Journalists’ Roundtable 08/12/2016

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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's, journalist round table a measure to legalize marijuana in Arizona makes the November ballot and corporation commissioners block an attempt to investigate if the commission is being influenced by aps and others. Journalist round table is next on Arizona horizon.

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Ted Simons: Good evening, welcome to Arizona Horizon's journalist round table. I'm Ted Simons. Joining us tonight, Jim Small of the Arizona Capitol Times, Bob Christie of the Associated Press and Luige del Puerto of the Capital Times. Arizona voters will get a chance to decide on an initiative that allows for the recreational use of marijuana, thus is born Prop 205.

Jim Small: Yes.

Ted Simons: Talk to us about it.

Jim Small: Well, so this would -- this is something that has been in the works for really a couple of years now. The idea that Arizona has medical marijuana and now the next step as we have seen in a number of other states that first went down the medical marijuana route is to fully legalize the recreational use and small amount possession. You don't have to go to a doctor or a special card or jump through the very low hoops. I mean, pretty large hoops that we have for the medical marijuana program, you don't have to go through that. Anybody over the age of 18 would be able to purchase, possess and consume marijuana and it would create tax revenue and it would be regulated and limited to who could sell it and where they could sell it and things like that.

Ted Simons: Up to one ounce can possess up to six plants in your home. Again, what is the federal law regarding marijuana.

Bob Christie: Marijuana is a class one schedule -- schedule one drug which means there is no legal use for it. You can't use it in research unless you get a special dispensation. It's illegal on the federal basis. However, states have been legalizing it Colorado, Washington, have been legalizing it and the federal government has taken a hands off approach and that's probably not going to change. They aren't going to send the FBI in to arrest 100,000 Colorado people and shut down all of the marijuana retailers. It can't happen. That horse is out of the barn. However, getting it on the ballot is just the first step in Arizona. Then you have to get it by a court challenge at the chamber, county attorney Bill Montgomery and Maricopa County, Yavapai County attorney Sheila Polk and a bunch of other folks were in court today trying to keep it off the ballot. Their argument was, listen, when you sign the petitions and there was 250 some-odd turned in. When you sign the petitions, there is a description that says we will regulate marijuana like alcohol and allow cities and towns to regulate where the locations are. We are going to do some other things and they said, listen, they listed five things in that 100 word summary there are 22 major provisions that should have been in there you to throw it out because the voters were deceived in.

Ted Simons: What else was heard at this hearing today? Is that the basis there?

Luige del Puerto: The crux of the argument is that the -- when they were circulating the petitions it was confusing and misleading because it didn't include the other provisions. And then in addition to that, the ballot -- the 100 word summary that's going to be on the ballot, it's too short to accurately describe what's going to be enacted into law if the voters approve this measure. The no side, the those who are opposed it doesn't go into the fact that it will have multiple effects on DUI laws, even family cases and an array of laws that would be affected that are not in the description and as a result of that, people will be deceived and essentially it's going to be -- it's a fraud is what they are saying. They call it fraud.

Ted Simons: Is this the kind of thing that the opposition will say no matter what, they are out there for no holds bar here.

Jim Small: I think in a lot of ways. You can look at the lawsuit. The law suits are almost kind of pro forma. At a certain point they exist, you know the claims in this one I think generally, you know you make a lot of claims. Some are probably better than others and some are more confident in others but you throw a lot of things against the wall to see what stick's. When it comes to the summary what the judge will weigh is what is the essential and core part of the initiative and what are the laws that then are implemented -- or subsequently put in there to implement that. Things like the dui provision and those other things they were harping on that the opposition says, well, look this is a core provision. Is it a core provision or is the core provision change -- legalizing marijuana and then dominoes that fall after that that in order to properly implement this program you have to change a dozen other laws.

Ted Simons: If you are supposed to have 100 word summary, I think the operative word there is "summary."

Bob Christie: Absolutely, you cannot -- I mean this is a 10,000 word initiative that has multiple provisions in it. And there is absolutely no way. We have seen this with clean elections. We have seen it with -- not kids care, the smoking tax that passed a few years ago. Every one of these has multiple provisions and you can't boil it down. No way.

Luige del Puerto: And the judge had noted that for the opposite side to describe the things that are not in the 100 word summary took them four pages to do it. And it's -- you can't -- it's simply impossible to boil it down to 100 words.

Bob Christie: Closest they will get on this is two specific provisions they say that the description that we are going to regulate marijuana like alcohol is false because we are not, because we are making other changes. The other is that the private part, you use it privately. The plaintiff, the chambers and plaintiff point out -- or the lawyer point out today that one of the things this does and I didn't know it because I haven't lawyered it for night after night was allow retailers to also set up an area in the store where you can consume. So his argument is, listen, the voters weren't told you making marijuana bars. That's what this does. We will see if the judge takes that as a major issue or not.

