Home / Opinion / Commentary / Commentary: 25 factors guiding Arizona public policy

Commentary: 25 factors guiding Arizona public policy

juice: Slang Political power or influence; clout — The Free Dictionary
When they overwhelmingly approved term limits in 1992, Arizona voters transferred a slice of influence on public policy from the elected to the non-elected.
“Lobbyists have more influence, and decisions are not always based on a historical mindset,” Rep. Laura Knaperek, R-17, said.
In 1998, voters passed the Clean Elections Act, a controversy-laden initiative providing candidates for state office the option of public funding for their campaigns — a change in election law that some observers say has actually tilted the Legislature more to the right.
And voters through other ballot measures, including the Voter Protection Act and separate measures requiring a two-thirds “supermajority” to raise taxes and that a funding source be designated for new spending, continue to have “juice” when it comes to state law, policy and direction under which elected officials must govern.
For its significant influence on state government — albeit many voters may consider themselves powerless to change anything — the electorate is one of the 25 most influential factors guiding state policy, as selected by Arizona Capitol Times, based on research and a series of interviews with people in and close to state government.
Term limits
Many lawmakers who supported term limits at the time now rue the day because, they say, the result has been a diminution of institutional knowledge in the halls of the Legislature and a transfer of a good deal of influence to individual lobbyists, lobbying organizations and legislative staff, notably those that have been around for decades.
In an October 2004 report, The Morrison Institute on Public Policy at Arizona State University concluded the effects of term limits reform have been positive and negative.
“When it comes to policy, observers saw term limits hindering legislative efforts to deal with long-range problems… and with complicated matters such as the budget,” the Institute stated.
“[T]erm limits have encouraged greater competition for legislative and other seats and have given voters a greater choice among candidates. At the same time, they have generally reduced the power of legislative leaders and generally increased the influence of lobbyists, though not all lobbyists and staff have gained equally.”
The Institute concluded from a series of interviews with legislators and lobbyists that new lawmakers might rely too heavily on lobbyists for information, “and some, no doubt, have been misled as a result.” Morrison added that lobbyist influence is less in the Senate because many senators have cut their teeth in the House, learning whom they can trust and whom they can’t.
To the individual degrees that lobbyists and lobbying organizations have gained influence from term limits is difficult to measure, but interviews conducted by Arizona Capitol Times for this article form a consensus on those who have the most influence on state policy. In alphabetical order, they are:
Michael Crow, president, Arizona State University
Observers say that almost from the first day Mr. Crow became ASU’s16th president in 2002, he hit the ground running, and his influence has not only benefited ASU, but higher education in general. “He radiates smart… is aggressive but not overly so,” Sen. Jim Waring, R-7, said. “He’s driving the agenda for the universities.”
Rivalries between ASU and the University of Arizona were put aside last year when Mr. Crow, UofA President Peter Likens and the Board of Regents agreed on a plan to locate a medical school in Phoenix as a branch campus for the UofA College of Medicine. Start-up funding for the medical school was approved by the Legislature.
Despite a budget shortfall two years ago, lawmakers approved a Crow-backed, research infrastructure bill that accelerated ASU’s ability to build its Biodesign Institute.
“His ideas will have long-term benefits for the state,” Mr. Waring said.
Kevin DeMenna, DeMenna and Associates
Before becoming a lobbyist in 1986, Mr. DeMenna worked his way from intern with the Senate Finance Committee to committee economist to staff director. His expertise in public finance, budgeting and appropriations goes a long way in getting an audience and sway with legislative leadership on behalf of his clients, which include government, health care, transportation and energy interests.
Mr. DeMenna is one of the most successful political fundraisers in the state and was named by one legislator as the most influential lobbyist.
Cathi Herrod, Center for Arizona Policy
Legislators and other lobbyists describe her as tireless in her role as policy director for the center, an advocate for family and religious values that is promoting a state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.
While her boss, Len Munsil, president of the center and said to be considering a run for governor, is a significant player in state politics, Ms. Herrod has much more of a presence at the Capitol. Last year, she organized a march against same-sex marriage, one of the largest rallies ever staged at the Capitol.
