Last week I posted about how Tea-Publican newbie legislator Rep. Todd Clodfelter (R-Tucson) was the decisive vote in committee to advance a package of bills from our corporate overlords in the Chamber of Commerce organizations to restrict your constitutional rights to the initiative and referendum process. House Tea-Publicans vote to restrict your constitutional right to make laws.
This week it is Rep. Vince Leach (R-Tucson) who is carrying water for our corporate overlords in the Chamber of Commerce organizations and doing the bidding of his “dark money” masters. Arizona lawmakers advance bill to limit voter initiatives:
Spurred by business interests in the wake of a voter-approved minimum-wage hike, Republican lawmakers approved legislation Thursday that could curtail the ability of citizens to create their own laws.
The most significant provision of HB 2404 would effectively eliminate the ability of groups to use paid circulators by prohibiting payment by the number of signatures gathered.
Paid circulators would still be allowed — but only if compensated on an hourly or other basis. But that removes any incentive for circulators to gather as many signatures as possible.
“It reforms the incentive for fraud and forgery,” said Rep. Vince Leach, R-Tucson, who is carrying the legislation that was largely crafted by the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
The measure approved by the House Government Committee on a party-line vote and sent to the full House also imposes a series of new procedural hurdles and gives those who oppose initiatives new rights to try to have them knocked off the ballot before voters get a chance to weigh in.
The legislation also requires strict compliance with all initiative requirements, something Sierra Club lobbyist Sandy Bahr said could result in disqualifying petitions simply because their margins are not the right size.
And it would require any initiative committee that uses paid circulators to purchase a bond of up to $50,000.
Leach, however, did not explain what damages that is designed to cover.
Rep. Ken Clark, D-Phoenix, questioned what happens if companies choose not to write bonds for these unspecified damages.
* * *
[A] series of people who have been involved in the initiative process in the past three decades all testified that using only volunteers is not realistic.
It takes 150,642 valid signatures to put a proposed change to state law on the ballot, a figure based on 10 percent of the people who voted in the last gubernatorial election. But it realistically takes more than 200,000 names given how many signatures are disqualified through the screening process.
Constitutional changes carry an even higher burden of 225,963 valid signatures.
“This bill is killing the initiative process by small cuts,” said Doris Provine, president of the Arizona Advocacy Network.
She called the changes “onerous.”
“We can’t do initiatives with volunteer signature gatherers,” Provine said.
* * *
Rivko Knox of the League of Women Voters pointed out HB 2404 is one of a series of measures at the Republican-controlled Legislature designed to impose new hurdles on those who want to propose laws, “leading many to believe that its goal is, in essence, to make it impossible for initiatives to be a viable method of creating legislation.”
The supporters of the legislation who testified were those who unsuccessfully attempted to get voters to kill Proposition 206, which raised the state minimum wage.
That includes the Arizona Restaurant Association, whose chief operating officer Dan Bogert testified in favor of the restrictions, particularly on the use of paid circulators.
But Scott Cargill of Humane Voters of Arizona pointed out that those who say paid circulators lead to fraud are not proposing to limit the ability of political candidates, including legislators, to hire and pay people by the signature to gather names on their nominating petitions.
Leach said it’s not the same thing, saying lawmakers can be turned out of office every two years [Take a hint Arizona voters.]. Cargill sniffed at that distinction.
“I haven’t heard a reason as to why a fraudulent signature for a candidate should be remedied by the fact that the candidate is voted out of office in a couple of years,” he said.
Former state Rep. Theresa Ulmer pointed out that many of the people supporting the legislation are members of the [Arizona Chamber of Commerce].
“A lot of these folks are dark-money folks,” she said, referring to efforts by that group to block legislation which would require groups who run so-called independent expenditure campaigns for and against candidates to disclose the source of their cash.
No, the Chamber of Commerce’s lickspittle lackeys in the Tea-Publican legislature instead passed a “dark money on steroids” bill that our Koch-bot Governor Ducey signed into law. The citizens of Arizona have no protection against our corporate overlord abusers and their lickspittle lackeys in the Tea-Publican legislature. (Arizona voters apparently are not smart enough to figure it out that to end this abuse of power, they have to toss these Tea-Publicans out of office en masse).
