Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

May 12, 2005


Host: Michael Grant

AZ Legislature: A to Z


  • A "Horizon" Special: The Arizona legislature, A to Z. We'll discuss the political dynamics that drive the legislature and how that impacts laws passed by lawmakers. Then you'll learn how term limits passed by voters over a decade ago has affected the process and how some lawmakers get around them. Lobbyists are not elected to make the laws but they certainly influence the process. We'll take a look at that aspect of the legislature. Finally we'll give you some tips about how you can become involved in the process as we tell you the story about one citizen's success in getting a bill passed.


View Transcript
>> Michael Grant:
Tonight on "Horizon", a special, the Arizona legislature, A to Z. We'll tell you about the political dynamics that drive the legislature and how that impacts laws passed by lawmakers. Then you'll learn how term limits passed by voters over a decade ago has affected the process and how some lawmakers get around them. Lobbyists are not elected to make the laws but they certainly influence the process. We'll take a look at that aspect of the legislature. Finally we'll give you some tips about how you can become involved in the process as we tell you the story about one citizen's success in getting a bill passed. That's coming up next on "Horizon."


>> Michael Grant:
Good evening, I'm Michael Grant. Welcome to this special edition of "Horizon," the Arizona legislature A to Z. Every year the legislature meets to pass new laws, adjust old ones and, of course, pass a budget to keep the state running for the next fiscal year. For long-time observers of the legislative process every year provides something new, and off-times entertaining, but many don't pay much attention to the legislature. It can impact your life on many different fronts and it can certainly have a very real impact on your pocketbook. So tonight our goal is to give you a basic understanding of the legislative process as well as its dynamics. We start with a look at the leadership of both houses, the dynamics between the house, the Senate and the governor's office. Larry Lemmons gives us this overview.


>> Ken Bennett:
Neither of us can truly succeed unless the other is succeeding as well. So I hope that everything we do over the coming weeks in this legislative session but more importantly everything that we do this year and in the future will keep in mind our mutual reliance on each other and our interdependence and that we will be able to work together, communicate more effectively and make Arizona even a better place tomorrow than it was yesterday.


>> Larry Lemmons:
President of the Arizona Senate Ken Bennett is addressing both houses of the legislature on tribal day. Beside him the new speaker of the house Jim Weiers. Bennett is speaking in a wider context but his words could easily apply to the narrower realities facing the 47th legislature. New faces mingle with old faces in both houses this year. New leadership complements continuing leadership. Because of the changes, the general consensus is that the legislature has become more conservative.


>> Jim Weiers:
Any time you have change there's going to be a difference and I think this year a lot of the media have come to the conclusion, rightfully so, is that the legislature is a lot more conservative than it has been in the last couple years.


>> Linda Aguirre:
A lot of the same people that were in the house are now in the Senate. I don't know if you know background, I was in the house for six years, then moved to the Senate for six years. The same people there are. I think we have one new member in that body. Has it gone more conservative, I think the has.


>> Ken Bennett:
The Senate picked up one Republican from the 17-13 split that we had last year, and a couple of the seats are now occupied by a little bit more conservative members. So I think the bargaining position will be strengthened kind of on the conservative side.


>> Phil Lopes:
That is the perception, but I think we have to wait and test that because whether one's conservative or liberal, one can't be conservative or liberal until you vote on something.


>> Larry Lemmons:
How the legislators vote is determined to some degree by the led leadership. In the Senate, Ken Bennett returns as president. Timothy bee is majority leader. Majority whip is Jay Tibshraeny. For Democrats, Linda Aguirre is Senate minority leader. She replaces jack brown who is now in the house. She's assisted by Richard Miranda as minority whip and Harry Mitchell as assistant minority leader.


>> Linda Aguirre:
Jack was such a wonderful mentor, and I learned a lot from him. It was my first time being in leadership, and I watched jack and I saw how he handled things. I tended to be a little bit more spontaneous than jack and would respond a little bit too quick. I learned from him to be patient and so I learned a lot of patience from jack. So am I going to handle things differently? Yes, I probably will just because I have a new dynamic of different kind of leaders, I have an assistant, our -- your former Mayor here in Tempe Harry Mitchell and Richard Miranda. Harry has never been in leadership and neither has Richard, where with myself I had Pete Rios on one side and jack Brown on the other to learn from. So we've got some different leadership styles but me and Harry have sat down and I think we're on the same page.


