March 6, 2012
Host: Ted Simons
- State legislators debate a bill that would create a volunteer armed force to patrol the Arizona-Mexico border.
| Keywords: armed
Ted Simons: A bill improved by the State Senate would create an armed volunteer militia that could be used by the state to help patrol the border. Here to talk about Senate Bill 1083 is Colonel Luke Taylor, US Army retired. He was the co-leader of the senate working group that created the language for the bill and also here is Senator Steve Gallardo, who is against the bill. Good to see you both here thanks for joining us. Why is this a good idea?
Col. Luke Taylor: Because the need is so bare in state of Arizona, we have got to have a unit that is not politicized, that is correctly trained, properly vetted, that can operate anywhere within the state, not within the boundaries of the county sheriff's departments, and that's why we need that.
Ted Simons: Don't we have that in a National Guard?
Col. Luke Taylor: Yes, but the National Guard would break the bank. In what they would need to do. We are a low-cost high payoff force that is going to be of volunteers who are going to give their time. We only have $1.4 million in the kitty at the time but we're going get additional moneys.
Ted Simons: I’m going to get to that one point here in a second but why is this a bad idea for Arizona?
Steve Gallardo: Well, at the end of the day, they can call it a special missions unit, but at the end of the day it's a state-sanctioned militia. We are bringing in volunteers to bring in their own weaponry, by the way, they bring in their own guns. We don't pay for it. They go down to the border to try to enforce federal law. If the issue is trying to scare the border, let's go ahead and give the resources to local sheriffs and law enforcement to properly do their jobs. Let's allow -- keep in mind, the Governor still has the authority to call out the National Guard if needed. The fact is this. The fact is that we have more border patrol along our southern Arizona border than ever before. We have federal law enforcement down there. We do not need a state-sanctioned militia. The idea of having volunteers down there with their weaponry trying to enforce state and federal law, it's scary.
Ted Simons: The idea is that we don't need this.
Col. Luke Taylor: Let's put the facts on the table. We don't carry our individual weapons. Those will be paid for by the State and the ammunition that we're going to have. That is totally untrue. That's part of the push-back that you've got. And by the way, Senator, I was sitting in Las Vegas on the board of directors about three weeks ago when you called me a vigilante. Do I look like a vigilante?
Steve Gallardo: That's exactly what we have here, a state sanctioned vigilante group. $1.4 million? What are we going to get out of $1.4 million? If the issue is border security, allow the Governor to call out the National Guard. But the idea of having this volunteer group -- and you have to ask, who's going to volunteer their time and bring their weaponry down to southern Arizona?
Ted Simons: Who will be part of this force? Who are those folks, how will they be vetted and trained?
Col. Luke Taylor: First, we're going get former military and law enforcement personnel for our SMU company. I use that acronym, special mission unit company. If I only can get 25 properly trained people versus 100 that are not properly trained, then I'm satisfied. We can operate. If you go down to the farmers in Eloi and those in Stanfield, that wear the bulletproof vests and carry weapons on their tractors tending their fields, you would understand, Senator, what I'm talking about. People in this state are demanding that we have a force totally independent from the National Guard. When the National Guard goes, it's under Title X. The federal -- and they are paying for it. If they were to go under title 32, it would break the bank of Arizona. We can't do it.
Steve Gallardo: You even have the adjutant-general of our state National Guard saying, wait a minute, time out here. We have some problems here. When you have the adjutant general coming to the legislative committee and saying we have problems, we have some problems. What's going happen when the first U.S. citizen is accidentally killed by one of these missions? This is scary stuff, folks. We do not need a state-sanctioned militia. If the issue is security let’s properly fund law enforcement that are there trying to deal with this issue.
Ted Simons: Why not use the existing law enforcement for this, properly trained? Obviously the background on all this doesn't seem like you need all that many, why not give it a shot and see how it works.
