Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

May 18, 2007


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Journalists Roundtable


  • Don't miss HORIZON's weekly roundtable where local reporters get a chance to review the week's top stories.
Guests:
  • Matt Benson - Arizona Republic
Category: Journalists Roundtable

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Howard Fischer:
It Friday, May 18, 2007. In the headlines this week, we look at plans to reshape the nation's immigration laws to give illegal immigrants legal status. We'll discuss the latest progress, sort of, by lawmakers on the budget. And some efforts to protect names of fallen soldiers could turn into a first amendment fight. That's next on "Horizon."

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Howard Fischer:
Good evening, I'm Howard Fischer and this is the Journalists' Roundtable. Joining me to talk about these and other stories, Matt Benson of the Arizona Republic, Paul Giblin of the Scottsdale Tribune and Daniel Scarpinato of the Arizona Daily Star. White House negotiators agree to change an immigration laws, including allowing illegal immigrants to stay. Daniel, this seems to be a very convoluted plan with z visas and v visas, tell us a bit without having folks tune out about the essence of the plan.

Daniel Scarpinato:
The bill has got a lot to it. But the main points that will probably get the most debate, There's a $5,000 fine, some processing fees that peel people will have to pay. There's a touchback, what they're calling a provision, where the head of the household actually will have to go back to the home country at some point and then there's also a trigger effect where certain border security things need to be implemented before the guest worker portion of the bill actually comes into effect.

Howard Fischer:
Obviously with allowing people to stay, the few folks have suggested this is the "A" word, amnesty. You know, where does it fall on the amnesty scale here?

Daniel Scarpinato:
Well, amnesty has become a subjective term in politics. But Jon Kyl, who says he's against amnesty, is for this bill. He says it's not amnesty, although he's not, you know, completely happy with everything in it, he says it's a good compromise and that it will work.

Howard Fischer:
Paul, let me ask you, because I've heard nothing but people complaining about this from both extremes the last two days. I'd ask to you give me a list of those opposed but I think a list of those supporting it might be shorter. Who does like this, perhaps other than Jon Kyl?

Paul Giblin:
Interesting question, Howie, it will lose a lot of people on the left and far right. But this bill is interesting in that it makes Kyl a centralist. Time magazine article he likes to cite a lot saying he was one of the 10 best senators in the United States, called him ultra conservative. But he appears to be approaching middle ground with this. You're hearing from the two extremes and will continue to hear from the two extremes, but I believe the middle ground is pretty large and it's tough to guess what's going to happen, but I think it might pass.

Matt Benson:
You mentioned middle ground, Paul. The question is, is there a silent majority we haven't heard from yet. Right now we're hearing vocal complaints from folks on the way left who think the fine included in the bill is too much, hearing from the far right saying it's amnesty, treasonous, this and that, are we hearing from folks in the middle? I don't know that right now we are. We haven't seen the language of the bill yet and I don't think enough time has passed for people to really understand it.

Paul Giblin:
There are provisions that make it more painful as you mentioned. A long timeline, I believe 13 years, after someone goes through the first process of applying, then the z visa then the permanent legal status then finally citizenship. That's a long time out. They have to learn English and pay the fines. Another key point Kyl and others like to talk about, there's no longer the chain migration process where if I was in the country and I became a citizen, then I could bring in my wife and children and grandparents and my in-laws and old college roommate and everyone else. Now it's set up so that you can only bring in direct relatives, your minor children, not children who are no longer minors, and your parents, no longer brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles.

Daniel Scarpinato:
Howie, you're right. If you're a purist on this issue on either side you're not going to be happy with this. But I don't think those people will be happy with anything short of either an open border or complete closed border.

Howard Fischer:
But does that become enough with the sniping at both sides? Russell Pierce has a press conference Wednesday. I'm sure he's going to talk about treason. Have you folks from the Latino community talking about the $5,000 fine. Does the sniping take its toll and we end up with congressional paralysis, although that may be redundant?

Daniel Scarpinato:
The fact is that whether Russell Pierce likes it or not, Democrats won control of congress. There was a republican congress and Republican president. They didn't do what he wanted. So now, you know, in order for someone to happen, at least Jon Kyl says there's got to be middle ground.

