Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

December 20, 2013


Host: Ted Simons

Journalists' Roundtable

  |   Video
  • Join us for another edition of the Journalists’ Roundtable, as local reporters recap the big news of the week.
Guests:
  • Mark Brodie - Journalist, KJZZ
  • Jeremy Duda - Journalist, Arizona Capitol Times
  • Luige del Puerto - Journalist, Arizona Capitol Times
Category: Journalists Roundtable   |   Keywords: roundtable, top stories,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Coming up next on Arizona Horizon's Journalists' Roundtable, the state Supreme Court gives the ok for higher campaign contribution limits, plus, the latest on various cps investigations, and new numbers show improvement in Arizona's unemployment rate. The Journalists' Roundtable is next on "Arizona Horizon."

Narrator: "Arizona Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the friends of Eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to Arizona Horizon's Journalists' Roundtable. I'm Ted Simons. Joining me tonight are Luige Del Puerto of the Arizona Capitol Times, Jeremy Duda from the Arizona Capitol Times, and Mark Brodie of KJZZ Radio. The Arizona Supreme Court rules that higher campaign contribution limits put on hold earlier this year are good to go. Luige Del Puerto, was this decision a surprise?

Luige del Puerto: Well, it's, you know, you never know what to expect from the state Supreme Court. To me, it was a surprise, to some others, it was not. And it's, it's heyday for, for traditional, traditionally funded candidates, you know, for, for the upcoming election cycle. I did hear from a couple lobbyists that said, well, it's going to hurt our pockets here real soon, especially since by the way, the, the so-called hell week, is taking place in January before the session, so perfect timing.

Ted Simons: So this applies to both primary and general elections. How much was it before and what is the limit and what is it now?

Jeremy Duda: The old limit is low, $440 for legislative races, and $912 for statewide race, and now it's 4,000 for all races, and that's split between the general and the primary. Those are considered two separate campaign cycles, and they have to filed two committees under the guidance from the Secretary of State's office. But, you get that $2,000 for the primary and 2,000 more for the general, and they might be able to carry that over, and we're still not sure if you have money from the primary but potential the more money for folks who have the ability to raise it, which is a question to some folks, because even though the limits are higher, not everyone raised the max contributions of the old limits, so some folks are wondering, you know, how much some people, how few people can take full advantage of this.

Mark Brodie: There seems to be some question as to how much desire there is out there, in the political donor world to give $4,000 to a legislative candidate, especially in districts where, where, where it's pretty well set in the primary, it's going to determine who wins. I had a chance to talk to Jim Pederson, who has given large amounts of money to candidates, including himself, when he ran for the Senate. And he said in swing districts it might make a district but in some, he said money can't be Gerrymandering, so it will depend on, in the swing districts, which candidates were viable and might be able to raise that money.

Ted Simons: What were the arguments against these increased limits?

Jeremy Duda: Well, the arguments against it, it comes down to, to a voter approved statute from 1998. It's an arcane issue of statutory construction, there are a lot of arguments throughout this debate on First Amendment and free speech, but that did not come into play, this was about, about was, was 1998, Arizona voters passed the clean elections act, which included an automatic 20% reduction for the limits for traditionally funded candidates. And the clean elections commission and opponents to the new limits say that that was the voters setting in stone, those limits from 1998. And what the, the supporters said, well, that was a formula to reduce the limits by 20%, and whatever they may be. And with the Supreme Court Justices were asking, the queen elections side was, if the voters really intended to set these limits in stone, why did they do it in such an ambiguous and complicated manner? They could have just written out new limits.

Ted Simons: That's what he said, the %, the fact that, that it is a formula as opposed to a, a hard, fast number, that was a biggy wasn’t it?

Luige del Puerto: Yeah, that was, that was the, one of the main questions before, before the court, and of course, we don't know exactly what the reasoning is for, for, of the Supreme Court, in upholding the higher contribution limits. The interesting thing is that, is that we are hearing from, from people who give money to candidates on a regular basis, and really, the issue may not be whether the limits before were low, or the new limits high, but, the, the pool of people who give, which is very small and who are not imagining that pool is going to expand overnight, since we now have higher limits for, for campaign contributions.

