Referendum campaign tackles citizen initiative measures
PHOENIX — Former Attorney General Grant Woods and former Phoenix Mayor Paul Johnson are leading a referendum campaign to overturn up to three proposals to tighten the laws overseeing the citizen initiative process.
Voters of Arizona was registered at the secretary of state’s office Thursday morning as the committee tackling the referendum attempt on the 2018 ballot, political consultant Joe Yuhas said.
“I think Grant and Paul come from different perspectives politically but yet they share a common feature and that is that as Arizona natives … they have participated in and been the beneficiaries of Arizona’s direct democracy that has existed since statehood,” Yuhas said.
Yuhas said the committee will also simultaneously pursue legal action challenging the laws.
Gov. Doug Ducey signed two of the three measures backed by the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry in recent months. The push to introduce the bills came after the November passage of an initiative raising the minimum wage.
Yuhas said Voters of Arizona will wait until the end of the state’s legislative session to determine which laws it will challenge, as one of the measures, House Bill 1236, is currently stalled in the Senate.
Democrats and voting rights groups have harshly opposed the measures, and called the bills an attack on citizens’ rights to enact their own laws that have been in place since statehood.
The committee will likely attempt to overturn House Bill 2244, which allows citizen initiatives to be thrown out for mere paperwork or language errors, even if the proposed law complies with other respects to the law.
The group could also try to quash House Bill 2404. That legislation makes it illegal to pay petition circulators by the signature and makes it easier to sue to block initiatives. Yuhas said the committee will draw funding from a variety of sources, and are in the process of building a “growing army of stakeholders.”
Ducey defended his approval of House Bill 2244 in a statement after he signed it into law in April.
“This commonsense legislation preserves the integrity of the process by ensuring that those seeking to make lasting changes to our laws comply with current laws, brings parity to the initiative and referendum processes, and introduces a number of voter education functions to ensure those who engage in the initiative process are educated and equipped to comply with state law,” he said in the statement.
Yuhas said he thinks Voters of Arizona has the potential to draw support from citizens from all sides of the political spectrum, and people will come together “regardless of their differences but who all have achieved policy goals not through the legislature over the years but by appealing directly to the voters.”
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