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June 5, 2013

Host: Ted Simons

Legislative Update

  |   Video
  • Join us for another weekly update of legislative news with Arizona Capitol Times Reporter Jim Small.
Category: Legislature   |   Keywords: legislative, update, legislature, ,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Good evening. Welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. The log jam on Medicaid expansion in the house looks to be breaking which means the legislative session could be over by next we're. Here is Jim Small with the Arizona Capitol Times. I say could be over by next week. Maybe not?

Jim Small: Maybe not. The end of the legislative session is always a fluid occurrence. What looks like it might take an hour, may take a day, may take a week may also take a day. We'll see how things shake out next week. They are supposed to take it to committee on Monday with potentially a vote on the floor on Tuesday. If it does I think that pore Tennessee being out of session sooner than later. If that's delayed we could be pushing it to the end of the week or the week after.

Ted Simons: The story started to unfold as the speaker allowed for at least getting the process going for a vote on the budget and Medicaid expansion, which is the big part of the budget here. Why did he change? Why did he allow this to happen? I thought committee meetings were supposed to start tomorrow.

Jim Small: He told reporters yesterday he basically looked at the calendar and said we're into June. We have less than four weeks until we have to have the budget done. Fiscal year will begin. Medicaid is holding everything up. He didn't feel he was getting any W in his negotiations with the governor's office so said we'll let the chips fall where they may. He said he would vote against T. he didn't get any of the safeguards an accountability reforms he was seeking and other components, so he said he won't support it but he's not going to oppose its movement and a vote on the floor.

Ted Simons: That sounds awfully similar to what we heard out of the Senate. There other similarities here?

Jim Small: Well, there are some. There's certainly dynamic. There's the coalition building that has been building for a while of Republicans expected to vote with the Democrats on Medicaid expansion. In the Senate the original plan was that Republicans would support the budget as a whole then this bipartisan coalition would support just the expansion component. That very quickly turned into Republicans opposing the entire thing and that bipartisan coalition supporting the entire budget. I think that's what speaker Tobin is trying to avoid in the house now. But it's a fine line to walk. I think it's really easy for that idea to fall apart. That's his challenge going forward in the next week is to see how he can thread that needle to get Republican support on a budget even though most of those Republicans are going to know when the budget -- that the budget is also going to include Medicaid expansion, which they also opposed.

Ted Simons: The votes are there. Everyone agrees the votes in the house are there for Medicaid expansion and the budget per se. Still in all are there procedural things that would keep folks from voting or getting their hands on this thing?

Jim Small: I think one of the issues is the official reason for the appropriations committee not happening tomorrow as you talk about it was originally supposed to be tomorrow. The official reason was there were some people who were out of town. Maybe there was some language not quite ready. The real reason seems to be there's a conservative block on that appropriations committee that says I'm not going to vote on a budget because I know when it gets out of this committee no matter what we do to it we're going to strip it of the expansion, make it into a more conservative budget. When it gets to the floor, all that stuff is going to get added back on and they are saying we don't want that. We're not going to support a budget knowing that it's going to go to the floor and turn into this expansion proposal we don't like. Therefore, we are not going to vote for anything. We know there are several lawmakers who have told that to leadership. Even though I like your spending plan I'm not going to support it because I know what it's going to turn into.

Ted Simons: What happens if this block on the committee says I'm not voting for anything?

Jim Small: I think leadership will have to reassess how to get the budget to the floor. If appropriations committee may be the traditional home of budget action it's not the only home of budget action. A budget can go through any committee. There's been talk about the health committee chaired by Heather Carter, one of the main proponents of the expansion. We have seen in the past couple years ago we saw parts of the budget go through another committee in the Senate because appropriate rations wouldn't support it. So there's some precedent for this and I think that house leadership has to cross that bridge if it needs to next week. We'll know more on Monday.

Ted Simons: The appropriations John Kavanagh not a fan of Medicaid expansion as well. Can he help facilitate the process or help block the process?

Jim Small: I think he could do either. I think the general view of Representative Kavanagh is that he is a good soldier. He's a member of leadership. This budget proposal is one he put together. He really had a strong hand in crafting, and I think the expectation is that even though he doesn't like the expansion he would work to strip it out in committee, but that his job as chairman is being directed by the speaker is to hear this bill and get them out of committee. I imagine he's part of the leadership team working to try to make sure these bills can get out of the committee.

