Republicans in the Arizona House have approved a measure limiting citizen initiatives to a single subject, a move minority Democrats say will make it harder to pass comprehensive measures the majority won’t enact.
The measure, which would need Senate approval before it heads to the November ballot, passed Wednesday evening on a 31-29 party-line vote.
It is one of a series of measures advancing in the Legislature that critics say would limit the rights of Arizonans to write their own laws through the ballot box. Others include measures requiring initiative backers to collect qualifying signatures from all 30 legislative districts, allow the Legislature to change voter-approved laws and require initiatives to be sent back to the ballot every 10 years for re-approval.
All would require voter approval if they pass both the Senate and the House.
During debate Wednesday evening, Democrats called the single-subject measure an attack on the rights Arizonans to bypass the Legislature.
“My concern with this bill is that it is restricting the citizen’s voice, restricting the citizen’s right that they’ve had since we became a state,” Rep. Athena Salman said. ”And historically, because there is so much involved in getting something on the ballot, as long as the topic is related, citizens can go forth and propose something holistically.”
Getting an initiative on the ballot and passed can cost up to $3 million, so limiting the subjects one might cover could require backers to pursue multiple efforts.
Republicans argued that limiting proposed initiatives to one subject simply applies the same standards legislatures must follow when they propose new laws. They also said the proposal would not be a barrier to initiatives.
“If you have multiple subjects that are crammed into a single bill, quite often the voters have a question about what they’re really voting for,” said Republican Rep. Mark Finchem. “So I think this is wholly appropriate. … If nothing it helps the voter initiative process because people know what’s in the darn thing.”
The proposal from Rep. Anthony Kern now heads to the Senate for consideration.
Republished with the Permission of the Associated Press.