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January 8, 2014

Host: Ted Simons

Divided Congress

  |   Video
  • Reporting by the Arizona Republic says Arizona‚Äôs congressional delegation is a microcosm of the problems with congress. It includes Tea Party Republicans, establishment members and moderate congressmen and women of both parties. Rebekah Sanders, who worked on the articles for a year, will talk about her reporting.
  • Rebekah Sanders - Congressional Report, Arizona Republic
Category: Government   |   Keywords: congress, update, congressional, arizona,

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Ted Simons: The Arizona Republic spent the last year looking at hour Arizona's congressional delegation mirrors Congress as a whole. As evident in the state's Tea Party Republicans, establishment members and moderates in swing districts. The series was put together by reporter Rebekah Sanders who joins us now and good to see you again. This was quite the effort here, and a house divided. What was the focus?

Rebekah Sanders: Well, we knew that 2013 was going to be an important year because it was a lot of members in our, in our state delegation to the House of Representatives that were new, or, or hadn't been elected for very long, and also, our delegation grew from eight numbers to nine because of our population growth. So, we just wanted to really keep track of who are these, these people representing Arizona, where do they fall along the ideological spectrum and how do they respond to the battles in Congress that we know go on all the time?

Ted Simons: Let's talk about how they do fall along that spectrum, and how they did respond to the battles.

Rebekah Sanders: Interestingly we have got a very wide breadth of political positions. We have folks on the far left, and folks in the middle, three moderate members, and folks on the far right, as well. So, it's interesting Arizona is not just purely at the red state that some folks think that we are but we have got people on all sides.

Ted Simons: Did you find that, that, and we hear a lot out of Washington that compromise has become a dirty word, if you will, and is that with our delegation, as well?

Rebekah Sanders: Well, what we did see is, is that there is a, a big struggle in Congress to have people get beyond fighting for, for their principles and what they want, and deciding to give a little and take a little. What's interesting is the middle ground in Congress has really shrunk dramatically. I mean, obviously, there is always, there has always been differences of opinion and political fights in Washington. But, it's even more pronounced now. According to some voting records, you could see the moderate number of members in Congress shrinking from 344, three decades ago, to 13.

Ted Simons: I think that we have a chart or something along those lines, that shows how the middle ground is, is almost -- that's the laws passed by Congress. Go to the other chart, if you can. It shows the middle ground, there you go.

Rebekah Sanders: It's shrinking dramatically.

Ted Simons: My goodness.

Rebekah Sanders: You wonder why they cannot get along.

Ted Simons: Is this, is this mostly, and we hear about this, is this mostly because of the primary system?

Rebekah Sanders: That's part of it. The primary elections are of more importance, so they are worried about getting challenges from people of their own party and having to be farther to the left or the right than their opponents. Redistricting, has played a part in that. Voters also just, just are moving into neighborhoods that are more like minded. So, we are in some part to blame.

Ted Simons: I noticed in the stories there was one section you talk about the difference between being a steward and a delegate.

Rebekah Sanders: These are two philosophies of how members of Congress see themselves at representatives. Are you elected to make the right decision for the country as a whole? And that might mean giving a little bit on your principles. Or are you there to really represent to a t what your constituents believe and want you to stand for. And you could say that the our more conservative people, Matt salmon, and even to an extent, Trent Frank, are more in that model of, of I'm, I'm my district representative, and so I have to be as pure ideologically as I can.

Ted Simons: As far as the Tea Party, how influential -- and are these folks, I mean, are they banner-carrying Tea Party members?

Rebekah Sanders: Well, to an extent. I think definitely a lot of the principles of shrinking Government, you know, cutting spending. Those are really important to the members, also to their constituents. So a lot of what the battles in Washington are about, is, is how much are we going to spend, how much debt are we going to carry and, and they are very, there are very different views on that.

Ted Simons: And I noticed Senator Barbara Kirkpatrick, considered moderates, but are they opportunists because they have got to run that path in those districts.

