Ted Simons: Each month we welcome to the program the leaders of The Arizona house and Senate for an update of what's happening at the state capitol and what we can expect as the legislative session continues. Joining us now, Senate President Andy Biggs and Speaker of the House, Andy Tobin. Good to have you here. Let's start with budget talks. What is going on?
Andy Biggs: We are at the preliminary stage where we're analyzing the similarities of the baseline versus the governor's proposals. We are meeting in small groups in the Senate and discussing those differences and finding what members want. We're still in the exploratory stage.
Ted Simons: We hear about small groups -- how does that work?
Andy Tobin: Well, what we try to do is make sure that -- we can't take everybody all in one group at one time. We bring our members in slowly, small groups of five to 10, whatever it might be. Everyone gets a chance to have more back and forth with our staff, with our -- the budget folks that we bring in and we get a chance to get a lot of that feedback. We take a lot of notes. That's nice that we're doing this for this but I need this in here and what are we doing here? We get to take a lot of the notes, as the process starts moving forward, we can start to share them with the executive and our members are looking for priorities in this direction as well and start to really developing how we're going to get through the session.
Ted Simons: There were Concerns in the past that maybe the rank and file were not as up to speed as they wanted to be or should be in these kind of discussions? Where do we stand on that?
Andy Tobin: We have been doing the small groups for many years. President Biggs on the appropriation committee for many years. What we try to do is make sure we get to the appropriations members first and they help us to disseminate a lot of the information out there. I think it has really worked quite well to get all of that information quickly to members as soon as we get it.
Andy Biggs: Logistically, it is actually easier for the Senate, we have half of the numbers. It takes us two, three groups to get through all of our membership, where as with the speakers, six groups or something like that. But it is a good conversation, good dialogue, and a lot of information exchanged.
Andy Tobin: We're like at the 20,000-foot level right now. The governor was clear with her priorities and then our members, you know, hey, what about water? What about, you know, DPS? What are we doing here? That is the feedback that we need and that helps us so that we start to sit down and having a conversation. Now the bills are moving. Here is a priority bill, how do you think this will blend in with the budget? It gives us chances to blend this all together.
Ted Simons: How much input from democrats?
Andy Biggs: Well, so far since we're in the stages as well, I have been able to -- Senate minority leader know we're doing some meetings and, you know, when they have something that they want to talk about, we will talk about it as we get close are and have more firm and concrete ideas, we will talk to them.
Ted Simons: Same in the house?
Andy Tobin: I think a little bit further along there. We have so many new members. I have been meeting with republican and democrat freshmen along the way helping them understand the process. Senate president and I, first bill went out of there, Governor Brewer, talked about DPS, we needed money and we need it now. Everybody voted yes. That is a good sign. Everybody is voting yes for a change. The door is wide open and the democrats want to sit down. Minority is planning on producing a budget at least in the house. Maybe we will get a chance to see that. They opened that up I think last year. Mr. President, I think you had a chance to visit with them. The door is open. Let's have the conversation. They represent people, too.
Ted Simons: What kind of conversation are we hearing or are you having regarding medicate expansion? What is the latest on that?
Andy Biggs: We included that in our small group budget sessions because we feel it is a component of the budget, rolled out by the executive and so we are -- right now, we don't have a bill. And we have -- we have a lot of questions. Our members have a lot of questions. We're trying to come to understand those, transmit those to the executive and see if we can get some of those answered.
Ted Simons: What kind of questions are you hearing?
Andy Biggs: Some of the questions, transparency, how are we going to know the cost structure, how is that going to be there? Is it really going to get passed on when you -- when the hospitals say they're going to assess themselves $250 million. How do we know that that isn't going to be passed on to say the commercial side of insurance and what have you. We are hearing things like that. You know, how does it -- what is the mechanics of it. Do you really want to give carte blanche to the director of access to set this rate? What are we talking about? What percentage? How does it work even? A lot of questions like that.
