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Other Legislation:
NOW: public conservation monies; transfer; parks

Our Position: oppose
Bill Number: HB2088
Sponsor: Nichols
Legislative Session: 2009 Legislative Session

HB2088 NOW:  public conservation monies; transfer; parks (Nichols) diverts $20 million from the Public Conservation Account in the Land Conservation Fund established by the voters in 1998 when they approved the Growing Smarter Act referred to the ballot by the Arizona Legislature.  The dollars are diverted to a variety of purposes – everything from water banking to parks to workshops.  This amendment is clearly unconstitutional as it in no way furthers the purposes of the Growing Smarter measure that went before the voters in 1998. 

By diverting dollars from this fund, the Legislature hurts both conservation efforts and education – dollars from the Land Conservation Fund go into the Trust to benefit the Trust beneficiaries.  The primary beneficiary is public education. 

Providing adequate funding for parks and other programs is important, but this is not the appropriate way to do so.  The best avenue is to restore those funds directly and to establish a more stable funding source for our state parks.  The voters approved the Voter Protection Act, because they were fed up with the Legislature undercutting, repealing, and diverting dollars from voter-approved measures.   This bill demonstrates why it is needed more than ever.

Status

Click on House Vote to see how representatives voted on HB2088.  The vote was 36-22-2, but the bill failed as they needed a three-fourths vote as this was changing a ballot measure passed by Arizona voters.

Action Needed

Click on House to email Arizona House members or find their direct phone numbers.  If you are not sure who your House members are, please  click on Vote Smart or call the House information desks.  If you're outside the Phoenix area, you can call your legislators’ offices toll free at 1-800-352-8404.  In the Phoenix area call (602) 926-4221 (House) and ask them to connect you with your legislators.

Contact

Sandy Bahr at (602) 253-8633 or sandy.bahr@sierraclub.org

Background

This bill is clearly unconstitutional as it in no way furthers the purposes of the Growing Smarter measure that went before the voters in 1998.  The Voter Protection Act provisions in the Arizona Constitution Article IV, Section 1 (6)(C) state (emphasis added):

The legislature shall not have the power to amend an initiative measure approved by a majority of the votes cast thereon, or to amend a referendum measure decided by a majority of the votes cast thereon, unless the amending legislation furthers the purposes of such measure and at least three-fourths of the members of each house of the legislature, by a roll call of ayes and nays, vote to amend such measure.

Any amendment to a voter-approved measure must further the purposes of the measure, period.  HB2088 does not do that as it diverts the dollars for other purposes altogether.  The extension of the date on the measure does not mitigate that, as the Growing Smarter Act was sent to the voters with a specific sunset date, plus if the legislature takes the money once, it is quite likely it will do so again and again and again, as it has done with other funds that do not have voter protection. This will delay conservation of state trust lands indefinitely.

The Growing Smarter Act (Proposition 303) was referred to the ballot by the Arizona Legislature in May of 1998 and passed by Arizona voters in November 1998.  Proposition 303 established $20 million per year, for eleven years, to buy or lease State Trust Lands for conservation.  Proposition 303 as it appeared on the ballot said:

"IN FISCAL YEAR 2000-2001 THROUGH 2010-2011, THE SUM OF TWENTY MILLION DOLLARS IS APPROPRIATED EACH FISCAL YEAR FROM THE STATE GENERAL FUND TO THE PUBLIC CONSERVATION ACCOUNT IN THE LAND CONSERVATION FUND FOR THE PURPOSES OF THIS SECTION." 

When the law, Proposition 303 says ". . .FOR THE PURPOSES OF THIS SECTION” it means for the purposes outlined on the ballot.  The language in that section states:

"Monies in the public conservation account, with matching monies from the conservation donation account, are appropriated to the Arizona state parks board for the exclusive purpose of granting monies to the state or any of its political subdivisions for the purchase or lease of state trust lands that are classified as suitable for conservation purposes pursuant to section 37-312." 

(Section 37-312 refers to the Arizona Preserve Initiative lands.) 

“The exclusive purpose of granting monies to the state or any of its political subdivisions for the purchase or lease of state trust lands  . . . .” seems like pretty clear language.  There is no mention of water banking, Arizona Geological Survey, or natural resource conservation districts.

 

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