Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

February 3, 2006


Host: Michael Grant

Journalists Roundtable


  • Donít miss HORIZONís weekly roundtable where local reporters get a chance to review the weekís top stories.
Guests:
  • Paul Davenport - "Associated Press
Category: Journalists Roundtable

View Transcript
Michael Grant:
It's Friday, February 3, 2006. In the headlines this week, stalemate between the governor and legislature over English language learning continues with no end in sight. The Arizona legislature ready to take the governor to court over his use of the line item veto in the state employees vote. Now David Burnell Smith is a former member of the Arizona legislature forced from office but he vows to return. That's next on Horizon. Good evening. I'm Michael Grant. This is the Journalists' Roundtable. Joining me to talk about these and other stories are Paul Davenport of the "Associated Press", Dennis Welch of the "East Valley Tribune" and Chip Scutari of the "Arizona Republic". Governor Janet Napolitano this week signed into law a bill giving state employees a pay raise but she used her line item veto on the bill, upsetting republican lawmakers who have decided to pursue a legal challenge of the governor's line item veto. Paul, what was it that irritated the governor so much she line itemed it?

Paul Davenport:
It wasn't the pay raise. That's in effect. That's going to take effect. State employees will get that pay raise of about 6 percent. What she used that line item authority to ax out of the bill was a provision that would exempt a couple hundred senior grade civil servants from protection. This would be new hires into those positions. She used the line item authority to veto that. That line item is supposed to be for appropriations. She says that exemption amounted to one. Her argument is -- and a lot of the legislators disagree with this -- her contention is that because exempt employees get more vacation time, down the road that would put the state at -- have to pay out more money and than otherwise would be the case. And that under the constitution she says therefore I can line item it.

Michael Grant:
Let me see if I track it. These are people making more than if i recall correctly $47,000 a year.

Paul Davenport:
That's a mid point in the range, yeah.

Michael Grant:
So if this went into effect, and one of these people got hired, making $55,000, let's say, they get extra vacation pay. So if someplace down the road they get fired, they are entitled to more vacation pay, that's in appropriation and therefore subject to the governor's line item veto.

Paul Davenport:
She said that's an ascertainable cost. Therefore even though no dollar signs in that provision specifically written there, they can do. The legislators on the republican side, they don't think that meets the laugh test. But they're not laughing.

Chip Scutari:
House speaker Jim Weiers says this is very unconstitutional.

Paul Davenport:
One point to note is, he tick particularly had a take in this because he's been a proponent of exempting more employees from the merit system. This hit at home for him.

Chip Scutari:
When you get away from the legal wrangling, this has moved the debate from a state employee pay raise to is governor Janet Napolitano abusing her executive authority or executive powers. And, you know, the scuttlebutt of the capital is, why did she do this? It's such a small number of employees we're talking about, 200 or 300 employee, it's very questionable whether this can be considered an appropriation. So this is really building this session with the vetoes over the Flores case, which we'll talk about later. Is governor Napolitano just using too much of her executive authority?

Paul Davenport:
A side note on that is it puts some of her allies, legislative democrats in a hard spot because they had compromised that position. It would have applied to a lot more votes.

Chip Scutari:
And you can tell usually on partisan issues like this, democrats will stand up strong for governor Napolitano because she's their leader. On this one there's a bit half-heartedly said, really the reasoning was, it's not necessary to waste taxpayer dollars. But you didn't really here even a guy like Bill Brotherton who's a democrat from Phoenix say, you guys are wrong. The governor's right. So it will be interesting to see if the legislature can finally get a legal victory over Janet Napolitano.

Michael Grant:
As we pointed out, it really went to very few state employees. And you always wonder if there isn't something else going on. I mean, what would direct the governor's attention to an issue like this?

Dennis Welch:
Not sure about that. I do know some republican lawmakers consider if she gets away with this it might effect a lot of legislation down the road because even the governor could say, if this has a potential cost I can line item veto that.

Michael Grant:
In fact, Paul, we were talking about -- let's pick criminal sentencing law. The legislature decide that a mandatory sentence for this should be 5 years, we think 7, obviously you're going to have a budget impact in year 6 and 7 because the person is still sitting in jail instead of released.

Paul Davenport:
A lot of Republicans got up on the house and senate floor in effect saying, where would you draw the line on this? In their mind they have to draw the line here. They're going to go to court, not too specific on when or there not too specific on what court. I don't think we'll get a court decision on this for months. They may even start in superior court and have it go up to the appellate courts.

Chip Scutari:
As we talked about before, in the long run this isn't about the legislature and the governor it's about the executive branch and the legislative branch. The table is going to be turned someday and it's going to be a republican governor perhaps as early as 2010 or 2006. I don't know if they would like a republican governor having that much discretion, having that much power with the line item veto.

