Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

May 25, 2007


Host: Larry Lemmons

Journalists Roundtable


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

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Larry Lemmons: It's Friday, May 25th, 2007. In the headlines this week, a federal immigration bill gets mixed reaction from state lawmakers. The governor continues her fight to keep border guards from being sent to Iraq and the latest on the budget. That's next on Horizon.

Announcer: Horizon is made possible by contributions from the friends of Eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

Larry Lemmons: Good evening, I'm Larry Lemmons and this is the Journalists' Roundtable. Joining me to talk about these and other stories are Thank you all so much for coming and doing this tonight. Mary Jo Pitzl of the Arizona Republic, Mike Sunnucks of the Business Journal, and Howard Fischer of Capitol Media Services. Appreciate it. Well, immigration the big topic this week again. Mary Jo, I suppose it would be an understatement to say that it has divided the Republican Party.

Mary Jo Pitzl: Oh, my, goodness. Oh, has it divided the Republican Party. Most folks know the U.S. Senate unveiled its immigration reform plan this week to lots of loud, loud reaction. There is support for it but what you heard mostly were the opponents objecting primarily to what they consider amnesty provisions in the bill.

Howard Fischer: And that's the problem. What constitutes amnesty? For me, amnesty is, okay, olly olly oxen free, go forth, and do no more harm. We're talking about fines, we're talking about an 8-to-13-year process, we're talking about the head of the family having to go home and touch base. The reality is, and I think even Kyl realized this, cause he recently had it everyone go home plan, that you don't rid the country of 12 plus million illegals. They're not going to leave as long as the jobs are here. So he recognizes reality. And of course the party base said, wait a second, aren't you the guy that ran against Jim Pedersen saying he supports amnesty? And it's coming around to bite him in the derriere.

Mike Sunnucks: I think Kyl's really taking the bullet here. I think he's taking it from McCain and from the president. McCain campaigned for Kyl in that tough race against Pedersen. Kyl's pretty much probably done. This is probably his last six-year term in the Senate. So I think he's kind of repaying some folks in the party. And their hope was he'd bring some conservatives folks with him. I don't really see what the conservatives get out of the deal. There's a guest worker plan, there's a legal path, i.e., amnesty, for the folks that are here, and--but there's really not too much there other than the head of household---

Mary Jo Pitzl: There's a board of security measure.

Mike Sunnucks: But they always talk about that. And they really don't do anything. They've only built, what, a few miles of the fence they funded? But they have talked about the board of security.

Howard Fischer: And part of it is some of this is triggered. The way the thing is set up is that the issue of the additional guest workers would not occur until there was a certain number of additional border patrol officers and number of miles of additional fence. The problem of course with your question, Mike, is you assume it's a liberal conservative issue. If you talk about the fact that the business community says we need guest workers, is that a conservative issue? Is that a liberal issue? And so you really can't fit this into neat little things. Now, you do have people on both extremes. You have got a Tom Tegratal on one side and send them all home, and you've got Raul Grijalva on the other side saying we ought to just open the doors.

Mike Sunnucks: You've got some unions AFLCIO in particular that oppose the guest worker portion because they think it will displace American workers. The guest workers would kind of be like indentured servants. You've got some people on the left opposing that. The big concern here is every time we talk about immigration reform, a lot of folks from Mexico hear this and think they have to get in. So we have to see what happens down the border. If we see kind of a title wave, even worse than we have now, people trying to get in so they can get under this amnesty.

Mary Jo Pitzl: Also what's been interesting this week is to see how this further shows the division of the state republican party. The Party Chairman, Randy Pullen, who was elected earlier this year--

Larry Lemmons: Very narrowly.

Mary Jo Pitzl: By four votes. So it was very, very divisive there. He's been in, trying to steer the party and he comes out and says this is really a bad deal. He's speaking against half of the Arizona--almost the Arizona congressional delegation from the republican side.

Howard Fischer: But the interesting thing is, and I know you guys know this, is the people who elect the party chairman are the precinct committeemen who tend to skew off to the right on the republican side and off to the left on the democratic side. These are the folks that get the signatures and everything else and they're the people who hate the bill. Now, the problem becomes is who is a true republican? I think there are people like Randy who would say in the honest moments we need to rid the party of [whispering] all those liberals-those other folks.

