Journalists’ Roundtable

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

TED SIMONS: Coming up next on "Arizona Horizon's" Journalists' Roundtable, the United States Supreme Court legalizes same-sex marriage, this just one day after the high court upheld a key component of the Affordable Care Act. We'll discuss how the decisions impact Arizona next on "Arizona Horizon."

> "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's" Journalists' Roundtable. I'm Ted Simons. Joining us tonight: Mary Jo Pitzl of "The Arizona Republic." Mike Sunnucks of "The Phoenix Business Journal." And Bob Christie of The Associated Press.

TED SIMONS: The U.S. Supreme Court today ruled in favor of same-sex marriage. The court ruled that under the 14th Amendment protections, states must issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and recognize same-sex unions legally performed in other states. Mary jo, was this a surprise?

MARY JO PITZL: No, I don't think it was perceived as a surprise. In fact, some of the groups that are opposed to the concept say they've been preparing for this for a matter of time and in Arizona, same-sex marriage has been legal since October.

TED SIMONS: Indeed, and this was a 5 to 4 and people -- we're going to get to the Obamacare ruling in a second, they were wondering if John Roberts had jumped ship. He returned to the fold.

MIKE SUNNUCKS: 5 to 4 Kennedy was the key vote and Roberts stayed with the conservatives. Obviously, as you mentioned, the majority brought up the the 14th amendment. The protection clause, it was kind of a little more expansive of an opinion. They did bring up some of the privacy rights and those types of rights that came up in Roe back in the 70's. Roberts wrote the dissenting opinion and basically took kind of more strict constructionalist types of arguments, you had the majority of the court making law stuff, this is where conservatives lost the argument on this. The country's kind of moved in terms of tolerance and views towards gays and gay marriage and the marketplace has moved. A bunch of companies came out in favor of this thing but I think the conservatives had the argument that does the court make the laws or the people and the states? That really didn't come out until justice Roberts' opinion.

TED SIMONS: And all four of the dissenters wrote opinions, which is unusual but Roberts basically saying this is not endorsed by the Constitution.

BOB CHRISTIE: Yeah, absolutely. Chief justice Roberts said that the majority was basically making law. They were going much farther than the Constitution said, they were getting ahead of what the people of the United States want. Basically, what the court did today is strike down 14 states that still had same-sex marriage and prior to that by refusing to take appeals from places like Arizona and the ninth circuit, they allowed same-sex marriage to spread across the country in and a lot of other opinions over the last year. That's one of the reasons why this was expected. I mean, they turned down case after case after case until they finally got one where some court upheld or actually it was four states, same-sex marriage bans in four states had been upheld and they took that one. So it was pretty well assumed this was going on.

MARY JO PITZL: What this does is it sets the stage for the next battlefield and I suspect that that and many people suspect it will be religious freedom and do we in Arizona get another version of Senate bill 1062 that we saw last year or the right to discriminate depending on how you view that law. No early signals on that but that seems to be perhaps the next line of defense.

TED SIMONS: And I believe there was over 1000, laws on the books in Arizona defining marriage as between a man and a woman, everything from adoption to taxes to property rights. I mean, talk about a battlefield. That's a lot of battles there.

MIKE SUNNUCKS: Absolutely and companies are going to have to go through this and look at their policies related to family leave and bereavement. A lot of language out there in a lot of statutes throughout the country that are going to have to be changed, and I think you'll see the LGBT groups focus now on discrimination laws, on workplace discrimination protections that they might not enjoy in states, certain jurisdictions, you'll see that fight pop up a lot.

BOB CHRISTIE: That's what's going to happen in Arizona, too. Are we going to see another 1072? An expansion or a definition of greater religious rights for folks to be able to say I don't want to participate. The same thing is going to happen on the other side. You can expect libertarian groups and Democrats and social progressives to say we need an actual protection for housing, for workplace. There is no protection right now. If your boss says to you, you're a good worker but I don't really like your lifestyle, you're gone.

TED SIMONS: That would be an initiative push, do you think we could likely see something like that?

MARY JO PITZL: It would be more likely to happen through an initiative than through the legislature. This is not a place that the Arizona legislature wants to go in terms of advancing those rights for gays and lesbians. But I don't know. Next year, is going to be a real busy year both at the ballot and the state house.