Howard Fischer:
Let me ask one question to that point. There are two southern Arizona congress men who are Democrats. I'm guessing they don't agree on this.

Daniel Scarpinato:
They don't agree. Gabrielle Gifford's, Rob Gravalva disagree. Giffords likes it a lot, Gravalva doesn't he thinks he can get amendments to make it better.

Howard Fischer:
Let's talk about a related issue in terms of the border. Last year there was Operation Jumpstart, which was designed to put more guard troops on the border and meanwhile you were going to get additional border patrol offices. Yet this week we find out with the blessing of the State Department, there's a company trying to hire away border patrol officers to teach them how to protect the border of Iraq. Are we working at cross purposes here?

Matt Benson:
you're referencing a Virginia-based military contractor called Dyne Corp and the state department asked them to hire 120 former border patrol officers to go to Iraq and train Iraqis to secure their own border. Obviously we've had all kinds of problems in Iraq with terrorists and weapons crossing the border. Governor Napolitano responded to this move by sending a letter to President Bush along with New Mexico Governor Richardson saying hey, knock it off. This is a contradiction of our efforts to try to secure our own border.

Howard Fischer:
How much of that is just pure -- the governor would never be satisfied no matter what the president did, I'm assuming.

Matt Benson:
How much is politics and how much is real, that's hard to say. But I think the signal here, and you have to remember this is in the context of we know that the National Guard deployed to the border as part of Operation Jumpstart are going to cut in half this summer. So the governor's pointing to that saying you're sending all the wrong signals about being serious about the border.

Howard Fischer:
I want to turn to one other issue sort of related to the legislature, the guard; there is legislation on its way to the governor that says if you use the name of a dead soldier in a commercial purpose, you have committed a crime. Tell me about the background of this. This has to do with the Flagstaff business owner?

Daniel Scarpinato:
Yeah, there's a man in Flagstaff who produces bumper stickers, t-shirts, etc., sells them online, has an antiwar viewpoint. He made this shirt, used names of the soldiers. I don't remember the exact wording, maybe you do, something like he lied, they died.

Howard Fischer:
Exactly.

Daniel Scarpinato:
And so, you know, certain people didn't agree with that statement and it caught some attention.

Howard Fischer:
Paul's shaking his head here. I take it you think maybe this isn't so constitutional?

Paul Giblin:
Right, right. I want to say clearly right off the bat this is in very poor taste. The guy should not be doing this. This is clearly in poor taste. But our constitution protects poor taste in the forms of free expression and we all enjoy that. And this is obviously free expression. He's not making any monetary -- Or not using these people's names as if you had Paris Hilton on it and her image, she would be able to sue you and say you're selling shirts based on my image. This is not the same thing. The legislature should get out of this business.

Howard Fischer:
Ok, Matt, this thing passed unanimously out of the senate. Lot of constitutional problems, yet I don't sense a veto on the horizon on this one, that the governor's going to throw herself in front of this train.

Matt Benson:
It's tough to be the one who vetoes the bill and could be seen as the one selling out to the troops so to speak so I would imagine she may sign it and if it's declared unconstitutional she can wash her hands of it and let the judges take care of it for her.

Paul Giblin:
It will be declared unconstitutional, not if it's declared up constitutional. This guy sues; it's going to be declared unconstitutional, pure and simple.

Daniel Scarpinato:
The curious thing is if it was actually a pro war t-shirt, would there still be all this talk about it and legislation and so forth.

Howard Fischer:
I like that. Well, you heard the prediction here first, folks, it's going to be declared unconstitutional. I want to go back and talk about something else going on at the capitol and talk about the status of the budget. Matt, we got some action out of the senate, ok. What's in the senate budget and where do we go from here?

Matt Benson:
Basically the senate approved its $10.6 billion budget. High points include money for roads, $7 million in tax cuts. This is going to go to the house now, the house which rejected its own budget last week. So it's going to be all budget next week in the house. They'll reconsider their own budget, a competing plan with more tax cuts and we're also going to see them considering the senate budget.

Howard Fischer:
You've got essentially a bipartisan budget coming out of the senate, which the governor hinted she would sign, yet the house Republican leadership still seems bound and determined to put their own plan out. What's it going to take to have the speaker conclude this ain't going to happen?