Larry Lemmons: Like John McCain.

Howard Fischer: Yes and that becomes a problem. But of course you have other people that say, well what happened to the big tent? Well I think it collapsed.

Mike Sunnucks: That's the big challenge for republicans. If the folks on the right, the Kool-Aid drinkers, push too hard, they're going to annoy and ostracize so many Hispanics which are obviously a growing population in this state, California and others, and they're going to lose those. They're going to become democrats. If they pass this thing and Hispanics associate this with President Bush and McCain and Kyl, then maybe they can bring those folks in because it's kind of split right now with the Hispanics and republicans. Hispanics are Catholic, they like republicans on social issues, they tend to associate with democrats on economic issues because they tend to be lower economic status. So this is a-kind of a watershed moment for republicans.

Larry Lemmons:: And another aspect that's very interesting is the fact that Kyl, like you said, has always been fairly well supported, more so than John McCain. But Randy Pullen came out with his e-mail today, sort of scattered it about, saying maybe we need to be nicer to Kyl.

Howard Fischer: I think--I'm not sure what the proper terms we can use on television. I think something about urinating backwards quite frankly. The fact is, he has this press conference and he shows this piece of paper he had gotten from one of the people who said they didn't like it and some drawing of a raised middle finger. And suddenly today he says I'm concerned about the level of the tenure of the rhetoric. Wait a second! You started the tenure of the rhetoric by going on TV, going on network.

Larry Lemmons: He did that to some extent.

Howard Fischer: Yeah. He went on Fox, he went on MSNBC and he stirred it up and now he says I'm concerned about the rhetoric. Well, duh.

Mary Jo Pitzl: Yeah and this has been bringing some backlash from the Kyl supporters on Wednesday when Representative Russell Pearce held the news conference to talk about him joining lawmakers for legal immigration, a national group. There was a whole group of Kyl supporters standing very conveniently as a background saying I love Kyl and Kyl has integrity. So-and there was a phone campaign, as I understand it, to talk up the good attributes of Senator Kyl.

Mike Sunnucks: But this can't be a shock to Kyl. He got up there, him and McCain got up there in the press conference with Ted Kennedy and a bunch of democrats and basically talked about pretty much the same bill that he voted against last year.

Larry Lemmons: Well standing with Ted Kennedy could not have been easy for Jon Kyl.

Mike Sunnucks: And again, I go back to the point, is they really can't point to conservatives what they got. We've gotten the promise of more border security before, nothing ever seems to happen on that.

Howard Fischer: You know what they're telling conservatives, political reality's changed. We had a republican Congress-- the fact is democrats control the place. Now the fact is the president tends to agree with the democrats, something they conveniently forget, of course.

Mary Jo Pitzl: And they're also saying that Kyl came and spoke to the Republic's editorial board earlier this afternoon and he said look these illegals are here and there just has to be a dose of practicality here. You are not going to send them all back.

Howard Fischer: Wait a minute, where was that statement last year? Is this the new Jon Kyl or old Jon Kyl we invented or what?

Mike Sunnucks: I think that the key here is he's not running for reelections so he has a little wiggle room on that.

Larry Lemmons: And another aspect of this, too, you were mentioning Russell Pearce and how he was wanting John McCain to step down because McCain has been intimately involved in this and not in a way that Russell Pearce wants.

Mike Sunnucks: Yeah, a couple things. Pearce is way farther right on immigration enforcement first and enforcement only, pretty much send them back. McCain has long been a supporter of the business-oriented guest worker program. But then McCain's missed like 40-something votes while he's been on the campaign trail. He missed a couple of Iraq votes and the key there is a lot of conservatives are upset because folks like Obama and Clinton have made some of their votes. So Pearce says if he's not going to make the votes, he needs to step down.

Larry Lemmons: Oh, go ahead.

Howie: And this is fascinating because the only U.S. Senator with the worst voting record is the guy who had the aneurism who hasn't been back at all.

Mary: Senator John's-

Howie: Although

Larry Lemmons: Well, but McCain is having some funding problems.

