Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

February 8, 2012


Host: Ted Simons

Florence Copper Project

  |   Video
  • Vice Mayor from Florence, Tom Smith and a representative of Southwest Value Partners discuss their opposition to the Florence Copper Project.
Guests:
  • Tom Smith - Vice Mayor of Florence
  • Jordan Rose - Southwest Value Partners
Category: Business/Economy   |   Keywords: copper, mining, jobs, Florence, around arizona,

View Transcript
PACKAGE: IN NORTHWEST ARIZONA JUST OFF STATE ROUTE 95, STANDS A PECULIAR MONUMENT TO THE TOWN OF OATMAN. ODDLY, THE MARKER IS 15 MILES FROM THE TOWN IT HONORS. WEST INTO THE BLACK MOUNTAINS THE MINING TOWN OF OATMAN WAS ESTABLISHED AT THE TURN OF THE CENTURY. BY THE 1930s NEARLY 2 MILLION OUNCES OF GOLD HAD BEEN EXTRACTED FROM SURROUNDING MINES. THE PRICE OF GOLD AND WORLD WAR II FORCED THE CLOSURE OF THE MINES IN THE '40s. THE TOWN WAS DELIVERED ANOTHER BLOW WHEN IN 1952, A STRETCH OF I-40 OPENED CY PHONING OFF OATMAN'S LIFE BLOOD, ROUTE 66 TRAFFIC. IT QUICKLY BECAME A GHOST TOWN. [SHOUTING] ROUTE 66 IS AGAIN ITS LIFE BLOOD. NOSTALGIA FOR THE MOTHER ROAD AND THE OLD WEST DRAW TOURISTS FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD. THEY WALK THE BOARD WALKS. HANG WITH THE LOCAL GUNFIGHTERS. THEY ARE FOLLOWED AROUND BY OATMAN'S MOST FAMOUS RESIDENTS, THE BURROS, DESCENDANTS OF THOSE SET FREE BY MINERS YEARS AGO. BEING CLOSER TO NEVADA THAN THE TOWN ITSELF, OATMAN'S MISPLACED MONUMENT IS LONG FORGOTTEN, BUT THE TOWN IS REMEMBERED DAILY.

TED SIMONS: THE FLORENCE COPPER PROJECT IS AN UNCONVENTIONAL MINING OPERATION NEAR THE TOWN OF FLORENCE. THE PROJECT'S OWNERS ARE SEEKING PERMISSION TO USE SULFURIC ACID TO DISSOLVE COPPER ABOUT 400 FEET UNDERGROUND AND PUMP IT TO THE SURFACE. LAST WEEK WE HEARD FROM CURIS RESOURCES, THE CANADIAN COMPANY PLANNING THE PROJECT ON LAND IT OWNS AND LEASES. TONIGHT WE HEAR OPPOSING VIEWS. JOINING US IS TOM SMITH, VICE MAYOR OF THE TOWN OF FLORENCE, AND JORDAN ROSE REPRESENT OF THE DEVELOPMENT COMPANY THAT WANTS TO BUILD HOMES IN THE AREA. THANKS FOR JOINING US.

JORDAN ROSE: THANK YOU FOR HAVING US.

TED SIMONS: LET'S START WITH WHY YOU ARE AGAINST THIS PROJECT.

TOM SMITH: THAT'S A LONG STORY. TO MAKE IT SHORT, FLORENCE IS THE SIXTH OLDEST TOWN IN THE STATE OF ARIZONA. IT'S BEEN DOING THIS FOR 100 YEARS HAS IT BEEN DIVIDED? YES. WE'RE DIVIDED BY THE GILA RIVER. IT DIVIDES NORTH AND SOUTH. THE COPPER COMPANY COMING IN WILL HAVE MANY THINGS THAT MIGHT BE WORSE FOR THE TOWN. FOR ONE THING THERE'S NOT GOING TO BE THE JOBS PEOPLE SAY THERE ARE. WE'RE GETTING MORE JOBS RIGHT NOW BECAUSE OF OUR RESIDENTIAL AND COMMERCIAL BUILDING OUT FOR TWO HOSPITALS. THAT ALONE IS 175 JOBS AT ONE HOSPITAL ALONE. WE HAVE IN FLORENCE ONLY LESS THAN 4% UNEMPLOYMENT, WHICH IS FANTASTIC THROUGHOUT THE COUNTRY. SO DO WE NEED JOBS? WE ALWAYS NEED JOBS, BUT NOT ONES THAT MAY AFFECT OUR TOWN, WHICH WILL AFFECT THE WATER SUPPLY WHETHER IT WANTS TO BELIEVE IT OR NOT.

TED SIMONS: OKAY, WE'LL GET TO THE AFFECTING THE WATER SUPPLY IN A SECOND. WHY ARE YOU AGAINST THIS PROJECT AND THE FOLKS YOU REPRESENT AGAINST THIS PROJECT?

