Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

February 23, 2007


Host:

Journalists Roundtable


  • Local reporters discuss the week's top stories.
Guests:
  • Mary Jo Pitzl - Arizona Republic
Category: Journalists Roundtable

View Transcript
Howard Fischer:
It's Friday, February 23rd, 2007. In the headlines this week, Immigration is once again the big story with another rally in the works for the valley. They want another $2 million to speed up light rail construction. And we'll talk about what else those 90 people you elected did this week at the capitol. That's next on "Horizon."

Howard Fischer:
Good evening, I'm Howard Fischer, and this is the "journalist's roundtable." joining me to talk about these and other Issues are Mary Jo Pitzl of the "Arizona Republic," Doug Ramsey of news 92.3, ktar radio, and Richard Ruelas of the "Arizona republic." well, once again, Immigration Is the big Issue here. We'll talk about the main story in a minute. Richard, I wanted to talk to you about maybe what's a side show. There's a rally planned for the capitol. Who's going to be there and what do they hope to accomplish?

Richard Ruelas:
I don't know, and I don't know. There was a news conference of about eight groups, some of whom I haven't heard from before, and they want to march on the capitol again. What's weird is that the groups themselves don't have the same goal in mind, as far as what they want to see In Immigration. One of the organizers told me the idea Is just to keep a steady drum beat in the background saying, congress needs to take up the issue of Immigration reform.

Howard Fischer:
Okay. If we want congress to act, why are we marching on the capitol, Mary Jo?

Mary Jo Pitzl:
I guess it's the closest thing we've got to Pennsylvania Avenue and Washington, d.c. but it is a good question. Often when these marches happen, lawmakers tend to be inside, often doing their business, sitting in committee hearings or on the floor, attending to things in their offices. The people it's directed at aren't anywhere around to hear it.

Richard Ruelas:
The biggest effect It had was last year, when Phoenix, Los Angeles, Dallas, New York, had massive marches, all pegged around the idea that congress was about to pass legislation that said, If you are here, physically present illegally, that means you're a felon. The marchers from then on, I don't know if they have an effect with the legislators. I get the Idea they might have the opposite effect. Seems like every year new, different legislation comes out that tries to make it more difficult, If It's possible, to be here illegally.

Howard Fischer:
That raises an Interesting question, Doug. We saw this after the marches last year. Is there, to a certain extent, a backlash sometimes, among the majority Anglo community, and they say, these folks are not here legally, and yet they're marching in our streets?

Doug Ramsey:
I think the backlash is reflected in some of the legislation that gets introduced. Russell pierce has got about 15 or so different bills to crack down on Illegal Immigration. yeah, there is a backlash, and it's kind of growing, and pierce is kind of the safety valve for that.

Howard Fischer:
One of the Issues Is they'd like to repeal prop 300. Is that realistic?

Richard Ruelas:
No and there's also a legislative measure that aims to do the same thing, or even ask voters to repeal the act. They want to repeal the measure about In-state tuition, the so-called dream act, and it's going to be part of any legislation. Here are some kids who came over as Infants. I think the law, depending on how it's written, is under ten. They came as children and somehow went through school and learned English and math and science well enough to be ready to enter college and possibly graduate college. It's a pretty nice problem to have, as far as Immigration goes. In the climate we're In, I don't think we'd see much push to repeal that pretty good part of the dream act.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
Is there any magic to May 1, any reason they picked that particular date?

Richard Ruelas:
May 1, mayday, it's an easy day to remember.

Doug Ramsey:
I understand It Is tied to marches in other cities, so there will be coordinated efforts.

Richard Ruelas:
That's what it would need, again, to put the pressure on congress. It needs to be a bunch of cities, just like last year, to show this is something that the community isn't going to just let go away.

Howard Fischer:
Let's talk a little about the main event this week, Mary Jo. You've been watching what the state should and should not do on employer sanctions. It's about ten after seven on Friday night. What is in the bill at this point?

