Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

March 25, 2005


Host: Michael Grant

Journalists Roundtable


  • The Clean Elections Commission voted unanimously Thursday to remove state representative David Burnell Smith from office for violating campaign spending limits. It took Governor Janet Napolitano a matter of minutes to veto the budget proposal approved by State lawmakers last week. And the State senate did a flip-flop this week on the future of the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality.
Guests:
  • Robbie Sherwood - The Arizona Republic
Category: Journalists Roundtable

View Transcript
>> Michael Grant:
It's Friday, March 25th, 2005. In the headlines this week, the Clean Elections Commission voted unanimously Thursday to remove state representative David Burnell Smith from office for violating campaign spending limits. It took Governor Janet Napolitano a matter of minutes to veto the budget proposal approved by State lawmakers last week. And the State senate did a flip-flop this week on the future of the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality. That's next on "Horizon."

>> "Horizon" is made possible by the friends of channel 8, members who provide financial support to this Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

>> Michael Grant:
Good evening, I'm Michael Grant, and this is the Journalists' Roundtable.

>>> Michael Grant:
Joining me to talk about these and other stories are Robbie Sherwood of "The Arizona Republic." Paul Davenport of "The Associated Press." And Le Templar of the "East Valley Tribune". History was made Thursday when the Clean Elections Commission voted unanimously for the removal of state representative David Burnell Smith for violating campaign spending laws. It marked the first time that a lawmaker has been ordered out of office for something like this. Robbie, what happens next?

>> Robbie Sherwood:
I'll tell you what's not going to happen. David Burnell Smith is not going to leave. To quote him, he's not yet begun to fight. He immediately will appeal to an administrative law judge. That's the next step in the process. It could take a couple of months to actually even schedule a hearing. During that time, he gets to continue and serve. If he loses that appeal, he goes up to the next step, superior court and however far he wants to take it provided he doesn't prevail.

>> Michael Grant:
That process, obviously, could take additional months and months. Are we talking --

>> Robbie Sherwood:
He might stand for reelection before they get around to --

>> Michael Grant:
Are we talking about this in the 2006 election cycle? Do you think?

>> Paul Davenport:
I wouldn't think so. I would think the Courts would treat -- once it reaches the actual folks with the black robes on, they will treat it like an election case and give it a high priority and try to get it resolved before the next legislative session.

>> Robbie Sherwood:
I'm not a legal expert, but the way I understand the administrative law process works, if they rule against him, he may not be allowed to serve until he can get a hearing before a superior court judge and get a stay on that order. So there may be an interim time if he doesn't prevail there where he may have to clear out.

>> Michael Grant:
You have covered this one, Le, like a glove, and the commission -- and we have talked several times about it, obviously. The commission was feeling the heat. I mean, obviously this is referred to as a nuclear bomb of sanctions. 5-0 vote, though. They went for it.

>> Le Templar:
It comes down to while it's a complex set of financial records because as Mr. Smith admits, he did a lousy job of keeping track of how he spent his money, the outside investigator added up how much he spent during the primary and it comes to about $32,000. When you add up how much he should have had to spend that's about $24,000. That's a gap of $6,000, 17\% of the total amount of money there, and the law says if he overspend my bye more than 10\%, you must forfeit your office. It's black and white, no gray area.

>> Paul Davenport:
And lemon was giving Smith a $2,000 funneling factor on that for some of those early pre-primary dollars; right?

>> Le Templar:
That's correct. It could have been as much as $8,000.

>> Paul Davenport:
A couple of commissioners had reluctance to overturn the will of the voters of his district, but they weighed that against even more voters who passed the Clean Elections Act and put in this penalty as the teeth behind the law, the backbone of the law, and they felt that that took precedence.

>> Michael Grant:
You know, there is kind of an interesting aspect to this. The Clean Elections Institute at one point in time was thought to be planning to very actively go after David Burnell Smith as soon as the Clean Elections Commission decided. Apparently they have backed away from that strategy. I suppose because someone realized that there was this additional level of appeals involved; correct?

>> Le Templar:
Yes. That's several circles that we thought there would be cries for him to resign after this decision takes place or backs off. I think people want to be on very sure ground that support campaign finance reform or this type of reform, grounds that this is done correctly so it can be used as a precedent in the future if other candidates were to make a similar mistake, they automatically should lose their office. If there is a misstep here and Mr. Smith doesn't win on the merits but gets off on a technicality, they fear that could weaken the use of that law and what we call a "death penalty"

>> Michael Grant:
You are talking step by step by careful step.