Rebekah Sanders: They are all Democrats in districts that are evenly divided between Republican and Democratic voters and independents, as well. And so they can't view the party line 100 percent of the time, even though sometimes they may want to, although, you know, they say they are trying to chart the middle path. It's good for their re-election to vote with Republicans sometimes, they say it's also about making the reasonable choices. But sometimes it can get confusing. For instance, on affordable health care votes, when, when these Democrats support the law as a whole, and say but we would like to make some of these GOP-backed changes.

Ted Simons: Yeah, and that's interesting because, and if you don't like something, you will vote one way or the other, and you cannot figure out if they are for it or against it. As far as the, the senior members, Franks, you would think the senior members, and I think you wrote about this. There is a legacy here, they know how Congress works, yet those, they are as partisan as you can get.

Rebekah Sanders: That's right. So, there is this question, if you are in Congress a long time, do you become more entrenched and more polarized, or do you see that you have to grease the wheels to get things done, and you have to, to negotiate. It really depends more, I think, on the temperament of that member. Ed Pastor, our Dean of the Delegation, been in Congress more than two decades, and he has chartered more of the, of the middle road in terms of he voted for the bipartisan budget deal this December, which he did not like some of the cuts in it. But he felt like, like, you know, we need a deal just to have some stability here, and he went for it. The others opposed it.

Ted Simons: Indeed, before we let you go, anything surprise you in doing the research for this?

Rebekah Sanders: Yeah, you know, I just think that it was great to see the members up close and personal. You will see in the, in the stories that you can read, it's at All the meetings and town halls I went to with the members. And they have got really, really interesting personalities that come out.

Ted Simons: So, and as far as readership and folks that go online and take a look at this, what do we take from this?

Rebekah Sanders: Well, I think that readers have been responding in terms of feeling appreciative they know the delegation well now, and they understand that Arizona is a really interesting microcosm of our nation's politics as a whole right now. And I think that helps people understand why aren't they getting along? Well, because of the different opinions, and the different motivations politically that the members have.

Ted Simons: All right. Very good. Thank you very much for joining us. We appreciate it.

End of Unemployment Benefits Extension

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  • Federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits started to help people during the recession, ended recently, impacting 12,100 Arizona families. The Grand Canyon Institute, a private non-profit corporation that provides non-partisan research, has analyzed the economic impact of the loss of extended federal unemployment benefits. David Wells, research director for the institute, will talk about the impact.
  • David Wells - Research Director, The Grand Canyon Institute
Category: Business/Economy   |   Keywords: business, economy, families, unemployment, benefits, federal, impact,

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Ted Simons: Federal emergency compensation was instituted to help those who have lost their jobs during the recession, but those benefits have now been terminated, and impacting thousands of Arizona families. David Wells is the research director of the Grand Canyon Institute, a private nonprofit corporation that provides nonpartisan research, he analyzed the impact of losing the extended jobless benefits. Thanks for joining us. Good to have you here.

David Wells: Thanks.

Ted Simons: What is emergency employment compensation?

David Wells: The state provides 26 weeks of unemployment, and you only get unemployment compensation if you have lost your job to, through no fault of your own, and after 26 weeks, you are cut off, and what happens during, you know, major unemployment crisis, is the Federal Government comes in and extends the benefits. They were extended as much as a total of 99 weeks, and right now, there was a 37 additional weeks, so 66 total that Arizona people could get until December .

Ted Simons: And again, this is averaging a couple hundred to something along those?

David Wells: The average benefit, Arizona has low benefits and it's 220 a week, is the average weekly benefit. 240 is the maximum that anyone can get.

Ted Simons: And who qualifies and who does not qualify?

David Wells: Yeah, you have to have lost a job through no fault of your own. You cannot just quit, and that's -- and then you are able to get the benefits.

Ted Simons: And why did these benefits terminate?

David Wells: Well, Congress only authorized them through December 28th, and then they had not reauthorized them before they went into recess.

