Horizon Roundup: KidsCare funding, County Recorder apoligizes for online behavior

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Gov. Doug Ducey will find gap funding to pay for KidsCare, a program that provides healthcare to children from lower-income families.

KidsCare is currently funded on a federal level, but Congress failed to renew funding for the program, leaving the state with two options: foot the bill or leave 23,000 without health insurance.

County Recorder Adrian Fontes has apologized for inflammatory behavior online. Nathan Schneider, a Democrat running for Arizona Legislature, publicly criticized the mail-in ballot he received from the County Recorder’s office in a Facebook post. Fontes responded, and the two argued back and forth in the comments section of Schneider’s post. Fontes has since apologized for what he described as, “inappropriate and rude comments.”

Coming up next on "Arizona horizon’s" journalist round table, the governor moves to save health insurance for low income families. and the Maricopa county recorder apologizes for inflammatory on-line comments. Those stories and more, next, on the journalists' roundtable.

Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to Arizona horizon's journalists’ roundtable, I’m ted Simons. Joining us tonight, Mary Jo Pitzl of the Arizona republic,” Howard Fischer of capitol media services," and Mike Sunnucks of the phoenix business journal. Governor Ducey has a plan to shore up a children’s health insurance program that congress thus far can't get around to extending. Mary Jo, give us the overview. What is going on here?
Mary Jo Pitzl: The program is kids care. 23,000 Arizona kids from lower income families. It’s a federal program and the money ran out because congress never renewed the funding. The big question is what are you going to do? Arizona has enough money to keep the program going into this month, maybe early December. Then we all sit around and wait for congress?
Howard Fischer: The problem becomes -- the belief is congress will do something, fully fund it 100% or some lesser level creating political situations, but the belief is that it will be there. Children are not expensive to insure. They don't have end of life issues and there is preventive care. These are in 200% of the federal poverty level, $48,000 a year for a family of three. There is not a lot of money involved, but to the extent kids get care, they don't end up in hospital rooms with uncompensated care in
Mary Jo Pitzl: They don’t end up in DCS caught up in the child welfare system.
Ted Simons: I was going to ask that. This is in terms of family and what happens afterwards.
Mary Jo Pitzl: It’s a bigger safety net question. When asked about it, the governor said we are waiting to see what comes out of Washington but clarified, we are going to support this. The office had a specific plan. They are shifting money they get from Medicaid to the kid's care. It’s enough money to keep the program going into March. By then -- if congress doesn’t act by then, we back to scratching our heads.
Mike Sunnucks: We have a challenge with the working poor. They are not poor enough to be on social welfare, Medicaid, those sort of things. What’s going on in Washington, they have been -- those chambers have been working on this, but they can't come to an incentive. It’s lumped in with tax issues. It shows the dysfunction we saw with Obama care. You have seen a few stories here and there. We haven't seen a lot of attention. Children’s healthcare, a little more spotlight on.
Ted Simons: We had five Arizona representatives writing saying let’s get this done. That’s what the governor is saying, that's bi-partisan. There is support for this Howie.
Howard Fischer: Well there’s support for this. There was one republic Martha McSally. You have Andy Biggs pretty much hates all federal programs, and then you have -- as Mike talked about, the complications. We had a tax bill dropped out. They are talking about adding mandates to buy Obama care. These things are wrapped up in everything else.
Mike Sunnucks: Republics don't care about healthcare. They want to work on tax cuts, repealing Obama care. A program like this, even though it’s popular, you have a republic like Ducey pushing for this. Republics in congress, and maybe in the legislature too, it's in their wheel house.

Howard Fischer: Let me throw out a point here in terms of Ducey. We had a freeze on kid's care enrollment when we went into recession when the state couldn’t afford its share. When this came up last year 2016, Ducey was crickets, wasn’t in his budget, wasn't interested until he was blindsided by Regina cob who attached it to a bill he wanted.

Ted Simons: As far as what the governor is thinking, rainy day fund, moving to access, any of those things?

Mary Jo Pitzl: No. His plan they announced, they are not going to touch the rainy day fund. They’ll shift money states get. You can get three times the bang for the buck. What if congress renews it not at the same level it had been? During the 2016 session, the legislature eventually renewed the program. this past spring, legislature has a footnote in the budget saying if the money comes in a dime or penny less than it's been, we are freezing enrollment.

Ted Simons: I thought one of the original plans, it could have gone under the amount by 2020.

Mike Sunnucks: That’s how it was set up. If he goes after the rainy day fund, he will face opposition from the republican caucus. They are not going to be onboard with that. You can play a budget shell game. There are republics like Andy Biggs, look at function of government, see this as Obama care and where is the responsibility in these things and that's where their push back comes from.

Ted Simons: Howie, the Maricopa County recorder got some criticism over the ballots that everyone got in the mail. Apparently the date didn’t suffice a fellow Democrat and a candidate. Of course the Maricopa County recorder responded in gentile tones.

