Ted Simons: Coming up next on "Arizona Horizon," the latest on the new legislative session with the "Arizona capitol times." and a special visit with violinist virtuoso and conductor, Itzhak Perlman. Those stories next on "Arizona Horizon."
Narrator: "Arizona Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the friends of eight. Members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.
Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. The state legislature is in session and that means it's time once again to partner with the "Arizona capitol times" for our weekly legislative update. Every Wednesday during the session, we'll hear about the latest activity at the capitol. Here for the first update of the session is "Arizona capitol times" reporter Luige Del Puerto. Good to see you. Good to have the legislature back in session because it gives us so much to talk about. Before we start to talk about that, impressions of the opening week so far.
Luige del Puerto: Everybody is playing nice so far. The governor gave her speech on Monday, and, you know, she was focused on fixing CPS, and so far her proposal seems to be sailing pretty well in terms of getting accepted or at least people are not criticizing it. We've heard from both sides. Of course, there are some concerns about how much resources she would actually commit to this proposal of a new agency that is going to be separate, separate from the department of economic security. By and large people welcome the fact that she is focusing on CPS.
Ted Simons: I want to get to the governor's state of the state, but as far as any holdover tension -- a lot of drama the last go round.
Luige del Puerto: It was very -- it was -- the tension was pretty high last year. Right now, we haven't seen any just yet, but I will not be surprised if next week or the week after -- at some point soon we will probably see some of the tension bubble up again.
Ted Simons: Are you hearing grumbling going on? Like you said, playing nice both on the record and off.
Luige del Puerto: Right, because there was talk right before the session started that maybe they would revisit the issue of trying to oust some members who had supported the governor's agenda last year. That didn't happen. We'll see if they do it in the next few days or so.
Ted Simons: Committee chairmanship --
Luige del Puerto: We haven't seen any changes. Whoever has the committee chairmans before, they still have them now.
Ted Simons: General reaction to the governor's state of the state. Besides CPS which I want to get into more in a second. Just overall --
Luige del Puerto: The governor clearly was trying to impress the people about the accomplishments of her administration. It was very clear that that was a legacy speech, if you will. She focused on what she has done. On turning the state around. Bringing businesses into Arizona. And positioning the state to, you know, attract more business, especially manufacturing companies that may be returning to the United States from overseas. It was a legacy speech. And she did lay out her agenda. Two big issues that we heard, she dropped another bomb shell two years in a row, you know. Essentially a new agency, or new division that would solely deal with children's welfare. And, of course, funding for education was the other big piece of her agenda.
Ted Simons: When she drops these bombshells, the CPS one in particular. How late in the day does this happen? Is she working on this Monday morning? Does she figure it out over the weekend? Who else knew?
Luige del Puerto: Her inner circle knew about it. They -- I'm presuming they had been working on it for weeks beforehand. This is not something that she thought about like on Monday morning or the weekend before. I mean, clearly the fact that she announced her signing of the executive order like hours before her speech meant that it is a well thought out proposal. Of course, we'll see, you know, how that proposal is actually -- it is proposed as legislation, it would be in a form of a bill, let's see how that one will be -- whether it passes quickly or not, that remains to be seen.
Ted Simons: Any concern, any grumbling over her use of an executive order to get this done?
Luige del Puerto: We've heard some of it. The fact that we have -- that an executive order is being used to do something as dramatic as, you know, essentially separating the functions of CPS from -- although now that new unit is still within DES, the director will report directly to the governor. There is some of that. But we haven't really heard too much of it yet. Of course, I think the governor also acknowledged that it will have to be done or this change will have to be done legislatively. So, lawmakers will have their say.
Ted Simons: Enthusiasm for education, enthusiasm, K-12 and post secondary, and enthusiasm for infrastructure, and enthusiasm for all of the things that she touched on and addressed. How far is that going to go down there?
Luige del Puerto: Now that we're out of the recession, our economy is getting better, we are getting more in revenue collections, the governor and lawmakers can actually focus on the more traditional policy debates that we would have if we were not trying to save our sinking fiscal ship. I think that they would have more time to focus and get something done on those priorities that the governor has laid out.
Ted Simons: As far as SB1070 is concerned --
Luige del Puerto: Who knew?
Ted Simons: Who knew I would be asking a question about SB1070. Talk about this idea to pay the legal fees of those who were supporting the fight against the fight for SB1070 -- I have to get this right.
Luige del Puerto: The ACLU of Atlanta subpoenaed current and former legislators who supported SB1070 and demanded their private correspondence. The ACLU is litigating a case against SB1070 and the group wanted to show that when those legislators approved 1070 , that they deliberately wanted to discriminate -- they wanted a document that included words such as -- Hispanic, immigration, Mexican, and the -- the leaders of the two chambers feel very strongly that this is an overreach. That this is a violation of people's civil liberties. ACLU is on a fishing expedition. What they are proposing is $, appropriations to pay for the legal fees of -- and essentially fight the subpoena, and that would be -- this would be used to help current members of the legislators, but also former members of the legislators.
Ted Simons: And how is this going over?
Luige del Puerto: I think there is going to be enough votes in the legislature to pass this debate and -- speaker have both said this is their priority. They're probable going to fast track -- probably going to fast track the passage of this bill. We know that they're going to meet -- or Tobin is going to meet with the governor tomorrow to talk specifically about this issue. We will probably see an action on this proposal within the next week or two.
Ted Simons: Again, specifically for legal fees regarding SB1070. Can't move it here. Can't move it there. Can't try it or use it for something else. It is for that specific purpose.
Luige del Puerto: It is for that specific purpose. The rationale being that if you were a lawmaker and at some point you had to push that yes or no button, and you left the legislature, you should not be forced to -- years after you retired from the legislature, you should not be forced to then pay for your own defense because of a decision that you had made when you were a legislator.
Ted Simons: Before I let you go now, next big event, governor releases her budget, and that is Friday?
Luige del Puerto: That is Friday. And then we will see details of her priorities. Meaning to say that we will find out how much resources that she wants to commit to, for example, this new division within the department of economic security, we will know how much she wants to put into education or the K-10 budget. We will know, for example, if she is agreeing with the university's proposals for hundreds of millions in funding for them. We will know those details on Friday and that will set the tone for this legislature.
Ted Simons: All right. Luige, good to see you. Thank you for joining us.
Luige del Puerto: Thank you.