Ted Simons: And that reason being?

David Wells: Well, I mean, I think generally, they had a budget agreement that they came up with, and I think -- the Democrats want this had as part of the agreement. The Republicans want it paid for. They don't want to provide any benefit without some kind of budgetary pay-for. And they did not have much time to get something done before the holidays. So that, unfortunately, it terminated.

Ted Simons: I think it was an ideological aspect, and some folks look at benefits as being discouraging to those looking for work.

David Wells: Right. And but the economic research shows that, that the very small impact. There is a small portion of people who will be on, on unemployment longer, and what it helps a lot of people do is stay in the labor force, it keeps them going. Otherwise, before they give up.

Ted Simons: Talk to us -- a curious impact on the jobless rate here, isn't it?

David Wells: Well, it's more than curious, it's tragic. One of the things that I discovered here was that, that we have lost 150,000 people since 2008 from our labor force and, and it's 130,000 people since January when unemployment rate was 10.8 percent. That means the people have given up looking for work for the most part.

Ted Simons: And I guess I use the word "curious" because all of a sudden the jobless rate goes down but that means a lot of people have left.

David Wells: It's a bad way.

Ted Simons: The impact on Arizona, the lost benefit, what did you find?

David Wells: Well, the impact is going to impact about 12,1000 families immediately. And over the course of 2014, we expect about 22,000 families to be impacted in the first half of the year, and if it's not extended another 20,000 will be impacted at the second part. And the total economic cost of that will be about $174 million, which could cause 1,600 people to lose their jobs.

Ted Simons: So, you are saying because these folks don't have the money in the system, folks who could use the money in the system, by way of those folks, they could lose their jobs?

David Wells: Yeah. If they don't have money to spend -- they will probably, you know, take out a second mortgage or sell a car. They will do a lot of desperate things. But, that's really going to hurt them in the long run, and if they don't spend the money, other jobs are not supported.

Ted Simons: I noticed the reports had recommendations in here, one of those being phase out the benefits as opposed to ending them at once. Talk to us about that.

David Wells: Congress has started to do that, and I said at one time you could get 99 weeks of unemployment benefit, and you cannot do that anymore. And the idea is, as the economy is recovering, states have to qualify for added benefits, and our current rate is just below 8 percent, and if we stay below that, maybe we should not get 37 extra weeks but maybe 28 extra weeks of benefits. The idea is as the economy improves, we don't need these benefits, and in states are below 6 perceny unemployment, and they probably don't need extra added benefits.

Ted Simons: And the approving of job training and job placement was also mentioned.

David Wells: I think that, we're losing out on a lot of economic growth in Arizona, so it's not only a tragedy for the families but a tragedy for the state because we're not getting the economic growth. So, we have got to identify two things that the state legislature could do, and one of them had to do with, with -- with helping with job training and so forth because, you have got a lot of people who, who are going to have a hard time getting back into the labor force or are psychologically beaten down, and they really need career coaching or some kind of, of placement services and there is ways the state can be entrepreneurial by a grant. We are expecting you to perform but we need you to work with these folks and provide some subsidies for you and get them back in the labor market.

Ted Simons: You mentioned a focus on women maintaining families.

David Wells: One of the stunning things we found was in 2012, the unemployment rate for women who maintained families was 12.7 percent. So, while the overall rate is going down, their rates are going way up. And the reason that I think that, is part of it, the state has cut the subsidies for, for low income working families, childcare. They removed $80 million from the budget during the budget crisis, and they have not put it back in. The consequence for that has meant that 10,000 less families are being served. They only had Federal funds to pay for the program. And these are women who, obviously, need affordable childcare.

Ted Simons: There is some who want to see, they say this is fine and dandy but I need to see some linkage with something else. Should job training be linked to benefits? Is that something that could be considered?

