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June 24, 2009

Host: Ted Simons

Capitol Update

  |   Video
  • Arizona Capitol Times reporter Jim Small gives us the latest on what’s happening at the state capitol, including the most recent news on the budget stalemate.
  • Jim Small - Arizona Capitol Times

View Transcript
TED SIMONS: Good evening, welcome to "Horizon," I'm Ted Simons. The governor's request for the state supreme court to force the legislature to submit budget bills they've already passed, that request turned down yesterday by the court, so what's next? Here with the latest is Jim Small of the Arizona Capitol Times, Jim, good to see you again.

JIM SMALL: Thanks for having me.

TED SIMONS: Fallout from the supreme court decision, what's going on there?

JIM SMALL: Well, what's going on, the supreme court said what the legislature was doing really was wrong, you know, wasn't in the spirit of what the constitution says as far as sending bills to the governor to be signed or vetoed. But at the same time they said we're not going to make you do it, even though we don't think what you're doing is proper, we're at the end of the year, only seven days left in the fiscal year when they issued the ruling yesterday and you've already promised that you'll be sending these bills by the end of the fiscal year, so we'll just let things, given the circumstances, let things go the way they are and so that's what's happening. Legislature's still holding onto the bills and they're still meeting with governor Brewer on negotiations on a budget, the same story Monday before the court.

TED SIMONS: It's interesting that negotiations and the talks continue. Is there any sense that there's movement, any sense that we're not going to have this last hour deadline game of chicken going on?

JIM SMALL: Well, when you talk to the participants in the meetings, you know, the senate president and the house speaker, they seem very optimistic that a deal is going to get done and it's not going to come down to, you know, the threat that they've been holding over the governor's head, which is sending her a budget with only a couple hours left in the fiscal year and making her make the decision to do I sign a budget I don't like or shut down state government. House speaker Kirk Adams said today he thinks the deal going to be done soon and the legislature won't even be working in July, so they will get all of their business wrapped up by Tuesday the 30th. So it still remains to be seen and what we keep hearing is that progress is being made in these meetings but no one is willing to come out and talk about how much progress, what areas are still left, what areas have been resolved, because obviously those are parts of ongoing negotiations.

TED SIMONS: And if we do get a situation where there would be a government shutdown, there's an interesting new poll out that shows the public would pretty much blame the legislature.

JIM SMALL: Yeah. It was a poll done by actually by a firm out of Portland, Oregon. It's a firm that’s, they've been around about 20, 30 years, but they've never really done any political work in Arizona and it's called more information I think or more input. And I talked to the pollster yesterday in fact and he said he wasn't commissioned to do the survey. He wasn't being paid by, you know, by anti-tax groups or groups supporting the governor's plan or anything. He was doing it actually as a way to boost P.R. for his company, in order to get a foothold here so he can do some political work here in the future and in that respect it actually maybe makes it, maybe the poll that we could probably trust the most because, you know, it doesn't have kind of ties to any of the camps and it showed that the public overwhelmingly would support the governor if the government shut down, not the legislature. They would blame the legislature, and right now even they say the governor has a better job approval rating than the legislature does.

TED SIMONS: And tt also says that the public would genuinely approve of the idea of a temporary sales tax increase.

JIM SMALL: It does. In fact a majority of voters surveyed of the 500 voters in this poll said that they would support a temporary tax, just with no additional information, when they were given additional information that it would be dedicated for education, public safety, healthcare, things like that, the number jumped up to actually 64% which is very large and it's in the ballpark with figures we saw back in March from a poll that was commissioned by a group of businesses that later put out that plan, the building a better Arizona group that later put out that plan that was going to target lawmakers to support the governor's plan and at the time people kind of dismissed the polling they had done, you know, saying look, it was kind of designed to get this answer, it's by the governor's people, so we don't really know how seriously to take it. But these numbers are very close to those and in some respects probably more favorable to the governor.

TED SIMONS: So you’ve got a poll that’s favorable to the governor but you’ve got the governor also, I know that the governor's office sees it's a win, but, you know, pragmatically speaking it was not a win because she didn't really get the relief she was wanting, so you've got these two things happening. It sounds like quite a split in the Republican party here. Is there increasing talk that the governor may not even run again?

JIM SMALL: That's been talk we've been hearing since March really, when she came out and said point blank she thought a tax increase was necessary. People at that time speculated, well, she's doing this because she's not going to run again, because why else would she come out and say this, you know, because she's pretty much assuring she won't win. That talk is still around and, you know, it bubbles up every now and then. I think honestly in the past week it's probably a little less than we've heard it, if only because lawmakers and lobbyists now are scurrying around trying to get bills through now that the logjam is running as fast as it can.

