What’s on your ballot? AZ 2022 general election initiatives explained
Early voting started this week and voters are set to approve or reject 10 ballot initiatives.
The majority of them were referred to the ballot by legislators, including three which restrict the ability of Arizonans to pass their own laws.
Allows the legislature to change or divert funds from voter-approved ballot measures, if the language of the measure is deemed illegal or unconstitutional by the Arizona or U.S. Supreme Court. Currently, the legislature must have a 75% majority to enact changes or divert money from measures passed by Arizonans and can only undertake those actions if they “further the purpose” of the initial measure. The measure was referred to the ballot by legislators.
Proposition 128, critics argue, makes it easier for legislators to overrule the will of the voters.
“Approving this amendment will allow the Legislature free rein to appropriate or divert funds created by initiative or referendum, with unfettered ability to use the funds for whatever purpose they wish, ignoring the voters’ will,” wrote Pinny Sheoran, President of the League of Women Voters of Arizona, in a statement against the proposition.
Proponents, however, say the proposition is a necessary step to ensure that ballot measures approved by voters continue to stay relevant and legal into the future. Suzanne Kinney, President of the Arizona chapter of NAOIP, a real estate association, said Prop. 128 actually helps streamline the ballot initiative process. A legislative supermajority to amend ballot measures is a high bar to clear, Kinney said, and a court ruling that the measure is unconstitutional can force its architects to delay or restart the process altogether.
“Under current law, the state legislature is powerless to correct the illegal or unconstitutional language. This means that proponents of the proposition may have to go back to the drawing board, starting over with the entire costly and lengthy process of getting a new initiative on the ballot in the next election,” she wrote, in a statement in support filed with the Secretary of State’s Office.
Requires citizen-led ballot initiatives to encompass only a single subject and have a title that clearly notes that subject. Content that isn’t included in the title will be considered void, even if voters approve the measure as a whole. Proposition 129 was sent to the ballot for voter consideration by legislators.
Opponents say that this proposition represents yet another attempt to restrict the ability of everyday Arizonans to be a part of the lawmaking process. Sheoran said citizens will be forced to propose and lobby for several ballot measures, a costly endeavor for citizen-led groups who must shoulder the costs and ask for support from the wider community — whereas legislators are funded and charged by taxpayers to create laws.
“Citizens could be forced to propose multiple, piecemeal initiatives to provide effective solutions,” Sheoran wrote, “Legislators are funded by taxpayer money to enact legislation. Citizens must individually bear the high cost in both money and expenditure of time to get a measure on the ballot.”
Supporters of Proposition 209 argue that changes to the law proposed by citizens should meet the same standards that those proposed by lawmakers do. In 2021, an attempt to package a mask mandate prohibition into the state budget was ruled unconstitutional by the Arizona Supreme Court because it violated state laws which require legislation to be limited to a single subject and clearly defined in the title.
“Ballot measures should have the same single subject and title requirement as legislation introduced by lawmakers, and for the same reasons,” wrote Aimee Yentes, a member of the Arizona Free Enterprise Club.“Both aim to become law; therefore, both should be transparent and limited in scope.”
Referred to the ballot by legislators, this proposition requires any ballot measure that raises taxes to earn 60% of voter approval. Currently, the required threshold for voter approval is at 50%.
Supporters include Gov. Doug Ducey, who noted that legislators themselves must gain a supermajority of 60% to enact tax raises. Greater consensus helps ensure fairness, Ducey said in his written statement.
“Requiring input from a broad majority of communities across the state would make ballot measures fairer and more balanced, and that’s something Arizonans deserve if we are being asked to part with more of our hard-earned money,” he wrote.
Will Humble, director of the Arizona Public Health Association, said that requiring a supermajority will make it difficult for Arizonans to enact change and pass protections that lobbyists prevent at the statehouse level. In 2006, the Smoke Free Arizona Act banned smoking in most public places and included a 2 cent per-pack tax for enforcement purposes. The act passed with 54.7% of voter approval.
“If Proposition 132 was in effect back in 2006 we might very well still have public spaces full of tobacco smoke,” Humble wrote.