>> Robbie Sherwood:
You don't want to deprive anybody of due process. Also, an administrative law judge, they are not dealing with larger constitutional issues on a daily basis. One of Smith's arguments is there is no authority in the constitution to remove a lawmaker other than impeachment, and so, they might score a quick victory with an administrative law judge saying this is the way the statute reads and do the right thing.

>> Paul Davenport:
But constitutional issues will be decided by the courts, maybe even the Arizona Supreme Court.

>> Robbie Sherwood:
To the extent that representative Smith wants to pursue it and can afford to pursue it.

>> Michael Grant:
How was the news received by his colleagues over at the Arizona house?

>> Robbie Sherwood:
The Republican colleagues, I think, are sticking by him, at least in public. I think that they -- there is a real sense, even amongst some of the not religious right conservatives, that the commission has singled out some folks who, because they are on one page ideologically they think there is some unfairness in there. There is a lot of people they have gotten, they just didn't win their elections and there were Democrats who lost, but some of them got zinged in that same meeting.

>> Le Templar:
Maybe Robbie talks to different people than I did, but what I'm hearing is people recognize that he made a pretty serious mistake here, but they don't think that removing him from office is the appropriate penalty. They think a more appropriate penalty is some type of hefty fine that would be a deterrent to this action in the future. I think -- they can't believe that this is constitutional.

>> Paul Davenport:
We haven't mentioned that there are some of those other penalties coming out of that commission order. They want him to repay about $35,000 in campaign money, plus pay $10000 fund.

>> Michael Grant:
It's about $45,000. Before we leave the segment, there is a related story. There is a bill working through the legislative process that would allow incumbents to raise a lot more money in relation to their -- well, sort of office expenses.

>> Paul Davenport:
They call them office holder accounts. The Clean Elections commission authorized these several years ago. They can have these accounts, collect private contributions and use them for things like traveling to conferences, paying for kids to come visit the capitol on school buses, buying new couches, computers, you name it, anything that's not directly provable campaigning. The bill would double how big these accounts would be, increase the size of contributions, lobbyists and other people can make to them, and then the senate took that house-passed bill and increased the total more. It could go from instead of $5,000 to about $15,000.

>> Robbie Sherwood:
It may not technically be campaigning, but this is a protection act. You can put out a newsletter under this that explains why you are 10 pounds of wonderful in a five pound bag and it's perfectly fine.

>> Michael Grant:
Incidentally, they increased the Governor's account to what, about $150,000?

>> Paul Davenport:
That's right. About half of that -- the statewide officials had various sizes but they all roughly go up to about $150,000. This is money they would have to raise, they are not automatically given it.

>> Michael Grant:
Well, speaking of which, it didn't come as much of a surprise Monday when Governor Janet Napolitano rejected in the elevator a budget approved by lawmakers last week. Is this one of the fastest vetoes in state history?

>> Paul Davenport:
We think so. Press accounts, my stories and other, 15 minutes, 20 minutes, around about there, after the time it arrived, at the front counter to the Governor's office until she vetoed it. That was right after she told the legislative leaders she wanted to read the bills and see what was in them before she vetoed them.

>> Michael Grant:
My prediction about the elevator thing did not quite come true.

>> Paul Davenport:
No.

>> Michael Grant:
She was on the 9th floor.

>> Paul Davenport:
Well, none of us were invited for the event. We were taken back that it was done so quickly.

>> Robbie Sherwood:
I thought she might at least give them a day to show that she, you know, to appear that she read the bill. But the house and -- the house speaker and senate president were having a press conference after their very short meeting with the Governor that was being carried live on closed circuit television. They were talking about why their budget should not have been vetoed and how the Governor should be apologizing.

>> Paul Davenport:
At this point they didn't know it had been --

>> Robbie Sherwood:
she might have been watching it.

>> Michael Grant:
Just took out the self-inking veto stamp?

>> Robbie Sherwood:
That could be true. I'd like to believe that's what happened.

