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 Mary Jo Pitzl of "The Arizona Republic," Jeremy Duda of the "Arizona Capitol Times," and Luige del Puerto of the "Arizona Capitol Times." The state legislature adjourned overnight after an 82-day session, the quickest legislative session in five decades. Mary Jo, why the rush, where's the fire? What was the deal here?

Mary Jo Pitzl: I think the rush was for the sake of the rush. President Andy Biggs said, look we got the budget out a month ago, which was also a rush. It's more than enough to wrap things up, let's get it done. He and speaker Gowan had reached an agreement to try to shut it down by Thursday night.

Ted Simons: It didn't matter how much was heard our debated it was going get shut down.

Jeremy Duda: Despite this being the fastest session since 1963 things weren't fast enough for the Senate last night. The Senate actually adjourned sine die while the House was still hearing a bill, and contentious one at that, too. They had been sitting around waiting for the House to send bills over. They had been frustrated with the pace the House all session, especially yesterday. They just adjourned and in the house they said, we can't send it over to them, they went home.

Luige del Puerto: I've been covering the state legislature for about nine years now, I have never seen this happen. The sine die sign-off, when they say let's all go home, that's done with some flair. You've got committees from both sides crossing over, saying hey, we're done, let's all make speeches. Typically they make speeches about busy lawmakers going away, et cetera, et cetera. Well, Ted, I always admired politicians for their patience. You need patience in that place to work. But patience ran out last night in the Senate.

Ted Simons: Was it a lack of patience or a lack of getting your act together in the House?

Mary Jo Pitzl: Oh, well, the House has had some scheduling problems, I think. There was a lot of -- they do a few bills and then stop and recess and go away and then come back. It was a really stuttering sense all throughout Thursday as Thursday day turned into evening and they all took a break for dinner. It was just -- it was a sense of disorganization. It really made for great theater. Often the legislature is not the most fun place to hang out. If you were on the house floor about 1:00 a.m., 2:00 a.m., it was good TV.

Jeremy Duda: The way things worked out turned out to be a rare win for the Democrats. The bill the House was debating was this long-running proposal to ban door to door ballot collection or ballot harvesting as opponents call it. It couldn't get through, they were trying to get it through last night, the debate had gone on forever and ever and ever. I presume it probably would have passed and all of a sudden it was yanked. The Democrats let out a mighty cheer and said hey, we won this one. The Senate was not willing to wait around.

Luige del Puerto: They were debating the bill when the Senate said, that's it, we adjourn. We're not taking any more bills. At that point I think Gowan said, oh, the Senate is adjourned, we're not doing this bill anymore.

Mary Jo Pitzl: He wiped clean the board. This ballot was passing on party lines. The Democrats had to stand up and explain their no vote. We've heard these arguments over and over. After a while, this is the strategy. What happened is that over in the Senate both Republicans and Democrats were getting very impatient, just a long night, what are we waiting for. The frustration built and got a little push from the Democrats, saying let's just shut her down. They communicated that to the Democrats in the house, keep your people talking and they did they kept talking even after it was clear that the Senate was gone. They were still hearing floor speeches. Then it was all called to a halt. The backdrop on this, in the midst of this, a Republican from Chandler had been carted out from the legislature the day before on a stretcher. He had a severe, severe migraine, taken to the hospital. Apparently he had a spinal tap, according to Representative Eric Meyer, the Democratic leader who happens to be a physician by training. Thursday he comes back to work with the dark shades on but his back is really a mess. So by late night, early morning he's laying on the floor underneath his desk and bringing his hand up to push the button to vote. It was just -- it was epic.

Ted Simons: It was quite the commitment there, if nothing else.

Mary Jo Pitzl: I think he should get the going the extra mile award.

Ted Simons: No kidding.

Luige del Puerto: A best of the capital award.

Mary Jo Pitzl: A new category.

Luige del Puerto: Just to illustrate the bedlam that happened, I've never seen this one, too. Typically the lines Democrats do their caucus, when they do their caucus they discuss the bill in their own parties.

Ted Simons: It's like a party meeting.

Luige del Puerto: And essentially in the Senate it's done on the first floor. Republicans would go to their room, Democrats would go to their room. They had been waiting and waiting and waiting. Finally one bill from the House came over and they were going caucus it, that's part of the process. And somebody started joking, well why don't we just do it here on the second floor. Everybody, all of us participating is caucusing this bill. That's exactly what happened.

Mary Jo Pitzl: What we saw was some repair Kumbayah in the Senate. They were working together.

