Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

January 14, 2005


Host: Michael Grant

Journalists Roundtable


  • The Journalists' Roundtable discusses the first regular session of the 47th session of the Arizona legislature convening Monday, Governor Napolitano appearing before a joint session of the legislature to deliver her annual state of the state address and the push for a ban on same sex marriage that took a new turn this week as supporters decided to go the initiative route.
Guests:
  • Chip Scutari - Arizona Republic
Category: Journalists Roundtable

View Transcript
>> Michael Grant:
It's Friday, January 14, 2005. In the headlines this week, the first regular session of the 47th session of the Arizona legislature convening Monday Governor Napolitano appearing before a joint session of the legislature to deliver her annual state of the state address. And the push for a ban on same sex marriage took a new turn this week as supporters decide to go the initiative route. That's next on "Horizon".

>> Announcer:
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>> Michael Grant:
Good evening, I'm Michael Grant. Incredibly enough, this is the journalist's roundtable. Joining me to talk about these stories and others are Chip Scutari of the Arizona republic, Howie Fischer of Arizona Capitol Media Services, Paul Giblin from the Scottsdale Tribune. Back to business at the state capitol on Monday as a new legislative session got underway. One of the first orders of business, the governor delivering the annual state of the state address. Chip, Happy New Year. What were the key points of the governor's speech?

>> Chip Scutari:
Happy New Year. I missed you, Michael. She sounded a lot more Republican in her rhetoric. A lot of pundits speculate because in 2006 she is up for reelection. Once again, she wants to be known as the education governor, talked about expanding all day kindergarten to about 100 more schools, but she also talked tough on illegal immigration, telling the Mexican government to clean up their act, crack down on illegals crossing into America. And she talked about, targeted business tax cuts, which we'll probably get into later when we talk about the state budget. So when we talked to former Governor Symington, he kind of kidded, he said, sounds like one of my old speeches, she was talking tough on immigration, border security and tax cuts. Two years prior, she was calling the tax cuts of the '90s, which were income tax cuts, reckless. She is moving to the center, reelection year.

>> Michael Grant:
One of the other interesting aspects was the tax code has way too many loopholes, we need to close these. One of the other things she talked about were a couple of additional tax credits which wasn't harmonious with that. What surprised me on the immigration, not so much the shot at the congressional delegation, but as you pointed out, the shot at the government of Mexico.

>> Chip Scutari: She seemed to have a good working relationship with Vicente Fox. Once again, people in the audience, mostly Republicans say that's her kind of shoring up her credentials for the 2006 race. It was a pretty big departure from what she had said in previous years.

>> Howard Fischer:
You have to remember only about a week or two earlier, J. D. Hayworth, had made a big stink about a book the Mexican government had put out on how to cross the border, what to avoid, what not to do and things like that. Here she is on the heels of a very big win for Proposition 200, with new bills that we'll talk about later dealing with illegal immigration, clearly a public frustration with illegal immigration, what is she going to do, ignore the issue? This way, as Chip says, she is sounding tough. This was the governor putting her finger up in the wind and deciding which way the wind is blowing deciding to be the leader rather than the follower.

>> Paul Giblin:
You have a lot of supposition that this is politically motivated. I'm taking it at face value. She has a Republican legislature, and if she wanted to take a real strong Democratic agenda, she is going to get nothing done the entire year.

>> Howard Fischer:
We're talking more of a tone, what she included and what she didn't include. One of the big pushes this year is changing the question of whether we should allow the legislature to put caps on jury awards. The governor, even when we asked her directly, what do you think? I don't know, I have to look at it. Not mentioned in the speech. Even the fights over gay marriage, whether you want to take a position, nothing in the speech about that.

>> Michael Grant:
On the other hand, Paul, I think that to a certain extent is your point. I think the right answer as usual is somewhere in between these, I think she is staging and obviously reacting to what happened in September and November. On the other hand, given what happened in September and November, putting yourself on a let's be friends and play nice, is probably not a bad opening tone.

