Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

June 8, 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:
  • Mary Jo Pitzl - Arizona Republic
Category: Journalists Roundtable

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>>Howard Fischer:
It's Friday, June 8th, 2007. In the headlines this week, plans to re-shape the nation's immigration laws have apparently hit a roadblock. We'll look at Senator John McCain's ranks in the latest presidential candidate poll, and state lawmakers had a short week this week. We'll update you on what they did and didn't accomplish. That's next on "Horizon."

>>Announcer:
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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 are Mary Jo Pitzl of the Arizona Republic, Mike Sunnucks of The Business Journal, and Paul Giblin of the East Valley at Scottsdale Tribune. Well, a Federal Immigration Bill stopped in the Senate. Opponents apparently collected enough votes to block its progress. Mary Jo, let's start off with what went wrong in Washington?

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
Well, some would argue that the initial bill itself was wrong. It generated a lot of heat, a lot of dissent as everybody's seen over the last couple of weeks. But After this big compromise was announced, everybody came in and wanted to tweak a little something here and add a little something there, and that destroys the nature of a compromise.

>>Howard Fischer:
So, who's fault is that? Is it Jon Kyl's fault? He was part of the architect of it, yet he voted against halting debate.

>>Paul Giblin:
Right, Jon Kyl's philosophy was so let all the Republicans air their views and try to make amendments. Whether they made it or not, he thought having a full discussion will help make ensure the final package would pass.

>>Mike Sunnucks:
We got some folks in the Left, Barbara Boxer, Byron Dorgan, some other folks, that don't like the Guest Worker Program. They think it will displace the American workers. They think the businesses can exploit that. They can bring in 200,000 to 400,000 workers each year. They are worried about that. Over on the Right, folks like Cornyn and some of the Conservative Republicans are worried about the security and amnesty part and passed bills. They passed this border fence bill last time, and they really haven't built much of the fence. And so, I think there's a creditability gap there with the Grassroots Republicans. They don't think they will come through on the security side, but they're gonna let the amnesty go through, and the Guest Worker go through.

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
I know that Senate President Harry Reed was -- he was blaming the President, saying, "Look, this is one of his priorities. He needs to line up more Republicans." They can't do the bill with just Democratic votes and obviously, he can't do it with just with Republican votes.

>>Paul Giblin:
Well, that's what Kyl was telling me in a discussion I had with him. He thinks that the bill, or a version of this bill, can pass with largely just the Democrats, which is why he said he became involve in it to try and shape it to his manner, more of a Republican kind of view to it.

>>Mike Sunnucks:
The question is what does Kyl want from the Conservative, the "Security First" folks get out of the bill? There's a lot of talk in the security part, but their history is not following through on that.

>>Paul Giblin:
What Kyl will tell you, what he views are his advantages and accomplishments are -- he takes credit in putting this whole skills and emphasis on incoming immigrants, he said previously if it was a McCain bill--I'm sorry--a Kennedy bill, it would be family members that sort of thing.

>>Howard Fischer:
But that raises the questions. Bill Richardson was in town and made the same point: we should do more for family members. It seems like everybody wants something. My question, maybe for you, Mary Jo, are we all looking for a custom fit in and off the rack world?

>>Mary Jo Pitl:
That's a nice little quote. Yea, it seems like it, and you want the bill to be the way you want it, or you can't back it, and that sort of goes against the nature of a compromise.

>>Mike Sunnucks:
Yea, I think the polls show the American people want the borders secured first, and they want Employer Sanctions and then the Guest Worker Program and some of the other stuff going on. Of course, these bills, the way Washington works they have to clump everything together and try to do it at once to get enough votes.

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
Well, of course, last year they tried to do the "Security First" part, and they didn't get them too far.

>>Mike Sunnucks:
And they built, what, seven miles of the 700 miles?

>>Paul Giblin:
All of that stuff you just talked about, Mike, are included in the bill that I think may come back to the light.

>>Mike Sunnucks:
The problem is that the security part, lost a lot of folks don't think it will happen.

>>Paul Giblin:
They don't think the security will happen, or the guest worker program or anything will happen.

>>Mike Sunnucks:
Expect the amnesty and Guest Worker Program.

>>Paul Giblin:
If nothing happens, nothing happens, right?

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
Aren't there some triggers in this bill that are supposed to be skewed to let the "Security First" business happen first, and then Guest Worker, some of the family provision.

>>Howard Fischer:
And that's the question. You say nothing happening. OK, Randy Pullen, head of The Republican Party, put out a press release after this, saying, "Look, we've won!" OK, Mike, are we better with nothing happening? Is what we have now better than what's in the bill?

