Journalists’ Roundtable 05/20/2016

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Join us as three local journalists bring you up to date on the news of the week.

Ted Simons: Coming up next on "Arizona Horizon," journalists' roundtable. What does the passage of prop 123 mean for Arizona's education system. The governor signs legislation to expand the state Supreme Court. The "Journalists' Roundtable" is next on "Arizona Horizon."

Video: "Arizona Horizon" made possible by contributions from the friends of Arizona PBS, members of your PBS station. Thank you. Jeremy Duda of the Arizona Capitol Times, Bob Christie of the Associated Press and Mike Sunnucks of the Phoenix journal. The state will now go ahead and increase the distribution of land trust money to settle an education funding lawsuit. Jeremy, were these results closer than anticipated?

Jeremy Duda: I don't think so. In the last few weeks there's been kinds of an increasingly prevalent conventional wisdom this things could be in trouble. You go back to late October when the legislature first referred this to the ballot most of it thought it would be a slam bunk. We thought about prop 100, it was apparent that wasn't the case. Even considering that it was certainly closer than I thought it would be that the end of the election I think was 7600 votes. That margin has widened now, almost 19,000. Either way that's pretty close.

Ted Simons: why was it this close?

Bob Christie: good question. There are several reasons probably. So the school folks, the folks who backs the students say they were probably short changed. This is taking money supposed go to schools anyway and give it to them early to settle something they D. they understood the slight of hand here. I think there was push-back on the other side from folks who said the schools get too much. So it was a tough sell all the way around.

Mike Sunnucks: I think Bob is right. A lot of people don't trust the Republicans or the governor on this from the left. I think they thought they could get a better deal from the lawsuit. From the right they looked at this as another grab for more money by the education lobby. A lot of people look at the idea of state trust lands, they have shot these down before numerous times, you're trying to fund education but knowledge telling us why or how. If they wanted to raise sales taxes by a penny, a nickel, people probably would have voted for that. He look at education funding it's lagging in the state. This was confusing and they felt you got messengers we don't trust and a message we don't understand.

Jeremy Duda: The results are schizophrenic. You see obviously there's a lot of distrust among Democrats towards this because it was spearheaded by the governor, by the Republican controlled legislature. You see that manifest itself in the drubbing and loss in Coconino, it is pretty good in Yavapai County one of the strongest Republican counties in the state where turnout was extremely high. There was enough on both sides for people to dislike but still from the Republican counties most voted for it so the democratic counties voted for it.

Bob Christie: I agree. It's really tough. Three counties Those same 70% looked at the school issue and only barely gave it 50.5 --

Mike Sunnucks: I think it's all about the ads. Cops and firefighters, everybody likes those. Who do we pushing for 12'? People from the left don't like the are Republicans. People on the right don't like it because they think they are Democrats. You can look through a skeptical lens. On 124 everyone saw who was for it and we like them.

Jeremy Duda: 123, this is an extremely complicated message. Each is complicated. Kind of a general rule when voters don't understand it they are voted down. No one thought they needed to run a campaign for it. They got shot down at the polls because people didn't understand it. You add people on left who did understand it and rejected individual provisions like giving the schools less than they wanted in court, putting Trig nears place that allow circumstantial cuts. You wind up with a nail-biter.

Ted Simons: The campaign put out a somewhat exhaustive analysis of why we won. But also did a lot of explaining as to why this was so close. A lot of explaining apparently needed to be done.

Bob Christie: People have been asking the governor all week long. He ducked the press on election night obviously wasn't too pleased, didn't want to say, oh, shoot, we're close here. We're closer than I thought we were going to be, for the campaign which spent $5 million ton send out an explanation of how they were behind but they were so good at it, it raises questions about whether they really were good at it or not.

Mike Sunnucks: you're explaining you're losing, the old adage in politics. They won, it's like the Warriors beating the Suns in a seven-game series 4-3. They had all the Cards, all the money, all the backing on their side and it was very, very close. They blamed everything from trump and Bernie Sanders to Common Core. There's the timing of the election which they picked, right? They were the hometeam on this. The hometeam. If this was a spread they would have lost in Vegas.

Bob Christie: the governor has been saying we knew it was a toxic political environment but we picked it to get money to schools earlier rather than take the easy pat path and put it on the November ballot where it would probably pass easily.

