Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

June 1, 2007


Host: Steve Goldstein

Journalists Roundtable


  • Don't miss HORIZON's weekly roundtable where local reporters review the week's top stories.
Guests:
  • Dennis Welch - East Valley Tribune
Category: Journalists Roundtable

View Transcript
>> Steve Goldstein:
It's Friday, June 1, 2007. In the headlines this week the House and Senate agreed on a plan designed to penalize those who hire undocumented workers, guns are still allowed on Arizona college and university campuses, and the latest on the state budget. All that is next, on "Horizon."

>> Steve Goldstein:
Good evening, I'm Steve Goldstein, and this is the "journalist roundtable." Joining me to talk about these and other stories, Dennis Welch of the East Valley Tribune, Mark Brodie of KJZZ, and Howard Fischer, also known as Howie Fischer of Capitol Media Services. Gentlemen, thanks for being here. Arizona lawmakers have agreed on an employer sanctions bill. Dennis, we've seen some advances in the bill from the House and Senate and back again. Where does it stand now? And will the governor possibly sign this bill?

>> Dennis Welch:
The governor has vetoed two others related to immigration this year. This has more teeth than the one last year, so will she be hemmed in by her own rhetoric? That's the question.

>> Howard Fischer:
That's crucial there. What we saw is that, while a bunch of democrats railed against some of the provisions and didn't like them -- for example, it makes it like a class 3 felony for using a fake ID to get a job -- in the end, they had to vote for it, they felt the need.

>> Howard Fischer:
Does Janet Napolitano feel the need, having made the statement, we need something with real teeth, or does she rely on the old statement, well, you know, this is a federal issue?

>> Dennis Welch:
Maybe she could use what's going on in Congress right now for some political cover. They're working that bill right now, we should step back and see what happens up there before we step in.

>> Steve Goldstein:
Isn't employer sanctions the one thing she has said she wanted?

>> Mark Brodie:
There's an initiative out there that would be an employer sanctions initiative. As we've discussed in the past, initiatives are much harder to change than a regular bill signed by the governor.

>> Steve Goldstein:
Now that congress seems like it's going to be doing something, where is the change going to happen?

>> Howard Fischer:
How many years have we been discussing this? The problem is, it's stuck in a larger issue here. You've got Goldwater delivering statements saying this is amnesty, guest workers, the z visas and everything else. Because it's a comprehensive package, the bad news is it's a comprehensive package and it's something for everyone to shoot at. It's June. Congress is going to go into summer recess, and it'll get to be August. It's almost a year before the election. It makes it real hard. Do they dare wait? I'm not holding my breath on congress approving anything comprehensive anytime soon.

>> Dennis Welch:
Congress has dragged their feet for years on this issue. I don't think that would be very effective at all.

>> Mark Brodie:
I think the legislature in general wants to do something. I think Russell Pearce desperately wants to do something on this issue. If it's a bill, it's a bill, if it's an initiative, it's an initiative. Especially on employer sanctions, that's been the one thing where lawmakers and the governor have said, we need to do something on this.

>> Howard Fischer: For years the legislature has said, we're going to attack the immigrants, the day labor bills, things like that. The one thing everyone does agree on, it's a supply and demand issue. As long as the jobs are here, people will come. And as long as the employers figure, I can get away with a wink and a nod because I don't have to run it through the basic pilot program, I don't have to see if the id is truly accurate, they will continue to hire them. It provides workers at a lower rate than they'd have to pay American workers.

>> Dennis Welch:
The one fracture that has occurred in the east valley chamber's alliance, representing businesses in the east valley area of Maricopa County, it's a lot harder to change something that's voter approved. This way they can get in there, be involved in crafting the legislation, and make any changes down the road if we see any unintended consequences.

>> Howard Fischer:
For years the State Chamber and Phoenix Chamber have said, no, no, no, no, no, we want something else. At a certain point. The folks call and I say, why am I listening to you? You have no credibility on this issue because you really don't want congress doing anything that doesn't give you the guest workers that keep your employment costs low. They've lost out in terms of being a part of the negotiation.

>> Dennis Welch:
There was some talk a few weeks ago about possibly jumping on in support of something that comes out of the legislature. You make some calls and talk to some people there, and the official line is no, we're still against that. We think it's a federal issue and we want to wait for congress.

>> Steve Goldstein:
Nothing's set in stone. Will Senator Jon Kyl back off at all? He's been getting a lot of pressure on this.

