Legislative Update

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Join us for the latest news from the state capitol in our weekly legislative update with a reporter from the Arizona Capitol Times.

Ted Simons: New federal guidelines put an Arizona anti-abortion bill in legal limbo and big changes at the state campaign finance laws await the governor's signature. Joining us now for our weekly legislative update is Ben Giles of the Arizona Capitol Times. Good to see you, lots going on. We talked so much about voting I want to put a pause on that for a second. There was protesting going on at the capitol.

Ben Giles: There was a large protest. First a hearing in the House of Representatives Monday morning that spilled over into a protest in the gallery of the house and there was actually an arrest made and a protester charged as a result of that. Just a nasty looking scrum that was all over twitter and social media on Monday afternoon.

Ted Simons: I guess some folks at the governor's tower were arrested for trying to block the entrance.

Ben Giles: This was immigration protest. Different reason. Big week.

Ted Simons: Let's talk about this abortion bill. This is somewhat confusing in that the state wants to follow FDA guidelines or at least has wanted to follow FDA guidelines as opposed to current practices. The FDA makes new guidelines, not so good for the anti-abortion bill.

Ben Giles: No, it really throws wrench in the bill's plans. What Senate bill 1324 did was require the abortion pill to be administered using guidelines, using the FDA label protocol which was adopted in the year 2000 and was based on mid 1990s research into the pill and its effectiveness. That's been the label for 16 years until march 29 when at the request of the manufacturer, they updated the label and now the label matches what's been the best practice used by the in educational community for more than ten years. That's the way these usually work. The medical community is comfortable and the FDA is okay with off-label use of medicine as long as it's considered best practice, as long as it's a consensus.

Ted Simons: So with the FDA's move today, it was first seven weeks, then nine, now it's ten weeks? Is that the idea?

Ben Giles: Right. The differences between the old label and new label are this. The old label says you can use the abortion pill through the first seven weeks of a pregnancy. The new label says ten. Best practice was somewhere in the nine -week range. That's actually a week longer than had been administered. There's also changes to the dosage and changes to how often a patient has to visit the doctor. Under the old label there were three visits. You have to be there to take the first pill, it's a two-pill dose, then come back to take the second but best practice that's been used has a lot of -- has allowed people to take the second at home. Now that is enshrined in the FDA protocol.

Ted Simons: And again, this bill not only doesn't adhere to what happened today as far as FDA guidelines, it doesn't adhere to the best practices guidelines. It's all the way back to that seven week and three doctor visit guidelines.

Ben Giles: this is the wrinkle that came forward from Republicans at the legislature trying to address a problem with a similar 2012 bill that passed that also said you need to use the FDA protocol and even back then was decried as the wrong way to push doctors to move forward. What the court says is you can't just generally say FDA protocol. What happens if the FDA changes it? They are essentially changing state statute at that point. The courts ruled that unconstitutional and the quirky fix was aligning in the language of this bill that says you need to use the protocol as it is on December 31, 2015. So now what that means is the bill that is sitting on the governor's desk were he to sign it he would essentially be saying I think that the December 31, 2015 protocol, which is a protocol adopted again 16 years ago, is better than what the FDA just said a day ago is best for women's health.

Ted Simons: So is the governor going to sign this?

Ben Giles: That's the big question. The governor's office normally doesn't comment until he acts on a bill. He's got I think four days to decide what to do with this. And the question is for the Pro-life community at the capitol how do you move forward and try to fix this in a favorable way because if he signs it it's likely going to be challenged in court again now that it won't match the current protocol. There's been talk of maybe doing a trailer bill which is when the governor signs something and there's an issue with it and they need to fix it and that trailer bill would maybe update the date to reflect the current protocol. If you do that what's the point of the bill in the first place because the current protocol is what doctors and Ob/Gyns have been arguing at the capitol for years is the right thing to do. If that were to be adopted in statute that's not what the Pro-life community has been pushing for.

Ted Simons: The governor could easily sign it, I don't care what the FDA says. Could he not?

Ben Giles: He could.

Ted Simons: Then off to court you go.

Ben Giles: Then off to court you go.

Ted Simons: Alright, before you go, this dark money bill is more than one bill here I would imagine. Or it's an omnibus bill?

Ben Giles: This is an omnibus bill. It's a part of the secretary of state Michele Reagan's overhaul of campaign finance law. But really what's been honed in on is the implications for dark money. That's spending by groups who have to disclose how much they spend but not where it comes from. The voters are going to have to decide on this come November, but it did pass the house by the skin of its teeth, 31-27.

Ted Simons: Very close vote. I think, what, four Republicans crossed party lines on this. The idea being that the Secretary of State is saying we can't do anything realistically about this. So we'll let the IRS take care of the nonprofits and we just won't do a thing?

Ben Giles: Yes, it's a different take than a few other states. The IRS really has become not much of a mover and shaker when it comes to enforcing campaign finance laws, they have been criticized for going after politically motivated nonprofit groups, so they have taken a more hands off approach. It's surprising to some at the capitol to hear the Secretary of State, the administrator of elections in Arizona, say this is not our job. If we want to let the IRS handle it, the fear is that the IRS is not going to handle it.

Ted Simons: Doesn't the bill also allow for money contributed to one campaign, it can now be allowed to be used for another, which renders limits meaningless.

Ben Giles: It would bring back the ability to transfer campaign to campaign. That was something singled out in the house hearing on this bill yesterday afternoon as something of a king maker provision. There's worries that essentially a lawmaker who has the most money in his campaign war chest will be able to say vote with me and I'll give you money or if you don't vote with me I'll give your opponent money.

Ted Simons: Almost like the old days where you would have the leadership sitting in the office, here's the money, I need this from you, that from you.

Ben Giles: That's the concern. Transfer would open that door once again.

Ted Simons: Governor likely to sign this?

Ben Giles: I think so. This has been a consensus bill from the Secretary of State's office and they worked closely with Republican leadership in the House and Senate and with the governor's office on this. This is something that voters will get to decide in November.

Ted Simons: It'll be interesting to see how that turns out. Good stuff. Thanks for joining us.

Ted Simons: Thursday on "Arizona Horizon," physicist Lawrence Krauss talks about the latest science news including development of an artificial cell that could lead to synthetic life. And challenges faced by veterans looking to further their education, at 5:30 and 10:00 on the next "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Thanks so 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.


Ben Giles: Reporter at Arizona Capitol Times

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