>> Paul Giblin:
Right. You remember how bad last year was where it was until the very end when things got moving, I think she wants to set it up a bit smoother this year.

>> Chip Scutari:
On a lighter side note, since everyone is getting way too serious here, we got a couple of calls after hearing the governor's state of the state speech. For those viewers who have young kids, she had a line that said, No, not ever --
some say, No, not ever. I say, Yes we can. My four-year-old son Nick listened to bob the builder. His big theme is: Can we build it? Yes, we can! We got calls from parents saying that the governor is plagiarizing Bob the Builder.

>> Paul Giblin:
Was Nick watching the state of the state address?

>> Chip Scutari:
No, he missed that. He's working on the structural deficit as we speak.

>> Michael Grant:
You know, one think I did notice. I thought she was very comfortable up there. Did you have the same reaction?

>> Chip Scutari:
Maybe Howie will disagree with me, but --

>> Michael Grant:
He normally does.

>> Chip Scutari:
I think she has a lot more comfort with media, with giving speeches, and she was worked on that quite a bit. I remember at the start of the 2002 governor's race, she wasn't as adept at giving speeches. Her speeches are written well for her, they are not over the top, they are basic pragmatic language, that reflects her personality.

>> Chip Scutari:
Do you disagree with me?

>> Howard Fischer:
No, I think have you points there. But as far as being pragmatic and everything else, some of our clients at Capitol Media Services are radio stations, looking for sound bytes. We're always looking for
something that cuts to the heart of it. There were no sound bytes in that speech. There was nothing that went out and grabbed the attention. I think what's missing.

>> Michael Grant:
No, not ever? Yes, we can.

>> Howard Fischer:
It doesn't tell anything, it doesn't say anything about what she wants. Michael: I'm a long way from sound bytes in radio, so I defer to you.

>> Howard Fischer:
Look at all the great things I have done. That's nice. The proposals, for example the business tax cuts, there were no great sound bytes in there. I know I'm talking form over substance, but I think that somehow -- she needs a better speechwriter. I think she lost that when Paul left and went down to the University of Arizona.

>> Paul Giblin:
I thought her speech was very good for her. She spoke faster. She usually has a real plodding pace and it's almost torture to listen to her. She didn't have little spots waiting for applause, she just kind of kept going which I think was a nice change.

>> Michael Grant:
Of course, when you don't get any applause, you don't have to pause a lot.

>> Paul Giblin:
That gets to the original problem she is speaking to a bunch of Republicans this year.

>> Michael Grant:
In the state of the state address, she promised her budget on Friday. Did we get a budget?

>> Chip Scutari:
It's hot off the press, about a $7.9 billion budget, which the Republicans attacked as bloated, she's spending too much, borrowing too much. Once again, the highlights are she wants to expand full day kindergarten, end waiting lists for child care subsidies, a whole array of social service initiatives again. Here's what the Republicans have a problem with. On Monday, during her state of the state speech, she says she's going to embrace fiscal discipline. Today when she released the budget and the Republican legislative leaders get ahold of it, they say, for one example, she is putting 300 million for new school construction, she is doing the tax settlement, the phrases in here, off the books. That means she is pushing a lot of expenses that Republicans want to pay for in cash off the books.

>> Howard Fischer:
The problem that the Republicans don't have an answer to, let's assume you want 300 million for school, pay off the lawsuit settlement, 58 million, and want to fund the building renewal fund for school repairs, another 70 million, and you also want to put 185 million into the rainy day fund.
That's nice. What are you prepared to cut? What we got from Russell Pierce, who heads the house appropriations committee, was, Well, we think we can cut government waste. That's a nice line. Bob Burns, who heads the senate appropriations committee, said, we could phase out the career ladder program. What are we talking about there, 2 million, $3 million? There isn't the political will even among Republicans to take existing programs and say no more.

>> Chip Scutari:
I think this year once again, even though all day kindergarten is such a small item there will be about 21 million, it's going to make or break for the budget gridlock again. This is near and dear to the governor's heart. Some of the Republicans can't get their hands around paying for this while we have the so-called structural deficit. That's where the big battle will be.

