Have We Got Some Propositions for You!

Tucson Weekly Scramblewatch '08 presents your guide to the initiatives on the November ballot

Want to hike the sales tax to pay for more highways and brand-new rail service to Phoenix? Do you fear that unless we make gay marriage even more illegal in Arizona, we are hastening the destruction of our families and, eventually, our civilization? Are you worried about saving the endangered species known as the payday-loan shark? Would you like to see Arizona preserve some of that pristine state-trust land?

These are among the questions you'll decide on when you go to the polls in November. Barring legal problems or an act of God, it appears that you'll make the call on nearly a dozen statewide ballot props (along with local issues, such as a Tucson Unified School District budget override, depending on where you're voting). We're still waiting to see if you'll be asked to give a raise to state lawmakers, but we're betting that will be part of the package.

We've got capsule descriptions of each of the measures, along with info about the Big Money Interests behind them. Keep in mind that the fundraising figures reflect activity only through May 31, which was the end of the last reporting period.

Why so much Big Money? Because it's really not possible anymore for a volunteer effort to get enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. To just create or change the law, you needed 153,365 valid signatures from registered voters this year; to amend the Arizona Constitution, you needed 230,047 valid signatures.

That means paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to an outfit such as Petition Partners of Scottsdale. Petition Partners then pays their subcontractors, who pay their subcontractors, who pay their subcontractors, with the last bit of change dripping down into the pockets of the homeless guys with clipboards who accost you at libraries and street fairs.

Since it takes a professional organization to get an initiative on the ballot, we won't be seeing a pair of propositions dealing with illegal immigration this year from that nitwit Don Goldwater (the nephew of the late 'n' legendary Barry Goldwater), who is doing all he can to damage the family brand.

You may recall that Goldwater, after losing a bumbling campaign for governor that mostly focused on illegal immigration, teamed up with state Rep. Russell Pearce last year to launch the Legal Arizona Workers Act, which would have shut down employers who have undocumented workers on the payroll.

Goldwater announced last week that he didn't have enough signatures for the Legal Arizona Workers Act to make the ballot after all, but he said he didn't see it as a defeat, because the effort had forced the Arizona Legislature to pass a tough employer-sanctions law.

What Goldwater didn't mention: His decision to push ahead with the Legal Arizona Workers initiative after the Legislature passed an employer-sanctions bill had the unintended consequence of awakening the business community, which decided it needed its own alternative to the Goldwater plan.

Wake Up Arizona, a nonprofit group headed by McDonald's franchiser Mac Magruder, has put a proposal on the ballot that gives a whole new set of defenses to employers who have illegal immigrants on the payroll while busting on companies that hire day laborers under the table. Nice job undermining your own law there, Don!

Goldwater and Pearce were also unable to get enough signatures for another ballot proposal that would have given local cops the authority to arrest people for trespassing if they are in the country illegally.

In his e-mail, Goldwater thanked supporters for braving "multiple death threats, physical attacks, harassment, adverse weather conditions and (a) lack of outside financial support."

Let's all be thankful that no one was killed while collecting signatures for Goldwater's failure.

One thing we should note: Even if Don had managed to scare up more money, he would have run into trouble, because political consultant Nathan Sproul, who was working for Wake Up Arizona, forced his petition gatherers to agree to a noncompete clause that prohibited them from gathering signatures for the alternative initiative. Nice touch, Nathan!

The need for Big Money also did in a pair of efforts to roll back and freeze property values in an effort to rein in property taxes, as the backers were unable to find a big checkbook to help them out.

And--no big surprise here--you won't get a chance to vote on the measures proposed by Joel Barr, an inmate in the Arizona state prison system. Barr had several new laws he wanted to create, including a ban on plea bargains and a requirement that any prosecutors would need two eyewitnesses to convict anyone of a crime unless there was really compelling evidence. Perhaps in a reflection of how difficult it is to run an initiative effort from behind bars, Barr also wanted to change the law so that petitions could be passed on 8 1/2-by-11 sheets of paper, "standardizing the petition format to fit predominant communications technologies," so it would be easier to do a petition drive via fax machines and the Internet.

We'll be bringing you more info about the initiatives in the months to come in our print edition. To learn even more about them, be sure to visit our new election Web site, ScrambleWatch.com, where you can find links to more information about the propositions as well as lots more about the upcoming election.

