Sometimes the sheer audacity of state lawmakers is jaw-dropping.
Monday, a House panel voted to advance a bill that would empower legislators to overturn or change voter-enacted laws adopted in 2016 and after. Last year lawmakers adopted something similar by making it more difficult for initiatives drafted by citizens to make it onto a statewide ballot to become law.
Apparently the only thing standing the way of good government for some Arizona lawmakers are the constituents who elected them.
Voter-enacted legislation is the purest form of self-governance. It requires tens of thousands of qualified signatures from registered voters, collected within a defined period of time, just to get on a statewide ballot. Often, these signatures are contested when they are reviewed by the Secretary of State, with the intention of of trying to disqualify the petition by reducing the number of signatures, making it even more difficult to reach a statewide ballot.
Once the measure does qualify for the ballot, it still requires a majority vote by Arizona electors to become law.
And that’s where the rub is for some members of the state Legislature.
When Arizona voters take the power of making laws into their own hands, they take that power away from the State Legislature. One example of this transfer of power was demonstrated when Proposition 301 was adopted by Arizona electors more than 15 years ago.
That legislation, enacted by a vote of 778,807 to 675,941 in favor, increased the state sales tax and directed that additional revenue to schools. Lawmakers lost the power of the purse with that ballot outcome and didn’t have as much authority over school funding.
That’s when state lawmakers decided to ignore the voter-enacted Prop. 301, dip into the sales tax money specifically set aside for schools, and use that revenue to fund other functions of state government — like the Department of Public Safety.
That action led to school districts in the state filing a lawsuit to recapture “their” money, ultimately resulting in the settlement being proposed by Gov. Ducey, in the form of Prop. 123, which Arizona voters will decide on May 17.
The committee’s action on Monday to recommend a new law that would empower legislators to overturn or change voter-enacted initiatives represents a direct affront to a process that was developed with true Republican principles in mind — giving the real power of government to the people, not the politicians.
Ironically, House Bill 2043, if it makes it through the State Legislature, would require a statewide ballot — and the approval of a majority of Arizonans — to enact.
This originally appeared in the Sierra Vista Herald.