MIKE SUNNUCKS: You'll see it play out at the local level, too. You already have Phoenix, Tucson, Tempe, Flagstaff have some protection. Glendale was considering. You'll see a lot of city councils consider these things.

BOB CHRISTIE: What I would expect through the legislature is not greater protections but again, some type of 1070 type proposal from the group which would specify, you know, extend some rights to the religious -- it's not going to be 1062 like we saw a couple of years ago. Whether that gets the support of the governor I think at this point based on what he's done so far, I think it's dicey.

MIKE SUNNUCKS: I don't think it's the chambers or the governor having any appetite for another fight like that. They don't want Anderson Cooper coming to town.

TED SIMONS: If there is an initiative push to add this protection to race, religion, disability and these sorts of things, we've already heard from some business people to say we can't afford to give the impression of that kind of discrimination. Well, we see business leaders get in front of a parade that says we want to continue that kind of discrimination?

MIKE SUNNUCKS: I think the marketplace has spoken on this. All the companies, the big brands that have come out, American airlines has a big presence here, they had a statement in support of this court ruling almost immediately this morning. Southwest airlines, Starbucks, google, apple, the companies see millennials, they see it appealing to obviously the gay community in supporting these things and those are big consumer groups and the marketplace has moved towards that. They don't want that here, they don't want a repeat of that.

MARY JO PITZL: Businesses relate to the gain when 1072 was working its way through the legislature. Only after it passed last year and was on governor brewer's desk did they speak up. I don't think they're going to want to see a repeat of that.

TED SIMONS: And it's one thing to be against something. It's another thing to get in front of the parade for something. Would they get in the parade to end that kind of discrimination?

BOB CHRISTIE: I think they might. I think you know, if the business community senses that that is hurting Arizona, they're going to get in front of it and they're going to push for an expansion of protections for workplace discrimination, and I think they're going to surely push back against any effort from the conservatives to try to expand a 1062 , like a religious protection law. I think there's no doubt.

MIKE SUNNUCKS: Do you think that if there was an initiative that had some legs to it, had some money behind it, that had some real chance of passing, you would see the business community here get behind that, big companies, the sports teams, the tourism folks. I don't think they're going to be in front of the cart here and pushing it themselves but they would join in if somebody else pushed something like this.

TED SIMONS: You said a busy time at the legislature could be very interesting next go around, the impact on politics, does this energize the base of the Republican side saying we're getting to Obamacare in a second but we lost on that one, we've now lost on this one, we've got to make sure we get our guys in there? Or is it a recognition that things are changing?

MARY JO PITZL: No, I think it's the former. I think that the segment of the base that is very socially conservative, they're likening this to Roe V. wade. Abortion rights were made legal by the Supreme Court years ago but they're still fighting and this is the new fight.

BOB CHRISTIE: Nationally we didn't -- yesterday we saw this huge outpouring of angst from the Republicans nationally about the Supreme Court decision that upheld the subsidies on Obamacare. This today, it was very muted. I think that the national Republican party knows that this train has left the station. Gay marriage is an issue that's going to hurt the party and they're going to try to do everything --

MARY JO PITZL: Maybe nationally but I think on a state level.

BOB CHRISTIE: Well, on a state level, we do things in this state regardless of what the national folks do, but I don't think you're going to whip up the base that much with this issue.

MIKE SUNNUCKS: Between abortion and this ruling, because Roe V. wade left gray room for states, like Arizona, to impose restrictions. We're trying to push that puck to see what the courts will approve where this is fait accompli. This is a done deal, if you try to get a constitutional amendment to do something, that's not going to happen.

TED SIMONS: But you can fight the little fight. Regarding adoption and property and taxes and these sorts of things.

MIKE SUNNUCKS: I think nationally the train has left. I think the Republican party sees that, and I think within like the religious evangelicals, there's this debate of how involved should we be in politics, should we be saving souls or out there, you know, in the political game? And I think you'll see some talk about that within socially conservative circles, whether politics is something else we should stick with so much or we'll move on to other stuff.

