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March 13, 2013

Host: Ted Simons

Arizona Gas Pricing Trends

  |   Video
  • Arizona gas prices have risen dramatically since the start of the new year, but have slowed down. Michelle Donati of AAA Arizona will bring us up to date.
  • Michelle Donati - AAA Arizona
Category: Business/Economy   |   Keywords: gas, prices, pricing, trends, economy, ,

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Ted Simons: Arizona gas prices are starting to level off after major increases to start the year. Here to help us make sense Of what's happening at the Pumps is Michelle Donati of AAA Arizona. Thank you for joining us.

Michelle Donati: Thank you for having me.

Ted Simons: Where are gas prices in Arizona?

Michelle Donati: Gas prices are high. They started to level off. Today statewide average is $3. 74 per gallon. That is about a penny less than what we were paying at this time last week. About 31cents more than we were paying this time last month. If you look at where we were -- what we were paying a year ago, it is actually not too far off from what we were paying this time last year.

Ted Simons: Isn't it somewhere 60, 70 cents since the start of the year --

It is, 3 1/2 months into the new year, and prices have risen 70 cents since January 1 st. We ended paying around $3.00 a gallon. Some places, Tucson especially, under that $3.00 mark. And prices took off after the first of the year.

Ted Simons: Do we know why?

Michelle Donati: Well, the main reason, last year, prices were, as I mentioned, prices were in the same range that we're paying right now this time last year but for a completely different reason. Last year, political tensions, issues in north Africa and the middle east causing oil prices to spike and showing up at the pump. This year really not a lot to do with oil prices either, but everything to do with refinery issues. Refineries made the switch to -- started the maintenance period earlier this year. That maintenance period takes place before we can make the switch to summer blends. When that maintenance period takes place, if anything is going to go wrong with the refinery, it is typically during that period. Arizona gets fuel from two different pipelines, one from the west and one from the east. Refineries on the east side had some issues that resulted in refinery shutdown. We had to get more supplies from the west which already starts at a high price. California gas prices, already driving at a higher price. The refinery we rely on to get supplies from the west line also had issues and forced a pinch in supplies. That is what has been behind the 70 cent surge we experienced this year.

Ted Simons: If crude prices were not really a factor, refinery maintenance -- if crude prices had been a factor, we could be really high.

Michelle Donati: We could be much higher than now, especially if there was any conflict in -- any type of geopolitical tension. The silver lining, prices have started to level off. And the other thing to consider is that as an automotive expert, AAA does believe that prices will peak earlier this year. Prices traditionally peak late spring, early summer. We believe because the maintenance period was bumped up this year, the prices will spike at a price that is lower than what we spiked last year.

Ted Simons: That is encouraging news. As far as the state is concerned, where do we rank as far as prices compared to other states?

Michelle Donati: We are all over the map. There were weeks back last year where we were one of the lowest paying states in the country. Currently we are paying a little more than average. About 33states paying less for fuel than Arizona. We have quite a wide range of -- there is quite a bit of disparity with prices, not only in Arizona, but also across the country. Arizona alone, Tucson, around $3.59. Scottsdale paying just about $3.90.

Ted Simons: Why the disparity?

Michelle Donati: A couple of different reasons. Typically flagstaff is one of the highest paying areas and it still is. There are certain times of the year when there is a shift and Scottsdale typically takes that higher price and it is usually around the time when we make the switch to summer blends. One of the reasons is that there are certain places in the state that actually do not use the summer blend. Metropolitan Phoenix does and certain areas across the state, but not others. So, that is one reason. And then another reason, especially with prices spiking so quickly here, is that some of the outlying areas, real places that are typically higher can hold on to supply longer than places such as Scottsdale, Phoenix, and Metro regions that burns through supply faster. When we see the fast increases, they typically show up in Metro markets faster than in the rural areas.

Ted Simons: Bottom line, start of the year high, kind of getting a little lower now, and we shouldn't see too much of a shock here as summer approaches and as summer hits.