TED SIMONS: Speaking of that how fast is the legislature working and how much concern is there that these things they're looking at aren't properly vetted?

JIM SMALL: Dozens of bills are going through every day. The senate has been doing bills nonstop for more than week now. The house is. It has been trickling bills out through floor votes up to this point and it's since pulled out all the stops and has done several dozen bills on a couple different days. A number of lawmakers are very concerned about the pace of work and about the possible ramifications that this could happen to public policy, committee I was watching today, this morning in fact, in the house commerce committee, one of the republicans voted against an idea, bill from another republican and said I only had 18 hours to see this, you know, we haven't looked at the language, a striker amendment that came out yesterday afternoon in a committee voting at 9:00 in the morning, just not enough time to really examine the issue and to know what all the potentially unintended consequences might be.

TED SIMONS: And it sounds like Democrats, they're saying we're not a part of this, nobody's paying any attention to this. A lot of them are walking out of committees.

JIM SMALL: Yeah it's happened and kind of a political maneuver from time to time. If you've got a committee, majority republicans on all the committees, but if there's a couple of members missing Democrats might take a walk and leave the room because then they lose a quorum and that means the Republicans can't vote on the bills and so most of the measure is moving forward right now are Republican. So, you know, in essence you kind of stall things or you can kill some bills given the fact that there's not enough time to schedule another committee hearing right now. That happened this morning in a house committee and the way it was -- the solution that Republican leadership came up with was to appoint a member, a new Republican member to the committee in the middle of the committee who came on, sat down, voted on, you know, 10, 15 bills, and the committee ended and so that really kind of it rubbed Democrats the wrong way.

TED SIMONS: I was going to say, that sounds quite unusual. Last question here, the governor she still can veto any dog gone thing she wants. Is that something that you think or you're hearing at least down there could be part of her arsenal, toward the end? If they push her, will she shove back with veto power?

JIM SMALL: I wouldn't be surprised if it came down to it. If the legislature ended up they couldn't get an agreement and sent up a budget to her on the 11th hour, final day of the fiscal year, it wouldn't surprise me too much if that was the response from the governor. Anything is really possible at this point and there hasn't been any specific talk about that being a possibility, but, you know when push comes to shove I think, you know, you use what you have at your dispose and that's certainly, you know, her biggest weapon.

TED SIMONS: All right. Exciting times, interesting times, Jim, thank you so much.

JIM SMALL: Thank you.

Climate Change

  |   Video
  • What does climate change mean for Arizona? A new report details that. Hear from ASU researcher Nancy Grimm.
  • Nancy Grimm - ASU researcher
Category: Science

View Transcript
TED SIMONS: A recently released also report on climate change suggests that Arizona could be in for some rough weather. Talks about hotter temperatures, more severe storms, and deeper droughts. Nancy Grimm, an Arizona State University ecologist, helped prepare the report and is here to talk about it. Thank you so much for joining us on "Horizon."

NANCY GRIMM: Thank you. It’s good to be here.

TED SIMONS: The federal study White House report. What was your part in this report?

NANCY GRIMM: Well, the report is written by a team of authors and all the authors essentially have to approve all parts of the report but my particular role was that I played a part in a few of the sections of the report, including the section on society, the section on the southwest, and the section on water.

TED SIMONS: Ok. Let's talk about the southwest and how we are already being affected by climate change.

NANCY GRIMM: Well, the southwest is actually one of the regions that has seen the most climate change so far, the most warming I should say. The greatest amount of temperature increases. And what we are expecting to see in the southwest is an increased -- decreased frequency of precipitation or amounts of precipitation in the winter, of course our water supplies are coming from the snow pack in the Colorado, rocky mountains, and so that is already decreasing and we're expecting to see a decrease in the amount of runoff coming that provides our water supply here in the Phoenix area.

TED SIMONS: Now, as far as Arizona's concerned, I know the early snow melt is a factor as well. What else do we look at and what other signals are there? Because some folks are wondering is this not just the natural cycle of the earth going through different climactic periods. You're saying it's here, getting worse, worse than even we originally thought?

NANCY GRIMM: The report is very clear on that. While it's true there are climate cycles, they're on kind of recurrence intervals of 100,000 years or so, and what we're talking about is very rapid climate change, in the -- in industrial times. That is very clearly attributable to rising greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that are caused by human activities. And the report states very clearly that climate change is here now. It's with us now. And it is likely to continue. The models all project that it is -- that there's a certain amount of climate change that is already locked in, regardless of what we do, so there's a certain amount of warming and changes in the hydrologic cycle that we have to come to expect and we need to be thinking about as a society, what we can do to prepare for that.

