Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

May 5, 2006


Host: Michael Grant

Journalists Roundtable


  • Don’t miss HORIZON’s weekly roundtable where local reporters get a chance to review the week’s top stories.
Guests:
  • Paul Davenport - Associated Press
Category: Journalists Roundtable

View Transcript
Michael Grant:
It's Friday May 5, 2006. In the headlines this week, officials from southern Arizona visiting the state capitol Thursday to talk immigration, but wound up walking out of a meeting with house speaker Jim Weiers. Governor Janet Napolitano using her veto stamp again this week rejecting a bill that would have made it more difficult for patients to sue for med mal. And a bill to allow people to carry guns in bars is back before the Arizona legislature. That's next on Horizon.

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Michael Grant:
Good evening, I'm Michael Grant and this is the Journalists' Roundtable. Joining me to talk about these and other stories are Dennis Welch of the East Valley Tribune, Paul Davenport of the Associated Press and Mike Sunnucks of the Business Journal. On Thursday, a group of government officials from southern Arizona visited the state's capitol to talk about immigration issues. A meeting with house speaker Jim Weiers ended abruptly when they stormed out. Dennis, what happened?

Dennis Welch:
Well, they came down here concerned about the bills the republican legislature has been adopting this year and they wanted to meet with the leaders down there. But what happened before they met with republican leaders is they held a little press conference out in front of the capitol. And in that they came out and criticized people like speaker Weiers and president Ken Bennett. So when they met later on that day speaker Weiers told them I think it's politically stupid for you guys to come out and bash us before you come and meet us. And to that I think he has a pretty good point in that.

Michael Grant:
The usual sequence is that you meet with them first and then you hold the press conference and bash them later.

Dennis Welch:
Exactly. And I told them that and I was talking to the mayor of Douglas who said, you know, it may not have been the most politically correct thing but we're just poor old country folks down here in Douglas. We'll see what happens from here.

Paul Davenport:
The interesting back story to that is after most of the folks left the room around 3 or 4 of them stayed in the room and had a fairly good dialogue going for around 10 minutes with the legislative leaders good back and forth about what they like and don't like about the various proposals.

Mike Sunnucks:
Most of those folks are democrats that came up here from southern Arizona. And they've done this before, wrote some letters backing Janet on some of her immigration stuff against the republican's criticism of her. So there is a partisan part to this also.

Michael Grant:
You weren't suggesting any telephone traffic between the ninth floor and senator--

Mike Sunnucks:
No. The ninth floor is certainly not that organized to coordinate something like that.

Michael Grant:
Was their primary beef, Paul, the criminal trespass bill? Is that the thing they were complaining about most?

Paul Davenport:
That's the number one. But the backdrop is they say they were not being listened to. So they're putting all this in that context. Like you're telling them the legislature dominated by Maricopa County. You're not listening to our part of the state.

Mike Sunnucks:
This is a smart thing by the governor. I'm sure she has some coordination with some of the D's to have law enforcement to come out against the trespassing bill to kind of back her up down on the border because law enforcement does have some credibility down on the front lines.

Dennis Welch:
Well some coordination, before they held their press conference, they came out of the executive tower where they met with the governor's staff is what I believe.

Paul Davenport:
The governor's office, I asked them about that. They told me the idea for this originated with the folks during a telephone conference call but originated with one of the members of the delegation. And then after that there was that salutation by the governor's office. Well, duh.

Dennis Welch:
But the interesting thing is when you asked them specifically what they wanted they couldn't give you much of an answer except to say, well we support the governor. She's been listening. What do you guys want? Well we want what the governor wants. So it's kind of circular.

Michael Grant:
Well that's interesting because obviously one of the things I had heard from down there is, give us some more-- we're the most impacted counties. Give us some more dollars.

Dennis Welch:
Well, that's debatable. If you think about, it they cross over there but where do they come? Where do they end up? They end up in Mesa, in Maricopa County. So the most impacted counties? I mean that's kind of debatable.

Mike Sunnucks:
I think the pressure is on both congress and the legislature and the governor to get something done to, show something at the congressional level. We're not sure if we'll get anything between the Senate and the House in the end and we're not sure if we'll get anything out of the legislature this year. People could pay a price. I think there is consensus to get something done at least on border security.

Michael Grant:
Yeah. They seem to be less motivated post spring break than they were pre-spring break. Spring break has a tendency to do that.

