Rusty Bowers

House Speaker Rusty Bowers, a Mesa Republican, is proposing legislation that would impose new demands on petitions circulated by citizens to get an initiative on the ballot. 

Led by a Mesa lawmaker, Republican legislators are moving to erect new hurdles in the path of Arizonans who want to propose their own laws and constitutional amendments.

HCR 2039 – pushed by House Speaker Rusty Bowers of Mesa – would require signatures on initiative petitions from each of the state’s 30 legislative districts. They would have to get a 30th of the minimum from each of those districts.

With a requirement for 237,645 signatures for statutory changes, the measure would mean at least 7,922 signatures from each district; constitutional changes which have to have 356,467 signatures on petitions would need at least 11,883 names on 30 separate batches of petitions from each district.

Existing law does not impose a geographic requirement.

Bowers wants to ensure measures do not get on the ballot solely because they are supported in only one area of the state.

The flip side, however, is organizations lacking volunteers throughout the state - or cannot afford paid lobbyists in rural counties - would never get their measures before state voters.

There are other states with geographic requirements on the initiative process.

Geoff Esposito, who represents Living United for Change in Arizona, told lawmakers this is far more onerous than anything elsewhere.

In Colorado, he said, it takes the equivalent of only 5 percent of those who voted in the prior election to get a measure on the ballot. In Arizona it is 10 percent.

And while there is a mandate for signatures to be gathered in each of the state’s Senate districts, the number is just 2 percent of the total, versus the 3.3 percent it would be here.

The hurdle Bowers is proposing would apply only to initiatives and would not affect candidates for statewide office – who still could get their names on the ballot without gathering signatures statewide.

“This would unduly constrain the people’s right to initiate laws,’’ said Sandy Bahr, director of the Arizona chapter of the Sierra Club. 

Bowers’ measure is just one of several before the House Elections Committee.

HCR 2032 – pushed by Rep. Anthony Kern, R-Glendale – would spell out initiatives being sent to voters “shall embrace but one subject and matters properly connected therewith.’’ And it says any provision not in the official title of the measure would be void, even if approved by voters.

Rivko Knox of the League of Women Voters warned lawmakers of pitfalls.

For example, she noted, the 2016 measure which hiked the state’s minimum wage also contained a provision to require companies to provide paid time off for their employees. She said a measure like this could preclude such a proposal from ever getting enacted again.

Knox said creating this new hurdle would give challengers new legal opportunities to try to knock proposals off the ballot with claims of multiple subjects, potentially quashing initiatives even before voters got a chance to weigh in.

Bowers also is pushing HCR 2046, which would require anything voters enacted would have to go back on the ballot every 10 years. This measure also would be retroactive, requiring reauthorization of anything approved going back to 1994.

This would force new votes on everything from medical marijuana to the minimum wage hike.

Even if the measures gain legislative approval it does not mean they will take effect: Each change would go on the November ballot for voters to get the last word.

(1) comment


Grateful for people who take the charge and take initiative!

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