Ted Simons: Caucus of the whole, a new trend.

Mary Jo Pitzl: Not so much in the House. That's a House divided.

Ted Simons: You mentioned that the ballot harvesting suffered because of this, it failed. Didn't the effort to kill Clean Elections also fail?

Jeremy Duda: Oh, it didn't make it, it went up for a vote but they didn't need to send that back to the Senate because it was the same version the Senate had passed. They ended up pulling that and voting on the original version. So that went to the House but failed by two votes.

Ted Simons: Really.

Jeremy Duda: At that point a few people had gone home. People weren't around. There were I think at least two people who probably would have been yes votes who weren't there anymore.

Ted Simons: One guy lying on the floor who can't move to vote, and a couple others who can't be bothered to be there?

Mary Jo Pitzl: In the Senate you had almost the full Senate that by this hour had gone home. Yeah, it was crazy. What we don't yet know, there were a number of bills at the House -- they kept working. They gave up on the ballot collection one he and ignored the Democrats' call to sine die and shut it down there they did the Clean Elections bill and the failed. Other bills passed. But if they had amendments that needed to go back to the Senate, ain't happening. I don't know that tally is. It was hard to find anybody today.

Jeremy Duda: 40 or 50 or so bills the Senate effectively killed when they sine died. It hadn't gone through, or had to go back. I think they scattered pretty quickly to make sure no one could make them come back.

Ted Simons: Which of those bills do you think will come back next session?

Luige del Puerto: I'm betting every one of them next year. If those bills had gotten that far in the process and got caught in this theater that we saw last night, I'm presuming their sponsors will probably bring them back again next session.

Jeremy Duda: Ballot harvesting no question that's going to come back. It's a major Republican priority. It was part of the omnibus bill in 2013 they ended up repealing later because it was referred to the ballot for a referendum. The Clean Elections repeal which would have referred the question to the 2016 ballot. There's no question that comes back in the next session, as well.

Luige del Puerto: Unless they get a deal with the Clean Elections Commission. They were trying to strike a deal between the state legislature and the Clean Elections Commission. It was very late in the process and Clean Elections decided to just hold off on even attempting to make a deal and let's see where this goes.

Ted Simons: But that brings us full circle -- If it's important legislation and critical ideas to the well-being for the State, what's the rush? Couldn't you have just said we'll be back after Easter weekend?

Mary Jo Pitzl: It's a statement that maybe it's not that critical. That was the sentiment in the Senate on Wednesday when they decided just to shut this thing down. What is so important? It separates the wheat from the chaff. There was a lot of chaff.

Luige del Puerto: The presumption is if it's that important really it should have been approved a couple weeks ago. And by the way, I think Senate President Andy Biggs has always been wanting to get out earlier. If he could get away with it he would have sine died three weeks ago.

Ted Simons: The real I.D. bill with a clean version passed, what does that mean?

Jeremy Duda: This is part of the post 9/11 security measures the federal government took. They mandated this program called real I.D., tamperproof secure I.D.s starting next January, you have to hold those licenses to get on an airplane. Arizona opted out under Janet Napolitano who a few months later became the person in charge of enforcing this rule at Homeland Security. Now that the deadline is coming up to next January, it came to a head, Arizonans are going to need a passport to go to San Diego or Vegas or something. There were a lot of negotiations trying to get this through and the Governor's office started to get engaged, it was starting to become embarrassing.

Mary Jo Pitzl: It was in three different bills before it could get through. It wound up not being much of be a issue in the Senate but the became sort of in the House as they were strategizing on other bills. There are a lot of questions about this, even NVD can't answer yet. If you want to travel on a commercial flight allegedly beginning in mid-January next year, you have to have one of these driver's licenses. To get one you have to go down to MVD, get a new picture, a little gold star.

Ted Simons: $15 some odd bucks?

Mary Jo Pitzl: Interestingly that fee is going to be set by the director, we have another lawsuit going on saying that that's actually a tax increase and it needs a different kind of vote. But the sponsor of this says, look, this is the best we could do. It gives people an option, it doesn't contravene our law saying we're not going to comply, so you can opt in. Do you want to pay maybe $15 for a driver's license and $120 for a passport.

Luige del Puerto: The genesis is pretty interesting. Back in 2008 we got a coalition, and a very diverse one, ACLU, moderate Democrats, Karen Johnson, Republican senator from Mesa all together said we shouldn't do Real I.D. Now that we have this -- we have a choice to make, do we inconvenience the people of Arizona who might go to San Diego and have them basically get a passport overnight perhaps -- by the way, when we went to the Philippines we had to overnight our passport. I think we had to pay about $500 for that, that's pretty hefty.

