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You won’t be voting on the pension-reform prop on this year’s city ballot and more...

SIGNATURE EFFORT, PART I

We suppose last week's preview of the Prop 201 campaigns was a bit of a waste, given that the Arizona Court of Appeals booted the initiative from the city's ballot shortly after our print edition hit the streets.

As you may recall, the initiative would have scraped Tucson's pension program in favor a 401(k)-style retirement program for city workers.

But some city employees sued to knock the initiative off the ballot because some of the petition passers had criminal backgrounds.

While Pima County Superior Court Judge James Marner struck many of the signatures, he didn't toss enough to disqualify the initiative. But last week, the Arizona Court of Appeals delivered a deathblow to Prop 201, ruling that it should be knocked from the ballot (although the justices have yet to reveal their legal reasoning). An effort to get the Arizona Supreme Court to reverse the Appeals Court decision failed on Monday, Sept. 16, so voters won't be asked to decide the issue. (And the Virginia-based supporters of the initiative have spent at least $160,000 in a remarkably unproductive way, although it may have stimulated the Arizona economy, at least among certain political consultants and attorneys).

Art Flagg, the local front man for the big-money conservatives behind the initiative, said the fight over pension reform wasn't over yet.

"Regardless of how the Court eventually rules, pension reform is of critical importance to Tucsonans and we will continue this effort," Flagg told The Skinny via email.

Meanwhile, local Democrats cheered the court decision. Pima County Democratic Party Chairman Don Jorgensen called the court ruling "a victory for hard-working city employees, fiscal responsibility and local control."

SIGNATURE EFFORT, PART II

Speaking of petition drives: To no great surprise, former lawmaker Frank Antenori and his allies came up short on the referendum effort to derail Gov. Jan Brewer's expansion of AHCCCS insurance coverage to anyone below 100 percent of the federal poverty level.

Antenori said the effort "would have made the ballot, easy," if hadn't been for Brewer and her political team sabotaging the effort by paying off petition passers to not gather signatures for the effort.

"They were having a party when they found out how close we came and they realized the reason we didn't have enough was because they were doing everything they could to stop us," Antenori told The Skinny. "Who needs the Democratic Party when we have Republicans spending over a million dollars a year going after Republicans?"

The fight over the Medicaid expansion is not over. Last week, the Goldwater Institute filed suit to overturn the new law, saying that it did not have the support of the two-thirds of lawmakers necessary to enact a tax increase.

The Brewer administration has argued that it didn't need the two-thirds majority because it wasn't raising taxes. Instead, the legislation assesses a voluntary fee on hospitals to cover the state's portion of the cost of the expansion. Basically—and the numbers change from year to year—the state needs to kick in a few hundred million dollars to get billions of dollars from the federal government.

It's hard to predict how the Goldwater lawsuit will play out. There's a question of whether the plaintiffs in this case even have standing to bring the suit; none of the hospitals that are going to be taxed are part of the lawsuit (and the hospitals who might have joined the lawsuit because they didn't like the assessment have been exempted from paying the fee to the state).

So the plaintiffs are, instead, 36 of 90 state lawmakers who say their rights have been violated because—even though they are a minority within the Legislature—they should have been able to quash the expansion because at least one-third of the Legislature opposed the expansion.

Attorney Jeff Rogers tells The Skinny via email that the question of standing is not mandatory in state courts, so the courts could, as a matter of discretion, take the case anyway. But Rogers is skeptical that if courts were to require standing, lawmakers would make the cut as a legit injured party in this case.

SIGNATURE EFFORT, PART III

While the Medicaid referendum may have fizzled, it looks like the effort to block an overhaul of the state's election laws has a pretty good shot at getting on the ballot.

The Protect Your Right to Vote Committee turned in more than 146,000 petition signatures last week. Supporters need about 87,000 signatures to put the question on the ballot, so they've a pretty good cushion there. Four out of every 10 signatures could be bad and they'd still have enough to force a vote on the election law changes in 2014.

Those changes included making it a crime for anyone associated with a political campaign to turn in an early ballot other than their own; making it easier for election officials to purge names from the early-voting list; making it more difficult for Libertarian and Green Party candidates to make the ballot; and creating new roadblocks to putting initiatives on the ballot.

"It was wrong for career politicians to try and influence elections by putting up roadblocks for voters who might not agree with them and to make criminals out of dedicated campaign volunteers," said campaign chairwoman Julie Erfle in a prepared statement. "As we gathered signatures, even in the heat of an Arizona summer and in the face of efforts to block our signature drive, we were inspired by the willingness of Arizonans to stand up for voting rights. We found strong support from voters of all political stripes, persuasions and backgrounds. That does not bode well for the authors and supporters of HB2305, including many Arizona legislators."

DOLLAR DASH UPDATE

Both of the Republican candidates for City Council this year have now submitted their paperwork to qualify for the city's matching-funds program, which provides a public dollar for every private dollar raised, as long as candidates stay within a spending threshold. (This year, it's about $111,000.) To qualify, candidates have to raise a minimum of 200 contributions of at least $10 from city residents.

Republican Mike Polak II told The Skinny last week that the city informed him that he was seven contributions shy of qualifying. Polak, whose most recent report showed that he had raised roughly $9,000 as of Sept. 2, told us he already had enough contributions to put him over the top and he'd be amending his request for matching funds.

Polak is facing Democratic incumbent Richard Fimbres, who has already qualified for matching funds. Fimbres, who is seeking a second term representing southside Ward 5, had raised more than $40,000 in private funds for his campaign and, although he had qualified for matching funds, had not received any as of Sept. 2.

Meanwhile, Republican candidate Ben Buehler-Garcia, who is challenging City Councilwoman Karin Uhlich, turned in his application for matching funds last week. It shows that Buehler-Garcia had raised more than $61,000 through Sept. 9 and had nearly $48,000 in the bank.

Uhlich, who is seeking a third term in northside Ward 3, had raised more than $80,000 in combined private and public funds and had more than $50,000 in the bank as of Sept. 2.

Here's a twist in the fundraising race: As of last week, the ceiling on contributions went way, way up. A new state law sets the limit for contributions from individuals or political action committees at $2,500 rather than the erstwhile limit of $450. However, if a candidate has signed a contract to participate in the city's matching-funds program (and all of them have this year), they can't take more than $500 from any single contributor.

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