Government officials discuss Florida school shooting, min. wage, edu. funding

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Arizona politicians talk about what needs to be addressed to prevent mass shootings, a reevaluation of the state’s minimum wage and the decision to extend Prop. 301.

Parkland, Fla. school shooting

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School was the latest location of a mass shooting on Wednesday afternoon. The 19-year-old gunman is accused of killing 17 people and injuring 14 others with an AR-15 assault rifle, according to investigators.

Sen. Steve Smith, a republican representing District 11, says every time this happens, the government takes a harder look on how to stop it. Smith says he is more focused on the mental health aspect of it.

Republican House Speaker Pro Tem Rep. T. J. Shope says it is too late to submit a new legislation in response to the latest shooting. Beyond legislation, he says, the state can start to look into hiring more resource officers in schools and putting more research into detecting early signs of mental instability issues.

When shootings like this happen, the public turns to the government and starts asking what will be done to prevent this from happening again. Smith says even politicians will rush to implement a new legislation, but there’s no guarantee that the proposed legislation will actually be effective. The question is, Smith emphasizes, are you doing something to prevent another situation or are you doing something just to do something?

Shope agrees that rushing to do something is less effective than taking the time to figure out what needs to be done. Shope says he believes the root cause of issues like this is the failure to early detect those who have mental issues. The state currently has programs in place for that, but it’s hard to know for sure if they are looking in the right place.

Neither politician mentioned any solution revolving around gun control. Rather, they both agreed that focusing on insuring that every school has resource officers and the public is aware of signs that point toward mental instability will prevent such shootings from happening.

Minimum wage

Arizona’s minimum wage, which was $8.05 in 2016, rose another $0.50 to $10.50 at the beginning of the year. Voters agreed on raising the minimum wage ever year until it is $12 in 2020. Politicians are considering opening the vote again to residents to see if they want to change their mind after having more information than they had when they first voted.

“We had a professor of economics saying 60 to 70 percent of small business owners they interviewed either laid off employees or are not hiring,” Smith says. “Another 80 to 90 percent of these same businesses are experiencing price increases.”

The increasing wages are causing businesses to stagnate and turn to automation which means less people working. It’s not likely that voters will vote against themselves, but politicians agree it won’t hurt to give them the option after supplying them with the new information.

Smith explains that when legislation is written, politicians have the opportunity to go back a year later and tweak details if something isn’t working. However, if something is on the ballot, legislators are unable to touch it after it is voted on.

The ability to vote against the minimum wage increase will be offered to voters again, but legislators aren’t hopeful that they will change their mind.

Extending Prop. 301

Passed in 2000, Prop. 301 implements a 0.6% sales tax increase that is used to fund schools in the state. It is set to expire in 2020 unless it is agreed to be extended, and it is on the table to possibly increase the sales tax.

Shope says he isn’t sure if extending the proposition is the right thing to do at this time, but it is still a good idea. It will force people to come together and agree on something, he says.

Smith, on the other hand, is looking forward to both sides coming to a compromise to extend the sales tax increase in order to fund education. Smith’s largest issue when it comes to education funding is making sure teachers receive the pay they deserve.

T.J. SHOPE AND STEVE SMITH: Thanks for having us.
TED SIMONS: We have a lot of issues to get through but I want to start with what happened in Florida, 17 dead at a school there. Another mass shooting. Your thoughts?

STEVE SMITH: Well any time you hear this first thing you think about are the families, victims and so obviously, our prayers are with them tonight. We look for ways to try to, especially in the mental health aspect, try to stop this.

TED SIMONS: Any chance the legislature will address anything access to weaponry?

STEVE SMITH: In terms of this year, we’re halfway through our session. That will be tough, but each year we try to at least look at the mental health side to address things of that sort. We’ll see. Every time this happens, we take a harder look at it.

TED SIMONS: We are talking background check, access for those with mental issues. Even the bump stock issue with Las Vegas that seems to have evaporated. Is the legislators going to do anything about this?

T.J. SHOPE: First off, we just heard about this a couple of hours ago. The prayers and thoughts go out to the families, the students and the teachers I read about that had heroic action as well. As far as new legislation, we are beyond the filing deadline. This is actually the final week to hear bills in the House. Timeline, on that side of things, does play into leaning against that.