JORDAN ROSE: THEY ARE PROPOSING TO PUMP 15 BILLION GALLONS OF SULFURIC ACID INTO THE GROUND IN THE MIDDLE OF A MASTER PLAN, A PREMIER AWARD-WINNING MASTER PLAN COMMUNITY. IT'S BEEN FEATURED ON THE COVERS OF MAGAZINES, WON NATIONAL AWARDS FOR GREAT MASTER PLANNING, IN THE COUNTY SEAT OF THE SECOND FASTEST GROWING COUNTY IN THE COUNTRY, IN THE NATION. THIS IS ABOMINABLE. IT'S NOT JUST US. IT'S NOT JUST SOUTHWEST VALUE PARTNERS. IT'S EVERY MAJOR LAND OWNNER THE AREA. 16,000 ACRES OF OTHER LANDOWNERS JUST ADJACENT TO THE MINE ARE AGAINST IT. THESE AREN'T PEOPLE WHO ARE JUST POPPED INTO ARIZONA. THESE ARE THE PREEMINENT FAMILIES AND DEVELOPERS IN ARIZONA. AND 600 RESIDENTS. IT'S A BAD IDEA.

TED SIMONS: WE HAVE HEARD FROM THE FOLKS WHO ARE PROPONENTS OF THIS PROJECT. THEYRE SAYING THE BIG REASON THE LANDOWNERS ARE AGAINST IT IS BECAUSE IT WILL HURT THEIR PROPERTY VALUES. IT COULD HURT THEIR PROPERTY VALUES. CEO OF THE COMPANY SAYS THERE'S NO REASON FOR IT TO HURT THEIR PROPERTY VALUES. THEY CAN BUILD ALONGSIDE THE MINE WHILE THE MINE IS OPERATIONAL AFTER THE MINE COMES AND GOES.

JORDAN ROSE: THIS IS AN EXPERIMENT, CREATING FLORENCE INOT A PETRI DISH. FOR SOMETHING THAT HAS NEVER BEEN DONE IN NORTH AMERICA, AND NEVER, EVER, HAS THIS TYPE OF PROJECT CLEANED UP THE WATER SUPPLY TO PRE-MINING CONDITIONS. THIS WOULD BE A FIRST. SO IF YOU SAY WE'RE SCARED, THE LARGEST WATER PROVIDER, THE PRIVATE WATER PROVIDER IN THE STATE OF ARIZONA, IS SCARED TO DEATH THIS IS GOING TO DESTROY THE WATER THERE. IT'S A PROBLEM. IT'S NOT JUST US BUT BLOCKS AWAY FROM THIS PROJECT ARE RETIREES LIVING IN ANTHEM AND DELL WEB COMMUNITY. NEW HOME BUYERS, YOUNG FAMILIES. WE'RE JUST THERE TO SUPPORT THAT AND SUPPORT THE PLANS WE HAVE HAD FOR DECADES.

TED SIMONS: LET'S TALK ABOUT THE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT NOW. THE COMPANY SAYS THEY ARE GOING TO USE A CLOSED LOOP SYSTEM WHICH BASICALLY MEANS THE WELLS WILL -- THE WATER WILL BE CONTAINED AT ALL TIMES. THE WELLS WOULD BE TESTED. THEY WOULD BE MONITORED. THEY ARE EVEN SUGGESTING AN ONLINE MONITORING SYSTEM SO YOU AND OTHER RESIDENTS OF FLORENCE CAN CHECK UP ON THE WELLS AS YOU SEE FIT. WHAT'S WRONG WITH THAT IDEA?

TOM SMITH: FOR ONE THING, A CLOSED LOOP -- IT'S AN OPEN LOOP. IT POURS IN, IT GOES INTO THE GROUND, COMES OUT ANOTHER PIPE A. CLOSED LOOP WOULDN'T ALLOW IT OUT IN THE FIRST PLACE. SECOND OF ALL THIS IS NOT NEAR FLORENCE. THIS IS IN THE GEOGRAPHIC CENTER OF OUR TOWN. LIKE I MENTIONED BEFORE, WOULD SCOTTSDALE ALLOW THAT? I DON’T THINK SO.

TED SIMONS: WHEN WAS THAT LAND ANNEXED?

TOM SMITH: OH -- IT WAS WHEN HARRISON MERRILL BOUGHT ALL THAT PROPERTY AND THE TOWN WENT ON THE LIMB TO PUT OUT OVER $1 MILLION WORTH OF BONDS SO THAT COULD BE DEVELOPED INTO A HOUSING AND COMMERCIAL AREA. VOTED ON BY THE TOWN OF FLORENCE, ALL THE PEOPLE. THEY VOTED TO DO THAT. TO TAKE IT AWAY FROM THE MINING DISTRICT.

