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Ballot Measures:
voter-protection; temporary budgetary suspension

Our Position: oppose
Bill Number: SCR1009
Sponsor: R. Pearce, Harper, Burges, et al
Legislative Session: 2009 Legislative Session

SCR1009 voter-protection; temporary budgetary suspension (R. Pearce, Harper, Burges, et al).  refers to the ballot a Constitutional Amendment that authorizes the Legislature to appropriate or divert funds created by initiative or referendum in any fiscal year in which the respective budget offices of the Governor and the Legislature issue a written finding, confirmed by the State Treasurer, that the state budget for the preceding two calendar quarters had a deficit of at least one percent of the total state General Fund expenditures.  This would significantly undermine the Voter Protection Act provisions in the Arizona Constitution as we cannot think of a time when the Legislature would not make this finding. Some governors might be slightly more circumspect, but that does not change the fact that this is just a big hole in the constitutional protections for measures that the voters enact. 

The Voter Protection Act was enacted in 1998 after years of the Legislature diverting dollars and undermining citizen initiatives.  You need only look at measures that do not have this protection to see what can happen without it in place.  You need only look at the multitude of sweeps to see why it is needed.

If SCR1009 was enacted, we would see more sweeps and deeper cuts to important programs approved by the voters.

Status

To read the bill or see a more detailed status, click on SCR1009.

Action Needed

To email your House Members or find their direct phone numbers, click on Arizona House.   If you are not sure who your legislators are, please go to http://www.vote-smart.org or call the House information desk.  If you're outside the Phoenix area, you can call your legislators’ offices toll free at 1-800-352-8404 and ask to be connected.  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

Protect Our Constitutional Rights:

Please Oppose Further Restrictions on Initiatives and Referenda.

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.

The trend over the last several years has been for the Arizona Legislature to try and restrict citizens' rights to initiatives and referenda.  In 2000, the Legislature referred a measure that would have required a two-thirds vote on any wildlife measure.  The voters rejected that proposal overwhelmingly (62-38).  In 2004, the voters also rejected a measure to move the filing date back for initiative petition signatures.  They did approve a measure to require that a funding source be identified for initiatives with costs associated with them.  Over the years, there also have been bills to require people who circulate petitions to wear badges to indicate if they are paid or volunteer, bills to require a certain percentage of signatures from each county, and bills to require payment for invalid signatures.  All of those have been rejected.

 

While no one wants to see wealthy interests like New York developer Howie Rich’s group, Americans for Limited Government, come in and buy elections in Arizona via ballot measure, the limitations the Legislature is considering will not address that.  They will only make it more difficult for grassroots organizations, small organizations, and the larger public to participate in legislation via this important process.  If the intent of the Legislature is to just make it more difficult for citizens to initiate law via a ballot measure, then we are opposed to that.  If the Legislature has a specific problem or issue that it would like to address, then we are happy to discuss that.  We encourage legislators to reject all of these initiative/referendum measures and to instead sit down with those who have worked on measures – from all over the political spectrum – and discuss some legitimate areas to improve.

 

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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