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July 22, 2013

Host: Ted Simons

Avondale Mayor/Education Secretary

  |   Video
  • Avondale Mayor Marie Lopez Rogers met with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, other mayors and school superintendents in Washington, D.C. recently. They discussed partnership opportunities between cities and the U.S. Department of Education to create effective approaches to education reform. Mayor Rogers, the National League of Cities’ President, will talk about what was discussed in that meeting.
  • Marie Lopez Rogers - President, National League of Cities'
Category: Education   |   Keywords: education, opportunity, update,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Avondale Mayor Marie Lopez Rogers met with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan along with other mayors and school superintendents last week in Washington. The meeting focused on partnership opportunities between cities and the U.S. Department of Education to create effective approaches to education reform. For more on the meeting we welcome Mayor Rogers who serves as president of the National League of Cities. Let's talk more about this meeting of secretaries. What was all this about?

Marie Lopez Rogers: We have an education task force which our first and second vice presidents, one from Minnesota, one from Salt Lake, are chairing this task force. We feel the need to be at the table when it comes to education policy. So mayors are coming together all over the country. We need to make sure that they are listening to us.

Ted Simons: And what do you want them to hear? Why should they be listening to you?

Marie Lopez Rogers: Well, there is certainly an opportunity and education is global, certainly it's an economic impact to all cities and towns across the nation if our education system isn't where it needs to be. So we want them to understand that we need to be at the table when they are talking about policy that may affect us. And with mayors across the nation, certainly councilmembers are working with their education folks to make a better community through education. And so we want that to -- for them to hear. I know it is a priority for the administration, as well.

Ted Simons: Has that partnership been a little lopsided in the past?

Marie Lopez Rogers: Well, we have antiquated policy that's been around for a very long time. I don't know that it's working as it used to be, at this point in time. We want them to make sure they take another look at it and see if we can't help them to restructure it.

Ted Simons: Let's talk about some issues of concern here. I notice that balancing accountability with schools and teachers and cities. Accountability is a word used here. What does that mean with regard to what you're looking at as a group?

Marie Lopez Rogers: They are having a tough time, just as we're having a tough time in cities. The accountability needs to be not only -- it's a teacher level, making sure that the teachers are teaching the children what they need to be learning. But certainly the funding level is also critical for them, as well. There's the accountability, not only from the federal but from the state and certainly the local officials.

Ted Simons: I notice turning schools into centers for the community, providing wrap-around services to kids and families, that sounds like a community center to me.

Marie Lopez Rogers: It does sound like a community center. We are just trying to incorporate those services that are badly needed in the schools. They are losing a lot of the music, certainly some of those critical services, whether it's counseling or -- and we're able with our partnerships, with our nonprofits, to support their efforts. We're making sure that we're supporting their efforts.

Ted Simons: When we approach a secretary, the education chief on something like this on a federal level, how do you make that relevant? How do you get a response that's going to make some sense?

Marie Lopez Rogers: Certainly mayors were giving stories of their own cities and towns and what they are working on, and how they are struggling to make sure it happens. One instance is the municipal tax bond. That's going to be critical not only to the cities but to the schools. That's an issue that's going to be critical as they are moving forward on the budget.

Ted Simons: You have another issue of concern, to build a cradle to career model. Explain, please.

Marie Lopez Rogers: Well, certainly. Before children are born you need to have prenatal care, they certainly have to grow up in a healthy home. And hopefully they continue their education, making education a priority having parents involved in their schooling. These days it's very difficult for them to do that.

Ted Simons: And again, what can the Feds do to help strengthen this educational pipeline, if you will?

Marie Lopez Rogers: Some of the policies that they are working on right now will probably need to be fine-tuned. Again, we want to be at the table, I believe, so we can have some input when we're working together on that.

Ted Simons: Another issue is appropriating college access. What is holding back college access now?

Marie Lopez Rogers: Well, there are a lot of things going on, they are all different across the nation. Whether it's tuition or first-time going to college, or being able to access that level, whether it's community colleges that can be helpful, there's many places they could be working on. We just want to ensure our children are receiving the education into the future.

Ted Simons: So again, as far as the mid to upper aspects, did you find, do they different much from state to state?

Marie Lopez Rogers: They really didn't. We all have the same issues, it's just education, getting children to continue their education. Parenting involvement, schools channeling.

Ted Simons: So what can cities do then to further the process and, again, get that partnership going, and maybe get a place at the table, at least a more prominent place at the table.

Marie Lopez Rogers: So with my own city, we have six councilmembers, each is assigned a school district. We've had a conference, if you will, in our city so we can have that communication well between their citizens, our schools and the nonprofits.

Ted Simons: When you compare with others, there are different approaches and different ways of looking at it.

Marie Lopez Rogers: I think the reform is actually speaking to the school districts. I think that hasn't been done for a long time. I think it's been territorial, if you will, I think we've learned that we need to work together. It's all about the family and the child in that family.

Ted Simons: Is the message getting through?

Marie Lopez Rogers: Secretary Duncan said he will partner with us and they will work with us.

