Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

May 3, 2011


Host: Ted Simons

Arizona State Parks

  |   Video
  • After several years of substantial budget cuts, Arizona State Parks are facing significant financial challenges. The agency’s director, Renee Bahl, discusses the impacts of budget cuts and strategies to keep the parks open.
Guests:
  • Renee Bahl - Director, Arizona State Parks
Category: Environment

View Transcript

Ted Simons: Arizona State Parks continue to face mounting financial challenges. The agency has not received any state general fund assistance for several years. This year lawmakers continue to take money from other funds the park uses. Earlier I spoke about the situation with Renee Bahl, Director of Arizona State Parks. Thanks for joining us on "Horizon."

Renee Bahl: Thank you.

Ted Simons: What is the state of Arizona State Parks?

Renee Bahl: Well, on the positive side we have 27 out of 30 State Parks open today. We talked a little over a year ago, and we were almost going to close two thirds of them due to lack of funding. In the meantime, we've developed a number of partnerships that have specifically kept 16 Parks open. So today, 27 open.

Ted Simons: OK, we're talking community partnerships here?

Renee Bahl: It's community partnerships with local governments, cities, counties, towns, nonprofits. They have come in and in some cases are actually paying us cash for the operating loss of that park, to keep that park open. In other cases they are providing in-kind resources. Probably our most successful partnership has been with the Hopi tribe for Homalovee state park. The tribe came in and has offered $175,000 to keep that park open for a year. It's open now for a year for the public to enjoy.

Ted Simon: For these community partnerships there has to be an agreement. There has to be a little on one side and a little on the other. Is the State able to keep the obligations going on these?

Renee Bahl: Well, we’re certainly trying. Our problem or challenge at Arizona State Parks is we need to be able to spend the money that we bring in at the parks, the gate fees. That's been hampered by our appropriation level. The level where we're allowed to expend money is lower than the money we'll bring in. We’ll bring in 10 million dollars, but we’re only allowed to spend 8.9. We need that full amount of money to keep these partnerships alive.

Ted Simons: We're talking $75 million in the last two years?

Renee Bahl: In almost three years, that much has been swept.

Ted Simons: With the latest sweeps, the enhancement fund, what is that?

Renee Bahl: It's the gate fees, when you pay to enter a park or to camp. It's used for operations and, back in the good old days, some development of state parks. We've had $2 million swept in fiscal year 2012, the coming fiscal year.

Ted Simons: So basically, money paid to the Parks has been swept into the general fund?

Renee Bahl: Correct.

Ted Simons: Also swept from you, millions from the state lake improvement fund. What is that?

Renee Bahl: That's a portion of the gas tax that comes to Arizona State Parks by law, a portion that's meant to propel watercraft. That portion that people use to fill up their boats comes for agency operations.

Ted Simons: Licenses fees, as well?

Renee Bahl: A little bit of licensing fees, as well.

Ted Simons: You have those two sweeps there. From a distance that sounds like a cash flow problem. How do you pay the rent, keep the lights, pay employees?

Renee Bahle: Well, first of all, we have almost half of our positions vacant. Three years ago we had 353, 380 bodies. Yesterday we had 169 and it's going down. We're in a very tight cash flow situation because State Parks needs to have the money in the bank to pay at the beginning of the month. Our revenues come in cyclically, typically in the Spring. But you have regular payments due every month, in the first quarter you have the most payments due. We're budgeting on a very tight budget right now.

Ted Simons: And you've also got, I would imagine, concerns with wildfires and increasing gas prices, would affect State Parks, would they not?

Rene Bahl: Absolutely, increasing gas prices reduce that state lake improvement fund because there's not as much user demand for gas. And our gate fees, the enhancement funds, people are less likely to fill up their R.V.s because it's very expensive, so then we see fewer visitors at the park. We get the double whammy with gas prices going up.

Ted Simons: Ok, the Arizona Parks are looking for new models of operation here. Some ideas splitting parks intog, quasi-governmental agencies. Seemed like the bottom line of the report seemed to be that privatization, something's got to happen there in some way, shape or form. Is that is how you read that report?

Renee Bahl: That is one way to read that report. We have had very successful partnerships with the private sector. They can add value, different concessions and rentals. It was nonprofit-based report. It found that the private sector is not going to be interested in those areas where they can't make revenue. So you have your core things, habitat, maintenance, law enforcement, firefighters, you're never going to make revenue off of those. So the private sector can step in on those revenue making activities, but the state or the public sector still needs to provide those core services. So we have to find a way where we can work together in a win-win situation. Bu really, the bottom line is we need a sustainable funding source, no matter how many private partnerships that we have, we need to have a system that can stay open that is safe and doesn't have this deferred maintenance backlog.