Mike Sunnucks:
And there's some other political-- to this. If she vetoes the republican bill they could take some of it to the ballot. That in their mind might help get them the voters.

Michael Grant:
Excellent segue. Thanks for that, Mike. Paul, where are we with the ominous immigration reform bill? Is it going to be introduced next week?

Paul Davenport:
That's the plan. When Dennis and I left the capitol to come here for taping late this afternoon some of the leaders were still working on this. Others had started to drift off. But the word was that they weren't finished yet with assembling the package that they wanted to offer to the rank and file republicans first and then depending on where that went, to the democrats and governor. The expressed hope for the leadership was to put some proposal on the table on Monday. I don't know if we're going to get there.

Dennis Welch:
I thought this bill was supposed to be introduced this week is what I remember speaking to.

Paul Davenport:
And last week, too.

Michael Grant:
Does that indicate a reluctance to move on it of some careful planning to gather the chicks in support of it?

Paul Davenport:
I think they're fighting about what to put in 2. There are definite ideas. No model on the front here of the republican majority.

Michael Grant:
Keep parts of it, Paul?

Paul Davenport:
Key parts, besides the law enforcement component is key. You go with the criminalization focus under the trespassing law or do you have some other sort of apprehension technique to have folks questioned about their immigration status? And then detained for the feds? Providing money for the National Guard deployment. That was a bill the governor vetoed. The idea is to get rid of the mandate on that to take away her stated reason for the veto.

Michael Grant:
Other money aspects on border security like the what, the high tech fence?

Paul Davenport:
The radar possibly and a lot of-- some aid for the local jurisdictions as well as money for law enforcement and then the employers sanctions for folks who knowingly hire illegal immigrants.

Mike Sunnucks:
And the governor has been pressing them to fund employer sanctions to give the attorney general's office who ever is enforcing it some money to handle that. She has her talking points down. Guest worker, increased border security, not a wall but a guard and things like that. And employer sanctions. And she's got her talking points down, as usual. And they're herding cats, as usual. And again they're delayed with this. I think she may have the advantage.

Michael Grant:
But Mike, from a pure political standpoint, if you want to put-- or well, try to-- put the governor behind the 8 ball it seems to me that you move into this ominous bill-- omnibus bill something like trespass or something she's indicated will guarantee her veto and then you say, well, the governor vetoed increased border security, more money for the local counties, national guard on the border. It's a nice little 30-second campaign ad.

Mike Sunnucks:
Politically a lot of potential for the republicans. If they just take the opposite tact of the governor on these issues: border wall, having the National Guard patrol down interest and having the trespassing provision. She vetoes it makes a nice campaign for them.

Paul Davenport:
They can't even agree on the provisions we're talking about. They're talking about tweaking the trespassing bill, enforcement bill, some discussion about maybe provide money to enforce it. There's a lot of moving parts.

Michael Grant:
But if I understand you correctly, you're absolutely guaranteeing we will be sitting here next Friday night saying the bill has been introduced.

Paul Davenport:
No. [Laughter]

Dennis Welch:
What's complicating this even more is now that time governor has come out and linked immigration with the ongoing budget negotiations that have been going on and on.

Paul Davenport:
Not only does she want them linked, she's saying the comprehensive immigration bill has to be agreeable to her. So it can't just be, okay, pass something. It has to be something she's willing to buy off on.

Michael Grant:
What about the impact of ‘A day without an immigrant' on the local economy, he said to the guy from the Phoenix "Business Journal."

Mike Sunnucks:
I think it was not nearly as big as the big march that went from the fairgrounds to downtown to the capitol. I think you saw stores and shops in Hispanic neighborhoods closed down, I think you saw some Hispanic businesses closed down but I don't think you saw the big impact that you saw with the big marches.

Paul Davenport:
No salad bar at the department of economics security cafeteria.

Michael Grant:
Really? And this is unusual, I take it?

Paul Davenport:
Yeah, a one time event.

Mike Sunnucks:
Plus it was a Monday and traffic was lighter downtown. But most of the businesses downtown stayed open. There were just a few restaurants closed. So I think it was significantly less than the big march.

Michael Grant:
Meanwhile back on the ninth floor governor Janet Napolitano used her veto stamp again this week on a couple of bills. One would have made it difficult to sue for medical malpractice. Paul, what reasons did the governor give for vetoing that one?