Ted Simons: When you were at the meeting obviously he was listening. What did you get out of the meeting after you left? Anything tangible, or kind of a pep rally?

Marie Lopez Rogers: It was our first real meeting with him as voters. We're going to go back and resolve what we are and our next steps. I felt from his conversation he was willing to do that, and he had quite a number of staff there to do that, as well.

Ted Simons: So what does come next? What do you want to see come of this?

Marie Lopez Rogers: Well, you know, there's a lot to do yet, and there's a lot of mayors to talk to and certainly a lot to do next -- back together, figure out those next steps. Our national league of cities, has a youth education and family department that actually does white paper for cities and towns. For me, it's to engage and educate our member board, a better place for them.

Ted Simons: Last week we talked about how some are seeing the balance of power lifting toward cities and states out there. What are you seeing out there?

Marie Lopez Rogers: Well, I see the same thing. So we're held accountable. We see if there's a problem and we want to get the problem solved. How do we do that if we don't do it together?

Ted Simons: Mayor, thank you very much.

Marie Lopez Rogers: Appreciate it.

Campaign Contribution Limits

  |   Video
  • State lawmakers passed a law that raises campaign contribution limits ten-fold. That law is now being challenged in court. The suit says the law violates the state’s Voter Protection Act, which prohibits lawmakers from making substantial changes to laws approved by voters. Louis Hoffman, a commissioner from the Citizens Clean Elections Commission will discuss the suit, along with Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery.
  • Louis Hoffman - Commissioner, Citizens Clean Elections Comission
  • Bill Montgomery - Attorney, Maricopa County
Category: Law   |   Keywords: campaign, contribution, lawmakers, law,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: A new state law that raises campaign contribution limits is being challenged in court. The suit claims that the law violates the state's Voter Protection Act, which prohibits the legislature from making substantial changes to laws approved by voters. Joining us now is Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, who favors the law, and a Commissioner from the Citizens Clean Elections Commission, among those suing the State, Louis Hoffman. Thank you so much for joining us.

Bill Montgomery: Thanks, Ted.

Ted Simons: What does the new law do?

Bill Montgomery: It addresses a very important gaping hole in our campaign finance system by raising to a more competitive level how much an individual can give to a candidate. With a 20% reduction in law, it'll be $2,000 for each election, primaries and campaigns. The same way clean elections frees up to nine participating candidates. Additionally it requires trigger reports if a candidate within 20 days of an election receives a contribution of $1,000 or more from a single source they have to report it. And if they receive a contribution from a single source of $1,000 or more they have to provide notice of that before receiving it.

Louis Hoffman: What Mr. Montgomery didn't say is that those limits are in some cases removed entirely, and most other cases increased by a factor of nine or ten, nine with the reduction that he described. The voters in Arizona decided in 1998 to limit the size of campaign contributions, and had decided that for a decade earlier than that. And this bill basically makes a tenfold increase without following the procedures set by the Voter Protection Law.

Ted Simons: I want to get to those procedures. But first, why is this law necessary? Why should the caps be increased?

Bill Montgomery: The increase in contributions that an individual can make to a candidate is in many ways reflective of two instances in which the U.S. Supreme Court has cautioned Arizona about how low our limits are. First in 2006, Arizona along with a handful of other states were called out in a footnote in that case, that our contribution limits were very low. In 2011 with the Free Enterprise Club against Secretary Bennett. Arizona's contribution limits, the austere limits were among the most austere in the United States. They have been low and recognized as low. The fact that you can say it's a nine-fold increase is not an outrageous amount. This year five other states increased their contribution limits, Wyoming to $2,500 Florida to $3,000, Minnesota to $4,000 and that incredibly large state of Maryland to $6,000. We're still at the bottom of that.

Ted Simons: Are Arizona contribution limits too low, and does this new law not address the problem?

Louis Hoffman: If there's a problem to be secured with low contribution limits, the answer is not to simply ignore what the voters did and go ahead and pass a tenfold increase without following the procedures specified. The law is not unconstitutionally low, the cases that Mr. Montgomery cited to the contrary. We -- but if you're going to avoid a problem -- let me just say, we've had the contribution limits in this state for 26 years and at no time has anyone even challenged the constitutionality of the statute in a court case until about a month ago. If there's some perception these are too low to be unconstitutional, based on reading tea leaves, then a challenge can be made. If you're going to raise the rates in the state, you have to comply with the Arizona Constitution. The Supreme Court simply ignored that.

Ted Simons: You can't change measures without the voters approving the changes. That seems to be the crux of the issue.

Bill Montgomery: I think it's shameful and it's going to be exhibit A next session when the legislature goes to get rid of the Clean Elections Commission. The Voter Protection Act as it pertains to the Citizens Clean Election Initiative as it was first passed doesn't require Arizona to leave untouched or pass with a super majority the actual amount. It addresses the limitation statute but that's it. This argument is breathtaking. Just because an initiative addresses a particular statute, if the Arizona Supreme Court were to rule, yep, that brings it into voters, under the Voter Protection Act, then within the next few cycles you'll have groups working to handcuff the legislature and prevent them from addressing unconstitutional circumstances like what we have right now.

