Friends of Eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.
Ted Simons: Good evening, and welcome to "Arizona Horizon," I'm Ted Simons. Joining me tonight on the "Journalists' Roundtable" are Mary Jo Pitzl of the "The Arizona Republic," Howard Fischer of "Capitol Media Services," and Mike Sunnucks of the "Phoenix Business Journal." The Governor decides to reject implementing a state-run health insurance marketplace. Was this a surprise?
Mary Jo Pitzl: It was a bit of a surprise for some folks. At the end of the day, I don't think so, because the Governor has been a long-standing critic of Obama-care. This is a key component of Obama-care, and rejecting the state operation of it is sort of a way of saying, we're going to leave it on the Feds. Its success will rise and fall on how the federal government runs this, and we're going to keep our hands off of it.
Howard Fischer: And there was another piece of the equation. She can count to 16 and 31. Or in this case, not. When the President of the Senate, when the house appropriations chair, when other key lawmakers are saying we will never give you the authorization, why pick that fight? If you can't get it through, what's the purpose of your championing something you really don't want, and you can't really get through the legislature?
Mike Sunnucks: Puts her on the same side as the President, too. She's not the only Republican governor doing this. Plenty of Republicans are opting out of the Obama-care, including Florida, Louisiana, Wisconsin. She's joined a cadre of GOP governors doing this.
Mary Jo Pitzl: Arizona is the 17th state who says, we're not going to do our own exchange, we'll let the Feds do it. Any of the governors can change their minds at some point. Governor Brewer cited lots of unanswered questions, things are still fuzzy about how this would work, in backing up her decision to let the Feds run this. Down the road, if things clarify, it would give her or the other governors the opportunity to --
Mike Sunnucks: The state doesn't have leeway to do much. They have to implement them and they don't have a lot of flexibility. So that was one of her reasons for..
Howard Fischer: And let's really talk about the real decision to come, you know, as Mike points out. Probably, to the average person, it didn't matter who was going to run this online exchange. Some of the businesses, certainly the insurance companies and hospitals, were concerned. The big decision to come is do we expand AHCCCHS, our federal Medicaid program, to cover. The Feds are promising, we'll pick up most of that additional cost, but we don't know for how long. That's going to be a much closer call, because of the fact that on one hand you have folks who are concerned about expanding health care, about the potential cost. There's a lot of federal money on the table for that. The state can use that.
Ted Simons: What happened to the states' rights governor who put the states first, Feds way back in a distant second. This is an opportunity, even if there is no discernible difference, this is an opportunity to say we still want control. You're basically saying, Feds, run it, please.
Mary Jo Pitzl: It does not look good. This state will jump at any opportunity to tell the EPA to pound sand, or from having the federal government get out of our lands and resources. We had that measure on the ballot last month which did fail. But it’s easy to sort of joust at that. That's probably not going to change. In this case, it is very difficult to joust where the legislature, a very recalcitrant Republican-controlled legislature, that has made it really clear they don't want to deal with this health exchange. Maybe you've suffered the ignominy of- I can’t say that word- of looking perhaps duplicitous about this.
Howard Fischer: She likes pounding her chest, states' rights, 10th Amendment. You remember the medical marijuana fight, oh, well, the federal government control, the purity is not quite here for this governor on this issue.
Ted Simons: Still and all, you're saying, Feds, you run it. As you mentioned earlier, it would be difficult I think for this governor to say, I'm siding with the Feds against you, Legislature.
Mike Sunnucks: Absolutely. She's -- her and President Obama aren't really friends. And she’s having a hard time getting the legislature along with it. A lot of Republicans at various state levels don't think they have a lot of leeway to do much. Everything's coming down from Obama. It's a mandate, not something where they have creativity to do much around the edges with.
Mary Jo Pitzl: Another key point, Some of the critics of the state-run exchanges, if you opt for the federally run exchange, then employers in this state would not be subject to the $2,000 penalty per employee over a certain number, if they decline to buy health insurance. Also, the ability for individuals who would buy into the exchange to get a tax credit to offset, the state doesn’t have the authority to grant that, that sort of makes moot the idea of universal health coverage in Arizona.