>> Howard Fischer:
The problem of a yes-and-no answer is there are already changes. The number of guest workers has been cut in half. Will he make changes? Of course he will. Jon's very good, he knows how to go count to 51 in the senate, so there will be changes. Does he walk away from it? Only if it changes radically. He recognizes the political reality is that the democrats control the place. Because they do, he's got to deal with them. That means sitting down next to Ted Kennedy, the archenemy for all these years, and saying we need to work something out and get it done now.

>> Steve Goldstein:
What happens when you have people waiting outside your door, protesting what you're doing?

>> Mark Brodie:
I get the impression for lawmakers things like that just -- you know, it's one of the occupational hazards. You're going to tick some people off, and some are going to love you. I think Howie hit it right on the head. It's probably not go going to be the exact bill that comes out of the senate, much less the house, and then whatever they come up with in some kind of conference committee. This bill will evolve as the house bill comes along.

>> Howard Fischer:
You're not allowed to talk evolution, it's going to be created.

>> Dennis Welch:
I was going to say, with people outside your door, it comes with the job. When you look at who's outside, people like Don Goldwater and Randy Pullan, you probably tend to listen a little bit more.

>> Steve Goldstein:
Finally, on the general subject of immigration, what happens to Russell Pearce? What was he doing before?

>> Howard Fischer:
Come now, you're forgetting the fact that Russell has always had issues. Guns, law and order, you know, perhaps he will, along with Karen Johnson, the north American union, the secret plan to combine with us, Canada and Mexico. Russell doesn't go away. But the nice thing about Russell is he's not doing it for politics. There are a lot of people who are doing things, but they know we're listening and they're just there for that. Russell believes. I can't fault that. He honestly believes there are things that need to be changed, and he was sent down there, for whatever reason, to change that.

>> Dennis Welch:
It's interesting to say that Russell has issues, Howie.

>> Mark Brodie:
Don't forget, he still has the appropriations committee which he chairs, he's one of the hands that really gets to shape how the legislature and the state spends its money.

>> Dennis Welch:
Russell is huge into public safety issues, D.P.S., police officers, corrections. He's really big into this. This just happens to be his passion right now, one of the biggest issues facing the state and the country.

>> Steve Goldstein:
The issue of guns on the state college campuses has come up. The house again has refused to ban them.

>> Mark Brodie:
The reason is, from a lot of gun rights supporters, the way to get more public safety is to have more law-abiding citizens with guns than fewer guns. That was one of the arguments made, that he didn't want a Virginia tech situation made in Arizona. Well, if somebody on campus had a gun, they could have stopped the shooter.

>> Steve Goldstein:
But the fact that the Republicans still control the House and Senate, did this bill have any chance of going anywhere?

>> Mark Brodie:
That one really didn't.

>> Dennis Welch:
The prospect of having more guns in classrooms and on streets only works with people who aim well. If it passes and you ban guns from the university campus, is that really going to stop anybody?

>> Howard Fischer:
That's the key. There are 4,000 ways to get on campus. They didn't tell me I had to check the gun before I came in here.

>> Howard Fischer:
It does not make a difference. He admitted, it will not stop that. So what do you prove by saying, no guns allowed? I'm sure the guy who marched on the Virginia tech campus, if he would have seen the gun signs, would have thought, oh, no, I'm not going to kill anybody today. Give me a break.

>> Steve Goldstein:
Even the example, are they even paying attention to what the legislature is going to do on this?

>> Dennis Welch:
Or they're in a rage. You can go anywhere off campus and purchase a gun and whatnot. If you really want to shoot somebody, you're not going to stop because some sign says you can't carry a gun on campus. You're not going to stop because the legislature says you can't carry a gun on campus.

>> Howard Fischer:
At the risk of undermining part of my own argument, we have a lot of laws that people don't obey. Most public buildings you're not supposed to bring a gun in. So we've got the question of, if people aren't going to obey laws, should we pass them anyway?

>> Howard Fischer:
The interesting part of this bill is the underlying bill. Right now, you can't bring guns into public buildings, if, a, they post them; and b, they take them into storage. Here's the problem. 20 people go down to the legislature to testify on a gun bill. They've got 15 lockers, which mean the last five people get to keep their guns under this provision of the bill. That doesn't make any sense at all, if you overwhelm the system. Yet people are convinced, if we're taking away their rights, we should provide them individual storage. This bill is veto bait.