>> Larry Lemmons:
In the house, Phil Lopes is Senate minority leader. Linda Lopez is assistant minority leader. For Republicans, Gary Pearce is majority whip, Steven Tully is majority leader. The biggest change is Jim Weiers a previous speaker had replaces Jake Flake. Flake has moved to the Senate.


>> Jim Weiers:
The speaker, and I think that Jake was a great speaker, everybody has their different styles in the way that they do things. I've had this job before, which I do have an advantage over Jake. He had two years to learn it. I had two years to learn it, now I've got two years to practice it. So I think I've got a huge advantage. I don't know if my expectation bars go one a lot of people at that point. I hope that people understand we duty best we can with what we've got and we're going to service the people of the state with the best intentions and the best of our abilities.


>> Phil Lopes:
The speaker has assured me as the leader of the house Democrats that we will be involved at every step, that we will be at the table, whether we're talking about budget negotiations or bill negotiations, that we will be at the table. If that happens, and I have no reason to believe that it will not, then that will be a change, because for the last couple of years, the Democrats have felt as though we have been totally out of the loop.


>> Larry Lemmons:
Last year conservative Republicans failed to get budget they wanted through the legislature. The governor's budget was passed largely because moderate Republicans allied themselves with Democrats.


>> Ken Bennett:
Because of the stance that some moderate Republicans took, that they really favored the governor's budget per se, it really forced the negotiations to the leadership level rather than allowing the budget to normally, as it does, normally, work through the process of the appropriations committees. This year because of some of the changes in the memberships, I think the budget process is going to move back more into the appropriation committees, both in the house and in the Senate, where there's representation from both the Democrat and Republican caucuses, but it's going to have to get the votes out of the appropriations committee and then move through the caucuses and onto the full floor of each body.


>> Linda Aguirre:
Democrats and Republicans look at the needs of the state, and again you have that conservative edge last year that didn't get anywhere with a budget and it did take a little bit in the house side, not necessarily the Senate side, that they had to have a little bit of upheaval amongst themselves before they realized they had to come on board. I kind of foresee some of that may happen this time around also.


>> Larry Lemmons:
Still early in the session a more conservative legislature under different leadership must still hammer out a budget. Democratic leaders say they meet weekly with the governor to discuss strategy and her agenda. Republicans have their own agenda but it's clear the new speaker anticipates compromise.


>> Jim Weiers:
There really shouldn't be a bad relationship with the governor. She plays her role as the executive branch and we play our role when it comes to legislative. There are going to be problems. There always will. I don't care if you're married, or I don't care if you're a speaker and a governor or business partners. There's always going to be reasons to disagree but you don't have to be disagreeable to do so. I'm looking forward to it. I find her extremely interesting, very intelligent. I think for the most part there is a philosophical difference we'll have to work out. In doing so we'll see how she either adapts or we do because there's got to be some adaptability. There's got to be compromise to get anything done down there. We'll see where that compromise actually ends up.


>> Michael Grant:
We continue with the Arizona legislature A to Z with a law approved by Arizona voters in the early 1990s that is still having considerable impact today. That law imposed term limits on lawmakers. Arizona one of only 15 states that imposes term limits. We'll take a look at the impact term limits have had on the legislature. Paul Atkinson reports the law has forced some law makers from office early but others have found a way around it.


>> Paul Atkinson:
A Senate page wheels the belongings of jack Brown to his new office in the House of Representatives. Brown ran for the house after term limits forced Arizona's longest serving current lawmaker from the Senate.


>> Jack Brown:
Couldn't run any more for the Senate so I decided to run for the house and just have a few of us around here that had been here a long time and could kind of maybe be a 11ing influence with some of the newcomers.


>> Paul Atkinson:
Mary Hartley runs into old Senate colleagues in the courtyard between the house and Senate. A Democrat from West Phoenix, left the Senate after eight years of service.


>> Mary Hartley:
If I had had my druthers, if we did not have term limits in the state, I might have run for one more term, but I doubt that I ever would have gone beyond 10 years.


>> Paul Atkinson:
Arizona voters passed term limits by a 3-1 margin in 1992. The election came on the heels of two political corruption scandals.


>> Undercover video:
What we're doing here is not 100\% kosher. Protect yourself...


>> Undercover video:
Sorry. Wait a minute.


>> Undercover video:
20, 40 --


>> Undercover video:
Wave to the camera.


>> Undercover video:
Go ahead. There's no cameras. 20, 40.