Paul Davenport:
The governor said the change in legal proof required for those kinds of law suits in emergency care could run afoul of the state constitutional mandate for the right to sue to recover damages. She also said this alone would not solve the acknowledged problem in emergency care in Arizona. Those explanations didn't-- were not satisfying at all to the proponents of the bill. They were fairly critical and expressed a lot of disappointment.

Mike Sunnucks:
I think the key thing here is proponents of the bill were the emergency room doctors and the medical association. The opponents of the bill were trial lawyers, a big democratic constituency. And politically, I think people tend to like doctors a little better than trial lawyers. If this was insurance companies she probably had a little more latitude.

Paul Davenport:
Although they were behind this bill they just weren't upfront in making the public stance on it.

Mike Sunnucks:

But, you know, Carolyn Allen and the republicans that favor this, can ploy this is a lawyer versus doctor issue.



Michael Grant:
Carolyn Allen obviously has been helpful to the governor on a variety of different issues including but not limited to all day k. She sounded pretty upset about the veto.


Paul Davenport:
She was definitely upset. I talked to her and several other reporters talked to her. And she had virtually the same language. She thought the governor was dancing with the trial lawyers and she said, it's her neck if there's no doctors in emergency rooms. And she made it clear like, who did she think the governor is going to be able to work with in the republican party in the future.

Michael Grant:
Let's see. We got another veto on a bill to relax air quality standards?

Mike Sunnucks:
Yeah. The Republicans passed a bill in the legislature that would have limit the DEQ's ability to require companies who have high pollutant levels to buy new equipment. The governor vetoed that saying it's a threat to the air quality of the state. The environmentalists supported the governor's position. Some of the business folks hope to revive the issue, kind of challenge the DEQ's legal authority--

Paul Davenport:
They're talking about the court fight.

Mike Sunnucks:
Yeah. I think the governor is politically okay on that. I think most people probably side with the idea of making companies update their equipment when necessary. This is kind of the mirror of the federal issue with the EPA and the Bush administration.

Michael Grant:
Dennis, let's move to things that may or may not be moving out there. East valley lawmakers pushing for an expansion of ASU polytechnic which used to be known as ASU east?

Dennis Welch:
Indeed they are. They've been assuring all session long that this $108 million project, they were assuring the money was going to be there. Well, they found themselves in a middle of a political tug of war. Amongst other lawmakers who represent other counties or other areas with other universities namely NAU and U of A. People from there saying, how is this going to effect funding or our universities? What's going to be left over for us? Because historically there's been this 2-2-1 funding form last.

Michael Grant:
Everybody denies that.

Dennis Welch:
Everybody denies that.

Michael Grant:
It remarkably works out that way. But it's a mathematical happenstance.

Dennis Welch:
It does. They're worried that this upsets tradition about that. I mean this is a big chunk of money. And some people are worried they're going to be left out.

Michael Grant:
108 million to do kind of generally what?

Dennis Welch:
Three buildings. They want to build three new buildings out there to accommodate this large growth out there.

Paul Davenport:
This is just one project fighting for some of that budget surplus money. The west side of the valley wants highway construction big time. So that's probably part of the dynamics of this, if I'm not mistaken.

Dennis Welch:
Indeed it is. Only have so much money left over at the end of the day to fight over. And you have some east valley's biggest political hitters behind this one, you know, saying that they're going to do whatever it takes to get this money in there.

Mike Sunnucks:
Wasn't there a proposal also out there to spread it out over a number of years instead of doing it all at once? I think Russell Pearce and some of the East valley folks want to put surplus money for it, the governor and others want to spread it out.

Dennis Welch:
Three different proposals right now. One is pay for it all up front which looks slim and none, and then there's another one to pay it out over 3 or 4 years and one that would be bonded out over 30. A lot of the east valley republicans that I talk to, they dover favor bonding out over 30 years. They don't want to commit the state to that debt for that period of time.

Michael Grant:
Board of regents going to get a couple of rural members?

Paul Davenport:
Yeah. The governor this week signed a bill to have the next-- probably the next two appointments in the board of regents to be residents from outer counties. This is an outgrowth of the comments heard during the legislative swing through the hinterlands of rural Arizona last year. They got some feedback, said, hey, you're not listening to us as far as our needs for higher education. We need some more representation on the board. The last regent from a rural county left a couple years ago so all of them right now are from Maricopa or Pima.

