Arizona House Republicans recently passed SB1451, Senator Vince Leach’s latest attempt to kill the Citizens Initiative process. Every year, Republicans add new regulations to the popular Citizens Initiative process–like dramatically increasing the number of signatures, strict compliance on petitions (forcing us to write in between the lines or risk having our signature knocked off), or eliminating the pay-per-signature practice for paid circulators.
The worst part of 1451 was taken out in the Senate. That was the section that made people group the petitions by circulator and allowed for elimination of whole petitions if one volunteer’s petitions got mixed up with another. The house added another amendment to give the attorney general the power to change the language used to explain the initiative. (This is a scary thought, after all of the intrigue and BS that surrounded the language of the initiatives on the 2018 ballot. You’ll remember that the anti-Clean Elections initiative was allowed to be purposefully misleading.)
SB1451 is a bad bill that over-regulates the Citizens Initiative process, adds bureaucracy and slows the process of circulator recruitment and signature gathering down.
The whole reason that the Republicans want to put more restrictions on the Citizens Initiative process because they hate the fact that the grassroots (with a lot of organization and elbow grease) can overcome past Republican roadblocks (like strict compliance, notarized petitions, etc.) and get initiatives on the ballot.
In 2018, gargantuan citizen efforts collected sufficient signatures to put Invest in Ed, Outlaw Dirty Money and Save Our Schools on the ballot. There were thousands of volunteers and paid circulators statewide. SB1451 would require paid circulators and out-of-state volunteers to fill out an affidavit with personal information, sign it in front of a notary, and send it to the secretary of state for verification of qualifications. The secretary of state would be required to assign a unique ID to each volunteer and complete the process in five days— with no extra personnel or money to do this. If you volunteer to circulate more than one petition, they need to track you and your unique ID across different projects. They’re going to need to build a database to keep this straight. Does a volunteer’s ID stick with them forever? Will they have to re-apply for each election? There are a lot of loose ends. The goal is to muddle the process and slow it down.
There was a huge issue in the 2018 election when multiple paid signature-gathering companies submitted false or purposefully duplicative signatures. A few candidates were knocked off the ballot because of hundreds of bad signatures. If we want signature-gathering regulation, we should focus on the companies that gather signatures. I was shocked in 2018 when I heard how many thousands of bad signatures got knocked off of Citizens Initiative and candidate petitions. SB1451 only covers people who gather signatures for Citizens Initiatives– not signatures for candidates. If we really want to better track paid circulators, SB1451 and other related legislation should apply to candidate petitions also.
The House debate took a surrealistic turn when several Republican said that they supported this bill because it would make it harder for out-of-state billionaires to come into our state and put Citizens Initiatives on the ballot. This was an attack on Tom Steyer who bankrolled the clean energy initiative in 2018. Ironically, these changes will make it so difficult and cumbersome to collect signatures that it will be hard for grassroots to comply, but billionaires will have the money to hire a machine to get it done.
A few Democrats noted that the Republicans are complaining about a California billionaire who backed clean energy initiative, but there is no mention of the two billionaires from Kansas (the Koch Brothers) and how they shape our legislature through ALEC. Also, as with other Republican attacks on citizen petitions, candidate petitions are exempt from these regulations. They want to make it harder for YOU to get something on the ballot, but keep the regulations lax for THEM to get on the ballot.
Since Rep. Kelly Townsend added the amendment to increase the power of the Attorney General over the language of citizens initiatives, this bill now has to go back to the Senate for another vote. There are two more chances to kill this: in the Senate and the governor’s desk. I have gotten a lot of calls and emails on this. Start calling your senators and the governor. It’s not over yet.
Also… There’s HCR2005…
We have two-fer of Citizens Initiative attacks this year. Besides Leach’s SB1451, Rep. John Kavanagh has HCR2005. This bill requires a designated number of signatures be collected from each county. So, HCR2005 has not made it to the House floor. If it were to pass, Arizona would be the most restrictive state in the country. We don’t want that to happen!!!!! A bill similar to HCR2005 was killed in the House during the last session.
Since both HCR2005 and SB1451 are still in play, you can voice comments under “My Bill Positions” on the Request to Speak System. We must protect our right to self-government through the Citizens Initiative.
VIDEO CORRECTION: The video below says that all signature-gathering volunteers must register with the Secretary of State. This is an error, sorry. SB1451 says that all paid petition circulators and volunteers from out-of-state must register.