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Bills to Reform Voter Initiatives Heard at Capitol Today

A package of bills to reform the initiative and referendum process are being heard in the state Senate Government Committee today. (svanblar/iStockphoto)
A package of bills to reform the initiative and referendum process are being heard in the state Senate Government Committee today. (svanblar/iStockphoto)
February 9, 2017

PHOENIX – Groups advocating for clean elections are criticizing a package of bills to allegedly "reform" the state's voter initiative and referendum processes, four of which are slated for a hearing at the Statehouse this morning.

HDR 2002 would ask voters to repeal the Voter Protection Act, which requires a three-fourths majority in both houses in order for the state Legislature to repeal an initiative passed by the voters.

Joel Edman, executive director of the Arizona Advocacy Network, calls it an attack on democracy.

"They're really an attack on the voters' constitutional right to make their own laws," he said. "And this is something that's been a fundamental part of Arizona government since statehood. And really since statehood, there's been pushback from politicians and from corporate interests."

The Voter Protection Act passed through the initiative process in 1998 after the Legislature gutted a medical marijuana law passed by the voters two years earlier. Supporters of the current package of bills say they are necessary to prevent election fraud. The Arizona House Government Committee is scheduled to hear the bills beginning at 9:30 A.M. today.

Edman says another bill, HB 2404, set to be heard next week, would make it much harder to qualify citizen initiatives on the ballot. He believes it is a direct reaction to the passage of Proposition 206, which raised the minimum wage.

"The response from the Chamber of Commerce and their political allies in the Legislature is to say to voters, 'No, you don't get to make these choices anymore,' that 'We're going to stifle your constitutional right to make your own laws, rather than respect them, like we should,'" he explained.

Advocates are holding a press conference before the hearing, at 9 A.M. at the Arizona State Capitol on the Senate Lawn.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - AZ