Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

May 13, 2005


Host: Michael Grant

Journalists Roundtable


  • senator John McCain, along with Congressman Jeff Flake and Jim Kolbe, introduced a new proposal to deal with the issue of illegal immigration. Valley Hispanics to flex some muscle on Tuesday by staging a boycott and protest against bills before the Arizona Legislature, and after 123 days, state lawmakers ended the current legislative session early this morning.
Guests:
  • Richard Ruelas - The Arizona Republic
Category: Journalists Roundtable

View Transcript
>> Michael Grant:
It's Friday May 13, 2005. In the headlines this week, Senator John McCain, along with Congressman Jeff Flake and Jim Kolbe, introduced a new proposal to deal with the issue of illegal immigration. Valley Hispanics to flex some muscle on Tuesday by staging a boycott and protest against bills before the Arizona Legislature, and after 123 days, state lawmakers ended the current legislative session early this morning. That's next on "Horizon."

>> Michael Grant :
Good evening. I'm Michael Grant and this is the Journalists Roundtable. Joining me to talk about these and other stories are Richard Ruelas of the "Arizona Republic," Howie Fischer of Capitol Media Services and Robbie Sherwood from the "Arizona Republic." On Thursday Senator John McCain joined with Senator Ted Kennedy and Congressman Jeff Flake and Jim Kolbe in introducing a new bill to address the issue of illegal immigration. Howie, what are the key points of the plan?

>> Howard Fischer:
Well, the key point is Ted Kennedy has signed onto something with Jeff flake and we're all sort of sitting here shocked. This is really divided up into two main areas. Number one, deals with the issue of the fact the business community in this state is dependent on foreign labor, and in much of the country. So what they're going to do is create 400,000 new work visas
for largely skilled and unskilled, aside from some other visas for family members and everything else to try and set it up so that companies can get the workforces they needed. The other part of it is for the people who are coming over under those plans, as well as people who are already here illegally, it would set up a path of regularization where they could, in fact, get permanent status after some period of time, after some record of working, after some record of having paid taxes here. Now, that becomes in the minds of some people amnesty, whether you want to call it that or not. It tells people who cross the border illegally, eventually you can get regularized. J.D. Hayworth pitched a fit as only J.D. can do, said this is going to take jobs from American workers, it's going to depress wages and it's just rewarded people for breaking the law.

>> Michael Grant:
Jim Kolbe said J.D. Hayworth didn't read the bill.

>>Robbie Sherwood:
There wasn't time, was there?

>> Howard Fischer:
Yes, J.D. in fact, as Richard points out, J.D. had the press release on the fax machine even as they were introducing the bill in D.C. But I think, look, J.D. has pretty good intelligence in terms of knowing what was going to be in there, he probably saw a draft copy and to the extent you call anything that regularizes people who are here amnesty, it plays, and it plays in a place like Arizona.

>> Richard Ruelas:
It plays in reelection. J.D. Hayworth is trying to get -- he is always going to run
for reelection. It was a lot of fun when we were trying to toss this around as a political football, and talk about amnesty, and let's just seal up the border and send them all back but this is an actual proposal. I think we've known this since the '90s. The answer is going to look something like what McCain and Kennedy propose this week.

>>Robbie Sherwood:
The proposal that's grounded in the reality of the situation which is these people are here and they're not going back, we don't have the resources to send them all back, that our economy does depend on their labor and so let's build something around that. That's incredibly unpopular with the folks politically who are building their careers on antiimmigration rhetoric.

>> Michael Grant:
Howie, despite the fact, that's a pretty powerful combination on both sides of the aisle with Ted Kennedy and John McCain, but I think a second half of Hayworth's message is, this is not going to be clear or easy sailing. There's going to be a fair amount of political opposition.

>>Howard Fischer:
Certainly. I mean, as rich points out, you can in some states, including much of Arizona, you can never go wrong by saying, we're going to send them all back, goddamn it. Isn't going to happen. Even assuming that the other part of the bill, which deals with better I.D. provisions for employers, that you'll know if the person you're hiring is here illegally, folks will always find employment here and as long as they find employment here, they will not go home. You could have a situation where you have maybe a come million folks in the United States illegally with or without employment working perhaps in a shadow economy and are going to be here no matter what happens with this legislation.

>> Michael Grant:
Richard, did you get much of a feel as to how the 400,000 number was ascertained? Because just looking at the statistics over the past several years, 400,000 looks a little bit on the lean side.