JORDAN ROSE: AND 15 YEARS AGO, THIS SITE WAS USED AS A TEST PILOT, RIGHT, FOR POTENTIAL COPPER MINING PROJECT. FROM THAT TEST, WHICH WAS JUST DONE FOR 100 DAYS WITH 13 WELL SITES, WE'RE TALKING ABOUT 20 YEARS OF PROPOSED ACID, RISKY ACID PROCESS, FOR 20 YEARS OVER APPROXIMATELY 2,000 WELL SITES. FROM JUST THOSE 13 WE'RE STILL SEEING SEEPMENT. IN FACT, ON JANUARY 23RD THEY REPORTED SULFATE LEVELS, THOSE ARE DANGEROUS THINGS, THAT EXCEEDED STANDARDS BY 12 TIMES. THERE'S RADIOACTIVE MATERIAL IN THE GROUND. THE EPA HAS STATED THAT.

TED SIMONS: WE ASKED THE CEO ABOUT THE RADIO CHEMICALS. HE SAID HE HAS NEVER HEARD OF IT. THAT'S NOT TRUE. HE SAYS BASICALLY IT'S NOT TRUE. HE ALSO SAYS THAT THE FORMER OWNERS HAVE DONE TESTS THERE ON AND OFF FOR 14 YEARS AND NEVER ONCE HAVE THERE BEEN WATER IMPAIRMENT ISSUES.

JORDAN ROSE: THAT'S JUST ABSOLUTELY FALSE. IN FACT BHP, THE FORMER OWNERS, HAVE REPORTED AND ADMITTED TO 26 EXCEEDENSES. THERE WAS ONE THE WEEK BEFORE HE CAME ON YOUR PROGRAM AND STATED THAT. HIS COMPANY WROTE A LETTER TO THE EPA TALKING ABOUT THE 12 TIMES THE LEVEL OF SULFATES. THIS IS THE EPA REPORT. IT SAYS HERE THAT THERE ARE RADIOACTIVE CHEMICALS IN THE GROUND AND THEY ARE LEACHABLE. EVEN IN 2005 THERE WERE REPORTS TO ADEQ THAT THOSE CHEMICALS WERE LEACHING. IT'S A PROBLEM. THAT'S JUST NOT TRUE.

TED SIMONS: HE SAYS GRANTED ALL THE MAJOR ADQ AND EPA, ENVIRONMENTAL OPERATING PERMITS HAVE BEEN GRANTED. THERE TWO-THIRDS THROUGH THE PERMITTING PROCESS. IT IS JUST BASICALLY ANSWERING QUESTIONS FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY. THE CITY COMMISSION HAD THIRD PARTY REVIEW ON THIS. JUDGING FROM WHAT I SAW THE REVIEW IN GENERAL SAYS THAT MINING OPERATION IS CONSISTENT WITH YOUR GENERAL PLAN.

JORDAN ROSE: THEY DIDN'T.

TED SIMONS: THEY DID NOT SAY THAT?

TOM SMITH: OUR GENERAL PLAN WHICH WAS VOTED ON BY THE PEOPLE OF FLORENCE --

JORDAN ROSE: BY 71% APPROVAL.

TOM SMITH: HAS NOTHING IN THERE ABOUT MINING ANY MORE.

TED SIMONS: BUT I THINK WHAT THE THIRD PARTY REVIEW AGAIN IS SAYING IS THAT IT WOULD BE CONSISTENT WITH THE GENERAL PLAN.

JORDAN ROSE: IT DID NOT SAY THAT. IN FACT IF YOU LOOK AT THAT REPORT THAT WAS DONE FOR THE TOWN OF FLORENCE, IT'S RIDDLED WITH QUESTIONS AND PROBLEMS THAT THE CUREIS NEEDS TO ANSWER AND RESPOND TO. THE EPA REVOKED THEIR PERMIT IN 2010. IT’S BEEN REVOKED. ADEQ, THEY ARE RESUBMITTING EVERYTHING. IT’S JUST NOT THE CASE.

TED SIMONS: DID THE THIRD PARTY REVIEW NOT SAY THE GROUNDWATER FLOWS WOULD POSE NO SUBSTANTIVE PROBLEMS, NO IMPACT ON THE SAFETY OF THE CITY'S DRINKING WATER, NO IMPACT IF THE CITY UPDATES OR MODERNIZES.

JORDAN ROSE: I THINK THAT WOULD BE VERY MUCH TAKEN OUT OF CONTEXT. IF YOU LOOK AT THE CONTEXT OF THAT REPORT AND THAT THIRD PARTY REVIEW MAY IN FACT NEED TO CLARIFY THAT BECAUSE THEY ABSOLUTELY DID NOT SAY THIS WAS IN THE BEST INTERESTS OF FLORENCE. THE COUNCIL TOOK THE THIRD PARTY REVIEW, WHICH WAS DONE FOR THEM, IT'S THEIR CONSULTANT, AND DETERMINED UNANIMOUSLY AND TWICE NOW IN THE LAST EIGHT MONTHS VOTED TO DENY THE PROJECT.