The Freedom of Choice in Health Care Act

MAJOR FUNDING PROVIDED BY: Medical professionals; auto dealer Jim Click.

WHAT IT WOULD DO: Prevent the state from requiring residents to buy health insurance.

SUPPORTERS SAY: "The Freedom of Choice in Health Care Act will preserve and protect the rights of individuals to make their own health care and health insurance choices. ... Lobbyists and special interests will see their power to control and dictate your health care limited."

OPPONENTS SAY: This could hamper efforts to expand health-care coverage through state government.


TOTAL $$$ SPENT: $324,326

Protect Our Homes

MAJOR FUNDING PROVIDED BY: The Arizona Association of Realtors.

WHAT IT WOULD DO: Amends the Arizona Constitution to prevent the creation of a "real-estate transfer tax" (which is essentially a sales tax) on the purchase of a home or other real estate. Arizona doesn't have a real-estate transfer tax yet, but there's been talk of one in the past. Realtors want to shut that down now.

SUPPORTERS SAY: No new taxes! Especially on real estate!

OPPONENTS SAY: Other states have taxes like this, and we need a tax system that's in line with the modern economy.


TOTAL $$$ SPENT: $1,107,864

Arizona Civil Rights Initiative

MAJOR FUNDING PROVIDED BY: Ward Connerly, who hopes to bring his California campaign against affirmative action to states across the nation. Arizona is one of five states where Connerly's American Civil Rights Institute has sponsored initiatives this year.

WHAT IT WOULD DO: Arizona's Civil Rights Initiative would prohibit the government from considering race or gender preferences when hiring employees, considering university admissions or handing out contracts.

SUPPORTERS SAY: The time for governmental preferences based on race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin has passed.

OPPONENTS SAY: There is still value in sometimes providing preferences in university admissions and granting contracts.


TOTAL $$$ SPENT: $350,735

Majority Rules: Let the People Decide

MAJOR FUNDING PROVIDED BY: Jason LeVecke, owner of a chain of Carl's Jr. franchises; auto dealer Jim Click.

WHAT IT WOULD DO: Amends the Arizona Constitution to require that any ballot measure that increases taxes pass by a majority of all registered voters--not just the voters who go out on Election Day. In 2006, for example, the proposition that raised cigarette taxes to pay for children's programs would have needed more than 80 percent of the vote to pass.

SUPPORTERS SAY: In their filing with the Secretary of State, supporters announced: "Currently, initiatives that increase taxes or spending can pass with approval from only a minority of qualified electors."

OPPONENTS SAY: This would give a small minority of voters control over the majority of voters; 50 percent plus one should be enough to pass a measure in a democracy; this would make passing any tax increase, no matter how small or reasonable, absolutely impossible; whenever the anti-tax crowd gets tired of losing, they try to change the rules in their favor; this is flat-out nuts.


TOTAL $$$ SPENT: $138,136

Conserving Arizona's Water and Land

MAJOR FUNDING PROVIDED BY: The Nature Conservancy; Democrat Jim Pederson.

WHAT IT WOULD DO: Way back when Arizona became a state, our forefathers set aside about 10 million acres of land that was designed to be held in a trust for beneficiaries, primarily education. More than 9 million acres still remain today, with the State Land Department leasing some for ranching, farming and mining, and auctioning off other parcels for development.

Environmentalists have been pushing to amend the Arizona Constitution to allow some of the prime ecological parcels in the trust to be set aside for conservation and be protected from development. Various reform proposals have been shot down by voters over the last decade.

This latest proposal would set aside 580,000-plus acres of Arizona's state-trust land for conservation, including areas near Catalina State Park and Cienega Creek in Southern Arizona.

SUPPORTERS SAY: These lands are ecological treasures that deserve protection for future generations.

OPPONENTS SAY: The state trust should get the full value of the land for Arizona's schoolchildren and other beneficiaries.


TOTAL $$$ SPENT: $501,696

Payday Loan Reform Act

MAJOR FUNDING PROVIDED BY: The payday-loan industry.