Mike Sunnucks: this isn't the first time the voters have haven't listened to the establishment. The cardinal stadium was close, we shot down light-rail a number of times. There's times when you have all the Cards, everybody backing something and voters say, we're not going to agree.

Ted Simons: let's look at the fallout from prop 123. Big winners, big losers.

Jeremy Duda: In the end no matter how close the vote was or surprised we are the winner is still the governor and the school groups that threw their weight behind this in the legislature. In the end a win is still a win. It's close. We'll spend all week analyzing it. People like us are going to remember what this looked like but voters aren't and it's never going to matter. Medical marijuana, the campaign manager mentioned this. That barely won by a few thousand votes. Today when you talk about all we talk about is the fact there's medical marijuana. The stadium, elections where someone speaks through but in the ends a win is still a win.

Ted Simons: does the vote change how Arizona looks at education, how the legislature looks at education? We keep hearing this is the first step, haven't heard the second yet. When are we getting that?

Bob Christie: That's a good question. We have been asking for weeks what's the second step. School groups rallied yesterday, they will be back Monday saying we want steps 3, 4, 5 to follow prop 123. The governor has just said, well, we built this coalition of the education community, the business community, the legislature, and we're going to keep it together but help won't say does that mean more money. School folks say that means more money. To answer your question who the winners are, I saw a story today, the kids are the winners and the schools because the teachers are going to get raises right off the bat. They are going to restore programs that have been cut and we have a big teacher shortage because teachers are leaving, they haven't had a raise in years, some have taken pay cuts. Dysart is giving a 4% raise immediately. Flagstaff 2.5 almost immediately. Most districts are going to do that.

Jeremy Duda: One thing we can be sure about the next step won't be more massive K-12 spending increases above and beyond. If we still have a legislature and a governor committed to not overspending, finances are better than last year, they are looking to kinds of continue on than trend but we're not going to see massive amounts of new revenue above and beyond what we're seeing now. So with the folks in the school, folks on left want is continued commitment to increasing funding past this. I don't know that we'll really see that.

Mike Sunnucks: I think it will be a challenge keeping the coalition together. They barely got this thing through. There was no opposition to this thing. Maybe you can look at the state trust land as confusing but how do you keep them on the same page on this? I think you'll have folks on the right, the legislature, that say look, you're always telling us we don't spend enough on education. We're still in office. We win elections and here's your thing you had all the advantages on and you won by 16,000.

Ted Simons: did the schools get a message from voters on this?

Well, they were able to get some money out of the deal. I think they will be a little more -- I think they understood they couldn't overturn the legislature. This is the best in settle this big lawsuit.

The fact that the vote was so close, did the schools debt a -- get a message?

Bob Christie: I don't think so. When Jan Brewer pushed proposition 200, it passed handily. The state is in trouble, we can't cut the schools too much.

Mike Sunnucks: That was a simple message. Temporary thing. It's a sales tax. Everyone understood it. One failing was that it was so Koon fusing. I think the education folks pay attention. I think there's voter fatigue being constantly bombarded this. Fiscally conservative, don't have kids in school that aren't as keen on that as we would think.

Bob Christie: If we look at the overrides in the general election last November most passed.

Ted Simons: One more fallout question. What is going on with the Secretary of State's office blogging about sour grapes and sore losers? Votes weren't even officially counted yet.

Jeremy Duda: No, that was a bit of a head scratcher. State treasurer Dewit who has been the highest profile and certainly most vocal opponent of proposition 123 who complained about how they were going to lose and he attributed this as have other opponents to the snafu by the Secretary of State's office where they failed to send out about 200,000 publicity pamphlets to households with two voters. He says this probably cost us the election. Michele Reagan saying this is sour grapes, the treasurer making wild accusations. Took a shot at him for going on TV before the presidential primary saying independents could vote. Now we have another war horse.

Mike Sunnucks: Our statewide elected officials are not really getting along with each other. If you look at that pamphlet everybody and their sister is supporting this. The governor, chamber, realtors. The folks against it were Dewit and his family was listed a bunch. I don't think -- if anyone read that you would read that as an vane for the yes campaign.

Jeremy Duda: there were a lot of people opposing it. Former state treasurers. Other former elected officials Republicans and Democrats. A lot of arguments against it.

Mike Sunnucks: About eight of them --

Bob Christie: Jeff Dewit says the week -- 300,000 I could bury this thing. He didn't get any funding. The no on 123 had no money to spend to speak of.

