Bad day in the AZ Supreme Court for initiatives, and for democracy


The day after the primary election, the Arizona Supreme Court signaled the death knell for democracy in Arizona, upholding our lawless GOP legislature’s machinations to severely restrict your constitutional right to citizens initiatives in lickspittle service to their corporate masters. The court sided with the corporatocracy.

The Arizona Supreme Court blocked the InvestInEd initiative and Outlaw Dirty Money initiative from appearing on the ballot.

The Arizona Capitol Times reports, Supreme Court bars tax on rich ballot measure from vote:

The Arizona Supreme Court won’t allow a vote on a citizen initiative to raise taxes for public education.

In an order signed by Chief Justice Scott Bales, a majority of the justices ruled that the #InvestInEd initiative’s description of the campaign’s proposed tax hike on the wealthiest Arizonans, and the omission of any language describing how the law would affect the income tax brackets for Arizonans at every income level, was inadequate.

The two drafting errors collectively created “a significant danger of confusion or unfairness,” Bales wrote in the decision barring the initiative from a vote on the November ballot.

Supporters of the #InvestInEd movement sought to raise taxes on income above $250,000, a move they estimated would boost funding for K-12 public schools by $690 million.

The effort was crippled by what the opposition described as drafting errors.

Kory Langhofer, an attorney for the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, argued that a 100-word description of the initiative inaccurately described the percent increase in tax brackets for wealthy Arizonans. And the initiative would undo a 2014 law that indexes all income tax brackets for inflation, which state budget analysts estimated would affect all Arizonans with higher taxes, Langhofer argued.

Though the #InvestInEd campaign vehemently denied the initiative would affect indexing, lawyers for the Legislature, and now the Supreme Court, disagreed.

The Arizona Capitol Times also reports, Supreme Court rejects appeal in ‘dark money’ ballot disqualification:

The Arizona Supreme Court late Wednesday rejected a last-ditch effort by supporters of a ban on “dark money” in political races to put the issue to voters in November.

In a brief order, the justices rejected arguments by attorney Kimberly Demarchi that Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Teresa Sanders improperly and illegally refused to count the signatures on several petition sheets. That ruling clearly left the initiative with fewer than the 225,963 valid signatures necessary to qualify for the ballot.

The initiative would have asked voters to overturn existing laws that allow groups established under the Internal Revenue Code as “social welfare organizations” to spend money to influence state and local races without disclosing the source of their donors. Instead, any individual that put in at least $2,500 would have to be named.

That leaves in place not only the state law shielding donors who give to organizations seeking to affect state and legislative elections, it also leaves intact another law, approved by the Republican-controlled Legislature earlier this year, prohibiting local governments from imposing their own disclosure requirements. That most immediately overruled an ordinance approved by Tempe voters on a 91-9 margin.

Demarchi was challenging the law that requires automatic disqualification of petitions when circulators do not show up.

If nothing else, she argued that the law does not comply with court rules that the people issuing the subpoenas show they have been properly served. And Demarchi said it was wrong to let challengers to the initiative wait until 11 days before the trial to even mention that they planned to subpoena circulators.

“The voters of Arizona are being deprived of even the opportunity to consider the proposed amendment referred for their consideration by hundreds of thousands of their fellow citizens,” Demarchi told the justices. “This result should not be permitted to stand.”

The justices saw it otherwise, upholding the law without comment.

Chief Justice Scott Bales, in writing the order keeping the measure off the ballot, said their finding in favor of Sanders on the petition-disqualification law made it unnecessary for them to look at other legal issues related to the initiative.

Arizonans will get a chance to decide whether they want to require utilities in the state to produce more of their power from renewable sources. Supreme Court upholds ruling to allow energy measure to go to ballot:

The Arizona Supreme Court late Wednesday rejected various claims by attorneys for Arizona Public Service that the initiative sponsored by California billionaire Tom Steyer lacks sufficient valid signatures to go to voters in November. The justices provided no details about what they found wanting in the APS legal briefs, promising an explanation later.

Wednesday’s ruling comes just two days after Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Daniel Kiley said he found no evidence that initiative supporters had somehow tricked people into signing the initiative petitions. And Kiley rebuffed various efforts by APS to have him disqualify other signatures.