TED SIMONS: STATE LAND DEPARTMENT SAYS THEY FOUND NO SUBSTANTIVE ENVIRONMENTAL THREAT ON THIS, NOT ONLY THAT BUT THE LAND DEPARTMENT SAYS THAT THIS MAY WELL BRING IN MORE MONEY TO THE STATE THAN ANY PARCEL OF LAND THE STATE LAND DEPARTMENT HAS DEALT WITH IN THE PAST.

TOM SMITH: DID THE LAND DEPARTMENT STATE ANYTHING ABOUT THE STATE OF ARIZONA TAX BENEFIT TO COPPER COMPANIES WHICH WOULD DEDUCT A LOT FROM THAT?

TED SIMONS: IT WOULD DEDUCT A LOT. THAT'S A WHOLE DIFFERENT TOPIC. BUT THEY ARE SAYING IT WOULD BRING IN MAYBE $100 MILLION IN ROYALTIES.

JORDAN ROSE: BUT THIS PARTICULAR PROPERTY, THIS 160 ACRES, THE BENEFICIARY OF THIS PROPERTY IS NOT THE SCHOOLS. IT'S NOT THE TAXPAYERS IN ARIZONA. YOU KNOW WHAT IT IS? IT'S THE GOVERNMENT SUBSIDIZED RETIREMENT HOME IN PRESCOTT AND THE PUBLIC PRISON SYSTEM. THIS IS NOT THE SCHOOLS. THIS IS NOT ANYTHING LIKE THAT. IN FACT DOWNSTREAM OF WHERE THE POLLUTION WOULD FLOW IS ABOUT 12,000 ACRES OF STATE LAND, MOST OF WHICH IS BENEFITING THE SCHOOLS. THAT WILL ALL BE DIMINISHED IN VALUE. I THINK THE STATE LAND DEPARTMENT AS THEY GO THROUGH THEIR PROCESS, THEY HAVEN'T STATED WHETHER THEY ARE FOR OR AGAINST, THEY’RE IN THE EXPLORATION PHASE. WE WOULD VERY MUCH HOPE THEY WOULD RECOGNIZE LOCAL CONTROL AND PRIVATE PROPERTY RIGHTS AS WE HAVE IN THE STATE FOREVER.

TED SIMONS: WELL WE COULD SAY IF THEY HAVEN'T MADE A DECISION YET THEY SEEM TO BE SUPPORTIVE AND VERY MUCH SO. THE QUOTES ON THIS ARE NOT VERY CRITICAL, THE QUOTES ARE STRONGLY IN SUPPORT.

JORDAN ROSE: IN FACT, TED, IF YOU READ THE LETTERS FROM STATE LAND, THEY ALWAYS SAY THEY ARE STILL LOOKING INTO THE PROJECT AND WILL MAKE A DETERMINATION. OUR ENVIRONMENTAL -- LET'S LOOK AT THIS. THINK ABOUT IT. IF WE WERE TALKING ABOUT -- THIS IS ALMOST RIDICULOUS. IF WE WERE TALKING ABOUT DESERT RIDGE, PREEMINENT MASTER PLAN COMMUNITY IN THE CITY OF PHOENIX, WHERE STATE LAND HAS SOME PARCELS. IF FOR SOME REASON THEY DECIDED TO MINE COPPER IN THE MIDDLE OF DESERT RIDGE, WHICH IS EXACTLY ANALOGOUS TO THIS SITUATION, WE WOULDN'T BE HAVING THIS CONVERSATION.

TED SIMONS: ALTHOUGH WE COULD SAFELY SAY THIS AREA OF FLORENCE AND HIGHWAY IS NOT -- THE PLANS ARE FOR IT TO BE SIMILAR TO DESERT RIDGE BUT IT'S NOT QUITE THERE YET. WITH THAT IN MIND, LETS TALK ABOUT HAOUSING. YOU MENTIONED AT THE START OF THE INTERVIEW HOUSING WOULD BE PREFERABLE TO THIS MINING OPERATION. FROM WHAT I UNDERSTAND THIS MINING OPERATION IS NOT INVASIVE, NOT OPEN PIT, YOU WON'T HAVE THE NOISE, THE EMISSIONS, THE BIG TRUCKS, AND THOSE SORT OF THINGS, A. AND B, IN A HOUSING MARKET THAT IS SO DEPRESSED PROPONENTS OF THE MINES SAY THE BETTER IDEA IS TO GO AHEAD AND REAP THE BENEFITS OF THE MINE, HOUSING MARKET RETURNS, HALFWAY THROUGH THE PROJECT, END OF THE PROJECT, YOU HAVE YOUR HOUSING PROJECT ON LAND THAT IS BARELY SCARRED.