Michelle Donati: Barring unforeseen circumstances. It is too soon to tell if we have peaked so far for this year. The next 30 days or so should be pretty telling. But, again, we do believe that prices will peak sooner this year, and that, you know, prices typically remain high during the summer. But we do believe that 2009 was the most expensive year on record for gasoline and we do not believe that 2013 will take over that record. But, again, that is barring unforeseen circumstances.

Ted Simons: We will take it and run with it. Good to have you here. Thank you for joining us.

Legislative Update

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  • An Arizona Capitol Times reporter will join us for a weekly update on news from the state legislature.
Category: Legislature   |   Keywords: legislative, update, legislature, ,

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Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome To "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. The governor yesterday held a press conference to unveil Her draft legislation for the expansion of the state's Medicaid program. Here now with our weekly legislative update is Jim Small of the "Arizona Capitol Times." Good to see you again. Any surprises on the press conference?

Jim Small: The one thing most people were looking for ways to see which lawmakers would be with the governor at this press conference. There were six republican lawmakers. Some from the Senate and some from the statehouse who were standing beside her and behind her and several of them spoke and said this is what we need to do with the state. This is the right thing for us to do. In a lot of ways that sets them apart from a lot of their colleagues. There is -- republicans seem to be divided into three groups. A handful openly supportive like these folks were. You've got several who are openly hostile to the idea, and you have a group in the middle, which in most people's estimations is the largest group in terms of what are they going to do. They want to see more information from the governor's office, access health care community and from the other side, too, critics, and try to figure out what is the best path forward.

Ted Simons: Former Senate president Steve pierce I believe was up there, Bob Worsley was up there as well. Who is Heather Carter? It sounds like she will be major player in all of this.

Jim Small: I think she is a second term republican from the cave creek area, northeast Phoenix, northeast part of the valley. She is, you know, primarily an educator. That is her background is education. She is the chair of the health committee in the house. This has been a big issue for her. She was one of the early supporters of this program, of this idea, this plan to expand access and to draw down the federal money. And she stepped up and she is going to be the one who is spear-heading this legislation, certainly in the house at least. Her committee will hold an informational hearing on what the governor's office is proposing. It will not be an actual bill that will move forward at this point. At some point it will. Right now, legislative informational hearing on the actual proposal that the governor is making.

Ted Simons: We don't know as yet if this is going to be a stand-alone bill or part of the budget, do we?

Jim Small: No, we don't. It will be tied to the budget in some way. A lot of assumptions made in the budget depend on the money that is tied up in this access program. Whether it is a bill that travels by itself or a bill that travels by itself at the same time as the budget or it is rolled into the budget, it is really just kind of a matter of semantics at that point. It is definitely going to be connected to the budget one way or another.

Ted Simons: Another argument, semantics notwithstanding, is whether or not this will need a two-thirds vote of the legislature. Talk us through this. I suppose they can go ahead and do a straight-up vote. If it passes, then someone could file some sort of suit saying no, no, you need two-thirds, correct?

Jim Small: Yes, they could. And that's, you know, quite possibly what will happen if that is the route they go. And all indications that the governor's office that they don't believe this needs two-thirds majority. Constitution, as a voter -- voter approved constitutional amendment, requiring two-thirds approval in the legislature for anything that raises taxes or revenues, except that it has a giant loophole in it that says you can let a state agency director raise fees as long as you don't tell him how much he needs to raise. You can suggest it to him but you can't -- if you put it in there specifically how much to raise, yes, you need two-thirds. If you believe it -- leave it open, this does not trip the idea you need a two-thirds majority to do anything.

Ted Simons: And opponents are saying yes when the fee is 10,000 here, 70 ,000 there, no when we're talking hundreds of 100’s of millions here and 100’s of millions there.

Jim Small: Except that the constitution doesn't say that. The constitution says as long as the amount is not specified, whether it is a dollar or $ 100 million, it doesn't matter.

Ted Simons: That will be quite the tug of war down there. Before you go, we talked about this so much when it was higher in the headlines. Mortgage settlement transfer. Transferring money that some say was designed to help folks having problems in the housing industry. Arizona got money, and yet a lot of that money was transferred other to the general fund, suit was filed. And we had a ruling on that, didn't we?

