By Jim Nintzel
ONCE AGAIN THE citizens are taking on Gov. J. Fife Symington III.
This time, it's over House Bill 2319, which the Legislature passed during the final week of the last session. The law gives the governor power to fire his own appointees to more than 100 state boards and commissions overseeing the environment, working conditions, real estate values, education, the lottery and other regulated areas.
Symington says he needs the power to get rid of people who aren't doing what he thought they would when he appointed them. They are his boys, he argues, and so they should do as he commands.
Critics of the bill say the law would destroy independence and force board members to do as the governor bids, or find themselves cleaning out their desks and looking for work elsewhere, says Phoenix attorney Andy Gordon. A veteran of initiative and referendum drives, Gordon helped organize the successful effort on Prop 300, which overturned a private property takings law passed by the Legislature in 1992.
Gordon is hoping for the same success this time out. He's joined with the newly created Citizens for Public Representation, a group which must collect at least 56,481 valid signatures before July 12. If they are successful, the law will be put on hold until the 1996 elections, when voters will decide its fate.
Gordon describes Citizens for Public Representation as "very diverse--and becoming more diverse all the time. We've got a lot of the sportsmen groups--the rod and gun clubs, the hunters and fishermen. At the same time, we have a lot of the environmental community groups."
Among the groups in the coalition are Ducks Unlimited, Anglers United, the Sierra Club, the Audubon Society and
Common Cause. Gordon has also been speaking with the League of Women Voters and other groups.
Symington's response to the referendum has been to dismiss his opponents as environmental extremists. In a written statement, he said, "I hope voters will see what this petition effort truly is: an attempt by extreme environmentalists to protect entrenched bureaucracies, to protect the status quo and to protect special interests."
"Some of my friends in the hunting and fishing community really got a giggle out of that," says Gordon.
Insiders say one reason Symington pushed for the bill was to strike back at Game & Fish officials who opposed the administration on Prop 300. Those same people also lobbied against the appointee legislation, prompting the governor's legislative liaison, Chuck Coughlin, to urge a "day of reckoning" for such troublemakers.
It's that kind of retaliation that Gordon and his allies are concerned about. He believes that if the signatures can be collected, the voters will support them.
"I don't have serious doubt that if we gather the signatures that we'll win at the election, because it's just hard for me to believe that there's a big constituency to concentrate more power in the hands of politicians, which is really all this bill is about," he says.
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