Zona Politics: Meet the Democrats Running for State House in District 9

July 24th, 2016 from Zona Politics with Jim Nintzel on Vimeo.

On this week's episode of Zona Politics with Jim Nintzel: We talk with the three Democrats running for two House of Representatives seats in Arizona's Legislative District 9. Incumbent Reps. Randy Friese and Matt Kopec and challenger Pamela Powers Hannley all talk about education spending, their opposition to expanding vouchers, their positions on propositions that would raise the minimum wage and legalize marijuana for recreational use, funding for Planned Parenthood, legislation to address gun violence and more. 

You can watch the show at 8 a.m. Sunday on the CW Tucson, Channel 8 on Cox and Comcast and Channel 58 on DirecTV, Dish and broadcast. You can also hear it tomorrow at 5 p.m. on Community Radio Station KXCI, 91.3 FM. Or you can watch online by the above video.

Here's a rush transcript of the show.

(Nintzel) Hello, everyone. I'm Tucson Weekly's senior writer Jim Nintzel, and we're here to talk Zona Politics. Today, we'll be talking to three Democratic candidates for two House of Representative seats in Legislative District 9, which includes the north side of Tucson, the Catalina Foothills and the Casas Adobes area. We start with state Rep. Randy Friese. a trauma surgeon who won a seat in the Arizona House of Representatives two years ago. Randy, welcome to Zona Politics.

(Friese) Thanks, Jim. Pleasure.

(Nintzel) So, what makes you the best candidate for the job after two years of serving up there?

(Friese) Well, I think that's exactly it. I mean two years, serving my first term, I had the pleasure of getting elected in 2014, learned a lot in my first term. Read everything, very active in debates, asked a lot of questions, and I think, most importantly, I established some really good important relationships not only with my own caucus, my Democratic colleagues, but also across the aisle. I really established relationships with some people that are potentially going to be in leadership next session, after the election. I think it's a matter of building respect for each other, and then you develop trust, and then you can begin to think about compromise and negotiating. But I've taken those first few steps. I think I've gotten their respect, and I think I've earned their trust.

(Nintzel) Proposition 123 passed earlier this year. It does provide more money for education, but do you think there has to be a second step? Does there need to be more investment in education?

(Friese) Oh there's no question there needs to be a second step. In fact, when we had the special session in October, and we talked about there needs to be a second step, when we had the budget debates this past session. We talked about "Let's have a second step, let's make a second step, in this budget." We didn't. The governor also promised a second step. One of the things that my Republican colleagues are saying this session that really disappointed me and one of the things that they were proudly stating was that "We're holding schools harmless this year." We're holding K-12 harmless." Well I find that unfortunate. I find that unacceptable. We're talking about a year where we had a $600-million-dollar surplus, $400 million dollars in the rainy day fund, I mean we'll have to hold schools harmless, meaning "Don't cut them anymore, but don't give them any more." We need to reinvest in our schools. We need to restore them to the place where they can get our kids the education they need.

(Nintzel) One of the big battles up at the legislature this last year involved the idea of expanding these vouchers, essentially to nearly every school child in Arizona. Your thoughts on that policy.

(Friese) This is not sustainable. I mean, having the ESA accounts, the Empowerment Scholarship Accounts available to every public school child is just not sustainable. Our public school system will collapse. Particularly, there has to be a line in the sand where too many children, or too many families are taking advantage of these things and we won't be able to fund our public schools, and they won't be able to serve the purpose they're supposed to serve, and that's educate our kids, give our kids the opportunity to improve their lives, prepare our kids for the workforce. That idea is just not sustainable.

(Nintzel) What are your thoughts on the initiative that would gradually increase the minimum wage to $12 an hour in Arizona?

(Friese) I absolutely think that the minimum wage should be increased, but I think it should be increased to $15 an hour. I'm concerned that this initiative is sort of sort of getting attention away from that goal—getting a livable wage. We need a livable wage for Arizona's workforce. We have CEOs and presidents of companies making unbelievable, many millions of dollars, but the people that are doing the work, that are on the front, dealing with doing the hard work need a livable wage, and I'm afraid that this graduated increase to $12 over the next four years is probably trying to take the pot off the burner. We need the attention to this issue, and establish a livable wage now.

(Nintzel) The state has some pretty large corporate tax cuts that have been kicking in in recent years, with more to come. Do you think those should be halted, and if so why?