Two measures up for voter consideration were put on the ballot by Arizonans through the citizen-initiative process, which allows citizens to bypass the state legislature to propose laws to the wider voting public.
This measure makes changes to how medical debt is collected. It would reduce the maximum interest rates on medical debt from 10% to 3% annually and allow courts to reduce the amounts being garnished in cases of extreme economic hardship. It would also increase the assets that are exempt from collection and adjust exemptions for inflation, beginning in 2024.
Opponents say limiting the options for debt collectors to fulfill their responsibilities will ultimately harm consumers by resulting in shrinking opportunities for credit, shorter payment plans and increased interest rates.
“If this ballot is allowed and passed, it will change AZ law in many detrimental ways that could inadvertently cause consumers (and patients) hardship,” wrote Craig Antico, CEO of debt forgiveness company Forgiveco PBC Inc., “They will have less time to pay, greater costs of goods, services, money, and insurance, increased debt and limited access to credit, and interest charges on past dues.”
Members of Healthcare Rising, a group of Arizonans focused on improving health care quality in the state, argue that the proposition enacts necessary protections from predatory debt collectors. Diane Watson, a member from Tucson noted that while housing costs have skyrocketed, the equity exemptions from debt collectors haven’t kept pace, but Proposition 209 would change that. So too, she said in her written statement of support, would other assets be protected from debt collectors and adjusted for inflation.
“Prop. 209 shields Arizonans’ assets and belongings from creditors by protecting up to $5,000 held in a bank account, $15,000 in household goods, and vehicles worth up to $15,000 (or up to $25,000 for disabled drivers). The bill would adjust all these amounts for inflation, so consumer protections keep up with the cost of living,” she wrote.
If passed, statewide campaigns spending more than $50,000 and all other campaigns spending more than $25,000 would be required to disclose the source of donations that exceed $5,000. Personal and business income is exempted.
Critics of the ballot measure say it would worsen cancel-culture attacks, and it violates the First Amendment right to freedom of speech, of which donations have been ruled a part. The result, critics say, will be stifled speech.
“The desired effect is to scare contributors out of donating to campaigns, while their own donors virtue signal by touting their donations to woke causes,” wrote Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy.
Proponents note the proposition will allow for increased transparency in politics. This is especially troubling in campaign ads, where big-ticket donors aren’t expected to disclose their names and addresses in the way individual donors to political campaigns are required.
“We believe that Arizona voters should have the right to know the source of funds spent to influence their votes,” wrote Terry Goddard, David Tedesco, Bob Bertrand and Paul Johnson, the co-chairs of the Voter’s Right to Know organization in a joint statement.
Considered the most controversial of the ballot measures up for voter approval, Proposition 309 requires voters to fill in identifying information on early ballot affidavits. Currently, voting by mail includes an affidavit that voters must sign, but Proposition 309 adds birth date and government identification number. People voting in person currently must show either a photo I.D. or two items to prove their identity and address, such as a utility bill. This proposition would change that by requiring a photo ID. The Department of Transportation, under this proposal, would be directed to issue photo IDs for free.
Supporters of the initiative claim it will increase election security in a time when voter confidence is low by eliminating ineligible voters.
“These reasonable policies established in Prop 309 will help restore voter confidence in the integrity of our elections by ensuring all Arizonans, no matter when, where, or how we vote, present ID when casting a ballot so that all legal votes — but only legal votes — are accepted and counted,” wrote Sen. J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, who drafted the initial proposal.
The belief that undocumented immigrants influence elections is false and based on the widely-debunked claim that the 2020 election was the target of fraud.
Critics say the measure will make it more difficult to vote, and lead to an increase in disenfranchised voters. Pinny Sheoran, president of the League of Women Voters in Arizona, adds that it opens up voters to identity theft, and small errors could lead to rejected ballots. Requiring photo identification to vote in person would result in voters being turned away, Sheoran added, especially older voters with expired licenses or younger voters who have not yet gotten a driver’s license. The current system, she said, is already sufficient for ensuring election security and Proposition 309 just confuses the process. Arizona requires voters to provide proof of citizenship when registering to be eligible for statewide elections.
