Thursday, September 20, 2012

Arizona Ballot Propositions 2012

At last count (and subject to change, depending on court rulings), Arizona voters will be considering nine ballot questions in November.  While I've pretty much decided how I'm going to vote ("no" on all questions except for Proposition 204), a look at each question is merited.  I'll be taking a position on each measure and stating why I hold that position.  However, I urge all readers to read and study the propositions for themselves and cast their votes based on what they think is best for the state.

First, some resources -

The League of Women Voters of Arizona ballot proposition guide is here - English/Spanish.
The Arizona Secretary of State's webpage for its proposition publicity pamphlet is here.
Michael Bryan of Blog for Arizona offers a thorough and well-written guide here

The first two are neutral (though cynic that I am, if I was only discussing the AZSOS' guide, the word "ostensibly" would be used to modify "neutral"); Mike Bryan openly takes positions on the measures.  I disagree with a couple of those positions, but on those questions, there isn't a "good" position, just a "less bad" one.

On to the questions -

Proposition 114 - An amendment to the AZ Constitution that was referred to the ballot by the state legislature on a mostly party-line vote (one D in the House voted for it).  Ostensibly about "protecting" the victims of crimes from being sued by criminals, but this is an all but nonexistent problem.  Really about undermining the protections in the AZ Constitution that bar the lege from doing anything to reduce the right of Arizonans to recover damages for death or injury.  Undermining those protections is something that big business and other wealthy interests have been working on for years.  They want the state's court system to be more like the state's political system - mostly available to the highest bidder.  Like Mike Bryan, I am voting "No".

Proposition 115 - An amendment to the AZ Constitution that was referred to the ballot by the state legislature on a mostly party-line vote (eight Ds in the House voted for it).  Makes changes to the selection process for judges.  The process is currently one with safeguards that work to protect the independence of the judiciary.  This measure seeks to whittle away at that independence.  It also seeks to indirectly undermine the independence of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission by turning the Commission on Appellate Court Appointment, which screens candidates for the AIRC, into a partisan star chamber.  Like Mike Bryan, I am voting "No".

Proposition 116 - An amendment to the AZ Constitution that was referred to the ballot by the state legislature.  While the Rs in the lege marketed this as a tax cut for small businesses (effectively marketed, I should say, since every D who voted on this in the lege supported this one.  They should have read the fine print before casting their votes), it's actually a huge gift to big business that will serve to undermine the fiscal stability of the state and every county in the state.  I'm voting "No".

Proposition 117 - An amendment to the AZ Constitution that was referred to the ballot by the state legislature.  For purposes of property tax valuations, would cap increases in valuations of property to 5% over the previous year's valuation.  Sounds OK, even pretty good, to anyone who lived through the massive real estate bubble of the last decade where house prices, and values, rose dramatically, often resulting in seriously higher property taxes for homeowners who didn't even participate in the 'flipping for fun and (paper) profit" scams.  Well, sounds OK until you realize that this is a sop to the anti-government and anti-society whackjobs who want to impose a harsh property tax cap on Arizona.  The bursting of the real estate bubble has solved this "problem" already.  I'm voting "No".

Proposition 118 - An amendment to the AZ Constitution that was referred to the ballot by the state legislature.  This measure seeks to change the way that distributions of revenue from the Permanent State Land Endowment Fund are handled.  When AZ became a state, a large portion of the state's land area was placed in trust and revenues from sales of that land go into the Fund and are dedicated to certain beneficiaries (like schools, hospitals, and prisons).  This measure is intended to provide short term increases in revenue for those beneficiaries so that the lege can justify providing long-term tax cuts to their wealthy friends.  I'm voting "No".

Proposition 119 - An amendment to the AZ Constitution that was referred to the ballot by the state legislature.  This is another attempt to modify the state constitution to facilitate the exchange of state trust lands with other parcels in order to protect military facilities from encroaching development.  This one has been around before and has been defeated each time because most people (including me) don't trust the legislature.  Past efforts were vague and rife with opportunity for mischief.  Supposedly this has been improved and is supported by a number of environmental and business groups, as well as many Democrats.  I still don't trust the lege and am going to vote "No".

Proposition 120 - An amendment to the AZ Constitution that was referred to the ballot by the state legislature.  This one is a sop to the batshit crazy crowd.  It declares that Arizona has absolute sovereignty over all land, water, and air in AZ, except under certain specific and limited circumstances.  It's a way of saying that Arizona doesn't have to follow federal laws and regulations.  This has been tried before.  It resulted in the Civil War.  I'm voting "No".

Proposition 121 - An amendment to the AZ Constitution that was placed on the ballot by initiative petition.  Would change the state's elections to a "top two" primary system where all candidates for an office would face off in the primary, and the top two vote-getters in the primary would advance to the general election, regardless of their party affiliation.  This one is opposed by the major political parties, the minor political parties, and many advocacy groups.  It is supported by a number of big business lobbying groups, as well as "moderate" (read: "pro big business") Republicans.  The supporters claim that this will result in more moderate candidates running for, and winning, office, even though there is no evidence to that effect from the states that have already tried this (LA, WA, and now CA).  The opponents are worried that this could lead to situations where in a district that leans heavily partisan in one direction or another that there could be a number of candidates of that party who split the vote in the primary, leading to a district being represented by someone who isn't supported by a majority, or even true plurality, of the voters in that district.  I'm not sure that this one will past muster with the US Department of Justice, which under the Voting Rights Act, must "pre-clear" all changes to laws regarding AZ's elections.

If adopted, this measure would effectively disenfranchise all minor party and independent candidates and voters, because none of them have the resources necessary to compete in this sort of "jungle primary."

The Republicans tried hard to keep this one away from the voters and off of the ballot, ultimately to no avail.  I think that it should be on the ballot for the voters to consider.  And to defeat.  I'm voting "No".

Proposition 204 - A proposed statute that was placed on the ballot by initiative petition.  It would permanently extend the 1% increase in the state sales tax that the voters passed in 2010, intended to buttress funding for education.  I despise sales taxes as they are truly the most regressive of all taxes, and Arizona already relies too heavily on sales taxes for revenue.  However, I view voting for this as the "less bad" of the available options.

One of the reasons cited by AZ Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal (R) in opposition to the measure is that it includes a large chunk of education-related statutes in the measure, meaning that said sections of law become covered under the Voter Protection Act, which in turn means that the lege is all but completely barred from changing said statutes.

He, other Republicans, and to be fair, some Democrats, think that it is unwise to handcuff the legislature like that; personally, I think that it is high time that we begin micromanaging the lege.

As regular readers know, voter apathy is one of my pet peeves.

Until more people actually pay attention to the conduct of their elected officials, we will continue to have a legislature with a majority of members who feel nothing but contempt for the majority of Arizonans.

Right now, I don't know a way to reduce the kind of pervasive apathy that is contributing to Arizona's decline into "national punchline" status.

I do know that we can, however, do things to minimize the damage that the legislature can wreak upon the state.

Voting for Proposition 204 is one step toward doing that.

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