Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

July 7, 2006


Host: Michael Grant

Journalists Roundtable


  • Local reporters review the week's top stories.
Guests:
  • Dennis Welch - East Valley Tribune
Category: Journalists Roundtable

View Transcript
Michael Grant:
It's Friday, July 7, 2006. In the headlines this week, it was a busy Thursday at the Secretary of State's office as signatures were submitted for five different ballot proposals. One of the initiatives is called the Non-Smoker Protection Act, which is designed to counter a proposed statewide smoking ban that will also likely be on the ballot. And Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne has announced Arizona is suing the U.S. Department of Education over the use of test scores to measure the success of the No Child Left Behind program. That's next on Horizon.

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 Doug MacEachern of the Arizona Republic. Thursday was the deadline to file petitions to get initiatives on the November ballot. Five different measures were filed with the Secretary of State's office yesterday. Added to previous filings and referrals by the legislature, there could be a total of 19 measures on the November ballot for voters to decide. Dennis, let's start with the ones that were turned in on Thursday. How many names did the group Protect Marriage Arizona submit?

Dennis Welch:
They submitted a boatload of names. About 310,000. 200,000 of which were gathered by volunteers. A staggering number and more than initiative on a ballot in the fall.

Michael Grant:
Were they crying wolf a few weeks back when they said they were short?

Dennis Welch:
They couched it carefully. They said we were short of our goal. 250,000 to 300,000 exceeded their goals.

Michael Grant:
Doug, obviously the republicans are trying to relive the glory days of 2004, just a couple of years ago.

Doug MacEachern:
Just 24 months ago.

Michael Grant:
Well, anyway they hope this will be a ballot magnet for their side.

Doug MacEachern:
Well, yes, they do. And they--they're looking at the poll numbers for Governor Janet Napolitano and they are looking good for the Democrat. They think will change the equation on because it will draw conservative voters to the ballot to support this measure. The numbers that we just heard were 300,000 signatures including over 200,000 of theme collected by voluntary signature gatherers is truly extraordinary.

Michael Grant:
And both sides bringing in a fair amount of dough on this thing. It's interesting standards.

Doug MacEachern:
The interesting thing is huge number of individual contributions to both sides as opposed to one huge industry contributing the money. Yeah, that's different from a lot of these other measures that are on the ballot.

Michael Grant:
The opposition group Arizona together and you point out they've raised some fairly formable funds as well.

Doug MacEachern:
Yeah, like I said they both have.

Michael Grant:
Half a million plus.

Doug MacEachern:
I think it was, yeah.

Michael Grant:
Will it make the ballot?

Paul Davenport:
We can anticipate how the opponents will spend some of dollars on lawyers to challenge the ballot measure. We expect a lawsuit to be filed to say the marriage amendment is actually two amendments in one and violates the Arizona's constitution's single law. There's a second part that says state and local governments can't provide legal status to unmarried couples. That's subject to challenge and proponents say they are on safe, legal ground. This is to reach the state Supreme Court.

Michael Grant:
The theory is behind the rule is don't tie two things together forcing someone to vote for one even though they might be less enthused about the second.

Paul Davenport:
That's right. There's that and the constitution that applies to constitutional amendments reaching the voters. A looser restriction on the legislature itself. It's hard to predict how it will shake out. The Arizona Supreme Court earlier this decade knocked off ballot measures to repeal the state income tax and also to in effect gut the funding of clean elections public campaign funding system. On the other hand some other measures survived the challenges. I don't know how that will come out.

Doug MacEachern:
Proponents have made a big point of the fact they anticipated this challenge and claimed they have their legal ducks in a row to protect against the challenge. But as Paul says, it's a crap shoot.

Michael Grant:
Actually the legal ducks' thing is the farm's animals' initiative. We'll talk about that in three minutes.

Doug MacEachern:
With all the ballot measures, you've got every subject covered in the state I think.

Michael Grant:
Dennis, I think you said there was a similar challenge in Georgia, which has a similar provision.

