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KJZZ's Friday NewsCap: Republican border bill faces legal, fundraising challenges

KJZZ’s Friday NewsCap revisits some of the biggest stories of the week from Arizona and beyond.

To talk about the arraignment of many of the ‘fake electors,’ the Senate giving its OK to a border security ballot measure and more, The Show sat down with Chip Scutari of S+C Communications and attorney Tom Ryan.

Conversation highlights

On the Arizona Senate approving an updated version of the Republican border bill

MARK BRODIE: Chip, let’s start with the Secure the Border Act. The state Senate made some changes this week to appease the concerns of Sen. Ken Bennett (R-Prescott) — mostly making sure that it is looking forward only and not making it so that law enforcement can arrest, for example, DACA recipients, if at some point DACA is declared unconstitutional, the program is ended.

So the bill, the proposal now goes to the House. Is there any reason to think that the House won’t go along with this and send it to November’s ballot?

CHIP SCUTARI: No. I’d be shocked. I mean, there may be some last-minute wrangling over amendments, but I think on June 4 the House will vote it out, and it looks like it’ll be on the November ballot. Poll after poll shows that 70% of the GOP, at least in Arizona, this is their number one issue: border security, immigration.

So I think for the Republican Party, they want to get this on the November ballot to kind of counter act the right to abortion constitutional amendment, which should also be on the November 2024 ballot. So this is their way to drive out their base and get their voters to the polls.

BRODIE: So driving out their base. But do you think that a measure like this brings extra people to the polls? One of the arguments of supporters of the abortion access measure is that it might bring people who wouldn’t ordinarily vote but care about that issue to the polls. Do you think the border issue does that?

SCUTARI: I think it could. I think one thing it will do is energize hardcore Republicans. And also, whether you like President Biden or not, this is one of his weak spots. I would say the two I’s: immigration and inflation. And he hasn’t done a lot to secure the border. I know there’s a bill in Congress, but the rule of thumb or rule of thought out there and conventional wisdom is that this is his weak spot, and they want to pounce on that.

I’ve actually been surprised his administration hasn’t done more. I’m actually surprised that in her state of the state speech, Gov. (Katie) Hobbs, who’s a Democrat, came out pretty strong talking about border security. And there hasn’t been a lot of consistent follow up. She could have even gone down there and said, “President Biden, your administration needs to do more to help our state of Arizona.”

So I think the Republicans see a real weak spot here. Now the one thing I’d say is on the ballot, when you get your ballot at home, there’s a hierarchy of where these things are placed. The right to abortion, (Make Elections Fair AZ) — because they’re constitutional amendments, they’ll be in the 100s, so they’ll be on the first page.

This one will be on the, I think, on 300 level because it’s legislative referendum. So for listeners at home, when you get your ballot, it could be a three page ballot or more, and this will be third and others will take top part. And there could be some undervoting there as well. Something to think about down the road.

BRODIE: So Tom, if you’re a Democratic candidate or a Democratic supporter of, for example, the abortion access measure, are you concerned that the border security measure is on the ballot?

TOM RYAN: No. And I’ll tell you why. Let’s go through this as quickly as possible. First off, I’m afraid these border hawks have confused the concept of immigration with border security. It’s very important to understand they are not the same, but they love conflating the two.

Secondly, there is a good likelihood that litigation will keep this referendum from ever getting to the ballot.

BRODIE: As Texas’ SB 4 has to be in effect for some amount of time before this would take effect, if it’s approved.

RYAN: Well, I think it also violates two important constitutional provisions in Arizona’s constitution. One is it’s covering multiple subjects. You’re not allowed to do that. Secondly, it creates a number of unfunded mandates. And there’s been testimony before the state Legislature on the hundreds of millions of dollars of unfunded mandates that are going to be created by this.

There will be litigation. And if our Supreme Court holds to stare decisis, meaning stick to past precedent, there is a good likelihood it will not make it.

But let’s talk about some other things. The Chamber of Commerce and a number of business communities have come out opposed to the Secure the Border Act, or HCR 2060. They don’t want this.

They’ve seen what Senate Bill 1070 did to Arizona. Joe Arpaio took Senate Bill 1070 and ran it into the ground, costing us almost $300 million, a third of $1 billion. And they don’t want that again. Plus, it’s a black eye on Arizona.

This was a badly designed bill trying to help (Arizona House Speaker) Ben Toma win a CD8 seat out there in the West Valley. I don’t see this passing.

There’s one last thing to remember. The abortion petition has probably now over 600,000 Arizona registered voters’ signatures on it. This will not have one of them on it. There will be money coming in to support the abortion bill. There will be nobody coming in and supporting this. Ben Toma and (Senate President) Warren Petersen, good luck raising money to support this referendum. I don’t think it’s going to happen.

BRODIE: Chip, do you agree with that? Do you think there won’t be money coming in for this?

SCUTARI: I do think there will be. I think it won’t be nearly as well funded as the right to abortion initiative. But I do think there will be groups that will fund fundraise, probably nationally. Tom, once again, there he goes again being legal and rational, sticking to the facts I’m talking about from the political emotional end of this.

It fires up people. My spectrum of friends range from far left to far right. Even people middle of the road are kind of getting frustrated with “Why isn’t President Biden doing anything about the border?” And I know this bill, this act probably won’t do much to solve that.

And there are serious unfunded mandates, which means there’s no money to pay for it. Law enforcement’s already stretched too thin.

But you have the legal factual case, which Tom makes very effectively. Then you have the emotional political argument. And we’ll see if it gets knocked off. It could get knocked off the ballot because of the legalities. That would be the best bet for Democrats coming into the ’24 cycle.

RYAN: There are two there are two articles today, one in CBS news and one locally. One is, today in the Arizona Republic, or at least on azcentral.com, about a border security architect who designs border security ports. And he talks about how organized and orderly immigration is through the port system.

Secondly, there’s another article from CBS news today that saying border crossings are down 54% now under the Biden administration. So this idea that we’re not doing anything is not true.

It’s not to say that there are problems, but the idea that this has just been a problem that nobody’s dealing with is not true. It’s the problem of conflating immigration with border security. They’re not the same thing, but we continue to do that as a country.

BRODIE: Tom, I’m not sure why you’re getting your news from anywhere other than KJZZ. Let’s let’s start with that.

SCUTARI: How dare you?

RYAN: Right. I’m one of those godless tax-and-spend …

SCUTARI: With all that said, the White House, the Democrats nationally have not done a good job. So much about politics is messaging, branding.

BRODIE: Well, even (Sen.) Kyrsten Sinema mentioned that yesterday when the U.S. Senate voted again on the bipartisan compromise that failed before. She she voted against it and said this is just political theater, this ain’t going to do anything.

SCUTARI: So much like the economy winds that the Biden administration has had — and there’s been numerous ones, especially with some of the funding for infrastructure projects, which former President Trump could never get done. They have not done a good job of branding messaging. What is the real issue at the border? How bad is it?

But on the other side, Trump and his team of folks, they’re consistent. They’re calling it an invasion. The sky’s falling now. I’m not saying I agree with that, which I don’t. But the White House and the Democratic power power structure has not done a good job of messaging what they’re doing to fix the issue.

RYAN: I agree with that.

KJZZ’s The Show transcripts are created on deadline. This text may not be in its final form. The authoritative record of KJZZ’s programming is the audio record.

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Mark Brodie is a co-host of The Show, KJZZ’s locally produced news magazine. Since starting at KJZZ in 2002, Brodie has been a host, reporter and producer, including several years covering the Arizona Legislature, based at the Capitol.