TED SIMONS: As far as the droughts here in the southwest, are we talking longer droughts? Are we talking deeper droughts? Are there going to be more spikes in terms of droughts? Worsening drought means what?

NANCY GRIMM: It's harder with water to make projections and the models are less certain when it comes to the hydrologic cycle and this is particularly true for the southwest because as you know we have -- we can have very wet year as we had in 2008, 2005, we can have an extremely dry year, and so that's the natural variability that we have to detect a change again. The models are projecting that there could be more severe drought that is, long term droughts that really are reducing the amount of water available in this region.

TED SIMONS: Ok. And with that you've got everything from what, insect infestation to wildfire concerns?

NANCY GRIMMl: Yeah. As you know in a dry year we often have a lot of fire warnings around here and that's partly a consequence of for the southwest a very interesting story of the interaction of different factors that humans have influenced one of them is climate. We're talking about here. But also invasive species, or exotic species that are brought in that don't belong in the Sonoran desert. Two common ones are red broom around here and southern Arizona more common is the buffle grass. These species can really take off during a wet spring and then they build up quite a lot of fuel and the Sonoran desert is not an ecosystem that has really adapted to fire or has persisted in the presence of fire, and so this is a concern that if fire frequency increases as a consequence of hotter temperatures, drier soils and more of these introduced grasses, that we could see some of the characteristic species of Sonoran desert like Saguaros and Palo Verde trees disappearing.

TED SIMONS: We're seeing a little in the high country with Ponderosa and bark beetle infestation up there.

NANCY GRIMM: Yes, another example, because the bark beetle weakens trees and then they're more susceptible to drought and then when they die they are feeding fires so there's an interaction there of fire, drought, and this bark beetle.

TED SIMONS: I know you're not a sociologist, but from where you sit and all the research, there still seems to be allowed, if not widespread contingent of folks who think there is no such thing as manmade global warming. How do you respond to those folks?

NANCY GRIMM: Well, I haven't had to respond to them directly except from the report. We actually had quite a few comments from the public comments that came from these folks. And I guess I don't really know why so many people are so vocal about this. It seems that the evidence is quite clear, there's a very clear logical chain associated with human activities causing increases in C.O.2. We've known for 150 years that C.O.2 warms the earth more than it would in the atmosphere and so more of it is going to warm the earth more. What we have in this report is essentially every agency of the federal government that's associated with climate change in any way, with climate research in any way, approving the report, contributing as authors, and it synthesizes for the first time in probably a decade all of the known research, all of the best science about changes in climate, showing that those changes are here now and that they're projected to continue.

TED SIMONS: And we talked earlier, you said that the irony of all of this is that some areas of the country that could be or may very well be affected most are some of the nicest spots that we all like to go to.

NANCY GRIMM: Yeah, this is one of the things we reported on in the report. We summarized in the report, let's just take the southwest. This is a great example, because here we have a very desirable place to live. People want to live here because the climate's wonderful and so they're moving here in droves and we are consistently trading places with Las Vegas as the fastest growing metropolitan region in the country. People want to move here and so what you have is a sort of collision of rapid urbanization, increased demand for already precious water supplies and the specter of climate change with reduction in those water supplies, and this is one of the places where people want to live that's putting them most at risk of the effects of climate change. Another example would be the coast, which are expected to see increase in rising sea levels.

TED SIMONS: All right. Well, it's fascinating stuff. Thank you so much for joining us and telling us more about the report.

NANCY GRIMM: Thank you.


  |   Video
  • What should you do if you find yourself unemployed? Pat Harrington of the Arizona Department of Economic Security will talk about that.
  • Pat Harrington - Arizona Department of Economic Security
Category: Business/Economy

View Transcript
TED SIMONS: When should those out of a job file for unemployment benefits? And what else do job seekers need to know? Earlier I spoke with Pat Harrington of the Arizona department of economic security about those issues and more.

TED SIMONS: Pat, thanks for joining us on "Horizon."


TED SIMONS: The numbers, 21,000 jobs lost last month, jobless rate now at 8.2%. How many more people are you seeing?

PAT HARRINGTON: Well, we've been seeing steadily 11 or 12,000 new unemployment claims per week. Until a couple of weeks ago, when we saw 14,000 come in our doors. So we hope that that's not indicative of what we're going to see here in the next several months.

TED SIMONS: Compare and contrast to years past.