Mary Jo Pitzl:
It's been a bit of a moving target, just this week. The republican-backed bill would allow people to make complaints -- I think you can make them now, actually, if you want -- that the workplace has somebody that you suspect Is Illegal. That Is soon to be investigated. If the Investigation turns out that an employer has filed an affidavit -- this Is a new wrinkle -- that says yes, everybody on my staff Is legal -- If any of those workers are found to be Illegal, and the employer finds out from this affidavit, and has signed the affidavit, he or she could be prosecuted for false swearing. That's in there now. Earlier In the bill the lawmakers took out the parts that suspected you can be found guilty and fined zero dollars. The bill is pretty tough, and also includes what many consider the linchpin, some form of favoring whether a worker is here and is legal to work in the us. That was put in another bill and to be worked on later. Pierce supposedly agreed to that, and 24 hours later he was back in his own committee and had tacked on all these things that had been removed except for verification.

Richard Ruelas:
Introduced really tough legislation, and then making agreements and deals that backed things off, and then trying to appear tough again. The problem with this bill he has is the word "knowingly." you have to have a sworn affidavits that you knowingly didn't hire anybody. It's really tough to break that law that says you didn't knowingly hire somebody. You need to verify, and that's the part that the state needs to work on. They haven't shown any action to do so yet.

Doug Ramsey:
There's one other wrinkle this year. Last year a lot of those bills were passed but vetoed by the governor. This year Russell pierce is putting in ballot resolutions that, if the governor vetoes, he's got companion measures for the voters to approve or disapprove.

Howard Fischer:
Let's talk about the basic pilot program. There are about 10,000 companies across the nation that has signed up. You can take the name and social security number of an applicant and see if they're in this country illegally. Does the B.P.B. work or would it work?

Mary Jo Pitzl:
Last session there was a demonstration of it. An employer based In Arizona, who uses the program, came out and opened up his laptop and was willing to demonstrate it for lawmakers. The lawmakers weren't too interested in taking a look at it, but I was, because reporters are supposed to be curious. They ran my name, and I'm legal and authorized to work in this country. I'm sure "Arizona republic" will be happy to hear that. There was a lot of debate about it. The business community loves to pick this apart and talk about the failings in the basic program.

Richard Ruelas:
And that's the debate that the business community wants to have, because they don't want this practice to come in. If this were to come in without a federal guest workers program, a lot of Industries would suffer. Not only do they use it here in phoenix, they use it more Importantly In their packing plants In Oklahoma. They've used it there and it's worked effectively and Improved morale in that plant. The basic pilot program says they can take all of Arizona's companies and it wouldn't be a burden on the system to add them in.

Doug Ramsey:
I understand that bar s was using the same program In a Colorado packing plant, and that plant got busted, a whole group of illegal immigrants got busted.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
If I get Doug's date of birth and social security number and go in and say, hi, I'm Doug Ramsey, all the B.P.B. Does is say, yes, this Is Doug Ramsey's name and social security number, and it matches. You need to have an employer that knows what you look like. It can't guard against a full Identity theft.

Richard Ruelas:
But the overwhelming majority of Illegal hires or hires that don't fit the letter of the law, are not Identity theft. They're just someone using a fake social. This would stop the overwhelming majority of those.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
Swift said not only did It Improve morale, but it cut down on turnover. The -- bar s, I'm sorry. Bar s was only going to include people who stayed, and that changed the labor pool.

Richard Ruelas:
Arizona was mandated to check all of its employees, using a different program, but basically the same database. Every few month every employee in the state of Arizona has its social security numbers tested by this database. It's not the freeze on hiring that we expected it to be.

Howard Fischer:
Next week the senate president is going to be taking a bunch of colleagues down saying, look, here's the border. What do you think, Mary Jo, he's trying to accomplish with this little drive-by tour?

Mary Jo Pitzl:
I think he wants to bring attention to his fellow lines to him, that they are paying attention to Immigration Issues and they will focus on border security. I believe he did that last year, and that influenced some legislation. So this might be to shore up a couple of votes, might also be helpful to president b as he looks at his future political ambitions.

Howard Fischer:
One thing is clear, they will not be taking light rail to the border. This week the valley metro requested another nearly $2 billion in state aid. Doug, exactly how well did that go over?