>>Mike Sunnucks:
I guess the choice is whether we are going to try to go piecemeal, "Security First" or wall sanctions or do it at once. The politics of it, counting the votes they have to lump everything in there to get the democrats and business folks in there and you have to have guest worker program and amnesty. My hunch is it will not make it through.

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
I mean, clearly, the answer is no, we are not better off with the status quo. People are very unhappy with the current situation. It's trying to find a way to bring people to the table and get enough votes to move it along to allegedly better the system.

>>Mike Sunnucks:
There's a lot of question on whether it will better the system. If you are going to legalize a lot of folks, there will be a lot trying to get in because they will think there's an amnesty whether there is or not.

>>Paul Giblin:
There is an amnesty right now. If you don't do anything, there is an amnesty right now.

>>Mike Sunnucks:
How about enforcing the laws? That's what Karen Johnson said when she went over to Kyl's office? How about enforcing our existing laws? How about going after the employers who hire these people? How about actually deporting some of these people?

>>Paul Giblin:
These are not good systems, if they could work, why are they not working?

>>Howard Fischer:
That brings up an interesting point. Why are they not supporting the existing laws? How does all this play out in terms of the State's bill on employers' sanctions? Does it give it more impetus now that the Congress has failed?

>>Paul Giblin:
Well, I don't agree. I'm not sure it failed yet. It may be dead or come back next week. I think what we're seeing State level and Arizona and the country, people are frustrated. They want something to happen. We're getting the piecemeal things at the State level and I think it would push the Federals to do something.

>>Mike Sunnuck:
I think we will definitely see a sanctions measure on the ballot because of this. The Conservative Grassroots base of the Republican Party come up hard on this on the talk radio and won this part of the battle and Russell Pearce and Don Goldwater will see how they've done on past ballot measures and say, "Why not? We think the voters are with us."

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
And maybe there will be something on the ballot. That's 18 months off. My hunch is there will be a Employers Sanctions Bill. This is important leadership thing for the GOP in the Legislature. They are working on it. Russell Pearce says it's about 90\% there. Seeing the argument against doing anything, wait, Congress is acting. Congress is acting. All they have to do is point to this week and say we can't trust that DC is going to do these.

>>Mike Sunnucks:
Do you think it will be two strikes you are out bill?

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
I don't know what form it will take. I think they will try the darndest to get it out and up to the Governor.

>>Mike Snnnucks:
Where does our Governor stand on this specifically? She voices general supports for sanctions, but every time they send something up, she vetoes it and it's hard to pin her down on what exactly she supports.

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
She says she doesn't want anything to conflict with Federal law. When Kyl was in town two weeks ago, he said likely that anything the Fed pass would probably preempt State law. You can sort of do your own thing in Arizona. do whatever you want in Arizona or Oklahoma or elsewhere. If there is a change in Federal law, that would probably supersede it.

>>Howard Fischer:
The calculus that the Governor has to look at is if she doesn't sign this and can be amended if there's some flaws, she knows she gets the Goldwater-Pearce initiative, and the odds are, I assume, that passes given what we've seen in the other bills.

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
Right, right. You also assume if you have a bill, you won't have a ballot measure. I don't know why we wouldn't necessarily have both.

>>Mike Sunnucks:
I agree.

>>Howard Fischer:
OK, let's talk about something else. You say the bills are not dead, let's talk about something else not being dead yet, let's talk about John McCain's presidential ambitions. Tom Tancredo suggested that based on what happened with this thing falling apart, our senior Senator should put a fork in it.

>>Paul Giblin:
In this campaign?

>>Howard Fischer:
Yes.

>>Paul Giblin:
People on the far end of the party have never liked him. I don't think this week's developments did anything to change that. There was a poll that came out this week about how he's perceived in Arizona. He's still among Republicans leading the pack there. He finished ahead with 35\%. Rudy Giuliani dipped a little bit, down to 20\%. Mitt Romney, who has campaigned hard here, more so than any of the other guys, he's at 7\%, which is interesting because Fred Thompson, who is not even a candidate, tied him at 7\%.

>>Howard Fischer:
And that's an interesting question, Fred Thompson, of all the people, seems to be the one the Conservatives trusts most on some of these social and border issues. Does he get a leg up and not just because he's on "Law & Order"?