Dennis Welch:
Yesterday can be summed up a bad day for gay rights activists. There are two states their state Supreme Court ruled against what the gay rights actually wanted. One was Georgia. Folks there who were pushing for you know the gays and their rights to be able to marry, they argued that a similar ballot measure two years ago violated their single-subject rule and the Supreme Court rejected in a argument and said it didn't and reinstated a ban and overturned a lower court ruling.

Michael Grant:
Well the issue over smoking and how extensively and in particular in bars got joined on Thursday when the non-smoker protection act was filed, Paul.

Paul Davenport:
That's an initiative circulated and filed on the deadline day. It had backing from Arizona companies and businesses, bars predominantly, that sort of industry as well as R. J. Reynolds. It's initiatives filed by health groups like the lung and heart associations. The crux of it is the business-backed one would exempt bars so you can smoke in bars. It would have a pre-emption that you couldn't have local ordinances tougher than state law. On the other hand the health group measure would put bars in all the other enclosed public places but would allow local governments to have tougher measures if they want.

Michael Grant:
Now another smoking related one except it doesn't do anything--in fact, it would like to encourage smoking because it's proposed 80-cent a pack tax which goes for early childhood development programs, right?

Paul Davenport:
The aim of that one is to raise money for early childhood development programs as you said. They choose--they considered a bunch of options where to get the money from. When you have an initiative that wants to spend money, by law, you have to come up with a way to pay for it. The one they choose was to tack on 80 cents or so tax to the tobacco. This would divide the money up to the new regional councils and decide how to spend the money on, which programs around the state.

Michael Grant:
You know, Doug, I wonder if that aspect of it won't be the key debate point over the next three or four months.

Doug MacEachern:
It's not really clear exactly. I'm not sure the proponents have set out precisely how the money will be distributed. That's a big issue. They're not talking about an insignificant amount. 80 cents a pack is substantial. It's a complex issue to begin with and that documented with the distribution element, some people suggested this is creating a new bureaucracy of delivering the funds.

Michael Grant:
Supporters say they are trying to leave it flexible on a more local basis to determine whether or not--I don't know. Do you want to focus much of your effort on early childhood education, or healthcare or nutrition, whatever the case may be? The vagueness may be the down side.

Doug MacEachern:
It's laudable and plausible and flexible. Voters may say flexibility is nice and talking about tax money and would like more specificity how it will be parceled out.

Michael Grant:
Dennis, this humane treatment for farm animals' one. I think it was tried elsewhere. To tell you truth, it hasn't heard much about it until it got filed on Thursday.

Dennis Welch:
The Arizona humane society that's behind this. They are concerned about the you know livestock being treated humanely before they are slaughtered and butchered up. There's a small industry up in mainly concentrated in northern Arizona where most of this stuff occurs. They're obviously opposed to this. They're saying, hey, we want to be--we should be able to treat our animals in which way we like to.

Paul Davenport:
The key element of this to require a certain amount of space in confinement for animals.

Dennis Welch:
As of right now, the animals are kept in gestation pens. It's small and confined and can't move. This is a point of contention for animal rights' folks that says this is torturous and needs to move up and stand up.

Doug MacEachern:
This is history and taken up in other states. I think one of most effective campaigns that the animal rights activists have conducted in terms of visuals is compelling. You see the animal in the tightly confined cage. I remember when it first became an issue, people are disbelieving it was actually true. It's true. That's how the animals are raised. They can't turn around and in most cases even lie down.

Michael Grant:
This is a high-dollar campaign? Do we have any indication if the industry will come out against it or for that matter how much money?

Dennis Welch:
Potentially. These people are devoted to both sides of the issues.

Paul Davenport:
We've seen substantial fund raising by groups that have to report expenditures and contributions and quite a bit in the till.

Michael Grant:
Voting. One that got filed this week, Doug, basically that passed a ballot would be mailed to every voter, right, registered voter?

Doug MacEachern:
Vote by mail, yes. That is one of those that the Secretary of State is going to have to sift through over the next 15 days or something. That's the essence of it. Changing over, I think, very similar to the Oregon method of voting. Rather than go to the polls at all, we would vote by mail.

Dennis Welch:
Doesn't it diminish the amount of polling places?