Howard Fischer: In less than politic fashion, generally speaking people know when Election Day is. I understand the frustration, political folk back saying you didn’t say when it is. He fired back an f bomb. Obviously once that goes online we all get to see it. He ended up apologizing. This goes to some interesting questions in terms of A demeanor and B given our president, what is acceptable anymore in politics.

Ted Simons: A lot of hoot and holler here. This was unacceptable you just don’t do that when you’re an elected politician and serving people. We have an elected politician in Washington doing this on a daily basis.

Mary Jo Pitzl: It’s not hurting with his base. Maybe Donald Trump is the only politician left to insult citizens and get away with it. I pulled the ballot material. It’s on the insert, it’s not on the ballot envelope. A reporter asked why these weren’t on the envelope it’s because they buy these in bulk to save money.

Ted Simons: What’s he thinking?

Howard Fischer: He says, it's the nature of discourse on social media where people can speak against other people because they are not across the table from them so they feel free where you can call your opponent bad. You have seen this at the national level. A lot of politicians don't have an original idea in their body. You saw it with Marco Rubio, at rallies where there is vulgarity coming out, people at rallies, going after protesters. People disrupting a trump rally. People are more aggressive going after the media. There is not a lot of decorum right now.

Howard Fischer: That gets to the other piece of this, electronic. When I started journalism, days of hot type, a reader was unhappy, they could call or sit down at a typewriter or longhand write out a letter, think about it, fold it up or throw it in the trash. Now you whip out your phone, 140 characters later, it's gone before you think should I send that. It occurs with everyone. That’s why we get this discourse.

Ted Simons: Is there is a concern that people are concerned about the voting in Maricopa County? Do they know it's a mail in process?

Howard Fischer: Maybe there could have been better publicity on that. It was made clear in the materials I got. I set my ballot back. Can you always do more? Sure. Did it merit the response it got? No.
Mary Jo Pitzl: It’s an off year. We are not used to elections in these cycles. There is a lot of news coverage saying we'll move to voting center, all mail in. You can drop your ballot at a voting center. Vote there early over the weekend. We’ll see how it goes.

Ted Simons: Is he waltzing down the road?
Mike Sunnucks: His future as a politician? He’s a democrat. Democrats are always at a disadvantage in some races. If someone wants to spend money, he’s beatable.

Ted Simons: Howie, the town of biz by has lifted their ban on plastic bags because a lawmaker doesn't like it.

Howard Fischer: I would say they were bullied. Having edited a paper down there, I know the feeling of being picked on. This was enacted years ago. The town has a road that leads to the dump and the bags get caught in the trees and everything else. They thought, no plastic bags, paper bags with a nickel deposit. Grocer keeps some and the rest on programs. Safe way is the largest retailer in town. They figured fine. The legislature passes a bill saying containers are a matter of statewide concern and 1487 the one they went after Tucson on saying any lawmaker can complain to the attorney general if they think they are violating the law. State law clear, Bisbee back down.
Ted Simons: Does this make sense? You specifically focus on plastic bags and you are the state. What happened to charter cities, local interest?

Mary Jo Pitzl: At this point, those concepts are being challenged. Tucson being a charter city and the gun meltdown policy. This is all a bad analogy. This is all at the point of a gun for Bisbee they would have lost a quarter of the city budget. Forcing people into compliance, is plastic bags a big issue? It goes to who is running the store? It’s the Soviet Union rolling into check Slovakia.
Mike Sunnucks: If democrats want to win elections, don't all live in Los Angeles and Manhattan? It comes down to the golden rule. Biz by stood up for 30 seconds on this. $2 million in biz by is a lot of money.
Ted Simons: Who thought what happens in Tempe. They are looking to ban dark money and political campaigns.

Howard Fischer: It goes back to the point, when the Supreme Court ruled in the Tucson case, what does charter mean? If you are a charter city you can legislate local control. The court said we have case law when you hold your election is a matter of local concern. Disposal of real property. Everything else they said if the legislature wakes up and says it’s a matter of state law that Arizonans wear underwear on their head, boom.

Ted Simons: Is that law going to be changed?

Mary Jo Pitzl: Only if you change the parties in power.

Ted Simons: No one says -- I mean, you can be a republic and come from a small town and say I’m not so sure I’m crazy about the capital telling me what to do.

Mike Sunnucks: Liberals don't like our small town. The stopgap is to run down the legislature and say I don't like this. There are more lawsuits coming. You have communities that have decided not to sell tobacco to anyone under 21. State law says 18.

Howard Fischer: And we are talking about economic freedom here.

Ted Simons: This would -- this could hamstring merchants. You have a patchwork of rules. What are the chances of underlying law, conform to our will or else.