Laurie Roberts of The Republic adds some additional details. SOS 3.0, Arizona: You just took a hit:
Consider yourself slapped, Arizona.
On Thursday morning, in one of the more disgraceful displays I’ve ever seen at the Legislature, the House Government Committee approved a bill that will fundamentally affect your constitutional rights to make laws at the ballot box.
And not in a good way.
Our leaders did it after refusing to allow citizens to speak for longer than a minute apiece to defend their rights, and even then interrupting several times to tell speakers their 60 seconds were just about up.
They did it after limiting the ability of Democrats on the panel to question the bill’s sponsor, suggesting that he ask his questions in private.
It seems the Republicans who control the joint were just too pressed for time to allow a full airing of the bill. Having read it, I can certainly see why they’d rather hurry it along.
Why weren’t Republicans concerned about …
House Bill 2404 throws up multiple obstacles designed to make it more difficult, if not impossible, for citizens to make laws by voter initiative.
A right given to you 105 years ago by Arizona’s founding fathers.
Mark 2017 as the year when you will essentially lose that fundamental right.
I know this because of the disdain showed voters during Thursday’s so-called public hearing on the bill.
Not a single Republican expressed a concern about the bill or even had a question…
…About why we would want to make it vastly more expensive to mount a citizen initiative.
…About why suddenly groups would no longer be able to pay petition circulators by the signature — a method that keeps costs down — even as they could continue to pay by the signature when circulating their nominating petitions..
…About why it’s necessary suddenly to require that initiative campaigns adhere to “strict compliance” with the law as opposed to the current standard, “substantial compliance” – meaning that such minor offenses as being a quarter-inch off in the margins could result in an initiative petition signed by hundreds of thousands of Arizona voters being thrown out.
I imagine the Republicans didn’t need to ask why, because they already know the answer.
What HB 2404’s supporters know
The powers-that-be in this state are steamed that voters approved Prop. 206, raising the state’s minimum wage.
Payback? It’s being delivered by Rep. Vince Leach, R-Tucson, who assures us that HB 2404 is all about protecting the integrity of the electoral system — that our rights aren’t being affected by the myriad of changes, including the big one making it more vastly more expensive (read: essentially unaffordable) to hire petition circulators.
Oh, but not to worry.
“You can go all volunteer,” Leach said, with a smile.
So says the man who relied on paid signatures to get on the ballot.
Never mind that it is impossible for volunteers to gather hundreds of thousands of signatures in a short period of time without the help of paid petition circulators.
But then, Leach knows that, as do the who’s who of power brokers in this state who are supporting this bill to erode our rights. Among them:
The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, for whom the Gone in 60 Seconds Rule didn’t apply on Thursday. It’s rep spoke for three minutes. Also, Arizona Public Service, APS’s dark money pals at the Arizona Free Enterprise Club, the Arizona Restaurant Association and the Arizona Hospital and Health Care Association. Apparently, its members are still smarting over a failed initiative to cap the pay of hospital executives.
Meanwhile, those opposing the bill include the League of Women Voters, the ACLU, various union groups and non-profits. Oh, and several hundred citizens, some of whom showed up on Thursday to speak.
People like Theresa Ulmer, who managed to work in a sentence or two before Rep Bob Thorpe, R-Flagstaff, began interrupting her to count down her 60 seconds.
“Make sure you are being fair to the citizens of Arizona,” Ulmer said. “And if you’re going to erode the Constitution, don’t step up and talk about integrity.”
The bill passed 5-3, on a partyline vote. Not a single Republican felt the need to explain his or her vote.
Indeed, their reasons were crystal clear.
Voting for the bill were Republicans Doug Coleman of Apache Junction, Bob Thorpe of Flagstaff, Michelle Ugenti-Rita of Scottsdale, Todd Clodfelter of Tucson (him again), and Drew John of Safford.
Voting against the bill were Democrats Ken Clark of Phoenix, Athena Salman of Tempe, and Ray Martinez of Phoenix.
Those who vote in favor of these bills to restrict your constitutional rights to the initiative and referendum process should be removed from office. Period. Call your legislators and let them know that they are gone if they vote for the Chamber organizations’ bills to take away your constitutional rights to make laws. If you do not fight for your rights, they will be taken away from you.