Ted Simons: Why now? December 14th was the deadline, was it not?
Howard Fischer: What's the point of dragging it on? I think the hospital association folks were in there, the folks from the insurance companies were in there.
Ted Simons: She says there's a lot of unanswered questions.
Howard Fischer: Understood. Coming back again to Mike's point, she wasn't going to get the votes in the legislature. Does she really want to have people pestering her for two more weeks right around christmas, or does she want to go shopping?
Mike Sunnucks: A lot of Republican governors came out way before Brewer and said they weren't going to do it. She wasn't exactly early to the game.
Mary Jo Pitzl: Governor Brewer might have a couple of other things she wants to draw attention to before this calendar year draws to a close. She will unveil her budget in January. About mid-December she was going around the group saying, we have a little extra money and I'm going to do this for you, and do this for you. I think she wants to get this out of the way. We'll see what kind of Christmas gifts she might be doling out.
Ted Simons: Jon Kyl and Kay Hutchinson might be deciding to come up with a program besides the Dream Act.
Mike Sunnucks: They are having a little buyer's remorse on opposing that over the years. The President had issued an executive order basically giving immunity from deportation of kids that have been brought here illegally by their parents. Probably college age, high school age now not in trouble over this. The bill kind of mimics that. It’s interesting that two lame duck Republican senators are introducing this three weeks after the election.
Howard Fischer: It shows a total lack of fortitude, the fact that even though they were lame ducks all along, now suddenly the election is over and they won't be forced to have anyone else sign onto the thing -- oh, come on. The fact is everyone recognizes you need to have a solution to the problem. If there's one thing that most people agree on, it's that the kids who were brought here deserve some chance. Do they deserve citizenship? Hard to say. But the issue is everyone agrees there needs to be something now Kyl comes up and says we really need to do something? Come on.
Ted Simons: The idea of permanent status as opposed to citizenship. No special path for citizenship but permanent legal status.
Mary Jo Pitzl: That sort of makes it DOA for people who have been pushing the Dream Act with the administration. It's not quite all the way there. And yes, anything that might come out of Congress on the Dream Act is going to be some sort of a compromise, but at least the early go is that this doesn't get even to the halfway mark.
Mike Sunnucks: They can't qualify for federal student loans and can't get other benefits. I would think if they were serious about this, they would get a couple Democrats to come on board and have this bipartisan bill and try to get it through. Obviously the President is for it. I think there will be some immigration reforms next year probably, and this could be something. This is kind of window dressing, Republicans trying to do some damage control because they lost so badly.
Ted Simons: Kind of a conversation starter perhaps?
Howard Fischer: Jeff Flake came out today and said, well, it's a good starting point. You're right, it is a conversation starter. If you were serious, you would find some high-profile Democrat and say, okay, look, maybe a lame duck Democrat and say, let's do this. Not just two Republicans who know it's not going to buy. And in a Democratic controlled Senate.
Ted Simons: I guess the timing, as well. Why is it a great idea now? Why wasn't it a great idea for the past seven, eight years?
Mary Jo Pitzl: Because election results mean elections do have consequences. I question how much of a conversation starter it is when it's brought to the table by two lame ducks. Who's going carry this forward? Lindsey Graham? John McCain?
Mike Sunnucks: The executive orders are already there. That's what's established in the electorate's mind, that's what helped him get X amount of the Hispanic vote. It's kind of funny that they are doing this. These two folks that are leaving office.
Ted Simons: We'll see how far that goes, if it goes any further. A lawsuit, though, filed regarding driver's licenses. First lawsuit against the state regarding not issuing driver's licenses to folks who have work permits.
