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Ballot Measures:
county officers; elections; technical correction

Our Position: oppose
Bill Number: HCR2045
Sponsor: Adams
Legislative Session: 2008 Legislative Session

HCR2045 county officers; elections; technical correction (Adams) has a strike everything amendment on initiative and referendum.  It refers to the ballot yet another constitutional amendment that if approved would significantly restrict the right to refer legislation via the initiative process.

·         It requires that the signatures for an initiative be turned into the Secretary of State on December 31 of the year before the election rather than four months prior to the election.  This is done without reducing the required number of signatures, so will erect a huge barrier to referring measures by those without deep pockets.  It also will mean the Legislature has even more of an opportunity to refer competing measures.

·         It requires someone proposing an initiative to submit it to the Legislature for consideration.  Generally, the Legislature is hostile to initiatives.  If it was something that the body favored, it would likely be passed by the legislators.  The Legislature can amend and adopt language as if it were any other bill or do nothing and it goes to the ballot. 

·         It changes the voting requirements for amending a citizen initiative passed by the voters from a 3/4 vote to a 2/3 vote, says it must further the intent of the people versus further the purposes and it allows changes to “correct problems.”  You can only guess what the legislature might see as a problem.  This would significantly weaken the Voter Protection Act, which was passed after years of frustration with the Legislature weakening measures passed by the people.

·          It mandates that any constitutional amendment passed by the voters be resubmitted to the ballot after eight years.  The Legislature can refer a constitutional amendment whenever it can round up 31 and 16 votes.  There are many constitutional measures that should not require constant review.

·         Legislative Council is required to assist with drafting an initiative and also would provide a descriptive statement for the ballot.  This must be clarified to say it is the Legislative Council staff, not the Legislative Council body that assists with drafting.  Furthermore, we have recommended that a non legislative body provide the descriptive statement.  One suggestion is to do it as the ballot language is done – the Secretary of State drafts it and it is reviewed and approved by the Attorney General.

  •  Rather than circulating the initiative, it proposes circulating a description of the initiative intent.  This is a minefield and will likely result in all kinds of problems.  The actual measure should be circulated and it should be made clear to those who sign petitions what the measure does.  That is being addressed in another bill.

Status

04/23/08 - This version appears to be dead, but we will keep an eye on it.

Action Needed

You can find House members contact information by clicking on HOUSE.

Contact

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

Background

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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