>>Mike Sunnucks:
Yea, I think he's got the momentum right now. He's kind of that Populist, Ronald Reagan-type Republican, and the Conservatives seem to trust him a little more than McCain, Romney and Rudy. There's some questions about Thompson work ethic and how hard he worked when he was in the Senate. But you see a lot of Republicans who are kind of lukewarm towards the other three, kind of going towards Thompson right now. Interesting, Thompson kind of took a negative view on the Immigration Bill. I still think McCain's got a chance because I think religion is a big challenge for Romney. He hasn't moved in the polls. Rudy's very Liberal on social issues and he's got personal background problems. And John was very strong on the Presidential debate the other night. Very forceful, very emotionAL in his defense of the War, and I can see him just kind of sticking it out and staying in there. He's been pretty consistent in his National polling. He's about 20\%.

>>Howard Fischer:
But let me go back to Paul's point here. The Conservatives have never really trusted him. They see his kissing up to Jerry Falwell as being suddenly revised history. If they don't trust him, and they don't show up at the Primaries--

>>Mike Sunnucks:
They will never trust him. I think it's pretty clear. He's done a lot of things to try to heal those wounds. We went out and campaigned heavily for Bush and a lot of Republicans in the last two cycles. He went and met with Falwell, and he's been consistently Pro-Life, consistently for tax cuts, and other things he's off the reservations on. But they do not trust him on a personal level. But, he could win by default because of some of the failings of other candidates.

>>Howard Fischer:
Default would have to fall.

>>Paul Giblin:
If I can offer another theory. It seems to me if you look back at McCain back in 2000, he was a fresh young guy, kind of a maverick. People were looking at him, and then people were looking at Giuliani initially because he was a new guy, and now his numbers are dipping. People like Romney, they find out a little bit more about him, he dipped. Now Fred Thompson, we still don't know much about him, he's going up. I think people are looking for a candidate, and I'm not sure it will be over for a long time.

>>Mike Sunucks:
Yea, it's so early too. You've seen people peak already. That's a problem for McCain. He's out there so much. He's been out there talking about the War every single day. And the War's not a popular issue. That's hit his approval ratings.

>>Howard Fischer:
You talk about the fresh face. The poll also mentioned Hillary and Barack. Is our fresh face still gaining ground on the--excuse the expression--than the older face of Hillary.

>>Paul Giblin:
Hillary came in at 26\% and Barack Obama, the Illinois Senator, he's moving up at 22\%. He's within the margin of error, and he's heading upward.

>>Howard Fischer:
Let's go to the Legislature. Last year voters passed Prop 100, which says, "If you are here illegally, if you're charged with a serious crime and if the presumption is great that you are guilty, you're supposed to stay in jail." Isn't happening according to Andy Thomas. The legislature wants to tweak it this bit.

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
Yes. In fact, they came in with a late-arriving bill and got a hearing and rushed through a floor vote yesterday in the House that says, "If indeed they lowered the standard of evidence to--

>>Howard Fischer:
Probable Cause.

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
Probable Cause--I'm mixing up my standards--and said if there's any kind of Probable Cause for an individual held for a crime that's here illegally, you got to hold them and hold them without bail". This is direct in response to to a number of cases where people who have found to be illegal have been released on bail and out running around before anybody figures out what happened.

>>Mike Sunnucks:
This is a great issue for the Republicans. It was a voter approved initiative for immigration. You have judges, activist judges letting criminals out when they should be keeping them in. This is perfect for the Republicans. They probably can't wait to get this up to the Governor.

>>Howard Fischer:
Of course, the argument of the judges is there's Rules of Evidence say we can only consider certain things. We've got hearsay, double hearsay, triple hearsay and then, you got groups like the Democrats saying, "Well, if you happen to be brown and if you happen to speak Spanish is that, you know, probable cause that you're here illegally?"

>>Mike Sunnucks:
Yea. Those are concerns and they are valid concerns. This bill sets the guidelines through to look at that and, you know, if there's enough evidence that you're illegal. Plus, there are serious felons accused of serious crimes not somebody caught stealing. These are serious crimes. Russel Pearce and the other guy said we're keeping serious criminals off the streets.

>>Howard Fischer:
Let's talk about something else in the Capitol and Business area. For the first time since 1999 it looks like injured workers are going to get an increase in benefits.

>>Mike Sunnucks:
Yeah, they are moving a bill to increase benefits over the next two years and then index it to inflation. Our worker's comp. benefits kind of rank low compared to other states. The business groups went along because they were worried the Union would take to the ballots and have a higher increase and that's what happened with the minimum wage and good chance of passing and figured they would work out a deal with the ACL-CIO and some of the Unions.. The Governor's office seems to be somewhat aboard on this.