Howard Fischer: This is interesting. It goes back to 1996. Up until then you were a resident of the state defined by living here, you got a driver's license. The legislature passed a law saying you have to show you are authorized to be in the country. The motor vehicle division has issued driver's licenses all along to folks who have no legal status. Domestic violence victims, people who are here because of terrorism or something else, and they have always accepted the federal employment authorization cards as proof. Now not so much. The Governor's argument is that Obama didn't have the authority -- or if he did have the authority, it wasn't approved by Congress -- and therefore these EACs mean nothing. Here's the problem with the governor's argument. If the governor was simply saying the Obama administration is offering these people amnesty, not going to prosecutor them, fine, it doesn't change the status. The moment of federal government issues the cards, and even the Governor acknowledges the president was entitled to, through general congressional authority, to issue the cards, they are here, they are authorized.
Ted Simons: Does he have the claim of the supremacy clause? That pops up all the time it seems in Arizona. And 14th Amendment with discrimination. That's what the equal rights folks and the ACLU, I think, that's what the problem is here.
Mike Sunnucks: This is a federal issue. The Feds got to decide this. If they are legally here, whatever card they get, doesn't that allow them to have status? Status means they are allowed to get driver's licenses. The other side will say, we're a state, we decide who gets to have driver's licenses. They are still illegal immigrants so we can deny it. I think the federal argument has more strength on this one, about them getting status and some kind of identification card from the Feds, just like anybody with a green card or a Visa or something else.
Howard Fischer: If they are here and authorized to work, don't you want them to be able to get to work so they can pay the taxes that you are claiming they aren’t paying and all of the rest of it? They are getting social security numbers, too. What sense does it make, other than standing on your principles or back to our 10th Amendment argument, what sense does it make to say they can work here, they have as number, they can pay taxes. We just won't let them get there because of our system.
Mike Sunnucks: Politically, we talk about the Dream Act, the version the Republicans put forward. They do these bills and then they have something like this, clearly aimed at Hispanics, things other states do, Alabama, things the sheriff does. Does that erase the good will they build up with Hispanic voters?
Ted Simons: That has to do with our earlier conversation about states' rights, pointing a finger at the Feds. Some are suggesting this is payback for SB 1070.
Mary Jo Pitzl: Her spokesman wondered why the suit was brought here in Arizona when other states have denied driver's licenses. Arizona is the central locus point for a lot of the immigration fight in this country because of SB 1070.
Howard Fischer: The one difference between Arizona and other states were either studying or looking at changes in law, California did in fact change its law. Arizona, this governor made a big pronouncement, exactly two months after Obama made his Rose Garden speech, she came out with a big executive order. She drew attention to herself and it made sense to file it here.
Mike Sunnucks: She issued that order, I think the same week or Right after the first days the kids could apply for that. The Republicans believe the Governor's best hope is the challenges to the executive order that Obama overstepped his bounds, this is a congressional things. If that gets some traction, then the state may have some chance of winning this other one.
Ted Simons: And they would win the suit but do they win public opinion?
Howard Fischer: Oh, no. Again, back to the point here, if you're trying to show that Republicans do not hate brown people, this ain't the way to do it.
Mary Jo Pitzl: Another thing to keep in mind is timing. The President's order only lasts for two years. Lawsuits have a way of taking a long, long time to get resolved.
Ted Simons: Speaking of taking a long time to get resolved, Glendale has made an arena management deal with the Coyotes. Now before everyone starts whoop de doing, The Coyotes still haven't been sold, have they?
Mike Sunnucks: The NHL still owns then, they have owned them since 2009. This is the seventh arena deal that Glendale has passed or tried to pass. They have got to withstand legal challenges. There are people out collecting petition signatures just like over the summer. It certainly was a win for the folks who wanted to keep the Coyotes here and spend Glendale public money to help facilitate the sale. But we've got a little ways to go.
Ted Simons: 4-2 vote, Elaine Scruggs, outgoing mayor, among the two saying, I've had it, it’s over.
Howard Fischer: I think at a certain point, we've talked about the fight between Glendale, and you realize you're beating your head against a wall. Some folks in Glendale may realize, have you noticed that hockey hasn't been being played and nobody misses it?