TED SIMONS: So we get to Affordable Care Act. That decision was a 6-3 vote as opposed to 5-4 which most folks expected. Was that a surprise?

MARY JO PITZL: I think that one was a surprise, both because of the margin, because of the - and just the fact that it passed. And it appears to pretty much cement in Obamacare by saying that subsidies are available whether you're getting your health insurance through a state-run exchange or the federally run exchange.

TED SIMONS: And chief justice Roberts wrote the opinion, which is significant in and of itself but he said that Congress passed the Affordable Care Act. They didn't do that to damage it. They passed it to make it work. Why would they put something in there that would damage it?

BOB CHRISTIE: That's exactly what his analysis was and I kind of disagree a little bit with Mary jo. This was kind of expected. If you look at the decision two years ago, chief Roberts did all sorts of legal gymnastics to uphold it two years ago and this was a lot easier run for him. If he upheld it last time, a good number of observers felt he was going to uphold it this time. What he said was if you kick, if you suddenly take 7 million people in states that don't have their own exchange and throw them off the system, you'll end up with a death spiral, which is exactly what Congress was trying to avoid, which is people not being insured, uncompensated care going up, hospitals raising prices for everybody else, insurance companies raising prices, and it's just this never-ending circles.

TED SIMONS: And you had the dissenters like Scalia said words no longer have meaning. This was a clear fight between people who put the Constitution in context and those who say it has a literal meaning, follow it.

MIKE SUNNUCKS: It was interesting that Roberts dissents on the same-sex marriage ruling. It had a little parallel to Scalia's dissent against Roberts on Obamacare. The strict group, the strict interpretation, they don't have the votes there on a lot of cases. Obviously, the first Obamacare case, this one where they basically found a way to keep it intact and obviously, the conservative argument against same-sex marriage was there's nothing in the Constitution about marriage, you're creating something out of nothing.

MARY JO PITZL: This is pretty significant in Arizona alone, there's about 126,000 people who get their health insurance through the federal exchange, because Arizona opted to not establish its own state exchange. So if the court has ruled the other way, they wouldn't have been entitled to tax subsidies and we had a bill that was passed and signed into law that would have prevented the state from setting up its own exchange, anything to comply with the federal mandate that they disagree with. That would have created a quandary for Governor Ducey and also for our congressional delegation.

TED SIMONS: No kidding. You would have had to figure out what to do with all those folks, that's a lot of money that wouldn't be coming in, a lot of uncompensated care, this is what hospitals were arguing about to get Medicaid expanded in the first place.

BOB CHRISTIE: That's exactly the case and I talked to the democratic majority, house majority leader, Eric Meyer, who is a physician, and he said I don't know what the governor was thinking, you know. Was he gambling? I don't know what he was thinking because if the court had gone the other way, the governor would have either had to let 126,000 people lose their insurance, which not only upsets 126,000 mostly democratic voters but who knows, plus all the business community, the hospitals, I mean he would have had to either have turned away and said, no, I don't like Obamacare, I'm not going to do anything or he would have had to really figure out some plan B. that wasn't fully formed.

MIKE SUNNUCKS: And politically, a lot of Republicans nationally and in different states didn't have a plan B. So they're not exactly big losers on this one. Obviously, ideologically, philosophically, they are but they didn't have a plan B. nationally or in states so they can still go out there and campaign against Obamacare, you know, and make that argument and that appeals to their base but they don't have to deal with the consequences of the court getting rid of this thing so they get the best of both worlds a little bit.

TED SIMONS: What was the reaction of business, specifically hospitals?

MIKE SUNNUCKS: I think they were happy. I think overall the business community was happy with this. They didn't want a changing landscape again. Certainly, you have the folks that are more conservative that don't like this thing but I think businesses have been getting used to this, certainly, the healthcare industry has, and I think this would have gone away, it would have erased everything and could have cascaded.

BOB CHRISTIE: And the stock market loved it. Nationally, health insurance companies' stocks went way up, hospital companies, big hospital chains went way up because it took that risk of suddenly another whole batch of uncompensated care coming onto the system nationally and the same in Arizona. Took it off the table. We can breathe a sigh of relief, we've got people who have insurance.