TOM SMITH: LET ME ANSWER THAT ONE. FIRST YOU HAVE TO REALIZE THERE'S NO SECOND LIFE TO THIS PROPERTY. WHEN THE MINE IS FINISHED, IT WILL BE RIDDLED WITH WELLS, CAPPED WELLS. SECONDLY, THERE'S GOING TO BE HUGE HOLDING PONDS THAT ARE A CITY BLOCK BIG. 40 FEET HIGH.

JORDAN ROSE: 96 ACRES OF THEM.

TOM SMITH: THEY WILL BE COVERED OVER WITH ALL THESE RESIDUES FROM THE MINE WHICH ARE GOING TO BE RADIOACTIVE, IT'S ALREADY BEEN PROVEN, AND MANY OTHERS, BENZENE, ANOTHER ONE. THERES A LOT IN THERE. THEY WILL BE IN THAT POND DRYING OUT. THEY WILL BE COVERED OVER, BURIED AND LEFT THERE. ARE YOU GOING TO PUT A KIDS' PLAYGROUND ON TOP OF THAT?

TED SIMONS: THEY’RE SAYING THAT BALL FIELDS, SOCCER FIELDS, AGRICULTURE, IT COULD ALL GO THERE.

JORDAN ROSE: CRAZY. IT'S CRAZY.

TOM SMITH: I WOULDN'T WANT MY KIDS PLAYING ON IT.

TED SIMONS: SO BASICALLY IF YOU CAP THE MINES AND PUT CEMENT DOWN THEM, COVER THEM WITH VEGETATION, YOU'RE SAYING THAT CAN'T BE DONE?

TOM SMITH: HOW CAN YOU PUT HOMES OR FOUNDATIONS ON TOP OF WELLS THAT ARE CAPPED WITH CONCRETE?

TED SIMONS: HOW ABOUT ADJACENT TO THEM?

TOM SMITH: IT COVERS THE WHOLE PIECE IF WE LET THEM DO IT.

JORDAN ROSE: IT'S JUST A FARCE. THEY ARE GOING TO ROLL UP THE TOXIC CHEMICAL HOLDING PONDS AND LEAVE THEM THERE AND BURY THEM. I'M NOT HAVING MY KIDS PLAY ON THAT. THAT'S CRAZY.

TED SIMONS: YOU HAD A CITIZEN SURVEY THAT SHOWED 36% OF THOSE SURVEYED IN THE TOWN OF FLORENCE THOUGHT THIS WAS A GOOD IDEA. 32, CLOSE, 32% THOUGHT IT WASN'T A GOOD IDEA. 28 WERE UNDECIDED. 36. IN THIS CITIZEN SURVEY MOST LIKED THE IDEA.

TOM SMITH: THERE ARE MANY THINGS WRONG. IT WAS A TOWN SURVEY, I GRANT THAT, BUT THERE ARE MANY THINGS WRONG WITH THAT. IT WAS LOOT CLOSER THAN YOU STATED ON THE OTHER TWO. THE SECOND THING IS THERE WAS 22% UNDECIDED. IF YOU LOOK AT IT NOW, GO THERE TODAY, WHICH I DO EVERY DAY, WALK UP AND DOWN MAIN STREET, ALL THE EMAILS I HAVE RECEIVED FROM THE PEOPLE OF FLORENCE, ALL THE PEOPLE THAT CALL AND STOP AND TALK TO ME, MY PHONE NUMBER IS IN THE BOOK, AT LEAST 90% AGAINST IT.

JORDAN ROSE: AND IN FACT, IN ALL OF THE PUBLIC HEARINGS WE HAVE HAD BETWEEN THREE TIMES AND SIX TIMES AS MANY PEOPLE CAME OUT IN OPPOSITION, RESIDENTS OF FLORENCE, TO SUPPORT THE PROJECT. COUNCILWOMAN WOOLRIDGE ON THE DAIS SAID I WISH TO ADMONISH THE COPPER COMPANY, STOP USING THAT CITIZEN SURVEY. IT WAS AN UNSCIENTIFIC MAILING TO 1,000 PEOPLE THAT 400 PEOPLE RESPONDED TO BEFORE ANYONE WAS EVEN EDUCATED ABOUT THE PROJECT. IT'S OVERWHELMINGLY AGAINST IT.

TED SIMONS: THE IDEA THAT A HOUSING DEVELOPMENT ON BARE LAND IN FLORENCE IS A BETTER IDEA THAN IN SITU MINING WHICH THE COMPANY SAYS CAN BE CAPPED, COVERED AND PUT BACK INTO AT LEAST APPEARANCES OF NATURAL CONDITIONS, SOME WOULD SAY HOUSING DEVELOPMENT IS BETTER FOR THAT LAND THAN LEAVING IT TO NATURE AND USING SOMETHING LATER ON?

TOM SMITH: IN THE LONG RUN, YES. THAT'S HOUSING AND COMMERCIAL. THAT CAN GO A LONG WAY OVER A PERIOD OF A LOT OF YEARS ONCE THE ECONOMY STARTS PICKING UP TO PRODUCE THE TOWN OF FLORENCE A LOT MORE TAX MONIES THAN THIS MINE WILL EVER GIVE.

