The Skinny

Sign of the Times

Can initiative efforts survive the new rules created by the Arizona Legislature to hamstring ballot props?

On deadline day last week, a number of groups turned in signatures to put initiatives on the November ballot. Among them:

• The Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona Committee, which will ask voters to require the state's utility companies to get half of their power from renewable sources by 2030.

• The Invest in Education Committee, which would increase taxes on single Arizonans earning more than $250,000 or couples earning more than $500,000 a year and use the new revenue to increase education spending.

• The Outlaw Dirty Money Committee, which would require major contributors to political campaigns in Arizona to reveal the sources of their funding. Any group spending more than $10,000 would have to reveal the names of funders who gave more than $2,500 to the effort, with violators subject to fines.

It will be a few weeks before we know if the various groups turned in enough valid signatures to make the ballot; all the groups turned in at least 270,000 signatures, which is well above the roughly required 150,000. Now the Arizona Secretary of State and various county recorders will start checking their validity. That process takes about a month.

But this is the first year that the state requires "strict compliance" with the signatures rules rather than "substantial compliance." This was a change made by the Arizona Legislature to derail initiative efforts by making it easier to toss signatures based on minor technicalities. (It's certainly telling that lawmakers made the new requirements for initiative efforts but not for candidates, as they didn't want to risk their own hides.)

So you can bet that opponents of the initiatives will carefully review the petitions to find reasons to challenge any signatures they can and we may see court battles on the horizon.

If the initiative efforts make it to the ballot, it will be a testament to the organizers' work—and a demonstration that no matter how hard lawmakers try to stop people from making law, they don't win every battle.

Same Boss, Different Job

ADI honcho Lori Hunnicutt joins staff of Pima County Supervisor Ally Miller

Lori Hunnicutt, the woman behind the online Arizona Daily Independent blog, is going to work for Pima County Supervisor Ally Miller.

Hunnicutt, who regularly publishes glowing puff pieces about Miller and screwball hit pieces on Miller's political enemies, will be joining the District 1 staff on a part-time basis, although her exact role remained sketchy as of press time. County staff did not provide information about Hunnicutt's hire as of deadline and Hunnicutt herself did not respond to an email from The Skinny about her new role as a government employee. Given the Arizona Daily Independent's general editorial thrust, however, we'd advise that she's not the right fit for the job of intergovernmental relations.

Hunnicutt also did not respond to our query asking if she would continue in her role as an editor and publisher of ADI (which has been called the "Ally Defense Initiative" around county offices for some time) while drawing a county paycheck. It would seem to set up something of a conflict of interest, but ADI has been less a traditional journalism outfit and more a place where Miller and her various allies could find some sort of validation.

A collection of emails from former staffers originally unearthed by the Tucson Sentinel a few years back showed that Hunnicutt would run stories by Miller's office before publishing them. One sterling example: Hunnicutt sent former Miller chief of staff Jeannie Davis a draft of a story, which Davis edited and sent back. Hunnicutt responded: "Thank you! If there's anything you think I should add, let me know. [I]f Ally needs more kudos in it, etc." Yes, nothing says independent and trustworthy news source than asking if an elected official needs more kudos.

Miller has employed a long line of staffers in her six years in office, as her management style often drives away workers. As one of them told us after leaving the office: "She's a horrible manager. She doesn't know how to ask people to do things in a professional manner. It's just kind of bark, bark, bark."

We'll see how Lori fares in a closer partnership with Miller, but it's hard to see this ending well.

The televised edition of Zona Politics with Jim Nintzel airs 6:30 p.m. Fridays on the Creative Tucson network, Cox Channel 20 and Comcast/Xfinity Channel 74. The TV show repeats Sunday mornings at 9 a.m. The radio edition of Zona Politics airs at 5 p.m. Sundays on community radio KXCI, 91.3 FM.

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