Ted Simons: Democrats seem to be the foundation for all this. Not necessarily taken for granted but they are expected to be there for the budget that includes Medicaid expansion. Are they still going to be there?

Jim Small: That all depends on what the budget looks like. I think another part of that you talk about walk ago tightrope for speaker Tobin, how do you put together a budget proposal if you can't get votes from the Republicans how do you get them from the Democrats to get it out with or without the Medicaid expansion.

Ted Simons: We should be having another midweek legislative update next week.

Jim Small: I would bet on it.

Ted Simons: Thanks for joining us.

Open Arms for Children

  |   Video
  • After taking a family mission trip to South Africa in 2005, Bob and Sallie Solis of Phoenix felt called to do something about the plight of children orphaned by AIDS in the country. They used their life savings and bought a 70-acre hilltop farm and established the Open Arms Home. Today, the home houses over 50 orphans. Bob Solis will talk about the Open Arms Home.
  • Bob Solis - Open Arms Home, Founder
Category: Giving/Leading   |   Keywords: AIDS, orphan, South Africa, family, children, phoenix,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Most of have us busy lives and it can be hard to find time to get our normal chores done. Tonight meet a Phoenix man who not only works a full-time job but found time to establish the open arms home, now home to over 50 children, victims of aids in Africa. It's good to have you here. Thank you for joining us.

Bob Solis: Great to be here.

Ted Simons: Congratulations on uh -- give us a better definition of open arms home.

Bob Solis: It’s a residential facility, Ted, for children who have lost their parents to aids in South Africa, which is a particularly bad problem. So most of these children come to us with the shirts on their back and ends up we'll raise them to adulthood. It's a residential home.

Ted Simons: You're based here. Work here. How did this start?

Bob Solis: My wife and I have five children of our own. About ten years ago we took our family on a mission trip of our own. We worked in an orphanage in South Africa. We wanted our kids to see how the other half of the world lived. We saw so many children in need from this aids problem that we came home, thought and prayed about it, we had been saving up to pay off our house for many years. We said, what the heck, that's why they invented 30-year mortgages. We bought a farm.

Ted Simons: When you went on the trip what did you expect to see? Was there a moment when everything went this is what we should be thinking about?

Bob Solis: Yes. It was when we went out to the community what they call townships or we call slums. You saw so many children just wandering around. You would ask, what is this child's story? A next door neighbor would be taking care of the child. They weren't related. You just saw this over and over. Tugged on our hearts. We're very blessed to be a part of it.

Ted Simons: What kind of response did you get from folks in the community? The kids obviously are having a great time. They look like they are doing pretty doggone well. What about the folks in the community.

Bob Solis: We were welcomed with open arms, pardon the pun. There's such a need for children's homes there, so overwhelming that people stepped up. Lovely farmers gave us meat and dairy, people knitted sweaters.

Ted Simons: Kind to you locally. What about here? What about your family, your friends? It's one thing to say I'm going to take a motorcycle trip or have a mid-life crisis -- I'm going to open a home for orphan kids in South Africa.

Bob Solis: Well, psychological counseling was one suggestion, but we have a very supportive family. So and a big extended family in Arizona. They were all very supportive although probably scratching their heads a little bit. We started small, got the first child in 2006. We have been adding 10 to 12 children a year ever since.

Ted Simons: As far as challenges, maybe you didn't expect --

Bob Solis: The distance is the number one challenge. When you're trying to run an organization on the other side of the world and you're living in Arizona that becomes very problematic. We have American executive directors, a couple from Virginia that runs it for us this. They're doing a great job. So we do the best we can to stay in touch but the distance is probably the hardest thing. Probably the most unexpected blessing of the thing has been giving people jobs. The unemployment rate around there is about 50%. We have 43 paid staff members at this point. So it's been great giving them jobs.

Ted Simons: When we saw the kids they were having fun playing, dancing, just being kids, but I know there has to be some emotional need going on there, physical needs. What have you run into?

Bob Solis: No question. We have a master's level play therapist that comes every Thursday and Friday to work through some of the issues. Obviously our children have issues with separation. With wondering where their family is, et cetera. So we work through those issues as best we can. Then we have a couple children themselves that are HIV positive. So we have to attend to their needs. But they are doing great. They're on medication doing super.