>>Richard Ruelas:
But then again, you have to account for all the jobs that are being filled now. How many new jobs are being added. This became a national problem in the last five or six years. I don't think a coffee picker in Oaxaca or Guatemala was thinking Ohio might be a nice place to live. They are there because companies enticed and recruited almost like college football players these workers to come up to these packing plants. There's no accident that this became a national problem and it needs a national resolution. There's going to be a lot of details of numbers of how many are going to be opened but the answer is going to be something like this.

>>Robbie Sherwood:
The key player here is obviously president George Bush. This plan, in some ways, mirrors the structure of a plan he threw out there during his bid for reelection, but if he fights for it as hard as he fought for that, it's dead.


>> Michael Grant:
The federal proposal includes some stepped-up employer sanctions, random audits, other things, Robbie. The legislature, however, didn't go with a set of employer sanctions.

>> Robbie Sherwood:
No, employer sanctions were attached to a couple of key bills, one that would deny a lot of other services under umbrella of prop 200, like adult literacy, college education, that sort of thing. Another one that would prevent cities from building taxpayer funded work centers. Democrats were able to successfully attach a series of amendments that would put the onus back on the employers to -- sanctions on employers who hire them. Republicans voted for them at the time because they were scared not to but under a conference committee, which is a little bit for secluded setting, they were able to strip those things off, send them back up and vote the bills they intended which is attacking only the immigrants problem.

>> Howard Fischer:
If nothing else, the effort to put those on in the Senate by Bill Brotherton now gives the governor political cover. She told me this morning, look, I'm not going to complain about what's in the bill in terms of House Bill 2030 and the expansion of prop 200, but very clearly the legislature has failed to understand the scope of immigration. People come here because there are jobs, there are available jobs. In fact, the head of KB homes admitted at a hearing within the last year that he depends and his industry is dependent on illegal labor. When you've got the business community saying in the open, we're hiring illegals, that's the nature of the beast.

>> Michael Grant :
So you are I thinking that the governor may veto that? Because it seems to me that from a political analysis that's a pretty risky move.

>> Howard Fischer:
But she signed some other things having to do with things like smuggling of illegals. She signed some bills that allow the fact that somebody's here illegally to be used as an aggravating circumstance if they are arrested on other crimes. There will be a measure on the ballot on denying bail to illegals. And this one she can say, "send me a comprehensive solution." Aside from the problem it's a federal problem, but "send me something comprehensive, send me something that means something," because as Robbie points out, House Bill 2030 has three provisions, adult education, subsidized child care and whether you pay in state or out of state tuition here at ASU. This is not going to exactly keep people from coming here. People are not coming here for adult education class.

>> Robbie Sherwood:
Absolutely the Republicans in 1996 will come after Napolitano and try to paint her soft on immigration because of the vetoes however I think they need to worry more about finding a candidate than an issue at this point.

>>Richard Ruelas:
The Arizona chamber of commerce was tickled pink that those employer sanctions were stripped out. I think you'll see the business community wanting something done on the federal level because I think people are starting to wake up and see this is actually an employer problem. People are hiring these people.

>>Howard Fischer:
Here's the other piece, and you're right, they would like the Kolbe bill or something to happen, so they can say, look, the problem has been solved. Russell Pearce in a curious way sides with brotherton and in a way the governor. He says this is a supply and a demand problem and he tries intends to put a ballot on the measure to impose the employer sanctions. That gets real interesting if you are going to attack the governor on the issue yet having Republicans put a measure on the balloted to exactly what she said needs to be done.

>> Michael Grant:
A boycott and a protest this week, Richard, do you think it was very successful or not?

>> Richard Ruelas:
I took the boycott on Wednesday because there was a Diamondbacks game in the afternoon. These boycott things, it's tough, because there's so many people here and you're trying to get a coalition together. It was also unclear whether it was supposed to be U.S.-born Latinos or just people here illegally. I don't know whether it was successful. But the message, I think, was clear. If every illegal immigrant in the state stopped working, companies would shut down. The state economy would grind -- especially in construction/resort, restaurants. We know where these jobs are. That's what they were trying to say. I don't think that representative Russell Pearce or some of these antiillegal immigration lawmakers are going to have their hearts softened by watching a Spanish language protest outside, but that is the same message, we're here doing jobs, we're here doing labor and we're not here to get adult literacy classes or welfare benefits.