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
Yea, and there's an interesting parallel with minimum wage. it's been 10 years since this State - well, since the Federal Government had done anything with raising the minimum wage so labor and the State decided to take it to the ballot. You can make the same argument about this is helping people down on their luck. It's been eight years since there's been any kind of adjustment. How long--have you gone eight years without a pay increase? [ laughter ]

>>Mike Sunnucks:
One thing about the ballot measure. Minimum wage is easy. Everybody understands that pretty well and Republicans tend to support that. Worker's comp. is pretty complicated. If there's a ballot with 20 ballot measures on there, it could have been one that was so complicated that people don't know. I think the chances of it passing were probably good but not a blowout.

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
Obviously it's taken seriously because that's why business came around.

>>Howard Fischer:
Let's see if they go with the hat trick, in terms of the AFL because we haven't had a hike in jobless benefits in a few years. OK, Mike, AFL and unions got the increase in the minimum wage and increase negotiated with the worker's comp. Are we likely to see a pressure here saying "you increase the jobless benefits, or we're gonna take this to the ballot."?

>>Mike Sunnucks:
I can see them pushing for that. The issue's been played around with a few times past few years. Carolyn Allen work on that with that chambers and Janet vetoed it a couple of years ago, and they worked out a deal. I can see them coming back with that. It's the same thing with immigration. This is a populous measure with populous State. Folks look at these things and vote their gut if the Legislature is not going to act on these things. If you have the money and wherewithal to take it to the ballot, why not?

>>Howard Fischer:
Let's talk about something else going on at the Capitol, Arizona, Maricopa County is under a deadline from the EPA about our air quality. It's day 152 of the session. So where are we with our air quality solution, Mary Jo?

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
Oh, we're stuck, it's stagnant, just like a layer of bad air sitting over the Valley. This is no surprise. More than year ago, it was a known that the Metro Area had failed to meet the health standards for Coarse Particulates. So, they start to get to work, but you never get anything done until there is a deadline, and the absolute drop dead deadline is the end of this year to get some policies in place that would cut down on production of coarse particulates, and it's just been a battle at the Legislature. The Governor and Senator Carolyn Allen introduced the bill with much fanfare at the beginning of the session. Hours later, just a few hours later, it was stripped of any of its teeth, and they started to work it through with stakeholder groups. Right now, it appears to be hung up over a provision on what type of gas should be mandated for Pinal County which is fast growing, and the proponents of this want something called clean-burning gas. if you drive in Maricopa, we're all buying and using clean-burning gas. It cost a little more, and the rub is that some folks say we don't need it in the Winter in Pinal. We just really need it in the summer to fight ozone pollution. That's the other pollutant that the Air Quality Bill is dealing with. So, we want six months of one and six of the other.

>>Howard Fischer:
Well, that raises the questions, Paul, particularly with the Valley perspective, you have folks living in Florence who are driving into the Valley and living outside of the containment area and coming into and polluting "our air." is it fair to say if you show in the Valley, if you work in the Valley, you ought to be contributing to the cleaner air here?

>>Paul Giblin:
Yes, it's fair to say that. And other interesting aspect is gas companies love the things when you change the gas just a little bit. Any excuse to push up prices. So honestly, it makes better sense to have everyone have the same gas.

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
Statewide?

>>Paul Giblin:
Sure.

>>Mike Sunnucks:
I think when they introduced the bill, they kind of misstepped. Because they focused on leaf blowers. I think the public is for cleaning the air up. I don't know that the public is going to get behind restricting leaf blowers on high pollution days.

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
Well, I think they are gonna get used to it. I think that is going to be in the bill, and frankly, there are a lot of people who would love to see a ban on leaf blowers because they don't like the noise. The bill's got lots of --

>>Mike Sunnucks:
I think in Carolyn Allen's constituency, in Scottsdale they don't want the leafblowers.

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
There are many resorts that already have policies that you can't use leaf blowers early in the morning because it disturbs the guest.

>>Paul Giblin:
Keep your hands off my leaf blower! [laughter]

>>Mike Sunnucks:
We have contradictory policies going on here. We want to cleanup the air and then we talk about all these highways we're gonna build. We approve all these sprawling suburbs and I think those cars, probably, pump a few pollutants in the air.

>>Howard Fischer:
Excellent segue here. OK, I-17 heaven help you if you want to go to Flagstaff on Friday night or come back on Sunday. Now ADOT is saying maybe we need another one or two roads up there. Are we solving a problem or creating a new one?

>>Mike Sunnucks:
Everybody knows it's an absolute nightmare getting in and out of Phoenix at Rush Hour on I-17. Anytime there's an accident on that road, it's horrible. It's a tourism route, it's a big business route for trucks coming into Phoenix from the northern parts of the State. So, something needs to be done on the business in growth side. We can't get away from that. The question is, "What are you going to do?" They have talked about this for years about different alternatives.