>> Paul Atkinson:
An undercover legislative sting operation called AzSCAM resulted in indictments against seven lawmakers and 11 others in 1991. Arizona's two senators, John McCain and Dennis DeConcini, were two of the Keating five. They intervened in a federal banking investigation of Charles Keating, Jr., after having accepted large campaign contributions and free trips from the founder of the failed Lincoln savings & loan.


>> Lora Villasenor:
Some folks today will say, the intention of the voter was to impose congressional term limits, but if you remember that this was the year after AZSCAM, it's possible that people were really very much focussed on the legislature at the time.


>> Paul Atkinson:
Laura is a senior research analyst at think AZ, a Phoenix-based public policy think tank. She is updating a study she did on term limits released before last November's election.


>> Lora Villasenor:
The popular thought out there was that term limits needed to be done away with because they were creating too much turnover and eroding institutional knowledge in the legislature. So what we wanted to do is just kind of take a look at that and see what the effect term limits was actually having on the legislative body.


>> Paul Atkinson:
As passed by voters, Arizona's term limit law limited U.S. senators to two terms totaling 12 consecutive years. Members of the U.S. house to three terms totaling six consecutive years. Arizona state senators and house members to four terms, totaling eight consecutive years. The U.S. Supreme Court found term limits for members of Congress unconstitutional in 1995.


>> Lora Villasenor:
Here in Arizona we have consecutive term limit, meaning appear person can only serve eight continuous years in one seat. So somebody can serve eight years in the house but then they can serve eight more years in the Senate, and over their lifetime they can serve as many year as they want to.


>> Paul Atkinson:
A total of 44 lawmakers have faced term limits since they went into effect. Of those, 26 left the legislature, 16 simply switched houses and two came back after sitting out an election.


>> Lora Villasenor:
People's perception about what's happening is not necessarily what's actually happening. I think that this report certainly debunked the myth that the term limits were really pushing turnover in both of the houses, particularly since this last time we only got 17 brand-new members. Two people came back again that had left.


>> Jack Brown:
My Rolodex.


>> Paul Atkinson:
Jack Brown is one of the 16 who switched from one chamber to the other.


>> Jack Brown:
No, I don't think -- it's just following the laws the people voted in. I think it was a good move for them to make it so that you could have people that wanted to could run for the other body. That's the law. All we're doing is following the law. Democrat and Republican alike. Several are doing that on both sides. I think it's okay.


>> Paul Atkinson:
As part are of her research the effects of term limits, she compared lawmakers elected after term limits to those elected before. She found that 34\% of lawmakers elected from 1960 to 1990 served more than eight years. Since term limits that number has dropped by 10\%. Term limits forced out veterans such as former Senate president Brenda burns. Former house minority leader Bob McClendon and 28 year veteran John Wettaw.


>> Jack Brown:
I find normally those the people send back year after year come back for a reason, and because people think they were they're doing a good job. We have term limits before this and have them now by the ballot box. If they don't like me, they can vote me out of office at any time.


>> Paul Atkinson:
That happened to Jeff Groscost. Term limits forced him to run for the Senate. He lost. Two words, alt fuels. Mary Hartley isn't a fan of term limits because of the changes she saw while in office.


>> Mary Hartley:
It's done nothing for the institution itself or the process. And it's put a lot of people that probably shouldn't be moving as fast as they should be. It's actually detracted from stepping back, learning and taking time and preparing legislation thoughtfully and in a systematic fashion.


>> Paul Atkinson:
Two states have repealed term limits, Utah and Idaho. Efforts to reform or repeal Arizona's term limits law have failed each of the past five years.


>> Jack Brown:
We live with term limits because I don't think the people are ready to vote it out yet, but I think one day they will be.


>> Michael Grant:
Before we get to our next segment, let's give you a basic rundown on how a bill becomes a law. First, a bill is introduced by a member or a group of members after being written in proper legislative form by the legislative counsel. The bill is then given a number, first read and assigned to the appropriate committee by the house speaker. The committee then presents its report on the bill to the whole house, and it must then be approved by the rules committee which determines whether the measure is constitutional. The bill is then put on the house calendar, and the committee of the whole, or the entire house, debates the bill. During this process, it can be amended. The bill is then third read and voted on. If passed by the house, the bill is sent to the Senate, where if it's passed there, sent back to the house. If there are changes made in the Senate, the bill is sent to a conference committee made up of senators and representatives where an agreement is reached on the measure. At this point the bill goes to the governor. The governor can either sign the bill, veto it or let it become law without a signature. Our next Arizona legislature A to Z segment deals with what has been called the in visible legislature, lobbyists. There are more than 3,000 lobbyists registered with the Arizona Secretary of State's office, but most are part time casual or even volunteer lobbyists. Less than 300 lobbyists regularly visit lawmakers on behalf of their business, government agency, professional association or other clients. Merry Lucero looks at some of the ins and outs of lobbying.


