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Arizona Legislature sneaks more attacks on citizens' rights

Katie Hobbs, AZ I See It, 5:03 p.m. MT April 11, 2017

Lawmaker: If two strike-everything bills pass, almost every ballot initiative in Arizona could be thrown out on a technicality.

It’s striker season in the Arizona Legislature.

Strike-everything amendments are a popular tactic of the Republicans to get around the legislative process and pass bills that aren’t fully vetted. And they’re using strikers to gut our constitutional rights to initiative – attacking our ability as citizens to pass legislation via ballot measures.

Since statehood, initiatives and referenda have been integral to the foundation of our state government. The initiative and referenda process has allowed citizens to bring issues to the ballot when the Legislature refuses to do its job. Issues like funding for early childhood education, and increasing wages and mandating paid sick leave for working families..

The Legislature is continuing to attack that process through two strike-everything amendments that are moving through the House and Senate. These attacks on our rights are of course backed by the Arizona Chamber of Commerce.

This isn't about 'restoring integrity'

The striker attached to House Bill 2244, sponsored by Sen. Debbie Lesko and currently moving through the Senate, will result in nearly every citizen initiative effort being thrown out on ridiculous technicalities like wrong font size or incorrect margins.

Font size and margins should not outweigh the will of the people, but you can guarantee that the Chamber of Commerce and other special interests will use this new law to litigate to death any ballot measure they disagree with. This bill will lead to future ballot measures being decided in the court and not at the ballot box where they belong.

SB 1236 is moving through the House and has a striker sponsored by Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita. It contains a laundry list of restrictions aimed at curtailing voters' rights. This includes a provision that would disqualify petition sheets without the paid circulator’s registration number, regardless of whether there’s any actual problem with the sheet or signatures. Ballot measures are about the will of the voters, not racking up attorney’s fees looking for technicalities.

Let’s be clear: This is not about "restoring integrity to the process." It is about the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and the Republican Legislature trying to change the rules because they could not stop Proposition 206, and wanting to stop future ballot measures that lessen their power.

'Substantial compliance' is enough

The Arizona Supreme Court has already ruled that the "substantial compliance" standard reflects Arizona’s respect for direct democracy and our state Constitution.  HB 2244’s attempt to shift to a "strict compliance" standard is very likely unconstitutional and will only waste taxpayer money if taken to court.

Allowing a few people to halt the will of the majority is not who we are as Arizonans. Legislators were elected to protect our constituents from attacks to their constitutional rights. We were elected to be their voice and certainly not the voice of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce.