Republican lawmakers in Arizona, have passed a series of laws that would make it harder for everyday citizens to bring up new laws in the state a process known also as ballot initiatives. HB 2244 was approved by the Arizona House of Representatives in February and passed in the Senate in mid-April. The series of anti-initiatives are intended to limit voter participation in the law-making process.
Ironically, this move comes with strong support from a special interest group, the Chamber of Commerce which backed the measures after Arizonans passed a referendum in 2016 to raise the minimum wage to $10 in 2017 and $12 by the year 2020.
“We are telling the public: We want to make it more difficult for you to get something on the ballot,” Arizona Senator Tony Navarrete said. Navarrete is a Democrat who represents the Phoenix area, and like everything in politics, one side is for an issue and one side is against.
The process of ballot initiatives in Arizona has been sacrosanct since the state was granted statehood in 1912 and was enriched in the constitution. In section one of the Arizona constitution, it reads, “Initiative power: The first of these powers is the initiative. Under this power, ten per centum, of the qualified electors shall have the right to propose any measure and fifteen per centum shall have the right to propose any amendment to the constitution.”
The recent move has historic influence as Arizona has been, since its inception into the Union, the most active state when it comes to ballot initiatives. Arizona’s first ballot initiative was in 1912 when it passed a law allowing women to vote. 111 measures have appeared on the ballot in Arizona since 1996 making the state one of the most active in the country.
In response to the passage of the ballot initiatives in November, Republicans have made it tougher for groups to bring up the measures on the ballot and a $1,000 fine is imposed for each and every violation of the rules for submission. Governor Doug Ducey supports the measure and is expected to sign the series of new laws.
The main part of the bill, SB 2136, would make the organizers of initiatives held personable liable for the violations of election laws.
However, despite the accusations of limiting democracy by the Democrats, Republicans continue to support the measures. “There is no way now to protect the people if there is unseen consequences in initiatives that are passed,” Senator Sylvia Allen said. Allen is a Republican who represents Snowflake Arizona.
Some on the Democratic side believe the measures will be found to be unconstitutional if the series of laws do get passed. Despite all the process on the legislative front, the laws could be over turned by the citizens of Arizona, and they are expected to be challenged in court.
In my opinion, if Republicans in Arizona are serious about being part of a democracy, then they should rethink these laws that they just passed. Allowing citizens to propose laws is vital to being part of Arizona democracy.
Links to sources:
- AZ Central Link: http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/politics/legislature/2017/02/23/arizon-abill-change-ballot-initiative-process-advances/98225060/
- AZ Central Link,2,: http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/politics/legislature/2017/04/12/arizona-senate-advances-another-initiative-limiting-bill/100388962/
- Arizona Capital Times: http://azcapitoltimes.com/news/2017/04/12/senate-approves-bill-tightening-laws-for-citizen/
- Ballotpedia Link to Arizona Constitution section for Initiatives: https://ballotpedia.org/Article_4,_Arizona_Constitution
- USA Today Link: https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/op-ed/laurieroberts/2017/05/04/roberts-group-filing-block-initiative-laws/310811001/