TED SIMONS: FOR THOSE WHO SAY FOR EVERY DOLLAR THAT YOU SPEND ON HOUSING THAT YOU INVEST YOU HAVE TO SPEND $1.25 IN SERVICES YOU SAY --

TOM SMITH: I SAY THE COMMERCIAL WILL TAKE CARE OF THAT.

JORDAN ROSE: WE HAVE THE PREEMINENT ECONOMIST IN THE STATE COME OUT AND SAY IN A PUBLIC REPORT THIS MASTER PLAN COMMUNITY WILL HAVE MUCH MORE BENEFIT TO THE STATE AND THE PEOPLE THAN THIS COPPER ACID RISKY PROJECT.

TED SIMONS: OKAY WE HAVE TO STOP THERE. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US. WE APPRECIATE IT. THAT IS IT FOR NOW. I'M TED SIMONS. THANK YOU FOR JOINING US. YOU HAVE A GREAT EVENING.

Legislative Update

  |   Video
  • An Arizona Capitol Times reporter, Luige del Puerto, provides a mid-week update on news from the Arizona State Legislature.
Guests:
  • Luige del Puerto - Arizona Capitol Times
Category: Legislature   |   Keywords: legislature, update,

View Transcript

TED SIMONS: GOOD EVENING. WELCOME TO "ARIZONA HORIZON." I'M TED SIMONS. REPUBLICAN LAWMAKERS MET BEHIND CLOSED DOORS TODAY TO DISCUSS THE GOVERNOR'S PROPOSAL TO REFORM THE STATE GOVERNMENT PERSONNEL SYSTEM. HERE WITH OUR MIDWEEK LEGISLATIVE UPDATE IS LUIGE DEL PUERTO OF THE ARIZONA CAPITOL TIMES. THE MEETING NOT THAT BIG A DEAL. THE CLOSED DOOR ASPECT A BIG DEAL. WHAT'S GOING ON HERE?

LUIGIE DEL PUERTO: THE GOVERNOR HAS BEEN PUSHING FOR HER PERSONAL REFORM LEGISLATION BASICALLY SHE WANTS THE STATE TO BE ABLE TO HIRE AND FIRE STATE EMPLOYEES MORE EASILY. SO REPUBLICAN SENATORS YESTERDAY MET AND DECIDED THAT THEY WERE GOING TO GET BRIEFED ABOUT WHAT THE GOVERNOR IS WANTING TO DO, WHICH IS SIMILAR TO WHAT SHE PROPOSED LAST YEAR, BUT THE INTERESTING THING ABOUT IT IS THEY MET BEHIND CLOSED DOORS. THEY WENT INTO EXECUTIVE SESSION. THE MAJORITY OF THE MEMBERS OF THE CAUCUS WERE THERE, WHICH RAISES QUESTIONS ABOUT THEM VIOLATING THEIR OWN SENATE RULES BASICALLY SAYING THEY ARE GOING TO FOLLOW THE STATE'S OPEN MEETING LAWS, WHICH LISTS DOWN THE THINGS THAT THEY CAN GO INTO EXECUTIVE SESSION FOR SUCH AS WHEN THEY ARE ELECTING LEADERSHIP OR DISCUSSING SALARY OF THEIR EMPLOYEES. DISCUSSING LEGISLATION OR A POSSE AGENDA PUSHED BY THE GOVERNOR IS NOT AMONG THOSE THAT THEIR RULES SAY THEY SHOULD BE ABLE TO GO INTO CLOSED DOOR SESSION FOR.

TED SIMONS: SO BASICALLY, THE PARTY CAUCUSES MUST BE PUBLIC WHEN YOU'RE DISCUSSING LEGISLATION.

LUIGIE DEL PUERTO: IF THE MAJORITY OF MEMBERS ARE PRESENT.

TED SIMONS: OKAY, SO WHAT'S THE RESPONSE? WHAT DO THEY SAY WHEN PEOPLE BRING THIS UP?

LUIGIE DEL PUERTO: WE ASKED SENATE PRESIDENT STEVE PIERCE ABOUT IT. IN THE PAST THEY HAVE ALWAYS SAID WE ARE GOING INTO CLOSED DOOR SESSION BECAUSE WE'RE DISCUSSING A LEGAL ISSUE. THIS TIME THEY MADE NO PRETENSE ABOUT IT. STEVE PIERCE, THE SENATE PRESIDENT, WAS VERY CANDID ABOUT WHAT THEY WERE DOING. HE SAID THEY WERE DISCUSSING THE GOVERNOR'S PERSONAL LEGISLATION AND WE ASKED HIM WHY HE THOUGHT HE COULD GO INTO CLOSED SESSION FOR THAT AND HE SAID, I DECIDED TO DO IT. I'M THE SENATE PRESIDENT. THIS IS THE WAY I WANTED TO DO IT. THEY COULD HAVE GONE INTO SMALL GROUP MEETINGS. HE DIDN'T THINK THAT WAS EFFICIENT. THEY DECIDED IT WAS THE BEST WAY TO DO IT AND HE DECIDED TO DO IT.

