Today I want to talk a bit about referenda. These are termed Senate or House Concurrent Resolutions (SCR and HCR, respectively) that are not enacted directly into law by the state Government by passage the normal method but are instead merely passed by the majority of the legislature and referred to directly to the voters at the next election.
I haven’t been too concerned about much of the utter rubbish passing through the Arizona Legislature this session because we can trust Governor Hobbs to veto anything truly stupid or harmful, but Hobbs can’t stop a referendum.
I believe direct democracy is a good thing, but sometimes the AZ Legislature has been able to toss voters a curve ball that is not in their best interest, though perhaps attractively packaged and marketed. A good example would be 2004’s Prop 101, which was a referendum limiting voter initiatives’ ability to tap into the General Fund that proved to be the thinnest edge of the wedge for undermining voters’ own legislative power, or last year’s Prop 132, that squeaked by requiring a 60% popular vote for ballot measures creating new revenues. The Arizona Legislature over the past few decades has proven unremittingly hostile to the power of our citizens to legislate and thereby to overturn, gainsay, or pass laws against the preferences of the AZGOP.
We need to educate the citizens that ANY referenda coming out of this AZGOP legislature are not in good faith – everyone serious about making our state better should vote against them all.
The excellent CEBV.org Weekly recently highlighted several referenda being considered by the legislature this session. Nothing good will come of these bills, and, if passed, Gov. Hobbs has no way to stop them. It’s up to us.
“Lawmakers know Gov. Hobbs can (and probably will) veto nearly all the divisive culture-war nonsense they are sending her. That’s why they are also trying to send a number of bills directly to the ballot — circumventing Gov. Hobbs and her veto pen — and hoping that voters will play along.
This week’s committee agendas are long, so if you do nothing else this week, please use RTS to OPPOSE each of these bills:
SCR1016 – constitutional convention, term limits
SCR1018 – anti-environmental bill
SCR1023 – anti-charter cities
SCR1024 – increased burden on citizen’s initiatives
SCR1025 – culture war bludgeon against schools
SCR1034 – anti-bipartisan budgeting
SCR1035 – automatic tax cuts
SCR1036 – prevent Ranked Choice Voting
SCR1038 – constitutional convention, unspecified
HCR2016 – constitutional convention, term limits
HCR2033 – prevent Ranked Choice Voting
HCR2038 – anti-bipartisan budgeting
HCR2040 – bans early voting and vote centers
HCR2041 – increased burden on citizen’s initiatives
Thus far, thankfully, none of these resolutions have made it out of committee except for SCR1035 and SCR1018, so we will talk about those mainly. The rest of these resolutions may still be stuck in committee by drop dead day, but you can contact the Chairs of House and Senate Judiciary Committees (where most are assigned) to try to ensure they don’t get calendared. There are so many competing bills seeking a calendar slot, that most of these will die on the vine – thank God. But we should still be aware of what’s in them: if nothing else to know the mind and aims of the #MAGAGOPAZ.
UPDATE 2/15/23: Reo. Cook’s term limits resolution, HCR 2016, (article V convention; term limits) passed the House Gov Committee on Wednesday morning by a vote of 8-1. Rep. Jones was the one vote against and said she had concerns about entering a convention of states because it could lead to a “runaway convention” where unrelated changes are made to the Constitution. At the risk of agreeing with Rep. Jones about something, she is right that it is generally agreed that a Convention cannot be effectively subject limited. Once a Convention kicks off, it could go anywhere a majority of the body wants in terms of revising or even replacing the Constitution. It would be interesting to know why several Democrats voted to give this aneurism at Do Pass? It’s not as if term limits have proven effective in AZ. In the state legislature, the limits are contravened as a routine matter with members swapping back and forth between the House and Senate to avoid term limits. It might not be as easy to do so in Congress, but even so, I find it far from proven that term limits do anything — other than make staff and lobbyists much more powerful in comparison to relatively inexperienced Members.
