House Judiciary Committee approves repeal of HB 2305 on a party-line vote


Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

I took the time this morning to watch the House Judiciary Committee hearing on Rep. "Fast Eddie" Farnsworth's HB 2196 to repeal the GOP Voter Suppression Act, HB 2305. "Fast Eddie" was in high dudgeon, taking offense to any suggestion that he or his committee are plotting an end-run around the citizens referendum ("citizens veto") of HB 2305 by repealing it, only to reenact it in smaller bills.

"Fast Eddie" sounded like the stereotypical Southern genteel gentleman, ""I do declare! Sir, you have offended my tender Southern sensibilities by impugning my character. I challenge you to a duel at dawn!" He must need a ladder to get up on his high horse.

His first victim was a witness from the League of Women Voters, which opposes HB 2196 (damn Dude, I though everyone loves the ladies at the LWV). "Fast Eddie" stated that he hasn't introduced any bill to replace HB 2305, and insisted "I have no knowledge" of any effort to break it up into pieces and to reintroduce the bill (he obviously does not read the newspapers where legislators are quoted saying this), on the other hand . . . "that doesn't mean it won't happen." HB 2305 "was my bill" and "I've made my postion clear. We'll repeal it and see what happens."

Jennifer Laredo of the Arizona Education Association, which also opposes HB 2196, echoed the same concerns as the League of Women Voters. Laredo bluntly stated that we can't get a definitive answer regarding any end-run around the citizens refrendum. There is no commitment from the legislature.

Rep. Ethan Orr (R-Tucson) posed a hypothetical to Laredo at this point: "if we give you a definitive commitment [not to end-run HB 2305] would you support" HB 2196? Laredo wisely did not fall for this trap. She pointed out that the AEA is one member of the coalition opposed to HB 2305 and she would not commit to a hypothetical scenario. It would require further discussion, and the coalition of groups opposed to HB 2305 to be included at the table in stakeholder discussions. There was no forthcoming offer of an ironclad commitment from "Fast Eddie" or his committee.

Julie Erfle, from the Protect Your Right to Vote Committee that successfully put the citizens referendum of HB 2305 on the ballot, also testified. This elicited a statement from "Fast Eddie" that "there will be pieces [of HB 2305] that will come forward and have to be cleand up,'" in particular, cleaning up the Permanent Early Voter Lists (PEVL) — hence the legitimate suspicion and lack of trust from this group that the legislature plans an end-run around the citizens referendum.

There was a discussion of the Voter Protection Act, Prop. 105 (1998). There are concerns by some that a successful repeal of HB 2305 by the voters would make it "voter protected" and the legislature could not enact future election law changes. Jennifer Laredo stated it is her position that a citizens veto does not create voter protection. "Fast Eddie" responded, what's the difference if the voters repeal HB 2305, or we do it with this bill now? We can still come back later and enact new election law changes.

Rep. Ethan Orr similarly queried, "this bill does exactly what you worked so hard to accomplish." This is about another issue. "Is this really about a lack of trust for this body?" Give that man a cigar!

As Julie Erflie explained, a vote of the people rejecting HB 2305 would be a strong statement for the legislature not to reject the will of the voters and to try to pass the same legislation in the future. Ms. Erflie sadly "misunderestimates" the Tea-Publicans in the legislature, as G.W. Bush would say. The Tea-Publicans on the panel were dismissive of any limitations on a future legislature.

Jim Drake from the Arizona Secretary of State's office also testified, in favor of HB 2196. Rep. Ethan Orr posed to him the question, "would failure of the citizens referendum make HB 2305 voter protected" under the Voter Protection Act? Jim Drake explained that this is a question of first impression and there is no legal opinion from the attorney general. it is an "unanswered question" under Arizona law.

Drake was there to make the point that the legislature can repeal and replace portions of a law that is subject to a citizens referendum in the interim between qualifying for the ballot and an election. It happened as recently as 1994 with a tort reform bill of the Arizona legislature.

Rep. Martín Quezada posed a question to Drake that it appeared no one had considered before. In regards to a citizens referendum of a legislative act referred by the voters, is it his position that "the voters cannot approve of a legislative action by saying yes?" Can voters "only say no?" Drake appeared dumbfounded, and responded that to aprove an action, it would have to be by a citizens initiative.

Drake's answer is wrong, and he knows it. If the legislature does nothing, and the citizens referendum goes to the voters this fall and voters do not vote to repeal HB 2305, then the law would go into effect. HB 2305 is held in abeyance from the time the referendum qualifies for the ballot until a final vote is certified. Mr. Drake's answer was disingenuous because he was arguing in favor of HB 2196.

In fact, Rep. Quezada got Drake to concede that there will be two lines on the ballot following the short title and explantion of the citizens referendum: If you vote "yes," X will happen (i.e. vetoed). If you vote "no," Y will happen (i.e., the law will go into efect). There was an audible "uh-oh" moment from one of the legislators as the light finally came on to something they had not considered — they are denying voters the right to decide.

It did not matter in the end. The House Judiciary Committee voted in favor of HB 2196 0n a 4-2 party-line vote, with Reps. Goodale and Hale excused from the hearing. The bill has a "do pass" recommendation.


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