Doug Ramsey:
Well, I don't think it's going to go over real well in the Arizona legislature. Maybe they can find some other legislature to come up with some money. But the senate transportation chair, Ron Gould, call the whole light rail system a debacle and he's not going to spend another nickel of state money on that system. He had a different word for it, he called it a boondoggle. but he went back to prop 400 where the county taxpayers put up a whole lot of money for transportation projects, and some of that could go for light rail. Once the thing's up and running we want to have an audit before he goes for extensions.

Howard Fischer:
But I suppose one of the arguments, Mary Jo, would be the current light rail is going to go from the east edge of mesa up to what was formerly Christown, now Spectrum mall. I love how they change it, and somehow It's a different place.
I suppose the argument can be made, you're never go to the get the ridership you're going to need to support what Doug is talking about. Is It a chick hadn't anding and situation here?

Mary Jo Pitzl:
The audit may be dependent on the projection it makes. By the way, it doesn't go to east Mesa, It goes right into the western part of Mesa and the east end of Tempe. I think you can do that kind of audit, but the bottom line is that the legislature as currently configured is not friendly to light rail. But the big card in the back pocket is the city of Phoenix. They won't go along with any kind of comprehensive plan for funding transportation unless they have a lot of money in there.

Howard Fischer:
I notice Richard as they were asking this 1.7 billion, they trotted out this first light railcar. They may have for some reason played some Aerosmith music as they did it.

Richard Ruelas:
With the development that's going to go on, we put freeways out like, say, the loop 101 on Glendale-Peoria way, when nothing was out there, we put the 202 out In Chandler and Gilbert when not much was going on, and development flourished around those highways. It doesn't seem too far of a push to think that, once this line comes in, places like Washington are going to transform. We're already seeing condos and some of the sales go on.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
Some of the legislature who are against light rail want commuter rail. I'm imagining it's some of the developers telling them, we need another way to get people from anthem east to downtown Phoenix.

Richard Ruelas:
It's going to be an evolving things, and you're going to see light rail critics have fewer criticisms as the years go on.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
Scottsdale is looking at It. and that's going to be a hard fight, but almost every city across the U.S., especially in the west, they tend to do these things piecemeal. Once you start building that rail, it doesn't stop.

Doug Ramsey:
and chandler wants to get Involved In the board of directors. What does that say? They're Interested, too.

Howard Fischer:
You go up to metro center, west I-10 -- west is actually built with a place in the middle for that, or maybe extend it out to mesa. What do you think Is the best first extension?

Doug Ramsey:
Boy, that's a tough one. I would go to the east valley. The biggest congestion is the east valley cities and even far southeast valley cities. If you've ever tried to get into downtown Phoenix during rush hour, it's ridiculous. There are two-lane roads.

Richard Ruelas:
It does back into the east end of Phoenix, trying to get west, and already Glendale Is talking about bypassing downtown Glendale and going right to the stadium.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
I think that underpins that there will be hope for funding, and the fight will be who gets it.

Richard Ruelas:
yes.

Howard Fischer:
speaking on the transportation Issue, we've known for a couple of weeks the photo radar is coming back on In Scottsdale. They had signs, there were headlines in the republic, headlines in the tribe, and in the first 24 hours, 547 motorists were ticketed.

Richard Ruelas:
don't underestimate the power of an allman brothers tune. You've got the right music going.

Howard Fischer:
other than having the stereo up too high, are these motorists stoned or stupid?

Richard Ruelas:
I think they just go. again, you forget on the 101, and there but for the great of god go I. But it's difficult. As we know, driving just over 65 miles per hour on the freeway in dangerous, and people do slow down when they get to those cameras. I think over time people will slow down, from force of habit.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
that's an Interesting question. how long a period of time will there be for those cameras? There is a measure that is heading toward the ballot that would put this to a statewide vote. If voters say, nope, we don't want statewide radar that would shutter -- so to speak -- the cameras.

Doug Ramsey:
what's the turnaround time for the ticket in the mail?

