Some GOP lawmakers seek more changes in initiative rules

Some GOP lawmakers seek more changes in initiative rules

Republican lawmakers are making yet another bid to make it more difficult for those proposing their own laws to gather sufficient signatures.

Legislation awaiting action in both the House and Senate would keep in place existing laws that spell out how many names are required to put a measure on the ballot. That is based on a percentage of people who voted in the last gubernatorial election.

HCR 2005 and SCR 1023 would add the additional burden of having to obtain signatures in each of the state’s 30 legislative districts — and in proportion to the number of gubernatorial votes in each district.

Lawmakers were supposed to vote on both plans on Wednesday. But the proposals, which ultimately would need voter approval in 2020, hit a snag as some Republicans questioned the breadth of the requirement and Democrats were universally opposed.

At the heart of the argument is that the laws and constitutional amendments affect voters statewide. But they take effect if approved by a simple majority, regardless of the geographic breadth of the support.

That’s precisely what happened in 2010 when voters narrowly approved allowing marijuana to be used for medical purposes: While it was defeated in 13 counties, the margin of support in Pima and Coconino counties was large enough to make up that deficit.

Nothing in either proposal would alter how election results are tallied. But Rep. Bret Roberts, R-Maricopa, said this change at least gives some voice to voters statewide, particularly in rural areas, about what gets on the ballot.

“It all shouldn’t come from Maricopa and Pima county,’’ he said. “I think everybody should be at the table.’’

Democrats are universally opposed, calling this yet another effort by Republicans and business interests to make the initiative process more difficult.

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