Ted Simons: The first kid was when?

Bob Solis: 2006.

Ted Simons: Is that child still in the home?

Bob Solis: He still is.

Ted Simons: How is he seeing the world?

Bob Solis: His name is Safundo. His local language that means a lesson. He has taught us lessons about resiliency and how to keep moving forward in your life. All of our kids are so resilient it's pretty inspirational to know them.

Ted Simons: How big a problem is aids in Africa in general and South Africa in particular?

Bob Solis: It's a big problem in sub-saharan Africa. Some countries are further ahead in the fight than others. South Africa was one of the last countries to join the fight. So as a result 18 to 20% of the adult population is HIV positive in a country of 5 million people you can imagine the toll that takes. So because most of the people passing away are 20 to 40 years old, they have a lot of Kentucky and lots of Kentucky with no place to go.

Ted Simons: They do now. Expansion plans? What's going on?

Bob Solis: We have beds right now for 70, with 53 kids, so over the next couple of years we'll get to 70. At that point we'll catch our breath and see what's going on. But we hope if we expand beyond that we build out campus because we want to maintain a family atmosphere. It's very important to us that it not get too large so it doesn't become an institution.

Ted Simons: A question for you. You work full-time.

Bob Solis: I do.

Ted Simons: Doing something else.

Bob Solis: Yes.

Ted Simons: How do you find the time for this?

Bob Solis: It's turned into my golf hobby which is fine because I'm terrible at golf. It's nights and weekend and whatever we can do, speaking at churches and rotary clubs. It's a great privilege, actually. I don't look at it as work. It's one of those things you feel like you're doing what you're supposed to be doing.

Ted Simons: Sounds like you actually walked across a major part of South Africa to raise money.

Bob Solis: Next time I'll take the bus Ted. we were out of space and out of funds on a personal basis so we had a fund-raiser where I walked 720 miles across the country. It was great adventure. We raised about a quarter million dollars to build more cottages.

Ted Simons: Last question. Do you ever sit back, I was saying you must sleep awfully well, do you ever sit back and just look at the ceiling, look outside, and just marvel or wonder at what you've done?

Bob Solis: I will tell you my favorite thing at open arms without exception is to sit inside even though I love playing with kids and watch the children playing. What happens with children who have suffered like this is they lose their childhood. They lose their sense of joy and play, because they are begging to stay alive. My favorite thing is to sit and watch them play. I think open arms has given them a great gift, which is their childhood back.

Ted Simons: That must be a blessing and a half for you and certainly for them. Continued good work and congratulations. This is a fantastic story.

Bob Solis: Thank you.

Ted Simons: Good to have you.

Wildfire Season

  |   Video
  • A federal report out in May indicates that Arizona’s wildfire season is expected to run a normal course. KTAR reporter Jim Cross, who extensively covers the wildfire season, will talk about the dangers facing the state this summer from wildfires.
  • Jim Cross - KTAR, Reporter
Category: Environment   |   Keywords: wildfire, summer, arizona,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: The national inter-agency fire center is suggesting that Arizona's upcoming fire season will be above normal. That's not good considering how major fires seem to be the norm of late. Joining us is Jim cross of KTAR radio. He has a long history of covering Arizona fires.

Jim Cross: It's been a long time.

Ted Simons: It has. You're out there every season. We talk to you every year about this. When does the Arizona fire season start usually?

Jim Cross: Pretty much anymore it's year round. It starts in earnest in May but it's been starting a few weeks ahead of that as the years have gone by. Right now we're really teed up for a bad fire season.

Ted Simons: Have we had much so far?

Jim Cross: Not a lot. A handful of thousand acre fires here and there. The big concern is we could have fires that run in the tens of thousands of acres by the time this is over with.

Ted Simons: Seems like once we get to someone flips a switch and here come the fires.

Jim Cross: Extreme heat warnings go into effect through the weekend. We have had windy days. Seems like every day it's 105, 110 . Humidity is very, very low.

Ted Simons: Are we expecting more in the desert areas, brush areas or more in the mountains this go round?