>>Howard Fischer:
That gets back to the point. I think Russell concedes that. His argument is if you enforce the immigration laws, companies that are paying $6 an hour for illegal might have to pay $8 an hour.

>>Richard Ruelas:
I don't know if Russell would concede that. He just spent a campaign in prop 200 trying to stop illegal immigrants from obtaining welfare and voting.

>>Howard Fischer:
I think he truly believes --

>> Robbie Sherwood:
What may indeed be kind of a myth that there's in widespread fraud going on to get state services by these folks. I have never seen any studies --

>>Howard Fischer:
I want you to know that folks are coming from Guatemala to vote in the election in Russell Pearce's primary.

>> Michael Grant:
Listen, at the risk of moving this thing along, Robbie, let me -- the Flores case, obviously a related and major component. It was kind of last shoe to drop on the budget. How did the legislature deal with that before they shut it down this morning.

>> Robbie Sherwood:
They passed something. I'm not sure the judge is going to like it. I'm not sure Governor Napolitano is going to like it. It puts about $30 million, give or take, toward improving English language learner programs in this next year. It's the years down the road that raise a lot of questions. It doesn't become just a -- what we say in jargon a group B weight, just extra money applied to the program. It becomes a grant program in which schools are going to have to identify and justify all the other funds that they currently are using for ELL programs and then come to the state and ask for more. That structure did not sit well with a lot of Democrats, and they fought it tooth and nail, but were not able to stop it. Now this bill goes to the governor, and you want to know, well --

>> Michael Grant:
Is she going to veto --

>> Robbie Sherwood:
We don't know if she's going to veto that or the entire budget based on the way the agreement was structured. This bill was technically a piece of the budget. The governor said I'm not signing the budget until I get a satisfactory Flores agreement. I wouldn't call this satisfactory by the terms she laid out. Now what does she do, send this bill back and say let's start over on this or does she veto more?

>> Howard Fischer:
And that becomes an interesting question in terms of if you don't want to veto the whole $8.2 billion budget, you take the one piece that many Republicans care about, which is tuition tax credits for private and parochial schools, you veto that bill and say, let's come back and talk.

>> Michael Grant:
Why doesn't this work as plan B, sign the thing, run it down to the federal court in Tucson, and test the temperature down there as to whether or not this was adequate or not. If not call the legislature back into special session?

>> Howard Fischer:
It delays the process certainly. It also runs the risk if the federal court says it's not satisfactory, Tim Hogue sun going to try to withhold $400 million a year in federal aid. Point three, because this thing was crafted as only a couple lawyers could love, it's got a conditional enactment clause. The money only comes if the court first approves pit that but the court won't approve it until the money is there. Wonderful!

>> Michael Grant:
Before we leave this segment, another federally related development. Base closure list, Howie, came out, and a lot of people in Glendale and the West Valley breathing a sigh of relief.

>> Howard Fischer:
Arizona dodged a bullet on this, particularly out near Luke where there is a lot of feeling encroachment throughout would undermine the mission of training pilots out there. There are going to be some losses at Luke, the numbers are like 278, but, again, out of the total number of civilian and military people out, there that's not much.

>> Michael Grant:
I think total statewide was maybe 500 personnel or so, in the universe of several thousand.

>> Howard Fischer:
You have only two facilities being closed, one a reserve center in Tucson that the people in Tucson didn't know exist, and the other is a research lab in Mesa that people said, what?

>> Robbie Sherwood:
Quickly it comes down to great weather in Arizona. We can fly almost every day here, and I think that that was a huge plus, even despite some of the encroachment issues around these bases. We can just fly every day here.

>> Michael Grant:
The military hopes the drought Cubs. -- continues. About 1:30 this morning state lawmakers put the finishing touches on the current legislative session. One of the bills approved in the closing hours was a compromise on the AIMS test. Robbie what is the bill going to mean for seniors who graduate in 2006?

>> Robbie Sherwood:
It's going to mean that you have a little bit of a fallback position if you don't pass the AIMS test. What it allows you to do is if your score is not sufficient to pass AIMS, you can make up about -- you can make up up to 25\% of that score through your grades and coursework. So if you have gotten As, Bs, and Cs in your coursework and you fulfilled your 21 required credit hours to pass, you can make up 25 points. The standard is 500, but your score was 400, you can just get there by building up 100 points through your coursework provided it's strong enough.

