Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

February 11, 2009


Host: Ted Simons

Legislative Update


  • Arizona Capitol Times reporter Jim Small reports on the latest from the state legislature.
Guests:
  • Jim Small - Legislative Reporter, Arizona Capitol Times
Category: Legislature

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
Good evening and welcome to “Horizon.” I’m Ted Simons. The budget isn't the only thing on lawmakers’ minds this week. They’re also looking into limiting abortion and legalizing fireworks. Here with the latest from the legislature is "Arizona Capitol Times" reporter Jim Small. Jim, good to see you again. How are you?

Jim Small:
Good.

Ted Simons:
How are the talks going with the budget talks?

Jim Small:
The budget is kind of in a holding pattern for the most part. The committees and the senate are examining a number of the programs from the state agencies and the appropriations committees are trying to get the work in place to work for the budget year that starts in July. Tomorrow, the universities are going to be in the spotlight and going to get, you know, as much time I guess as the committees need to find out everything they need to know about how the cuts have impacted the schools so far and what future cuts would lead to.

Ted Simons:
The fix for '09, that isn't fixed yet, is it?

Jim Small:
It's really not there -- there's a $1.6 billion budget hole that is filled and was billed to be about $1.7 billion but most of that $100 million in cushion is going to be eaten up by the budget cuts in January. the preliminary numbers are about 20% less which combined with a couple of other issues with funds taken that maybe were already spent that can't get slipped into the general fund is going to put the state perilously close to being back in the red again. The lawmakers would have to come back and take another cut. But there's definitely going to be more work.

Ted Simons:
Is there a sense that plan b is operational?

Jim Small:
I think at this point, people are waiting. The feds are still hashing out the details on the stimulus package. The vote could come by the end of the week. There’s another month or so from what the budget folks have told me. A month of kind of lead time right now that they can work with and figure out what the next steps will be.

Ted Simons:
That stimulus bill seems to be the big gorilla in the corner that everyone is looking at and wondering what it’s going to do. Is that holding things up down there?

Jim Small:
I don't think its holding things up so much as it is -- it is in a certain way. People want to know what's going to come to Arizona so they can really start to put together a plan for the 2010 fiscal year and even for whatever needs to be done for the rest of this fiscal year. But to a certain degree, it's not only because there's only so much work that can be done right now. Governor Brewer met with Republican leaders in the house and senate and told them, let's make sure we take this budget nice and slow. Let’s not have any increases in it. We’ve got plenty of time to solve this; we don't need to do it immediately like we did with the '09 budget.

Ted Simons:
How much is the Governor participating?

Jim Small:
It seems to be fairly limited but as the process starts to ramp up, she'll be more involved.

Ted Simons:
Is there a sense there's more going on behind the scenes or is she just keeping her distance a little bit?

Jim Small:
More of the latter. Keeping her distance and the fact that they're not doing a lot of the heavy lifting yet.

Ted Simons:
I know the abortion bill; these are coming back to the surface. Talk to us about it.

Jim Small:
Absolutely, the abortion issues were one of Governor Napolitano where she was vetoing measures. Everything from -- ranged from pharmacy -- pharmacists to nurses to, you know, the consent issues and things like that. They were all vetoed and Republicans, one of the things that they saw as an opportunity with Napolitano out and Jan Brewer in was a chance to push on that policy again and have someone who is more amenable to those kinds of bills sitting in the Governor's office with the ability to sign them.

Ted Simons:
And there's a general understanding that she will be more amenable and these will probably get through.

Jim Small:
I think. So Governor Brewer has a long history of being pro-life. And these are issues that are definitely in the wheelhouse for many pro-life lawmakers.

Ted Simons:
There was a little -- it's an interesting story regarding rules changes down there in the house. What’s going on?

Jim Small:
Well, the house yesterday announced that it is proposing about a half dozen rule changes to the rules that govern the way the body operates. Some of them are conforming to the senate. Some a little bit more benign. But rankled Democrats down there that saw the changes as a way to maybe pull the shade a little bit further on government operations and try to hide things a little bit more. They were especially, I think, torqued off about a change that would eliminate public notices for conference committees in the house. Currently you have to post a notice the day before, by noon or by 5:00 depending on when the meeting is held. And this would get rid of that completely. And another change that would let the speaker decides if he or she wants to enter into litigation. Right now they have to take it to the entire body. I spoke to Kirk Adams the other day, and he says anyone who says it hurts the transparency of the body and that it’s hogwash. They don't have anything do with openness, transparency and as far as the litigation aspect; he brought up a lawsuit brought up by the league of cities and towns over a portion of the budget that they ultimately won. He says, you know, as a legislature we should have had a chance to weigh in, but we couldn't because we weren't in session and the case went on without us.

Ted Simons:
Were these ideas kicked around in the past, the previous speakers try to get this through or come out of the blue?

Jim Small:
For the most part, out of the blue. A couple of ideas of them have percolated for a while. The litigation issue was something that I know came up last year and discussed by Republican staff members but for the most part, out of the blue. And frankly, that may be another reason why the Democrats see these as hostile moves because they didn't know they were coming and found out 15 minutes before they had to give a presentation on them.

Ted Simons:
Before we let you go, it seems like déjà vu all over again. We’ve got a fireworks bill going around.

Jim Small:
Fireworks bill that would let sparklers and other small firecrackers be legal. Something that gets pushed by all political stripes. And generally it gets killed because of public safety issue. Lawmakers don't want to be responsible for people losing hands and fingers and there's always a fire concern. Especially Fourth of July. You get a lot of fireworks here. It’s the desert and hot and dry.

Ted Simons:
And is there any thought that because of the configuration, the way things are now, you could get yourself a fireworks bill finally after all of these decades, passed?

Jim Small:
You never know what is going to happen down there. But the big issue is the senate, since they're not hearing any bills until the budget is done. Anything moving in the house is going to stand and wait for the senate to keep up.

Ted Simons:
If the senate keeps doing what it's doing, we may not have time for the Fourth of July. Jim, good to have you here.

Jim Small:
Thanks for having me.

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