Republican Legislative Leadership

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New Arizona Senate president Steve Yarbrough and Arizona House speaker J.D. Mesnard will outline their legislative priorities for the 2017 legislative session.

TED SIMONS: COMING UP NEXT ON "ARIZONA HORIZON," REPUBLICAN STATE LEGISLATIVE LEADERS SHARE THEIR VIEWS ON THE UPCOMING SESSION, AND WE'LL FIND OUT HOW TO SUCCESSFULLY GROW FRUIT TREES. THOSE STORIES NEXT, ON "ARIZONA HORIZON."
VIDEO: "ARIZONA HORIZON" IS MADE POSSIBLE BY CONTRIBUTIONS FROM THE FRIENDS OF ARIZONA PBS, MEMBERS OF YOUR PBS STATION. THANK YOU.
TED SIMONS: GOOD EVENING AND WELCOME TO "ARIZONA HORIZON." I'M TED SIMONS. ARIZONA SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN RELEASED A STATEMENT TODAY SAYING THAT HE WAS THE ONE WHO GAVE THE FBI INFORMATION REGARDING CLAIMS OF A RUSSIAN BLACKMAIL PLOT AGAINST PRESIDENT-ELECT DONALD TRUMP. IN HIS STATEMENT, MCCAIN SAID, QUOTE, "LATE LAST YEAR, I RECEIVED SENSITIVE INFORMATION THAT HAS SINCE BEEN MADE PUBLIC. UPON EXAMINATION OF THE CONTENTS, AND UNABLE TO MAKE A JUDGMENT ABOUT THEIR ACCURACY, I DELIVERED THE INFORMATION TO THE DIRECTOR OF THE FBI. THAT HAS BEEN THE EXTENT OF MY CONTACT WITH THE FBI OR ANY OTHER GOVERNMENT AGENCY REGARDING THIS ISSUE." TRUMP TODAY DISMISSED THE BLACKMAIL ALLEGATIONS, CALLING THEM FAKE NEWS AND A WITCH HUNT. THE ARIZONA LEGISLATIVE SESSION BEGAN THIS WEEK WITH NEW LEADERSHIP IN THE HOUSE AND SENATE. WE "WELCOME" SENATE PRESIDENT STEVE YARBROUGH AND HOUSE SPEAKER J.D. MESNARD TO ARIZONA HORIZON. GOOD TO HAVE YOU BOTH HERE.
STEVE YARBROUGH: GOOD TO BE HERE.
TED SIMONS: HOW DO YOU SEE YOUR ROLE AS LEADERSHIP?
STEVE YARBROUGH: I SEE MYSELF AS THE PERSON WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR SERVING THE PEOPLE BY MANAGING THE PROCESS, TRYING TO MOVE THE LEGISLATION THROUGH, ADOPT A BUDGET FOR THE STATE OF ARIZONA, SERVE ALL OF THE MEMBERS OF THE BODY AS BEST AS I POSSIBLY CAN.
TED SIMONS: AS FAR AS WHAT YOU WOULD CHANGE FROM YOUR PREDECESSOR, CONTINUE TO DO -- HOW ARE YOU GOING TO BE DIFFERENT?
STEVE YARBROUGH: THAT'S MICHAEL HAGERTY OTHERS WILL PROBABLY JUDGE BETTER THAN I WILL BE ABLE TO DO THAT. MY PREDECESSOR WAS A HIGHLY EFFECTIVE PRESIDENT IN MY VIEW, SERVED FOUR YEARS IN THAT CAPACITY, DID AN EXCELLENT JOB WOULD SAY AND OF COURSE, GOT ELECTED TO CONGRESS BY PEOPLE IN DISTRICT FIVE. WE'LL HAVE TO SEE. I WILL HAVE A DIFFERENT STYLE, I'M SURE. BUT HOPEFULLY, IT'S ONE THAT WILL BE EFFECTIVE.
TED SIMONS: YOUR ROLE AS LEADERSHIP IN THE HOUSE. WHAT DO YOU SEE?
J.D MESNARD: I WEAR TWO HATS. ON THE ONE HAND I'M SPEAKER OF THE CHAMBER SO I REPRESENT THE INSTITUTION ON THE HOUSE SIDE AND HEAD OF THE REPUBLICAN CAUCUS, THAT'S MY SECOND HAT.MOSTLY I SEE MYSELF AS SOMEONE THERE TO EMPOWER THE MEMBERS OF THE LEGISLATURE ON THE HOUSE SIDE. I'M NOT INTERESTED IN HOARDING POWER UNTO MYSELF. I'M A DELEGATOR AND WANT TO SEE OTHERS SUCCEED. I SEE MYSELF AS BOTTOM UP LEADERSHIP AND SOMEONE WHO WILL SPEAK FOR AND ADVOCATE MY MEMBERS IN THE HOUSE WOULD LIKE TO SEE DONE.