TED SIMONS: It may not be the majority in the state, but there is a sizable minority if not the majority that thinks something that has to be done. We’re getting school shootings on a weekly basis now. In Arizona, is there any chance anything will get done?

T.J. SHOPE: Supporting -- in this case, a school, whether it’s school resource officers, things like that, earlier detection of mental instability issues. Those are things I would like to look at. We were talking about budget, things like that. These are conversations that could transpire during that time, make sure we are devoting resources to the issues that I believe would make an impact.

STEVE SMITH: Not only that, but a lot of times when things like this happen you see a rash to write legislation, but oftentimes, much or all of the legislation proposed still wouldn't prevent the next thing from happening. A lot of people, rightfully so, want to feel like they are doing something. You said are we going to do anything? People feel if we wrote a bill, we did something. Do you do something that would actually prevent it or are we doing for the sake of doing it? I think a lot of what people proposed is not going to fix a legal gun owner, and I don't know about this case, but one that goes on the deep end, no legislation I have seen would prevent that.

TED SIMONS: Do you understand how some think you are shurgging your shoulder saying, that's the way it goes?

STEVE SMITH: I hope people don't think that. When you have cases like this, it’s tragic, but you have to have sensible legislation. Even under the Obama administration, many of the executive orders he proposed wouldn't have stopped the Las Vegas shooting or potential other shootings. There has to be legislation that has to actually do something that I think would get other people’s attention.

TED SIMONS: Is there legislation that would do something? Is it possible? Because what I'm hearing is no.

T.J. SHOPE: I have seen articles, especially in the wake of Las Vegas shooting. I still think we’re too early on this one. I don't know the specifics of the individual or individuals involved at this point, but I believe senator Smith is right. Often in this rash, we feel compelled to do something. I have seen numerous publications, things that occurred that people bring up, you know, probably wouldn't have solved the issue at hand, wouldn't have kept the person from doing something. The root cause of this, we have people who absolutely have issues, whether it’s mental or upbringing at home, whatever the case may be, earlier detection of those things would be helpful.

TED SIMONS: That's legislation you would support?

T.J. SHOPE: We have programs in place, departments in place. Are they looking at the right things? That would be my question.

TED SIMONS: Is that something you would support?

STEVE SMITH: You have to look at it. In New York recently a person took a truck and drove over someone. We’ve seen knifings. We have seen Bow and arrows. How do you legislate against crazy behavior?

TED SIMONS: We are talking about automatic weapons that kill, in a matter of seconds, dozens of people. I want to bring it up because it's a major story today and a major story tomorrow as we get more information about this., but it doesn’t sound like a heck of a lot will happen.

T.J. SHOPE: There are things we can do as far as making sure that the right resources are going to mental health. In this case, the incident happened at school. Do our schools have school resource officers, things like that. Those are the things I would like to take a look at.

TED SIMONS: They had a couple of resource officers at Florida. Didn't do all that well. Let's move on here. A resolution to undo the minimum wage or at least keep it where it is, halt the increases, cities can't adopt minimum wage and this whole idea of mandated leave for domestic violence, why would you want that to go back to voters after 58% have said yes already?

STEVE SMITH: This language was placed before my committee this week so we had an hour or two discussions about it hearing from people on both sides. What came out of it was striking. We had a professor of economics, who’s in the middle of a study right now, saying 60 to 70% of the small business owners they interviewed laid off employees or not hiring, another 80 to 90% of the same companies are experiencing price increases, compression so people expecting a raise didn't get one now. When you hear those things, that's alarming, we have the developmentally disabled community come as well. Representative Shope will know it's my gosh, 10s of millions of dollars of unforeseen problems because of the minimum wage increase there. There are a lot of things to look at. I have to tell the story I went to Wendy's after the minimum wage increase. I said what happened to your 99-cent menu? Because everything said it was $1.29. They said because of the increase in minimum wage, everything went up 30%. So I think a lot of people are seeing it's reducing employees, increasing automation which means less people are working, stagnating businesses, and now that people know more about it, $10.50 an hour, still significantly higher than where it was. Let's talk about it again and potentially vote on it again.

