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May 7, 2014

Host: Ted Simons

Attorney General Tom Horne

  |   Video
  • There are fresh allegations that Tom Horne and his staff may be violating campaign laws. Jeremy Duda of the Arizona Capitol Times will bring us up to date.
  • Jeremy Duda - Journalist, Arizona Capitol Times
Category: Politics   |   Keywords: politics, attorney, general, arizona, violation, campaign, laws,

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Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. State attorney General Tom Horne is facing a new round of alleged campaign violations. The latest involves claims that some employees in the AG's office were allowed to use state time and resources for Horne's re-election campaign. Jeremy Duda of the "Arizona Capitol Times" is covering the story. Jeremy, good to have you here. Let's start with Sarah Beattie. Who is Sarah Beattie?--

Jeremy Duda: Sarah Beattie is a woman who worked in the constituents services department over at the attorney general’s office from about August until a couple of few weeks ago when she suddenly resigned. She was also In addition to her work at the AG's office, she was doing some volunteer work with Tom Horne’s re-election campaign which is a fundraising consultant much like a handful of other employees there volunteering their time for the campaign.

Ted Simons: So, and she resigns, as you mentioned recently. The reasons, the office wasn't following campaign laws and was putting her career at risk, something along those lines?

Jeremy Duda: Yeah, it was pretty vague. She sent an email a few weeks ago saying that -- I'm resigning because the office is not following campaign laws and putting my legal well-being at risk. She has not elaborated on that. She now has an attorney and they're talking about filing an official complaint with a lot of other allegations. They actually submitted a letter to the AG's office a couple of days ago from her attorney Tom Ryan flushing out a little of this, but most of it is still pretty vague. Talking about employees doing using state time and state resources to work on Horne's campaign. There’s one allegation about possible deleting of emails. So far we don't know a lot of details yet.

Ted Simons: And again, This letter, is one of the litigation hold demand thing. What’s that all about?

Jeremy Duda: It’s basically A demand, putting them on notice saying that we might be suing here so We want you to preserve all of the pertinent documents, records, information, includes not only paper documents, but electronic documents and a metadata, electronic data about data shows that when like a document was created online or on a computer, for example, when it was modified and who created it. They actually included one example of this, a flyer for a Tom Horne fundraiser from I believe December of last year, I believe, that was created allegedly by Bret Mecham whose, Horne's legislative liaison, emailed out by a privater email address by another employee to several other employees apparently, and the metadata shows this was during work hours.

Ted Simons: Okay, and back to Sarah Beattie real quickly. Is she a democrat? Is she pro Felecia Rotellini? Is she not Pro Horne? It sounded like at one time she was supportive of Tom Horne.

Jeremy Duda: Indeed it does not sound like she is very supportive of him now. But she’s been doing this work for his campaign for a little while now, or volunteer work anyway. She is a republican campaign operative she does a lot of fundraising consulting and has a lot of several other clients, PACs, and stuff like that.

Ted Simons: So you mentioned a lawsuit was a possibility. How likely would that be?

Jeremy Duda: It is hard to say. When I asked Tom Ryan, he couldn't really put a percentage on it. He said it’s something they are considering, you know. Potentially, you know he’s going to be filing this complaint with the secretary of state's office and the Clean Elections Commission so potentially this might just be to try and ensure that records and information are preserved for this complaint, not necessarily for the lawsuit but I guess time will tell on that.

Ted Simons: And I was going to say, filing those complaints with the secretary of state and clean elections, that is pretty much a done deal.

Jeremy Duda: So they say. We have been waiting for this for a few days now. Every day it’s supposed to be well, tomorrow. Next day: well, tomorrow. Supposed to be today, supposed to be yesterday, now they say probably tomorrow. So, we'll see.

Ted Simons: What is Tom Horne's response to all of this or what does the attorney general's office, what is the response to all of this?

Jeremy Duda: When I spoke to them on Monday, they hadn't seen this yet and said they are not going to respond to this. They want to see what is in the complaint. They took some shots of Sarah's creditability they said she had some issues with former employers. In terms of the nuts and bolts of this, the issue over AG office employees, electioneering on taxpayer time, it’s been around for a while. Horne doesn't have a campaign spokesperson per se he’s had Bret Mecham and the official office spokeswoman for a while, Stephanie Grisham doing some of that work. Grisham is no longer doing that now but they’ve been serving as the spokesman. When you talk to them, they try to emphasize, oh, well I'm on a break right now. Saw video on channel 12 a few days ago they obtained of Bret Mecham and Sarah Baetie dropping off a campaign related complaint to the Secretary of state’s office, not from Horne but from some of his allies. Filing a complaint against a group that was opposing Tom Horne. This was during the workday, they say during the lunch break.

Ted Simons: So, it sounds like, again from the stories and from the readings here, there are other claims of staffers at work on his campaign. This is not just a single incident, maybe not even just a single person.