Howard Fischer: Well, understood. That becomes the question. Look, we all recognize that the real work doesn't get done voting. The fact is as it was said if it's something where it's 49/51, he would come back and do it. But there are people--this is important to people. Sometimes you fly the flag and sometimes you go back even if it's a closure motion, you go back because that's what we elected you for. We're paying you somewhere close to $200,000 a year and you're off running for president.

Mary Jo Pitzl: But also, the last time that McCain ran for president, I think his voting record was much better than what we're seeing this time. So he knows how to do it.

Larry Lemmons: Right.

Mike Sunnucks: And he did make the vote today-or Thursday for the Iraq spending bill that did include the timeline. So he did make that. You might see a change there. I think he was taking some heat; I think you'll see him show up a few more times.

Larry Lemmons: State Senate, also two strikes you're out now. And how is Russell Pearce going to affect that?

Mary Jo Pitzl: On Wednesday the state Senate passed it's version of an employer sanctions bill. This says if you are found to have hired somebody who is in this country illegally, the first time we will suspend your license and you have three days to make it good. If we catch you a second time, you're out of business, we're going to yank your license. This is different from what the House passed about two months ago across the aisles. The main difference is it takes away an affidavit that the original bill had said that an employer must sign upfront saying I have not hired nor will I ever hire somebody who is here illegally. So this is the Senate version. It passed with a very lop sided margin. I think a lot of the democrats there saw the writing on the wall. But, it's got to go back to Pearce and--

Howard Fischer: And the real key is we started off the show using the "a" word, amnesty. Russell Pearce said this is amnesty. The first time you're caught-and it has to be knowing-knowing which is defined under federal law which means when they come in and they present you some documents and it says I'm 6' 4'' and blonde and you've got a little 5' 2'' Hispanic there, that's a knowing violation. You fire the person.

Larry Lemmons: Within three days, right?

Howard Fischer: Within three days and poof, no harm, no foul. It's only, oh if we catch you a second time, if you manage to screw up that badly a second time. And he said this is amnesty no matter how you look at it. So he figures I've got an initiative drive, I've got a one strike you're out initiative drive. You don't want to do it my way, I've already got 20,000 signatures and I still have 14 more months to gather signatures.

Mike Sunnucks: And I think it's pretty assured that if that gets on the ballot, it'll pass.

Larry Lemmons: Everything else has passed.

Mike Sunnucks: Everything else has passed. The polls show it, the voters will look at that and say that seems fair, we need to crack down on these employers. So the key is finding if they want them to keep it off the ballot, they have to make it tough enough for him to stop.

Howard Fischer: If it's tough enough for him to stop, Janet will not sign it.

Larry Lemmons: She's upset about the border guard being taken, as she sees, it to go to Iraq.

Howard Fischer: That is a fascinating story that developed. We find out first of all there's a company called dimecorp that has contract with the state department to tie 120 people with border patrol experience to go to Iraq to train their border patrol. They are paying 134,000 which is far more than the 35,000 starting salary and starting signing bonus and you can get your derriere shot off. Janet goes back to Washington and meets with Michael Chertoff who is secretary of the homeland security and Ralph who is head of the border protection. They say don't worry. Turns out Ralph sent a memo to his people that said by the way we have a program where you can stay with the patrol and go to Iraq and get a 70\% bonus. At that point Janet went ballistic. It's not only 22 people at any one time in the organization of 16,000. The governor's point is, wait a second. The point behind operation jump start is to hire people and secure the border and put the National Guard there. Between now and September the number of National Guard is going down from 2400 to 2100. She said secure our border first and then talk about Iraq.

Mike Sunnucks: Our administration thinks Iraq is the central front and more important to have them there where they are fighting the terrorists directly. You can make a agreement.

Howard Fischer: I know.

Mike Sunnucks: We'll be fighting them over here. You can make that argument and the guard we have down there are not a direct role. You can take them and make them direct role instead of changing tires.

Larry Lemmons: Switching gears. Lawmakers dealt with a number of issues this week. The house voted to ban photo radar on valley freeways. Howie, how do you think the governor is going to respond to this?