Ted Simons: The idea of public-private partnerships, though, it sounds like a lot of people in the legislature are saying that's not going to happen for a long while. And there needs to be concerted effort regarding privatization. How far can the state go? Are there certain parks that could be amenable to privatization? Could you name parks, give naming rights and these sorts of things?

Renee Bahl: Privatization is all in how you define it. It could be the entire park operation or a portion of park operation. In Arizona, we, the state of Arizona, don't own most of the State Parks land. It's a patent from the Bureau of Land Management, or a lease from the forest service. So we as a state don't have authority for everything that can be done on that land. But I think there’s ample opportunity to bring in more visitors and bring in more money. We have a number of concessions at big recreation State Parks, jet ski rentals, different boat rentals, equestrian rentals, those are adding value to the park for visitors.

Ted Simons: Some lawmakers are saying the continued sweeps in the current budget is also a way for them to tell you guys, you need to step up this privatization. You need to look harder at this and get going on this because that money is going to be difficult to come by, as long as they are sitting in office. How do you respond to that?

Renee Bahl: Well we started with - this will be a bureaucratic answer – a request for information. There was a request for information that was a solicitation to the private sector. What part of Parks operations are you interested in doing, so we can find a win-win situation. That was put out lWe've had the responses in. We've met with the different concessionaires that responded so we can craft meaningful agreements and requests for proposals. There's a win-win solution there but it's not just an overnight solution. Andw e have put other RFPs out and there have been no responders. We’re not going to waste our limited resources putting something out there’s no interest in. I think we're on a better path now.

Ted Simons: I know there are a lot of ways to create revenue. One of them involves "Arizona Highways." Talk about this State Parks guide.

Renee Bahl: "Arizona Highways" has been another great partner out there. Their main issue focuses on Arizona State Parks. The photos, as always, are completely phenomenal. There are stories and a little history and a lot of information about our state park system. In addition, with "Arizona Highways" there's the, if you get a subscription or a new subscription, $5 can go to the park of your choice. So we’ve been very happy to have that partnership with them. I encourage everybody to see it.

Ted Simons: Obviously a tough time for the parks right now. Is there light at the end of the -- Well, whatever tunnel you want to -- I mean, there is something happening out there that gives you encouragement that things could improve? Whether it's a new mode of operation or a new paradigm?

Renee Bahl: There's always light at the end of the tunnel. I know the people of Arizona believe in the outdoors, we are the Grand Canyon State. I think we'll continue to work with the private partners and public partners who can't let parks close for their communities. We’ll have a better park system long in the future than we have now, it's just going to be a really dark road to get there.

Ted Simons: Renee, good to see you, thanks for joining us. Tomorrow on "Horizon," the new speaker of the house Andy Tobin will talk about his plans for the chamber, and we'll get an inside look at the national high school mock trial competition held this week in Phoenix. That Wednesday at 7:00 on "Horizon." to see any previous edition of "Horizon," see what we have in store for the future, perhap, check us out at azpbs.org/horizon. Thanks for joining us. You have a great evening.

Department of Economic Security

  |   Video
  • Clarence Carter, the new director of the Arizona Department of Economic Security, outlines his plans and priorities for the agency.
Guests:
  • Clarence Carter - Director, Arizona Department of Economic Security
Category: Business/Economy

View Transcript
Ted Simons: The Department of Economic Security has a new director. He is Clarence Carter, and he was most recently head of Washington, D.C.'s department of human services. Carter has a tough job, taking over an agency hit with substantial budget cuts. Joining me now is Clarence Carter. Good to have you here, thanks for joining us.

Clarence Carter: Pleased to be with you.

Ted Simons: Before we get started, for those who aren't aware of DES, describe the department.

Clarence Carter: The Department of Economic Security is essentially the Arizona safety net department. Its programs that are categorical programs meant to address issues of social and economic vulnerability. So it's got things like child welfare, adult protective services, the unemployment insurance, the public assistant program called temporary assistance for needy families. It's all things for socially and economically vulnerable Arizonans.

Ted Simons: Is that too much for one agency to handle?

Clarence Carter: I don't think the issue is that it's too much. I think the issue is that the programs were not designed to work in conjunction with each other. So it really is like 51 separate programs. Part of my argument about the need for transformation of the safety net system is that it has to be much more integrated so that we can take a comprehensive approach to building the capacity of socially and economically challenged Arizonans.

Ted Simons: It was interesting because I note you do have this first, transforming DES. You see the almost separate fiefdoms, these 51 categories, and there almost is a need to shove someone into a category when they could be involved in a number of categories.