Michael Grant:
Let's move to English language learning. The governor tossed out, Chip, an alternate proposal. It wasn't real well received.

Chip Scutari:
Yes, surprise, surprise. The mood down there was really poisonous these days. Basically what she was trying to do was meld parts of her bill from last year and parts of a republican bill. But the republicans didn't buy it. They said there's really no accountability in her plan. The one thing she wants to have done this year is to have a cost study to really examine the true costs of doing English language learner programs, which programs work the best in the state. And because the atmosphere is so bad down at the capital, the republicans almost rejected it out of hand.

Paul Davenport:
But we still have to look at the elements of it. There were still some key elements unchanged from her basic plan. She wants to stay with the approach of per student funding. That's not where the republicans want to go. Once you have that key issue they're still far apart.

Michael Grant:
Paul, it's kind of difficult to see how to get the two sides together on this issue, because certainly one of the legislature's goals in their plan is to hold school districts accountable for English immersion programs which they suspect are not being used in many districts and I think that's probably a reasonable suspicion. Another thing is, they want to see some federal funds applied perhaps to other purposes instead put to these. The governor and democrats do not like that. It's difficult to look at the two sides are on such opposite sides, it's difficult to look and say, well, here's a possibility for middle ground.

Paul Davenport:
Yeah. I think the wild card, of course, is the inclusion of the school choice measure in it. I mean, that wasn't in it in the version of the bill they passed last may. It became part of it in the version they put in January. So maybe that's a different element that we're seeing at play now. I don't know.

Michael Grant:
Now, Dennis, the governor sent a letter this afternoon saying, all right. I'll have a new proposal for you Monday?

Dennis Welch:
Yeah. She's promising a new proposal. She said that the republicans have misinterpreted some of the stuff she put in the last letter. And she's saying that she did like several of the ideas that were put forth in the latest republican response.

Paul Davenport:
I think she's going to likely to go further than what he she did in her plan before. Once you're saying in effect I like some of your ideas then she's probably going to have to deliver on that kind of expectation.

Chip Scutari:
And the key here is really for her, for governor Napolitano to somehow convince republican lawmakers they don't need that corporate tax credit tuition in the bill. The word on the street in the capital is, they can't get the votes in the senate without some form of school choice measure on it because they need 16 republicans. They don't want to go shopping for democrat votes. The key for the governor is to talk to Jim Weiers and senate Ken Bennett and say, let's work out a solution without these tax credits.

Michael Grant:
Chip, on that point, has anyone ever taken a real look at the private school options available to see if any of them have English immersion programs that would be likely to be funded by this?

Chip Scutari:
We made a few calls. But we haven't done a comprehensive, exhaustive look at that. The one thing I can tell you is when we call corporations and medium-sized businesses they're not clamoring for these corporate tax credits. But the republicans say it's all about choice and competition in schools. If little Johnny is in a really bad public school he should have the opportunity to go to a private school, especially if he's an English language learner student.

Michael Grant:
Now Paul, one thing that was hanging around last week and still may be hanging around was the federal judge down in Tucson had a couple of different proposals about what to do with the fine money as it accrues. Has there be any ruling on that?

Paul Davenport:
No, that's still pending. The governor and democratic legislators and the lawsuit plaintiffs all want the money to start being distributed to public schools for the ELL programs. Tom Horne superintendent and republican leaders say let the state hang on to it and use it for ELL and if there's any left over, one idea is to have it go back to the state. Hogan plaintiff's attorney proposes that. That's still in the play down at the judge's chambers.

Michael Grant:
All right. A couple of other legislative proposals. Let's at least touch on them. Paul, the senate republicans, Bob Burns in particular, looking to whack revenue sharing for the cities?

Paul Davenport:
That's right. Senator Burns is charging up that hill again. He wants to reduce -- phase out revenue sharings for the most populous cities, and then reduce the state income tax. He seize it as fairness for people who don't live in the cities and the accountability for how they raise and spend money.

Michael Grant:
Chip, it's interesting. This isn't the first time this idea has been floated. It's sort of a perennial idea by some. But ironically enough in the budget crunch days, which weren't so very long ago they kind of reached a truce and said, okay. Of the various ways we have to balance the budget we'll sort of take that one off the table. This may be illustrative. Sometimes it's tougher going when you've got a lot of money than when you have a little money.

Chip Scutari:
Oh, yeah. The fights are just as hard and just at tough. I think if you talk to senator Burns, though, he doesn't like to call it a revenue sharing bill. He likes to call it a tax cut and Paul mentioned a fairness issue. To his credit he lives in Peoria, which is the largest city, I believe 100,000 people. He sees this as a fairness issue. He doesn't see it as hurting cities. He says it would be a tax cut for everyone.