>> Michael Grant:
Howie, you pointed out on a $7.9 billion budget, how much of a cushion do we have at the end of the year?

>> Howard Fischer:
According to George Cunningham, who is the guru of all of that is good and right with the numbers with the governor, we will end the year, if nothing goes wrong, if everything goes the way he plans with $7
million. That is great for Chip or I to play with, but on a nearly $8 billion budget, somebody sneezes and sales tax revenue goes down, we're back in the red again. That's cutting it very close.

>> Michael Grant:
Obviously, 7 million pretty chump change in Scottsdale where you hang out, Paul. Five valley mayors, I'm trying to make a transition to a local angle. Five valley mayors today announce a truce on the sales tax wars?

>> Paul Giblin:
Right. Historically, the cities fight each other by offering incentives to get malls, big box stores, car dealerships. That sort of thing. They get so much incentive, they are not getting tax returns once they make sales on those properties. Today the mayors of Phoenix and Avondale and Chandler and Peoria and Tempe got together to say they are going to work on it, try to come up with shared revenue results, which is a good idea. For instance -- Scottsdale wasn't involved in this, but along Scottsdale Road, Phoenix on one side, Scottsdale on the other, you see a lot of car dealerships and more planned. The idea would be for both cities to share the revenue in those zones rather than fight about them.

>> Michael Grant:
Rather than mess with each other.
Is that a preemptive strike? The legislature has kicked around for the last couple sessions, Chip, various ways to discourage cities from doing that.

>> Chip Scutari:
Definitely. I'm sure it won't be one of the top priorities in the legislature.

>> Howard Fischer:
It is important. It's one thing to give the tax break to a manufacturer who might otherwise would locate to Tennessee. Retailers are going to be coming to Arizona. It's not like Wal-Mart is going to decide, if we don't get a tax break, we are not going to move to Arizona. That's the key. Should you be giving tax breaks to retailers to locate on the west side of Scottsdale Road versus the east side.

>> Paul Giblin:
It's not just Scottsdale Road, you see it along the new freeways. You see it along I-10 where the 202 meets. It's all over. And another point that the mayors want to do is they want to -- this is where we might want to share the revenue, this one, we'll agree not to offer any incentives, it's logical that Kmart or Wal-Mart is going to show up there. If it goes through the legislature, you'll get a one size fits all package, and that's what the mayors are more worried about, that it might now work for their individual area.

>> Michael Grant:
Supporters of a proposed ban on same sex marriage announce plans to bypass state legislature, take their cause directly to the ballot. Howie, why did the center for Arizona policy decide to change tactics, go to the voters instead of going to the legislature?

>> Howard Fischer:
There's two stories. The Center for Arizona Policy, which calls itself a family friendly organization. Ward Nichols said they were afraid that somebody would quote play politics with the proposal. The Arizona Human Rights Fund, which is a gay-lesbian organization, says, We defeated the bill, knocked it out of the legislature. The truth is somewhere in between. There is sentiment in Arizona, and the polls have said Arizona is willing to support a constitutional amendment to defining marriage as between one man and one woman. There is also a wish to ban cities and counties from offering benefits to the domestic partners. Scottsdale, Tempe, Pima County, and it would overrule that. There are a lot of lawmakers that say we have no problem defining marriage between one man and one woman. But to go in and preempt what local governments do for qualified employees seems an unnecessary step.

>> Paul Giblin:
This would, if they roll back the benefits, it would affect about 50 gay couples combined in Scottsdale and Tempe. I never understood the sense to this. The idea is all right, I want the gay people's partners to squint because we're not going to pay for their eyeglasses anymore.

>> Howard Fischer:
It comes down to, it's not a question of finance, it's a question of for them of morality, that we are giving some of the benefits of marriage to people who cannot legally marry in this state.

>> Michael Grant:
The political side of this, though, is it's also intended to be voter mobility, and motivation in 2006.