Ted Simons: You're saying references and provisions are not the same as the law in total?

Bill Montgomery: Correct. Within the Clean Elections Initiative, look, those who drafted it could have set a limit to start with. They didn't. That kind of in-artful drafting is something we see in Arizona time and time again. We saw problematic arguments made with the top two initiatives, notwithstanding. Within the Clean Elections Initiative itself, all it said was that for the limits introduced in 16905, the Secretary of State has an additional mechanism by which they can be raised. If you're going to limit the legislature's constitutional authority to pass legislation, you have to do more than just give a wink and not to other statutes. This was awful. The Voter Protection Act was meant in some ways to say to the legislature, if you want to change us, you have to further it. You can't further a problem, the legislature has got to have the ability to address it. There's no harm that can be stated by anybody in this lawsuit. There's no authority to bring it and everything else is speculative.

Ted Simons: Respond, please.

Louis Hoffman: Sure. The voters set up the commission and the voters of the State of Arizona assigned our commission the duty precisely to defend the choice of the voters to limit campaign contributions. We're doing our duty, our job here. As the -- I was one of the -- I was the lead person drafting this statute, and I wrote this particular statute. With all due respect to my learned colleague, it does not simply give a wink and nod to the other statute that sets forth limits. It says that a nonparticipating candidate shall not accept an amount that is higher than specified by the limit. The limit is specified by referring to the list of numbers in the statute that defined the separate amounts to do. It said, could the legislature have simply ignored the will of the voters when we said the limit should be, say, $440, and reduced that 20%? And the next day gone back and just increased it 20% again, just for the sake of it? This is not -- this is the sort of legislative finagling and shenanigans that voters don't like and courts have seen through that ruse. I think we'll see whether he's right about his prediction of whether this gets rejected or not. The Court has time and time again said the legislature does not have the power, the citizens retain the power, the legislature cannot make direct or indirect cuts to the initiative.

Ted Simons: Someone argued the will of the voters relatively clear in this. Are you saying, not necessarily?

Bill Montgomery: Here what's voters were promised. First they were told if you pass a Clean Elections Initiative, you will diminish the influence of special interests in Arizona. No. Instead, because we have this closed contribution system and artificially low limits, that money has gone to independent expenditures and to PACs. They were told it would increase voter participation in elections. NO. It hasn't done a darn thing to increase the turnout. The third point was that we were promised that it would promote free speech. Yet one of the cornerstones of the matching funds was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court because it violated free speech by unfairly and unreasonably limiting the contribution limits, forcing people who want to exercise their First Amendment rights to seek other avenues to influence elections. If we want to track money you do it to candidates. In the same point in which I referenced the Supreme Court's contributions as austere. If you want to know where money is going, give to it a candidate who has to report it to a frequent schedule. We have a different ability today than we did when the Citizens Clean Elections Commission was first passed. People have computers now, there are reports on a database and the Secretary's website is accessible. Voters can do that. All these other arguments about direction that was absent back then, it hasn't come to fruition, the promises haven't been made. The will of the voters is trying to figure out who's trying influence who and how much. They are giving voters the ability to exercise their rights to free speech.

Ted Simons: What -- how much of that does come into play when you do talk about the will of the voters, who wanted perhaps A, B, and C.

Louis Hoffman: Clean Elections is not intended to solve every problem with the world or with elections. It was intended to provide an additional path so that candidates who didn't have access to special sources of money would be able to run regardless. The point of Supreme Court cases talking about the limits is to make sure there's a path where a candidate can run for office. If you unconstitutionally lower limits, it abridges the right of a candidate to run a campaign. We don't have any track record of candidates being stopped from running. If they did have an inability to run under the limits that exist or existed, they could easily go and run during clean elections. With regard to your question about independent -- and Mr. Montgomery's point about independent expenditures, I share your concern about the disclosure and influence of elections outside the normal channel of giving. It's not an excuse to violate the Voter Protection Act of the Arizona Constitution.

Ted Simons: Last point very quickly: Contribution limits set in clean elections law, limits messed with by this particular law. How does that not wind up in court?

Bill Montgomery: First off, you have to show it harming voter protection argument. It tries to stretch the item. You have the legislature act responsibly. One point to make real quickly, the average amount raised by those running in legislative districts was about $26,000, exceeding the -- less than what it would cost someone to be able to send a letter to all registered voters in their district. It's not working in that regard. The other point to be made, let's go through a cycle, let's see exactly what people can raise. It's a limit, it's not a guarantee. And if those who want to run as a clean elections candidate are some distanced, they may say this is exactly what we need to raise those limits to and I don't have a problem with it.

Louis Hoffman:$26,000, you just gave that figure, you could have a living room with a big donor, with 13 people giving you $2,000.

Ted Simons: Good discussion, thank you for joining us.

Louis Hoffman: Thank you for having us.