Two propositions, if passed in the November election, could have a large impact on how such propositions are passed in Arizona.
A yes vote on Proposition 128 would amend the Arizona constitution to allow the state legislature to amend, divert funds from, or supersede a passed initiative or referendum measure. The legislature would be able to do this if any part of the measure is found to contain illegal or unconstitutional language by the Arizona State Supreme Court or the U.S. Supreme Court.
Sen. Vince Leach, R-Saddlebrooke, sponsored the 2021 bill to put the proposition on the ballot. Backed by fellow Republican Mark Finchem on the House side, Prop. 128 was voted onto the November ballot by narrow margins in both houses.
The proposition has the backing of many organizations and individuals long aligned with the Republican Party and large corporations. One of the backers is NAIOP, a commercial real estate development association. Another is the Goldwater Institute.
Finchem told the Associated Press he’s not concerned about how passage of Proposition 128 would adversely affect provisions of the Voter Protection Act.
“It’s true that we have certain things in law that were referred to the voters or that the voters established,” Finchem said. “I have a real struggle with believing that preempts any future ask to the voters for clarity and precision.”
However, Rep. Athena Salman, D-Tempe, said if the measure is approved by voters, it will give the Legislature the right to gut any voter-approved law if just one small part is found to violate the constitution.
“It’s a very sneaky way to undermine the Voter Protection Act without actually having to repeal the Voter Protection Act,” Salman told the AP.
Proposition 129, on the other hand, would add a provision to the Arizona Constitution that requires resident-initiated ballot measures only encompass a single subject. The measure would also require the initiative’s subject to be expressed in the ballot title.
That proposition was also placed on the November 2022 ballot by the legislature late in its 2021 session.
The tight vote was along party lines in both houses. In fact, no state Democratic lawmaker voted in favor of putting 128 or 129 on the ballot.
“The trick is that what qualifies as a single subject is in the eye of the beholder,” said Proposition 129 opponent Joel Edman, executive director of Arizona Advocacy Network.
Sen. John Kavanaugh, R-Scottsdale, told a Senate committee in March 2021 that “It’s unfair to the people who you ask to vote to have more than one subject matter.”
NAIOP supports Prop. 129 as well, as does the Arizona Free Enterprise Club and the Arizona Chamber of Commerce. So does the Republican Party of Arizona. Opponents include Equality Arizona, the Fairness Project and the Arizona League of Women Voters.
Opponents of both 128 and 129 include Living United for Change in Arizona, Our Voice Our Vote Arizona and Activate 48.
“These measures are clearly designed to limit civic engagement and further erode voters’ ability to fully participate in our democracy,” Activate 48 Interim Executive Director Eduardo Sainz said in a statement. “We don’t need more policies that only help the wealthy and well-connected. Democracy belongs to the people, and that’s why we’re asking Arizonans to reject these awful ballot measures by voting no, nope, and hell, no on Propositions 128, 129, and 132.”