>> Steve Goldstein:
On to other exciting news at the state capitol, which is the budget. As we know, day after day it's just isn't scintillating.

>> Howard Fischer:
Wake up.

>> Dennis Welch:
I was dozing for a second there. The word down there is they've met the past few days, they haven't done anything else but meet on the budget, so it's been kind of quiet. The word we get all the time, they're making progress, they're making some progress.

>> Howard Fischer:
But the progress, I talked to the senate president and she said there are about 150 differences between the bills. We're taking care of the little things. The big stuff is not even on the table. Tax breaks, providing help for tuition organizations, are we going to go ahead and provide a tax break to get the NBA to have their game in town. Those are the big issues. They barely finished negotiating the shape of the table.

>> Mark Brodie:
The phrase that I have heard is heavy lifting, there's a lot of heavy lifting yet to do.

>>Steve Goldstein:
There's still heavy lifting after almost 150 days of this session.

>> Dennis Welch:
Since it's not an election year, we thought it would be over relatively quickly compared to last year. Now it's threatening to go beyond the June 22 date they adjourned last year.

>> Steve Goldstein:
How much is the whole budget process complicated by the fact that the governor has been in on the negotiations?

>> Howard Fischer:
Well, the political reality is, first of all, the senate budgets have historically, even when it was republican-republican budgets, have been a little more moderate in terms of spending on social programs. Having the governor in to a certain extent made sense. The other alternative was have the senate republicans put out a budget, the house republicans put out a budget, they get together and still have to negotiate with the democrats and the governor. At least we're halfway there. Now they're in negotiations between the Senate and the House. The democrats, and by extension the governor, does it take a long time? Sure. Part of it was not getting started till late. There were a lot of other issues on the table, including the employer sanctions. But the fact is, it takes as long as it takes. The other part is, we have an artificial deadline. This is a citizen legislature. Well, yeah, you can tell it's a broad cross-section of citizens and they go back and work their farm after the hundred days.

>> Dennis Welch:
Lots of bartenders and waiters working at the legislature part time between jobs.

>> Steve Goldstein:
It's like herding cats down there. How much does that complicate things?

>> Mark Brodie:
That's the phrase you hear from leaders, I'm not the one who made that up. There's a lot of different opinions on whose program gets this amount or that amount, do you do tax cuts, spend on education, vote, do not -- especially in the house, where you have twice as many members, getting people on board I would imagine is an extremely difficult task.

>> Dennis Welch:
And what's it going to take to get somebody on the budget. Then it comes down to pork. What can I bring home that's good to my constituents. If you give somebody something else, you're giving up money for somebody who wants their project, yeah.

>> Howard Fischer:
And that's about it. It's like selling a used car. What will it take to get you into this budget? They have what they call the box. It's leftover money and it's to divide up pork. It's tax breaks or new spending.

>> Howard Fischer:
At this point I think there's about 20 million in the box, not chump change. You can buy a few things for that. A special program for immunization or something like that, or a tax break for artists or something. That becomes the final negotiating tool. The other part becomes somebody needs a bill. We'll give you the votes you need for a bill, but you've got to be a yes on the budget.

>> Dennis Welch:
$20 million is a lot of money for overpaid and under-worked journalists like ourselves. You get 60 in the house and another third in the senate fighting over how to spend this $20 million, it's not an easy task.

>> Mark Brodie:
The money goes away really quickly talking about the different projects and things you can possibly do. That's not a lot of money in governmental terms.

>> Steve Goldstein:
Dennis, you had a front-page study related to budget negotiations.

>> Dennis Welch:
This has to deal with a budget issue, and it deals with tax credits for people who want to donate to student tuition organizations, that dole out scholarships for kids who can't otherwise attend private or parochial schools. Mine dealt with Senator Steve Yarborough from chandler, one of the prime sponsors and backers of these types of bills, but it also turns out that he also runs the most successful student tuition organization in the state, which brought in last year about $10.9 million, which he then used for scholarships. He also can keep 10\% of that money to pay his administration and maintenance costs, and a near-six-figure salary.

>> Howard Fischer:
The legislative rules and the law say you can't vote on things if you have a direct conflict of interest. If you're a member of a class, it doesn't matter. I can vote for income tax credits because it affects everyone, that's the class.

>> Howard Fischer:
How big does a class have to be?