(Friese) Exactly. Yes, that was my step two. I wrote an op-ed and put it on my Facebook page. Basically my Step 2: I would have three steps, and the first step is to freeze all corporate tax breaks. As you know schools have been cut. Our school budgets have been cut since 2008, the recession, and every year thereafter corporate tax breaks have been phased in. So, schools are getting cut, their schools are carrying the burden during the recession of these budget problems that we're having as a state. The first step is freeze these tax breaks. The next step is to renew Prop 301 sales tax for schools, and consider increasing it to a full penny. And that sales tax that was passed expires in 2020. We need to be prepared and we need to revisit that and renew it. That has to go to the voters. And we should be considering increasing it to a full penny because every one of those dollars goes to education. And then the last one is redefining Prop 123. I'm afraid that a 6.9 percent disbursement rate from our land trust fund is too high for ten years. I think we should consider a very unique, creative way of developing a countercyclical payout, meaning when the economy is poor and the general fund is stressed, our land trust fund pays out more to schools. And when our economy's robust the land trust fund pays out less and reinvests in itself to make up for the difference. We need to be creative here.

(Nintzel) This year the state passed legislation that could potentially de-fund Planned Parenthood. There's likely to be a court fight if the state moves forward with any efforts to do so. You voted against that legislation. Why do you think it's bad policy?

(Friese) Well, you can't single out our Planned Parenthood for providing reproductive healthcare This bill is asking it to separate out dollars, monies that go towards anything that provides abortion care. And that just is impossible to do. And it's also, the Supreme Court just recently found that the Texas laws that were touted as trying to make abortion safer for women, but in fact the Supreme Court said that these laws were just impeding women's access to reproductive healthcare. And I think this is the same issue with this bill, and I'm certain that if the government tries to move forward on it and hold Planned Parenthood accountable, there will be a lawsuit.

(Nintzel) The state has lost on that front in the past …

(Friese) Absolutely.

(Nintzel) … and had to pick up Planned Parenthood's legal fees. What kind of legislation do you think the state needs to reduce gun violence?

(Friese) Well I've introduced legislation both years that I was up there to address gun violence. The first year was a bill that addressed or required comprehensive background checks for all gun purchases. So, I want to move forward on that for two reasons. The first reason, of course, the obvious one. There should be incrementally more difficult for someone who shouldn't have access to a gun to be able to buy one. And in Arizona, now, about 40 percent of gun purchases are done outside of the federally licensed firearm dealer who has access to the criminal background check system. So, I think that we should be background checking everyone. Basically my bill said, any gun purchased should go through the federally licensed dealer. A background check is performed, and if it's clear the gun purchase can go forward. The other reason why I think we should be more aggressive with our background checks is that I want to protect the law-abiding citizen from inadvertently and unknowingly selling a weapon to someone who means to do harm with it. And if you have a background check done and it's clear that you have a warrant against you, or you have to stay away from someone for domestic violence or stalking, then you're not going to get that weapon purchased, so, I want to provide that protection to some people who are selling their weapons. So I introduced a bill this past year to create a public safety and violence, gun violence prevention committee. And basically all it was was let's sit down at a table Let's look at each other, recognize our differences and talk about where our common ground is. Let's make sense, come up with some definitions. Let's come up with some potential legislation. And that group would have consisted of mental health care providers, legislators, members of the media, sheriffs, police chiefs, things like that. Unfortunately, that bill did not move forward.

(Nintzel) You've got a half minute left but do you support the proposed ballot proposition that would legalize recreational marijuana for adults.?

(Friese) You know, this is a difficult one for me. I recognize that marijuana is something that a lot of people wish to use in a legal way. A lot of people compare it to alcohol. The issue I have, the major concern I have with this is the age of consent, and the age of consent being 21. There is a significant, there is a real association between increasing the incidence of schizophrenia and heavy marijuana use during the developing brain's period. And at 21, the brain is still developing. So I think, that if we're going to do this seriously, we should move that age to 25, something like that. It's going to be on the ballot. I'm happy to allow the voters to weigh in on this, but I do have some concerns about the age of consent.

(Nintzel) Thank you Dr. Randy Friese for coming in and talking about your re-election efforts to Legislative District 9. We will be right back with State Representative Matt Kopec.

(Nintzel) My next guest is State Representative Matt Kopec, who was appointed to a seat earlier this year when Democrat Victoria Steele stepped down to run for Congress. Matt, welcome to Zona Politics.

(Kopec) Thank you for having me.

(Nintzel) What makes you the best candidate for the job?

