Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

August 19, 2010


Host: Ted Simons

Domestic Partner Benefits

  |   Video
  • The latest on the legal challenge to an Arizona law that denies state health benefits to domestic partners of state workers. Dan Barr, an attorney for the plaintiffs; and State Representative John Kavanagh discuss the case.
Guests:
  • John Kavanagh - Arizona State Representative
  • Dan Barr - Attorney
Category: Medical/Health

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
The legal challenge to California's gay marriage ban continues to make headlines. A similar fight is taking place in Arizona. It's over state health benefits for unmarried couples. In 2008, Governor Janet Napolitano made domestic partners of state employees eligible for benefits. But last year, lawmakers changed the requirements, effectively denying coverage to domestic partners. A lawsuit was filed in federal court on behalf of gay state employees who say that they don't have equal access to health insurance because they can't get married. Last month, a federal judge agreed and blocked the law, saying it's unconstitutional. The state is planning to appeal. Joining me now is state representative John Kavanagh, who chairs the house appropriations committee. And Dan Barr, an attorney representing plaintiffs in the lawsuit. Thoughts on the injunction?

John Kavanagh:
I'm disappointed. First, it's a bad law. Bad policy in terms of who it applies to and it was illegally passed. Laws are supposed to be passed by elected legislators or in the case of referendums and initiative, by the people. In this case, it was totally bypassed and you had an administrator making an administrative rule on a major policy decision. And this is too common. We have talks about the Obama administration wanting to create comprehensive reform by regulation. That's not the way we do it in this country. And today, it might be a law you or somebody else might agree with. Tomorrow it might be one you don't.

Ted Simons:
Thoughts?

Dan Barr:
This has nothing to do with agreeing or disagreeing with something. It has do with what the constitution provides and this is purely a equal pay for equal work issue in that gay and lesbian state employees who have domestic partners have the same rights as anyone else.

Ted Simons:
When we hear the legislature has the authority or should have the authority regarding state benefit decisions, you say?

Dan Barr:
Well, I mean, this was a legally passed regulation and you know, my clients are not interested in the food fight between the legislature and the governor about who has power to do what.

Ted Simons:
The idea of who has power do what seems to be separate and apart from what a judge says is constitutional.

John Kavanagh:
I don't think a rule that restricts the benefits to a traditional parents and children is unconstitutional. Look at federal law, if the military if you openly say you're homosexual, you're thrown out, I mean, federal law is -- it's permeated with situation where is traditional families and heterosexuals are given certain advantages and that's not unconstitutional. So how a federal judge can fly from Alaska to Arizona, and based on reasonable purposes in federal law claim that our benefits law is unconstitutional is -- it bewilders me.

Dan Barr:
Representative Kavanagh read the opinion, maybe he wouldn't be so bewildered. The judge ruled that Arizona's -- Arizona flunked the lowest possible constitutional analysis, the rational basis test, which the state almost always wins under. And here, the state said that distinguishing between homosexual and heterosexual employees who have domestic partners is irrational. Distinguishing between people with red hair and who don't have red hair.

Ted Simons:
Why were you pushing that?

John Kapanagh:
First, I did read the opinion. I have it here. Not that long, I urge everyone to read it. Especially the insomniacs among us. We won half the case. The arguments by plaintiff, about due process, the just threw out. It comes down to equal protection. How can the military, the tax code and all sorts of federal agencies give preferential treatment to traditional relationships and how can a judge say we can't apply that to benefits for state employees.

Ted Simons:
How can a state legislature representing all people in Arizona deny health insurance to employees same-sex partners? Why was that important to do?



John Kapanagh:
Because we believe from a standpoint of policy that you don't give out benefits to everybody. The way this was written doesn't just give benefits to homosexual partners. If you and a friend a college buddy and one of you works for the state and he takes out a $10,000 life insurance policy and makes you a beneficiary and you do one other things, like a joint savings account, guess what? The state is paying for half of your health insurance. That's bad policy.

Ted Simons:
Bad policy?

Dan Barr:
If that was the fact, it would be bad policy. But it's not the facts. These are people in committed relationships and all the plaintiffs in this case have submitted affidavits they would get married if they were able to. They have children, financially interdependent upon each other. This is not some out liar case. The U.S. Supreme Court twice struck down antigay legislation from Colorado and Texas under the rational basis test and the judge in California struck down proposition 8 under the rational basis case as well. These are four cases in which the courts are holding that the laws are irrational and striking them down.