Jim Small: Yeah, we did. The ruling was essentially that the state was in the right to transfer that suit -- transfer that money. It was about half of the money. About $ 50 million that got transferred into the general fund to help bridge the budget deficit, and the court said that that was an acceptable use of that money because the state was harmed in the mortgage crisis, I think was the argument that the attorney general's office made.

Ted Simons: The other argument was, this money should have been put into a trust and doled out to individual homeowners or groups helping individual homeowners because they were the ones targeted for this -- the judge didn't buy that.

Jim Small: Some of the money did go into programs like that. But for this amount of money, judge said that the state -- it was given to the state and the state had the authority to decide how best to use it and this was the way they chose.

Ted Simons: Something with vindication for attorney general Tom Horne.

Jim Small: It was. He was the one taking the most flak over the issue, as well in some ways vindication for the legislature which included this in the budget and the governor as well. This was a component of the budget and a key component. They would have had to find $50 million elsewhere had this not been allowed.

Ted Simons: Is this the kind of thing that could likely go to the supreme court or is it pretty much a ball game here?

Jim Small: We will have to see what the plaintiffs want to do, how far they want to challenge it and what sort of grounds they feel they have for an appeal.

Ted Simons: Back quickly to the Medicaid fight. I call it fight, a battle. Will there be a fight, a battle at the legislature over this --

Jim Small: I think we -- we can all remember back to 2009 when the governor was pushing for a sales tax increase for $1 billion to help balance the budget and the log jam that ensued when republican legislators were not going to go along with that. I can see us going down that path if republican legislators will not go along with the governor. She has nothing but time on her hands and she has shown in the past that she is willing to be just as stubborn as they are and she will wait them out.

Ted Simons: The whole idea of a 100 day session goes flying out the window.

Jim Small: Talk to the Senate president today and he had been confident that he would be having a budget by the middle of the month, maybe the end of the month. No so much anymore. Less optimistic about that and even raising the possibility that we could be here well into the summer.

Ted Simons: It will be interesting to see how both sides present their issues and their particular sides of the issue. Good to have you here.

Jim Small: Thank you.

Sheriff Arpaio Recall Update

  |   Video
  • A group trying to recall Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has gathered 120,000 signatures, so far. The group, Respect Arizona, needs to gather 335,000 valid signatures by May 30 to get the recall on the ballot. Arizona Republic columnist Laurie Roberts will talk about the effort.
  • Laurie Roberts - Columnist, The Arizona Republic
Category: Law   |   Keywords: sheriff, arpaio, recall, ,

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Ted Simons: A group that wants to Recall Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio continues To collect signatures to force the issue to the ballot. But is the recall the right thing to do and what does it Say about the state's recall process? Joining us now is Laurie Roberts, columnist for the "Arizona republic." Good to see you again.

Laurie Roberts: Good to see you.

Ted Simons: You have been writing about not only this particular recall, but the recall process in general. Is this the right thing to do?

Laurie Roberts: Is what the right thing to do? To recall --

Ted Simons: Recall a sheriff just voted into office.

Laurie Roberts: Personal opinion is, I was perplexed when they did it. I personally think that you ought to wait until he does something new wrong. I mean, he is -- he has done a lot of things that are questionable, but the voters put him back into office. You ought to have in my opinion, have a reason to want to reconsider your vote as a voter before you do this. But, the law says that they're allowed to do this.

Ted Simons: How many signatures have they got so far?

Laurie Roberts: They announced last Wednesday, very interestingly, they have , valid 120,000 signatures. That is their claim. We will not know that until the end of the process. The day after they announced that, the Arizona house passed a bill making it more difficult to recall elected officials and making it retroactive to January 1st.

Ted Simons: Yes, I thought that was interesting.

Laurie Roberts: Not only interesting, but I think it shows that they're very, very worried about this process.

Ted Simons: You mentioned , 120,000 collected so far. They need 335 --

Laurie Roberts: They need 335,000, which basically means they have to 26,000 collect about , valid signatures a week. Which roughly means they have to collect about 40,000 valid signatures total in a week. Now, I think it is all going to come down to money. Will they have the money to buy the signatures? Because these things are done by professionals paid petition circulators.