Ted Simons: No kidding.

Jeremy Duda: People won't be required to get these. This is optional. I'm wondering how many people are going to realize they need to go get these new licenses. This is really the sweetener that allowed this to get through the legislature. People didn't want to be forced to comply with this federal overreach. The other way around, if you want it, you can get it for a few bucks extra and that makes everyone happy.

Mary Jo Pitzl: There's a lot to determine, will Ducey sign the bill, he's pretty much indicated he would. How long will it take MVD to put together this license. Will the Feds really enforce that January 19th date.

Ted Simons: Sure.

Mary Jo Pitzl: I heard one reader, his driver's license was expired and they let him on.

Ted Simons: Yeah. What happened to this bill now restricting school -- if you were a school employee like a superintendent in Mesa and you said something critical perhaps to the governor, perhaps, what happened to that bill?

Luige del Puerto: That bill died, didn't make it out of the process. And that bill has been regarded really as retaliation to your not so theoretical scenario there. It would have prohibited personnel at School Districts from using district resources and taxpayer dollars engaging in political activity.

Ted Simons: Did we figure out exactly what that means? I can't stand in front of a classroom of kids and say things.

Jeremy Duda: I think there is some dispute over exactly how far this goes. This is an extension of a perpetual issue for Republicans who are always concerned that folks are using taxpayer resources to push political agendas. You usually see this in the context of the bond override elections where they don't want the schools sending out stuff from school computers, that kind of thing. This is kind of a new level because as you mentioned, the Mesa superintendent who kind of lashed out at Governor Ducey and faced some retaliation from outside allies of the governor, as well.

Ted Simons: Indeed. The ban on cities that want to ban plastic bags, that went through, huh?

Mary Jo Pitzl: So plastic bags win. This was an argument carried a lot by marketers in grocery stores saying, look, this could create a patchwork of bans. Some cities might ban them, Tempe is looking at it, Flagstaff is looking at it, other cities won't. How are we going to focus our efforts? They were effective in making that argument.

Ted Simons: The bill also included you can't force a business to report it's energy use, as well?

Luige del Puerto: That was included in the measure as Mary Jo touched on. I think for the grocers, we hear the argument when it comes to local entities writing their own rules about local issues. That's how are we to deal with multiple cities, if you are one business with multiple sites what, are we going do with one city that bans it and another city doesn't ban it, I suppose it adds another burden on businesses. That's always been an argument raised in -- a very receptive argument raised in the legislature.

Mary Jo Pitzl: The energy reporting requirement is to try to drive more efficiencies, but you don't know if you don't know what your energy usage is. That one died. The legislature does like to tell local governments what they can and can't do. That's an annual argument.

Ted Simons: For example, gun restrictions, as far as gun sales, you know, the idea of cities enabling their own bans, I think Tucson was the focus of one these. Did that bill go through?

Jeremy Duda: I believe that one did not go through.

Mary Jo Pitzl: It did. The 1291, the preemptive one, that would have opened you to fines of maybe $100,000. That bill passed. This is the fog of sine die. Representative Farnsworth had an amendment in the house that looked like it would have softened some of those penalties but it's not going to count. That had to go back over to the Senate. The underlying bill can become law, but not the Farnsworth amendment.

Luige del Puerto: If I'm not mistaken, does the Senate have to concur with the change made in the House?

Mary Jo Pitzl: They would. But if they don't the underlying bill still goes through.

Luige del Puerto: Got it.

Ted Simons: I'm glad you got it.

Mary Jo Pitzl: Well no, guarantees.

Ted Simons: Expanded vouchers for American Indian students? Was this the likely Begay, the one who voted for the budget with the governor and the Republicans.

Jeremy Duda: You know, this is -- of course school choice issue, also near and dear to conservatives' hearts in general. It kind of makes sense he's voting with conservatives. Plus, it's a conservative issue. So it all kind of makes sense.

Ted Simons: One more the no state resources to comply with the Affordable Care Act, which apparently -- perhaps I'm wrong on this -- but also seems like it means the state can't establish its own health care exchange, as well.

Mary Jo Pitzl: Representative Justin Olsen, the sponsor of this measure, says that is the most important part of this, the assertion of state sovereignty. We're not going use any resources to comply. Depending on what happens with the Supreme Court case that's pending, the federal health care exchange may not happen. Maybe we should establish our own? This would prevent the state from doing that. Don't forget the inspector general bill.