>> Le Templar:
You have both the president and house speaker on last night. One thing clear from this, she may have made a -- at least a small PR blunder here. Because they came up -- they had 9 bill over the weekend. They said let's talk about it. We know you are not happy. Let's start the dialogue. She indicated she hadn't seen the bills yet because they had sent them to her, and she would deal with them and then the dialogue would start. And she gave the impression that she hadn't read them, we learned later that she read them over the weekend even though they hadn't been formally sent to her office.

>> Paul Davenport:
Even before that, if you talked to some people at the Governor's office, they knew this meeting was coming up and that it was the Republicans were trying to position themselves so they could say publicly, well, we talked to her -- we talked to her before we sent her the budget, glossing over the fact that it had already been approved and was going to be go to her as is.

>> Michael Grant:
All right. So where are the -- where are they currently? They met yesterday, Paul, and I got the impression that they really just sort of nibbled around the edges with this first meeting.

>> Paul Davenport:
They have done some preliminary work. They have explored areas where they are in agreement. A lot of different agency budgets, but not the controversial stuff. They will get into that in the nitty-gritty next week.

>> Robbie Sherwood:
They nailed down the shape of the table and who gets to sit around it from the caucuses and which staff members will be there and now it's time to get down to work.

>> Michael Grant:
Le, HUD information that part of what was going on to is what subjects could be off the table, regardless of its setting and shape.

>> Le Templar:
Not exactly. That's what leadership was trying to get at, get where the Governor where she thinks they disagree. Instead, they got a lengthy list exactly where the Republican budget varies from the Governor's budget issued in January, and that's not really the short list that they were looking for. What is she willing to accept and what is she go going to insist on having before she will allow the budget to become law.

>> Michael Grant:
Robbie, obviously one of the hot topic buttons is all-day K. It's only $17 million, but I think that is playing, for the legislature, more as a philosophical than a fiscal issue.

>> Robbie Sherwood:
Yeah, I believe so. Some of these same lawmakers actually pay tuition to have their kids in all-day K, while at the same time saying I'm not sure it works. I'm willing to pay for it, but, poor kids, you know, don't worry, it doesn't work. So it's a tough position to hang onto very tightly, and I think that's one of the things that they'll end up giving her, what kind of flesh they can extract at the other end of the negotiations, I don't know.

>> Michael Grant:
Next step, Paul, they've got a meeting scheduled early next week, don't they?

>> Paul Davenport:
I was told it's Tuesday, and there is still preliminary work being done and things slowed down at the capital for good Friday and the weekend.

>> Michael Grant:
Le, what do you think? How long are they going to dance the dance of --

>> Le Templar:
They have a little less than a month now before we get to that 100-day time frame. You know, the pressure will be all on the legislative side. The Governor is going to be there no matter how long the legislature is in session. She will be working all year. So I think it'll be around the 100 day -- my guess is around the 100 day, we'll see an attempt at a compromise. We'll see if they can get it through the legislature.

>> Michael Grant:
Arizona Department of Environmental Quality had a very interesting week. On Wednesday, State senate voted to let that agency go out of business. On Thursday, senators did an about face and voted to allow ADEQ to continue for another decade. What the heck is going on.

>> Le Templar:
Bob Burns who is chairman of the appropriations committee since the start of the session has been trying to hold this agency's feet to the fire, at the urging of several business interests, dealing everywhere from the mining and gravel industry to ranching and dairy forms and manufacturers who have to release stuff into the air and the water. And what they say is under Governor Janet Napolitano the agency director Steve Owens, the agency has gone in a much different direction. It's harder on these companies, adding a lot more red tape for them to go through before they get permits renewed, and they think it's unfair. The lawmakers basically agree with them. So they actually started off with by not allowing the agency's budget requests to even be heard in committee and for a day, it looked like they weren't going be included in the $8.2 billion budget package. Last week when they were forced to give up on that, last week they held a vote on Wednesday with the sponsor Carolyn Allen gone to attend a funeral, suddenly there weren't enough votes to get the bill out on third read and the whip voted no to bring it back for reconsideration, which they did the next day.

>> Robbie Sherwood:
It's a bit of a slippery slope, though, if you get caught polluting and DEQ comes down on you and you don't, you know, you don't like what happened, send your lobbyist down to the senate, and they'll try to mess with their budget. When you dig down -- I'm not saying that all of the effective businesses have been complaining may not have a point, I'm sure 1078 some of them probably do, but at least one of them was a manufacturer in Phoenix that DEQ shut down for selling precursor chemicals to make methamphetamine out the back door to gangs. So DEQ shut them down and has been unwilling to renew their license and they are asking for the senate to crack down on DEQ.