The decision drew fire from Matthew Benson, spokesman for Arizonans for Affordable Electricity, the group that has been financed with more than $11 million from Pinnacle West Capital Corp., the parent company of APS. He said both Kiley and the justices got it wrong.

But with the Supreme Court having the last word, Benson said the group now will focus its effort on trying to defeat Proposition 127. Oh, they will. Pinnacle West (APS) and its “Kochtopus” allies will spend whatever it takes to defeat this ballot measure. The Arizona Supreme Court made it easier by giving them only one initiative that they have to focus on.

Even if voters approve the constitutional amendment, it is an open question whether utilities will comply.

In anticipation of the initiative, APS got the Republican-controlled Legislature to approve a measure which says that utilities that violate the renewable energy standard would be subject to a penalty of no more than $5,000 — and potentially as little as $100 — potentially making it cheaper to ignore the mandate and pay the fine, even if they have to do it each day.

Rep. Vince Leach, R-Tucson, who sponsored the measure, said during hearings that the intent of the law, which was signed by Gov. Doug Ducey, was to ensure that it would not matter if voters side with initiative organizers. He said it is the responsibility of lawmakers to protect Arizona residents from out-of-state interests, specifically referring to Steyer.

What this bad day in court demonstrates is the consequences of Arizona’s history of low voter participation in elections. The majority of eligible voter age Arizonans do not participate in elections, and it allows a minority of radical Republicans who are financed by unlimited corporate money, much of it “dark money,” to get elected and to systematically destroy our constitutional democracy.

The laws these evil GOP bastards passed in lickspittle service to their corporate masters can be reversed by a future legislature and democracy restored in Arizona. But this will require Arizonans to get off their indifferent and complacent asses and register to vote, and then to actually turn out to vote en masse for Democratic candidates on November 6 to put Democrats in charge.

Democracy is on the ballot this November. Will you defend it, or will you let it die – not with a bang but a whimper of indifference and complacency?

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  1. I’m not going to send any protest emails to anyone about the de-balloted ballot measures. I’m going to urge every progressive group to do the things they need to do, right now. These should have been done when the law-makers first attacked AZ direct democracy. First, progressive groups need to form a non-partisan direct democracy federation. (They might even call it the Direct Democracy Federation, DDF, or the Direct Democracy Coalition, DDC.)
    Second, start right now to brain-storm the constitutional and statutory ballot measures that can: 1) Save AZ direct democracy from the permanent majority of lawmakers; 2) Save AZ from same; 3) Save AZ schools (K-16) from permanent neglect; 4) Convince AZ voters that the majority party doesn’t agree with them on what’s good public policy. Have them carefully drafted, vetted and ready-to-go the day after the general election. Then you’ll have 20 months to collect so many signatures that no rigged AZ Sup. Ct. majority can throw it off the ballot.
    Axiom One: Arizonans have the “(R)” habit bad. This is a permanent condition unless a remedy can be discovered.
    Axiom Two: You’re not going to change the “(R)” habit via candidate elections alone. Pouring resources into candidate elections for a political party that doesn’t have a clue is madness. And that madness is even greater if those resources are diverted from direct democracy efforts that still could yield progressive results. We can’t continue to rely on outside groups to effectively put good public policy on the AZ ballot.
    If you doubt the truth of Axiom Two, read the “The Big Sort”. And remember that our always out-of-power party was advised early-on (long before “Red-for-Ed”) to do the obvious. The clear strategy was to recruit teacher candidates for all legislative seats never held by a Democrat in the current geographic district set. The did NOT do this. No clue!
    Axiom Three: Direct democracy via a permanent progressive group coalition is the only possible route to continuous progressive public policy influence in AZ. There is no such thing now. There has not been for at least 50 years. Anything that you think looked continuous was an illusion. The Koch Network is organized. (Per Nancy MacLean’s “Democracy in Chains”, the Koch group long-ago adopted some of Lenin’s methods.) And all the Big Business sectors are organized and extremely networked. History is filled with small, but well-organized winning groups (see Lenin).
    But the direct democracy window of opportunity is closing fast. This strategy must be mounted with as much speed, force, skill, and resources as possible.
    Axiom Four: Direct democracy is probably the only way to make the candidate election process a two-party system in AZ. You have to doggedly put public policies on the ballot that AZ voters will readily favor, or be easily convinced to favor. (This might take multiple ballot placements for crucial items.) Then they will see that the Republicans consistently oppose those measures. That has the only real potential to wake some of them up, and maybe break the “(R)” habit. It will have to be one big “values clarification” process. That will take deep continuous research and planning.
    Axiom Five: Without more state revenue sources ALL progressive goals for AZ are in reality or even by definition unachievable. So, ALL progressive groups have a stake in united efforts to reform anything remotely related to revenue and spending. (During the recession what happened to “All-Day K” that Napolitano traded tax-cuts to get? What happened to Prop 301 K-12 funding during that recession?)
    Revenue is not the only reason ALL progressive groups should band together to use direct democracy effectively. It is obvious that ALL progressive groups will be more successful in attaining all their goals if they all cooperate on everything possible. It’s about larger scale of effort, reduced duplicate effort, targeted efforts, and wiser skilled efforts. Such extensive, deep coordination is not possible except via a formal direct democracy coalition organization.
    For those of you that are concerned that direct democracy might be bad for good governance, you’re a little too late. During the 1990s the right-wingers did enormous damage to the finances of states with direct democracy including AZ. The damage has already been done. The poli-sci studies indicate that adequate revenue is correlated to most measures of good governance. So, the culprit is not ‘direct democracy’. It is the hard fact that the libertarian coalition has been better organized, and quicker to see opportunity. Plus they faced small protest. Thus, given the AZ voter’s “(R)” habit, the remedy has to be: make direct democracy itself a safe source of good governance. (See “Direct Democracy’s Impact on American Political Institutions”.)
    (Beware the false dawn of Democratic victories this fall. They’ve won or tied for control of one house of the legislature only 4 times out of last 26 straight elections. That’s over 50 years of futility starting in 1966. Intermittent control of only one house won’t get you very far policy-wise. And if Garcia wins remember that we’ve had Democratic governors before. One governor alone can’t change the Koch-course of this state. I hope I’m wrong.)