Chris Herstam, Lewis and Roca
A former House majority whip, Mr. Herstam knows his way around the Legislature and the executive branch. He was co-chair of Governor Napolitano’s transition team, served as a volunteer press aide to Governor Hull and was Governor Symington’s chief of staff and director of communications.
Mr. Herstam, head of the governmental relations practice at the Lewis and Roca law firm, is finishing out an eight-year term on the Board of Regents and is well respected by both parties.
Tim Hogan, Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest
Mr. Hogan, an attorney and the center’s executive director, was the most frequently mentioned as a highly influential lobbyist.
Representing 72 school districts in 1994, he won a landmark case in the Arizona Supreme Court (Roosevelt v. Bishop), which ruled the formula for funding public education was unconstitutional. Mr. Hogan is still in court with lawsuits involving the state’s system for school finance, funding for school construction and funding for students learning English.
“Of course he needed the complicity of the courts to achieve his goals, so perhaps federal judges should be named as the second most influential entity,” Rep. Nancy McClain, R-3, said.
In an August interview with Arizona Capitol Times, Mr. Hogan said his influence on the Legislature has not been that great.
“People seem to forget that the issues we have seem to take an inordinate amount of time for the Legislature to resolve,” he said. “And while we’ve had some success in the courts, I’m not sure you could say the same thing at the Legislature.”
Don Isaacson, Isaacson and Duffy
Described as “one of the top-tier guys” and “an institution” at the Legislature, Mr. Isaacson has been a lobbyist for nearly 14 years. He represents the liquor industry through the Arizona Licensed Beverage Association, and the Central Arizona Water Conservation District, Pfizer, State Farm Insurance, Arizona Automobile Dealers Association and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco.
Bill Post, chairman, Arizona Public Service and chairman/CEO, Pinnacle West and Marty Shultz, vice president, government affairs, Pinnacle West
“Clearly a super-number one” lobbyist, a veteran lobbyist and former legislator said of Mr. Post. He and Mr. Shultz are not only highly regarded lobbyists for their corporations but as community activists as well.
Mr. Post headed a coalition of interests that worked for several years on a state trust land reform package, and Mr. Shultz, who a government official said “is everywhere” in the community, is involved in numerous education, health care and other grassroots causes. Mr. Shultz also was described as “never elected and never needed to be.”
John Wright III, president, Arizona Education Association
Like Mr. Post, Mr. Wright has been deeply involved in trust land reform and is treasurer of Conserve Arizona’s Future, proponents of a trust land reform ballot initiative for the 2006 general election.
Chairman of the House K-12 Committee, Rep. Mark Anderson, R-18, says Mr. Wright is “articulate and passionate” in his work for the teachers’ union.
Sen. Toni Hellon, chairman of the K-12 Committee in that chamber, says he is “an electrifying speaker,” with a passion for teaching, but low-key has a lobbyist.
“He understands all corners of education in Arizona,” she said.

The Morrison Institute said the turnover of lawmakers stimulated by term limits has generally made lobbyists’ work much more difficult because they now have to make regular contact with and educate a larger stream of new legislators.
According to reports filed with the Secretary of State’s Office, the nine lobbyists above, their families and their associated political action committees (PACS) have made nearly $1 million in political contributions since 1997 on behalf of their clients and themselves.
Five large lobbying organizations and their PACS, whose influence comes more from the issues and constituencies they represent than from their individual lobbyists, were selected among the top 25 with influence on state policy. They are:
Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry
Through aggressive legislative programs, the chamber’s positions on business, economic and employment issues are well circulated in the Legislature and the executive branch. Its stances on legislation carries significant weight with pro-business lawmakers. Since 2002, the chamber’s PAC has contributed more than $508,000 to promote four ballot propositions.
Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association and Arizona Medical Association
“Terribly complex,” medicine and, more generally, health care are foreign languages to most legislators, requiring lobbyists to educate them as to why something is needed or why something won’t work, said David Landrith, lobbyist for the medical association. “It’s a huge scope” — docs can be involved in all kinds of issues, such as air pollution, Superfund issues and disaster planning with the Department of Health, he said.
