Legislative Update

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Get an update on the latest from the state legislature in our weekly legislative update with Luige del Puerto of the Arizona Capitol Times.

Ted Simons: Coming up next on "Arizona Horizon," get the latest from the state capitol in our weekly legislative update. Also tonight, we'll meet a talented 81 scientist from Scottsdale. And we'll look at the latest advancements in the fight against Alzheimer's disease. Those stories next on "Arizona Horizon."

Video: "Arizona Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the Friends of Eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

Ted Simons: Good evening, and welcome to "Arizona Horizon," I'm Ted Simons. The legislature appears to be a week or two from wrapping up its session. Hear the latest in our weekly legislative updates, from Luige del Puerto who is here from the "Arizona Capitol Times." I said a week or two, could it be longer?

Luige del Puerto: It could be longer. They pushed really hard, but I think the sentiment at the capitol is it may take more than a week or two to get all of these bills passed or voted down.

Ted Simons: Is there any reason for are they slowing down, a bottleneck at the last minute?

Luige del Puerto: There's always a bottleneck at the very end when you're doing what we call cow debates in the floor and you're voting for them. There was a committee hearing just today, there's always that bottleneck at the very end when you're doing all this stuff and trying to finish the work in as few days as possible.

Ted Simons: Let's talk about the House Appropriations Committee approving a ballot harvester striker. It gloms on to an old bill, takes it over and moves forward. I thought this was having some problems. This week it's through.

Luige del Puerto: It was hurting a different community and the vote down there was 3-3 killing the bill. This is a striker on another bill in another committee and it passed this afternoon. There are minor differences between last week's bill and this week's bill. Basically this week's proposal would prohibit what's called ballot harvesting. When you're collecting somebody else's early ballot, and it would criminalize that act if you collected more than two and delivered them to election officials. Last week's proposal basically said if you collected, there's no two-ballot threshold in last week's proposal. That makes it a little different. But the goal is the same, which is to criminalize this act. As you know, Republicans have been pushing this idea for a number of years now. This proposal, you know, was one of the myriad provisions in a 2013 omnibus election bill that was passed and then repealed because it faced a referendum.

Ted Simons: They said they weren't going to bring it back piecemeal, but this is a piece of a meal, isn't it?

Luige del Puerto: It's hard to hold on to a promise by the legislature. You have new lawmakers every year. There are groups that keep pushing the same issues. This is one of them.

Ted Simons: Why is this necessary? We've talked about this before. Is there evidence of tampering or fraud from collecting early ballots?

Luige del Puerto: There's not. We've asked election officials in Maricopa County if they have concrete examples, any kind of fraud associated with ballot harvesting. They couldn't cite anything. In fact, there's very little concrete examples of fraud in general in Arizona. But obviously Republicans are wary with somebody just picking somebody else's ballot and delivering to election officials. They are saying other states have laws that prohibit this practice. We don't really know what's going on. And finally if there is fraud we don't get to see them because, one, it's legal in Arizona anyway. So those are some of the big reasons we are hearing from Republicans. Obviously, Ted, you are correct, they are trying very hard to create this impression that there's fraud going on. But nobody really can point to a concrete example of fraud related to this practice.

Ted Simons: Now, you said, I know it's a class 6 felony, I think it was class 5 earlier, changed to a class 6 felony. More than two. I can think of a guy who walks through our neighborhood every day picking up more than two of a lot of things. A postal worker. Are they exempt from this?

Luige del Puerto: There's a concern that because of the broadness of the language of this striker that it might let me backtrack a bit. Right now it says there are exemptions to this prohibition. The exemptions apply to a candidate, a candidate's spouse, family members or caregivers or household members for example. But not specifically postal workers. If you can't collect or pick up ballots there's a concern that's basically what postal workers do during the election season. They collect and deliver ballots. I however do not think anybody would seriously consider suing a postal worker for doing his or her job. However, this illustrates the potential unintended consequences of measures. As you know, unintended consequences don't reveal themselves until after a law is passed.

Ted Simons: I think willingly breaking the law would probably apply there. Before you go, I've got a minute left here. I know the Governor addressed the Board of Education regarding common core. Did we get any firm thoughts out of this?

Luige del Puerto: What we got was that everybody's happy. I mean, those who criticize common core, those who support common core, all think Ducey did the right thing. The short explanation is that he basically gave everyone what they wanted to hear for supporters of common core. They hear the Governor is not repealing outright this current standards for critics of common core, they hear that he is scrapping common core.

Ted Simons: Last point on this: I know he wants improvements using Arizona standards, and he wants an Arizona solution. Those are data-driven teaching phrases I think. What does that mean?

Luige del Puerto: Well, during this review process, if the State Board of Education finds that there are standards that can be improved and we will improve on them, replace the current standards with those improved ones. Basically we'll just call them Arizona standards.

Ted Simons: Okay. We'll talk more about this I think Friday on the "Journalists' Roundtable." Luige del Puerto, good to have you here. Thanks for joining us.

Luige del Puerto: Thank you, sir.

Luige del Puerto:Journalist, Arizona Capitol Times;

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