Jeremy Duda: No, if you looked at his last campaign finance report, it goes through the end of 2013. There were about seven attorney general office employees who had been reimbursed by the campaign for various campaign-related expenses. You know, a couple People volunteering their time for the campaign spokesperson Sarah Baetie. Sarah of course was volunteering her time to do the fundraising stuff. So there was a few people there, mostly within Horne's inner circle who are giving a lot of assistance to his campaign.

Ted Simons: You know, it seems like Tom Horne has a lot going on for a variety of reasons. How many legal plates does he have spinning right now?

Jeremy Duda: There is a number of them. We are still kind of waiting to see how the campaign finance allegations play out, the first domino to fall really. Administrative law judge said basically more or less exonerated him, said there is not enough evidence to show any laws were broken and recommended that the charges be dismissed. The Yavapai County attorney Sheila Polk still has another week or so to decide whether or not she is going to accept that. She can push forward with the case either way. If she accepts it, we will end up in Superior Court with that. If not, that is the end of that. There was another lawsuit from a former employee who alleged retaliation for political reasons that was settled out of court for about a hundred thousand dollars. The infamous hit-and-run incident in the parking garage. That has been settled. So, there are fewer plates in the air than there used to be, but the memory lingers on certainly for the opponents.

Ted Simons: We want to make it clear, as far as the attorney general's office and Tom Horne, there is a firm denial of these accusations?

Jeremy Duda: Yes, they say that Horne and the office say that employees are not doing any work on state time, during breaks, you know, not on taxpayer time, and, you know, that may be -- put him in the clear, if that's the case. There is still some questions about that. Not too long ago the office itself to its employees put out a seven-page guideline on this kind of thing, and there was mentions in there of, you know, you have to take leave. Do not comingle, you know, these activities -- campaign and political activities with your official duties during the work day. So, it is kind of a gray area.

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

Thank you.

State Funding for Universities

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  • A new report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reveals Arizona’s per-student rate of support for higher education dropped over 48 percent from 2008 to 2014. At the same time, tuition increased by about 80 percent. Arizona Board of Regents president Eileen Klein will discuss the situation.
  • Eileen Klein - President, Arizona Board of Regents
Category: Education   |   Keywords: education, state, funding, universities, report, budget, policy,

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Ted Simons: A new report by the center on budget and policy priorities shows that for the past six years, Arizona leads the nation in cuts to state aid to higher education. The report also shows that during those same six years, Arizona had the highest tuition increase in the country. Joining us now is Arizona board of Regents president, Eileen Klein. It’s good to see you again. Thank you for joining us.

Eileen Klein: Thanks for having me.

Ted Simons: Let's get to the numbers quickly and where we can go from the numbers. Tops in C=cuts to state aid, I think the dollar amount ranks maybe tenth, but in terms of a percentage rank, that is not very good.

Eileen Klein: Right. Tough times for sure. So while the report is new, the news is not. Arizona's universities were in fact among the hardest hit. In a way it is not a surprise in a sense that our state was among the hardest hit of all states during the recession, but it has produced some challenging circumstances for our university. It resulted in about $400 million worth of cuts to our universities, most of which unfortunately had to be made up by tuition increases.

Ted Simons: Indeed, and that is where we get to the tuition increase, highest in the country. That actual dollars ranks number one there as well. For those watching right now, paying tuition in one way, shape, or form, what do they take from this? What -- is this going to be change soon? The dynamics seems very problematic for those who are really concerned about this.

Eileen Klein: Right. It is challenging. Certainly affordability is a big issue for our families. Incomes we realize are not increasing that quickly. The reality is that there has not been replacement revenue by either the federal or state government. So, whereas before the recession, the state was our primary funder, today the state only provides about one third of the total dollars for the universities, and as a result families have had to make up the difference. On top of that, our university student population grew by about 23,000 students during the same period. So, all of the way around, universities needed to find more resources, tuition being one of them. Other partnerships needed to be another, and we were forced to change our business model.

Ted Simons: Talk about that change. We have had those discussions on this program before. If state aid -- if we have a new normal here, which may be, in fact, happening, how do we change? Where do we go?

Eileen Klein: Right, so the universities obviously needed to think about their own priorities. Reductions were made. There certainly were layoffs but at the same time we tried to think about how we could make our offerings more affordable. So we used more online technology, we brought programs into local communities like in lake Havasu. We tried to augment our partnerships with community colleges, today we have over 1200, partnerships with community colleges in our state all which were designed to offer not only more local offers but offerings at a more affordable price point. But for the long term, something has to give. We are concerned that students cannot necessarily pay the increase in tuition. When we look at the K12- Pipeline, students will have more financial need, which makes that even more difficult. We don't know how long federal aid is going to hold out around Pell grants. So ultimately we are in a conversation now with our policymakers. Where do we go from here to make sure that college stays affordable?