>> Chip Scutari:
Yeah, I think social conservatives and Republicans in Arizona looked across the country, they saw 11 states including Oregon which is considered a lot more liberal in Arizona, pass these gay marriage bans and are salivating over the prospect of driving up social conservative turnout, Evangelical turnout in 2006.

>> Howard Fischer:
Again, I keep looking at the survey, too, and I know polls as good as their snapshots. I think for a lot of people. Marie McClure is a Republican from Tucson. She is a quote unquote moderate on a lot of issues, she is conservative on certain fiscal issues. Her belief is the government should not be involved in preventing people who want to form civil unions.


>> Paul Giblin:
If you saw the show by the legislators to show which one of them are the more right, radical conservative. There's good competition for that title and they're going to show us by pushing this sort of thing.

>> Chip Scutari:
The other thought going on the Capitol when the center for Arizona policy announced this, maybe this was reaction to Governor Napolitano suggesting a challenging lawmakers if this is so important, let's do it in 2005. I think some conservatives wanted the legislature, to get it on the ballot.

>> Michael Grant:
Howie, the reality of this, I know they feel they will get a lot of volunteer signature efforts on this, but realistically they are going to have to dump at least a few hundred thousand dollars in the petition signature gathering process.

>> Howard Fischer:
You're going to need money. Technically, you need 183,000 signatures to put a constitutional item on the ballot. Let's assume you get 100,000 with volunteers. You need 150,000 at perhaps Two or three dollars a signature, and there will be competition for petition circulators and they takes a big chunk out of what you want for the actual campaign.

>> Chip Scutari:
I would bet they've already lined up or have something in place with some big-time donors to get the ground running.

>> Howard Fischer:
Let me say one other thought. If you gather 250,000 signatures of people who say they want to ban same sex marriage but all the other issues, you built up a mailing list for certain Republican who might want to run for governor.

>> Michael Grant:
Russell Pierce, this is an idea I haven't heard for 14, 16 years, make English the official language in Arizona.

>> Chip Scutari:
Kind of like deja vous all over again. This came up this week with Russell Pierce doing a new version for English only, and Representative Pete Rios and other Hispanic lawmakers said this is a slap in the face. This isn't necessary. Pete Rios was on the floor, and he said every child wants to learn English and be good students and get ahead in life. In Hispanic households, you are taught, learn English, you can read better, you can write better, and you can move ahead. I think this bill won't go too far.

>> Howard Fischer:
It did pass in 1988 by a margin of 50.5 to 49.5. It was struck down by the court. The Arizona Supreme Court said it interfered with government and official employees to communicate in the language that they needed communicate with with their constituents.
Pierce drafted the bill in a way to say you can do communication, you can do the informal stuff, you can do public safety, but the routine things need to be only in English. It's not like we're printing bills in Spanish, but where it gets into the interesting gray area is -- even water bills. The question becomes can you send a notice from the department of environmental quality department about getting the vehicle emission tested in English and Spanish. Is that a public health and safety issue? What about the water bill? What about something from a municipally owned power company like they have in Mesa? Can you send that out both ways?

>> Michael Grant:
This is driving me nuts, Howie.

>> Chip Scutari:
I think another example, as Paul mentioned before, some Arizonans might hear about the bill and say didn't we deal with his 16 years ago, just like the gay marriage ban? I know it's important for some lawmakers but most Arizonans say, come on, guys.

>> Paul Giblin:
Let's make sure the state is financially solvent.

>> Michael Grant:
Other potential ballot measures for 2006, also some discussion perhaps asking Arizonans to repeal the 100\% federal poverty level qualification for AHCCCS.

>> Howard Fischer:
Four years ago we expanded AHCCCS, which is the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, to cover anybody below 100\% federal poverty, which is about $18,500 a year for a family of four. Before that, it was like a third of the federal poverty level. The promise was made that we have tobacco revenue coming in. A settlement, $100 million, should cover anything. Well, guess what, it doesn't.

>> Michael Grant:
Nowhere close.