Ted Simons:
Why not a legal definition of marriage as a barometer for benefits?

Dan Barr:
Well, that would be ok, if homosexual employees had the option of getting married. What happens here is they get put in a catch 22. You can't get benefits because you're a domestic partner and there's no way for you to ever get them because you can't get married and they're in a different choice than heterosexual partners.

Ted Simons:
Does that sound fair?


John Kapanagh:
I have the criteria, it's in the lawsuit which I read and it clearly states that what I said can happen easily. You only the have to meet three of seven criteria to qualify. Like being on a lease and having a joint bank account. The policy is bad policy and in terms of the California prop 8, that judge's decision to throw that out was immediately stayed by the ninth circuit, not exactly a homophobic hotbed of judicial activism.

Dan Barr:
He stated his own opinion. That's inaccurate. Let's talk about the forest and the trees here. Arizona has 140,000 employees and retirees and dependent who is get healthcare benefits. Of those, only 800 state employees get benefits for domestic partners and that includes heterosexual and homosexual. Of the 800, only a small fraction are gay and get the benefits. It's a small amount of money here.

Ted Simons:
We have to stop it right there. Good conversation. Thank you for joining us.

John Kapanagh:
Any time.

Luke AFB and the F-35

  |   Video
  • The U.S. Air Force has named Luke Air Force Base a preferred site for training pilots to fly the F-35. State Senator John Nelson and Charley Freericks of Fighter Country Partnership explain what it will take for Luke to land the F-35.
Guests:
  • John Nelson - Arizona State Senator
  • Charley Freericks - Fighter Country Partnership
Category: Military

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
The U.S. air force has named Luke Air Force Base a preferred training site for the F-35 joint strike fighter. What does that mean and what will it take for Luke to get the F-35? Here to answer those questions are two men who just last week visited Lockheed Martin in Texas to get a closer look at the F-35. Senator John Nelson, a Republican from Litchfield Park who serves as vice chair for the house military and veterans' affairs committee. And Charley Freericks, chairman of the board for fighter country partnership, a community support organization for Luke Air Force Base. Thank you for joining us on "Horizon."

John Nelson & Charley Freericks:
Our pleasure.

Ted Simons:
The F-35, give us nuts and bolts. What does it replace?

John Nelson:
We have an aging fleet of fighters out there. Everything from the F-18 and 16 and going back five or six different variations that it will replace. It is replacing. The F-35 is a single-platformed fighter. It has three variants. It's -- it gets tricky. You have your convention takeoff and landing aircraft which the air force gets the STOVAL, which is the -- Charley? Short takeoff vertical landing aircraft and the CV, which is the carrier variant, but the base is the same. They have three modifications to that and it's that process that they go through that keeps the cost down and makes it easy to manufacture and develop the -- I can get into a lot of detail, but basically that's it. It's a supersonic fighter, flies at 1.6 mach. They have the variations for the fighter and for the marines, the vertical takeoff and -- not landing. It's a short takeoff and vertical landing and then the -- the carrier variant has a wider wing but they collapse.

Ted Simons:
But the interchangeable part aspect means you can build -- what? -- one a day?

John Nelson:
That's the whole idea. They've combined the construction process through three different levels and it's like a production line and when they're done with the mile-long production line they'll turn out basically one F-35 a day.



Charley Freericks:
One of the beauties of the weapons system, is the addition to manufacturing efficiently, it's a big chore to maintain the fleet. So having all the maintainers trained in the basic national form and tools and parts standardized for three branches of the military is efficient.

Ted Simons:
It sounds like stealth is the major component of the aircraft. The antenna is not external and these things.

John Nelson:
The stealth is the major component but the engine and variations very, very critical. But if you look at it, the -- all of the variants have stealth built in. That's a basic framework.

John Nelson:
Luke Air Force Base, the preferred site, what does that mean?