Steve Gallardo: If that's the issue of using law enforcement, let's utilize law enforcement. The idea that we're going to have law enforcement and former military folks and special operations people joining this type of militia, that -- that could be further from the truth. You're going to have folks down there that are members of minuteman organizations, backgrounds that really would put chills down our spines. We’re going to have folks like Glenn Spencer, Shawna --
Col. Luke Taylor: No, we're not. Our people are going to be vetted. Let me talk about the vetting process. U.S. citizens are legal residents. Passports, birth certificate, finger printing. If I want, D.D.214, Department of Defense form, and from the National Guard Personal who join us retired it would be an NGB22. Then we will have psychological screening. I come from the black side of special operational forces. We are going to have a trained and vetted personnel who can do the job. In that training we're going to have the selection and assessment course. Many people won't make it, Ted, because they cannot stand the fiscal and mental -- physical and mental stress it takes to be a soldier who have staying power to counteract this cross-border criminal activity.
Ted Simons: We have 50%, some odd, apprehensions down since 2008. We've got a border presence that so far is relatively strong by most accounts. A lot of people don't think it's strong enough. I kind of circle back to the original question. Is the 25, 300, whatever the number winds up being, is that going to make, A, much of a difference? Is this needed?
Col. Luke Taylor: Yes, it is. As a student of Carl Von Clausewitz at the army war college, we're going to look at the centers of gravity. The centers of gravity, I mean you go where you can have the most impact. Intelligence and training are going to be the keys to our success, and we're going to engineer this unit for success totally.
Steve Gallardo: Ted, if you have an assault rifle, you can join this group. The fact is, when you have the adjutant-general standing up saying, wait a minute, we have problems with this legislation, we should listen to the adjutant-general. Let's give the $1.9 million to border law enforcement. Let's give them the resources and tools they need to do their job. If we need to call out the National Guard, the Governor has the ability to call out the national guard.
Ted Simons: If enough folks by way of Representatives, if enough folks look at the situation and say, something's got to be done, they are worried about international terrorist groups. We've heard Mitt Romney suggest Hezbollah is somewhere south of the border, that is out there, folks are scared. What do they do?
Steve Gallardo: I will be the first one to tell you we have problems along the southern Arizona border, we do. But to create a state sanctioned militia, to allow volunteers to go down there with weaponry and assault rifles to try to protect us? That's the wrong solution. Let's give the resources to local law enforcement. Again, let's have the National Guard down there. But to have citizens down there with the weaponry? Wrong idea.
Col. Luke Taylor: You know General Salazar, he's a political animal. Bottom line, he is a political animal. He operates under the tentative title X and title 32 for the state. It would bankrupt the state for him to have people on the border. Those on the border are paid by the federal government, not the state government.
Ted Simons: I want to go back to the cost here. $1.4 million is the original start-up. I think $1.9 to activate then $1.4 a year they’re after. That does not sound like a lot of money. When you're talking everything from training to uniforms and weapons, the whole nine yards. $1.4 million, that is enough?
Col. Luke Taylor: No, it's not but that's all we're going get. And we’re going to use what we can get and start out small and grow up to a force design number which is good for the State.
Steve Gallardo: Keep in mind, last year we passed bill that gave the Governor the authority to create this. What we're doing is forcing the hand of the governor. We do not need this type of legislation. We already have the governor having the ability to create a state guard if she wants to. She has the ability to call out the National Guard. We do not need this legislation. This is scary stuff.
Col. Luke Taylor: Let me tell you, S.B. 1495 he probably didn't support because he supports nothing the good citizens of Arizona need. So it was about a quarter of a page and 26-174 was about a third of a page. Those two documents, we took 22 public laws from every state and put it together and we put it together, our Senate working group, a group I am so proud of, and we submitted that as our first draft.
Ted Simons: I believe Senator Smith had a question. His question was, how long can we sit around and do nothing? How would you respond to that?
Steve Gallardo: And he's right. We have problems along southern Arizona. Creating a state-sanctioned militia is not the solution. Think of the liability the state of Arizona has. Should one of these volunteer folks accidentally kill a citizen down there, what happens? That's the big problem.
Col. Luke Taylor: Who's liable for Robert Critz and Bryan Terry? And who’s liable for all of the drugs coming in, the parents giving it to their children? We are going to operate in many areas. The Vekol Valley is one example. On those mountains they have the OP’s and LP’s, operational posts and listening posts, to direct their drug cartels.
Ted Simons: We’ve got about 30 seconds left. Last question. Why is it necessary to arm these folks and allow them to arrest, detain, seize property, when they could also work in conjunction with the National Guard, in conjunction with the border, without having those -- that particular authority?