TED SIMONS: THIS DEALS WITH THE PERSONNEL SYSTEM, REVAMPING OF THE PERSONNEL SYSTEM WHERE IT'S NO MORE MERIT SYSTEM, IT’S EASIER TO HIRE AND FIRE AND A VARIETY OF THINGS THE GOVERNOR WANTS TO SEE, WHICH HAS NOT REALLY BEEN INTRODUCED YET. IS THAT PROBABLY ONE OF THE THINGS THEY TALKED ABOUT BEHIND THOSE CLOSED DOORS?

LUIGIE DEL PUERTO: IT WAS THE MAIN THING THEY TALKED ABOUT IN EXECUTIVE SESSION, PERSONAL REVAMPING OF THE PERSONNEL SYSTEM. IT'S NOT BEEN INTRODUCED YET. I UNDERSTAND IT WILL BE INTRODUCED NEXT WEEK IN THE HOUSE. WE'RE NOT EXACTLY SURE WHO IN THE HOUSE WILL BE INTRODUCING IT BUT IT'S A BIG PROPOSAL. SENATORS WHO ARE BRIEFED ABOUT IT HAD MANY QUESTIONS. THE SENSE THAT THEY ARE AGREEABLE TO CHANGES BASICALLY ALLOWING THE STATE TO HIRE AND FIRE MORE, DO IT EASILY OR EASIER TO DO IT. BUT IT'S SO BIG THAT THEY WILL NEED TIME TO DO IT. DETAIL -- IT REALLY DEPENDS ON THE SPECIFICS OF THIS PROPOSAL.

TED SIMONS: WE SHOULD MENTION THIS IS ALL HAPPENING AFTER THE GOVERNOR WITH A VERY OPEN DOOR SUGGESTED IF YOU BRING ANY ANTI-UNION BILLS MY WAY THEY COULD BE IN FOR TOUGH SLEDDING BECAUSE I HAVEN'T HAD MY PERSONNEL REFORM EVEN TALKED ABOUT.

LUIGIE DEL PUERTO: WE'RE SEEING A LITTLE BIT OF THE POLITICAL TANGO, IF YOU WILL. THE GOVERNOR SAID I WANT TO SEE MY PERSONNEL LEGISLATION BEFORE I EVEN CONSIDER YOUR ANTI-UNION BILLS. IN FACT LAWMAKERS TOLD THE GOVERNOR YESTERDAY WE WANTED TO DO THE BUDGET FIRST BEFORE WE DO ANYTHING ELSE. THAT'S OUR CONSTITUTIONAL OBLIGATION. LET'S DO THAT FIRST. IF YOU WANT TO TIE IT WITH YOUR PERSONNEL LEGISLATION WE CAN DO THAT TOO.

TED SIMONS: OKAY, I WANT TO GET TO THE BUDGET IN A SECOND, BUT THOSE ANTI-UNION BILLS ARE ADVANCING PRETTY RAPIDLY, AREN’T THEY.

LUIGIE DEL PUERTO: THEY ARE ADVANCING RAPIDLY. THEY WERE INTRODUCED ABOUT A WEEK AGO. THEY WERE HEARD IN COMMITTEE. THEN THEY RECEIVED APPROVAL IN THE SENATE RULES COMMITTEE. THEY GOT APPROVED IN CAUCUSES. THEIR NEXT STEP IS TO GO TO THE FLOOR WHERE THEY WILL BE DEBATED ON AND VOTED ON. SOMETHING THAT COULD PROBABLY HAPPEN NEXT WEEK.

TED SIMONS: IS THERE MUCH DEBATE ON THESE THINGS? BECAUSE THEY ARE MOVING KINDA FAST.

LUIGIE DEL PUERTO: IN THE MAJORITY CAUCUS MEETING YESTERDAY JUST VERY CURSORY QUESTIONS FIELDED ABOUT IT. THERE WASN'T MUCH DISCUSSION ABOUT THIS LEGISLATION. BUT IS THERE MUCH DEBATE? YES, OUTSIDE OF THE REPUBLICAN CAUCUS YOU SAW HOW UPSET THE PUBLIC UNIONS ARE. THEY ARE OUT THERE LOBBYING AGGRESSIVELY TO TRY TO HEAD OFF THESE PROPOSALS. IT'S SHAPING UP TO BE ONE OF THE BIGGEST POLITICAL FIGHTS THIS YEAR.

TED SIMONS: WE TALKED ABOUT THIS BEFORE. I WONDER IF FOLKS REALIZE WHAT THIS COULD BRING, THE KIND OF DISCORD AND FIGHT THIS COULD BRING.