Paul Davenport:
The cities can turn out in force and say they'll dollars.

Michael Grant:
Phoenix estimates 130 million in.

Paul Davenport:
That's right. When they get down to it they can say parks, libraries, police, the myriad services that they say would be at stake in this. That's a pretty hard argument down at the legislature.

Chip Scutari:
Somewhere along the way revenue sharing became a sacred cow of the capital. I remember during the last governor's race they both said we will not touch revenue sharing.

Michael Grant:
Representative Phil Lopes has a concept i don't think is going to be heavily touched by the legislature but it would be a universal healthcare system in the state of Arizona, right?

Dennis Welch:
Yeah. Woody unveiled that this week. He wants to make sure that every resident in Arizona has health insurance. Because currently right now there's between 1 million and 1.2 million uninsured Arizonans right now that don't have health coverage. And -- but the chances of this bill really passing are really small. Because a, he's a democrat, he's from Tucson and there's no support behind that even within his own party.

Michael Grant:
Is he thinking that some bills have gestation periods. The gestation period for this particular concept might be pretty long. You're thinking, you kind of get it out there well in the public debate.

Dennis Welch:
But is he thinking you kind of get it out there in the realm of public debate? He's certainly hoping this is going to create a dialogue among state lawmakers and health professionals within the state about, this system we have now is broke. Something needs to be done. Let's talk about this now before it's too late.

Chip Scutari:
Maybe he can just walk into house speaker Jim Weiers's office and have a chat and convince him.

Michael Grant:
Come back next Friday and tell us how the talk went. There was a new development in the ongoing controversy over ballots cast in the 2004 district primary race. On Wednesday the FBI seized the ballots. Dennis, this seemed to just come out of the blue.

Dennis Welch:
Sure did. We don't know why the feds decided to seize the ballots this week. They're being pretty tight-lipped. They don't comment on ongoing investigations. But they came down to the county facility in Phoenix, took away 18,000 ballots that were cast in the 2004 district primary and took them to some undisclosed location to examine them to see if there was any tampering done.

Michael Grant:
you might refresh people's recollection. This is the race that actually had been in the news fairly frequently here the past couple three months. But the one where you had a wide swing in the result of the recount process.

Dennis Welch:
this was a race between Antwone Orlich and John McCommish. And on a recount turned up about 489 revotes for John McCommish, which overturned the election, giving him the victory. A lot of people questioned how did this happen? We want to know why. We just want the answers.

Paul Davenport:
Is there any indication the feds are going to do a recount or looking for tampering?

Dennis Welch:
They're really cautious about saying a recount. They want to stay away from that because you can't recount a certified election. That's been one of the issues at least with the county attorney's offices, they don't want a recount. This has been certified and once it's been certified we don't do that. We don't know what the feds are going to do and when. The word is, we may never hear of this again. It just might all go away.

Michael Grant:
Quoting Dennis either Arnold Schwarzenegger or Douglas McArthur, David Burnell Smith left office.

Dennis Welch:
He will be back, he said.

Michael Grant:
I shall return.

Dennis Welch:
Certainly. He had tried talking to his precinct officer as well as Maricopa County to see if he could be placed back. He plans to run this fall for re-election in his seat.

Paul Davenport:
That's legal. Because he was only ousted for this term, right?

Dennis Welch:
Certainly.

Chip Scutari:
And Mr. Smith has run four or five * five times in the legislature. You have to admire his perseverance. So I'm sure he'll be on the campaign trail. He's probably going to get a shot to win his seat back. For now it will be Nancy Bardow taking his spot. She's a district 7 chairwoman. So she'll fill it for the remainder of this year.

Michael Grant:
Chip, I did seem to recall, though, that it was a rather interesting mix of candidates and developments in that race that finally got David Burnell Smith in there.

Chip Scutari:
Yeah. I mean, I think he ran on kind of a little different platform each time. He's definitely kind of adheres to the conservative agenda. He's a social conservative, a fiscal conservative, and he's hoping that plays again and with primary voters in district 7, which has some very conservative voting base. So we'll see what happens.

Michael Grant:
Well, speaking of the clean elections theme, let's stick with it. There's a proposal that would limit who could file clean election type complaints?

Paul Davenport:
That's right. For the candidates who run with the public funding there's been a lot of different types of people filing complaints alleging violations. Opposing candidates, relatives of opposing candidates, interest groups, activists, gadflies, troublemakers, whatever.

Michael Grant:
Members of the media?

Paul Davenport:
I don't think we've seen that so far. But the bill that came out of house judiciary this week, it would have to be an opposing candidate. Representative Rick Murphy says there's too many frivolous complaints. He says limit it to the people who have a direct stake in it.

Michael Grant:
They're trying to trim the sails of clean elections a little bit.