Ted Simons: Talk about that conversation. What's being said?

Eileen Klein: The good news in the past two years, remember this report -- it is compiling information that is several years old. In the past two years, the legislature has begun to add back money. So we’ve recovered about $ 90 million total, so nowhere near what we had in terms of support before, but certainly it is helpful in terms of aid to our universities. But, overall, we need to start talking about how we fund our universities. We are trying to change our funding model. The old growth model didn't work. The state could not afford it. And so we are trying to work with our legislature in funding us around performance. So as we contribute to the Arizona economy, whether for new graduates or research contributions, that the state begins to add back to our base budget so that we can continue to keep prices low, that college can be affordable and accessible and also that we can be effective. We need to be providing quality offerings as well.

Ted Simons: Indeed. I know some lawmakers -- we've had these discussions on the program before -- don't see necessarily the need for a research university just teach the reading writing but take it to a higher level and move on -- how do you work that dynamic into the conversation?

Eileen Klein: Right. So the universities occupy a very special place in terms of our economy. We don't just impart knowledge, we produce knowledge. And our businesses count on us producing graduates who know the latest, that they are ready to go to work and also that they are ready to develop new technologies and deploy new skills in the workplace. And so universities are at the forefront of that knowledge creation and knowledge transfer into the private sector. You hear companies that they choose to locate near one of the universities because they want to be near the talent and access really to resources that the university provides in terms of research capability. And we also need the state's help with that. So the universities are looking to double their research capacity by 2020 and that is going to take a pretty significant commitment in terms of infrastructure for buildings, for technology, and it is really important. Our business community recognizes, they have stepped up greatly to support that effort because they know it is essential to drive the economy in the future.

Ted Simons: How do you get that message across? Is it by way of the business community, if X, then Y? Again, you know what it is like down there at the legislature. There are folks that simply don't want to spend what some say needs to be spent.

Eileen Klein: I appreciate their efforts to make sure that our state stays strong because to be sure, no business wants to be here if we don't have a strong financial condition for our state, but at the same time companies want to be here because they know they can get the talent they need to run their businesses. So, we heard repeatedly have heard from business groups that we need you to produce more high-qualified workers for us, particularly in technology-based fields and we're trying to respond to that. I think we're responding to that well. It can't happen without a true partnership with the state and that's the model we're trying to evolve.

Ted Simons: So, with parents watching now, students watching now, and in the rear-view mirror they see number one in terms of cuts of state aid, number one in terms of tuition increase, will they want to get away from the rearview mirror and start looking through the windshield, what are you telling them? What is the optimism or hope here?

Eileen Klein: First, thanks for choosing higher education. The best bet for your own future and it is becoming increasingly the ticket you need to get to the middle class in our society. But the truth is we are doing more to also make sure that our costs are more predictable for families. So we have implemented now, in one form or fashion, tuition predictability or guarantee plan. So families know, coming through the door what it is going to cost them. Students can do the calculations, and then we have caps in place at two of the three universities to make sure that the costs don't exceed that so that they know they can afford the tuition long term.

Ted Simons: What about student aid?

Eileen Klein: Long term, our state really does need to get very serious about how we're going to support students. As I mentioned, our students are going to be more financially needy, and we are unlike other states where they have significant state-based financial aid for students. We need to develop that. That will be a longer term place for us, but one that we are eager to talk to legislators about and they do understand those needs. For them it is a matter of trying to figure out how to juggle those priorities. That will be essential for us going forward and also we're trying to work with our students on their own money management skills. So we’re experimenting with programs like Arizona earn to learn, where students get foundation information in financial literacy, so they know how to manage their own funds, that they take loans that are truly for their education and not for their life-style. And so all of these factors come into play. We are proud our students graduate with less debt than students do nationally, but ultimately we know that we have to make sure that they don't leave college with a mountain of debt.

Ted Simons: Last question before you go. This report said that all of the numbers, these are all policy choices. You have been on both sides of this particular area -- very high on the governor’s office now presidents at the Board of Regents, very high on both levels -- is it a good thing that states are not majority stakeholders in terms of policy?

Eileen Klein: So, it -- it is a challenge. So, we certainly are public institutions. We operate in the public interest. But more and more we're going to need more private sector solutions, whether it’s partnerships or new ways of creating a financing model. So what we are looking to do is making sure that we work with our policy makers going forward on creating the very-- really the most modern university system that we can create with enough freedom and flexibility so that we can get the resources we need to serve the public. And at the same time, though, we want to make sure that the state stays committed. Their support is important and it needs to continue.

Ted Simons: All right. Good to see you again.

Eileen Klein: Thanks, thanks so much.