David Wells: It could be considered. Some people really need different things. Every worker is different with what they need. And as I say, that's why I think that this kind of competitive system where they provide grants, you could buy, provide different things to different folks, different industries have different needs, there is good matches, and in other cases, what the research has found is that, is that when somebody is unemployed for more than six months, they get discriminated against in the labor market, and the things that sort of vet out applications. When they see that, regardless of your qualifications, you could be the best person in the world, you are getting thrown out because you've been unemployed for six months, so getting those people placed temporarily where an employer can try them out, can be helpful, and there is a lot of needs out there. But we need to do something about it. We can't expect people who have gone through the rigors of unemployment because it's really hard on people to expect them to always bounce back.

Ted Simons: Ok. And real quickly, as far as public policy issues are concerned, what do we take from this?

David Wells: Well, I would hope that Congress is going to make this an urgent priority. We saw it yesterday pass a procedural hurdle in the Senate, and they have got to work together because even if they do this retroactively in Congress, these people need the money now. And it's really important. And at the state level, jobs are -- it's a critical thing. We passed a jobs bill in 2011, but not one that focused on the people unemployed.

Ted Simons: All right. We have got to stop you right there. Thanks for joining us.

David Wells: Thank you very much.

Ted Simons: And that is it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you very much for joining us. You have a great evening.

Lawsuit for Mentally Ill

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  • A lawsuit to provide services for the mentally ill in Arizona who do not qualify for Medicaid has finally been settled. It was filed in 1981. Charles Arnold, the attorney who filed the suit, will talk about the settlement.
  • Charles Arnold - Attorney
Category: Medical/Health   |   Keywords: lawsuit, arizona, medicaid, update, settlement,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Coming up next on "Arizona Horizon," a law enforcement regarding local mental health services is settled after 30 years of litigation. Also, how the makeup of the state's congressional delegation reflects Congress as a whole, and we'll hear how the end of extended jobless benefits is impacting Arizonans. Those stories 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." I'm Ted Simons.

Ted Simons: A settlement was announced today in a three-decades old lawsuit to provide treatment and services for the seriously mentally ill in Maricopa County. Charles Arnold filed a suit in 1981 and joins us to talk about the settlement. It's good to see you again. We have had you on the show so many times to talk about this. We may not have to have you on again, I think it's over.

Charles Arnold: I think that's great. This is a good day in Arizona.

Ted Simons: What happened today?

Charles Arnold: Today service announced that the Arnold versus Sarn case has been resolved through the plaintiff's attorneys, the center for law and the public interest, and the Governor's team. It resulted in a significant agreement that will provide community-based accessible services to people in Arizona.

Ted Simons: Indeed. What does the settlement cover and how many will be covered?

Charles Arnold: Well, it deals with what are the hot issues. It's impossible, for example, for someone with a mental illness so recover in the absence of stable housing. So, one of the critical components of the settlement agreement is an emphasis on supported housing. There will be an additional 1,500 slots available for people in Maricopa County with respect to supported housing. Supported employment is another component, another leg of this settlement, and enhanced crisis services, and enhanced peer support opportunities. So, all in all, on this date, the anniversary of the Tucson shooting, the synchronicity of announcing this positive step towards addressing the mental health needs of Arizonans.

Ted Simons: Are we talking Maricopa County residents only?

Charles Arnold: The, the case deals specifically with Maricopa County. So, the numbers inherent in this settlement agreement are Maricopa County-specific. The principles have been embraced by the state and will be enacted by the state.

Ted Simons: We have had you on so many times to talk about this, but again, give us a brief history lesson of what's going on here.

Charles Arnold: Well, in 1981, as the public guardian, based upon a statute passed by our legislature, I participated in the filing of this class action lawsuit. 1989, the Supreme Court affirmed the lower court decision indicating that the state was failing in its mandatory duty to meet the needs of the mentally ill in Arizona. Over the years there were various iterations of agreements that, that addressed what the crises were at the time. Finally, we were able to make a global settlement, again, with a commitment from the Governor and her team to enact and actualize the vision of the statute.