TED SIMONS: AS REPRESENTING THE ENTIRE HOUSE, HOW DO YOU MAKE SURE DEMOCRATS OR REPUBLICANS THAT MAY NOT SEE THE SAME THINGS YOU SEE, EYE TO EYE ON CERTAIN ISSUES, HOW DO YOU MAKE SURE THEIR VOICES ARE HEARD?
J.D MESNARD: IT STARTS WITH OPEN LINES OF COMMUNICATION WHICH WE HAVE. SO FAR IN THE LAST MONTHS, I THINK THEY WOULD SAY WE HAVE A GOOD DIALOGUE, STANDING MEETINGS BEGINNING TOMORROW. WE'LL HAVE MOMENTS WE DISAGREE AND DISAGREE STRONGLY ON SOME THINGS. IT'S IMPORTANT TO REMAIN CIVIL AND NOT GET CAUGHT UP IN POLITICS TOO MUCH. I'M OPTIMISTIC WE ARE OFF TO A GOOD START
TED SIMONS: AND YOU ARE A PART OF THE WHOLE SENATE. THERE ARE THOSE THAT WON'T SEE THINGS THE WAY YOU DO AND THERE IS A PARTY REPRESENTED IN THE CHAMBER AS WELL. HOW DO YOU MAKE SURE THEIR VOICES ARE HEARD? THERE HAVE BEEN COMPLAINTS, AND WE HEARD IT ON THIS PROGRAM THAT THEY ARE JUST COMPLETEY IGNORED.
STEVE YARBROUGH: THAT'S CERTAINLY NOT MY APPROACH TO IGNORE THOSE FOLK. I MEDICAL TODAY WITH THE ENTIRE LEADERSHIP WITH THE MINORITY CAUCUS. THEY ARE PEOPLE I PERSONALLY LIKE. I THINK WE GET ALONG WELL. I'M GOING TO STRIVE TO BE EFFECTIVE IN THE PROCESS. THEY REPRESENT FOLKS JUST AS MUCH AS THE FOLKS IN MY CAUCUS DO. THEY ARE IMPORTANT. I'LL REACH OUT AND ENGAGE THEM AND OF COURSE WE'LL STILL HAVE OUR DIFFERENCES.
TED SIMONS: AS FAR AS THE STATE OF THE STATE ADDRESS MONDAY, GIVE ME YOUR THOUGHTS HERE. ARE YOU IN AGREEMENT -- HE THREW OUT A LOT OF IDEAS, ESPECIALLY REGARDING EDUCATION. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?
STEVE YARBROUGH: THERE WERE A GREAT NUMBER OF THINGS HE SAID THAT I AGREE WITH. I BELIEVE IF YOU PUT A GREAT TEACHER IN THE CLASS ROOM, YOU WILL IMPACT STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT IN A DRAMATIC WAY. I THINK THAT IS A IMPERATIVE. THERE ARE A NUMBER OF HIS INITIATIVES THAT GO TO THAT SUBJECT. I'M HOPEFUL THAT WE CAN IMPLEMENT MANY OF THE THINGS THAT HE SUGGESTED. IT WILL COME DOWN TO WHAT WE CAN AFFORD.
TED SIMONS: RIGHT. I THINK THAT'S THE QUESTION EVERYONE IS ASKING. WE CAN GO THROUGH THE LIST OF THE GOVERNOR'S IDEAS. A LOT OF THINGS WERE THROWN OUT THERE IN THE STATE OF THE STATE ADDRESS. WHERE ARE WE GETTING THE MONEY?
J.D MESNARD: THE BIG QUESTION, IS THE MONEY GOING TO COME FROM THE EXISTING POT OR ARE THERE GOING TO BE OTHER PLACES? I KNOW HE'S NOT TALKING ABOUT A TAX INCREASE. HE'S NOT INTERESTED IN BORROWING MONEY ARRAYING THE RAINY DAY FUND. IS IT ALLOCATING RESOURCES, WILL HE FIND EFFICIENCIES THROUGHOUT THE EXECUTIVE BRANCH? THAT'S WHAT WE ARE WAITING TO SEE FRIDAY.