Ted Simons: Jeremy, to you on this one. The inspector general bill or the governor's personal investigators reporting to the governor with privacy attached, where did that go?

Jeremy Duda: That went nowhere. This was a late introduction by something that got pushed kind of late in the session by the governor's strike everything amendment. Went through committee, never got a vote in the full Senate. You know, yesterday they didn't have the vote, it wasn't going to come up. A lot of negotiations throughout the day but it never came up. There were conflicting versions as to what happened to this. It looked for waste, fraud, abuse in all the state agencies. We're hearing the business community, some folks within it had some issues. The line from the governor's office, this died largely because of special interests. Some people may have some shady business, they don't want people to shine a light on this. Other sources used a word to describe that explanation, you can't say that on television. A lot of Republican lawmakers didn't like this. The entity would have subpoena power.

Ted Simons: And it came hurtling down the tracks at the last second, did it not?

Luige del Puerto: It was one of two major proposals the Governor basically dropped in legislators' laps very late in the committee hearing process. That means they pushed it through what's called the striker, when you strip a bill of its content and attach new language, basically that means that bill is getting vetted and in only one chamber. It's been a criticism, very late in session against strikers. Something as big as this one or in the case of the other proposal, which is to eliminate one state agency.

Ted Simons: Was this really the biggest rift you saw this session between the legislature and the governor?

Mary Jo Pitzl: Probably. There was pushback on parts of the budget, as well. Ducey's call to take money out of the education budget and put it into the classroom, which would have cut the other parts of the budget, the legislature relented on that. That was probably the other big pushback.

Ted Simons: Did you see the other inspector general idea?

Jeremy Duda: Possibly. A couple of sources told me in reality the Governor can do most of this by executive order except for the subpoena power. You need legislation to do. They are going to take a look in the off session at what we can do without the legislation. A lot will emerge through executive order, executive directive. Maybe this time they work with lawmakers, have some stakeholder meetings, the kinds of things you normally have to do to get some contentious legislation passed.

Ted Simons: The abortion bill was signed, Arizona back in the headlines over some questionable medical science.

Luige del Puerto: One Republican put it at voodoo science. One, it would prohibit the offering of abortion services on the federal exchange. Arizona has an exchange but it's run by the Feds. That's the underlying proposal, the underlying legislation. Then this amendment would require doctors to basically say, if you had medication abortion that, may be reversed. A lot of doctors had problems with that language and requiring them to tell their patients, yeah, you can reverse an abortion because they don't think that's based on science.

Ted Simons: Court challenge on something like this?

Mary Jo Pitzl: Don't you reckon?

Ted Simons: It's a rhetorical question. About a minute left. Quickly: Winners and losers overall in the session.

Jeremy Duda: Overall except for the inspector general things, Governor Ducey was one of the big winners. He worked really well with the legislature in the first honeymoon session. I think he won most of what he wanted.

Ted Simons: Loser?

Jeremy Duda: Police offers who want to keep their names secret after officer-involved shootings?

Ted Simons: Winners and losers.

Luige del Puerto: Andy Biggs. He got the budget he wanted. This guy has always wanted a fiscally responsible budget he thinks would move the state towards structural balance in one or two years. He got that proposal. At least if all the provisions of his budget work out he would good get a balanced budget.

Mary Jo Pitzl: Airline travelers in the winner and loser category. They will have an idea without having to have a passport before they are going to have to stand in line and put money out and MVD. The underprivileged in Arizona lose, mostly because of the cuts in the budget with aid to families raising children, low income families and some of the child safety measures that were cut.

Luige del Puerto: I'd be remiss not to add that panhandlers lost.

Ted Simons: A certain kind of panhandler lost.

Luige del Puerto: Yeah.

Ted Simons: Thank you so much. Monday on Arizona Horizon we'll hear about the legislative sessions impact on cities and towns and we'll learn about a science fiction genre focused on the environment. That's Monday at 5:30 and 10 on Arizona Horizon. Tuesday, a look at the legislative session from the business community's perspective. Wednesday we'll hear from Head Start and the group's 50th anniversary. Thursday ASU physicist Lawrence Krauss returns with the latest science news and Friday it's another edition of the Journalists' Roundtable. That is it for now, I'm Ted Simons thank you so much for joining us. You have a great weekend.

Mary Jo Pitzl:Journalist, Arizona Republic; Jeremy Duda:Journalist, Arizona Capitol Times; Luige del Puerto:Journalist, Arizona Capitol Times;

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