Daniel Scarpinato:
Well, probably getting some of his things in the senate budget and some compromise there will maybe get him to tone off of the house budget, but I mean it really remains to be seen how many of those Republicans who voted against the budget initially may change their mind.

Howard Fischer:
Ok. Is it going to take then more tax cuts? I mean the is that the plan is 7 million, the last version in the house plan was 64 million, over two years, is it going to take a little more in tax cuts to just get those house Republicans signed on?

Daniel Scarpinato:
Probably, and I'm hearing that there's a few specific tax cuts like a college savings account plan, some specific things that the house Republicans want to get in that might get them where they need to be.

Howard Fischer:
I do want to talk about one Specific thing in the budget that kind of got our attention. There is funding in there for the state to give the Human Papilloma Virus vaccine to people in access, but I gather that the price they had to pay politically for the conservatives was to say you cannot now require this as an admission to schools. This seems to be something, we usually don't get into that at the legislative level, what's required as the school vaccine. What's the background?

Matt Benson:
You're seeing a provision which a lot of health officials and school officials are crying foul about, saying the legislature shouldn't wade into this. This should be our arena to decide what vaccinations our students need and telling the legislature to back off.

Howard Fischer:
Ok, but the discussion, anyone feel free to jump into this, is that most vaccines required are for things you can catch in school. You know, whether it's the flu, whether it's colds, whether it's even tuberculosis. This is a disease that's transmitted only sexually. Now, I don't know, Paul, I'm assuming although you can't tell with teachers and students anymore, you're not likely to catch this from going to school.

Paul Giblin:
Well, Howie, going to me with a political question? Going off the deep end here, I'm going to refer to more knowledgeable people, not necessarily in the legislature, but I'm going to not answer that one.

Howard Fischer:
It becomes a philosophical question, Daniel. It's about a vaccine on something that's not your typical airborne transmitted disease?

Daniel Scarpinato:
Yeah, and Ron Gould in the senate, his point was that parents should be able to be making the decision here and that the state just shouldn't be involved in this at all. And I think that's what it boils down to.

Howard Fischer:
Ok. Paul, I'll come back to you with something more up your alley.

Paul Giblin:
Thank you, I appreciate that.

Howard Fischer:
Drinking and driving.

Paul Giblin:
You're brutal, brutal.

Howard Fischer:
I know.

Paul Giblin:
The governor today signed the bill that says if you are convicted of ordinary drunk driving, .08, you will have a little tube coming out of the dashboard of your car. Idea being I assume to stop you from doing that again for a year.

Howard Fischer:
Tell me your thoughts on that puppy.

Paul Giblin:
You know it's interesting we talk about my driving abilities or lack thereof so frequently on this program. But for the record no, I've never been convicted of DUI but my thoughts on that one: the idea behind this bill is to really persuade people who get arrested by DUI to stop driving drunk. But if you look at the laws in place already, the fees are horrendous. There's jail time involved. I believe people who can change their behavior that should be enough to make them change their behavior. When you're talking about habitual offenders, people who aren't going to change their behavior when they go to jail and pay huge fines and have to sit through hours long classes, they're not going to change their behavior for anything. I'm not sure this is really getting them to change their behavior. I think it's maybe a waste of time.

Howard Fischer:
Well, that's what the question out there all week, the fact is we now require ignition locks for repeat offenders and for those convicted of extreme DUI., drunkest of the drunk truthfully. Does it make sense to have that same penalty if you want to call it that, for people who may just be one drink over the line?

Matt Benson:
With this law Arizona joins New Mexico as the only states that require interlock for even a first offense, for even someone who maybe has one too many beers after work or one night, you know, enjoying some time with co-workers. Is that too much penalty and how far are we away from getting to a point where we're requiring interlock devices on all vehicles? I know that's a concern being raced by some civil libertarian groups and some alcoholic beverage groups.

Howard Fischer:
But is it -- people like Dave Shapiro would say this is not a penalty per se, but if you've shown that you are driving drunk, you were convicted, this at least keeps you from doing it again because if you can't deliver a clean breath sample you can't start your car. So penalty or probation for lack of a better word?

>Matt Benson:
I think it's both. The question, does it go too far, obviously it's going to reduce drunk driving, but do you really need to require this device of everyone, even first timers, even those barely over the line.