Ted Simons: It's an interesting way to look at it, now they dice things up in a different way.

Luige del Puerto: And I think that, that it's going to be very rare that somebody will, will provide, you know, $2,000 checks, and to a lot of people. You might see that in one or two cases, but, really, I think that the prevailing sentiment is, those people who were contributing for a long time, they probably will contribute within the, the $200-$500 range.

Ted Simons: Is there any chance the legislature will, will address the campaign contribution limits in a different way, or, or somehow, just get this in statute, in a varying form? Is there any chance that we'll see a citizen's initiative start to, to address this issue?

Mark Brodie: Well, the legislature, in the past few years, has tried in various ways to just do away with clean elections all together, which seems like, as Jeremy said, it's a question now, is, you know, what's the point of clean elections if you are a traditionally funded candidate, and you can raise $4,000 and you can't raise that much as a clean elections candidate and, and we have seen, with matching funds going away, that fewer candidates were running with clean elections, and you wonder now that the limits are up, will fewer, more fewer candidates run with the keep elections at some point, might voters say, you know what, it's a good idea in theory, but, realistically, this is not working.

Luige del Puerto: And mark raise as good point, and I think that clean elections has never hit an -- in its desire to see the amount that go, that goes to publicly funded candidates to go up, so I think there might be a fight in next year's session to raise the, the, the funding that those who run the clean elections will get next year.

Mark Brodie: The problem for clean elections is that they have lost all their leverage. Now, last year when they were debating this new higher contribution limits, House Bill 2593, you know, it is covered by the voter protection act, you cannot raise the limits without complying with voter intent, and to do that you need to give the clean elections some goodies. So they came up with a plan for this program that would have kind of replaced matching funds in, you know, a different way but would have, you know, dramatically increased the amount of money available to the publicly funded candidates, and they said you need to cut a deal with us and do this, of the supporters of the new limits said no, we're going to go our own way, and I think the clean elections folks were hoping they won this in court and they could use that as leveraging or bargaining power, and that is gone, I don't see any way that they get the legislature to, to, you know, to increase that money now.

Ted Simons: All right, we'll see where it goes from here, but it sounds like it's going straight to the bank. CPS investigations, it seems like everyone and their favorite attorney is out there probing something or rather. Mark, talk to us in general. I know that there were some hearings this week, did we learn a heck of a lot?

Mark Brodie: I think that we have gotten a better sense of how many cases were looked at and how many kids have been seen and how many kids haven't been seen. It seems the more we learn, the more questions come up, and the more we realize that we don't know, so, this appears to be an issue that will be in the headlines for quite a while. Including once the legislature comes back to session at the beginning of January. This seems like it will be an issue that once again, lawmakers have to deal with in some way or another.

Ted Simons: DPS addressed at the hearing here, again, it did not seem like we learned a heck of a lot, all we seemed to learn, whether they get their findings in at the end of January, they are going to send them to DES and the governor's office, and 24 hours later, you are going to find out.

Luige del Puerto: That's what Carter said, as soon as he gets it within hours he's going to hand it over to the legislative oversight committee, and at that point, presumably, we're going to find out what DPS has found out. They are looking into the core issues within CPS, and why did this happen? And what led to this problem, and presumably there will be a recommendation about how to resolve it and make sure that this does not happen again, and now, there are a myriad of questions about why this happened. We are learning that, that this is not really something new. In a sense that, that DES is saying they had been reporting to the legislature and the Governor that, that there are cases that, that they were not investigating. And, and the focus is on the recent reports, where, where the, the terms that were used to describe this case, is, were not, they were not as clear as up front. But, in the previous reports, back in 2009 and 2010, it was clear. It was there. They were not investigated, and not responded to.

Ted Simons: Jeremy, some of those previous reports, the words, not investigated. And “not responded to”, they are right there. And was there anyone reading these things?

Jeremy Duda: You would think so. These things go to the legislature, and you have two chambers, multiple caucus, and the Governor's office and advocacy groups, like the children's action alliance, and to hear from Biggs and the Governor's office, are accusations saying well, these were couched in vague terms, and I think the governor’s spokesperson said hiding in plain sight. Now Carter says, people who know this stuff, he should have known what that means, and frankly, that probably does not bode well for Clarence Carter who has half the capital calling for his head on a platter anyway.