Charley Freericks:
The air force is in the middle of a national study called an environmental impact study, that is required of all federal agencies and departments if they do something that might have an impact on the environment. So it's under the national environmental policy act. The EIS is the acronym. We try to avoid acronyms. And it's a lengthy process, almost two years long, that starts with potential locations, including Luke Air Force Base. Many others. For both operational and training. And then it goes through a process of public comment, which happened early this year in several locations around the country. That starts getting refined into a draft EIS and in the draft, they start to cite -- approve -- the preferred alternatives and in this case, the air force has designated Lucas the preferred alternative for the major training mission and it's -- it's not over. It's a lengthy process that now requires the publishing of a draft EIS, which will come out late in year, hoping in the next 30-60 days. And then there will be public comment periods like we went through earlier this year for scoping the EIS and then result ultimately in a notice -- or record of decision. And the time on that is probably June of 2011.


Ted Simons:
Getting close?

Charley Freericks:
Getting really close.

Ted Simons:
The idea that -- well, let's -- will the base have to change? Will there be construction needed? Will flight patterns change and neighborhood restrictions change out there? What does it mean for that area?

John Nelson:
As far as the base, I don't know of any changes they would have to make. The plane is 51 feet long and about 40 -- about 35 feet tip-to-tip on the wing so not much difference between that and the F-16. Just goes faster and further and does more things. From a -- an environmental standpoint, the major takeoff is to the southwest anyway, I'm not sure if there will be changes to the flight patterns required. The information we have because of the power of the engine and the ability of the plane to take off with a load, there should be no real noise differential. So there shouldn't be any changes in that aspect.

Ted Simons:
And that's -- I want to bring that up because I know in Florida and I believe in Virginia as well there are a couple of neighbors and groups and such not happy with the F-35 and filing suit. El Mirage, a city by the base has had problems with the noise as well. How much of a difference will the neighborhoods hear?

Charley Freericks:
The noise has been hotly contested public reply but no facts are available yet. This plane is very new. They're doing the testing now. The requirement for noise is in the environmental impact study. So they'll carefully look at each potential location and analyze the noise and patterns and in common person language which is what I would like to consider myself, the noise experts that I've heard speak publicly and the Lockheed Martin presentation we had, for all practical purposes your a person walking down the street won't notice a difference between this airport and the F-16 and several in production. Noise has been rumored and realistically, it's -- you know, if you're used to hearing fighter planes in your neighborhood, you'll probably recognize this as a fighter plane still flying in your neighborhood.

Ted Simons:
Is that how you see it as well?

John Nelson:
Yes.

Ted Simons:
Is El Mirage still on board or is there still concern?

John Nelson:
I think there's concern, the election coming up with an issue between the sides on that specific. But I think until we have the EIS done, until we hear a plane flying, a lot of comments, it should go back around to Valparaiso. If the planes are coming in, over El Mirage and I've been there, they're at low power, approaching the base and coming in, looking to go downwind into the runway and not going full power. Will we have full power takeoffs there at some point in time? Probably. Somebody's got to learn how to do this. This is a single-engine fighter that these pilots have never been in until they go through all of the training, which is literally in the buildings, the simulators and everything else before they get to fly. So to say no, you can't say no. Never, but we will have noisy takeoffs at times.

Charley Freericks:
One the things we didn't talk about was why was Luke picked as an preferred alternative? It's a multifaceted decision in that Luke itself has great facilities and runways and hangars and all of the things you need to house 8,000 employees and do the things you do when you're the leading training facility for a advanced system like that, but more importantly, it's got a great relationship with the air force controlled -- the -- the Barry Goldwater gunnery range and an auxiliary field that's helpful in Gila bend and another training component that's used extensively on the instrumentation training in auxiliary one, north and west of the base.

Ted Simons:
And it's a major factor in the economy.

John Nelson:
A $10 billion industry in the state. Luke contributes about $2 million to the valley.

Ted Simons:
Ok. So we're looking at sometime before next summer?

Charley Freericks:
Between now and June, we're anticipating the record of decision to come through and expect it to be Luke Air Force Base and we've got a lot of work to do. It's a complicated political process. And I like your last point. It's a two-point plus -- a two point plus impact and it's one of the biggest drivers in the state as a stand alone and as part of the $10 million military industry it's important.

John Nelson:
It's inflation proof, which is a good thing.

Ted Simons:
We'll stop it there. Thanks for joining us. We appreciate it.