Jim Cross: I think it could be almost anywhere. We had just enough rain to fuel brush in the desert that can burn. The high country had less snowpack than usual. What snowpack we did have melted weeks ahead of normal. There's no snowpack left. I think it could happen almost anywhere.

Ted Simons: We do have red flag warnings out now.

Jim Cross: We will. We have had them up and running over the past couple three weeks. Nothing current but there will be.

Ted Simons: As far as what you're talking about, the weather and how it will affect maybe brushfires as opposed to mountain fires, how much does the winter weather affect what we see following summer?

Jim Cross: It affects it huge. In the high country you want the snowpack to at least soak into the wood. Right now fuel moisture are very low in the high country. Not a lot -- enough snow but not what we needed. It melted weeks ahead of usual. The desert again was -- we didn't get a lot of rain in the wintertime but just enough that it's not going to take much to spark a fire.

Ted Simons: Up in the high country bark beetle versus been a factor for years. Still a problem?

Jim Cross: Big problem. We have had some estimates according to researchers 10% of the southwest forests are dead because of those. Arizona has lost millions of acres due to bark beetles. Problem is you can't kill them unless you get strong winters. They don't like water. Right now they are chowing down.

Ted Simons: No kidding. As far as the drought is concerned, obviously not a good thing when things are drying out but with that in minds, it also keeps new fuel from growing. Still and all, not a good situation, the drought.

Jim Cross: We have been in a drought some estimates 20 years. Some researchers think it's possible we're in a Mega drought which could go a century. It happened before about 500 years ago. Nothing conclusive yet but this drought is showing no sign of letting up.

Ted Simons: What resource dos we have? I heard a DC-10 was available.

Jim Cross: It was brought in from Victorville, California. It flew the powerhouse fire out of side Los Angeles this week. It's a big, big plane. It can drop many more times the suppressant than a regular plane can. It was largely responsible for saving Greer. It can lay a line of retardant a mile long. They brought in hotshots from Montana.

Ted Simons: Is it unusual to get that kind of equipment and that kind of personnel before anything is even started? Is that an indication of what they are expected?

Jim Cross: I thought the DC-10 coming in when it did was a little bit early but it was explained the reason it's brought into Phoenix Mesa Gateway airport is it could had the New Mexico, Colorado, California, Arizona, Utah, Nevada. Colorado with wildfires, Mexico with filed fires. California dealing with the powerhouse fire. This plane C=can strike almost any place in the west.

Ted Simons: It seems like there may be more concern for Washington, for Oregon and for parts of northern California as much as in the southwest. What kind of dynamic is going on?

Jim Cross: There are people think this could be the worst wildfire season we have had in the west. Arizona was top of the list.

Ted Simons: Top of the list.

Jim Cross: Going into this season along with Colorado, New Mexico is always a concern. Now that's panning out over New Mexico and they are just starting. So we're probably conservatively four weeks out.

Ted Simons: Colorado got hit hard last year.

Jim Cross: Colorado got hit hard. New Mexico had the two largest wildfires they have ever had in that state last year. We after burning a million acres in dropped to about 200,000 last year. But it won't take much to get us back up in the higher range again.

Ted Simons: What is being done as far as forest thinning and any preventive measures? Are we still spinning our wheels on that? I know the four forest is happening to a certain degree. Anything else?

Jim Cross: There's thinning around communities. I think communities are going proactive on this. The four forests like you mentioned. They are trying to get a jump on it. It could take quite a few years to get everything back in balance to where we need to be.

Ted Simons: You can always predict one thing. It will be unpredictable. There's no way of knowing where that shot is going to happen.

Jim Cross: It’s not. The conditions feel close to as bad as in 2002. They are definitely on par with 2011. That was the worst fire season we have ever had in the state in recorded history.

Ted Simons: Most people think radio sky was number one.

Jim Cross: We had the number one largest fire in state history in '11. Fourth largest -- nine of the top ten fires in recorded history in the state of Arizona have all occurred since 2002. The only one in the top ten that didn't was 1996 in the high country.

Ted Simons: Nine of the top ten since 2002.

Jim Cross: Starting with the radio fire.

Ted Simons: I hope you're not busy. I hope you have a very boring summer.

Jim Cross: I would like to say the same.

Ted Simons: Good to see you. Thanks for joining us.

Jim Cross: Always a pleasure.