Ted Simons: He said you should know what it means, he should.

Jeremy Duda: And he seemed as surprised as anyone else when these uninvestigated cases came up. Now we're seeing there is a lot of hints in these reports.

Luige del Puerto: Which begs the question, whether he's going to be the person reading the DPS report come January, that's really a big question, whether he stays there for, for, and for how long.

Ted Simons: And it does beg the question, what good are oversight reports, and regular reports in the legislature and the governor's office if they cannot understand them at the very least?

Mark Brodie: It seems like common sense would suggest that if you have reports, and you don't read them or can't understand them or don't do anything with them, there is not much point to having them. That's captain obvious here, but, I think the issue is that, and, you know, I have talked to some folks this week who said that, you know, CPS and des have to submit so many reports, and there is so many requirements that maybe there is some way to streamline them in some capacity so that the reports that CPS and DES put out, the ones that they put out are in English and readable and people have a sense of what they are saying.

Luige del Puerto: We press those lawmakers who were dealing with cps, and if those reports show the cases were uninvestigated or sweeping under the wheel, and they said that, when this report, when the reports were made they were under the impression at some point, CPS would get to them and they would be investigated. That, that they were not under the impression that CPS would leave the cases. And no. Not responding to uninvestigated, but somehow there would be some work done, and yesterday we talked to the Senate President Andy Biggs about it, and we asked, did you fail in your job of, of overseeing this committee? And he said, this is -- he vigorously defended it and says this lies within CPS, and he said this is under the Governor's auspices not the legislature’s.

Ted Simons: So everyone, other than me, should have known is what I'm hearing out there? We talked to lawmakers and they are saying oh, no, you cannot figure it out, you in a Ed to extrapolate by way of math and formulas and all of this. Again, what good are regular reports if no one can understand them?

Jeremy Duda: Not much, and I believe we spoke with the children's action alliance. They had inquired about that stuff in the reports, and they claim that they have gotten assurances from DES that this is being looked into. The kids are safe, and nobody looks, when you say, not responded to, you know, you get the impression that it's not responded to yet, and cps has like a 10,000-case backlog, and maybe most people don't realize that means never going to be responded to, and we got this call, and wrote a report and stuck it in a drawer.

Ted Simons: But as far as DPS, the chief of DPS and the care team chair appearing before the legislature and the hearings, did we learn much of anything?

Luige del Puerto: Not a whole lot. So what we learned, for example, one sixth of the children were involved in more than 6,000 cases of uninvestigated reports. And one sixth of the children were involved in another case. So what this tells us, these were grave cases, or some really good reasons to be concerned. And what this tells us, also, we don't really know, we cannot really say that they were safe because we don't know.

Ted Simons: Alright let’s move on here. Encouraging news, jobless rate, looks like the numbers are improving for Arizona. Dropping four-tenths to 7.8 percent. Is that seasonal? Is there jumping and shouting going on or tempering our enthusiasm?

Jeremy Duda: Probably tempering it. It is an improvement, the state's jobless rate is 7.8%, which is higher than the national average of 7.0.

Ted Simons: Yeah.

Jeremy Duda: Were you we are improving a bit better than the national average, so we have more ground to cover but getting there faster than others.

Mark Brodie: One of the reasons that I think emotions might be temper idea is the kinds of jobs being created. In the last report we found a lot of the jobs were in retail because the stores were getting ready for the holiday shopping season, and all of that. And this is an issue that, that comes up a lot when job growth in Arizona is discussed, and what kinds of jobs, and are these good jobs, seasonal jobs, are they jobs with benefits, jobs that pay well? And for a lot of jobs, not all, but a lot of jobs, leading up to the holiday shopping season, they go away once Christmas or New Year's happens. You don't necessarily get health benefits or dental or retirement or anything like that. They don't necessarily pay all that well.

Luige del Puerto: And the report says these are seasonal but there is one nugget there, I think, that bodes very well, construction jobs actually grew, also, and the interesting thing about it, is that, is that at this time of the year, typically, construction jobs shed jobs, and the construction industry sheds jobs, and in this case, they added more, so that's, that's a pretty good sign for us.