West Nile Virus

  |   Video
  • Arizona is leading the nation in reported human cases of West Nile Virus. Pinal County Health Department Director Tom Schryer talks about how to avoid becoming infected.
Guests:
  • Tom Schryer - Pinal County Health Director
Category: Medical/Health

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
Good evening and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. State health officials say Arizona is leading the nation in the number of human cases of West Nile virus. There have been about 63 reported cases so far this year, compared to just 20 cases in all of 2009. Here to talk about this is Tom Schryer, the public health director for Pinal county. Thanks for joining us. We appreciate it.

Tom Schryer:
My pleasure.

Ted Simons:
63 -- 50 -- compare. They're all in Maricopa County and Pinal county, correct?

Tom Schryer:
Correct.

Ted Simons:
And 54 here and nine in your county, Pinal?


Tom Schryer:
Right.

Ted Simons:
And 20 at this time last year in the state? What's going on?

Tom Schryer:
We're seeing a huge change and Pinal county, we had no human cases last year and this year, we're already at nine. So it's a huge difference from what we've seen in the past and certainly, we don't know exactly what the cause is. We see increase in the mosquito activity and that's how you get West Nile Virus. So that's one of the answers.

Ted Simons:
Would a rainy winter play into this at all?

Tom Schryer:
We had a rainy winter a -- a little bit of rainy winter last year, leading up to West Nile Virus season but it's mainly the monsoon season that's an indicator. Of course, you also have the issues of foreclosed homes and peoples and those are great pleases for mosquitoes to breed.

Ted Simons:
Why do we lead the country in this?

Tom Schryer:
We don't know. We have a lot of surveillance going on and -- in Arizona. And surveillance is one of the things that sometimes can show a little bit more activity than if the state spends a little less attention ton surveillance and they're not going to see the same activity. Having said that, you know, the state has been working hard with the CDC to figure out what's going on. We don't really know. We certainly know how to prevent it, which is the most important thing.
Ted Simons:
How do you do it.

Tom Schryer:
Simple. Wear long sleeves if you're out. That's hard in Arizona, but mainly dusk and dawn. During the middle of the day, it's not a big issue. And wear mosquito repellant, there's a million different kinds out there, many that are quite safe and they really are an effective tool.

Ted Simons:
From dusk to dawn be careful or just at dusk and dawn?

Tom Schryer:
At dusk and dawn, that's when the mosquitoes are out.

Ted Simons:
If you sun sets you should be all right?

Tom Schryer:
Should be all right. For my kids I spray them. And my arms just to be safe.

Ted Simons:
Talk about the range of reaction as far as West Nile Virus is concerned. Some folks get it and dent know it and some really do know it.

Tom Schryer:
The vast majority that get it are not going to know it. Probably feel lousy for a day or two. May have a headache or something like that. However, we're seeing a lot of folks getting severe symptoms and those can be very much like meningitis where you have severe headaches and neurological deficits and ending up in intensive care units for a substantial period.

Ted Simons:
From what you understand are these symptoms and conditions last or do they go away in time?

Tom Schryer:
Well, we've been monitoring for some time cases from previous years and they seem to last for quite a long time. It's unknown what the long-term effect is. It's a bit alarming when you see folks that are still three or four years later having a real tough time.

Ted Simons:
Wow. We talked earlier before the show about reporting techniques and how to know how many cases are out there. Physicians sometimes will wait until the symptoms become severe before reporting this is West Nile Virus. Why is that?

Tom Schryer:
One of the things we've noticed is that insurance companies are not willing to pay for the West Nile Virus laboratory tests unless there are severe symptoms. So, you know, that's one of the things that affects our ability to figure out what's going on.

Ted Simons:
Is this -- does this suggest there's a lot of unreported cases going on out there?

Tom Schryer:
Absolutely, the estimate the state gives is 140 unreported cases for every reported case.


Ted Simons:
The last question. Is there a feeling that the public in general is not taking West Nile Virus all that seriously? We've heard about it for years and seems to be getting worse and yet we don't seem to be getting that attention anymore. Do you sense that?

Tom Schryer:
It's tough to say. I think when they see these great stories like this, then they start to really think about it. But it's got to be in your face. You've got to make a conscious effort. I have had to buy the mosquito repellant and I should have it in my house but I didn't. So it's something we have to think about, especially in Arizona.

Ted Simons:
And keep the standing water from standing too long in backyards and all around the house.

Tom Schryer:
Absolutely.

Ted Simons:
Thanks for joining us. We appreciate it.

Tom Schryer:
My pleasure.

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