Andy Tobin: I agree with the president. Just read a letter from the governor of Pennsylvania who declined the Medicaid expansion and his point was that your system -- Medicaid is already broken. Why do you want to fuel more of this stuff in. Why don't we fix what is there and then start advancing it. Why don't you give us opportunities to make changes. I think a lot of our members are talking in that direction. Maybe that population being 100 and 133 should pay 10, $20 a month per person. Those are some of the questions. Maybe there should be tort reform in these issues. Certainly House Senate oversight is almost a requirement the wait I see it. The end of the day -- CMS, the president had a good idea the other day. Have we even requested a CMS that they actually move forward and extend the last issue that we had with them, which is the January 1st crisis in '14, maybe we can get them to give us an exception once again.
Andy Biggs: Exactly. I mean, we talk about things like many of the members wonder, how does this circuit breaker thing work? And when the speaker brings up the fact that we're concerned about 50,000 coming off in January, what happens if you put something in place, circuit breaker is triggered and you have added 400,000, which by the way is the estimate, and now you have 400,000 people that have come off. What do you do then? So, these are very serious questions. This is a generational issue. It is not a one-time -- one-term deal.
Ted Simons: This may be 30,000 feet, but still in all, do you see deal breakers in some of the questions?
Andy Tobin: We did something similar for the nursing home system and for Maricopa integrated health systems. It is not like we haven't walked down this pathway. This is such all-encompassing, and the president is right. This is generational. My fear is that we have already experienced where the federal government has cut out pieces of the state budget. I think we talked about this last time. $40 million -- it would have been nice to have that last year and this year to move forward, republican budget put all of that back. We are not going to have that money to put back. If this thing collapses on to its weight and the federal government's debt is going to eventually collapse, where are we going to be at to be able to afford it? I think the members are right to have a lot of these questions. It is our job to try to answer as many of them as we can. I am trying to develop a bill that will look something like that we're answering some of these questions for the members. So, it still -- it still is cooking, I would say, and a lot of questions about it.
Ted Simons: The bills making noise right now, we talked about this earlier this week, changing the permanent early voting list. Some say this could be, you know, suppression of votes, critics say this. Others say it has got to be done, last election, there were way too much in terms of provisionals at the polling places. What do you think about this?
Andy Biggs: We Huge problems with provisional ballots last time. Let's face the fact. We really did. The purpose and objective of this is to make sure that we have a cleaner voting process and make sure that we know who is voting and make sure that there can't be any fraud and to make sure that it is a predictable and very stable voting system. I think that is the process here. Now, is this going to solve all of the issues that we may have? I don't know. But I think it is something that we really need to take a step to.
Ted Simons: Is it a deterrent to registering folks, especially when you are talking about a class five felony, maybe -- that is serious business.
Andy Tobin: I hate to defer to the president, but when we talk about Senate --
Ted Simons: Okay.
Andy Tobin: I'm all right with that. We don't really get a chance -- we have enough problems in our own building. I would share with you that my members are equally concerned about -- especially the provisionals, waiting weeks to find out who is going to be elected. I applaud the Senate for trying to move forward. Not a lot of the members are in agreement. I am looking at maybe moving the date back a little bit to give us more time. Maybe you have a cut off when mail-ins no longer apply. A lot of ideas going around. The important part is that we get more people go to vote, we make sure that they're eligible to vote and then we move on from there.
Ted Simons: Let's get something that -- the idea of agencies mailing out certain documents in English only.
Andy Tobin: Just had to bring that one up?
Ted Simons: I thought so. Thought so.
Andy Tobin: That's great. Hey, listen, I applaud my members. If they are trying to find ways to be helpful for the budget process, I applaud them. I know this is a -- this one may have an appearance that we're moving back to the days of -- I thought it was appropriate that the bill move forward and have everybody have their say and their debate, and if we have some savings, let's take a look at it --
Ted Simons: The idea that it would violate the civil rights act or debating something that would be that much of a problem, that much of a black eye on Arizona, how would you respond?
