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!
The Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required) reports, House passes two more bills tightening citizen-initiative laws:
Republican state lawmakers on Thursday agreed to impose two new sets of restrictions on initiatives that foes said in combination with already-approved measures will effectively deny the ability of voters to ever again propose their own laws.
SB 1236, approved by the House on a 35-23 party-line vote, would make the committee pushing a ballot measure financially responsible for any acts of fraud or forgery committed by anyone who is paid to gather signatures for the initiative. Those fines would be $1,000 for each violation.
That measure still needs final Senate approval.
Separately, the House gave give final approval to a Senate-passed bill to require that initiatives be in “strict compliance” with election laws to get on the ballot. That change in HB 2244, which now goes to Gov. Doug Ducey for his anticipated signature after the 34-23 vote, would overturn prior rulings of the Arizona Supreme Court which have concluded that initiatives may be placed before voters if they are in “substantial compliance” with the law.
The actions came after Rep. Ken Clark, D-Phoenix, urged colleagues to tread lightly.
“We have before us one of the gravest decisions we will ever make here, and that is whether to effectively shut down the initiative process for all but those, the richest interests, inside and out of the state,” he said.
And Clark said that those imposing the new restrictions now may at some point in the future be sorry when they want to put something before voters, like extending the 0.6-cent sales tax that helps fund education, a levy that will otherwise self-destruct in 2020.
But House Speaker J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, said the changes in initiative laws are not only appropriate but actually required. He said the Arizona Constitution directs lawmakers to enact measures dealing with voter registration “and other laws to secure the purity of elections and guard against abuses of the elective franchise.”
These two changes come just weeks after Ducey signed a third restriction, this one to outlaw what had been the widely used practice of paying petition circulators based on the number of signatures they gather. What that leaves is the more expensive method of paying people by the hour.
The timing of the three bills is not coincidence.
These come on the heels of voters who last fall approved increasing the state’s minimum wage to $10 an hour — $12 by 2020 — and mandating that employers provide workers at least three days off a year for sick time. That came over objections of business interests.
The Arizona Chamber of Commerce then tried to have the initiative voided by the courts. And Rep. Isela Blanc, D-Tempe, said when that failed, the businesses turned to their allies at the Capitol.
“The people have not asked for this,” she said. “It is the Chamber.”
That’s not just rhetoric: Chamber President Glenn Hamer sent out an email earlier this week saying new restrictions on initiatives are part of the “to-do list” for lawmakers.
And, of course, their lickspittle servants in the Tea-Publican controlled legislature dutifully complied.
Earlier, Sen. Sylvia Allen, R-Snowflake, asserted that the 1998 Voter Protection Act bars lawmakers from repealing or significantly altering anything approved at the ballot. That constitutional measure, approved by voters, followed a decision by lawmakers the prior year to effectively repeal a 1996 law legalizing the medical use of marijuana and other otherwise illegal drugs. Senate approves bill tightening laws for citizen initiatives:
“There is no way now to protect the people if there is unseen consequences in initiatives that are passed,” Allen said.
Sen. Martin Quezada, D-Glendale, said that is false.
He said lawmakers, with a three-fourths vote of both the House and Senate, can amend voter-approved measures to fix technical problems. The only requirement is that the change “furthers the purpose” of what voters approved.
And Quezada said there is a remedy if lawmakers truly believe that an initiative is harmful and should be repealed: Send the measure back to voters, something that needs only a simple majority.
Quezada said that is why it is called the Voter Protection Act.
“It doesn’t protect us. The people are being protected from us,” Quezada said.
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Sen. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, said the framers of the Arizona Constitution created the initiative process to ensure voters have the opportunity to act. He argued that quashing ballot efforts because they don’t meet certain technical requirements violates that right.
“I don’t care if this is scrawled on the back of a piece of bark peeled off a cottonwood tree,” Farley said. “I want these petitions to be accepted if they are genuine electors.”
Farley said he believes the measure will be found unconstitutional.
* * *
Sen. Andrea Dalessandro, D-Tucson, said she foresees a legal challenge if Ducey signs this measure into law. She said it is up to the courts, and not the legislature, to decide how to interpret the constitutional right of voters to propose their own laws.
“And it will yet again waste taxpayers’ money like we’ve done so many times,” Dalessandro said.
The die is cast, all three bills will be signed by our “Koch-bot” governor on the orders of the Chamber of Commerce organizations.
There has been some discussion of a referendum to challenge the new laws restricting citizens initiatives, but there is no agreement among the organizations that would organize and fund such a referendum effort. A legal challenge is far more likely.
The obvious answer is to kick every Tea-Publican who voted for these bills out of office. But Arizona voters have demonstrated time and again that they have difficulty understanding the most obvious of answers. And that is how they wind up under the boot of oppression and tyranny.