>> Michael Grant:
Was this Senate president Ken Bennett paying back Thayer Verschoor for his votes on the budget.

>>Robbie Sherwood:
They say it wasn't. Obviously Verschoor came to bat for them on the budget, so you have to wonder about that. And it was also Bennett realizing if I don't step in and tried to do something to preserve aims as a graduation requirement, as an accountability measure, they're going to run over me and strip it as a graduation requirement. The votes were there.

>> Michael Grant:
Richard, combined with the news today that the passing grade has been dropped to, I think, what most of us would consider to be a failing grade, I'm not sure there's anything left of AIMS anyway.

>> Richard Ruelas:
You get half the questions right, a little over half -- I would answer C, all the kids out there, answer C to pretty much. Statistically if I did the numbers right, I think it works out. Again, this was a fun political issue a decade ago. AIMS was a great idea, high stakes testing, until now, the stakes are actually high and there's going to be about two-thirds of the classes that get to graduate. I don't think anyone wants to be the politician that told little Johnny he can't graduate from high school.

>> Michael Grant:
Obviously nobody wants to be the politician that says let's call the whole thing
off.

>>Richard Ruelas:
This is a way, I sort of to put the feet of public education to fire, let's do charter schools, let's do tuition tax credits and build up private and parochial schools. I think what we've seen in the last decades, Arizonans still like public education and want their child to succeed in their public school.

>>Howard Fischer:
But we still come down to the question is there something you should know by the time you get out? See, for people who come from other states, I spent the first 12 years of my life in New York, if you want a diploma, a regents diploma, you take a test. Nobody thought about it. It's been a decade here that Richard points out that we have been din King around with this trying to find out do kids need to learn. Some of the early efforts were flawed because you had an out of state corporation crafting the questions. We now finally have Arizona teachers doing it. It is a legitimate question that even if kids are bad at taking tests and freeze up and do all Cs down the thing because they don't know what else to do, there has to be a way ensuring over 212 school districts that by the time you get out you have learned basic reading, basic writing, and enough math that you may not know trig and calc, but you know enough algebra to do an equation and figure out your mortgage payment is going to be.

>> Robbie Sherwood:
There's a lot of parents feel like what their child should know are the answers to the college entrance exam where they're applying, and increasingly what the research is showing people who are focused on high stakes tests don't do as well on college entrance exams, they're measuring two different things, but who is going to be more successful, the kid who aces the college entrance exam or AIMS?

>> Michael Grant:
Another education related issue, what did the legislature finally do with that bill that would have capped tuition increases during your tenure to only the rate of inflation?

>>Howard Fischer:
Well, it got out of the Senate on a bipartisan vote and all of a sudden a couple of things happened. Number one, the university lobbyists woke up, and number two, the governor suddenly said, do I want this bill on my desk? And I think her lobbyist rallied the Democrats in the house, who with enough Republicans, killed it. The funny thing is that it's not an outrageous proposal as it sounds. I talked to John Haeger, the president of NAU, and John said, look, it's true if we want to protect ourselves, incoming for freshmen next year we would have to raise the base tuition from 14 to 16\%, which is nothing given the 40\% increase a come years ago. But once we're there we can guarantee tuition increases over five years of no more than 3\%. He said we run the numbers and they work. But somehow this was too much for the universities to accept, the Board of Regents certainly to accept, because they said this is our power and we don't want the legislature playing.

>> Michael Grant:
Things monetary, governor staff pouring over -- we've already talked about the Flores component. Other issues in the budget?

>>Robbie Sherwood:
They found a few weasels in the wood pile as a result of passing this huge massive document at 2:00 in the morning literally after they typed it onto the paper. The question is, well, do these things really change the deal if the governor does sign off on the budget on everything but Flores, she's going to have to accept of the measures because the session ended last night with no resolution. But they were things like with the tuition tax credit, I think the governor negotiated a true sunset for it to go away. What happens now is a review of that, and if they want to get rid of it, it would take a two-thirds majority because it would be like passing a tax increase. It's never going away under that sort of law. There are a few other things in there, some -- what's called maximizing federal funds where they're going through and scrubbing their books. The legislature wrote in there -- that won't just go into the general fund or we'll appropriate that. Governors don't like the legislature appropriating their federal funds. It's just something that ended up in there on purpose or accident that they found after the budget had been approved.