MARY JO PITZL: But it's not over yet because we have a lawsuit in which 36 Republican lawmakers are in court now, arguing that the way the state set up its Medicaid expansion, which is another pool of people, of many, many people, was improper and if they prevail in the court hearing case which has been dragging on, then that would put a whole other -- potentially put a lot of people out of Medicaid expansion.

TED SIMONS: And it brings back the plan B. scenario. Is there a plan B.? If they win?

MARY JO PITZL: I have not heard of a plan B. We've been told that the governor had some kind of plan but it's lost on me.

BOB CHRISTIE: I don't know what it is, either. I mean, I suppose the plan is drag your feet as long as you can in court for now, and then you know, the governor will, if the governor loses he'll have to make a choice. Do I let 340,000, which is the latest number, lose health insurance? Or do I have to go against what I've said during my whole campaign, that I don't like Obamacare?

MARY JO PITZL: Without sounding too callous, the answer is get a job, get a job that has benefits that covers health insurance and pick yourself up by your bootstraps.

BOB CHRISTIE: A lot of the expansion population that we're talking about which is, we have two sections, the folks who are in less than 100% of the federal poverty level, childless adults, they're the folks working at Chevron station or the chronically homeless, even if they have a job, they don't make nearly enough money to rent a decent place to living, let alone get healthcare.

TED SIMONS: To the political aspect of this again same question as I asked regarding the first issue, same-sex marriage now with Obamacare, does this solidify the base, does this get people energized? A lot of these health issues, you get really close to it and I just don't know if people think Obamacare has to go, has to go are ready to say that when they figure out that a lot of folks that vote are on Obamacare.

MIKE SUNNUCKS: I think if you see folks on the right that want to see Obamacare go and their focus is to get a Republican president in there who can nix this with a Republican Congress. That would be their focus. I think you'll see Republicans running for Congress stress this because the law isn't super popular, especially on the right. You'll see the focus on that. It's been a good week for Democrats and a good week for the president, a good week for folks that are a little more liberal on issues from healthcare to social policy.

TED SIMONS: Good week for Republicans who wanted to wake up the base, too, and say here's what's going to happen if you don't elect x, y and z.

BOB CHRISTIE: Absolutely the only choice to get rid of Obamacare is to elect a Republican president and keep the Republican Congress. That's the only hope they have.

TED SIMONS: Did senator Kelly ward compare Obamacare to slavery or did she compare laws that weren't good in the past to this particular law that isn't good?

MIKE SUNNUCKS: This is something that Ben Carson, a Republican, a neurosurgeon, a Republican presidential candidate, he's African-American, has made these comparisons, too, in the past so you've seen different Republicans, different conservatives make these types of comparisons, that it's a bad law, that government is too big, that it doesn't give people personal freedom.

TED SIMONS: Is that a wise comparison?

BOB CHRISTIE: For her base, it might be. For even a broad primary, it's not good. It's fodder for attack ads, and if she happens to knock off John McCain, then she's got at least Anne Kirkpatrick, that's bad for a general.

TED SIMONS: Okay. We've got these two out of the way now. We've got same-sex marriage today, Obamacare yesterday. Redistricting, we're still waiting and that's the one that is in terms of pure politics, that one's huge.

MARY JO PITZL: This is a case, actually there's two redistricting cases, but the legislature has sued independent redistricting commission saying it lacks the authority to draw congressional boundaries. They've lost that case in the lower courts but the legislature brought it up to the U.S. Supreme Court, there was a hearing in March and people that watched that hearing thought that the arguments weighed very heavily in favor of the legislature. We'll see. We'll see on Monday because that's the last day the court is going to issue opinions. They've got three opinions left to issue and I don't think anyone expected this to be the last one but if the legislature prevails, we could see a redrawing of congressional boundaries. Before we get too far down that path, it really will depend on what the court says and how they rule, because the question or the issue is does the legislature have the authority and if the answer is simply no, then maybe you have to go back and sue to overturn the maps. There could be lots of nuances in there.

TED SIMONS: And if the court says yes, you could have an initiative out there to change whatever the new maps look like.