SCR1035 is the brainchild of Senator J.D. Mesnard, which garnered a do-pass on a party-line vote along with the legislative enactment in SB1577. 1035/1577 is an automatic budgeting gimmick that uses any surplus in revenue over population growth and inflation factors to further cut taxes and provide automatic refunds (which is the shiny selling point to voters the AZGOP will use to sell this dead horse). It is a Colorado-style TABOR on steroids– which it took 20 years and a sea change to a Democratic government to ameliorate. When combined with the supermajority needed for raising taxes in Arizona, it is essentially a suicide pact for the State Government. I don’t think that even the AZGOP is crazy enough to pass it, but it is certainly possible. Members should be brought to understand that, if they think the outdated Aggregate Expenditure Limit is an embarrassing and unnecessary threat to our public schools, this would be a much worse threat to ALL public services.
The vain hope that this referendum embodies is that the AZGOP can manage to convince voters to handcuff Arizona government spending into the indefinite future, mainly because it is increasingly clear that the AZGOP will soon lose control of the Arizona government and they don’t trust their packing of the judiciary alone to entrench their anti-government ideology. TABOR can seem like a great idea to the electorate when they are all promised fat refund checks from the state, but much regretted when our infrastructure rots, public services are eliminated, and public institutions begin to implode as a result of chronic underfunding.
Mitzi Epstein and Brian Fernandez do a good job of highlighting some of the problems with the proposal, and you can watch their questions starting at about 2:05:00 in the video:
SCR1018 is a much more modest proposal by the pre-felon forger and Senator Jake Hoffman that seeks to block our State and its localities from collecting vehicle taxes based on mileage driven rather than increasingly irrelevant fuel taxes. Because – I suppose – Big Brother would need you to honestly report and/or verify your mileage somehow? And we all know where that would lead… um, government knowing how far you drove this year? Whatever. Paranoia doesn’t need an excuse, just a minimally plausible theory. If we want to keep our roadways in good repair as we transition to a fossil fuel-free future we will need to rely on a revenue source that place the tax burden directly and proportionately on the users of our roads. This resolution would place a direct impediment to that goal right into our State Constitution – a very bad idea. It garnered a do pass from the Transport and Tech committee on a party-line vote.
The AZGOP seems intent on embedding some of their worst ideas into our State Constitution: attacking our direct democracy by making signature collection requirements yet more onerous by requiring a percentage from every state legislative district (SCR1024 and HCR2041), attacking the democracy and independence of our cities (SCR1023 and SCR1036), adopting continuing budgets automatically if the minority refuses to engage in good-faith budgeting process (SCR1034 and HCR2038, both likely unconstitutional…), trying to destroy and restrict our early balloting system and widely popular vote center model (HCR2040), making a dangerous calls for a Constitutional Convention (SCR1016, SCR1038, and HCR2016) which cannot be limited by subject or controlled once called, and preemptive attacks on Ranked Choice Voting before Arizonans can even decide whether they like it by trying it in local races (the MAGAGOPAZ are on the warpath against RCV because they know it would destroy their stranglehold on the GOP) (SCR1036 and HCR2033).
We should not let them. Sign up for RTS, call your legislators about the two resolutions that have passed their committees thus far (especially those Members of the opposite party), and speak up against these terrible ideas.
I think to honor the spirit of direct democracy, we should consider allowing a MINORITY of the legislature to discharge a bill directly to the ballot for voters to decide. Our initiative and referendum system is designed to allow ideas that the legislative majority will not pass to go directly to the voters. It would therefore make sense for a reasonably sized legislative minority (40%?) to bypass the expense of petition gathering (which runs into $100s/K up to millions) and discharge a bill directly to voters against the opposition of a majority in the legislature trying to stifle a popular idea.
Not sure that would be a good thing as it would allow a subset of the Rs to bypass the lege as a whole, and that subset is the problem. Overall though, it may work, if.some appropriate precautions are put into place.
And the lege may not/will not always have the current party split, with the Ds in the minority.
The best argument that I’ve read that favors limiting the number of measures that the lege can refer to the ballot.
Also, any ballot question or bill that sets a higher threshold for passage of something should pass by that same margin.