Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

April 2, 2008

Host: Ted Simons

Legislative Update

  • An Arizona Capitol Times reporter joins us to talk about the latest news and highlights from the State Legislature.
  • Jim Small - Reporter, Arizona Capitol Times
Category: Legislature

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
Hello and welcome to Horizon, I'm Ted Simons. So far this week, the Arizona House of Representatives voted on a plan to revise Arizona's employer sanctions law. And a bill requiring Arizona to opt out of the federal no child left behind school accountability program. Joining me with more is Jim Small, reporter for the Arizona Capitol Times. Jim, good to see you here.

Jim Small:
Good to be here.

Ted Simons:
I want to get to employer sanctions here and other issues as well. No child Left Behind, we talked about this earlier this week on Horizon. Got out of the house, how did it do in the senate?

Jim Small:
It got heard from the Senate committee today and was actually defeated. Failed to pass the education committee. Mostly the opponents were concerned about the fact the state would be losing more than half a billion dollars worth of federal education funding and there was a question as to whether it was wise to say that state could opt out of this program before it studied all the implications to it.

Ted Simons:
Even with the caveat which came out of the house which was in the state didn't make up the money it wouldn't opt out?

Jim Small:
Right. Even with that amendment in the house, the senators obviously didn't feel that was appropriate enough or that even going to that point was something the state should be doing.

Ted Simons:
It was mostly a message-making procedure anyway, wasn't it?

Jim Small:
To a point. I think a lot of people viewed it that way but there was a message bile that's out there, a memorial resolution they're going to send to Congress. The legislature does this periodically and says we think Congress should do x, y or z and they send it to Congress. Whether it gets read or not who knows but it goes on the public record. Those are the kind of things they typically do to send messages.

Ted Simons:
Okay. Better employer sanctions. Is everyone finally happy?

Jim Small:
I don't think so. The business community will not be happy until there's not a state level employer sanctions law. They want a federal solution. They've been saying for the past year or so since the law went through the legislature last year that the state shouldn't be -- shouldn't be doing this. We shouldn't have a piece meal effort. The Congress really needs to step up to the plate and act. I think what's happened is the business community isn't die met diametrically opposed to it. They do see the changes as improving the law. And it went from the house and the Senate has a similar proposal right now. They need to put theirs to a floor debate and vote it. And the measures I've been told will be identical. So what will happen when the senate votes on it probably in the next week or two it will get sent right to the governor.

Ted Simons:
Is this enough to satisfy backers of the two voter initiatives? Because I know that was always what the two big gorillas in the room no one wanted to talk about.

Jim Small:
That's the question that remains to be seen. We've seen reports there's been talks behind the scenes about trying to get both groups to kind of lay down their weapons at the same time and call a truce. But that hasn't happened yet. It's unclear. I think both sides are concerned. You've got Don Goldwater's group, the one associated with Russell Pearce that is going to put out the even more stringent employer sanctions plan. They say that they need to continue to gather signatures and that they're not going to stop because the business community is out there. And they're doing the same thing, trying to put on a different ballot proposition that they say would gut the current law and return Arizona to the laws that we had in the past years that would welcome illegal immigrant labor. So I think -- I think there's a possibility that that might happen. But it's going to take I think a lot of finesse behind the scene toss make it happen.

Ted Simons:
Interesting. You talk about voter initiatives. I notice there's now a talk -- this is regarding the budget mostly because of unfunded mandates -- talk of a way for the legislature to override some of these voter initiatives. How far could something like that go?

Jim Small:
Well, the idea right now is to put it on the ballot actually in the fall and let voters decide whether or not they want to repeal something that passed in 1998 called the voter protection act. That would modify it. It would say when the state is facing a deficit, when revenues are expected to come in below expenditures then the legislature can take money out of voter approved programs. The way the state constitution is right now, anything approved by the voters the legislature virtually can't touch. All they can do is make minor changes that are deemed to be "furthering the cause, furthering the intent of the voter proposition." That's tough. They also can't touch any of the funding. So when they're in a situation like they are right now facing $3 billion plus in deficits over the next two years, two-thirds of their budget is essentially -- is essentially roped off. And they can't touch it because it's been approved by voters. Education, health care for the poor, a number of different programs. It really ties the hand of lawmakers. And there's a lot of concern that they could better address the revenue shortfall if they had access to the entire budget instead of only portion of it.

Ted Simons:
9/11 monument bill. I know that got some action today. Talk about what that bill says and what happened.

Jim Small:
It got voted out of the house today, 31 votes that it needed and skated out. It goes over to the senate. The bill was very contentious. A fair amount of floor debate during the vote. You have the two sides, the sponsor Scottsdale representative John Kavanagh, who is a former port authority officer. And he looks at the memorial and says the controversy that's been surrounding it for the past couple years is embarrassing to the state. His bill will strike 12 of the inscriptions on it, some of the more politically charged ones were just factually incorrect inscriptions, a lot of it the democrats all opposed it. It's interesting because the original bill when it came out was sponsored by almost everyone in the legislature, in the House of Representatives. All the democrats voted against it today on the floor. They say that this is stepping on the toes of a public process. We have a commission appointed by the governor, they met, they had open meetings. They designed this entire monument. When there were problems when people got upset with the monument there was another public process with the same commission, another public process with the legislative governmental mall commission. They approved change. Those changes would be done by June. It's already been fenced off. Construction is already slated to start on fixing the monument. And they say that there's know no way that you're going to take the politics out of this by having the legislature step in and basically say this is private money but we're going to tell you how to spend it better.

Ted Simons:
We'll keep an eye on that as I'm sure you will as well. Jim good to see you again. Thanks for joining us.

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