>> Michael Grant:
Incidentally, Paul, here is another interesting problem. If you shut down DEQ, everybody has to go to San Francisco to deal with the Environmental Protection Agency, and the last time I checked, that agency was not at the top of the legislature's list.

>> Paul Davenport:
The beloved regional office of the EPA is not something that the Arizona business community wants to be up close and personal with on a daily basis.

>> Michael Grant:
Senator Allen point this had out to the senate president when she got back and was quite upset with that.

>> Paul Davenport:
Senator Allen had a lot to say behind closed door and on the floor during the vote. She made the point clearly that she was tempted to vote against her own bill to serve them right and let the business community deal with the feds. If the state loses primacy, the state goes away. The state no longer regulates those things.

>> Le Templar:
Apparently this isn't an idle threat. The EPA has been on the phone with state officials. They are watching closely. They are ready to move if the legislature isn't -- has any indication of pulling the agency back on some areas or all of them.

>> Michael Grant:
Does this have the value from the legislature standpoint, even if they are not going to sense that DEQ, but do they send the message --

>> Le Templar:
They send a message. Steve Owens says he's not listening. He's not backing off. He will -- going after major polluters and fining them heavily to convince them 20 start come flying with the law. That's what he's doing that they don't like.

>> Michael Grant:
In fact, the budget negotiations, then, do they trim DEQ --

>> Le Templar:
What I'm wondering if this is a message to go over Owens' head directly to the Governor. I'm wondering if they are trying to get her attention and get her to rein in her director. We have to look and see what happens from here on out. It's dram what they are doing. I can't believe it's directed at Owens.

>> Paul Davenport:
Some of it is out of sync. There are some people who were surprised by it because they thought they were close to an understanding, but obviously when push comes to shove, the budget was ready to go. There was not an understanding so that's when the hammer fell and the pressure tactics came out.

>> Robbie Sherwood:
There is another side show complaint here that the Governor can do something about, and it's a feeling that DEQ, like some other departments we could name, commerce, a couple others, home to too perhaps too many political appointments, people who are landing in state government jobs, based on their work in other --

>> Michael Grant:
Yeah.

>> Robbie Sherwood:
Like campaigning and that sort of thing.

>> Le Templar:
Democrat lawmakers, looking for other jobs, that sort of thing.

>> Robbie Sherwood:
There you go. And certainly the message to the Governor is that we're now watching that and paying close attention to that and we'll raise a red flag now every time you do it. So that message might get through.

>> Michael Grant:
Robbie, I've got to jump out of sequence on one, because I want to make sure we get to this one. I want to give you a hypothetical. Let's say you're sitting in a bar and a lion comes in, how are you going to defend yourself?

>> Robbie Sherwood:
You grab your ninja or dart, because at least right now, you are not allowed to have a gun in a bar.

>> Michael Grant:
Uh-huh.

>> Robbie Sherwood:
I think even though the legislature will pass a bill that will allow you to have a gun in the bar, I bet the Governor vetoes it.

>> Michael Grant:
The latest development, though, and they changed the signage, if this thing passes and it would actually mention something about firearms prohibited.

>> Robbie Sherwood:
It will pass. It was a new wrinkle. The signage that you are allowed to post to disallow guns in bars, you have to post it, was about YEA big and didn't say anything about how big. It mentioned the statute, A.R.S. whatever. The assumption was two concealed carry people know that by heart and will see it. But most people are going to miss it, even if you have a gun, so it will create confusion and there will be gun carriers in bars even though they are posted. Now the requirement it mentions that firearms are prohibited.

>> Michael Grant:
Firearms and lions are prohibited.

>> Paul Davenport:
The "Associated Press" office here in Phoenix had the incoming expected new ex-president of the NRA in for the interview today. He was asking about this bill. He said that the posting thing is going to -- for her, she expects gun owners are going to use that, if that's posted, they are going to take their business elsewhere. And that's going to be strictly a market type of thing. It's going to have that effect for them.

>> Michael Grant:
Hmm. Several education developments. We've got a new plan, Paul, on school vouchers this week?