Sustainability: Legislative Environmental Report Card

  |   Video
  • The Grand Canyon Chapter of the Sierra Club has released an environmental report card on the state legislature. The Sierra Club also graded the governor. Sandy Bahr, chapter director of Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter, will tell us about the report card.
  • Sandy Bahr - Chapter Director, Sierra Club – Grand Canyon Chapter
Category: Sustainability   |   Keywords: sustainability, legislative, environment, grand canyon, chapter, report card,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Tonight's focus on sustainability looks at an environmental report card for the governor and the legislature, courtesy of the Arizona chapter of the Sierra club. Sandy Bahr is the director of the Sierra club's Grand Canyon chapter. She joins us now. Good to see you again.

Sandy Bahr: It’s great to see you.

Ted Simons: An environmental report card, what does that exactly look at? Does it look at what's being done, what’s not being done or both?

Sandy Bahr: Well, it mostly looks at the bills that they voted on. What we try to do is evaluate legislators and the governor on the same bills. So we are not bringing subjectivity into it too much. It is how did you vote? Did you vote yes or no on a bill that was positive for the environment? Did you vote yes or no on a bill that was bad for the environment?

Ted Simons: And we had all republicans in the house with failing grades. All but three or four republicans in the Senate with failing grades. Any democrats with failing grades?

Sandy Bahr: No democrats with failing grades. A couple with low grades. It is one of the really disturbing trends we've seen in, you know, the last several years is that environmental protection has started to become partisan, when it shouldn't be. And, so, the republican caucus down at the legislature really has been voting against environmental protection. This session they passed bills to hinder wolf recovery. They passed bills that would have allowed illegal bulldozing in wilderness areas. They -- passed bills to make it more difficult to do citizen initiatives. So, there are a lot of really awful bills that they moved forward, and to be honest with you, very little that will be helpful from an environmental perspective.

Ted Simons: In the past, was it always this partisan?

Sandy Bahr: No, no. I've been to the -- for about 20 years now, and it was not. There was always a core group of republicans who were working for conservation, and who got A's on our report card. And so that's why it's -- it's disturbing that it is this way. We are hoping to see that shift back to where there really is bipartisan support for it. Clean air should not be a partisan issue. Protecting wildlife shouldn't be partisan. Making sure that people save money on utility bills, that shouldn't be partisan.

Ted Simons: The governor did not get a failing grade, but a C plus. Why?

Sandy Bahr: She stepped up and vetoed three terrible bills. We gave her credit for that. She vetoed two bills that were aimed at making it more difficult for Mexican gray wolves to recover, and she recognized that there were already mechanisms for addressing issues that livestock interests have relative to wolf recovery. She recognized there were constitutional issues, too, because we're talking about the federal endangered species act and the wolf is a listed species, and then she also vetoed the bill that would have allowed for taking any equipment in to protected areas under the guise of an emergency. Again, she said, look, there is already a way to deal with these issues, you know. I think basically saying these were over the top, anti-federal government, anti-environmental protection measures. You know, you've gone too far.

Ted Simons: There was funding found for state parks, correct?

Sandy Bahr: Yeah, a little bill to promote a check off on a state income tax for state parks. It's not huge, but it is something. And the first year in a while where we saw a bill specifically for parks that was positive. So, we welcomed that and she also signed that.

Ted Simons: You mentioned clean energy and energy efficiency programs and such. Most of us, we drive around, if you live anywhere near an ASU campus, you see nothing but these solar panels all over the place, and you see solar farms and this sort --. It seems like the state is taking some sort of action in that direction. Is the legislature simply not addressing clean energy like you would like to see? Solar energy in particular? Are we missing something here? What's going on?

Sandy Bahr: First of all, a lot of the energy rules are adopted by the Arizona corporation commission. Our renewable energy standard --

Ted Simons: Sure --
Sandy Bahr: And our energy efficiency standard adopted under previous commissions, and so that's why you see a lot of what you see. But what the legislature is doing is at the city level, we're also seeing some positive measures. Cities are stepping up to adopt energy efficient building codes. So, when homes are built, they're more efficient and you use a lot less electricity. More comfortable. What's not to like? Well, certain interests, including home builders of central Arizona don't like that cities are doing that. They come to the legislature and try to get the legislature to remove the authority of cities, counties, local government to make those kinds of policies. And, so, instead of adopting policies to further efficiency, we were fighting all session to keep them from undermining it.

Ted Simons: We have about seconds left. How many bills were changed this session to address your concerns?

Sandy Bahr: Well, there were probably four or five bills that were changed, and there were some that passed out of one house, but did not advance when they went to the other house. Partly because of environmental concerns. You know, it is not that there aren't a lot of people who care about environmental protection at the legislature. Unfortunately, they're not the loudest voices and they can't always get a majority vote.

Ted Simons: Well, it is an interesting report card. Good information. Good to have you here. Thank you for joining us.

Sandy Bahr: Thank you.