The Arizona Legislature will have plenty to occupy its attention when it convenes in January.
First and foremost is resolving the state’s $1 billion-plus budget deficit.
But November’s election revealed another pressing task for lawmakers: Revising laws governing the voter initiative process.
So says the Arizona Supreme Court in a case involving supporters of a transportation initiative that sought a 1-cent boost in the state sales tax to pay for improvements to Arizona’s road and transit systems.
Secretary of State Jan Brewer ruled supporters had not collected enough valid signatures to put the initiative on the ballot.
The initiative’s supporters went to court, which ruled they had missed the deadline to challenge the state’s rejection of their signatures – a deadline that had lapsed while the Secretary of State’s Office, working with the Maricopa County recorder, still was attempting to validate the signatures.
That caught the eye of the Supreme Court, which took the case on appeal. Given the tight deadline (10 days) for fighting rejection of signatures and the growing number of signatures that need to be checked, a “thorough legislative re-examination” of election laws by the Legislature is in order, the court suggested.
That’s a good idea. But we think the Legislature should go further and fix a bigger problem: the way initiatives are named.
The Arizona Constitution mandates that each initiative has a title but does not require that the title be, you know, accurate.
The result: misleadingly named initiatives designed to confuse voters.
Most of the time, voters see through the subterfuge and defeat bad proposals. This year they realized that Proposition 101, “Medical Choice for Arizona,” actually would have limited some possible future medical choices.
And they saw the “Payday Loan Reform Act” for what it was – an attempt by the payday loan industry to hang around past the July 2010 sunset provision approved by the Legislature.
But sometimes bad proposals make it into law. Take Proposition 100, “Protect Our Homes,” which had little to do with protecting our homes. Voters approved the proposal, which amends the state constitution to prohibit Arizona or local governments from taxing real estate sales.
Thus, a common funding mechanism – 35 states allow it – is now verboten in Arizona at a time when the state is desperate for revenue.
Arizona should do what Colorado and other states do: Hold public hearings to determine the accuracy of proposition titles, and create an appeals process so all sides are heard.
Of course, if the Legislature refuses to take up the naming issue, Arizonans have a recourse: They can gather signatures and place it on the 2009 ballot.