Clarence Carter: And not could be, but are. Many of the consumers we serve need multiples of our interventions. But the interventions were designed singularly to address one specific purpose. It is difficult to have those interventions work in conjunction to make a whole and comprehensive approach to addressing the challenges that individual or family has. Therein is lies part of the problem that has to be changed.

Ted Simons: So how do you blur the edges of some of these separate categories?

Clarence Carter: One, you can have certain rules waived with the forgiveness the federal government. They would allow to you waive some. But at the end of the day it'll take a major reconstruction of the system so that it can take this more person-centric and more comprehensive approach.

Ted Simons: Does it make it more efficient, A; and B, does it help in terms of funding?

Clarence Carter: One, it absolutely makes it more efficient and effective from the consumer's standpoint. It needs to be focused on moving the consumers through the system, not having the consumer reside in the system. Right now the way it works is we focus on the delivery of benefits, goods and services, not growing the capacity of the person to move beyond. It's absolutely more effective for the consumer, and actually from a budgetary standpoint, it costs us millions of dollars for each of the individual silos, if you will. If we were to take more enterprise approach, then I believe that we could redistribute the millions of dollars I believe are misspent towards actually serving people. For instance, we have -- many of those programs have their own technological underpinning. So literally, we have built the technology for each of these programs. Most of the technology doesn't talk to each other. We've made that investment over and over and over and over again. The only folks that have gotten healthy on that are the vendors that sell us the systems.

Ted Simons: The idea of it being a delivery system now, as opposed to moving someone through the system and getting them out of the system, it's a great idea, but how do you do that?

Clarence Carter: I think you have to first change the intent of the system. And part of what I have come here with the Governor's mandate to do is to reform the system and explain, first, that we need to be intentional about that notion of moving people through. So not just delivering services but moving folks through. So the first thing we have to do is say this emperor has no clothes. In reclothing the emperor, we do that from the perspective where we are changing the focus to be one from delivering goods and services to actually moving people through and building their capacity.

Ted Simons: It might take a lot of folks to find a new wardrobe for the emperor. And it sounds like DES is always underfunded, understaffed. How do you make those kinds of big changes with so few people?

Clarence Carter: Well, first of all, I would challenge the issue of it being underfunded. I would say that it's not clear whether or not we have all the resources that we have, because of the construction of the safety net. We spend the existing resources so poorly. As I talked about, in funding all of the individual silos, you are spending -- you're duplicating the spending of those dollars. If you took a more “enterprise” approach, you wouldn’t have to make those investments over and over again and you could redistribute the dollars to see if you actually had enough. That's one. I think, too, we do have issues with our labor force, from the perspective of needing to have more individuals to help us do this work. And so we are constantly out beating the bushes, trying to find individuals who want to serve their community in this way.

Ted Simons: Last question, real quickly: critics say the Arizona government in particular simply is not interested in helping the truly needy. This is what you're getting yourself into. How would you respond?

Clarence Carter: I respond by saying I don't think that's the issue at all. I think the way we are going about helping is what I understand is a challenge. The way we're currently going about helping is a protectionist system which is designed for people to reside in it, not to help them move on. I believe this legislature would be a full partner in trying to construct a system which is about growing human capacity and about moving people through the system.

Ted Simons: All right, very good. Nice to meet you, thanks for joining us.

Clarence Carter: It's my pleasure, thanks for having me.

Medical Marijuana in the Workplace

  |   Video
  • Employment Attorney John Balitis from Fennemore Craig discusses a new law that gives employers new protections in dealing with medical marijuana in the workplace.
Guests:
  • John Balitis - Employment Lawyer
Category: Law   |   Keywords: marijuana,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Tonight on "Horizon," a new law gives employers new protections dealing with medical marijuana in the workplace. Also tonight, meet the new director of the Arizona Department of Economic Security and learn about his ideas for reforming the agency. Find out about the financial and operational challenges facing Arizona state parks, next on "Horizon." Good evening, and welcome to "Horizon," I'm Ted Simons. Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio today named a new second in command. Jerry Sheridan is the department's new chief deputy. He replaces David Hendershott who was fired last week after more than 30 years in the sheriff's office. The termination followed a report that found that Hendershott lied, mistreated employees and used his position for personal gain. Arpaio today blamed Hendershott alone for the misconduct in the sheriff's office, and vowed to never again be sheltered from his command staff by what he calls an overbearing chief deputy. And, records released in a lawsuit alleging racial profiling involving immigration sweeps, show that sheriff's deputies circulated e-mails repeating stereotypes about Mexicans. The records also show that the sheriff passed along letters he'd received calling for racial profiling, with some of those letters sent along to top officials in the department.

Ted Simons (cont’d): A new law gives some employers a shield from lawsuits filed by workers fired for being under the influence of medical marijuana or prescription drugs while on the job. Here to talk about the law is John Balitis, a lawyer for Fennemore Craig. This is Arizona's drug testing law, correct? How has this changed?