Luige del Puerto: The pro side argued that regardless of what the text of the 100 word summary is regardless of the text of the actual ballot initiative, the judge or the courts, the lawyers saying that it doesn't have the authority to essentially preempt the voter from enacting this law. It would be akin to the court saying a draft of legislation is invalid or unconstitutional or legal. If there are questions about certain provisions of the law or it's confusing, confusion, misleading or something that's fraudulent in the text, that should be litigated after the voters have had a chance to weigh in and pass this law.

Ted Simons: So we've got this thing that is for now going to make the ballot, Prop 205. And again establishes licensed shops and retail tax on cannabis that will be used for education, schools and these sorts of things. Another aspect on marijuana in Arizona -- comes on the Snowflake. The marijuana capital of Arizona. What's going on in Snowflake.

Bob Christie: Set to be the marijuana capital in Arizona there is a company that has a big green house up there and they went to the city council and said we want to start growing medical marijuana in this greenhouse it went through the planning commission and was rejected and went to the city council and guess what it passed. Now there is a lawsuit against it and then last night there is a new state law that allows any lawmaker to file a complaint with the attorney general that says, municipality has violated this new law and therefore if they don't rescind their action they lose all of their state shared revenue which is for all of the cities and towns is a billion dollars. And so that is the first formal complaint filed with the attorney general and amazingly what it looks at is a public meeting violation. That's the first thing which is -- I mean, I don't know if anyone who passed this in the legislature thought a routine public meeting violation that normally gets fixed with a phone call to the AG.

Ted Simons: There might have been some zoning regulations. This started with the governor's State of the State speech which was basically if you are a city and town and you don't do like we want watch out and it sounds like Snowflake didn't do what they want.

Luige del Puerto: The governor said it. He stated the state address that cities and towns better toe the line if you don't you will get hammered and this law was passed. And we were in a newsroom yesterday -- we were asking ourselves whether that law would allow a complaint that was filed by Representative Paul Bowyer and he is from Glendale.

Ted Simons: That's not very close to snowflake.

Luige del Puerto: No, it's not close to snowflake. Bowyer is one of those who are stridently against the legalization of marijuana or just marijuana use. And so the law is very broad. It says that a lawmaker can complain or has the power and the authority to complain to the Attorney General if there is a perceived violation of any state law or the Arizona constitution. On that basis, if there is a legislature that has any complaint whatsoever could go to the Attorney General and say hey, investigate this now or investigate the city.

Ted Simons: And I like with the Bowyer situation, Representative Bowyer does not want marijuana in anyway eased. He finds some spot around the state where it might be being eased he can go ahead and make that complaint and law says he can do it.

Jim Small: And the law says the AG has to investigate it and has to go through this process. They don't have discretion to say to give it a cursory read and say yea or nay on it. There is a possibility of -- I guess one person's abuse is another person's watchdog and a possibility of a lot of complaints being filed. Certainly not out -- doesn't take a whole lot of imagination to imagine a legislator with an axe to grind against a city or an industry or something like that who goes around and files these complaints in order to effect a change or stop things from happening and maybe stop other cities from trying to think about going down -- going down a certain path with certain policy.

Ted Simons: We should mention this is a factor down in Bisbee for a variety of reasons, not the least of which now is this plastic bag dispute which apparently a senator from Hereford who is not in Bisbee -- relatively close says, hey, hey, hey. You can't do that. You can file a complaint all over the state.

Bob Christie: You sure can. And an issue is so the senator is Gale Griffin from down in southern Arizona and asked Attorney General Mark Brnovich to look into the plastic bag ban in Bisbee where there is a lawsuit. Bisbee says we can do it because we are a charter city. They are fighting for years and they -- Gale wants the AG to say if you don't rescind it you will lose your state tax money. Well, she didn't accept the complaint and put it in the right form. But it is not perspective. What he said is it can be retroactive. You could pass the law 10, 20, 30 years ago and if we investigate it and find out that it is -- shouldn't be on the books, you can lose all of your money unless you take it back.

Ted Simons: What about that charter city aspect? The constitution says you can make your own laws?

Luige del Puerto: And it is a subject of a lawsuit that was a case filed city counselor in Tempe against the very law and it says you can't dictate to a charter city how to manage local matters. So this is why it's important. This is the -- the first case -- now the attorney general has to find a way to investigate this without overextending itself. And I say that because I can foresee a whole lot of complaints to the Attorney General's office. And of course the Attorney General's office has other jobs that he needs to do. And so therefore -- it creates all sorts of questions really about its budgeting. More importantly how it proceeds could foretell if we will have more complaints or not.