TED SIMONS: It doesn’t seem to be effecting the economy as we hear from the governor on a weekly basis of how great things are going. Where is the disconnect?

T.J. SHOPE: Overall in this country, we have an expanding economy. Arizona has positioned itself well to be attracting jobs. I don't disagree with anything senator Smith said and I watched snippets of the testimony before I came down today. I find it unlikely the voters will decide to go against themselves in that fashion, but I think there was a lot of misinformation on the leave aspect of the proposition last year, things like that. Perhaps it's something that can be brought back forward. I don't know that they will. I think Senator Worsely had the quote on committee said I’m not sure if they’ll overturn themselves. It's worth a shot because we have information that we didn't have before.

TED SIMONS: Critics will say, though, that you aren't listening to the will of the people. 58%. You’re a politician. You know what that means. That's a healthy yes.

T.J. SHOPE: Right. That is, and I preface what I said, do I believe that would happen? In reality, probably not.

STEVE SMITH: A difference is when we go to the capital and there is legislation written, if there are unforeseen problems with it, we can come back the next year and tweak them. If something is on the ballot, we can't. If there is an unforeseen consequence like the D.D. community or other things, we have no leverage over it. We can’t touch it. That's an issue we have to be cognizant of because once it’s passed by the voter, it's set in cement unless they undo it themselves.

TED SIMONS: So senate will probably approve it, then?

STEVE SMITH: Good question. We'll see. The committee approved it of course. I think it would be a robust debate on the floor. I think it could have the votes.

T.J. SHOPE: I would tend to agree with that. One of the things great about a legislative body, every year we pass legislation. The next year we come in, we have the opportunity to fix things, fix something we may have gotten wrong. It does happen. The opportunity is not afforded to us on propositions.

TED SIMONS: Before we get out of here, house education committee has advanced an idea regarding extending the current sales tax for education. Your thoughts?

T.J. SHOPE: My thoughts are this. Currently, we are at .6 on that tax, 301. If people have watched me before, I'm the president of a school district governing board. I see this having an effect all the time. I don't know, because I do believe there are other irons in the fire, other groups that want to look at different things like ballot measures, tribal gaming compact, other items going forward, the agreement that was reached with the governor a few weeks ago. There is going to be a soup that comes together, a pie that is going to show itself at some point, that's going to help solve a lot of problems. I don't know that extending this is the right thing at this time. I think we need to come in, right now we have election year politics going on. I would like to come in when we don't have that situation going on, work on what we need for K-12.

TED SIMONS: Identical bill in the senate or you will get the House Bill. Your thoughts on extending, increasing that sales tax?

STEVE SMITH: I think the Prop 301 discussion will happen shortly. There are reforms people on both sides want to see in it. You have a lot of school funding issues, a lot of big issues I’ve been working on for years in performance pay issues, and how we pay our teachers and what model they should be paid and how much they should be paid. Full disclosure, my wife is a teacher, my brother is a teacher, my sister is a teacher. I think there’s going to be a lot of discussion points for both sides. I would prefer both sides come together with the best language we can rather than hastily saying we'll rubber stamp it the way it is.

TED SIMONS: We are talking $650 million a year right now. Increase, you could get up to a billion. If you don't do it this year, you are up against the wall. It expires mid-2021. You have to get through 2020. Is it worth that chance?

STEVE SMITH: I’m 100 percent confident that when this is addressed next year when all the stakeholders are at the table. You have both sides that have tweaks at 301 as well. Many of them are very good. It's proper and prudent to have all of the stakeholders involved, and extend it when it’s proper.

T.J. SHOPE: Backing up against the wall, in my opinion, truly forces people to come to the table and compromise. I think that's a situation I'm 100% confident that we'll have something that is good, reasonable and something that’s been fully vetted on the ballot.

TED SIMONS: You believe that an extension not necessarily now, but it's still a good idea?

T.J. SHOPE: Yes.

TED SIMONS: Same for you?

STEVE SMITH: I think an extension of 301 will be very popular in the state and frankly, in many ways, needed.


Sen. Steve Smith: (R) Maricopa
Rep. T.J. Shope: (R) House Speaker Pro Tem

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