Jeremy Duda: If he had 300,000 this thing would probably look a lot different right now.

Ted Simons: Secretary of State's office needs to figure things out better?

Bob Christie: They obviously had a major problem in they election. The problem wasn't so much they missed sending out 200,000 more voter pamphlets to 200,000 households, when they did find out they hid the ball which as we all know the coverup is worse than anything. You're going to get hammered if you don't take your medicine and move forward.

Ted Simons: sounds like sour grapes. Next step for education. We hit on this a little bit earlier. What happens now? Classroom spending, goes to -- this does not have to go anywhere, does it?

Jeremy Duda: That's one of the arguments, criticisms we have been hearing. A lot of schools have budgets that they have put together saying here's what we're going to do if we get this money, here's what we're going to do if we don't. A lot of them have pledged teacher raises but we're going to have to keep a close eye on the districts to see what they do with it the money.

Jeremy Duda: that's very true. There's going to be teacher raises, but there's lots of holes in the education budget. The capital budget is woefully under-funded. We're just starting as far as schools are concerned.

Bob Christie: you'll see lawsuits against this. Challenging it.

Mike Sunnucks: first lawsuit was like a federal civil. It wasn't even done yet.

Bob Christie: it's an enabling act filed by an individual, no lawyers involved. That's probably not the one we're going to watch for.

Ted Simons: But there should be some coming down the pike.

Bob Christie: one would suspect.

Jeremy Duda: probably from Dewit.

Mike Sunnucks: if they want to sell the next part of this thing they need to show where the money is going fast. they have to recruit teachers from the Philippines, people are leaving all the time. The yes campaign shouldn't stop now. They should show everybody where the money goes. They need to build more trust on how we handle education in this state.

Ted Simons: a day after the vote, oddly enough, the governor decided to sign the bill that allows him to have the final say over two more state Supreme Court justices. The day after the vote.

Jeremy Duda: Yes. This is one -- last batch of bills sitting on his desk from the end of the session. Goody for him. I think as I said couple weeks ago, show me a governor in the country who would not love the power to automatically get two new Supreme Court appointments. That's what he does. This is something the Supreme Court especially chief justice Bales had vociferously opposed, asking the governor to veto this. We don't need two more justices, people say this will help more opinions, more cases, more business cases, that's what the chamber says. Chief justice Bales says that's not the case. The governor listened to the chamber.

Bob Christie: Well, the governor sent out a signing letter that knocked down point by point all of the criticism. It's not court packing he says because it has to go through the independent appellate court. The governor gets to appoint those members. He says no other large state our size has this small a court. Well, the bottom line is if you ask J.D. mess National Guard who brought these bills from the house he admitted in hearings and interviews, if there's a democratic governor I wouldn't be doing this.

Ted Simons: The idea was in sure, swift -- ensure swift justice. I think the governor's office explanation was to ensure swift justice. Were we not getting swift justice?

Mike Sunnucks: Swift justice for who? The chamber of commerce, conservatives, business interests. This is a partisan thing. Republican interests, business interests, will benefit. People on the left probably won't. It's a political grab.

Jeremy Duda: going back to chief justice Bales, I spoke to him a couple months ago can he take more cases, issue more opinions he said we're not turning down cases because we don't have the time or resources. We take cases as we see the need. He says maybe we'll take more just to kind of justify having two more justices.

Mike Sunnucks: An opportunity seen by the governor's office and people on his side of the fence and it's opportunity taken. They have the votes and they will benefit from the court.

Ted Simons: Is this the kinds of thing he will be extra careful on or is it just full speed ahead?

Bob Christie: I think it's full speed ahead. The interesting part is he campaigned on shrinking government and here we have him expanding the size of a judicial branch of government by a substantial percentage. It's going to cost an extra million a year for the two justices when you put their support staff and salaries in place. It's interesting.

Mike Sunnucks: I think the governor's favorite president is FDR.

Ted Simons: You think so?

Jeremy Duda: Supreme Court building and the bench was actually built for seven justices. [speaking simultaneously]

Jeremy Duda: We built for seven, now we have seven.

Ted Simons: Wasted space.

Bob Christie: Another argument raised. The legislature approved it, the governor signed it, we're going to have seven.

Mike Sunnucks: Justice at the speed of business.

Ted Simons: We know the governor campaigned on easing rules and regulations and sounds like the conflict of interest rules have been redefined much to the benefit of one individual in particular.