TED SIMONS: THAT WAS WE ARE WAITING TO SEE, FRIDAY…ARE YOU IN AGREEMENT WITH THE FUNDING BONUSES, SIGNING BONUSES AND STATE ASSISTANCES FOR ALL DAY KINDERGARTEN? DO YOU THINK THOSE ARE WISE IDEAS?
J.D MESNARD: I THINK FULL DAY KINDERGARTEN HAS TO BE VETTED MORE. WE HAD A VERSION OF THAT TEN YEARS AGO. I COULDN'T TELL FROM THE SHORT PART OF HIS SPEECH WHERE HE MENTIONED WHAT HE HAS IN MIND. HE SEEMS FOCUSED ON EARLY CHILDHOOD LITERACY, READING BY THIRD GRADE. THOSE ARE THINGS THAT ARE A PRIORITY. HOW FULL DAY KINDERGARTEN WOULD FIT INTO THAT REMAINS TO BE SEEN.
TED SIMONS: WERE YOU SURPRISED TO HEAR ALL DAY KINDERGARTEN MENTIONED IN HIS SPEECH?
STEVE YARBROUGH: I WASN'T SURPRISED TO HEAR IT MENTIONED. I WAS SURPRISED HE ADVOCATED FOR IT. I WAS PLEASED HE TALKED IN TERMS OF STUDENTS FROM THE POOREST DISTRICTS. THE PEER REVIEWED THE ACADEMIC RESEARCH, QUALITY RESEARCH DEMONSTRATES BENEFIT FROM A HALF DAY TO A FULL DAY OF KINDERGARTEN REALLY ACCRUES PRIMARILY TO STUDENTS FROM OUR POOREST AREAS. THEY BENEFIT THE MOST. THE REST, NOT SO MUCH.
TED SIMONS: WITH $24 MILLION AVAILABLE FOR THE NEXT BUDGET. WE ARE HEARING FROM DEMOCRATS AND CRITICS THAT THIS IS BASICALLY LIP SERVICE. YOU HAVE TO FIND A WAY TO PAY FOR THIS STUFF.
STEVE YARBROUGH: WE HAVE TO WAIT TO SEE HOW THAT'S ACCOMPLISHED AS THE SPEAKER INDICATED. CAN WE AFFORD IT? $24 MILLION IS NOT GOING TO GO VERY FAR. IF YOU LOOK AT THE CONSEQUENCES OF PROP 206 MUCH OF THAT MONEY IS TAKEN RIGHT THERE.
TED SIMONS: WHEN YOU HEAR THE GOVERNOR SAYING THESE THINGS, LISTING OUT ALL OF THESE THINGS. YOU WERE RIGHT BEHIND HIM. WE SAW YOU THERE. WHAT WERE YOU THINKING? SOMEONE BETTER HAVE A GREAT WAY TO PAY?
J.D MESNARD: I WAS THINKING HOW DO I MAINTAIN A STRAIGHT FACE? IN ALL SERIOUSNESS, HE LAID OUT A VISION. HOW DO YOU GET THERE? IT COULD BE WE TAKE STEPS THIS YEAR AND NEXT YEAR. THERE ARE A LOT OF WAYS TO TACKLE IT. OBVIOUSLY, DOLLARS AND CENTS ARE A BIG PART OF IT. THE QUESTION IS, HOW CAN WE RE-PRIORITIZE WITHIN EXISTING FUNDS AND PLAN FOR FUTURE YEARS WHEN THE REVENUE IS BETTER.
TED SIMONS: DEMOCRATS BEFORE THE SPEECH CAME OUT WITH THE OF CAPPING THE MONEY AS FAR AS TAX CREDIT PROGRAMS. YOU ARE INVOLVED IN THIS LINE OF WORK. AS FAR AS CAPPING IT NOW AND USING SOME OF THAT MONEY FOR TEACHER RETENTION, TEACHER RECRUITMENT, DOES IT MAKE SENSE?
STEVE YARBROUGH: IT'S COUNTERPRODUCTIVE AND DOESN'T MAKE SENSE. WE KNOW THAT THE SCHOLARSHIP TAX CREDITS ARE BUDGET POSITIVE. THEY RESULT IN GENERATING MORE MONEY FOR THE GENERAL FUND. TO DO THAT IS FRANKLY, COUNTERPRODUCTIVE, DOESN'T ACHIEVE THE GOALS OF IMPROVED STUDENT ACADEMIC IMPROVEMENT AND DOESN'T MAKE MONEY AVAILABLE, IT MAKES LESS. BECAUSE THE AVERAGE SCHOLARSHIP THAT WE GIVE A STUDENT IS DRAMATICALLY LESS.
