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Ballot Measures:
voter-protection; temporary budgetary suspension

Our Position: oppose
Bill Number: HCR2044
Sponsor: Pearce, Barnes, Biggs, et al
Legislative Session: 2008 Legislative Session

It refers to the ballot a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow the legislature to reduce appropriations for measures approved by the voters in any year where there was a projected budget deficit of one percent or more.  This would eviscerate the Voter Protection Act.

Status

It died after not being heard in the Senate.

Action Needed

 

More information

To view the bill click on HCR2044.

Contact

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

Background

The Voter Protection Act was enacted in 1998 after years of the legislature diverting dollars and undermining citizen initiatives.  You only need to look at measures that do not have this protection to see what can happen.

In 1990, Arizona Voters overwhelmingly approved the Arizona Heritage Fund, a ballot measure that allocates $10 million in lottery dollars to Game and Fish for wildlife programs and $10 million to State Parks for parks and natural areas.  In January 1991, the legislature proposed taking these dollars and did so nearly every session after that.  Only through a lot of organized opposition to it have we been able to keep the legislature from sweeping these dollars.  That being said, despite strong opposition, they did sweep $10.2 million from the Arizona Game and Fish Heritage Fund acquisition dollars to balance the ’03 budget.

If HCR2044 was passed, we would expect the legislature to go after the $20 million per year of the Growing Smarter dollars which is there to fund acquisition of state trust lands.  This would be swiping money from conservation and education.

All citizen initiatives that have a cost associated with them must now provide a new funding source that cannot be the general fund.  With HCR2044 in place, you would do all that work to find a new funding source and get a measure passed on the ballot and then the legislature could sweep that funding source in the blink of an eye thereby gutting your measure.  That is just wrong.

The initiative and referendum process in some form is older than our country itself — it dates back to the 1600s when via town meetings, communities voted on ordinances and other issues.  The authors of the Arizona Constitution thought that the initiative and referendum process provided citizens with both a check on the legislative branch and on the then widespread corruption of big business and monopolies.  They thought it was critical that the citizens have an equal opportunity to create laws directly via the initiative process.  We agree with that.

We do not think there are more problems with citizen initiatives than there are with legislative measures or that people make bigger mistakes in drafting law than legislators do. While you might argue that it is easier to fix legislative mistakes, this is not always the case.  Many issues, especially those where the courts have determined there is a problem, have languished while the Legislature fails to act.  This can result in higher and higher costs to the Arizona taxpayers.

 

     
     

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