Jeremy Duda: Benefit of a number of individuals. More importantly to the detriment of other individuals. This bill creates an exemption in the law for anyone who has valid nonprofit status, which is 501c4, dark money groups. What this does is this same provision is in another bill the governor signed that completely rewrites our campaign finance statutes. Opponents found that to be one of the most onerous provisions. They are run ago citizen referendum. If they strike it down it reverts back to the old law which has the exact same provisions. Now they have to run two referenda to get rid of one law.

Bob Christie: This is campaign finance initiative.

Ted Simons: yes.

Ted Simons: Okay. I was actually talking about the Andy Tobin -- [speaking simultaneously] Quickly.

Mike Sunnucks: Basically changes conflict of interest if you have somebody working for you that you regulate that's related to you and they don't make decisions you can vote on things. It stems from Andy Tobin's son-in-law and other relatives that work for Solar City and Cox communications and whether he can vote on Corporation Commission matters. There's been a conflict over that. This law passed by the governor and Republicans clear that up. Basically if you're named Andy Tobin you can vote on Corporation Commission matters T. could pop up later on iner to stuff. There's been a lot of conflict of interest questions that come up throughout the state and some regulatory matters. This clears one thing but maybe you step in it someplace else.

Bob Christie: no doubt. The conflict of interest laws that apply not to the legislature but to the Corporation Commission and other officials have held -- done a good job in the state. It's kept confidence. Here we have a law specifically written to ease those for the Corporation Commission, which is already enmeshed in a lot of trust issues. The governor wanted it. It got passed.

Jeremy Duda: This thing failed on the final vote in the house and they got I think nine or ten new votes on it. I can imagine the governor's office making some calls concerning their affection for Andy Tobin.

Ted Simons: I have had folks wondering how did we ever survive without Andy Tobin?

Bob Christie: He's a Jack of all trades Andy -- Mr. Tobin is a very nice guy. He's going to be very efficient in whatever job the governor wants him to take.

Mike Sunnucks: You See this a lot down there making public policy. One business owner doesn't like what a city is doing. They will go down there. You have one charter school who doesn't like what's going on go down there. This is one person essentially, for Andy Tobin to vote on corporate matters. When you make corporate policy like that sometimes the ends result short or long term has unintended consequences.

Ted Simons: Let's get back to the campaign finance initiative. Give us -- this is very complicated. Encapsulate it for us please.

Jeremy Duda: as I said a minute ago you basically have one law that these opponents want to overturn via citizen referendum. Now it's in basically two statutes. They have to run to referenda. Senate bill 1516, which Secretary of State Reagan wrote includes this provision which opponents finds to be very distasteful, to be protection for dark money groups they think are breaking the law. So if you put that on the ballot in November for a citizen referendum and the citizens strike it down you go back to the old statutes. Now the old statutes include the exact same provisions so you have to run a referendum get against both, try --

Ted Simons: It's basically a roadblock for that initiative.

Mike Sunnucks: they pulled this a couple times on the same issue. They pass something comprehensive, opponents look to repeal it then they break it up, say you have to pass two or 10 or however many now. It's a parlor trick that the legislature has done on this issue where they will pass something they like in a comprehensive manner but when it gets challenged they try to break it up.

Ted Simons: are we going to see two referenda?

Bob Christie: they may. It's going to be really difficult. The interesting part is whether the clean election commission thinks it's going for affect them. The clean election commission says it doesn't matter what you do there. We have a constitutional mandate to do this stuff and to require disclosure. I don't think they have the money to really take on this big thing, but --

Ted Simons: What was done in the last day in the legislature with this second piece of the election law that protected dark money was Santa cute by half. Very strategic. It's angered a lot of folks.

Jeremy Duda: clean elections commission was the entire rationale for the support. These groups need protection from clean elections which is overreaching its authority. They need that this year. Temperatures we need to do this now.

Ted Simons: all right, very interesting. Good to have you here. Monday on "Arizona Horizon" we'll break down a new trade secrets law signed by President Obama. We'll catch up with Dolan Ellis, Arizona's official Balladeer. Tuesday hear from the lone survivor of the Yarnell hill fire about his new book. Wednesday Phoenix mayor joins us. Thursday efforts to help American Indian students adjust to university life 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.

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

Jeremy Duda: Arizona Capitol Times; Bob Christie: Associated Press; Mike Sunnucks: Phoenix Business Journal

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