Legislative Update

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A reporter from the Arizona Capitol Times will give us a mid-week update on the state legislature.

Ted Simons: The push to reverse scheduled cuts to career and technical education programs is gaining momentum among state legislators. It's a push that could put lawmakers at odds with the Governor. For more on that and other legislative happenings we welcome Luige Del Puerto of the Arizona Capitol Times. It's our weekly legislative update. Thanks for being here. I got to tell you, these, the career technical education, the joint education districts, the J-Teds, this has become an issue at the capitol.

Luige Del Puerto: It has become a pretty big issue, and that's because this program is getting cut by more than 40% of its budget. And that cut would begin in July this year, if this is -- the slashing of the budget is not reversed early, and the J-Teds, they are saying, you get to decide by February, you know, don't wait too long because we have to know whether we're going to have this program, you know, as strong as it has been, going forward.

Ted Simons: Give us a definition of CTEs and J-Teds.

Luige Del Puerto: So J-Teds are a joint technological education districts, and these are -- this district's trained students into a career path that once they get out of high school, they can then immediately work for a company. For example you know, nursing assistants, or training as a repairman. Those are the kinds of training that they go when you enroll in the J-Teds. There are two kinds. There is a centralized campus where you go and you get only the trainings there, and also districts that offer the program within their own campuses.

Ted Simons: And is there overlap there because I know that the Senate President Andy Biggs thinks that there is overlap.

Luige Del Puerto: There are some lawmakers that think that J-Teds, that J-Teds' program has expanded into areas that you should not be doing, for example, they are saying that some J-Teds offer law enforcement training. After getting that training, you will not be certified to work for a police station, for example, and those things are, presuming, are still being worked out but what's happening, Don Shooter, the appropriations chairman, big supporter, and you might have just known of it two years ago, but he has a proposal to repeal the cut that was made to J-Teds, and it is cosigned by seven legislators. So you cannot be more resounding than that, and I think what's happened is that the Governor's proposal, which is a kind of a grant program of three years, 10 million a year, it's increasingly becoming more and more isolated. However, the Governor has indicated that he's, he's open to suggestions, I spoke with the spokesperson, and he said, you know, let's talk about this. Let's discuss this.

Ted Simons: This human cry against the $30 million cuts, lawmakers did this last session, did they not?

Luige Del Puerto: Yes, they did. And part of the discussion, if you will, is how exactly did it happen? There was not a whole lot of discussion that when they made the J-Teds' cuts. It really surprised several lawmakers, I mean, we have gotten at the moment this proposal was made, last year, we have gotten so many calls, and when it was passed lawmakers said wow, boy, just, did that happen? And it did.

Ted Simons: We're going to talk more about this tomorrow and I think Carolyn Moore is going to join us, looking at the group to block the cuts. Something has got to give. Real quickly, another excitable issue is ballot harvesting, ballot collecting, this kind of an idea. It seems like it's a solution, in search of a problem. Yet, we continue to hear about efforts to keep other people from checking the ballots of another person, and taking them in. What's going on?

Luige Del Puerto: A couple of years ago, there was an omnibus election bill that the Republican-controlled legislature passed, and one of those provisions is the ballot harvesting, specifically, would prohibit people from picking up ballots, and then delivering them to polling places, or the county elections, the departments, and there was a huge outcry, part of his big bill, that had so many provisions that people were just upset over, and so, the Republican legislature reversed that bill, and did it the next year. We sort of view that, you know, certain parts of it are going to be revised, and this is what we're seeing right now, on Monday, the House elections committee, passed this bill, and by the way, Ted, there was never any discussion as to whether this -- what station would go forward.

Ted Simons: What's going on? We are hearing that the Senate is allowing for public discussion and debate. The House is not allowing for --

Luige Del Puerto: No. They had, you know, the committee hearing on Monday, and lots of speakers. Many of them affiliated with the Republican party, that have anecdotal stories, if you will, and nothing really beyond hearsay, of saying this is fraudulent or this is ripe for fraud, something could happen. People could abuse this, but like I said, was never any concrete evidence presented in that committee or, to be honest with you, not even a county elections departments have offered, or have any kind of evidence that this fraud does exist or is ongoing.

Ted Simons: So no one he's -- sees a problem with people returning other folks' ballots to elections offices and this could wind up being a class 6 felony?

Luige Del Puerto: Yes, that's right. And in fact, the teachers, for example, are very concerned with this legislation because as you know, during bonds and overrides, teachers do go from door-to-door, and they do try to collect this, this ballot, so the thinking behind it, is it's a low turnout election, and they need as much help as they can, so that's one of the things that they do. They go around and collect it, and the possibility, therefore, is that a teacher could be charged with a felony.

Ted Simons: Well, maybe they can carve out an exemption for teachers and caregivers and postal carriers and family members. That seems like those folks will be exempt, correct?

Luige Del Puerto: Those folks will be, so a care giver, a family member, and obviously, the postal workers, they are picking up the ballots. And they will be exempted, but nobody else.

Ted Simons: And so, lots of stuff going on, the mood is positive. Everyone saying kumbaya among the Governor and the Republican majority?

Luige Del Puerto: It seems like it, and now the Governor has indicated that yeah, the J-Teds are likely going to get, you know, their money back. I think that's -- we'll probably see a session that is of the same nature, if you will, as last year.

Ted Simons: Good to see you, Luige, thanks for being here.

Luige Del Puerto: Thank you.

Ted Simons: Thursday on Arizona Horizon, is a settlement in the works between APS and the solar industry? And we will here from a solar representative, and learn more about the funding cuts aimed at career and technical education programs. The 5:30 and 10:00, on the next Arizona Horizon. That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you very much for joining us. You have a great evening.

Video: Arizona Horizon is made possible by contributions from the friends of Arizona PBS. Members of your PBS station. Thank you.

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