John Balitis: Well, the drug-testing law is a platform for employers to gain protection under certain circumstances. It was enacted in the mid 1990s to shield employers from unemployment claims if an employee was fired for failing a drug test. The platform now is being used to provide protection for employees, to protect them if they are fired for being under the influence of medical marijuana and other drugs.

Ted Simons: What about the law needed to be fixed, the hole that needed to be plugged here?

John Balitis: The law was I think initially thought of as a law that would be a best in class law. It took into account mistakes other states have made in passing similar laws. And it included a lot of new provisions that other laws don't have, like an anti-discrimination provision for employees. But it didn't address a lot of areas employers had about implementing the law, addressing situations in the workplace, how to analyze or gauge impairment. That's what 2541 does, it fills those gaps. It helps defines terms and gives protection.

Ted Simons: Let's define some terms. A good faith belief that the worker is impaired. Let's talk about what that means and what impaired means.

John Balitis: Well, good faith belief is a belief that an employer forms based on certain observations, And 2541 defines those. Surveillance, discussions with coworkers, watching certain types of behavior in the workplace. Any type of reliable source that an employer can glean information from can help the employer find a good faith belief. In terms of impairment, 2541 defines what the symptoms are that employers should look for in trying determine whether someone is impaired. And they’re are fairly intuitive, Like, you know, problems walking, disregard for safety rules, odor, appearance, things like that. But at least it gives the employer a road map for what the law confirms they should be looking for.

Ted Simons: I'm a little confused here, because I know a good faith belief a positive drug test is included one of the factors there. But I thought the proposition said a positive drug test could not be used as a definition of impairment.

John Balitis: The proposition makes clear employers cannot take action against an applicant or employee simply by virtue of the fact, if they have a medical marijuana card, that they failed a drug test for marijuana. That provision remains intact in 203. It hasn't been changed by 2541. What 2541 does is essentially say, for those employers who want to be conscientious and implement drug-testing programs that meet a very high threshold, that satisfy certain criteria, those employers will gain protection. And if those employers look to, for example, a drug test as evidence of an employee being under the influence of marijuana, or using marijuana outside of the workplace, those employers will gain protection from the law. Employers who don't implement those drug-testing policies that meet the criteria, don't gain that protection from 2541.

Ted Simons: So basically, you can't just say, you failed a drug test, adios. It's got to be the structure of the entire scenario, correct?

John Balitis: Yeah. Well, in particular, I think one of the most important provisions in 2541 is the provision that deals with safety-sensitive jobs. Under the safety-sensitive job provision in 2541, an employer who forms a good faith belief that an employee may be using a drug that could cause impairment, gains the protection from 2541. And then cannot be sued, for example, for displacing, reassigning, even separating a worker in a safety-sensitive position. And one of the things the employer can look to, in determining if an employee is using a drug that could cause impairment, is whether or not they fail a drug test.

Ted Simons: So there is a different standard for some of these high risk jobs.

John Balitis: Yes. The safety-sensitive provision in 2541 allows employers to displace or move employees in those jobs, just by forming good faith beliefs that the employee may be using a drug that could impair. Other jobs that aren't safety sensitive still require the employer to actually see impairment in the workplace, based on the new definitions and criteria in 2541. So there are slightly different standards, depending on whether or not the employee is in a safety-sensitive job or not.

Ted Simons: Is that safety sensitive job, by definition, is that relatively clear?

John Balitis: It's spelled out. What the law says is that it includes certain types of jobs you would think are safety sensitive, operating machinery, driving vehicles and things of that nature. But it includes a catch-all provision which defines those jobs as any job that the employer designates as safety sensitive, or any job that fits into those criteria. So if an employer designates a job safety sensitive, by definition under the act the protection attaches

Ted Simons: That's got to be within reason, right?

John Balitis: Oh, absolutely.

Ted Simons: Last question: it sounds like there's a lot of common sense dealing with this in the sense of, if someone is impaired, whether it's medical marijuana or a prescription drug or cough medicine, for goodness sakes, it sounds like the employer now has a better chance of figuring out whether or not that person should be on the job.

John Balitis: The employer does. Because 2541 essentially says, you have more flexibility as an employer, provided you implement a policy and a substance abuse program that complies with the criteria in the statute. You gain protection, you gain flexibility to deal with workers in safety sensitive jobs and even other workers. If those policies aren't implemented, for employers who don't implement those policies, they will not gain the protections of 2541. It's very important for employers to retool policies or create them to take advantage of the law.

Ted Simons: Alright, very good, good to have you here, thanks for joining us.

John Balitis: Thank you, Ted.

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