(Kopec) Well, I think my background working for the city of Tucson before I was appointed, plus, in addition to the session I spent this last year, we were able to get the JTED restoration and Kids Care, which we were really happy to. Also, one of the things that I think is really important is that I'm one of the youngest members of the legislature I'm actually the youngest member, so when I go door to door and I talk to young people, I'm able to keep them engaged. I was actually at a door the other day. There was a young man about in his early 30s. He said, “No one's ever come to my door before. No one's ever talked to me about the issues before. I really do appreciate it, and I've learned a lot talking to you.” So I think that that kind of engagement is what we need, because we've both here, in the United States and internationally what happens when younger folks don't participate in the process and their voices are left out. So that's something that we'll be working on in my campaign.

(Nintzel) What do you think needs to be step 2 after Prop 123 passed?

(Kopec) Well, whether or not you thought 123 was a good idea, it is not enough money for education in our state. The thing that we saw this budget cycle in the legislature the Republicans left a billion dollars on the table—$600 million of surplus and $400 million in the "rainy day fund." So, we saw that education is not their priority. It should be. I think we need to give more money into education. Reduce class sizes. Make sure teachers are compensated appropriately, because there is, we do have a fiscal cliff coming up. We have 301 expiring, and then ten years from now we're going to have less money in the permanent fund because of 123, so, we're going to have to come up with something that's sustainable, and so far we haven't seen that from the Republican legislature.

(Nintzel) What about this idea they've had at the legislature of expanding the vouchers so that kids can have money directed into private or religious schools?

(Kopec) I'm opposed to vouchers for all. I think what you're going to be doing when you do that is you're going to create two different systems—a public system that is desperately under-funded whereas you're going to see folks on the wealthier income bracket being able to get their children the best education, probably, in the world, once we see that happening. So you're going to create two different unequal systems, and that doesn't bode well for Arizona's future.

(Nintzel) What are your thoughts on the initiative that would increase the minimum wage to $12 in Arizona over the course of a few years?

(Kopec) I like the fact that it's a stepped program, step increase. I think Arizona workers need to be compensated appropriately. If you work full time, or if you work two part-time jobs equivalent to full time, you should be able to provide for your family. Because, what we see, we see folks working for minimum wage, part-time and not getting benefits, so, I think that's not something we should be seeing in Arizona, and I think the gradual stepped increase minimum wage is appropriate.

(Nintzel) As long as we're on ballot initiatives, what about the proposal to legalize marijuana for recreational use for adults?

(Kopec) So I do have a bit of a Libertarian streak and I think this is one where it's going to come out, but the one thing that the marijuana initiative does have is that a lot of the income generated from the taxes on the sale of marijuana will go to education. And I'll offer some advice to Governor Ducey and some of the Republicans that are opposing the initiative: If they call a special session this year to increase education funding, I think that would greatly increase their chances of defeating it, because I think a lot of people look at the situation we have in Arizona and see an underfunded education system, and they're looking for resources to be able to put into our public education system.

(Nintzel) A major budget issue up there is the corporate tax cuts that were passed a few years ago that are kicking in at ever-increasing levels. Your thoughts on whether they should be stopped?

(Kopec) I do think they should be stopped, and just this week we see both the most restrictive and punitive TANF allowance in the country. We have the cuts to Temporary Assistance to Needy Families and corporate tax cuts kicking in at the same time. We're kicking people off TANF and kids are not getting the food that they were able to previously, and at the same time we're cutting corporate taxes, so I think you see these things happening at the exact same time, and that shows you how out-of-balance the Republican budget priorities are.

(Nintzel) Are there other changes to tax law that you'd like to see.

(Kopec) Well, I think the one thing we need in Arizona is stability in our taxes, because when we go through a recession or an economic downturn, there's a massive budget shortfall, and to have a more stable tax revenue system. I think is important primarily because what we saw after 2008, massive cuts to education. We need to make sure that we have a tax system that's fair and equitable, that is able to be sustainable during times of economic stress to make sure that our students are able to have the best education possible.

(Nintzel) There was legislation this year that could potentially defund Planned Parenthood There's certainly likely to be a court fight if the state moves forward with those plans, but you voted against that legislation. Why?

(Kopec) I believe in a woman's right to choose. I believe in Roe v. Wade. I've actually been endorsed by Planned Parenthood and the Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona. I'm really proud of that. I think that if someone, if a woman needs to terminate a pregnancy they, that's a decision they should make with their family and their physician They don't need me or any other member of the legislature getting in their way.

(Nintzel) What kind of legislation do you think you'd support to help reduce gun violence?

(Kopec) Well, I think what we need to do is make sure that there are background checks, Universal background checks at any point of sale. I know the city of Tucson just recently— there hasn't been a gun show at the TCC in a while, but if ever one comes back, the city has made sure that those sales of weapons are conducted with a background check, and so, I think that's the most important thing. Just keep in mind the context a little bit: I serve in the state House of Representatives where members frequently bring weapons onto the floor during debates of bills, so keep in mind. That's the context we face in Arizona.