Paul Davenport:
This is the same legislator who's sponsoring legislation to put it on the ballots to repeal the whole thing.

Michael Grant:
John Shadegg will not be the next majority leader of the united states house of representatives, Chip. But some indication that he may have played a role, though, and a perhaps fairly large role in determining the outcome of who will be.

Chip Scutari:
I think congressman Shadegg fought the good fight. He got his name raised throughout the nation. He got an endorsement from John McCain, which was for naught. We don't know if there's a deal with the new House majority leader Baynard if he cut some kind of deal with him. But Shadegg did well by his name and got his name out there. I don't see any down side for him.

Michael Grant:
What's the latest money-raising numbers on the governor's race?

Chip Scutari:
Well, this is an interesting snapshot into the clean elections of gubernatorial races. Each candidate can raise about 46 to 47,000 in seed money, which is kind of like startup cash. And we checked the campaign finance reports the other day and it was very interesting that a guy like john green, former senate president, pretty well known in republican circles has really struggled. He's only raised $7,000 in seed money. Don Goldwater who has a famous last name and has taken a hard line approach against illegal immigration, he's only raised 12,000. Then you have Len Muncell who's a conservative activist just entered the rate race in December, has raised 46,000 in seed money, is already going on the $5,000 contribution. It shows he's emerging as a frontrunner and can show these other candidates may bale out or we don't know what they're going to do. But it shows they're really struggling to raise just $46,000 in seed money.

Paul Davenport:
If nothing else it's going to be pretty easy for Len Muncell to collect the contributions to qualify for public funding with that kind of grass roots support out there.

Chip Scutari:
Which is huge. I think you need forty-two thousand five-dollar contributions then you qualify for a four hundred fifty four thousand in public money. That's a nice thing to have if you can get that done by May and be ready to go. So it really shows he's emerging as a frontrunner right now.

Michael Grant:
Paul, it's an interesting point. Because I've talked obviously to a number of candidates under the system. And they say that really is a major undertaking. I know Alfredo Gutierrez made the comment saying, I am running for governor. Can I have $5? i have never thought about that. You can use this, if suppose, as a harbinger of how perhaps how successful or not you're going to be in the next stage.

Paul Davenport:
For somebody who has an e-mailing list in the thousands and that can produce results that's going to allow you to move on and do other things in your campaign and put you ahead of the curve.

Chip Scutari:
The other thing it might do in the long run is if Mr. Muncell can show he's the top guy and these other candidates bow out, it could almost allow him to run a general election campaign, move to the center a lot quicker than normal. As we know in Arizona when it comes to September and the primary is over, you only have about 4-weeks until early ballots come out. That's a short amount of time to knock off a popular incumbent governor. It could play in his favor.

Michael Grant:
And ex-governor, Chip, died this week. Actually the first governor to have died in the state since Wesley Bole in the late 17970s.

Chip Scutari:
Sam Goddard is one of those legendary names. His son Terry Goddard is attorney general, went to Harvard, fought for liberal causes when he was in office, served one term. The Goddards are one of those names in Arizona that are well known now.

Michael Grant:
You remind me Jack Williams, I think. More recently than that. Not withstanding that, it had been quite awhile since a governor had died. Another significant political figure who died this week, Dody London.

Chip Scutari: Yeah. She was the first and only woman to share the Arizona Republican Party. I think she served in the mid 90s during that republican tide tidal wave of '94 with the contract with America. She was a prominent figure. From what we've talked to people, she was a very gracious, nice, warm lady even outside of politics. One of the true good people in politics doing it for the right reasons.

Paul Davenport:
Certainly the party had some bragging rights during that period in the 90s when they won so many senate seats and such like that.

Chip Scutari:
Yeah.

Michael Grant:
Paul Rich, register of contractor run for secretary of state?

Paul Davenport:
Yeah. Bruce Wellen is in that race as well. That between that and the former phoenix mayor and the incumbent secretary of state, Jan brewer, we have a developing primary on each side.

Michael Grant:
Primary on each site of the secretary of state's race. All right, panelist, we are out of time. Thank you very much.

Larry Lemmons:
The Medicare prescription drug plan, Medicare part d. began this year. Some say it's too complicated and problems exist for indigent patients. Also credit card companies may be raising minimum payments that will help you pay off the debt faster but maybe put a strain on the monthly budget. A special edition Monday night's edition on channel 8 Horizon.

Michael Grant:
Tuesday we will tell you about a project that's giving an unprecedented view of the human family tree. Wednesday Horizon special, Arizona growing pains. We'll tell you thousand growth has changed in the valley. And on Thursday the Phoenix area has created more jobs than any other metropolitan area in the country. An economist is going to try to explain that. Thank you very much for joining us on this Friday edition of Horizon. I hope you have a great weekend. I'm Michael Grant. Good night.

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