The associations over the past two sessions gained malpractice reforms in the areas of elder abuse and physician and hospital liability.
The hospital association has contributed nearly $106,000 to ballot issues and candidates since 1997, and the medical association has made political contributions of nearly $44,000 since 1995.
Arizona Right to Life
The Secretary of State’s Office shows only $500 in political contributions from Arizona Right to Life, most likely because lawmakers’ positions are so entrenched on abortion and end-of-life issues, there’s no room for change of heart. There is no greater dividing line in American politics than on abortion, and a survey of current legislators by Arizona Capitol Reports, a publication of Dolan Media Company, which owns Arizona Capitol Times, shows 45 of the 90 legislators list “pro life” as their position on abortion.
Republicans are expected to again sponsor abortion legislation that has been vetoed by Governor Napolitano, returning Arizona Right to Life lobbyists to the Capitol yet once again.
Arizona Trial Lawyers Association
Described as one of the more powerful lobbies in the state, trial lawyers have pretty much locked up Democrats and Republican conservatives against limiting damages for personal injury and death.
Sen. Bill Brotherton, D-14, an attorney, says ATLA’s influence in civil law is “substantial.” Lawmakers bounce it [an idea for legislation dealing with liability and court procedure] off them before coming up with a bill,” he said. “They are certainly listened to.”
Recent changes in tort law came about only through compromises reached with ATLA, but major medical malpractice reform is a hill possibly to steep too climb for its proponents because of the trial association’s political and financial clout.
It was one name mentioned more frequently than any other when it comes to non-lobbying organizations involved in state government.
The Goldwater Institute
Founded in 1988, the Goldwater Institute’s mantra is influence through information. It is one of the premier watchdogs on the Legislature, publishing extensive analyses, providing testimony and hosting policy roundtables, debates and conferences. It doesn’t employ lobbyists and it states that it doesn’t participate in partisan politics, making it uniquely influential on state policy.
Like lobbyists, legislative staff — specifically partisan staff — has more juice in its glass since term limits. The Morrison Institute says 44 legislators in 2002 ranked staff more important than other factors, such as working on a committee, senior colleagues and party leaders. In general, its study showed nonpartisan staff valuable in providing basic information and showing newcomers how to do things, and partisan staff has gained considerably more influence, “indeed… too much influence,” in providing policy direction.
“This complaint came primarily from nonpartisan staffers, members of the minority Democratic Party and moderate Republicans,” Morrison stated. “In the House, some noted, lobbyists first try to win over the leadership staff, feeling that if they are able to do so, the leaders will follow. Senate members tend to be more experienced than in the House and, thus, appear less dependent on staff.”
A veteran Senate Republican, nevertheless, was viewed by interviewees as one of four Capitol staffers with significant influence on policy.
Greg Jernigan, Senate general counsel chief of staff
Capitol reporters call this tough-minded staffer “the 31st senator.”
Mr. Jernigan began as a Senate intern more than 20 years ago and brings a wealth of knowledge of policy, politics and law, from which not only new legislators but Senate leaders and other majority staff benefit.
Journalists agree this tight-lipped aide will never be under suspicion for leaking a story.
Dennis Burke, co-chief of staff, the Governor’s Office
Alan Stephens, co-chief of staff, the Governor’s Office
Insiders say Governor Napolitano’s administration is the product of — to use a hackneyed sports phrase — “total team effort.” Mr. Burke and Mr. Stephens have “separate sets of skills and talents,” a Napolitano staffer says, and are relied upon by the state’s chief executive for advice on policy, politics and governmental operations.
A policy analyst with the Clinton White House, Mr. Burke was Ms. Napolitano’s chief deputy attorney general when she was attorney general.
Mr. Stephens, a former state senator, manages agency operations and is supervisor of various policy advisers and the deputy chief of staff for finance and budget.
Richard Stavneak, Joint Legislative Budget Committee
With his walking knowledge of nearly every line and nuance in budgets past and current, the slightly built Mr. Stavneak carries a lot of weight with most legislators. Democrats might sometimes complain about his numbers and fiscal projections, but nobody denies the scope of his expertise on the state budget and his ability to help leadership guide the budget process, which is more than a fulltime job, certainly.