Ted Simons: All right. And with that, we move on now, to what looks to be a call for California-style property tax limits, which is a call that we have heard before, and apparently we are going to hear it again?

Jeremy Duda: We have heard that in the last cycles, the call for Prop 13, and now they are not calling it that any more, they are calling it easy property tax, I believe, and it's the same thing with a couple new things, it would cap the property tax rates and cap annual increase this is evaluation, which is what gets people hot and bothered about property taxes anyway like we saw in Arizona, property values shoot up, and the taxes shoot up with them, so put a cap on the evaluation, and the increase, plus also get rid of the business personal property tax, which is the subject of a ballot measure that went down in flames last year.

Ted Simons: I have heard this described as a nuclear bomb on the public finance system.

Luige del Puerto: A nuclear ordinance according to Kevin McCarthy, who is President of the Arizona Tax Research Association. It is funded by the biggest industries that would benefit from this initiative, if it pass, but he's saying that this would completely obliterate the public's financing system put in place, and the revenues would vanish, and be tremendous if this were to pass.

Ted Simons: So some 259 thousand signatures needed. The citizen driven initiatives don't always do that well here in Arizona. This has a chance at all?

Jeremy Duda: Hard to say, that is a lot of signatures to get in under a year, and you need money to do that. In the past, it's always been a volunteer driven effort, they have never had any money, and these folks have looked to the original prop 13 in California as guidance, which is an all-volunteer thing, but in the late 70s in California, property taxes were killing people, here in Arizona they are lower, so there is not a lot of excitement over this, which means you need to get 300, 400, 500 thousand people to pay people to get this on the ballot.

Ted Simons: We'll see how that works. And we have another community municipality in Arizona, approving civil unions, and cottonwood now joins the crowd here, and the valley is becoming progressive along these lines, does the legislative thinking reflect that?

Mark Brodie: It does not seem that way, you heard calls for, instead of the council deciding to put it before the voters, and this should not have happened, but Bisbee was the first in the state to, to do this, and you are seeing this in the, not in Phoenix or Maricopa county, but, it's sort of, if you are a supporter of same sex marriage, or marriage equality, as they call it, this seems like a step in the right direction, although, the odds that Arizona follows suit, that's, I mean, that's really the question, and that is a big question.

Ted Simons: And my next question, New Mexico, they say it is ok by them, and Sedona and Gerome and Tucson and Clarkdale and Cottonwood, and Arizona next? Or do we got ways to go to see this?

Luige del Puerto: Well, the one group was going to put on a ballot in an amendment to allow same sex marriage, that did not happen. The thing did not even launch, if you will. And it failed on launching, and, so there is a couple of years that we will have to wait until we see an initiative that would allow for same sex marriage in Arizona. Arizona is, you know, a state that's, that has a pioneering Libertarian spirit but also a state that said we will not have same sex marriage.

Jeremy Duda: And interesting, in other news, you mentioned New Mexico where the state Supreme Court said they have to allow it, and in Utah, they struck down that state's gay marriage ban, as well, and I am sure that we'll see plenty of court action that goes through the court of appeals and the Supreme Court, but, that's a Federal Court issue, so that could have an implication for Arizona and every other state that has this on the books.

Mark Brodie: And there is talk since it was the Federal Court it could affect other states in that district, and Colorado is one with a gay marriage ban. Depending on how this ruling goes, you know, if it's appealed and goes to the Supreme Court, how it goes, but how it is written, and might also strike down a state like Colorado's gay marriage ban, in which case you would have another areas, almost all of Arizona's neighbors would, would allow same sex marriage.

Luige del Puerto: What we are seeing, is that the attitude towards same sex is changed in the last ten years or so. I mean, more people think it is ok, and that's, you know, radically different than what was six or seven years ago.

Ted Simons: It will be interesting to see, what the state winds up doing. And the forestry division, against the Yarnell findings, they are challenging the safety officials, the findings here is, regarding liable, and fines. Liability is the biggy?