Ted Simons: And we should mention that punishment is that loss of shared revenue. That's a big deal for small places like Bisbee and Snowflake.

Bob Christie: Or for phoenix. 60% of city's budgets come from state revenue. That's sales tax and income tax that decades ago there was a deal cut where cities wouldn't impose their own income tax if the state shared some of theirs with them. So they get a 60% of their revenue for police and fire and libraries and all of that stuff is tax money that's paid by taxpayers and sent back to the city. So it's a huge deal.

Ted Simons: All right. Jim, we talked last week about the Corporation Commission and Commissioner Bob Burn, wanting to hire an attorney and did hire the attorney to a certain degree. To look at the Corporation Commission in general, not necessarily a focused on commissioners or staff, but in general to see if outside influences like -- I don't know, APS, might have influence on the commission. Well, that attorney is not going to be able to do his job. What happened?

Jim Small: Well, there was a very contentious meeting yesterday afternoon. Commissioners sat around a table not too unlike this one and laid into each other really. And had kind of an airing of grievances about this issue and a lot of the rhetoric that's been surrounding the commission for the last year, really longer, but especially coming out of Bob Burns for the last year. Essentially the commission voted 3-1 to not allow Bob Burns to hire this attorney, not spend $100,000 on this investigation into the potential influencers of the Corporation Commission and its members.

Ted Simons: Basically we are not going to hire the attorney to tell us and put transparency into the situation. Is that what they are saying?

Luige del Puerto: In fact that was one Bob Burns' counter-arguments yesterday that he was essentially saying if there is a perception out there that the corporation commission is paid in bulk and in order for us to tell the public that that is not the case, this is a tool we can use. We can hire a lawyer and invest -- and the outside influences and in a way restore credibility to the Commission. Let the people know that this is in fact not going on. But the other commissioners, and it got very personal, by the way. The other commissioners are saying you have been tarnishing our reputation for a better part of the year by going around during your campaign and telling people that I'm going to restore integrity to the commission by saying that you are in effect tarnishing us, maligning our reputation and it got pretty bad.

Jim Small: Burns has gone further than that burns said it's part of his campaign, the point of his campaign is re-elect me, I'm the one that's down there fighting for you. I'm not in the pocket of the utility. The implication there is very much so that the other people that I'm sitting next to on this dais are bought and sold.

Bob Christie: And this is back to the 2014 election where an entity and out of state group spent $3.2 million on -- to support two republican candidates, Tom Freese and Doug Little who were elected and Everett widely suspected that Arizona public service the large -- funneled that money into and APS has refused to admit or deny they had done that. And it has had this shadow over the commission for the last two years.

Ted Simons: My question is, they blocked the attorney hire. Can Burns still subpoena APS?

Bob Christie: He can the way he went this route is he doesn't have the resources to do it himself. The staff is not going to do it. They turned to him yesterday and say you can use your own office budget to do that. He said I don't have the staff or the budget to do this; I hired this outside attorney who is a nationally recognized expert in utility regulation because he has the expertise to go and do all of these things. To do this subpoenas to find out if you decide the solar side if it goes back to the big battle between solar and regular power is unduly influencing the commission.

Luige del Puerto: And explained before, if you subpoena APS, they could essentially give you just what's -- the data dump. Here are all of the documents. Five rooms of documents. Have at it and it will take forever to sort through those and that's why his taking this route so that there is some method to it and there is somebody who is an expert who can look at and who knows what he is looking at to begin with.

Ted Simons: This meeting sounded like more of enthusiastic exchange of ideas than the Corporation Commission debate which quickly evolved or devolved until everyone at this table attacking Bob Burns. Whether he likes it or not and probably likes it, he is the outsider in this race as far as republicans are concerned.

Jim Small: He is absolutely ostracized himself from the rest -- both the sitting commissioners and his fellow republicans who are seeking the nominations this year. You know, some of it is by designed. He decided early on that he was going to try to get to the bottom of the APS 2014 election thing. He realized what that was going to do at least in terms of separating him from his colleagues and on the campaign trail you have five people running. It turns into a bit of a blood sport at a certain point.

Bob Christie: And he has been called the democrat among the republicans.

Ted Simons: During the debate, I mean, Al Melvin called him a democrat.

Bob Christie: Absolutely. That's been out there for a while and you have been hearing that, not whispered but shouted by his opponents. It is clear that four sitting members -- only three voted yesterday against Bob Burns proposal to spend this money to hire the outside lawyer but Tom Freese was on the phone for most of the meeting and his questions went -- one could be led to believe he would have voted with the three. We are at the point where Bob Burns is the odd man out but he believes he is standing up for the public and the members of the commission that are in there now say you are unduly smearing this commission. We are clean as the driven snow. We had nothing to do with any outside spending anyway. You are impugning our integrity and knock it off.