>> Howard Fischer:
Basically three. If there are three organizations out there that are affected, you get to vote on things that personally affect you. You're always going to have that sort of conflict.

>> Dennis Welch:
It's supposed to be people working part time, and they're supposed to go back to their jobs and whatnot. I've taken some criticism from some lawmakers who said I picked on Yarborough, when there are other people who had conflicted, such as teachers. There are only about 56 student tuition organizations within the entire state, so it's a much smaller class.

>> Howard Fischer:
Once you start drawing that line, that becomes the problem. We expect people to come down there. Jurors are told, yes, decide on the facts here, but don't leave your common sense and experience at the door. You decide on the basis of what you know.

>> Steve Goldstein:
One thing, talking about a citizen legislature so often now, we're almost at 150 days. I thought the session was going to end once it got hot. Should there be a push for this not to be a citizen legislature anymore?

>> Mark Brodie:
That's something that's talked about pretty much every year, often right at this table. It's tough to say. A lot of states have full-time legislature, and they don't do what they do. In a lot of cases you have people who are on the ground in these professions and it's really helpful to have that kind of knowledge. I'm not sure a full-time legislature would necessarily make Arizona legislature better.

>> Dennis Welch:
But when it comes back, you've got to look at the way the constitution was drawn. These are people who rode their horses and carriages down here to work. This is really an outdated model. We have introduced almost 2,000 bills this year. The whole idea of a representative democracy is so people can make an informed decision. How can you do that on 2,000 pieces of legislation?

>> Howard Fischer:
This is another issue which has to do with term limits. We want people out every eight years. Oh, that's brilliant.

>> Howard Fischer:
The scariest thing you should think about, the person with the most seniority is me. If that doesn't scare you, something should.

>> Dennis Welch:
There are many things about you that scare me.

>> Steve Goldstein:
Howie, recently there was a survey that the government put out about jobs and whether people like them or not.

>> Howard Fischer:
The most interesting thing was money was not the big issue. The big issue is the belief that somehow they have some effect, they have leadership, support from their principals, some role, that they have time. It also showed that nearly one out of every ten teachers their experience has said, I'm going to get out of teaching as soon as I can.

>> Howard Fischer:
There are days I look at journalism and say flipping burgers looked pretty good, but perhaps we need to look at the profession, look at who is attracted to it, not only the pay but the whole idea of support. This is one big complaint I always hear from teachers who say they say something to a kid, and what do they hear? You can't touch my Johnnie.

>> Dennis Welch:
I'm surprised only one out of ten wants to leave the profession as fast as they can. Considering the complaints about how underpaid and underappreciated they are. You can turn that around, it's not necessarily a bad thing since nine out of ten don't want to run for the hills.

>> Mark Brodie:
If we just had more say in how things are run, how the budget is spent, what the curriculum should look like, things like that. That seems like a fairly easy fix, to have a committee or group of teachers come up and just give some input.

>> Howard Fischer:
Let's put this back in the real world. You work for a radio station, Dennis works for the newspaper, I happen to be self-employed. You don't get to sit down and say, we're going to change the format here. Dennis doesn't get to sit down and say, here's how we ought to do the paper. The real world is top down. You get to the top, and you don't want to share that power.

>> Steve Goldstein:
Howie, finally, 31 years tomorrow since the former Arizona Republic reporter's car was blown up. Anything to his legacy?

>> Howard Fischer:
It's a little tricky. On the one hand it was good that the reporters got together and said, you can't kill one of ours and think you're going to get away with it. Lasting changes? I don't know. They threw out some charges that even the New York City and the Republic wouldn't pick up, although the Star and some of the other papers did. Has it made a change? There are other changes, I think the Meacham administration did. It's made for a lot more aggressive reporting in Arizona.

>> Steve Goldstein:
Gentlemen, we're out of time. I would like to thank Howie Fischer of Capital Hill Media Services, Dennis Welch of the East Valley Tribune and Mark Brodie of KJZZ. Coming up next week on "Horizon," Monday and Tuesday, special programming. Here's what's on Wednesday.

>> Steve Goldstein:
If you'd like to send questions for the governor send them to horizon@asu.edu. Thursday we'll look at apprehensions of illegal immigrants at the border. Numbers are down. Friday we'll be back with another edition of the "journalists roundtable." coming up next, the number of inmates in American prisons are outpacing the ability to hold them. All that is next on "now." everyone, have a good weekend. Thanks for watching "Horizon," I'm Steve Goldstein.

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