LUIGIE DEL PUERTO: YEAH. THE QUESTION REALLY -- I THINK MIKE WAS REPRESENTING THE FIREFIGHTERS UNION BASICALLY SAID HE DOESN'T UNDERSTAND WHY THEY ARE DOING IT IN AN ELECTION YEAR GOING AFTER PUBLIC UNIONS. OF COURSE FIRE AND POLICE ARE WELL REGARDED IN THE COMMUNITY. THEY HAVE MEANS TO FIGHT BACK. IF THIS PROPOSAL MAKES IT INTO LAW, WE WILL PROBABLY SEE THEM FIGHT BACK PRETTY HARD.

TED SIOMONS: IT WILL BE INTERESTING TO SEE. LET'S GET TO THE BUDGET. ON THE PROCESS IT SOUNDS LIKE THE LEGISLATURE SEES A COUPLE OF NUMBERS. THE GOVERNOR SEES A COUPLE OF NUMBERS THERE. HOW DO THEY WORK?

LUIGIE DEL PUERTO: THE BIG QUESTION THEY HAVE TO RECONCILE IS REVENUE PROJECTIONS. IT'S IMPORTANT BECAUSE THAT'S IT DEFINES HOW MUCH MONEY YOU HAVE. THE GOVERNOR'S OFFICE HAD THEIR PRESENTATIONS A FEW WEEKS BACK AND THEY BASICALLY SAID WE'RE GOING TO GET MORE REVENUES. IN FACT THE GOVERNOR IS NOT EXPECTING A DEFICIT WHEN THE 1 CENT SALES TAX EXPIRES IN TWO YEARS. THE LAWMAKERS SAY WE'RE GOING TO HAVE A DEFICIT AND ARE PROJECTING A MUCH MORE CONSERVATIVE REVENUE WHICH MEANS THEY HAVE TO RECONCILE THOSE. YESTERDAY THE GOVERNOR, SENATE PRESIDENT STEVE PIERCE AND MR. SPEAKER MET. THEY DISCUSSED THE BUDGET. LAWMAKERS, MR. PIERCE TOLD ME WHAT THEY TOLD THE GOVERNOR IS THAT WE WANT TO START NEGOTIATIONS RIGHT AWAY. WE WANT TO RECONCILE THESE DETAILS RIGHT AWAY. WE WANT STAFF TO START WORKING ON GETTING A BUDGET PLAN PUT TOGETHER. BUT APPARENTLY THE GOVERNORS WANTING THE SENATE OR THE LEGISLATURE TO MOVE UP THE REVENUE PROJECTIONS BEFORE THEY START NEGOTIATIONS. A LITTLE HARDENING OF POSITIONS. IT'S NOT ENTIRELY UNUSUAL AT THIS STAGE OF THE PROCESS FOR POSITIONS TO BE HARDENING. THEY WANT TO GAIN AS MUCH LEVERAGE AS THEY CAN AT THIS STAGE.

TED SIMONS: SOUNDS AS THOUGH THE GOVERNOR HAS SOME CUTS AND MAYBE SOME SWEEPS INVOLVED WITH HER BUDGET. WE HAD DON SHOOTER, SENATE APPROPRIATIONS CHAIR ON JUST THE OTHER NIGHT, LASI NIGHT, I BELIEVE. LAST NIGHT HE SAID HE WOULD TRY FOR NO CUTS, NO RESTORATIONS AND NO SWEEPS. THE TWAIN AREN'T MEETING QUITE YET.

LUIGIE DEL PUERTO: NO, THEY AREN’T QUITE YET. IN FACT, THE GOVERNOR IS PROPOSING ADDITIONAL SPENDING IN MANY AREAS OF EDUCATION, PUBLIC SAFETY, CORRECTIONS, FOR EXAMPLE. THE SENTIMENT PREVAILING FROM CONSERVATIVE LAWMAKERS IS WE WANT TO AT LEAST HOLD OFF ON NEW SPENDING. WE WANT TO KEEP THE SPENDING THAT WE HAVE AND ANY ADDITIONAL MONEY WE GET, ASSUMING WE GET ANY, THEY WANT TO PUT INTO A RAINY DAY FUND TO ANTICIPATE THE REVENUE LOSS WHEN THE 1 CENT SALES TAX EXPIRES. THEY WANT TO PUT THE MONEY INTO SOME SORT OF DEBT REPAYMENT SCHEME. BUT OF COURSE THAT'S ALSO A BIG ISSUE NOW. THE GOVERNOR WANTS TO BUY BACK THOSE BUILDINGS. SENATE PRESIDENT STEVE PIERCE SAID A FEW WEEKS AGO HE'S NOT REALLY SOLD ON THAT IDEA.

TED SIMONS: ALL RIGHT, WE'LL KEEP AN EYE ON IT. GOOD TO HAVE YOU HERE, THANKS FOR JOINING US.

LUIGIE DEL PUERTO: THANK YOU.


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