The Chamber of Commerce organizations got their lickspittle servants in our Tea-Publican controlled legislature and our “Koch-bot” governor to do their bidding in making it damn near impossible for citizens to exercise their constitutional right to make laws by citizens initiative. Buying a legislature and governor to do your bidding is the exclusive provence of our Plutocratic corporate overlords, and you will obey!
But now that this no good horrible legislative session is coming to an end, Former Attorney General Grant Woods and former Phoenix Mayor Paul Johnson are heading up a referendum campaign to refer up to three pieces of anti-citizen initiative legislation to the 2018 ballot.
Laurie Roberts of The Republic writes, Group filing to block initiative laws:
Memo to Gov. Doug Ducey and all of our esteemed leaders who worked so diligently this year to undermine one of our basic constitutional rights:
Not so fast.
Next week begins the citizen drive to overturn your efforts to make it more difficult, if not impossible, for Arizonans to exercise their right to make laws via initiative.
Voters of Arizona, a group headed by former Attorney General Grant Woods and former Phoenix Mayor Paul Johnson, are filing paperwork this week to block all three new laws from taking effect until voters can decide their fate in November 2018. The group also plans to file a lawsuit challenging two of the three bills.
“This is part of what Arizona is supposed to be about, what we always have been about,” Woods told me. “The people serve as a check on the government and in particular, the Legislature. It’s pretty clear to me that this Legisture is doing what it can to try to take that power away from the public so we not going to let them get by with it.”
The three new laws were No. 1 on this year’s legislative wish list of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, whose members are still steaming over that fact that 58 percent of voters last year raised the state’s minimum wage.
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Naturally, Gov. Doug Ducey and the Republican-run Legislature jumped to do their bidding. They passed laws making it vastly more expensive to mount an initiative and vastly easier to get an initiative tossed off the ballot. Then they threw in a little something extra to put a chill into any groups that might be tempted to go against the powers that be: $1,000 fines imposed against the group’s organizers for each and every campaign violation committed by petition carriers.
What lawmakers don’t, can’t explain away
Ducey and the Legislature – and their handlers over at the chamber – say it’s all about “restoring integrity” to the system. That powerful out-of-state interests have hijacked the process to enact laws the citizen-elected Legislature never would.
Left unexplained: how the hijack happens when hundreds of thousands of Arizona voters must sign petitions to put an initiative on the ballot and a million or more must agree on Election Day.
Also left unexplained: why our leaders don’t worry about the powerful out-of-state interests who bankroll dark-money campaigns to get them elected.
That’s because these three new laws aren’t about restoring integrity. They’re about restoring control over what happens in this state and to heck with what a majority of the people who live here may want.
Big obstacles to get petitions on ballot
So now comes the hard part.
Referendum organizers will need 75,321 signatures on each of the three petitions within 90 days of adjournment to put the laws on hold until voters can decide their fate next year. They’re aiming to collect 30 percent extra as a cushion.
Thus far, they don’t have a source of funding and that’s a huge problem. Expect the dark money interests to roll out the cash to stop this referendum. I’d guess the first step will be an effort to hire all the petition gathering firms, so that they are unavailable to carry referendum petitions.
Johnson knows that sizable push-back is coming. He experienced it – twice – when he proposed a top-two primary system, to fundamentally change the way we elect our leaders.
Former mayor experienced the difficulty firsthand
The first time, he lost at the polls after dark money groups spent hundreds of thousands of dollars opposing the idea – money he couldn’t match.
The second time, he says his source of funding suddenly dried up before the initiative could get underway.
This time, Johnson, a Democrat turned independent, is teaming with Woods, a Republican, to run this referendum. He expects a number of groups across the political spectrum to back the effort.
No word as yet on whether anyone will run an initiative as well, to stop the Legislature from eating away at our right to run initiatives in the future.
That, of course, is a tougher thing to do, as you’d need agreement on what an initiative should say and you’d need at last four times the number of signatures to put something on the ballot.
“Here’s what’s easy,” Johnson said. “Every single group on the right and left that have used the initiative process knows how difficult it is already. And they know if they remove it, the Legislature no longer will have a check. They will basically be accountable to the five percent of the people who actually vote in the primary in their gerrymandered districts in a narrow primary. Today, they already are not responsible to the majority of the people. You remove this (initiative) process, there’s no check on them.”
Look for petitions to hit the streets next week, after the Legislature adjourns.
This is probably overly optimisitic, without a source of funding.
A word of caution: referendums are subject to the “strict compliance” standard that the legislature has tried to extend to citizens iniatives. This means that everything on these petitions must be error free, or some shyster lawyer hired by the Chamber of Commerce can challenge those petitions in court to get them thrown out, even though the petitions contain the names of citizens who are registered voters who signed legitimately in favor of these referendums.
Quality control must be job one. Thais will take money and organization.
It’s time to stand up and fight back against Tea-Publican tyranny.