TED SIMONS: HOW DOES IT MAKE LESS?
IT'S DRAMATICALLY LESS THAN WE PAY TO EDUCATE THE SAME CHILD IN A PUBLIC SCHOOL OR CHARTER SCHOOL.
TED SIMONS: WE HAVE SEEN THAT THOSE NUMBERS ARE NOT NECESSARILY ACCURATE. WHERE DO YOU GET THE NUMBERS?
STEVE YARBROUGH: I GET THEM FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE ANNUALLY DETAILS. LAYS IT OUT AND GENERATES WHAT THE SCHOLARSHIPS ARE, HOW MUCH MONEY IS RAISED. WE HAVE A ROBUST REPORTING SYSTEM THAT DEMONSTRATES, I BELIEVE, THAT'S THE CASE.
TED SIMONS: YOU ARE THE DIRECTOR AND LEGAL COUNCIL FOR ONE OF THEM.
STEVE YARBROUGH: I AM.
TED SIMONS: YOU BENEFIT FROM THE PROGRAM.
STEVE YARBROUGH: I BENEFIT FROM THE PROGRAM IN THE SENSE…LIKE EVERY MEMBER OF THE LEGISLATURE. YOU HAVE A JOB. I HAPPEN TO WORK AS THE CEO OF A CHARITABLE ORGANIZATION THAT DOES GREAT THEY THINKS, BUT TO THAT EXTENT, ABSOLUTELY.
TED SIMONS: WHEN CRITICS SAY IT'S A CONFLICT WHEN YOU SPONSOR OR PUSH OR SUPPORT OR OTHERWISE VOTE FOR LEGISLATION THAT WOULD HELP YOUR BUSINESS, HOW DO YOU RESPOND?
STEVE YARBROUGH: IT'S THE MOST EXAMINED IN THE STATE LEGISLATURE IT HAS BEEN REVIEWED BY MULTIPLE ATTORNEYS FOR THE RULE'S OFFICE. IT'S NOT A CONFLICT UNDER OUR LAW ANYMORE THAN A TEACHER THAT VOTES WHO THE BUDGET THAT IMPACTS THEM OR A COMMUNITY COLLEGE OR UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR. ALL OF US HAVE AN IMPACT IF WE ARE ENGAGED IN A PROCESS THAT IN ANYWAY RELATES TO THE GOVERNMENT.
TED SIMONS: SO NOT AGAINST THE LAW, BUT DO YOU THINK IT'S RIGHT?
STEVE YARBROUGH: I DON'T THINK THERE'S ANYTHING WRONG WITH IT.
TED SIMONS: AS FAR AS EXPANDING THE TAX TUITION PROGRAMS, WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THAT IDEA?
J.D MESNARD: I'LL CONTINUE TO BE A CHAMPION FOR CHOICE. THE SCHOLARSHIP ACCOUNTS ARE TOOLS TO DO THAT. I THINK THE VAST MAJORITY OF MY CAUCUS, THE REPUBLICAN CAUCUS ON THE HOUSE SIDE WOULD BE SUPPORTIVE OF IT. THE DEMOCRATS WON'T BE. THAT WILL BE, I SUSPECT, A HOTLY CONTESTED ISSUE THIS SESSION.
TED SIMONS: SO YOU THINK THAT WILL COME UP AGAIN.
J.D MESNARD:IT'S COME UP EVERY YEAR I HAVE BEEN THERE AND I DON'T SUSPECT ANYTHING DIFFERENT.
TED SIMONS: NO SURPRISE THERE. HERE'S A SURPRISE. THE GOVERNOR WANTS TO ADD A YEAR TO TANF ANOTHER 12 MONTHS. WERE YOU SURPRISED TO HEAR THAT?
J.D MESNARD: I WAS A LITTLE BIT SURPRISED. I MEAN…WE OBVIOUSLY JUST REDUCED IT FROM THE 24 DOWN TO THE 12 MONTHS. IS IS IT A ROLL BACK TO 24 MONTHS? ARE THERE WELFARE REFORM ELEMENTS INCLUDED IN THE PROPOSAL? THOSE ARE THE TYPE OF QUESTIONS WE DON'T KNOW. WE ALSO DON'T KNOW IF THIS IS BEING DRIVEN BY FINANCIAL IMPACT THAT WE DIDN'T REALIZE WOULD OCCUR IN 24 TO 12. THERE ARE A LOT OF UNANSWERED QUESTIONS.
TED SIMONS: WERE YOU SURPRISED TO HEAR THE GOVERNOR SAY THAT?