When it comes to influencing state policy through statewide community activism, fundraising, entrepreneurship and political participation, one name comes to the forefront.
Eddie Basha, chairman of the board, Bashas’ Family of Stores
“He looks at the issues and what he thinks is best for the people or the state,” said Sen. Harry Mitchell, D-17, of Mr. Basha. A one-time Democrat candidate for governor, Mr. Basha’s advocacy for children, education, the homeless and health care is legendary. He has served on the Arizona Board of Regents, the state Board of Education and the Chandler School Board.
“He doesn’t look at who is proposing something or the party,” Mr. Mitchell said. “He puts his money where he mouth is and will participate personally. People are always trying to get him to pick up their cause.”
Constitutionally, American government is composed of three branches. The executive and legislative branches are bestowed with functions and powers that establish and sustain public policy. The judicial branch, on the other hand, can either affirm or overturn executive and legislative policy with the stroke of a pen, and such has been a significant influence on Arizona legislative and political history.
Roosevelt v. Bishop serves as just one example of judicial rulings that have altered legislative policy, and Mr. Hogan’s lawsuits, whether he wins or loses, along with court actions brought against Ms. Napolitano over line-item vetoes and executive orders, continue to illustrate the important influence of the courts on public policy.
The Arizona Republic
Survey results over the years have been mixed about the influence news media have on elections and public policy, especially at the state and local levels. But when it comes to a lobbyist or lawmaker seeking to sway public opinion on an Arizona issue, the state’s largest circulation newspapers are sought out for articles on a particular issue — positive or negative — or for editorial support or opposition.
As one lobbyist put it, coverage by The Arizona Republic can mean the difference on whether his client’s position on an issue wins out. Legislators often refer to Republic news stories to make their point during floor speeches, and elected officials seek an audience with the newspaper’s editorial board as one way to take their case to the public.
The Republic has gone much more mainstream, taking a common sense approach” to issues,” Mr. Brotherton said. “They give traction to issues and [create] constituencies,” such as with the coverage of problems within Child Protective Services. He noted, however, one glaring example of where the newspaper’s editorial opinions were overwhelmingly discounted by the electorate: Voters last year passed the Prop. 200 immigration initiative by a 2-1 margin.
How long daily newspapers and mainstream media will play a major role in public policy is up for debate because of the growing influence, specifically among partisans, of Internet news and blog sites.
Clean Elections Act
A challenge by Rep. David Burnell Smith, R-7, to its constitutionality is the latest argument leveled against the Clean Elections Act, which, according to recent polling, is still supported by voters who approved the public financing of state campaigns seven years ago. Like term limits, the act had unintended consequences, say its opponents.
“The primary effect of public financing has been to increase the influence of social conservatives by enabling them to compete in Republican primaries with business-backed candidates, who tend to be more moderate, writes former legislator Greg Patterson on his Republican blog, “Espresso Pundit.”
“Despite the availability of public funding, special interests exerted considerable influence,” he wrote. “First, they served as bagmen for the $5 contributions needed to qualify for public funding. Labor unions were the most conspicuous players this time around, but in future elections we can expect environmentalists, the Religious Right, or even political parties to act as power brokers by offering rosters of $5 donors to would-be candidates.
“Clean Elections didn’t push the right wing to the margin of Arizona politics. Instead it freed them from having to go hat in hand to the more moderate chamber of commerce types and their liberal trophy wives.”
For the same reasons, liberal candidates have benefited from the Clean Elections Act, observers say.
In the House, 12 of 16 ultra-conservatives ran publicly funded last year, and four of eight ultra-conservatives in the Senate were Clean Elections candidates.
What lawmakers said
Arizona Capitol Times in a separate e-mail survey of legislators asked whom or what they would name as the number-one influencer of public policy. Their answers included:
Tim Hogan
The National Rifle Association
Clean Elections
Marty Shultz
Kevin DeMenna
The Constitution

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>


Scroll To Top