>> Merry Lucero:
On any given weekday at the capital, there is a big tent out on the front lawn. In it people eat and schmooze. This day is city's and towns day. Folks representing local municipalities win a captive audience of state lawmakers by offering them lunch. In return a moment of time.


>> We want to stress the vital importance of local government.


>> Merry Lucero:
They may not all be paid registered lobbyist but this is a type of lobbying. If you want to see professional schmoozing, meet a real lobbyist. Mike Gardner was a member of the state House of Representatives from 1994 to 2000, then chief of staff for the Senate president. Now he works with a large lobbying firm. His clients... --


>> Mike Gardner:
Microsoft, Intel, direct TV, Verizon wireless, vanguard health systems, eastern Arizona college, City of Mesa, Williams gateway airport... hmm, SIEMENS technology, energy education incorporated.


>> Merry Lucero:
And more.


>> Lobbyist:
Let's get together and have lunch.


>> Merry Lucero:
It's not uncommon to see former state lawmakers at the capital reemployed as lobbyists.


>> Lobbyist:
I will he be there to. Stay out of trouble.


>> Mike Gardner:
You never want to see two things being made, sausage and laws because both are kind of an ugly process. If you don't understand the process, you won't be able to effect change. Lawmakers since they have lived it and had to push their bill through the process we understand the ins and outs and know the rules. Anybody else can learn it, too. You can't learn it in a textbook. You have to come down and watch it to understand the intricacies. There is House Bill 2414 --


>> Merry Lucero:
And with 12 to 1400 bills introduced every session, the intricacies involve a lot of schmoozing.


>> Mike Gardner:
We think it's a good idea. If you have any questions -- I will grab one legislator and talk to them about this particular issue about this community college, next thing you know I need to talk to another lawmaker about something that's going to affect Intel or Microsoft. So it's a lot of very quick, short conversations with people trying to educate them about what the latest is on the policy they're interested in. Lobbyists educate folks. They educate lawmakers. They also educate staff members, also educate other lobbyists about what you're doing, why you're doing it and the intent mend the words on the piece of paper.


>> Howard Fischer:
It is an education process. But it is spin.


>> Merry Lucero:
Howard Fischer has covered the state capitol since 1982 and has uncovered his share of spin.


>> Howard Fischer:
Several years ago the lobbyists for America West Airlines came in here for a change in the tax on jet fuel. Sounds reasonable. I started nosing around. The way they structured the bill, it would have lowered the tax for America West and raised it for southwest. Well, I wrote about it, and that was the end of that bill.


>> Merry Lucero:
Do stories like that feed a perception that lobbyists shady?


>> Mike Gardner:
The perception is out there. We know it's real. But I think it comes about because the press only writes about the bad effects of lobbying but never talk about the good effects of lobbying or good policies that now came into effect because of the lobbyists that affected that policy.


>> Howard Fischer:
If we were to put a headline on the paper, 20,000 people fly in planes, no one injured, people are going to say, yeah? I mean, it's the plane crash where people are injured. Do we look for the things going wrong? Sure. But we're in a lot of ways the safeguard on this, because we are there to say when somebody's trying to slide something through --


>> Mike Gardner:
It's only when the AzSCAMs hit that people must say it's the lobbyists are bad, they must be evil. I think it's that misinterpretation of what we do and just the way Hollywood treats it, the way the press treats it. If people actually saw on it a real-time basis they would understand a lobbyist, number one, has to be honest. If I ever deceive a member of the house or Senate, they will never talk to me again. If they'll never talk to me, I'm out of business.


>> Merry Lucero:
AzSCAM was the biggest lobbying scandal to date. In 1991 seven lawmakers were indicted for taking bribes. But Fischer says the real tool for many lobbyists is campaign contributions.


>> Howard Fischer:
Let me put it this way. You're a lawmaker. You have two calls on the incoming line. One is from somebody you don't know. And the other is from a lobbyist who together with his organization perhaps helped you raise $10,000 for your last election. Which call do you think you're going to take? Come on.