Ted Simons: With that in mind, 120,000 is such a reasonable amount of signatures so far.

Laurie Roberts: They're on target.

Ted Simons: And so -- the chance it is not only they could get it on to the ballot, but the chance that the sheriff could be successfully recalled. It is not out of the --

Laurie Roberts: I think if they get it on the ballot, he will be recalled.

Ted Simons: Why?

Laurie Roberts: Because recall is different from a regular election. What they will do is put up a republican with law enforcement experience and presumably a clean background to get head to head against Arpaio in a special election. That would split the republican vote and make it easier to get him out. That is essentially what they did with Russell Pearce.

Ted Simons: Compare and contrast this effort with the Russell Pearce effort.

Laurie Roberts: This is a bigger effort. That was a legislative district where they needed , signatures or so. Here you have to have , signatures. And they are high-fiving each other with the fact that they have the ,, if indeed they really do. But they've got a huge hurdle to get over. And that is the money that it is going to cost to do this. We have no idea where they are getting their money. State law doesn't require them to report until May. If it is like other elections, unions would pour in money. That is what they did to try to unseat him last time. Randy and the recall people are going around sounding pretty desperate for money. So, I think it is going to come down to money.

Ted Simons: Interesting.

Laurie Roberts: Do you have the money to get those signatures?

Ted Simons: You mentioned the effort in the house to make changes to the recall process, make those changes retroactive to January st. Among the changes is to have a primary election in a recall election.

Laurie Roberts: Most people --

Ted Simons: Isn't that blatantly unconstitutional?

Laurie Roberts: I think that it is. I'm not a lawyer. Neither is the guy who has the bill, representative Smith, said in a committee, read of the constitution is that the legislature shall call for primary elections. He is reading the general statute or the general section of the constitution that deals with regular elections. There is a whole other section of the constitution that deals with recall elections and it sets up a single special election and the general election rules apply. It sets it all out. I don't see how he thinks that he can add to the constitution without asking our permission first.

Ted Simons: I was going to say. I think the quote is a special election shall be ordered period.

Laurie Roberts: That's right.

Ted Simons: So, with that in mind --

Laurie Roberts: They think they can do it. You know, the law is -- the legislature is 31 and 16. And if they can get that --

Ted Simons: Does that law go into effect though? Let's say it passes the legislature and let's say the governor signs it. Does that law go into effect? What is the time table here --

Laurie Roberts: The law would be retroactive to January 1st. I can guarantee you that it will be in court before the ink is dry.

Ted Simons: That is what I was getting at. Would that be so far out of the barn that the horse would still be there --

Laurie Roberts: I think they would deal with that quickly. You will recall a legal challenge in the Russell Pearce case as well and it went to the Arizona supreme court which was fairly definitive in their answer, which was you don't tamper with recall statutes. That is our right. Legislature is running around saying this is a usurpation of the law. And recalls were never meant to be this way. We have had one recall of a state official in 101 years. So, it is not like we're running around willy-nilly recalling everybody.

Ted Simons: We should note that lots of folks have been targeted for recall and nothing ever seems to come of it. Apparently now there is a move for minority leader Campbell, to recall him. And there are people upset about that. Just because you are targeted doesn't mean you are going to get recalled?

Laurie Roberts: No, it doesn't. The group targeting the sheriff is the same group that targeted Russell Pearce and was successful. You have to take that into consideration. They have figured out the strategy. But I think they have a huge way to go just because of the money.

Ted Simons: Last question, is there, or are their names bubbling up that would take on the sheriff should this thing head to a ballot?

Laurie Roberts: I have not heard any -- the only name I heard bubbling up and I think it is wishful thinking, Rick Romley --

Ted Simons: It always seems like if you are looking for a republican that doesn't get along with the sheriff, Rick always seems to be the case.

Laurie Roberts: If it looks like they will make it, you will see some names coming up.

Ted Simons: Keep an eye on that and see how far it goes.

Laurie Roberts: And keep an eye on the legislature and see if they do this unconstitutional act.

Ted Simons: Good to have you here. Thank you for joining us.

Laurie Roberts: Okay.