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The Verde Independent | Cottonwood, Arizona

home : latest news : latest news November 25, 2015

3/1/2013 1:51:00 PM
New requirements in store for state initiatives and referendums

Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services

PHOENIX -- State lawmakers are pushing ahead with new hurdles in the path of Arizonans who want to propose their own laws and constitutional amendments.

The state Senate on Thursday gave preliminary approval to SCR 1019 to would require petition circulators to gather signatures from at least five different counties. And at least 25 percent of the names needed to qualify would have to come from outside Maricopa and Pima counties.

Now, initiative organizers are free to set up shop and get all the names they need from only one county.

Separately, the House Judiciary Committee voted to alter the deadline for getting those signatures filed with the Secretary of State.

The current cutoff is early July of election years. SCR 1006, which already has been approved by the full Senate, would move that up to May.

Regardless of legislative sentiment, lawmakers do not get the last word.

Both measures would amend the Arizona Constitution. And that can be done only if voters themselves give the go-ahead at the 2014 election.

Senators also voted to put some new rules in place for recall elections in the wake of the ouster in 2011 of Senate President Russell Pearce, the first successful recall of a state official since statehood.

SB 1263 spells out that paid petition circulators must first register with the Secretary of State. And SB 1262 expands the definition of what expenses in favor or opposed to recall elections have to be publicly disclosed.

Sen. Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix, said the latter measure will thwart voter efforts to recall elected officials they no longer feel are representing them.

"It's not an easy process,' he said. "This would make it more difficult for them to get the signatures.'

The proposal to shorten the filing time actually was on the ballot in 2012, losing by a narrow margin. But proponents contend that can be overcome by better explanation of the need.

Sen. Michele Reagan, R-Scottsdale, said the current July deadline creates a crunch, giving courts little time to consider legal challenges. The result in 2012 was cases going to the Arizona Supreme Court just days before ballots were set to be printed.

But Rep. Martin Quezada, D-Phoenix, said if circulators are to be given less time, then lawmakers also should consider reducing the signature requirements.

It currently takes 172,809 signatures to propose a new or amended statute. Constitutional amendments now require 259,213 signatures.

Those numbers are based on turnout at the last gubernatorial election. That means the state's increasing population, coupled with efforts to register more voters, will only boost that number.

Reagan conceded the point. But she said efforts to get other Republican senators interested in making that change proved fruitless.

Anyway, she said, nothing precludes those who want to change the law from starting their petition drives earlier.

That's not exactly true: State law prohibits the Secretary of State from accepting any petitions that were circulated before the immediately preceding election.

But Reagan said none of that changes her belief that the earlier deadline is appropriate. And she said it's up to others to decide if they want to remove that existing start-time restriction.

The debate over requiring signatures from multiple counties drew opposition from lawmakers on both sides of the change.

On one hand, Gallardo said the burden for signatures from at least five counties plus 25 percent from outside Maricopa and Pima counties to be too much. He proposed easing that a bit to require only that circulators gather names in just three counties.

And Gallardo said there is precedent for what he is proposing: That mirrors the requirement now imposed on candidates for statewide office.

That proposal was defeated.

At the other extreme, Rep. Chester Crandell, R-Heber, sought to mandate that those pushing ballot measures get signatures from all 15 counties.

He said voters in rural counties are largely ignored during the bid to collect signatures. Crandell said they learn about ballot measures only when the commercials show up on television.

But Crandell did not push for a vote on his amendment.

All the measures still need a final roll-call vote in the Senate before going to the House.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Wednesday, March 6, 2013
Article comment by: itsy bitsy Spider

@ Howard Fischer
Actually, Howard Fischer, "The proposal to shorten the filing time" was not on the 2012 ballot. (I have my sample ballot sitting right in front of me.) It was on the 2010 ballot, and if it had been passed, two more instances of the Arizona tactic of rushing the deadline with way-more-than-enough bogus signatures would have been quashed. This has to be stopped. The spectacle last September was pathetic. Sen. Michele Reagan was being way too polite.

Perhaps you should read past the first sentence, Ms Gurl. Living in Yavapai County, you have NO say now.

If you're sure residents of Maricopa and Pima Counties are better judges of what's best for the Verde Valley, all right, keep right on squealing nonsense. If not, then stop and consider the possibility your State Senator is trying to advance his constituents' interests.

Personally, for statewide measures, I think the fairest signature quota would be 6.67% of the required signatures to be gathered in each of the 15 counties. This would also distribute verification evenly rather than dump the lion's share on the Maricopa County Registrar's Office. But if 5 counties are all the Republican majority will approve, it's better than nothing.

Citizen's initiatives should be a court of last resort, Ms Gurl. States that have made it too easy to get touchy-feely measures on the ballot wind up with a mass of bad laws, unenforceable regulations, and billions in legal fees. Crafting equitable legislation with no lethal side effects requires skill, experience, and impartiality. Few advocate lawyers have all three.

Speaking of which, though, I see no legitimate need to require paid petition circulators to register with the Secretary of State. If the registrar has enough time to verify signatures, who gathered them is beside the point. Certainly not important enough to give the SOS a chance to impede an initiative his/her Party doesn't like.

If you must yell at someone, Ms Jane, yell at Bill Montgomery, Ted Downing, and Paul Johnson. Their Top-Two charade was the straw that made these reforms imperative and gave our dear Senators a chance to secure their seats while they're at it.

Posted: Sunday, March 3, 2013
Article comment by: Gaia Gurl

The people should not be HAMPERED by all those unnecessary rules and regulations, just to protect POLITICIANS jobs or keep us from LEGISLATION we, THE PEOPLE want.

As stated in the founding documents . . .

A government BY THE PEOPLE, for the people.

Not a government at the will and power of our legislators, they are supposed to be REPRESENTATIVES of US, not panderers for their own interests.

Did you not read the FIRST sentence?

"State lawmakers are pushing ahead with new HURDLES in the path of ARIZONANS who want to propose their own laws and constitutional amendments."

Is this OUR state or is it only to be used at WILL by the legislators for THEIR crazy ideas?

Maybe YOU are in the wrong country, Gray. Maybe you would PREFER a DICTATORSHIP where you have NO say?

Posted: Sunday, March 3, 2013
Article comment by: Gray Grammarian

To Mary Jane:

What exactly do think is wrong with this bill?

Posted: Saturday, March 2, 2013
Article comment by: Mary Jane

That good 'ol boy Chester sure is out to make a name for himself! I've got some suggestions

buffoon, numb-skull, patsy, GOP shill, anarchist, anti-constitutionalist, fascist, panderer,...

Another idea just came to me

How about someone offering up an amendment stating that Chester's amendments have to pass constitutional muster before he's allowed to suggest them out loud!

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