>> Michael Grant:
Interestingly enough, if I recall correctly, the general fund budget is -- I won't call it a fraction, but in terms of the total amount of money coming into the state, it's not all that big a deal.

>>Robbie Sherwood:
It's more like a third compared to the federal funds that come in. Governors of every stripe are very protective of that power to appropriate.

>> Michael Grant:
In fact, I seem to recall governor Fife Symington arguing with a similar concept. What was the final outcome on that bill on the methamphetamine, the cold medicine dispensation issues?

>>Howard Fischer:
How come you always come to me with the drug questions? I'm not sure how that always happens but it happens. Here's the problem. Sudafed is a very legal and very useful decongestant. Sudafed is the brand name -- many medicines have it. Well, if you're good at it and if you have some basic knowledge of chemistry, you can cook it down to meth, and it's a question of not only making illegal drugs but making a drug that gives off toxic and flammable fumes. The problem is under current law you can walk in and buy up to 24 grams at any one time, and that's like 400 doses of the stuff, in case you have a really, really bad cold. This -- the idea was to take it so you could only buy 9 grams, 150 doses, and what Tom owe Hal run wanted was only once a month. And the way he would enforce that is have it behind the pharmacy counter, and you would have to sign a logbook and produce I.D. The business community came unglued. Pfizer makes Sudafed. The retailers, convenience stores who wouldn't be able to sell it, came unglued and got Barbara Leff to sponsor a version to say we'll make it 9 grams, and we'll put it behind any one counter --

>> Michael Grant:
Basically take it out of the general distribution area of the store. It's interesting Richard, there has been such opposition because Oklahoma claims to have had substantial success with a similar measure.

>> Richard Ruelas:
It's a common sense -- seems like a common sense solution to a problem -- to a problem a lot of Arizonans want to deal with. We've pass add bill where we can say we're getting tough even though we haven't done anything.

>>Robbie Sherwood:
I'm not sure these hurdles present a problem for the people who want the Sudafed.

>> Howard Fischer:
They're clearly motivated.

>> Robbie Sherwood:
Anybody who has had the misfortune of knowing people who abuse this drug, they are geniuses at getting more drugs. If, say, you're limiting it to per transaction, that's assuming they're not going to be smart enough to get in line again and get more.

>> Michael Grant:
Are we going to be sampling wine and beer and stuff like that --

>> Howard Fischer:
Yes, we are. In about 90 days grocery stores sampling of small amounts of wine, beer and liquor will be legal.

>> Robbie Sherwood:
Behind the counter with a logbook?


>> Richard Ruellas:
No n front of the counter.

>> Howard Fischer:
This is an interesting . This year as every other year there was a separate bill to allowism sampling which went nowhere. They got smart --

>> Michael Grant:
The old omnibus bill.

>> Howard Fischer:
Let me tell you what else, it increased the number of liquor licenses in Maricopa County. The omnibus bill changes the conditions under which the department of liquor license control can do sting operations. It's got some other provisions in there about operations of restaurants and everything else. So they tucked it in there, along with some provisions on drive-through windows and everything else, and all of a sudden poof we have a sampling law.

>> Michael Grant:
We mentioned the possibility, I suppose, of a special session on Flores. On any other potential special sessions?

>>Robbie Sherwood:
I think the Flores is going to be the key one, plus if she -- like Howie said, if she sends down a hostage, like something to ensure they do Flores, I'm assuming she would stick that in the same special session.

>>Howard Fischer:
It does leave the possibility, the one other thing still undone this session is state trust land. You have a number of lawmakers out there who are not happy with what the AEA wants to do, the Arizona education association, would like to put something different on the ballot but that assumes you can bring all the parties together, the cattle growers, environment a.m. community, and the builders and the State Land Department, and that's been the problem so far.

>>Robbie Sherwood:
I'm not holding my breath on that one.

>> Michael Grant:
You know, they could always run it around the horn on an initiative, I suppose. Panelists, we are out of time. Thank you very much. If you would like to see a transcript of tonight's program, please visit the web site. You will find that at www.azpbs.org. When you get there, click on the word "Horizon." That is going to lead you to transcripts, links and information on upcoming shows. Thank you very much for joining us for this Friday edition of "Horizon." I hope you have a great weekend! I'm Michael Grant. Good night.

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