STEVE YARBROUGH: I CONFESS, I WAS. IT TOOK ME BACK A BIT BUT WE'LL SEE. WE HEARD REPORTING THAT SUGGESTS IT'S ECONOMICALLY BENEFICIAL TO THE STATE TO EXTEND IT BACK. IF THAT EVIDENCE IS THERE, THAT MAY MAKE GOOD SENSE.
TED SIMONS: THE MINIMUM WAGE INCREASE IS MENTIONED A NUMBER OF TIMES THAT COULD BE A FLY IN A NUMBER OF OINTMENTS. THE OTHER SIDE IS SAYING, THEY'LL USE IT AS AN EXCUSE. HOW IS THIS GOING TO PLAY? WHAT ARE THE DYNAMICS OF THE MINIMUM WAGE INCREASE AS FAR AS THE BUDGET IS CONCERNED?
STEVE YARBROUGH: WELL, THE DYNAMICS ARE REAL. THE CONTRACTORS PROVIDING SERVICES TO THE DISABLED PEOPLE AND THOSE WORK IN THE CAFETERIAS OF OUR SCHOOLS OR TEACHER'S AIDES THOSE FOLKS ARE GETTING MORE MONEY. THAT'S GOING TO EFFECT THE BUDGET... THOSE SCHOOLS DIDN'T HAVE A BUDGET ASIDE… IT'S GOING TO DRAIN SOME OR MUCH OF THE $24 MILLION.
TED SIMONS: PEOPLE WILL HEAR THAT AND SAY THESE PEOPLE ARE SO IMPORTANT. WHY ARE THEY GETTING MINIMUM WAGE?
J.D MESNARD: THAT'S A GOOD QUESTION. ONE OF THE MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT WHAT MINIMUM WAGE IS SUPPOSED TO BE. I'M NOT SURE IF MINIMUM WAGE SHOULD BE…IT SHOULD BE A LIVING WAGE. IT'S SUPPOSED TO BE TEMPORARY. WE START SOMEWHERE AND WORK OUR WAY UP. SOMEWHERE ALONG THE LINE PEOPLE GOT IT IN THEIR MINDS IT SHOULD BE SOMETHING THAT YOU CAN SUPPORT A FAMILY ON OR INCREASE 50% MAKING US ONE OF THE HIGHEST IN THE COUNTRY, HIGHER THAN SOME STATES THAT HAVE… WITH A HIGHEST COST OF LIVING. I THINK IT WILL HAVE A NEGATIVE IMPACT ECONOMICALLY. AS LEGISLATIVE LEADERS, IT'S AFFECTING THE STATE BUDGET AND UNFORTUNATELY PUTTING US IN A POSITION OF LIMITED RESOURCES. WE HAVE TO PICK AND CHOOSE WHERE IT GOES. I WOULD HAVE LOVE TO INVEST INTO K-12. WE'LL DO EVERYTHING WE CAN AS THE GOVERNOR LAID OUT, BUT WE HAVE TO BE AWARE OF THE RESTRICTIONS COMING DOWN BECAUSE OF THE PROPOSITION.
TED SIMONS: LAST QUESTION, FIRST WEEK OF THE SESSION. WHEN THE SESSION ENDS, WHAT WILL BE THE HEADLINE FOR THE SESSION? WHAT DO YOU THINK THE BIG TOPIC WILL BE?
STEVE YARBROUGH: I THINK THE BIG TOPIC AT THE END OF THE DAY WILL BE THAT WE MADE PROGRESS MOVING THE BALL FORWARD FOR PUBLIC K-12 EDUCATION.
J.D MESNARD: I AGREE. THAT'S WHAT THE GOVERNMENT MADE HIS PRIORITY. 2/3 OF HIS SPEECH CENTERED ON 15 DIFFERENT AREAS THAT WE COULD LOOK AT. THE THEME WILL BE K-12 EDUCATION.
TED SIMONS: K-12 EDUCATION BECAUSE THE FUNDS WEREN'T THERE OR LOOK WHAT THE GOVERNOR GOT?
J.D MESNARD: WE MADE GOOD STEPS AND WILL CONTINUE IN FUTURE YEARS.
TED SIMONS: YOU AGREE WITH THAT?
STEVE YARBROUGH: I DO INDEED.
TED SIMONS: GOOD TO HAVE YOU BOTH HERE.
STEVE YARBROUGH: WE APPRECIATE IT.

Steve Yarbrough: Arizona Senate president, J.D. Mesnard: Arizona House speaker

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