Paul Giblin:
I'm not sure I agree with you. I'm not sure that it will reduce drunk driving for the reason I stated earlier. People who are going to drive drunk will do it no matter what it takes, I've heard of them getting buddies to blow into the machine. No matter what the penalties are.

Howard Fischer:
Let me talk about another driving-related bill signed by the governor. If you're 16 or 17, just got your license, you're anxious to get out there, ferry all your friends around, drive all night, but you won't be table to do that, not for the first six months.

Daniel Scarpinato:
Kind of a bummer, huh.

Howard Fischer:
Dude, what can I tell you?

Daniel Scarpinato:
Good thing we're all past that age. Yeah, I mean, you know, it's Paul said he -- his son isn't too happy about it. So.

Paul Giblin:
My son is 14, he will be 15 shortly and he's looking forward to driving and he doesn't like that law. I told him about it and he was reading about it the next day in the paper. But he knows that as a father I'm going to be worse than the state government will be about letting him get up to speed driving. If you look at studies that are published by the insurance institute, they have a vested interest, they want to not pay so much money for drunk driving wrecks or any kind of wrecks that teenagers get into so frequently. They have these studies and they're called graduated driver's licenses, they work. They let kids learn to drive under the safest circumstances in daylight with fewer distractions and as they get more experience they get to be better drivers, statistics bear this out time and time again so I think it's a good law.

Howard Fischer:
Here's the question, all of us have been through this. My parents set my limits on me. Is it the government's role to say to a parent, "I don't care what your restrictions are on your child; we're not going to let them have more than one other teen other than a sibling in the car, or is that something the parent should decide?:

Matt Benson:
The problem you have, not all parents are as good as your parents or as good as Paul. Too many of them set no restrictions and in some cases you have tragic consequences and we've seen that time and time again with some of these car accidents, the fatal accidents. We had one just a number of weeks ago involving a kid driving home after prom. So if you can avoid any of that, then I think most people would say this is a good step.

Paul Giblin:
And the other argument is this, if it was just the kid in danger, just Howie's kid or my kid, you could say Giblin, you make up the rules for your kid but if it's your kid driving down the road he's a potential danger to you and everyone else.

Howard Fischer:
But where's the line, Daniel, for what Russell Pierce loves to call the nanny state here, when we're telling people what we know best. We're from the government. We're here to help you. We know what you should do, when you should drive, how you should do it. This is very libertarian state in many ways. How does this sell?

Daniel Scarpinato:
Right, and, you know, you wonder how many people will actually follow it, be aware of the law, and, you know, you've still got to have parents and you know saying look, you know, here's the law, you can't do it. And unless you've got that parent involvement, it doesn't seem like the law would really make a difference.

Howard Fischer:
One thing that did get vetoed this past week has to do with carrying a concealed weapon. Right now it's a class 1 misdemeanor. You can go to jail six months carrying a concealed weapon without a state permit. This would have reduced it to a $300 fine. The governor didn't quite see that as a good idea.

Matt Benson:
Yeah, this bill basically would have made it a petty offense. It was pushed by Senator Karen Johnson who argued that I don't think she likes concealed carry Permits to begin w. The governor's argument was this is a deadly weapon; you need to pass background checks and have a permit to do so.

Howard Fischer:
But her argument is that, and I appreciate the point you can get a permit, Arizona allows anybody to carry in the open, unless you're a felon; if you're a woman, you're not strapping on a holster, if you need, quote unquote personal protection, which is what she likes to call a gun. You're going to put it in the purse, should you end up going to jail for protecting yourself because you have to walk in the parking lot at night?

Matt Benson:
That's a difficult question, for those people around them I think that they would want to know that the people who are carrying weapons have passed the necessary background checks and actually have a permit for the weapons that they are carrying.

Daniel Scarpinato:
Howie, maybe there's a whole industry waiting there of making some kind of cutsie thing to strap the gun onto your purse.

Howard Fischer:
Something in pinks and blues and everything else. We also found out in a related subject regarding our friend Mrs. Johnson, we talked last week on the show that she brings a gun in the senate. Well, we found out from Senate President Tim Bee that he's fine with senators bringing weapons into the building. That seems -- I won't call it shocking. That would be putting a value judgment on it perhaps, but it seems a little unusual, you know. What's his logic behind saying, "Well, we're going to keep everyone else out that has guns but senators can protect themselves."

