By Phil Riske | Senior Reporter/Writer
If you had $5 for every story Howard “Howie” Fischer has reported for Arizona readers, you’d be doing quite well.
Considered the dean of the Capitol press corps, Fischer is known not only as a one-man news machine, but a reporter politicians sometimes get defensive with because of his aggressive questioning and knowledge of issues.
Fischer, who formed his own company, Capitol Media Services, also covers the courts.
Rose Law Group Reporter interviewed Fischer by email.
What were you doing prior to Capitol News Services?
I was working for the Phoenix Business Journal covering political news as well as banking and insurance.
How many subscribers do you have.
At last count, I have 24 separate publications, dailies and weeklies, plus provide audio to KJZZ.
How are you able to grind out a couple major stories each day, many of them in-depth?
Some of it is experience: I have been doing this beat since 1982 and have an understanding of the issues. Then it also helps to have a good library of background material and an extensive list of the home and cell numbers of lawmakers, lobbyists and others.
A former Capitol colleague of yours says he’s seen a deterioration of relationships among state legislators, and you recently wrote about “bullying” of a female lawmaker. What has happened over the past 10 years to cause this fracturing?
(Don’t recall the bullying.) This is the same partisanship that is occurring in Washington, with people who are convinced that they are right and would prefer to go down fighting than compromise. Of course, on the other side of the issue is when you have one-party government there is little need for the majority to work with the minority. And term limits mean that relationships don’t get time to develop.
Is there more at stake for individual legislators than 10 years ago? Not necessarily. Again, with term limits, they kind of know they have eight years in each chamber (though some “game” the system by going back and forth.).
Who do you see as a potential political leader for Arizona at the state or federal level?
Hard to say at this point.
What is responsible for the trend in legislation that seeks to diminish the role of citizen participation in government, notable public initiatives?
Well it comes down to a simple issue: If you can get what you want through the legislature, that’s the path you seek to take. Conversely, you count on lawmakers to kill things you don’t want. So, without discussing the individual merits of proposals, that’s why you have things like a ban on gestation pens for pigs, a ban on leghold traps on public lands, limits on smoking in public places, medical marijuana and, most recently, higher minimum wages, all of which are contrary to the wishes of certain groups in the power structure.
What changes have you seen over the years in the operation of our courts and the direction most rulings have taken place?
Actually I haven’t seen a lot. For all the fears at the federal level about politicizing the courts, the Arizona courts have actually been mostly nonpartisan and nonideological. Note the high number of unanimous rulings. This may be a testimony to the merit selection process, even with various maneuvers to try to give governors more of a choice.