PAT HARRINGTON: In years past, we are at record setting levels. We have never seen this many people applying for unemployment insurance benefits. We've never seen this many people receiving unemployment. There are roughly 140,000 people receiving benefits now. That's way off the charts.

TED SIMONS: The unemployment rate increasing as we mentioned, but that tends to be a lagging indicator in a lot of areas. How about your area?

PAT HARRINGTON: It does. We generally see people coming to apply for unemployment insurance before they show up in the unemployment rate. So when we're looking for the bottom and for a return to normalcy in our economy, we will look for that number of new claims for unemployment to go down.

TED SIMONS: The help that's out there, the help available for job seekers, what do you got? What's there?

PAT HARRINGTON: The most important tool that we have is the network throughout the state of the one stop career centers. In every county and in most of the major cities there are several of the one stop career centers here in Maricopa county there are two excellent ones that are operated by the county. Couple that are operated by the city that also do a very good job in Pima county, they have a couple. And the rural counties also do a real good job with providing services.

TED SIMONS: When you say providing services, what are soft skills? I see this mentioned every once in a while. Is that when we're talking about here?

PAT HARRINGTON: Well, it can range from soft skills, which are, you know, how to conduct yourself in an interview, maybe refreshing somebody on putting together a resume, maybe somebody's been in a job so long they don't even have a resume. So pretty basic kinds of things. All the way through the notion of training for a new career and there is money available for this kind of thing.

TED SIMONS: It's interesting, some folks I guess in the situation kind of you need to know what your skills are but you also need to know what your interests are and what your capabilities are.

PAT HARRINGTON: Correct. And those one stop career centers all have those kinds of services that will help people find that out.

TED SIMONS: The most common misperception that you see or hear about from folks who just lost a job and they're facing the job market for the first time in a while, common misperception?

PAT HARRINGTON: The thing that we see most often is, well, I'll just go get another job. And so they wait to file for unemployment insurance until the savings or until the severance runs out and then it becomes a crisis. And it is difficult to find a position in these times. Not impossible. But, for example, we've most recently been seeing people receiving unemployment insurance for about 22 weeks. That's still not the 26 week maximum under the regular benefits, but it's way up from where it had been at 14, 15, 16 weeks early on in the recession.

TED SIMONS: As far as those folks who do though kind of get a jump on things here, are, are -- is private industry involved with training for specific skills?

PAT HARRINGTON: Absolutely. There's a partnership with private industry. Many organizations have those kinds of programs and they look to a partnership with government to try to say look, the more we can get people in who know what we need them to know, the more we can hire people. So it really is kind of a partnership that we try to work out.

TED SIMONS: Again, your service is free, correct?

PAT HARRINGTON: Correct. The one stop career centers that are operated by the counties or the city of Phoenix, many of the tribal nations, those are all free, yes.

TED SIMONS: Where does the money come from?

PAT HARRINGTON: The department of labor provides funding through the workforce investment act, through a series of different programs. This is one of these areas of government where there's just a number of different programs and that's the great thing about the one stop center. If you go into one of these one stop centers, what you'll do is say look, this is what I need and they'll provide it for you and you don't have to navigate this maze of programs.

TED SIMONS: I'm hearing federal money. What about the stimulus, a, and b, what about state money?

PAT HARRINGTON: The stimulus has been involved and we received in Arizona for workforce programs about a year's worth of money, about $42 million, to put out there in special programs. Each one of the local areas has a different kind of programs, big emphasis on green employment, big emphasis on environmentally friendly kind of employment. This is not an area where the state is required to provide assistance. A few states do, but most states are like Arizona, they rely upon the federal funds.

TED SIMONS: All right. Last question, most important thing for someone facing a job loss to think about, to consider, to do.

PAT HARRINGTON: As soon as you are laid off, file for unemployment insurance. Don't wait until the severance or the vacation runs out. You won't receive funds right away because the severance or unpaid vacation pay has to -- you have to go through that in Arizona before you're eligible to receive it, but that way we can work through any issues that might exist on your case, 70% of the cases that come to us have issues and so we can get ahead of that and by the time you actually need the funds they'll be available for you.

TED SIMONS: So if someone waits until the end of the severance and then files, what kind of lag time we got here?

PAT HARRINGTON: It depends on the kind of issue that it is. If it's just unpaid vacation, we can dispose of that relatively quickly, but if it's the issue of a dispute between the employer and the worker, one that's going to involve a lot of interviews, a lot of background, you could be looking at four, five, six, seven weeks before we're able to get through that, just based upon the volume that we have these days.

TED SIMONS: All right. Pat, thank you so much for joining us, we appreciate it.

PAT HARRINGTON: Thank you, Ted.