Michael: The ‘Partisan Control of Initiatives’ ReferendumThe Arizona Chamber of Commerce and corporatist constituents across the state are advocating yet another restriction of the public’s sovereign right to legislate via the Initiative under the Arizona Constitution. The chamber seeks to amend our Constitution to require that citizen-sponsored initiatives be reviewed by an unspecified board before petitions can circulate. As stated in the Chamber’s own briefing document (PDF):
Initiative and Referendum Reform: Support reforms to Arizona’s initiative and referendum processes, such as pre-circulation review of language, content, and constitutionality. Institute a ballot title and summary review board, and require petition circulators to disclose their employers and other beneficial links to the measure.
The sheer cost and effort of qualifying an Initiative for the ballot is sufficient incentive for any reasonable person to acquire competent legal assistance when drafting, and if that effort is deficient the courts are the proper public forum to decide the issue. This is a clear effort to transfer a politically strategic function from the independent judiciary to a politically appointed body, similar to the limit on the people’s powers accomplished with the passage of Prop 101 in 2004. Prop 101 requires specification of a revenue source for any initiative requiring new state revenue, restricts the public’s access to their own general fund, and requires approval of financing mechanisms by a politically appointed Auditor General. The corporatists have not filed an Initiative application for this proposal. They will rely on their allies in the legislature to put the measure on the ballot by Concurrent Resolution in 2006, as they did with Prop 101 last year. Undoubtedly, the Resolution enacting this attack on the people’s sovereignty will establish a review mechanism that places the real power with the legislative majority.
The proposal will be marketed as a means of assuring the quality and legality of Initiatives, which certainly has presented problems in the past, especially with poorly conceived right-wing sponsored proposals like Prop 200 and Prop 106. But the naked reality is that this is simply an attempt to tie-up politically disfavored proposals and possibly, depending on how it’s drafted, to strip the courts of the power to interpret and review the constitutionality of favored Initiatives and Referenda. With Prop 200 severely curtailed in effect by the Attorney General and the courts (though still perniciously preventing legitimate voters from registering), and Prop 106 having been struck down as unconstitutional, it should come as no surprise that the major goal of the corporatists and their right-wing allies is to gain political control over the review of future ballot measures to ensure their nefarious works will be undisturbed by our courts.