Howard Fischer: Of course they stuck it in the budget. The nice thing is when you are trying to cobble votes to go, it becomes, I think, a Christmas tree is appropriate term. A lot of people don't like photo radar and tried to ban it. Very deep in one of the budget bills is state department of transportation may not have photo radar on any road unless it's there now, i.e., route 101. We go talk to a certain legislature and excuse me did I miss something here? His response was understand photo radar generates tickets. Tickets generate money. Money goes into a budget. Actually that's not true, it goes in the city budget. Essentially they bought votes.

Mary Jo Pitzl: That was House Majority Leader Tom Boone. There was an attempt to put it on the ballot and Senator Gould and Gordon that wanted to move it on the ballot and we're not going to have photo radar any place unless folks approve it. Everything that's going to the ballot has been poll and might come back next year. This got traction and lawmakers are upset because they feel the governor is making a sweeping policy by opening up the possibility of photo radar on the highways without consulting them. This is a way of asserting--

Howard Fischer: You're right. Absolutely right. The governor made a decision after the 101 experiment it reduced accidents and speed, true. Who gets to decide the method of enforcement other than hiring more DPS officers. I am your local governor. I decree and that's what she is.

Larry Lemmons: Speaking of the budget. We have two budgets, and they have to get together to work on that. The house cobbled together and got through. We have to see a compromise. They are always on the tax cuts and house has a lot for tax cuts than senate budget. Pretty good deal they made with the democrats and spending areas. They need to reconcile. Some stuff they can cut the difference on. Other stuff will be more of a fly in the ointment.

Howard Fischer: That's an interesting question in terms of the tax cuts. House tax cuts are up to 64 million. They are moving in the other direction.

Mike Sunnucks: They're doing that if they want to cut the difference, they want it higher, say they get 30 instead of 10.

Howard Fischer: One of the areas interestingly enough is a tax issue but the house says doesn't cost us anything are the tuition tax credits. This one says, right now, under state law you can give for a couple up to a thousand dollars to an organization that allows kids to go to private and parochial schools. You have to have money in on December 31st to claim it on April 15th. One of the provisional bills says you can donate up to April 15th like a 401k and ira. People will say ok I have a my tax and give $500 to the state or give $500 to help a kid go to school. The question is whether the budget losses money. The governor says it could lose up to 42 million with all the changes.

Mike Sunnucks: This is a big issue for conservative and catholic schools. Why not give it to them? The system is there now. It will give people the choice.

Mary Jo Pitzl: The answer to "why not" is because that's money that would otherwise go to the state general fund. How do we pay for the prisons and roads and public schools?

Howard Fischer: This comes back to the, perhaps, splitting the difference let's take this. Let's assume the moderates say we will allow some form of tax credits. We want something in return. That's nature that we'll see over the next three weeks. We give you that. We want some spending on social programs. We want money for immunizations. We want money for something else.

Mary Jo Pitzl: Increased childcare subsidies.

Howard Fischer: Exactly. While you're squeezing out tax cuts and you squeeze out spending. And then you have tax triggers. If revenue gets to this we'll spend that. That's where you end up with a 10.6 budget.

Larry Lemmons: Senator Tim Bee seems relatively confident that his budget is going to pass because as he says he has the governor on his side.

Howard Fischer: That's a good thing to have the governor on your side. Clearly the governor is on this. The House budget is DOA. There's no question on that. The question is how much of that can get put in. Jim Weiers proved he could get 31 votes. He couldn't last week. This week he got to 31. That shows he's got something. That gives him a negotiation position and a seat at the table.

Mike Sunnucks: They are both the same amount 10.6 billion. It's interesting they didn't cut spending at all on the house budget. Obviously we'll have 10.6 and pretty good more than that in the final budget.

Mary Jo Pitzl: His own Senate whip John Huppenthal said there's a lot that I like. He's been at the table that has produced the bi-partisan senate budget. It gives the opportunity for people like Huppenthal and some of the more conservative senators to say we don't need to stick with this and pick it up some of these elements in the house budget.

Howard Fischer: The wild card is you have the senate republicans like Tom and Carolyn. Carolyn told me it would be over a cold dead body they will give tax cuts. They will give. That might be bought and comes back to the spending. The facts on the ground to use the Israel's terms there are not 16 senate republicans to buy off on conservative budgets. The votes are not there.

Larry Lemmons: Another issue the governor signed off on the use of dead soldiers' names too. Is this a first amendment case.

