Thursday, February 18, 2016

Quote of the day: Power to the people? Not if the AZ lawmakers can help it!

The Quote: "Sometimes the sheer audacity of state lawmakers is jaw-dropping." from the Sierra Vista Herald's editorial (reprinted in the GV News).

Monday, a House panel voted to advance a bill that would empower legislators to overturn or change voter-enacted laws adopted in 2016 and after. Last year lawmakers adopted something similar by making it more difficult for initiatives drafted by citizens to make it onto a statewide ballot to become law.

Apparently the only thing standing [in] the way of good government for some Arizona lawmakers are the constituents who elected them.

Voter-enacted legislation is the purest form of self-governance. It requires tens of thousands of qualified signatures from registered voters, collected within a defined period of time, just to get on a statewide ballot. Often, these signatures are contested when they are reviewed by the Secretary of State, with the intention of of trying to disqualify the petition by reducing the number of signatures, making it even more difficult to reach a statewide ballot.

Once the measure does qualify for the ballot, it still requires a majority vote by Arizona electors to become law.

And that’s where the rub is for some members of the state Legislature.

When Arizona voters take the power of making laws into their own hands, they take that power away from the State Legislature. One example of this transfer of power was demonstrated when Proposition 301 was adopted by Arizona electors more than 15 years ago.

That legislation, enacted by a vote of 778,807 to 675,941 in favor, increased the state sales tax and directed that additional revenue to schools. Lawmakers lost the power of the purse with that ballot outcome and didn’t have as much authority over school funding.

But then, in 2008, the legislature gobbled up tax revenues designated for public education to fund other parts of the state government. And it all went downhill from there to the lawsuit brought by education organizations against the legislature for the violation of Prop 301 and now to Prop 123 - Ducey's Choice.

[snip]

The committee’s action on Monday to recommend a new law that would empower legislators to overturn or change voter-enacted initiatives represents a direct affront to a process that was developed with true Republican principles in mind — giving the real power of government to the people, not the politicians.

Ironically, House Bill 2043, if it makes it through the State Legislature, would require a statewide ballot — and the approval of a majority of Arizonans — to enact.

Tim Steller in yesterday's column in the Daily Star voices similar thoughts.

You voters really don’t know what’s best for you.

But the Legislature does.

That’s the message of a handful of efforts at weakening or undermining the ability of Arizona voters to set law through ballot initiatives.

[snip]

He's referring to the group of bills designed to make it harder for citizens' initiatives and easier for the legislature to overturn or subvert them.

... Prop. 123, which we’ll vote on in May, would approve the key terms of a lawsuit settlement. And the lawsuit, of course, was over the Legislature’s failure to comply with Prop. 301, a voter initiative that increased the state sales tax to pay for education and, crucially, required annual inflation increases in funding.

The settlement offers the plaintiffs — school districts and other education interests — 72 cents on the dollar that the state was judged to owe the schools. In other words, the Legislature is refusing to comply with the terms of a voter initiative and the proposed solution would not meet the voters’ stated wishes.

Granted, we can vote to reject that settlement, as we can vote to reject any of the proposed changes to the initiative system. It is up to us in the end.

But the case of education funding shows how a recalcitrant Legislature can effectively hold our stated wishes hostage. The legislative leaders promise to continue fighting against the Prop. 301 funding requirements in court if we don’t approve the settlement’s terms in May. So we must accede to their demands for a compromise on our stated wishes if we’re to get anything.

The same dynamic could play out in any voter-approved initiative that requires spending. So no, this isn’t the time to give the Legislature more power to undermine the voters. Their proven bad faith makes the case.

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