WHAT IT WOULD DO: The law that allows payday lenders to operate in Arizona is set to expire in 2010, but the industry is not making much headway in extending it at the Arizona Legislature--and even if they get lawmakers to go along with it, they still have to get a signature from Gov. Janet Napolitano. So they've decided to pour millions of dollars into an initiative effort to sugarcoat their lifeline with some new regulations about rolling over loans, cutting rates and setting up payment plans with delinquent clients.

SUPPORTERS SAY: From the paperwork filed with the Secretary of State's Office: "Arizonans use payday lending services everyday to meet unforeseen expenses and financial emergencies. The payday lending industry is set to be eliminated and the Arizona Legislature refuses to enact reforms to benefit borrowers while preserving this important financial option."

OPPONENTS SAY: The payday loan industry charges outrageous interest rates that trap people in cycles of debt.


TOTAL $$$ SPENT: $1,955,259

TIME Initiative

MAJOR FUNDING PROVIDED BY: Various construction and engineering firms.

WHAT IT WOULD DO: The Transportation and Infrastructure Moving Arizona's Economy initiative, which tries way too hard to come up with some buzz words to spell out the lame acronym TIME, would create a 1 percent sales tax to pay for various transportation projects. The estimated $42 billion the tax would raise over three decades would be split between highways (58 percent), rail and transit projects (18 percent, including $5.45 billion for high-speed rail between Tucson and Phoenix) and local transportation priorities (20 percent).

SUPPORTERS SAY: The state doesn't have enough money to keep up with its transportation needs; as the current highway system grows, more money is needed for maintenance, which leaves fewer dollars for widening highways; we need to build a rail system between Tucson and Phoenix to give people an alternative to driving; some of the money would end up in local communities to fund roads and transit.

OPPONENTS SAY: The tax is too high; these are tough economic times; growth should pay for highways; gas taxes should pay for highways; tolls should pay for roads; rail is a waste of money; highways are a waste of money; we hate taxes; we hate government; we hate progress.


TOTAL $$$ SPENT: $264,684

Stop Illegal Hiring

MAJOR FUNDING PROVIDED BY: Wake Up Arizona, a coalition of business groups headed up by Mac Magruder, a McDonald's franchise owner, and Jim Click.

WHAT IT WOULD DO: Revamp Arizona's employer-sanctions law to better suit members of the business community. It would provide various legal defenses to businesses that are busted with illegal workers on the payroll and establish new penalties for identify theft. A clever provision: Fines collected from violators would be sent to schools and hospitals.

SUPPORTERS SAY: From the paperwork filed with the Secretary of State's Office: "Stop Illegal Hiring Act is an initiative designed to crack down on unethical businesses who hire illegal immigrants. This initiative targets employers who hire workers and pay under the table in cash, which fuels illegal immigration in Arizona."

OPPONENTS SAY: This is designed to water down the employer-sanctions law and let businesses get away with hiring illegal immigrants and weakens the groundbreaking legislation designed by state Rep. Russell Pearce.


TOTAL $$$ SPENT: $555,931

Homeowners' Bill of Rights

MAJOR FUNDING PROVIDED BY: Sheet Metal Workers International Association.

WHAT IT WOULD DO: Create a 10-year warranty on new homes. Homeowners would be able to demand repairs of construction defects and pick their own contractors to do the work. Homeowners would no longer be on the hook for attorney fees for developers.

SUPPORTERS SAY: Developers should have enough faith in their homes to offer a 10-year guarantee.

OPPONENTS SAY: This is just going to drive up the cost of housing with new regulations and open the door to frivolous lawsuits.


TOTAL $$$ SPENT: $329,415

Gay Marriage Ban

MAJOR FUNDING PROVIDED BY: Nobody yet; this proposition was placed on the ballot by the Arizona Legislature.

WHAT IT WOULD DO: Although state law limits marriage to one man and one woman, the Arizona Legislature--at the behest of the Christian-based Center for Arizona Policy--is asking voters to put the same limits in the Arizona Constitution.

SUPPORTERS SAY: Voters need to stop militant homosexual activists from forcing their gay agenda on the state of Arizona to destroy the very meaning of marriage.

OPPONENTS SAY: Gay marriage is already illegal in Arizona, so why is a constitutional amendment necessary? Why shouldn't two gay people be allowed to marry and get the same benefits as straight people? Why is the Center for Arizona Policy so pre-occupied with gay people?

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