BOB CHRISTIE: Yeah. There's a couple of different ways out of this. Let's say the Supreme Court throws out the existing congressional map, says the independent redistricting commission is unconstitutional, can't draw maps, then the legislature would have to come into special session, draw new maps and if they're bad, Democrats can immediately go to the voters and collect 200,000 signatures or 160,000 signatures and that one is on hold. What do we do for 2016? Do we go to a federal judge and say we have new maps, but the voters have put them on hold? Can you draw some for 2016? Do you go back to the unconstitutional ones? It's a nightmare.

MIKE SUNNUCKS: Well, when the court heard the first arguments on the Obamacare case it was peppered with questions, and justice Roberts finds a nugget that kept it alive. That's always a chance. If you look at the two rulings this week with Obamacare and same-sex marriage, maybe it's a chance they keep it. Maybe they go a little more broader interpretation than a narrow interpretation of who draws lines. And so they could keep it there. If they get rid of it, it becomes the employment act, how fast do Republicans try to erase that district which favors Democrats and how do they piece things together?

MARY JO PITZL: This has implications beyond state boundaries. California has an independent redistricting commission, as well. There's a few other states, can't recall them off the top of my head but this would question their authority, as well.

TED SIMONS: And not only that, there are dominoes waiting to fall for this. Everything from who's going to run to what kind of -- what the governor's going to do if there's a special session, what do you do, everyone's kind of waiting.

MARY JO PITZL: They've been waiting the whole month of June getting up early and tuning in to SCOTUS blog to watch for those opinions. There's also another case involving the legislative boundaries, the court never held a hearing on it. This one does not question the authority but says they didn't do a good job drawing those 30 legislative districts and they packed too many Republicans into too few districts that threw the advantage to the democrats. It violates one man, one vote. What's going to happen in that one? Apparently, the court could roll that over to next term and say maybe we'll deal with it next year or perhaps they'll dispatch with it tomorrow.

MIKE SUNNUCKS: Ironically, the Republicans can lose seats in California. And so it would be kind of a wash. They would win a few, a seat or two here and give them back in California, their weakness there in California has hurt the party in presidential races and overall. So they might get rid of Sinema, she might have to run against Kirkpatrick in some kind of primary but they would lose and California Republicans.

BOB CHRISTIE: It's another example of Arizona Republicans not seeing the larger picture, which is we've got one more seat here in Arizona or two more but they're going to lose six in California.

MARY JO PITZL: Yeah, but again, that wasn't their motivation. This was a principled argument driven heavily by Senate president Andy Biggs who said the plain reading of the elections clause says it is the legislature with a capital "L" that determines the time, place and manner.

BOB CHRISTIE: It's usually in the first half of the election clause. The second half of the clause says except Congress can change that. Which they did in 1911. I read a big --

TED SIMONS: And again, it becomes what is a legislature, in terms of context with the people deciding who does their work for them?

MIKE SUNNUCKS: And in western states like Arizona, California, the people's initiatives have been major player in that and there was a lot of emotion from Republicans here. They hate that commision, they hate how it turned out with Democrats having an advantage on the commission this time and so there's a lot of that. They have legal argument and that's why we're sitting here talking about this and we're not sure what's going to happen because it could go either way on how you define legislature but they would love to just get rid of that thing.

TED SIMONS: And go ahead, please.

MARY JO PITZL: And meanwhile, work has already begun on new maps.

TED SIMONS: Oh I'll bet.

MARY JO PITZL: Hello, the Republican house and Senate have contracted with a consultant and started work on it earlier this month or late last month.

TED SIMONS: I'll bet there are dozens upon dozens of maps that are being drawn in basements by people on their computers.

MARY JO PITZL: I think people are falling asleep drawing maps.

TED SIMONS: All right, good to have you all here. Thanks for joining us.

TED SIMONS: Monday on "Arizona Horizon." We'll have more on the Supreme Court's ruling on same-sex marriage. And we'll learn about becoming a foster parent in Arizona. That's Monday on "Arizona Horizon."

TED SIMONS: Tuesday, Arizona congressman Ruben Gallego will join us in studio. Wednesday, we'll look at efforts to employ more adults with developmental disabilities. Thursday, a Supreme Court review with ASU law professor Paul Bender. 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.

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

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