Lots Of Initiative

How Arizonans came to have two choices on this year's ballot.

By Scott Alexander

WHEN THE ARIZONA Constitution was adopted in 1910, its crown jewels were progressive provisions for initiative, referendum, recall and direct primaries.

After 49 years of Territorial governance where the citizens had practically no say about how they were governed, their demands for a government that they could control were the prominent issues in selecting delegates for the Constitutional Convention.

Currents When statehood finally came in 1912, America's 48th state was proclaimed to have the most modern and progressive form of government in the country.

The idea of the people's right to participate directly in the lawmaking process was simply to have a check on Legislatures that might fail to be responsive to the will of the voters.

It was said, "the voice of the people is next to the voice of God." It was also said "that the wrath of the people was next to the wrath of God and much sooner felt."

In the years that followed, the people enacted many notable laws. Women's suffrage, the right to vote, was the first. Prohibition followed soon after.

Laws created through initiatives enjoyed certain protection from future tampering by the Legislature with a Constitutional fiat that made any law adopted by a majority of the people who voted in that election (the total number of votes cast for Governor) exempt from future amendment by the Legislature. In 1952 in a case called Adams vs. Bolin, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that only those laws adopted by a majority of all "registered voters before the election" could be exempt. The effect of this ruling virtually removed protection from every initiative-created law on the books.

In spite of the ruling, legislators continued their high regard for the "Voice of the People" and refrained from making many changes in voter-made law, at least until recently.

Some of those laws have undergone significant changes, some quite contrary to the intent of the people when they were passed. The Legislature found a number of problems with the Medical Marijuana issue and legally made the changes to correct them.

This infuriated the Medical Marijuana proponents, who had spent a fortune buying its passage.

In retaliation, they put their paid petition passers back on the street to refer the amendments to the ballot and concurrently announced their intent to seek a constitutional amendment that would prohibit the Legislature from doing this again in order to "teach them a lesson." That measure appears on the ballot as Proposition 105.

At the same time another group of citizens undertook an in-depth review of the initiative and referendum problems with the intent of solving them by including a wide array of citizens with talent and expertise in our state government. Organizations invited to participate involved many civic, labor and trade organizations.

A second initiative campaign, "By the People," was launched and was headed by former Arizona state officials, including a governor, a chief justice of the Supreme Court and a former state senator.

Members of the Legislature joined the issue by introducing a variety of measures related to initiative and referendums.

By the People and the organizations that worked on framing the issues went to the Legislature and worked closely with the members and staff to produce a comprehensive approach to tuning up and correcting the ancient provisions adopted in 1910.

The citizens and the lawmakers made sure that the vision of our forefathers, with regard to the relationship between the people and their Legislature, would be restored by these proposed changes. Thousands of Arizonans were able to participate in creating Proposition 104.

The private initiative process by the Medical Marijuana interests, Proposition 105, was limited to a few.

The moral to this story is found in comparing one set of citizens who regard the government as an extension of their citizenship. They use the initiative process as leverage to bring something to the attention of their Legislature.

They respect the legislative process as a means of extending an opportunity to all citizens to participate in the deliberative process of making public policy expressed by law. Proposition 104 is a product of this philosophy and deserves vigorous public support.

The others are identified as those who believe that the way to make public policy is to avoid the Legislature and buy it with paid attorneys, paid petition passers and slick TV ads.

Their net product is to "teach the legislature a lesson" without regard to the quality of what they can get passed. In this process there is no citizen participation in the framing of issues, identifying courses and costs of alternative solutions and determining the action to be taken.

The product here is Proposition 105. The voters should vote no.

Scott Alexander is a member of the By the People Committee and a former state senator. TW

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