>> Merry Lucero:
But Gardner says every day citizens to get involved can affect change.


>> Mike Gardner:
There's nothing more powerful than a real person that is their own lobbyist. If it's a school teacher, kindergarten teacher that calls up and says I have a problem in my classroom, here is what I think you should do, lawmakers listen to that. If a lobbyist says, I think the school teacher is wrong, the lob legislator Willis unto the school teacher. They do come down on a daily basis and test testify in front of committee. They make phone calls and send e-mails. That's the most powerful tool citizens have.


>> Merry Lucero:
Fischer says it's up to the journalists and the public to track campaign contributions from lobbyists.


>> Howard Fischer:
It used to be before 1986 organizations would give as a group. So you could look up that the trial lawyers gave 5 grand, the doctors gave somebody 5 grand. Now with the advent of campaign limits, they don't give as a group. They give individually. So what I did is I pulled the name of all the doctors who has given and it turned out in one Senate race they gave actually two-thirds of what this candidate, the successful candidate raise.


>> Merry Lucero:
While not everyone can do that kind of research, anyone can track campaign contributions on the Secretary of State's web site, and anyone can write letters or come to the state capitol to lobby, to try to influence a lawmaker about a bill.


>> Michael Grant:
During the session there are a lot of opportunities for public comment on bills making their way through the process, and making comments on bills may be easier than you think. Also it is possible for an average citizen to actually get a bill passed. In this next Arizona legislature A to Z segment we'll give you some tips on how you can impact the legislative process. As Mike Sauceda tells you the story of one average Joe who did get a bill through the state's capital.


>> Mike Sauceda:
It's been more than 10 years since someone took Bob's identity and wracked up more than $100,000 in charges.


>> Bob Hartle:
We basically learned that there was no law against stealing somebody's identity. All the laws were written for the business and banking community for the dollar loss. As long as the criminal was paying the bill, there was nothing law enforcement could do about it.


>> Mike Sauceda:
Bob and his wife Joann decided to do something about it.


>> Bob Hartle:
My wife and I went to the ASU law library and researched the fraud laws and learned there was no laws that actually governed your identity. So we sat down and wrote a law that we thought the people of Arizona should have, and we mailed it to then representative Tom Smith, who later retired as state senator Tom Smith, and he agreed with us.


>> Mike Sauceda:
Smith took on the bill even though they did not live in his district. He says they provided help throughout the process of which they knew little about in a place where they had no connections.


>> Bob Hartle:
We absolutely knew nobody down here, we knew nobody in politics. I've never been in trouble with the law. So I had -- I didn't know anybody that worked at law enforcement. I knew nobody in that -- that had anything to do with laws or law enforcement. You come in, you fill out the card, you sit down, and then when they call your name you get up and you walk up here to the podium, and then they allow you to speak until -- talk to them about the bill and why you think it should be passed and one thing you need to keep in mind, they would like it to be short and sweet. We learned when the hearings were coming up and when they were going to discuss it and we went, come down here to the legislature, and then we gave testimony on our case and what we thought needed to be done, and encouraged them to pass the law.


>> Mike Sauceda:
Besides learning about giving testimony, he learned a lot more during the process of getting his bill through and gives this tip if you would like to do the same.


>> Bob Hartle:
The most important thing is to start with -- try to find a person on the committee that relates to your bill, and don't take no for an answer if you really think that this is important and you need it, get in there and talk to these people and try to convince somebody to do your bill for you.


>> Mike Sauceda:
Another tip from him is to use the legislature's web site, which is at WWW.AZleg.state.AZ.US. It's something that was not available to him when he got his law through in one session of the legislature. On the legislative web site you can check on the status of a bill, see when committees will be meeting, learn which laws are currently on the books, find out about members, and contact them through e-mail, and sign up to speak at a committee hearing. One more piece of advice from him regarding lawmakers --


>> Bob Hartle:
Let them know you're serious, you're interested and you want to be kept informed, and if at all possible you will be down herd to whatever you need to do.


>> Michael Grant:
Thanks very much for joining us for this "Horizon" special, the Arizona legislature A to Z. You can check out a transcript of tonight's show or what's coming up on "Horizon" at our web site. It is at www.azpbs.org. When you get to the homepage, scroll down and click on the word "Horizon." Thanks again for joining us this evening. I'm Michael Grant. Have a great one. Good night.


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