Paul Davenport:
From reading this one filed they allow a limited number of polling places in each county. You could do it but the emphasis is on voting by mail.

Dennis Welch:
All I need is more stuff in the mailbox to throwaway.

Michael Grant:
Rick Murphy was the prime mover behind this who lost to Trent Franks a couple of years ago.

Paul Davenport:
That's right, a radio station owner from the western part of the state.

Michael Grant:
Is it qualified for the ballot? Voter reward initiative. I don't know about you, I'm showing up on primary day and general election day to get my million bucks.

Doug MacEachern:
Somebody had the perfect campaign slogan or perfect slogan for this little item. It is: you can't win if you don't vote. Something along those lines.

Michael Grant:
Something like that.

Doug MacEachern:
I think the lottery picked up something similar to that. Mark Oserlo is very popular campaign thus far to pay a million bucks to some lucky winner who actually does their civic duty.

Paul Davenport:
I did a little research on this. A person who I don't think likes this tipped me off. There are federal and state statutes that say you can't give anybody, pay anybody to vote. You can't pay them to vote for a particular candidate of course. You can't pay them to show up to vote or not to vote. The question of course is: would this apply to something that is maybe your chance to win a million dollars? There's no promise that Michael Grant or Dennis or you or me or anybody.

Michael Grant:
If I vote multiple times though.

Paul Davenport:
Vote early, vote often.

Michael Grant:
Yeah, I can increase my chances. Look at it that way.

Doug MacEachern:
I think Dr. Osterlo is determined to squeeze the entire notion of duty out of civic life.

Michael Grant:
Arizona minimum wage. Interesting idea particularly in a right-to-work state.

Doug MacEachern:
Yeah, the federal minimum wage is $5.15 I believe and has been that I think for almost nine years now. The Arizona proposal would raise it to $6.75. It's supported by a number of groups. It's--I think they too have plenty of signatures it looked like.

Paul Davenport:
We were talking before about how the marriage one is probably helping Republicans. This one is seen in some quarters as being a boost for the Democrats. In fact John Edwards the presidential candidate and vice presidential nominee for the Democrats will be in Arizona on Monday to rally just on this issue.

Doug MacEachern:
It is definitely an emotion-raising issue. Having just written on it just a couple of weeks ago and considering the volume of letters that I got back.

Dennis Welch:
Democrats are hoping this will drive their people to the polls. I mean, you know, they certainly don't have the numbers that the gay marriage folks had as far as the petition that they filed.

Michael Grant:
I have to sit down with this list. We were talking about it in the green room. But you know, sit down with it and try to tally it up. I have seven breaking for this constituent group and this breaking this way. Does anybody have an overall feel for the ballot?

Doug MacEachern:
There's some that will pull voters one way like the marriage act to the right, minimum wage one to the left. But the volume is issue too. When you have 18 issues on the ballot, there's just a likelihood that voters will come in and say to heck with it or they may consider the idea of going through all that too daunting, too bothersome and too time consuming.

Michael Grant:
Not if there's a million dollars to win.

Dennis Welch:
It could be backfiring as heated as the same-sex marriage debate. Republicans may drive out the poll and would oppose this type of amendment to the constitution.

Michael Grant:
Couple of I would say, what, eight legislative referendum probably the highest profile the official English one and enlargement of prop 200.

Paul Davenport:
The official English and declare official language of Arizona and official acts have to be done in English. It won't change how things will be done. It's more symbolic in that sense. The proposition 200 like event initiative would deal with the government services. Prop 200 as you recall some had to do with voting and said illegal immigrants are not eligible for services. This would add that to this list.

Michael Grant:
Going to Phoenix. Randy, initiative?

Doug MacEachern:
Protect our city. They gathered 21,000 signatures to get it on the ballot and it would require law enforcement officers in Phoenix to act essentially as immigration officials and check to see if the people they apprehend are citizens or if they are illegal immigrants. It's strangely opposed by the city notably by the police and would have a dramatic effect on how they do their job and the proponents are contending it's a serious drain angry source that is could be better directed elsewhere.

Michael Grant:
Incidentally, I rarely ask questions like this because I'm not sure if you know the answer.