>>Paul Giblin:
You were talking about pollution from cars driving up there. The real pollution is when the cars are stalled on that thing because it's too small to divert traffic because of a wreck. If you want to get rid of pollution, let people drive.

>>Howard Fischer:
OK, but this leads to the other part of the equation. I believe that people make a decision they are willing to drive "X"-number of minutes to work. That's when they decide where to live. If we make it easier for people to live in the Prescott or somewhere else, do we end up encouraging urban sprawl that we really don't want and creating another problem?

>>Paul Giblin:
The reason we have urban sprawl is because people are moving here because the economy is strong. People are coming, whether we have roads or not, we learned that with the Intercity Freeways. So, they'll come. Now, we can either have them bumper to bumper on inadequate roads or we can build roads where they can drive around a little bit more.

>>Mike Sunnucks:
A lot of people who come here don't want to live in a city. That's why they're here, it's the Sunbelt suburban landscape. They like that. They don't want to live in Boston or Chicago or they would be living there. A lot of people choose to live here and the housing prices. You can get a nice house farther out in the suburbs and ring around the suburbs the prices go up there and people go out farther.

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
A lot of that speaks to land use planning. You could accommodate more people coming here and still try to contain the growth in certain areas. There's just not the political will to do that. It would change in certain places the type of housing styles and neighborhoods that you have.

>>Howard Fischer:
Let's talk about one other thinking before we leave. The State House gave final approval this week to a gun bill that says if you want to go to a government building, if you want to come here to the Channel 8 Studios, you bring your gun. If we don't want it in here, we have to provide lockers. If we don't provide enough lockers.

>>Mike Sunnucks:
You can carry it around and shoot in the air I guess if you want to.

>>Howard Fischer:
I don't know, Mike, is it a good idea to say if you have 20 lockers, the 21st guy gets to bring his gun?

>>Mike Sunnucks:
It doesn't seem fair to everybody else that checks their guns. I think in a lot of parts of the country, you just don't take guns in government buildings. They are just banned. You can't do that. If you brought your gun with you for some reason to go to the library or gym or City Hall, you can't bring it in. I don't know that the government really has an obligation to accommodate somebody. But, we're Arizona where people like their gun rights and people are trying to find middle ground.

>>Howard Fischer:
But the argument, Paul, that some lawmakers make is if you leave your gun in the car, it can get stolen and unprotected while you're walking through the dark parking lot. Is there an obligation of the government to say if we don't want the gun, we will provide safe storage?

>>Paul Giblin:
That's a tough one, Howard! I don't know. Should you leave it in the car or put it in the locker? Who's watching the lockers? It seems to create as many problems as itself!

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
When I go to Macy's and buy a bunch of stuff, should I be allowed to take it in the public buildings no matter how big and cumbersome the bags are? Because if I leave it in the car, they could get stolen. Cars get broken into all the time. It's easy to hide a gun in the car.

>>Paul Giblin::
People leave their children with the valet. Maybe you could leave your gun with the valet.

>>Mike Sunnucks:
Maybe you can leave your dog in the store.

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
In a way, it's a gun valet bill.

>>Mike Sunnucks:
I think it comes down to our overall public safety. Maybe bring the gun to the City Hall meeting next time.

>>Howard Fischer:
Overall public safety, if everybody has a gun, nobody will start shooting us. Isn't that the way it works? Isn't that the Russell Pearce philosophy?

>>Paul Giblin:
I heard that philosophy. I am not sure it works.

>>Howard Fischer:
So, you didn't bring a gun to the studio tonight? He's not answering, folks. Fair enough. Guys, thanks very much. It's a wonderful discussion tonight. We'll be back to tell you what's happening next week.

>>Larry Lemmons:
Mortgage Fraud is becoming a more of a problem in Arizona's Real Estate market. New legislation would punish those who collude to inflate the value of the home and pocket the excess cash. And our regular segment "One-On-One" features issues that are bubbling up from the Legislature. Two political types go head to head Monday night at 7:00 on Channel 8's "Horizon".

>>Howard Fischer:
Tuesday, we'll talk about a new law regarding fire service in county islands. Wednesday, a climate change special. Friday, we'll be back here with another edition of the journalists' Roundtable.

>>Howard Fischer:
Coming up next on "Now" are some medical procedures more about profit than patients? That's next. Further ahead, we've got "Bill Moyer's Journal", and at 10:00, "Broadway the American Musical". Have an incredibly wonderful weekend. This is Howard Fischer, good night.

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