>> Howard Fischer:
Here's the other half of the problem: Back in 1988, we passed a constitutional amendment that says lawmakers can't tinker with things voted and approved. Even though the cost far out-stripped the revenue, legislature can't touch it. Lawmakers are saying it's time to put this back. Every dollar you spend taking care of somebody below the federal poverty level is a dollar less for education. One out of every five Arizonan is on AHCCCS. That's sort of like the Social Security problem we're running into.

>> Michael Grant:
This week Arizona department of public safety announced plans to crack down on speeders on loop 101 in Scottsdale. Paul, how serious is the speeding problem up there?

>> Paul Giblin:
Speeding problem is very serious. I'm on that road frequently
and you see cars moving 100 miles per hour. They really do go 100 miles per hour from Scottsdale to the southern end in the east valley. DPS as they do from time to time is getting on the road and giving away tickets. That was on a stretch on freeway yesterday, I saw three motorcycle cops giving -- I call them speeding awards.

>> Michael Grant:
They deployed substantial personnel.

>> Paul Giblin:
I saw three as I was driving chasing other drivers.

>> Michael Grant:
Photo radar?

>> Paul Giblin:
That's a new cash cow for Scottsdale. These are the ones on the roads, not the freeways, they went up 75\% last year. The best place to get that revenue is Frank Lloyd Wright on the north end. They awarded 15,574 speeding awards on that stretch of road last year.

>> Michael Grant:
Roughly 10,000 of them went to you, Chip?

>> Chip Scutari:
Is there the controversy over the photo radar? Is this a revenue generator? Does it show it makes streets safer?

>> Paul Giblin:
It really does. Like a lot of things, a it drives down speeders. As the population goes up, the speeders went down.

>> Howard Fischer:
Part of the problem becomes, is there is sort of a gotcha mentality on this. That's why there have been bills year after year to ban photo radar. There's another one this year, if you get a photo radar ticket and fess up within three weeks you have to pay the fine but they will not report it to the Motor Vehicle Division which means you they won't jack up your insurance rates.

>> Paul Giblin:
You can get out of your points by attending driver's school.

>> Howard Fischer:
Once every three years, as I unfortunately find out.

>> Paul Giblin:
I have pretty good authority it's once every two years.

>> Michael Grant:
The west, most western town, major league baseball, announces the crack down on steroids.

>> Paul Giblin:
The baseball owners were at four season's resort, you have to speed up Pima to get there. They did announce a steroids program, but not a big program. First time offenders, you are suspended for 10 days. Compare that to the Olympics where first-time offenders are banned for two years. Bud SELIG addressed that, he said you might compete 10 times in two years, but baseball players compete 10 times in 10 days. I don't think it's anywhere close to equitable.

>> Michael Grant:
I seem to recall even at the fourth positive test, it's a one-year suspension.

>> Paul Giblin:
I think they should ban someone to be that stupid to be caught that many times in a year.

>> Michael Grant:
That was the point John McCain was making. He generally liked the policy but he felt, particularly for first time offenders and last time offenders it had not gone far enough.

>> Chip Scutari:
I think Senator McCain should be given some credit for raising the issue on a national level. Some say he is playing politics, getting in line for a possible presidential run. I would never say that.

>> Paul Giblin:
Selig thanked McCain and Bush.

>> Michael Grant:
Gentlemen, we are out of time. Thank you very much. If you would like to see a transcript of tonight's program, please visit our website at www.az.pbs.org. When you get there, click on the word "Horizon". That is going to lead you to transcript links and information on upcoming shows. Monday, "Horizon" is taking a break for special programming. Channel 8 will air, Long Walk to Freedom, a study of civil rights activists.

>> Paul Atkinson:
How does Arizona compare to the 49 other states? A measure of how Arizona stacks up in quality of life. Plus, the Supreme Court institutes federal sentencing guidelines Tuesday at 7 on "Horizon". Michael: Wednesday, we'll tell you about a probe landing on Titan. Thank you for joining us on this Friday edition of "Horizon". I'm Michael Grant. Good night.

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