Col. Luke Taylor: We just need a statewide agency that can operate anywhere within the state. We're going to have memorandums of understanding, with your local sheriffs, and any municipality chief, in order to do what we gotta do.
Ted Simons: We've got to stop it right there. Good discussion, good to have you both here. Thanks so much for joining us. We appreciate it. Wednesday we will look at bills discussed today along with other legislation being heard at the capitol. That is Wednesday on "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons, thank you for joining us, you have a great evening.
Taxing Online Sales
- A bill (SB 1338) is moving through the Arizona State Legislature that would require Internet-based companies like Amazon.com to collect state taxes on the products it sells. Michelle Ahlmer, Executive Director of the Arizona Retailers Association, explains why her organization is supporting the bill.
- Michelle Ahlmer - Executive Director, Arizona Retailers Association
| Keywords: taxes
Ted Simons: Next on "Arizona Horizon," we'll take a look at a couple of bills moving through the legislative process. One requires Amazon to collect state taxes on products it sells. The other establishes an armed militia to patrol the Arizona-New Mexico border. Next on "Arizona Horizon." Good evening, and welcome to "Horizon," I'm Ted Simons. Health care at Arizona's state prisons the target of a lawsuit filed today by the ACLU. The suit describes Arizona's prisons as "one of the most broken systems" the ACLU has seen in 20 years of litigation. The suit alleges a variety of complaints, including one involving an inmate allowed to die of liver cancer after being denied treatment for two years. The Department of Corrections has yet to respond to the suit. The State Senate is considering a bill that would have Amazon companies pay state taxes on products it sells. Senate Bill 1338 expands the definition of retailer to include internet companies that maintain distribution centers, warehouses or fulfillment centers in Arizona. Amazon operates several distribution centers in the state. Joining me now is Michelle Ahlmer, executive director of the Arizona Retailers Association, which is supporting the bill. We also invited Amazon's lobbyist to appear but he was unable to join us. Good to have you here, thanks for joining us.
Michelle Ahlmer: Thank you for the invitation.
Ted Simons: Why is Senate Bill 1338 good for Arizona?
Michelle Ahlmer: It's a clarification of the current statute. If you're in Arizona right now, and you sell to an Arizona resident, there is a tax that is collected on that transaction. This would kind of close a loophole and clarify that, if you're here and you're kind of hiding behind a subsidiary or some kind of complicated corporate structure that makes you say, we're here but not really here when it comes to the collection of taxes, it would close that loophole and require they collect the tax, just as Changing Hands Bookstore does in Chandler, Arizona.
Ted Simons: So the idea, when critics say shipping goods in and out shouldn't be enough to force collection of taxes, you say --
Michelle Ahlmer: This is definitely about what is being sold. So it's not about shipping, it's about being sold from an Arizona business to an Arizona resident, very clean and simple that way.
Ted Simons: Does it coincide with the use tax? That's got a lot of people confused and concerned.
Michelle Ahlmer: Right now if you buy something online you are required to remit the use tax yourself, the individual. 1338 shifts that responsibility to the retailer where we believe it belongs.
Ted Simons: Another concern or question I've heard is this targets Amazon specifically and is thus discriminatory. How do you respond to that?
Michelle Ahlmer: That's completely untrue. Any time you change a definition, anyone who falls under that definition would be subject to it. As far as we know, there are other companies that don't have their name on the building that are operating that same way.
Ted Simons: So when Amazon testifies before the legislature there really isn't another E-firm or E-commerce company in Arizona this law would apply to, you would disagree?
Michelle Ahlmer: We don't know, and I don't know if Amazon knows that, either.
Ted Simons: I know Amazon has worked out compromises in other states. Maybe start collecting taxes in 2014, 2013, to kind of ease into position as opposed to something that's quick. How would that work?
Michelle Ahlmer: We don't think 2014 is a benefit to Arizona. In Arizona, everything -- and Nationwide -- for retail it's all about the holiday season. We live and die on that holiday season. Every time it comes around, everybody's like, how much are we going to do this year? That's why we don't want to go into 2014. That would not be a win. We think that it's appropriate for them to start collecting as soon as possible. There is, you know, for Amazon specifically, they were the backbone for target.com for many years. They could flip a switch and do it today.