Ted Simons: Well, that could also be a good thing in that You can get the stuff ironed out before actually people skate at the ice.
Mike Sunnucks: This was a lame duck council that passed it. Elaine Scruggs Joyce Clark, Steve Freights, all were going, they had the votes to pass it. They have always had those four votes F. Mr. Jamison doesn't have the deal done, the new council and mayor could come back and maybe try to change it.
Mary Jo Pitzl: You wonder, since Glendale voters also said, let's keep that sales tax in place, the temporary hike the council approved to shore up everything being lost because of hockey's absence, you wonder how much that might have influenced this lame duck council.
Mike Sunnucks: The sales tax give them the leeway to do it. It was the police and fire unions, they are warning against layoffs and this type of thing.
Ted Simons: Before we go, we had legislative committee assignments in the last 10 days or so. What do we see, what are we hearing what, kind of indications are we seeing? What's the direction?
Mary Jo Pitzl: One of the more interesting things was in the Senate, we'll have a 17-13 split, 17 Republicans and 13 Democrats. On three key committees, appropriations, education, and judiciary. The numbers of Republicans was beefed up, so it's basically six Republicans to three Democrats. All the other committees it's 4-3. You sort of wonder why are they padding that? I think that's where you're to have perhaps some push-back from maybe a disgruntled Republican or two. Maybe it's to sort of improve their margins and make sure any bills going to those committees continue on and advance and get to the Senate.
Ted Simons: Is Crandall no longer chairing education?
Mary Jo Pitzl: Which Crandall? President-elect Biggs appointed senator elect Kim Ye to be the president of the education committee. Then last week, 10 days ago, named incoming Senator Chester Crandelle to be the vice-chairman. Everybody assumed Rich Crandall would continue on, he's not in a position to do that, he's just a rank and file member of the community.
Howard Fischer: Can you say, paybacks a bitch?
Ted Simons: Watch your language, we don't use the word payback on the show.
Mary Jo Pitzl: Rich Crandall was certainly supportive Steve Pierce's bid for Senate President, Andy Biggs won that vote.
Howard Fischer: Remember that Andy is from the conservative edge of the party. You've got right, righter and rightest in the Republican Party here. It's good to be the Senate President. You get to decide who chairs the committee, sits on the committee, and you want a committee system where the people, the chairs are loyal to you and not somewhere else.
Ted Simons: With committee assignments, with just the regular election results, the normal chitchat leading up to a legislative session, are you seeing Democrats and moderates with more of a voice? Conservatives starting off being more conciliatory? How long will that last?
Howard Fischer: The Democrats per usual say we're here to work with everybody. The fact is, we won't know until the second week in January whether some of the Republicans are going to take a little bit of a pass. If the Republicans stick together and they have even in 16-14 Senates, the Democrats once again are irrelevant in the whole process.
Mike Sunnucks: Obama winning sent a lot of Republicans kind of reeling and trying to figure out what to do, and throwing out new immigration bills right before Christmas. I wonder how that's going to impact our legislatures act here, if they pick less fights with the Feds, or if it's less of the social issues or what. They got a lot of abortion things passed last session. It'll be interesting where they focus, if they choose to pick any fights or not.
Mary Jo Pitzl: I tend to agree with Howie, at the end of the day there's a tendency that you stick together, you stay with your tribe. But that said, I think there will be big -- long discussions, big debates over the budget, especially when it comes to education funding versus health care funding. Uh-oh, and then CPS screaming need out there.
Howard Fischer: The key that is this extra money this year, it's temporary because of our own fiscal cliff that's coming. As long as there's extra money, that'll be the big fight.
Ted Simons: We'll stop it right here. Thanks for joining us. That is it for now, I'm Ted Simons. Monday on Arizona Horizon, Ann Kirkpatrick talks about representing AZ district one in US house next year. Also on Monday, we will visit one of the nation’s premiere fitness centers for people with disabilities. It’s located right here in Phoenix. Thank you so much for joining us. You have a great weekend.