Michael Grant:
What did the house do with a bill that would have maybe helped students with the AIMS test?

Paul Davenport:
They surprised the sponsor of that senate bill. They rejected it soundly. It's going to be coming up for reconsideration this coming week. But it's got a long ways to go because it needs the emergency clause and that requires 40 out of 60 votes and it didn't even get a majority last time. It would have allowed more courses to count for the good grades credit to help a student bolster their AIMS score. So some kids would have gotten above the passing grade to get that high school diploma if they had that extra credit from the good grades.

Michael Grant:
Yeah. As I recall, when that passed last year that allows them to use the A's and B's to sort of enhance their scores on AIMS. But it was a pretty narrowly defined subset of classes that you could do that on.

Paul Davenport:
It sounds like the language wasn't quite what the sponsors intended last year. This wanted it for all the classes that counted basically toward graduation. The attorney general said they didn't write it that way and only specified those required by the state, not those accepted for graduation credits.

Michael Grant:
Now, Mike, are you confidently predicting Comedy Central is coming back Thursday?

Mike Sunnucks:
Yes, they will be back. Maybe Steve Colbert, too. Maybe we'll get both of them because the guns in restaurants has replaced the guns in bars issue. One of our infamous issues here in the state they revived the guns in restaurants. You can't bring a gun into a restaurant, surprisingly enough--

Paul Davenport:
With?--

Michael Grant:
With a license. So they don't want people getting drunk and shooting off in the air. So this law would allow them to come in. They wouldn't be allowed to drink. I think it's written that way.

Paul Davenport:
That's right.

Michael Grant:
But it would be for restaurants and they would have to post a ban on that, the restaurant would, right?

Paul Davenport:
To exempt themselves.

Mike Sunnucks:
To exempt themselves with a 9-inch letters. Of course the legislature has to mandate-- it's against all kinds of mandates has to mandate guns in restaurant lettering on the signs.

Michael Grant:
Now I recall in last year's version or it could have been the version a couple years ago, I lose track of time here. There was also a controversy about what had to be placed on the sign. Are they getting into the wording of the sign again?

Paul Davenport:
Yeah, I'm not remembering exactly what's in this year's version but the version before-- the issue before was that it was too cryptic and folks wouldn't have any idea what it really meant if you just refer to ARS or whatever. What does that mean? I don't know. I don't care.

Michael Grant:
Right.

Paul Davenport:
And meanwhile people would walk in with guns thinking well, it's entirely legal.

Michael Grant:
Now, what is-- I assume the national rifle association still behind this --

Mike Sunnucks:
It's purely a gun rights type issue. Ron Gould and Jack Harper are the two most conservative folks in the Senate down there pushing this bill. It's a second amendment gun rights argument. It's funny that the legislature wants to reduce lawsuits against businesses and doctors but they want to let people come into a restaurant with a gun. I think that could probably have a few lawsuits.

Paul Davenport:
This came up in the past. This is the season where you get a lot of bills that have died and get attached to other bills to keep them going through the process. That's what happened with this one. It got attached as an amendment to another bill. In the senate the other day. Interestingly enough the bill was ready for a final vote the next day and it never came up. So we don't know whether this bill is going to move forward at this point.

Michael Grant:
What about the taser legislation?

Mike Sunnucks:
Yeah. The assembly approved legislation that kind of protects folks, manufacturers of stun guns from lawsuits so if a police in a city used a taser or something on somebody and they die or have some kind of adverse effects and go to sue, people will try to sue taser sometimes in addition to the police department. This protects companies like Taser, which is based in Scottsdale, from lawsuits. So it's kind of a protection of the manufacturer.

Dennis Welch:
I think a lot of people would say-- more cynical down there would say, this bill specifically protects taser. I mean, I remember when this bill was first introduced with some of the lobbyists behind this were admittedly good friends with some of the owners of taser.

Mike Sunnucks:
Yeah. I think they're the only major stun gun manufacturer in Arizona. And they're based here and that's part of it. They've had a lot of lawsuits against them from injuries and deaths from the stun guns.

Michael Grant:
Some debate on just how much protection the bill affords them, right?

Paul Davenport:
It's been modified. There have been multiple incarnations of this legislation. But since then it's been modified. Now it's sort of a standard approved type of issue as opposed to a flat immunity ban.