Andy Tobin: You know, I don't favor people looking at Arizona with a black eye, but on the other hand, you know, you have to try to follow the constitution and trying to follow the law and if they can work within the confines of what that is and we can save money, these are the dollars that are looking to go back into public and government services. I think this is the place where you are supposed to have these debates. If you are not going to have them at the legislature, where will this occur? We are not always going to be -- everybody will be happy in the center place. We will break off into different avenues and we should have those debates. Members represent 200,000 people in their district and they have to answer to them.
Ted Simons: Do you think we should have a debate in the Senate, regarding prohibiting the enforcement of federal gun laws in Arizona?
Andy Biggs: We already have had the debate in one committee.
Ted Simons: Yeah.
Andy Biggs: Yeah.
Ted Simons: Do you think that is a good idea? Some would say that is a waste of time because the whole issue is unconstitutional on its face.
Andy Biggs: The unconstitutional issue -- excuse me, the issue regarding constitutionality over here and let's talk about wasted time. The reality, the speaker got this I think exactly right. You have people who represent constituents. They make promises and representations as they're running. They define who they are. And sometimes you are going to get a bill that is going to draw some lightning, and cause some controversy. And I think that one of the issues that we face constantly is how do you deal with federal encroachment, relationship -- the federal government.
Ted Simons: Is it okay to have the debate? Democratic leadership, they can't get a hearing -- if we are hearing these kinds of issues, are we not hearing issues coming from democrats?
Andy Biggs: I think every bill gets assigned a chairman and chair woman of the committee. They get to make the determination whether they think they want to hear a bill. I think you will see some democrat bills. I mean, when I was approached here, we heard democrat bills. You know, I sympathize with them because they are in the minority. They wish they could get all of the bills through. Believe it or not, I have republicans who say I don't get all of my bills through. We point these chairs to the gatekeepers and they are acting as such.
Ted Simons: Coming out of the house, tripling the per diem for lawmakers.
Andy Tobin: We talked about house versus Senate bills. Sometimes that the speaker and president don't get to see them. That bill hasn't been dropped. I haven't seen the bill. I have been fortunate enough to read the paper.
Andy Tobin: Here is the deal. First off, my personal perspective, all of the members knew that got elected -- this is what the rules are, this is how much you are getting paid, the per Diem, the salary. You can't go to an employer and get paid $20,000 and when they hire you I need 60. I get it. I think you are looking at maybe some desperation, rural communities, do you know how expensive this really is? There are people who we would like to have run for office. No shortage of candidates. Instead of creating a change in the primary system like we tried to do in November, maybe this is the way for the teacher, the gas station worker, mechanic to say, well, maybe I can afford it if there was a decent per Diem, I could pay my mortgage and maybe take six months off and go down to the legislature. With the present crisis financially, I'm not sure this has much room to move.
Ted Simons: There is a Constitutional idea, traditional idea of the legislature being a part-time position. Your ideas on something like this, is the timing even to discuss this all the best?
Andy Biggs: Well, you know, I -- I think that, you know, you can discuss the issue, but one of the things that I absolutely agree with the speaker on, we knew what it would take to come down here and all of us make sacrifices to come down and serve. I will say this. There is some sympathy for some of the outlying county people who come from so far. They can't really -- some of them are in jobs and careers that they probably thought they would be able to keep but when their employer says wait, I didn't realize it is sometimes more than four months. Six, seven months.
Andy Tobin: My Business partner told em’--
Andy Biggs: A couple of years ago, we had how many special sessions, 220 some odd days. I think that it -- until you have done it, it is impossible to fully grasp the reality of the situation. I am sympathetic. I have -- I have told sponsors that I am not going to kill your bill, but I am not going to vote for that bill. And so, that's kind of where I am.
Ted Simons: Good. We will stop right there.
Andy Tobin: I think the president wins the tie war tonight. My dad gave me this tie to wear here especially for the show and the president upstaged me.
Ted Simons: That almost looks like that was made -- you can't do that out of the flag.
Andy Biggs: This is not a real flag, just representational of our great country.
Ted Simons: We appreciate your effort here.
Andy Biggs: Thank you.
Andy Tobin: Thank you.