yet they can't leave municipalities alone.

Howard Fischer: You are not understanding sovereignty, come on, Ted. 10th amendment. We are --

Bob Christie: Their argument would be, listen, states -- the states are over the city.

Mike Sunnucks: It's partisan and ideological, you see Phoenix wants to follow New York City, Madison, Wisconsin, Seattle, and require building ownership energy consumption. Tempe wants to follow all of these liberal cities and they see these as liberal democratic ideas that they want to block.

Ted Simons: I understand the 10th amendment, I'm saying the irony is inherent.

Bob Christie: It goes and on on.

Ted Simons: We can't go on and on. We have to stop right there. Thank you for joining us. Monday on "Arizona Horizon," we'll hear from T-GEN's deputy director on the latest developments in cancer research. And we'll take a look at the White House conference on aging being held in Phoenix this year. That's it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you for joining us. Have a great weekend.

Mike Sunnucks:Journalist, Phoenix Business Journal; Howard Fischer:Journalist, Capitol Media Services; Bob Christie:Journalist, Associated Press;

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