Mary Jo Pitzl: That’s not going to be changed. I would look for the next bill or bills aiming at a specific city policy.
Mike Sunnucks: When barrack Obama had the audacity to cut pollution in this state, we had plenty of republics that didn't like it. You have to use a plastic bag in Bisbee.

Ted Simons: What is the libre initiative?

Howard Fischer: It’s a wonderful sounding name, freedom, the whole thing. Coke brothers are big supporters of vouchers, school choice and recognize there are measures to limit vouchers. We have one on the ballot to say no you are not going to spread vouchers to everyone. The purpose of this is to show households vouchers are good. What is interesting about that is, I’m not sure the coke brother’s care about Hispanic households. The amount in the vouchers is not enough to send your child to a true private school, so there is fast, loose rhetoric here.

Ted Simons: $5,000 to go to some of the private school, that's a nice down payment. Criticism is that it won't help. It might help with the greater means.

Mary Jo Pitzl: A lot of them send their kids to catholic schools.
Ted Simons: Do you think the coach sense that there is some sort of support for this in the Latino community?
Mike Sunnucks: Catholic schools are cheaper. They can be reasonable. Especially ones in cities, Phoenix or somewhere else, snobby private schools we are eluding to. They think voters are not as informed. If you phrase things like school choice or show them how vouchers help people, you can move the needle a bit. There are those that criticize what they are doing, but I think they see an opportunity here. They are trying to set up a network that is outside the Republican Party to work on their issues such as school choice, such as synergy. They don't trust the republics because they think republics are there to get elected, and that’s true. They haven't followed through the healthcare promises that the tea party folks wanted. They see this an issue to galvanize support on this.

Ted Simons: What does it do to the fight here?

Howard Fischer: It means a lot of money is involved, a lot of dark money. Assuming the judge doesn’t bounce the referendum under the ballot. What that leaves the voters doing is saying, where this money is coming from. The candidates spent 4,000,000 and the outsiders spent 9 million.

Howard Fischer: If they can be successful and show support from Latino, they can take this to another state.

Mary Jo Pitzl: Expand the base for school choice; these measures would be a demonstration of that.

Ted Simons: Libre means what?

Howard Fischer: Free.

Ted Simons: Rand Paul endorses Kelly ward. Interesting.

Mike Sunnucks: Kelly Ward is maybe the front-runner in the American primary with flake gone. I don't think anyone would have thought that a few months ago. She lost badly to McCain and has been cast as a right wing crack pot. We can take him at his word it was principle, no room for him in the public party. Kelly Ward is getting support from people on the right, Warren Ingram and Sean Hannity and Rand Paul libertarian king. Shows maybe there are not so many people from the republic party running to get into the race.

Ted Simons: I was wondering where the other names are. They are floating out there. The word campaign brought on Ed Roland’s. He’s been around the block with campaigns.

Ted Simons: He’s big pro trump.

Mary Jo Pitzl: There is a lot of experience in how to run a competitive campaign.

Rand Paul’s says the establishment fears Kelly Ward and wants to ensure its conservative against the establishment for the senate race. Making sense to you?

Howard Fischer: Two republic parties, despite efforts of McConnell and trump to play kissy face with each other. We’ll see what the republic party is about in Arizona. If there are multiple candidate, Kelly can walk in 37%. It remains to be seen what the party is about in Arizona.

Ted Simons: Conservatives against the establishment says Rand Paul. Is he near reality here?

Mike Sunnucks: I think he is. I don't think they are afraid of Kelly ward. They are afraid of the Trump voters. We saw what was happening. There are parallels. Everyone thought trump would go off the rails. He’s in the white house. I think a lot of incumbents are afraid. They don't know if its anti-trump voters and republics will get killed or the party will be a trump party and folks like Kelly ward are at the helm.

Ted Simons: Does Ram Paul, does Allen at all… do these folks getting into this campaign behind Kelly Ward scare other people away?

Mary Jo Pitzl: I think so. You have to start weighing how much -- more importantly, you have to weigh what your chances are, but more importantly, it might say, if there is an intent from the establishment to defeat her, maybe they coalesce around her with one person in the pool.

Ted Simons: We have to end it there. Monday on Arizona horizon, on our new monthly consumer segment called spotlight looks at efforts by scammers to steal your money. And a futurist talks about the workplace of tomorrow. Those stories Monday, on “Arizona horizon." Tuesday, how art meets science at a local glass-blowing facility. Wednesday, noted anti-racism educator, Jane Elliott joins us in-studio. Thursday, the impact of the trump administration's efforts to roll back a ban on uranium mining near the Grand Canyon. And Friday, the journalists’ roundtable steps aside for a special Veterans Day edition of “Arizona horizon." That is it for now. I’m Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us. You have a great weekend.

Mary Jo Pitzl: Reporter, Arizona Republic
Howard Fischer: Reporter, Capitol Media Services
Mike Sunnucks: Reporter, Phoenix Business Journal

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