Lacking Initiative

Just over a year ago, voters waded through six initiatives on the ballot regarding healthcare administration, land preservation, telephone regulation and language education.

This year, it looks like they'll hardly have any at all. In yet another sign of how the slowing economy is hurting political consultants, not a single special interest is spending big bucks on an initiative drive.

A handful of citizens have undertaken the colossal effort of collecting a minimum of 101,762 signatures by July 4 to change Arizona law. Among them:

• James Massey, the man who spearheaded the 1998 initiative that finally criminalized cockfighting, is back with a new initiative designed to cut animal euthanasia. The Euthanasia Reduction Act would create the Animal Euthanasia Reduction Commission, which would oversee a program that requires pounds and shelters to ensure dogs and cats are sterilized before being released for adoption. Best of all, the pets would pay the pet tax, with a 1 percent tax on dog and cat food funding the program.

• D'herrera Tapia of Tucson is leading the drive to ask voters a loaded question. Tapia wants to increase the legal blood-alcohol limit to .15. Lawmakers lowered the legal limit from .10 to .08 last year.

• Bob Anderson of Phoenix is pushing Our Vote Counts?, an effort to force hand counts of ballots after elections to avoid fraud through rigged computer programs. Fellow organizer Ernest Hancock says the group has largely abandoned the statewide effort in order to concentrate on smaller communities where the signature-gathering requirements are less burdensome. The group has already put the issue on the Glendale ballot for this year.

Hancock says even a Libertarian such as himself thinks a hand count of ballots is a worthwhile expense of tax dollars. "We should spend whatever it takes to make sure the vote is counted accurately," says Hancock. "To shortchange the vote is the most fascist, socialist, communist, authoritarian, tyrannical position anybody could take."

• John P. Wilde of the Arizona Firearms Owners Protection Alliance--forming the catchy acronym AFOPA--is running two initiatives. One would prohibit any state regulation of firearms--such as laws banning handguns in, say, the Arizona Legislature--while the second--dubbed "Keep Our City Parks Safe"--would repeal current laws requiring permits for concealed weapons and allowing cities and towns to ban the carrying of guns in parks.

• Brothers David Samson Perrine and Hercules Perrine are pushing the AZ2MARS initiative, which "will establish an Arizona space agency devoted to manned exploration, commercial use of space and space tourism, to be funded without a tax increase." The enterprising duo thinks NASA needs a little old-fashioned competition, and wants to give it to them in the form of a state agency that would take us to infinity and beyond. ("See Space Case," November 29, 2001).

• Barbara Sims of Mesa, chairwoman of We Need Dental, is collecting signatures to create a program providing dental service for special-needs adults.