Arizona’s Voter Protection Act: Citizen Initiated Protection for Voter Enacted Laws

by John Hartsell | Weedia, Inc. | Facebook

This coming Thursday, the Arizona House Committee on Government will focus its attention on HCR (House Concurrent Resolution) 2002, sponsored by Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita (R-LD23) which would repeal the Arizona Voter Protection Act. For Weedia readers, the most important issue to be impacted by HCR 2002 would be the voter enacted Medical Marijuana Act.

Concurrent Resolutions are processed through both houses of the legislature, but are not signed by the governor. They may provide for the submittal of a referendum to voters, initiate legislative action to amend either the U.S. or Arizona Constitution, or express regret for the death of a prominent public figure.

Rep. Ken Clark (D-LD 24) said of the HCR 2002, “The legislature for years has wanted to find a way to subvert the will of the voters, again. It is time to remind legislators that they will answer to voters if they push ahead on this bill, again.”

In 1998, Arizona’s electorate passed a ballot initiative to ensure the intent of their laws were protected from legislative amendments, changes, or attacks. By passing then Proposition 105, the Voter Protection Act, voters said this:

“Would amend the Arizona Constitution relating to initiative and referendum measures; prohibit governor’s veto; prohibits legislative repeal; require three-fourths vote to amend measure, to supersede measure, or to transfer funds designated by the measure, and only if each furthers the purpose of the measure.”

In 1912, the first initiative the Weedia team could find are Questions 300 and 301 which approved Suffrage and the Right to Hold Office for Women. The measure passed overwhelmingly with 68% voting “Yes” which at the time totaled 13,442 votes. Then, in 1916 Arizona voters made the rules for initiatives and referenda through a ballot measure and since then, dozens of laws have been created through citizen initiatives.

Many initiatives which could not gain enough support to pass through both chambers of Arizona’s legislature, such as Prop 123 which provided additional income to suffering schools, passed in 2016 at the ballot. Others include state land issues, environmental protections, early childhood development, equal rights and, of course, Prop 203, the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act.

Now, if HCR 2002 were to pass through both the Arizona House and Senate, the voters will have the option to revert power back to the legislature by enacting the repeal of the Voter Protection Act. If they do, all voter initiatives and referenda will be at risk of change or ultimately repeal at the whim of the legislature.

“Considering the continuous flow of anti-cannabis bills at Arizona’s legislature, it doesn’t take too much thought to realize that the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act would be a direct target if the Voter Protection Act were to be repealed,” said Taylor Swick, AMMA PAC lobbyist.

He continued, “We’re encouraging our supporters to call and email Rep. Ugenti-Rita to request that she pull HCR 2002 from consideration.” Swick recommends that folks seeking to engage in citizen lobbying read the AMMA PAC guide.

The House Committee on Government will hear HCR 2002 on Thursday at 9:30 in House Hearing Room 1 at 1700 W. Washington Phoenix, AZ 85007.

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