Ted Simons: I can understand that, that, the public from 81 to 89. I can understand reluctance of the legislature, and those sorts of things happening out there. But, when the order, the court order in 1991 occurred, why did it take so long to get something done?

Charles Arnold: Well, it's always been a question of accessibility and funding. What's changed, is a few important critical factors. One, is the restoration of Medicaid in Arizona, which will increase the universe of people who qualify for Medicaid services. Secondly, the affordable health care act will make it possible for people who are not covered by Medicaid to get additional coverage. And thirdly, and equally as important, is Arizona having embraced the notion of integrated care, of not making a distinction between what's perceived as mental health care as distinguished from primary care.

Ted Simons: What prompted that change, do you think?

Charles Arnold: Development of smart thinkers. We have, we have experts in our community who have recognized the, the decreased life-span of people with mental illness. And the reason is not necessarily directly attributed to their mental health issues, but rather, physical issues that go unaddressed, and so the notion of integrating that care is a critical component to, to a successful attempt at recovery.

Ted Simons: And leading to today's decision, the announcement of a settlement, a couple of years ago now, we had a bit of -- we had you on a couple of years to talk about this framework that seems to have led to today.

Charles Arnold: That's precisely right, but I have to emphasize what made it possible was, was the restoration of Medicaid because that shifted cost to the Federal Government that otherwise would have been -- had to have been sustained by our state Government, and that was the tension that, that I would suggest was getting in the way of this resolution over the years.

Ted Simons: Are these seriously, the seriously mentally ill better off today than they were yesterday, last week? Last year?

Charles Arnold: Absolutely. I think that there is a lot of reason for optimism within our state. Not just for people with mental illness but for the citizens of Arizona.

Ted Simons: What about care providers? Challenges? Will they see challenges?

Charles Arnold: Absolutely. The challenges, the settlement agreement provides for, for objectifying the standards for, for appropriate activities on behalf of the providers, and an important part of this settlement is embracing the standards of the substance abuse and mental health services administration. And which is, which is, which has defined the state of the art best practices, and this settlement agreement brings, brings to Arizona, those best practices.

Ted Simons: Personal question, did you achieve what you and the gentleman we talked about in the past, John Goss, who was the guy behind this, really, the guy that moved you into this lawsuit, a gentleman looking for services, did you achieve what you and Mr. Goss were looking for, all those years ago?

Charles Arnold: Gosh, Ted, it would be presumptuous of me to suggest that I have achieved anything. This is a statute that was passed by our legislature in the late s. And this lawsuit simply affirmed the, the requirement to comply with the statute as passed by our legislators. Did we accomplish something by affirming that? Absolutely. But the hard work, the heavy lifting was done by the attorneys of the center for law and the public interest and, and the Governor's team that was permitted, again, to actualizing the vision of this statute.

Ted Simons: Back to 1981, could you have believed back in 1981, that, that this would have taken so long to find resolution?

Charles Arnold: Oh, I don't think that anyone of us would have anticipated that time frame.

Ted Simons: And what do you do now? Is this fight over? The court has to agree to terms, correct?

Charles Arnold: Indeed, and there are future requirements that the court will still be available to, to, to address should there be a step backwards, should things not works as anticipated in the settlement agreement. This court, this case will, will be available, will remain open to provide a forum to seek relief. I don't anticipate that. I think we're going to the right direction.

Ted Simons: It sounds like the right direction was started in 1981. Was this a surprise to you?

Charles Arnold: The settlement?

Ted Simons: Today, yeah. Did it happen today?

Charles Arnold: It's been cooking for some time, and once again, with the Governor's commitment to, to do what she believes to be the right thing for people with mental illness, this was bound to happen.

Ted Simons: And well, it's good to have you here. We'll find a way to get you back on the show, but it may not be about the lawsuit any more.

Charles Arnold: Fair enough.

Ted Simons: All right, thanks for being here.

Charles Arnold: My pleasure, Ted.