Howard Fischer:
they didn't see the flash the first time around? The senate is pushing ahead with restrictions on teen drivers, at least during the first six months of their driving. What are teens going to be allowed to do or not do?

Howard Fischer:
They won't be allowed to drive between midnight and 5 a.m., that'll be prohibited. And you won't be able to have more than one other teenage driver in the car with you, while you're driving, between the ages of 16 and 18. There's a state senator named Pam Gorman who said that doesn't sound like a very good Idea. Things happen.

Howard Fischer:
like what, Doug? What could happen with two teenagers with a lot of hormones in the car?

Doug Ramsey:
Let's just say double-dating is a much preferable situation.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
In Gorman's defense, on the floor this week she notes it's discriminatory because the bill would allow a teen driver to take as many of their siblings as they can pile in. Why is that fairy, but they can't bring a couple of fellow teens? Of course these are all people under age 18.

Howard Fischer:
yes, well, of course. In other related Issues this week, the senate voted to say if you're arrested for extreme dui. you will do 30 days In jail. What's behind that? As I understand it right now, the judge can dismiss all but ten days.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
this is just a desire to try to crack down on the repeat problem drivers, the ones that -- I forget what the limit is for extreme drunken driving. It's been a bit of a ping-pong ball going back and forth between the democrats and republicans. They're more of the camp that treatment is the way to get this message through people's heads, versus those who said hard time in jail will pound it home more.

Howard Fischer:
hospitals are going to be asked to turn over certain Information on drunk drivers to the police?

Doug Ramsey:
I think It's a good Idea probably, but getting the doctors to go along with It and accepting the additional responsibility and paperwork, I'm not sure If they wouldn't have to testify in court If that happened.

Howard Fischer:
Let stick at the capitol for what else is the big Issue, which has to do with the budget. Mary Jo, It seems like lawmakers never met a tax cut they didn't like. We've seen a whole series of them enacted. What's being proposed and who's going to get the breaks?

Mary Jo Pitzl:
Most of them are things we've already seen in the state. A further cut of the Income tax, a five percent cut In the Income tax. The property tax that was put on a three-year hiatus last year, that looks like it's going to be nixed right off the books. And then a couple of properties being assessed, there's an effort to bring that down and more quickly than was agreed a couple of years ago.

Howard Fischer:
Richard, one of the things argued at the capitol was reagonomics, or trickle down. Somehow the more you cut the tax rates, the more your income trickles up. When we get the tax break, we're going to have Infinite Income? Where does reagonomics begin and end? At what point do you get to a diminishing return?

Richard Ruelas:
As representative Farleigh sort of tried to elicit, there are a lot of true believers in our legislature who listen to people and believe that tax cuts always shift the economy. There is a point where they won't. Economics would tell you that. We reach a rate that just doesn't do It. If we give people more of their money, there's a belief that they will spend more on businesses. If you give money to government, government will spend It on light rail and things to stimulate the economy. But we do have a belief and It's hard to argue politically against a tax cu Arizonans tax themselves even for a stadium.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
these tax cuts will have a pretty significant folder. Let's leave the light rail part aside, but just the roads, and there Is an effort forming now, a two-year effort to basically bring to the ballot, In 2008, some kind of tax breaks to build the statewide roads. Our taxes depend on Income sales and property tax. You cut one and another leg is going to grow.

Doug Ramsey:
There was an Interesting quote from Trish Groh In the committee when they were doing one of the tax cut bills. Gee, we have all these needs and no money, and how are we going to have it if we cut the taxes. She said, this will get government out of things they shouldn't be in, in the first place.

Howard Fischer:
Thank you very much, It was a great discussion this week.

Howard Fischer:
Tuesday, find out the results of the latest Cronkite Eight poll. We asked Arizonans what they think about several bills considered by the state legislature. Wednesday, "Horizon's special profiles for black history month. Then we'll tell you about stolen statues, not Oscars, but others stolen possibly for their copper. Coming up next, a look at the possible agreement with North Korea about its nuclear weapons. Stay tuned, plenty of other good things on Channel 8 tonight. for "horizon," I'm Howard Fischer. Have a good evening.

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