Luige del Puerto: The interesting thing is that the commission initially investigation into APS and other groups are influencing unduly the commission -- that's dead for now. But there are other investigations going on. The FBI is investigating the Corporation Commission. We know that the U.S. Attorney's Office had looking into APS's role into the 2014 elections as well. And APS itself, the board has the Pinnacle West Board has launched its own investigation into - APS's role two years ago during the election.

Ted Simons: Those investigations are happening but this one that Bob Burns one will not. I want to keep moving here because we had talked about an odd man out. We have a definite man out as far as the congressional race is concerned. Speaker of the house, David Gowen, his campaign never caught on and he is adios.

Jim Small: He had a hard time getting traction in the first congressional district which is expansive district. Pinal County, eastern Arizona up to Flagstaff and the whole northern part of the state. He announced yesterday that he was ending his campaign and he was going to throw his support and urge his followers to support Gary Kiehne, a rancher from eastern Arizona. It's interesting. This is the Speaker of the House, someone who you would expect to enter one of these races as a front runner with momentum with kind of the gravitas that comes with that position and it did not do him any favors in this race. I think from the word go he was behind in polling and behind in fundraising. Certainly was running a tough competition and Pinal County Sheriff, Paul Babeu and a lot of name ID. National name ID. And good fundraising network that David Gowen was not able to match.

Ted Simons: Gary Kiehne beat the previous Speaker of the House. What is going on there?

Bob Christie: The Speaker of the House, when you are speaker or senate president you think you have a lot of power and think everybody knows you. Well, all of us know him because he is at the capital chasing around all the time but the people in his district know him. But he is just a name to everybody else. He suddenly have this sprawling district and have to go out and raise money and, b, be a good candidate which you can get elected as a legislative district and be a horrible candidate but you can't do that on a statewide congressional seat. You have to be a good candidate.

Ted Simons: You can't do that when the Capitol Times is writing stories about your travel curiosities.

Luige del Puerto: David Gowen entered the race. Speaker of the House. He has a platform bigger than the other candidates he is saddled by baggage. By a whole lot of them that was a whole controversy about his use of state resources. He has in effect admitted to gaining or getting state money by reimbursing himself for travel expenses which he shouldn't be reimbursed for. And also giving up per diem money for days he wasn't working. There is that. And the other thing that Bob mentioned and Jim mentioned too is that it's -- I don't know if you call that blessing or a curse if you are speaker of the house or senate president and you're running for a higher office. We've looked at as far as our records show as far back as 1982, there was never a speaker of the house or senate president that has won a congressional race. There are -- and especially if you aren't going to resign and run it's hard to win. And in fact it was the -- Andy Biggs is perhaps in a better position to win his race than David Gowen ever was. Which would be when -- it was Matt Salmon who was the last legislator who did not resign and won his office.

Bob Christie: It's a much more compact district over there and Paul Babeu has his own baggage, too. When Gowen dropped out he said everybody should be doing everything they can to keep Paul Babeu from winning the primary because he has baggage. The democrats will attack him. He is not going to win the general. And then Wendy Rogers who is running has been throwing out all of the rehashing some of the old stuff from Paul Babeu from a few years ago which I won't go into. It's quite interesting.

Ted Simons: Before we go, live caller poll of likely voters by Data Orbital, a political consulting firm, john McCain well ahead of Kelly Ward.

Jim Small: Yeah. Not terribly surprising, I don't think. I think McCain has been vulnerable this primary election. Again, talk about a campaign. We haven't seen signs of them getting traction and getting that momentum that they need. Kelly Ward, you know, has been driving across the state and up and down and back and forth and meeting with voters and just trying to do everything she can with a shoestring budget. Doesn't look as though it will be enough to take out John McCain, although we will find out more later this month.

Ted Simons: We should mention the Trump non-endorsement was kind of good for Ward for a while. And now he has endorsed McCain she can't run with that.

Bob Christie: And more importantly, I mean, I don't think anyone was surprised by this poll because all you have to do is look who John McCain is running ads against. He is not spending $100,000 against Kelly Ward he is attacking democrat Kirkpatrick.

Ted Simons: All right we got to stop it right there. Gentlemen, good to have you. Monday on Arizona Horizon. A rebroadcast of our interview with former President Jimmy Carter who talks about his life, his political career, and his most recent book. Tuesday a new study looks at the impact of road debris on fatal car crashes. Wednesday a conversation with ASU president, Michael Crowe, on the eve of another academic year. Thursday Arizona Senator Jeff Flake joins us in-studio and Friday it's the journalist's roundtable. That's it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you for joining us. You have a great weekend.

Jim Smalls: News Service Editor at the Arizona Capitol Times; Bob Christie: The Associated Press; Luige del Puerto: Arizona Capitol Times

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