Q&A: Lobbyist Stuart Goodman looks back on Arizona’s legislative session

Stuart Goodman of Goodman Schwartz Public Affairs has been a lobbyist in Arizona for over 30 years. He previously worked under the administration of the late Gov. Jane Dee Hull, and has also worked for the City of Glendale and the Arizona Department of Administration. We are looking forward to his participation on a panel of “capitol insiders” at our upcoming 2021 Arizona State of Reform Health Policy Conference.

In this Q&A, Goodman tells us about his experience lobbying in Arizona’s unique, partially remote session this year. Below, he discusses advocating for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, partisanship in the Legislature, Gov. Doug Ducey and more.

 

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Eli Kirshbaum: Where did you focus your lobbying efforts this session? 

Stuart Goodman: “We have a really broad, diverse portfolio here [at Goodman Schwartz]. We’re in the high tech space with Intuit, with Apple, with Equifax. We’re in the medical space with Dignity Health of Arizona, we represent the Arizona Association of Physician Assistants, we’ve got clients in medical manufacturing, we do transportation work for AAA Arizona, we do a lot of work — mostly budgetary — on behalf of the providers for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities. We’re in the pharmaceutical space with Sanofi and Myelin. So really a very broad spectrum that ranges from issues in the health care space as well as the general broad business space.”

EK: Do you think there’s any particular reason for the extension of this year’s session? Is it the remoteness? Partisan disagreements on the budget or other bills?

SG: “Budgets are hard whether you have money or you don’t. And I think, to some degree, they’re harder when you have available resources. It’s easier to say no than it is to say yes. So I think that’s part of the challenge. The remoteness issue — while it’s changed how we lobby, and it’s changed accessibility to members and all of that stuff — it hasn’t slowed down the session at all. They met all of their deadlines, there wasn’t any sort of super-spreader event, so by-and-large, members stayed healthy.

I think the delays here is that they have been distracted with other issues, and while the budget is critical, it just hasn’t had the attention — at least publicly — that you’ve seen in other sessions. So I think that what’s delaying the session isn’t the idea of the remote process, but … You have narrow majorities in the House and the Senate, you have members with their own priorities, and you have members who have  already announced they will not vote for a budget unless certain things are achieved, and that just makes it all the more difficult to develop a budget.”

EK: What do you think of the Republicans’ degree of control over the legislative process? Despite having a narrow majority, we have seen the majority party exert its power in the form of halting debate from Democrats and utilizing strike everything amendments. Is there room for bipartisanship here?

SG: “This is my 31st legislative session. From 1991 to 1992, you had a Democratic-controlled Senate for two years. Absent those two years, it’s all been a Republican Legislature. Then, in the 2011-2012 area, you actually had a super majority of Republicans in both chambers. Since that period, you have seen a steady but consistent narrowing of the divide. So you went from super majority to, now, the slimmest of majorities in roughly 11 years or so.

But the reality is that this Legislature has always been bipartisan, over my 30 years. There’s nothing new here in that Republican bills get heard, there are always a handful of Democratic bills that advance, but not many. That is a chairman’s prerogative … So I haven’t really seen anything different this year than what I’ve seen in previous years. 

The procedural motions about using what we call “strike everything amendments” … Where you’re removing the underlying bill and replacing it with something completely different and unrelated — they’ve been doing that forever. But the process has gotten better. When I first started they did those bills on the floor, there was no notice — now there’s posting requirements, the language has to be seen within a reasonable amount of time, so while those strike everything amendments are difficult to manage, they used to be impossible to manage. So, relatively speaking, it is a far more transparent process today than it was when I was a baby lobbyist in 1990.”

EK: What do you make of Gov. Doug Ducey’s relationship with the Legislature, especially when compared to what you saw working for the Hull administration? Are the executive and legislative branches able to cooperate enough to pass meaningful policy?

SG: “All governors naturally have conflict with their Legislature. It is the nature of the job, between implementing laws versus creating them. So I would assert that this is the natural evolution of a honeymoon period that begins when a new governor is sworn in. Over time, the decisions that need to be made, and the differences in policy priorities, the challenges of executive implementation — it just creates natural strife.

There was this embracement of Doug Ducey when he became governor in the 2014 election, and began his first term in 2015. There was this sense of relief that Brewer was gone, that Ducey was in. And over time, that relationship has been strained — not because of the governor, not because it was Brewer or Ducey … — but it’s just the nature of the job, and the nature of the responsibilities, and it’s not a reflection on the individual, generally speaking. It’s a reflection on the different responsibilities between the Legislature and the executive.”

EK: Can you talk about some of your lobbying on behalf of Arizonans with developmental disabilities (DD)?

SG: “The big thing for the DD community is funding. So if you go back to the late 1980s, Arizona got a waiver from CMS [the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services] that created a home and community based delivery system. Prior to that, we had individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities — they were in institutions. As a result of that change in the late 1980s — going to community based services — we essentially privatized the delivery of a state obligation. And for years that was working well. There was adequate funding, Arizona had one of the premier systems in the country. And not only was it more humane to delivery services within a home and community based system, but it was less expensive.

Then, the Great Recession hit, and the system got a 15%, across the board reimbursement rate reduction, like all other systems. To date, we have recovered 9.5% of that 15% reduction in the Great Recession, which means we have not accounted for inflation, we have not accounted for increased demand of services, and then to add more challenges, Arizona increased our minimum wage. So all of the funding that would have gone to the system that was cut in the Great Recession has been diverted into increases in the minimum wage.

We have been working with Senate and House Republican leadership [and] secured, at least initially, a $30 million dollar appropriation for new resources for that community. When you add in the federal matching fund, that $30 million becomes $90 million pretty quickly. So that becomes our big effort on behalf of the DD community, is increasing the funding, which allows for increasing the wages of the direct care worker … These are very difficult jobs to fill, and when you’re competing against individuals who could work at Target, with a less stressful job, compared to [with] DD you’ve got very personal issues like bathing and changing adult diapers. You’ve got behavioral issues — you have a certain amount of behavior issues that causes physical abuse to the direct care worker. To be competitive, and to gain the workers that we need, the increased funding is a way to support that effort.” 

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.