Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Scramblewatch '08: Dueling Initiatives

Posted By on Wed, May 7, 2008 at 7:13 PM

We mentioned in this week’s Skinny that the initiative to restrict payday loans is in trouble, while the initiative to extend payday loans--which, of course, is sponsored by the payday loan sharks--is likely to make the ballot.

There’s another pair of dueling initiatives out there: Support Legal Arizona Workers and Stop Illegal Hiring.

Support Legal Arizona Workers is the addled brain-child of Don Goldwater, the half-wit nephew of the late and lamented Barry Goldwater, and state Rep. Russell Pearce. It would permanently revoke the business license of any employer who is caught with an illegal immigrant on the payroll.

The one-strike-and-you’re-out initiative launched when state lawmakers were considering Pearce’s employer-sanctions bill last year. Even though they passed the bill, Russell and Co. went ahead with their petition drive, mumbling something about how lawmakers could still amend the law if it didn’t have voter protection. Yes, it’s certainly a terrible notion that we would give the legislature an option to change a law if it doesn’t work as intended.

The business community, understandably concerned that a bunch of knotheads were writing regulations that could put them out of business without so much as a warning, countered with their own initiative, Stop Illegal Hiring. The biz gang is spinning their effort as cracking down on under-the-table hiring, which the other initiative doesn’t address. And to sweeten the pot, they use the fines from the initiative to help schools and hospitals. Stop Illegal Hiring would eventually strip an employer of a business license for knowingly having illegal immigrants on the payroll, but it includes a variety of loopholes and defenses that Pearce’s initiative doesn’t include.

The game here is obvious: The biz boys figure that voters will support Pearce’s plan if it makes the ballot, so they hope to get more votes so that their initiative will take precedence.

Ultimately, that’s why the fixes to the employer-sanctions bill signed into law by Gov. Janet Napolitano last week may not make much of a difference. We suspect the issue will ultimately be decided by voters, though if Pearce and Co. can’t come through wit the signatures, the winner will be pretty obvious.

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