>> Paul Davenport:
Yet another bill on vouchers. This one was a strike everything in a house committee. It was sort of a need-based -- not necessarily financial, but kids that need help in school, it's a pending voucher bill in the house already passed by the senate. It's a lot more broader without those kind of eligibility requirements, and now we have other bills pending and strikers awaiting action on kindergarten vouchers. The whole school choice pieces of legislation is poised for action.

>> Michael Grant:
Representative Andy Biggs has been searching around for more votes on the current voucher bill?

>> Le Templar:
Yeah, something happened after they did the committee of the whole, which is a vote on the voucher bill. There were 33 yes votes. Suddenly he couldn't find 31 when he went to the role col. He was getting further away.

>> Paul Davenport:
Opponents were ready to force a floor vote. If he didn't have 31 on the floor, it would have been defeated. If they did reconsideration right away, the bill would have been dead. They wanted to get it away from where the opponents could force a vote. They sent it back to committee.

>> Michael Grant:
Another education related bill that has played a high profile role in the current session is the one that would eliminate aims as a graduation requirement. The senate president isn't going to allow a vote on that.

>> Robbie Sherwood:
He said a few months back, because he believes in aims, he wants to fix it, not scrap it as a graduation requirement, but it's coming closer and closer to where he's going to have to actually make that decision and Senator Vershoor from Gilbert whose bill this is a strong believer of getting rid of aims wants to see Senator Bennett and was rebuffed and Vershoor was visibly upset. Near tears, I hear. I thought -- we thought he was sort of -- many months ago when he tossed the idea, we thought he was looking for a headline, but, you know, his sincerity on this can't be doubted based on his reaction to Bennett saying he wasn't going to hear it.

>> Le Templar:
There is nothing more frustrating for a lawmaker knowing if you could get the bill to the floor you have the votes to get it out, but there is somebody with more power than you standing in your way.

>> Michael Grant:
And is he willing -- is he sincere enough -- maybe I should phrase the question this way. Can he get a discharge petition? He needs what, 18?

>> Le Templar:
He needs 18 or 20. I don't know. I mean, that's quite a firm in the eye if you do that to the senate president. I don't know if he's willing to go that far. He hasn't said he is so far.

>> Robbie Sherwood:
How many Democrats would be willing to help him out? (A), because they don't like high stakes testing in general, and two, to put their thumb in the eye of the president.

>> Michael Grant:
Interesting support on both sides. School district consolidation in the senate, Paul?

>> Paul Davenport:
That's right. That bill got out of the senate with several votes to spare, and this bill this year is aimed at unifying school districts. Not all of them. It would have to go to local votes in the affected districts. So if you had an elementary district and high school district, they would be unified as a unified district.

>> Michael Grant:
Proposition 200 enhancement bill clearing the house?

>> Le Templar:
The house. Third read yesterday. We call it the enhancement bill because that's what it looks like. They are careful not to, because they want to make sure they don't get too many votes on it to get it out. It adds additional government services that immigrants who aren't here legally would be didn't. They couldn't get utility assistance or child care sub. The argument is, this is the scope of Prop 200, it's narrow, but the voters clearly throw out a lot of frustration and want to limit the opportunities for people who shouldn't be here as much as possible, so let them adopt some other laws along those same lines.

>> Michael Grant:
Is that going to clear the senate?

>> Le Templar:
Not certain at this point. There have been no bills in this nature tested in the senate yet. Even though it's more conservative than in the past, for example, they couldn't -- so far haven't gotten out the constitutional amendment on English is an official language. They passed a much more watered down bill version. It repeats symbolically what's in the state constitution.

>> Michael Grant:
All right, panelists. We're out of time. Thanks very much. If you would like to see a transcript, visit the web site at www.az.pbs.org. When you get there click on the word "Horizon." That'll lead you to transcripts, links and information on upcoming shows.

>> Reporter Larry Lemmons:
The citizens Clean Elections Commission has determined that state representative David Smith must forfeit his office. Also the Garcia red house was donated by the man who was known as the father of Wickenburg education. That's on Channel 8 "Horizon," Monday night at 7:00.

>> Michael Grant:
Thanks very much for joining us on this good Friday. I hope you have a great weekend. I'm Michael Grant. Good night.


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