Ted Simons: Interesting. The idea that the -- excuse me -- Congress is looking at this, that there could be a federal answer to this. I know Amazon again is hoping for a comprehensive long-term solution to this problem, both in Arizona and elsewhere around the country. I'll get to that question in a second. As far as waiting for Congress to do something, is that an option?
Michelle Ahlmer: No. Especially because we see these as two separate issues. What happens in Congress could take care of interstate customers. This happens in our own backyard. We need to take care of Arizona. If you are an Arizona business selling to an Arizona consumer, that is a clarification of the current law and appropriate to help us get over that competitive disadvantage of a 10% price differential. That's completely unfair.
Ted Simons: When Amazon says it’s concerned though because there are so many different tax structures and codes to deal with, if you went ahead and had them to be applied in the same fashion as other businesses, how would you respond to that?
Michelle Ahlmer: In two ways. First of all Senate Bill 1338 only assesses a use tax. So it’s one rate. 6.6%. Target.com, bestbuy.com, homedepot.com, do that nationwide every single day. It certainly is doable.
Ted Simons: Do you think Arizonans want to pay this extra amount?
Michelle Ahlmer: I think it comes down to what is fair for the whole community. If you are shopping in a store, a transaction is a transaction, a sale is a sale. As long as it is state policy that we tax on tangible goods it definitely is fair.
Ted Simons: It's fair, but the question remains: Do you think a -- a lot of folks flock to Amazon for this particular reason, because they don't get hit with something extra? Do you think they want that?
Michelle Ahlmer: I think most people shop online because of convenience. We've seen that over and over again. Many people that we've done polling on, on a national basis, said they didn't realize it wasn't collected, they were kind of uninformed on the whole issue.
Ted Simons: Is it worth it to Arizona? I don't know if it's a threat, I don't know if it's a veiled threat or even a possibility. Some are suggesting that Amazon may not be so happy in Arizona. They are four distribution centers right now?
Michelle Ahlmer: I believe that's correct.
They may pull out if something like this passes. You got up to 5,000-some-odd jobs at stake here is that worth it to Arizona?
Michelle Ahlmer: That threat was leveled in other states but hasn't happened in other states. The same legislation was adopted in California. They began collecting in September 2012 and they haven't left that state. As you mentioned before, there are agreements throughout the country, all based upon warehouses, distribution or fulfillment centers and they are not leaving those states.
Ted Simons: So the idea -- again, the idea of what Amazon has been saying as far as their testimony is concerned and their public statements regarding this -- that this bill essentially ignores the changing nature of a changing economy, that people weren't used to this sort of thing in the past but it's time to get used to this sort of thing now regarding E-commerce and how they trade as opposed to bricks and mortar. They are different beasts. Valid?
Michelle Ahlmer: Invalid. The very argument they use could be turned right around and that’s the vision we believe. The laws have not kept up with commerce, that's absolutely true. This bill addresses how it needs to change to address the fact that retail is very different than it was 15, 20 years ago.
Ted Simons: The idea that this bill is making its way through the legislature, I know there's action on it today. What's the latest?
Michelle Ahlmer: The bill passed the Senate committee as a whole and now it moves on to the Senate third reading tomorrow.
Ted Simons: And that would, explain exactly what that means.
Michelle Ahlmer: The committee as a whole is where the bill can be debated and any amendments could be made on the floor. None of that happened today, nothing was changed from the time it was introduced. Tomorrow it goes to third reading when the full Senate votes on it. If it passes there, and we anticipate that it will, it'll go on to the house.
Ted Simons: Was there much debate today?
Michelle Ahlmer: Zero.
Ted Simons: Surprised by that?
Michelle Ahlmer: A little bit. Usually there's always something to be said on every bill.
Ted Simons: Expecting more debate tomorrow?
Michelle Ahlmer: Certainly.
Ted Simons: Ya, that’s when the rubber hits the road I take it. It's good to have you here. Again, we did invite someone from Amazon to appear, but they were unable to attend. I’m glad we got you here. Thanks for joining us.
Michelle Ahlmer: Thank you very much.