(Nintzel) And you mentioned that the city has made some efforts to try to require those kinds of background checks at the gun shows. The State Legislature has often tried to preempt the city from doing those kinds of things in the past as well as this last session, to financially penalize the cities if they do. So, your thoughts on that legislation.

(Kopec) Well, I'm a big advocate of local control. I think where the State Legislature comes in and passes a law that overrides a city ordinance whether it's in the City of Tucson or any town or county in Arizona, I think that's incredibly disrespectful to the voters of that city or county. Voters have the right to decide what kind of community they want to live in. They have the right to have their voices heard and their values represented, and when the legislature does that it's completely disrespectful, and that's something that I will fight as long as I'm in the legislature.

(Nintzel) And they've also shifted a lot of costs from the state to the counties and the cities. Your thoughts on those financial maneuvers.

(Kopec) Yeah, Pima County just won a lawsuit against the state because of that, so a lot of times the Republicans like to brag about how they balanced the budget without raising taxes, but all they've done is create financial hardship for the cities and the counties and school districts that have to continue to provide the services that they were providing, so, it's a hollow type of victory by the Republicans for sure.

(Nintzel) Your thoughts on the private prisons in Arizona.

(Kopec) I think that they're, it's a major problem here in Arizona since the recession, since 2008. The State of Arizona does primarily three things: education, medication, incarceration. The only thing that Arizona has been pouring investments in is incarceration. Prisons. So, if we want to reduce prisons, we want to reduce crime. We need to make sure that our kids are getting a good education and are able to be economically sound once they enter the workforce. That should be how we invest in public education, and we haven't seen that from the Republicans

(Nintzel) And just in terms of about half a minute left, private prisons versus public prisons.

(Kopec) Well, I think, just from the return we get as taxpayers, I think public prisons make the most sense. We have more oversight and control of them. Also, they tend to perform better with less escapes.

(Nintzel) Alright, we're going to have to leave it there, but State Representative Matt Kopec, thanks for coming in here talking about your re-election campaign, and we will be right back with one of his opponents, Pamela Powers Hannley.

(Nintzel) My next guest is Pamela Powers Hannley, an editor with the American Journal of Medicine, and a blogger at tucsonprogressive.com Pamela, welcome to Zona Politics.

(Powers Hannley) Well, thanks for having me here, Jim.

(Nintzel) So, we've been talking with the other candidates today. What makes you the best candidate for the job.

(Powers Hannley) Well, I believe that I have a unique skill set that I bring to the legislature. I've been in management for many years. I've also been in health care and public health, and so, although my career spans communications and public relations, mostly I've been working in management and research. I've also been a small-business owner. I've had two small businesses that were successful, and so I think that is a broad range of skills that I bring that the other candidates don't have. And working in public health in particular, I care about the people of Arizona, and I think that there's a lot of rationale to say that the Republicans in particular in the legislature don't care about the common man and woman.

(Nintzel) And Prop 123 does provide additional money for education as we talked about with the other candidates, but do you think it needs more education needs more support?

(Powers Hannley) Yes. I was against Prop 123 because I think that the way that, what I always hear is if the deal is complicated, there's something in the small print. And the business with the triggers and all that, you know, was a bad deal for the students. I know that a lot of people wanted money now for education, but I think that there's a strong case to be said that we have the money. I agreed with Treasurer DeWitt and with the Democrats. We have the money. We're wasting it. You know, we have $4 billion dollars in corporate tax cuts per year. We have $400 million in tax credits. We have $312 million we're wasting on our debt to Wall Street. You know, the list goes on and on, so we have the money but we don't have the right priorities in the legislature as far as I'm concerned.

(Nintzel) What about the idea up there that's floating around about expanding these vouchers so that almost every school-age child in Arizona could get one.

(Powers Hannley) Yeah. That would just destroy public education. You know, I mean, the biggest part of the tax credits right now is propping up the private school industry. And I think we need to, what's going on with public education is a travesty. 1,400 third graders are going to be held back because they couldn't pass the reading and math test. Those students didn't fail. The system failed those students. And how many of them were special needs students? How many of them were minority students? How many of them had parents who couldn't read to them in English? You know, our school system is broken. And we need people in the legislature who are going to fight for the people and fight for families, and that's what I want to do.

(Nintzel) You mentioned those corporate tax cuts. Do you support suspending those?

(Powers Hannley) Yeah, well, we need the money, for one thing. We can't afford them. The Republicans have a schedule that's going to continue through 2019 with more tax cuts. And we're spending at a rate ... we've downsized the government to the point where it's hardly working in certain areas, and education is one of the most glaring areas that we can see right now right off the bat.