Daniel Scarpinato:
Well, I don't know exactly what his logic is, but the house has a completely different policy on the other side of the courtyard. You wonder if some of those folks who carry their guns who are in the senate have ever gone over to the house with their gun. It seems like maybe at least there should be some consistency between the policies.

Howard Fischer:
So you're going to start carrying one in the press room now because you're in the same senate building with those armed legislators, I assume.

Daniel Scarpinato:
How do you know I haven't been carrying one?

Howard Fischer:
Going to run him through the metal detector afterwards. Couple of other things going on, Daniel, payday loans, Marion McClure has been a critic of the industry, has tried to reform it. These are short-term, two-week loans. 15 percent interest over two weeks. Runs into an A.P.R. of about 400 percent. I guess she's decided now she can't reform them and wants to get rid of them?

Daniel Scarpinato:
Yeah, and you know, I think a point that was brought up at the press conference is, you know, is this a republican ideal going back to your question on the other issue, you know, should the government have involvement in here, and will this really stop people from going into debt, when you've got credit card companies that basically do the same thing: go after people to open up high interest credit cards, you know. Is this going to solve the issue of having a population of people who can't manage their money and are going into debt.

Howard Fischer:
That raises a question, Paul. If I go into a payday loan store and if I write out a $500 check, give them an extra $75, I know they're going to hold the check for two weeks. Should the government say I can't do that?

Paul Giblin:
No, that's a free enterprise function, Howie. If banks offered loans in small amounts, we wouldn't have payday loan places. But they don't. They make a business decision to deal with larger amounts and God bless them for doing that. But they're leaving a segment underserved. You're going to a payday loan place or local loan shark who cracks your knees if you don't pay back, but the segment is there and it's silly for the legislature to think they'll eliminate it with a law.

Howard Fischer:
How do we deal with the problem that people need money, assuming this passes, what happens to Matt, you need 200 bucks to buy new tires for the car? Family, friends, you know, will the people at the republic give you an advance on your pay?

Matt Benson:
That's doubtful, we know that. You know, I think it's a question that no one really knows the answer to. I think the hope is if these payday loans go away, something will come into the market to take their place, something perhaps banks begin offering small loans again, perhaps we all have to go to a loan shark Larry in the alley, I mean, who knows.

Paul Giblin:
The down side, if you don't go to the payday loan place, you're in really dire straits and need to make the mortgage payment and you don't have that available, you don't make the mortgage payment and now problems get worse and it's worse for the government because now you might find people who are homeless and that incurs greater costs on the government, misguided idea.

Howard Fischer:
The other thing I want to deal with before we close, one bill the governor did sign this week has to do with sex offenders and saying they have to be at least 1,000 feet from schools. This I don't know whether this falls into the nanny state idea, or do we really need that sort of barrier for those who have committed crimes against children.

Matt Benson:
We're seeing another barrier to try to keep the sex offenders away from places where children are. The other side of the coin is they have to live somewhere. Where do they go? They're out there. Whether we like it or not, they're out there. So where are they going to live? Are we getting to a point where they just can't live -- they have to go to a little tiny corners of the Valley?

Howard Fischer:
That becomes the question. 1,000 feet is a fifth of a mile, given where schools are, are we Going to end up with all the sex offenders living south of Buckeye near the Palo Verde Nuclear Plant?

Daniel Scarpinato:
Yeah, you know, in the urban areas, you've got schools every block or so. So, you know, you're right. It limits where they can live.

Howard Fischer:
Gentlemen, thank you very much for a great discussion and we'll be right back.

Larry Lemmons:
We begin a new series facing military establishments in Arizona military affairs, also topics that bubble up from the state legislature and executive branches, politics in and about Arizona, all fair game in our weekly segment, "One on One," Monday night at 7:00 on channel 8's "Horizon."

Howard Fischer:
Tuesday we'll continue our look at Arizona military affairs, focusing on reservists and guard rights. Wednesday healthcare in the military, Thursday Arizona state veterans home and Friday we'll be right back. Join us again next week, and yes, it's now safe to change the channel and see what the Suns are doing. Coming up, what's stopping auto makers from making 100 mile per gallon cars, next. Good night.

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