Michael Grant:
The senate approved jail time for prostitutes this week?

Paul Davenport:
That's right. And actually that bill I think is at the governor's office already. What had happened was the House had passed it to mandate jail time for folks convicted of prostitution and the sponsor says that would apply both to people on both sides of the transaction, by the way, not just the prostitutes but the customers. He says it applies to the crime of prostitution, anybody involving sex for money. Then the Senate took out the mandate. Conference committee put it back in and now both chambers have now voted for it.

Michael Grant:
Now, Dennis, in the meantime, you mentioned the budget and some of the immigration ties and those kinds of things.

Dennis Welch:
Mm-hmm.

Michael Grant:
Any real progress being made on the budget? I keep thinking, gosh, it's May. Sooner or later they'll adjourn, stuff like that. But then I'll reminded, well, hold it. We need a budget.

Dennis Welch:
Well, like we mentioned earlier, who knows when we're going to get a budget now? Now that time governor has said, I'm not signing off on a budget until we can deal with immigration as well. They're intertwined now. So you have to come to an agreement on two huge issues on immigration and the budget. And who knows? Three, four weeks. I don't know.

Michael Grant:
What about English Language Learning? I mean theoretically that also is a major budget item.

Dennis Welch:
I don't think that effects the negotiations as much as people might think on the surface because that's going through the courts right now. It's kind of out of their control.

Paul Davenport:
You're right. We're not hearing much about that. The twist on that is that the plaintiffs have asked the federal judge to prod the legislature saying, hey, they're depending on that stay issued by the ninth circuit court of appeals to not have to do anything on this issue even though you've rejected the new law. We're waiting on a response from the judge. The request was for a hearing on this or just some sort of order clarifying what he wants the legislature to do.

Mike Sunnucks:
I don't think the republicans are sure what they're going to do on taxes, visa vie the governor either. Lots of proposals out there, income tax, property tax and the governor is holding her cards pretty tight on those using that as some leverage on some of her spending areas. So I don't think they're sure on taxes, either.

Michael Grant:
Well in the city is also complaining this week, Mike, about the income tax cuts. And hold it, that's going to whack us under revenue sharing.

Mike Sunnucks:
Yeah, Phil Gordon and some of the mayors are against the tax cuts, any kind of restriction prop 13 in California, which Gould and some other folks talked about getting on the ballot. And so they're concerned about the impact to them. That could open the door to some more moderate property tax cuts pushed by the real estate groups. So you could see some moderate tax cut come out of the package.

Michael Grant:
Before we leave the show completely, this former legislator John Verkamp declaring for the primary nomination against Jim Pederson for United States Senate. That came out of the blue.

Mike Sunnucks:
Yeah, that was kind of a wild card that kind of popped up. He's an anti-Iraq war candidate. He's a former state senator and sort of switched over. He's running from Pederson's left.
The common wisdom is it might help Pederson a little bit because it will boost Pederson's profile in a primary where he's been struggling to get some attention. He bought a lot of ads just to get his name ID out there. So that might help him, it may show him he's kind of a sensible censorious. But there's some folks on the left side of the democratic party that want to see a more try dent opposition to the war which Napolitano hasn't done and Pederson really hasn't done and they want to see a more anti-Bush sentiment from their candidates.

Michael Grant:
Refresh our recollection real quickly on John Verkamp? Obviously a Flagstaff former legislature.

Paul Davenport:
That's right. He left office I think about four years ago. His district lines were redrawn so it really made it awfully tough for a Flagstaff legislator to win that again. He also had a problem with a DUI arrest. So that's two different things that would have made it tough to win re-election.

Michael Grant:
Okay. Panelists we're out of time. Thank you very much.

Larry Lemmons:
The city of Mesa has not had a property tax since 1945. That could change after the election May 16th. Voters will be asked to raise the city's sales tax and add a primary property tax. Opponents and supporters Monday night at 7 on channel 8's Horizon.

Michael Grant:
Tuesday we'll talk about a Scottsdale measure that would allow the city to increase its spending limits. Thursday: discussion with economist Arthur Laugher, father of supply side economics. In fact, he gets a Father's Day card from supply side economics next month. Thanks for joining us on a Friday edition of Horizon. I'm Michael Grant. Have a great weekend. Good night.

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