“Arizona already has strict voter ID laws and proof of citizenship requirements to register to vote, with felony consequences for falsifying forms. This measure intends to reduce further citizens’ access to the fundamental right to vote,” Sheoran wrote.
Voters will decide, for the third time, whether or not they want to allow the creation of a lieutenant governor, to take up the duties of the governor in the event of the governor’s death, resignation or removal from office. Similar proposals in 1994 and 2010 were refused by voters. Currently, the Secretary of State is next in line, but proponents of Proposition 131 point out that office is not always aligned with the elected governor. Nor have most Arizona governors been able to complete their full two terms. In fact, prior to Ducey’s administration, no governor had done so.
“To avoid mid-term changes in party, continuity problems or policy reversals, League of Women Voters of Arizona supports the creation of an Office of Lieutenant Governor with duties separate from that of the Secretary of State,” Sheoran wrote.
No arguments were filed in opposition to Prop. 131.
Undocumented students in Arizona would be eligible for in-state tuition and state-funded financial aid if they graduated from and attended high school in the state for at least two years under Proposition 308. Currently, undocumented students must pay 150% of in-state tuition and aren’t eligible for state-funded financial aid or grants.
Opponents argue that the benefits of state aid and in-state tuition should only be enjoyed by students with legal citizenship status and the programs shouldn’t be expanded to include those who broke the law.
“(Prop. 308) would use our tax dollars to pay for illegal aliens and non-citizens to attend university at an equal or lower cost compared to American citizens,” Arizona GOP Chairwoman Kelli Ward wrote.
Supporters say helping undocumented students will benefit Arizona’s future.
“Prop 308 will give Arizona Dreamers the chance to earn a higher education, giving every Arizona student a fair shot and making our state and workforce stronger. Dreamers deserve the same opportunities as all other Arizona students,” wrote Stand with for Children Arizona, an education advocacy group.
If passed,Proposition 130 would allow property tax exemptions for veterans with disabilities, widows and widowers in Arizona, regardless of when they became residents of the state. Eligibility for property tax exemptions is limited to one category. The proposal also consolidates some property tax exemptions and repeals the rules for certain exemption amounts, giving the Legislature the power to decide them.
Proponents of the measure include several county assessors and the Arizona Tax Research Association, all of whom noted that the proposal helps fix an issue in the state’s constitution that prevents disabled Arizona veterans from receiving property tax exemptions.
“Our veterans make extraordinary sacrifices to preserve our freedoms. During their service, some of our heroic veterans suffer permanent disabilities,” Maricopa County Assessor Eddie Cook wrote, “Arizona’s constitution recognizes the extraordinary sacrifices our disabled veterans have made to our country and state. However, a defect in the language of Arizona’s constitution caused a federal court to prohibit county assessors from accepting veterans’ property tax exemptions. Proposition 130 allows Arizona to do right by our veterans.”
In 1989, the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled that exemptions for disabled veterans were unconstitutional because the state constitution required applicants to have been Arizona residents before entering the armed forces.
No arguments were filed in opposition to the measure.
The measure creates a 0.1% sales tax for 20 years to help fund fire districts in the state.
Supporters say the revenue garnered from Proposition 310 will help fill gaps for fire districts that serve rural communities and ensure visitors to those areas are covered just as well as residents.
“The next time you spend 10 bucks at McDonald’s, Prop 310 will cost you a penny. In return, the next time you drive from the Valley to the White Mountains, Flagstaff or Tucson, or travel for a weekend in San Diego or Vegas, the fire districts you pass through will be far better prepared should you face an emergency,” wrote Bryan Jeffries, president of Professional Firefighters of Arizona.
Opponents of the measure argue applying a sales tax to all Arizona residents regardless of where they live is unfair, and increasing revenue for fire districts is unnecessary.
“We do not need a second funding stream up and above the property taxes we levy to finance fire and EMT services, and we certainly do not want all the residents in Arizona to subsidize our operations. That would be unfair and excessive,” wrote Cindy Biggs, chair of the Gilbert County Island Fire District.