    • The word “The” should have been ‘They’ in the sentence that should have been “They did NOT do this.” [5th paragraph, the one just before “Axiom Three:”]

    • The word “The” should have been ‘They’ in the sentence that should have been ‘They did NOT do this.’ [toward the end of the 5th paragraph, the one just before “Axiom” Three:]

  2. I’m pretty sure that Ducey had this move in his back pocket before the primary… he acquiescenced on the teacher raises BEFORE the election to get those votes…. with this as his backup. The only way to break the stranglehold is to vote them out. All of these enablers need to go. They don’t work for the people. They work for their big $$ donors.

  3. Please write a column on which Supreme Court justices are on the ballot in November. Unless Ducey suspends the election, we can vote against Justice Clint Bolick.

    • Arizona has a judicial merit selection and retention system. Judges of the Appellate Courts and Supreme Court (6 year terms), and the Superior Courts in Maricopa, Pima and Pinal County (4 year terms) are appointed to office; they are not elected. They do, however, have to stand for judicial retention — the part of the ballot that far too many voters never even look at.

      The terms of two Arizona Supreme Court justices will expire in January 2019. Justice John Pelander was appointed to the court in 2009 by Republican Governor Jan Brewer. He will have served one full term on the court. Justice Clint Bolick was appointed to the court in 2016 by Republican Governor Doug Ducey. Both are required to stand for retention by voters in November 2018 in order to remain on the bench for a full six-year term.

      Clint Bolick served as vice president for litigation at the Goldwater Institute since 2007 and also worked as president and general counsel of the Alliance for School Choice and as vice president and director of litigation for the Institute for Justice, before his appointment to te court in 2016. This background is grounds enough to vote against his retention.

  4. WV removed their SC justices from the bench, I’m assuming we have a similar mechanism in AZ. The people of AZ need to wake up, pay attention, educate themselves about the truth of what’s happening right in front of their faces, AND VOTE. EVERY. SINGLE.TIME. Big money influences are taking over our democracy, locally, statewide and nationally. The swamp is what we’re drowning in. Made even swampier by the con man in the Oval.

    Since when is it acceptable for a state SC to deny the wishes of the citizens of the state to be heard? Had enough? VOTE

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