Mary Jo pitzl: It sounds like the man who believes in the bill is a-- there's a t-shirt maker in flagstaff who has been producing anti-war t-shirts and he uses the name of soldiers killed in the war as a backdrop for a t-shirt that says "Bush lied. They died." laws have been passed in Louisiana and Oklahoma only those two states that passed.

Larry Lemmons: But there are others that are pending.

Mary Jo Pitzl: Circling in other states. We don't want our deceased name used unless you ask for our permission.

Mike Sunnucks: There is a privacy issue there

Howard Fischer: The difference of the privacy issue in this isn't--they are comparing it to the Illinois' law that you can't print up counterfeit t-shirts with Madonna on it. They are not buying the t-shirts because Johnny Smith got killed two years ago in Iraq is on there. It's a backdrop. Because it doesn't remove the first amendment facts is not making a political speech how does Gary Dole does that "Doonesbury" twice a year and send a war message. You can dress it up and say there's a privacy issue here. The names are public record. You go on the database. The wire service is run and all the names are there. The fact that he sells it makes it less protective than the first amendment. He forms a non-profit corporation and pace himself a salary. That changes the nature of it. There's a real issue.

Mike Sunnucks: Nobody voted against it Janet signed it.

Howard Fischer: Nobody voted against it.

Mike Sunnucks: janet signed it so, is the political correct thing to do Popular thing to do.

Howard Fischer: I talked to Teri Hans who may depending on misdemeanor may have to prosecute. He said look I haven't studied the bill.But he says if somebody files a complaint and prosecute I have to study the bill and determine if this is going to pass muster. I will not blindly do it because the legislation said it's illegal.

Mike Sunnucks: I think anybody would jump at this guy and go after troops. Most people think it's in poor taste. Plate cal careers are made off guys in the green hats. I think Andy Thomas would jump at the opportunity.

Mary Jo Pitzl: I would love to see numbers. My hunch this probably helped t-shirt sales. As you make a sting about it, you draw more attention to it.

Howard Fischer: Let me go a step farther when I talked to tom phrase sure last night, he said I have new edition coming out with the current edition has 3,000 Iraqi war dead and the new edition has 3500 hundred.

Mike Sunnucks: It's a quandary for us. A lot of folks think it's in bad taste. We don't want to give this guy more pub as you said. He will be helped by this. And the media, too. I don't want to see this guy selling all these t-shirts.

Mary Jo Pitzl: I don't have a quandary, we're reporting the news, mike.

Howard Fischer: As journalist, as a journalist because the moment I allow the Arizona state Senate to allow this is a poor taste this intrudes on someone's privacy by using the name, where do we go next?

Mike Sunnucks: The other argument it's beyond the free speech thing. They are talking about privacy and using the kid's names who died in battle for profit.

Howard Fischer: Then we come down to what about using victim's names in the news stories. We are profiting. I hope the business journal makes a profit and Gannett makes a profit and hopefully capitol media is making a profit. Where in the line does the government get to decide a matter of policy of things that are public record. These are public record. That's the problem.

Mike Sunnucks: Put public record on a t-shirt.

Larry Lemmons: We are out of time as it turns out. I Thank you all very much. Mike Sunnucks of the Business Journal, Mary Jo Pitzl of the Arizona Republic, Howard Fischer of the Capitol Media Services

Howard Fischer: How can we be out of time? We are not done.

Larry Lemmons: You guys just do so good.You have a lot to say. I guess they want us to move on.

Larry Lemmons: On a special Memorial Day edition at Horizon. We hear the experiences of World War II veterans about the horrors of war. Also, veterans Falcon Field return to Mesa every year to honor the British and American soldiers who died while training to become pilots. Monday night at 7 on channel eight's Horizon.

Larry Lemmons: Tuesday, we'll look at Tempe's Hispanic heritage. Wednesday, we'll take a look at problems caused by fissures in the earth. Thursday, a look at bees and why they're disappearing. Friday, we'll be back with another edition of the Journalists' Roundtable. Thanks very much for joining us on this Friday edition of horizon, the Journalists' Roundtable. Join us all week with the best in-depth of public affairs. I'm Larry Lemmons have a great weekend.

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