Jeremy Duda: We have seen just this past week 13 families, or families of these fallen firefighters following notices of claims, and there is one who, who already filed one, and a lot of people, homeowners who lost their houses filing claims, and when you have a state report from the industrial commission, saying these people died because you made mistakes, that's going to carry a lot of weight, and that was referenced pretty liberally in these notices of claim.

Ted Simons: And willful violation was the term.

Luige del Puerto: Three, and one of them is a willful violation which is a big deal because when you are finding, fighting a claim, that, that presumably will have a huge impact. The industrial commission found the forestry division put firefighters in harm's way by, by having them defend properties indefensible, to the industrial commission's mind, and that's going to have a big impact, and it will all wind up in court for sure.

Ted Simons: Indeed and the assistant attorney general says the findings of fault, contrary to law, are arbitrary and capricious. This is a rough thing to fight but the state is ready to fight it. Before we go, I don't know how far we can go into this but, we have more lawsuits settled by the Board of Supervisors, the New Times founder suit, the Don Stapley suit. Together, it's like seven some odd millions. And what, 17?

Mark Brodie: It's a lot of money.

Ted Simons: Right.

Mark Brodie: A lot of money.

Ted Simons: Right. And I mean, does any of this impact the public's perception of Joe Arpaio?

Jeremy Duda: I think people are set in their opinions at this point, you know, and you know, if you did not like them before, then, you know, this reinforces that, and you still support them, I can't imagine one more lawsuit will make the difference. He still has, you know, attractors and hard core loyal supporters, and I can't imagine it will change too many opinions except for the insurance underwriters.

Luige del Puerto: And he still has a lot of money in his campaign kitty, and that's not going to change people. They are still contributing to him, and probably will be the most funded candidate that we'll see, you know, perhaps even statewide. We have seen that before. In this coming, coming -- in case he opts for re-election.

Ted Simons: But you have $17 million and counting in settlements here, and does that not -- is there Arpaio fatigue? He's laying low. I mean, what's, what's -- ?

Mark Brodie: I think that Jeremy's point is a good one, which is that people are sort of set in their ways, and to some extent, we have seen in the past that, that Joe Arpaio has been able to use things like this to his advantage in the campaign, that, that you know, these elected officials, just protecting one another, and, you know, giving each other massive amounts of money, and even though, and covering up all of this wrongdoing. So, it's possible that, that this could, maybe not necessarily help him, but, it's not a guarantee that it will hurt him, in his next election.

Ted Simons: And ancillary question, if I'm running for office next year for the state legislature or for any office, do I want Joe Arpaio standing next to me? If I'm a Republican?

Jeremy Duda: In a conservative district in a republican primary, you may, you may still, and especially in these legislative districts where you have a small number of votes, and that's going to count, and I would not be surprised to see some statewide candidates still, according to the support.

Luige del Puerto: And they will receive endorsements in the state that people truly seek, that people think, really make a difference, one of them is the Sheriff’s.

Ted Simons: And, and again, if I'm a fiscal conservative, and someone in the outyells what about that $17 million of settlements, I say what? I say.

Mark Brodie: I probably would change the subject. [Laughter]

Ted Simons: I say, thank you for joining us, and go have cookies in the back of the hall.

Ted Simons: That's it, gentlemen, and thank you very much. Have a happy holiday and a wonderful new year and we'll see you next year. Great work.

Ted Simons: Monday on "Arizona Horizon," a panel of local economists recap . And offer insights into what to expect for the coming year. And our annual economic roundtable Monday evening 5:30 and 10 right here on "Arizona Horizon." Tuesday, it's our annual look at the big stories of the year, through the work of political cartoonist, Steve Benson and Brian Farrington. And Wednesday, musicians special, featuring concert pianist Lang Lang and composer Eric Whitacre, and Thursday we'll talk to Arizona's first poet laureate opposite Albert Rios and Friday is our Journalists' Roundtable's year end review show, and a reminder, if you missed any of our programs, you can find us on the line, on the net, I should say, or online at azPBS.org/horizon, and all sorts of information about past shows, and what we're doing now and what we plan to do in the future and the coming year. That is it for now. I am Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us. You have a great weekend.

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