(Nintzel) You mentioned your background in public health. What do you think about this initiative to legalize marijuana for recreational use for adults over 21?

(Powers Hannley) I support legalization of marijuana. The medical journal that I work for, we've published multiple articles on the benefits of marijuana for people who have diabetes and metabolic syndrome. That's a lot of people in the United States who have that. Also, there was a Harvard study that said the states that have had medical marijuana for five years or more have seen a 25% decrease in death from opiates. We have an opiate problem in Arizona. We don't have a marijuana problem. There was also a recent article in the newspaper that said that states that had medical marijuana saw an overall decrease in prescriptions. Part of the problem with the cost of our healthcare is that prescription drugs are so high, so if people can substitute marijuana for one of these other more expensive drugs then I think that are medical, there are humanitarian and economic reasons for legalization, besides the taxes that we'll bring in.

(Nintzel) What about the ballot proposition to increase the minimum wage? You're behind that one?

(Powers Hannley) Yes. I totally support raising the minimum wage. Women in particular in Southern Arizona don't make enough money. Women heads of household in Southern Arizona in the Tucson area, they make about $23,000, is what their families have. Male head of household, $36,000. They have a huge income gap between men and women and, I think that raising a minimum wage is going to help women, because there are a lot of women in low-wage jobs. They're working for fast foods. They're working in daycare centers. They're working as home health aides. None of those people make enough money to live on, so, yes, I absolutely support raising the minimum wage.

(Nintzel) Speaking of daycare, do you think the state should restore a lot of the funding they've taken away from state-subsidized daycare that allows working women to have a safe place to keep their children?

(Powers Hannley) Yes, for sure. I mean daycare is really expensive. Daycare was expensive when I had children you know. That was part of the reason why I quit my job at Arizona Electric Power Cooperative and became a freelance writer in the '80s, was we looked at the cost to have two children in daycare, and it was ridiculous and now those costs have doubled. So, yes, we need subsidies, but we need better paying jobs. We need to lift more people out of poverty.

(Nintzel) This year the state did pass some legislation that could potentially defund Planned Parenthood. There's certainly going to be a court fight if the state goes forward with that plan, but what did you think of that legislation?

(Powers Hannley) I think that we should be funding Planned Parenthood. They do so much good. It's not just an abortion mill which is what they want to paint it as. They have lots of different services, you know. And there are other ways. If you want to reduce the number of surgical abortions in Arizona, there are other ways to do it besides, you know, defunding a group that also does STD screening and things like that. We could make the morning-after pill more readily available to women. We could reduce the cost of contraception and there are all sorts of things that we could do. We should have medically accurate sex education in the schools. It's embarrassing to think that we don't teach medically accurate sex education.

(Nintzel) What do you make of the private prison industry growth in Arizona?

(Powers Hannley) Yeah. It's abominable. I mean, Arizona has one of the highest prison rates I think in the world. The U.S. has the highest in the world, but I think Arizona's up there at the top. And there are too many people in jail. It's costing us too much money. There are too many in jail for you know, like, low-level offenses, you know, nonviolent offenses, you know, so yes. I think that we should be educating our children and not you know, discouraging them and getting them into prison, you know, when they're 16, 17 years old. The school-to-prison pipeline is an abomination.

(Nintzel) We've got about a minute left. What kind of legislation would you like to see to reduce gun violence?

(Powers Hannley) Ah. Well I think on the national level, I think we should bring back the Brady bill. I think we should get rid of assault weapons. I also am against what the legislature's done as far as pre-emption for local laws. You know, like the City of Tucson has a gun show law and they've done some other things, and I also think that we should have background checks. We should, you know, cut all the loopholes for the gun shows, and, you know, I think we should encourage peace and harmony. You know, I'm a Unitarian Universalist. We're all in this whether we like it or not, and I think the abrasive attitude that we have is not good for any of us, and it's showing up on the streets with the gun violence.

(Nintzel) Alright, well, that's all the time we have right now, but Pamela Powers Hannley, thank you so much for coming in talking about your campaign for the Arizona House of Representatives at the Arizona legislature. We will be right back with some closing thoughts.

(Nintzel) That's our show for today. My thanks to our media partners at Tucson Weekly, Tucson Local Media and KXCI 91.3 FM, where you can hear the show at 5 p.m. on Sunday afternoon. If you missed any part of today's show, you can find all our episodes at zonapolitics.com and be sure to follow us on Facebook. I'm Jim Nintzel Thanks for watching. We'll see you next time.