Tuesday, August 14, 2012

'Political Forces vs. the People of Arizona': Prop 204 on November Ballot

Posted By on Tue, Aug 14, 2012 at 3:30 PM

This just in from the Prop. 204 - Quality Education and Jobs campaign — the Arizona Supreme Court ruled Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett is wrong and the sale tax initiative to support public education is going on the November ballot.

You can read the court's decision here:

Here's the campaign's press release:

The Arizona Supreme Court today upheld the Constitutional right of Arizonans to vote this November on Prop. 204 - Quality Education and Jobs. The justices rejected arguments by anti-education legislators, lobbyists and Secretary of State Ken Bennett, all of whom tried to keep this popular citizens' initiative from reaching the ballot.

"This is a huge victory for Arizona voters and a huge victory for Arizona schoolchildren," said Ann-Eve Pedersen, a volunteer parent leading the Prop. 204 - Quality Education and Jobs campaign. "This really was a case of powerful political forces vs. the people of Arizona - and the people of Arizona won thanks to an unbiased judiciary," said Pedersen.

"This court victory clears the path to victory on Election Day, when we will be able to assure a generation of children and beyond that their education is a priority in our state," Pedersen said.

The Quality Education and Jobs initiative will renew the one-cent sales tax when it expires in 2013 to provide dedicated permanent revenue for education that the Legislature cannot cut. Prop. 204 will support education across the spectrum: K-12, charter schools, vocational education, community colleges, universities and GED programs.

Prop. 204 has been endorsed by a wide array of business, education, and community organizations. It is opposed by a small group of anti-education legislators and their lobbyist-allies who don't want taxpayers to be have control over how their tax dollars are spent.

The campaign legal team, headed by former Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Stanley Feldman, successfully argued that Bennett's arbitrary decision to reject the campaign's petitions on a hyper-technicality was unconstitutional. On July 18, Maricopa County Judge Robert Oberbillig agreed and ordered Bennett to place the measure on the ballot after a brief 25-minute hearing. Bennett was urged by special interests to appeal that decision to the Arizona Supreme Court, which he did. Anti-education legislators and lobbying groups filed "Friend of the Court" briefs urging the court to throw Prop. 204 off the ballot.

In contesting this matter before the courts over the past month using flawed legal arguments, Bennett has exposed the state to significant legal costs. Under Arizona law, because Bennett lost the case at the Superior Court and Supreme Court levels, the courts could order the state to pay all legal and court costs.

While the legal case was pending, the petition validation process continued and is almost complete. Reports from Arizona counties show that Prop. 204 has more than enough valid signatures to qualify for the ballot.

"Today's court decision allows the volunteer-led coalition of business leaders, students, parents, educators and community organizations to move on with the important work of passing Prop. 204 - Quality Education and Jobs - on Nov. 6," Pedersen said.

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