Doug MacEachern:
I'll say Tuesday.

Michael Grant:
Tuesday is the answer. I'm just not sure which Tuesday. Would city of Phoenix vote on this at the primary or in the general?

Doug MacEachern:
That is a question that I can only answer Tuesday to.

Michael Grant:
You can say--well, mike, it would be a Tuesday in September or Tuesday in November.

Paul Davenport:
I think Phoenix put it on the first ballot in case they don't need a second one.

Michael Grant:
Okay. Ballot challenges. Focus you on the Governor's race. Gary Tupper stays on the ballot, correct?

Dennis Welch:
Stays on the ballot. As he was joking, the race for last place continues. Mike Harris has challenged a number of his signatures that he gathered in Gila county where registration requires candidates to gather signatures from outlying areas of the state. The judge ruled that Gary Tupper could stay on the ballot even though they found a number of signatures were invalid. After they were kicked off, he didn't make the minimum requirement.

Michael Grant:
I heard the Yavapai county road to his rescue.

Dennis Welch:
They road to his rescue. Tupper had the state folks down there say, hey, he had enough signatures here. And yeah, he cleared the threshold for a total number of signatures.

Doug MacEachern:
To make one last point, Mike, Randy, is working to get his initiative on the city ballot by November '07.

Michael Grant:
November 2007. So it would have to be a city election?

Doug MacEachern:
That's right.

Michael Grant:
Tuesday, though?

Doug MacEachern:
I'm sure it would be.


Michael Grant:
Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne announced on Thursday the filing of a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Education. Paul, what is the basis for the lawsuit?

Paul Davenport:
The basis for the suit has to do with the federal No Child Left Behind program. That's the school improvement accountability program launched by the Bush administration. Basically what it does in part is grade schools on whether they are up to educating the kids and making sufficient progress. In Arizona the issue has been whether you're going to count the test scores of English-learning students after one year or as Mr. Horn's position has been wait for three years so the kids actually have a chance to pass the test. In Arizona you have to take the test in English. Other states let them take it in the native language.

Doug MacEachern:
As I understand it, Horn is basing his argument on the fact that federal officials assured him orally some years ago that that would be the case that they would have three years in order to make it for English-language learners in this state but those are people that are no longer with the agency or don't recall.

Paul Davenport:
And they didn't--according to Tom Horn, they didn't want to put it in writing and have it go about to other states and similar exceptions.

Michael Grant:
I remember Tom walking off the plane with the headline peace in our time. That was about--now maybe I'm mixing that up with someone from Britain.

Doug MacEachern:
All I can say is get it in writing.

Michael Grant:
Teri Goddard suing and going after AutoZone and Wal-Mart.

Doug MacEachern:
Well, it's a pricing issue. Actually the numbers that are in play here are just staggering to me as a consumer. The percentage is more than the numbers. He's alleging by saying the results of the tests going in AutoZone stores and Wal-Mart stores 700 and 900 times checking the price on the shelf verses what one pays when one gets to the cashier. It's a literal crapshoot as if you'll get the price advertised on the shelf. It's amazing to me. 54\% in Wal-Mart--in 54\% of time it was wrong. Half the time in AutoZone.

Michael Grant:
If I understood the story correctly, the fascinating thing was many of these were announced visits. They were rechecks. Stores knew they were coming.

Doug MacEachern:
Yeah. For one thing it says something about the nature of these stores. They're huge. You know they've got thousands upon thousands of products that they deal with. You would think they would be prepared for something especially given the fact that each one of these violations count individually. I think there's a $10,000 fine for each one of them. Something like this if it rules against this, stores could run in the millions. Goddard had an interesting quote regarding saying the fines have been levied against these companies as a matter of doing business.

Michael Grant:
In this case you don't win without checking the price. On that positive and uplifting note, panelists we are out of time.

Larry Lemons:
As the United States Supreme Court wraps up the term we look at the decisions made by court and decisions that have come about because of the addition of the chief justices John Roberts and Samuel Alito. Monday night at 7:00.

Michael Grant:
Thanks for joining us on a Friday edition. I'm Michael Grant. Have a great weekend. Good night.

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