Saturday, September 06, 2014

Arizona Election 2014: Ballot questions

This year, this is going to be a simple post - there are only three state-level ballot questions*, and none were proposed through the petition process,  In contrast, in 2006, there were 18, with only six of the questions referred to the ballot by the legislature.  

* = In many jurisdictions, there will be local-level questions (school district overrides, city charter updates, etc.).  However, there are only three questions that will be every ballot in the state.

Voting decisions on two of the questions will be very easy:

- Proposition 122, referred by the lege in 2013 as SCR1016.  If passed, it would allow the AZ legislature to ignore any federal law, regulation, or rule that it doesn't like, and to bar any official in the state from supporting/enforcing said law, regulation, or rule.

This probably isn't legal anyway, but passing it would send a message to late-night comedians everywhere that they can continue to count on Arizona for a steady stream of punchline material.

In other words, HELL NO.

- Proposition 304, a proposal from the Commission on Salaries for Elective State Officers to raise the annual legislative salary from $24K to $35K.

As with most things in life, you get what you pay for.  And we pay our legislators crap.

$35K isn't great, but it's better than $24K, and it might attract a better quality of candidates for the lege.  Which is something that Arizona needs.

This one is a Yes

- The tough one is Proposition 303, referred by the lege in 2014 as HCR2005.  If passed, it would create a section in AZ law called "The Patients' Right To Try Act".  It *sounds* "warm and fuzzy" good - it would allow eligible patients to make use of "investigational" drugs and medical therapies if such is made available by a manufacturer of such.  Basically, desperate patients could take a chance on unproven treatments, if they so desire and a possible treatment is made available.

Sounds good, until you realize that the measure is being proposed by the Arizona legislature in a way that cannot be corrected or repealed by a future legislature (because of the Voter Protection Act)...and the next time that the members of the Arizona legislature support an idea that is beneficial for the average Arizonan will be the very first time for the majority of them.

Cynicism now thoroughly piqued, further examination of the measure is warranted. 

Upon which one finds a few interesting facts about the proposal - 

1.  In this context, "investigational" means "not approved by the FDA".  In essence, this would allow Big Pharma (and its relations) to use desperate patients as guinea pigs for untested medical therapies.

2.  The proposal does NOT require a manufacturer to make available untested medical therapies, only provides them legal cover if they do so.

3.  It would bar state regulators from penalizing physicians or health care facilities that administer those therapies.

4.  The legislative intent section clearly states that the act applies to all patients, not just those with terminal illnesses (the language of the act states that eligible patients must have a terminal illness).

5.  The proposal would allow a manufacturer to pass on to the patient the cost of manufacturing an untested medical therapy.  If a specific therapy hasn't reach the "economies of scale" part of its existence, that number is going to be huge.

6.  This proposal (or something similar) is popping up in legislatures all over the country -  Michigan, New Jersey,and Colorado, among others.  That kind of coordination indicates that this idea has some deep-pocketed supporters.

7.  The political committee formed to support the measure reeks of "dark money" - the largest single contributor is the corporate lobbying firm "free market think tank", the Goldwater Institute (providing $35K out of $35,504.30 in contributions reported in its most recent campaign finance report) and the largest single expenditure reported in the most recent campaign finance report is to Sherpa Public Affairs of Phoenix ($14.5K out of nearly $28K)...under the heading "Reimbursements".

Since GI's sources of money are secret and the word "reimbursements" is so all-encompassing yet vague, this committee has effectively anonymized both its contributions and expenditures.  They've made sure that no one can follow the money trail here. 

To sum up: this proposal was shepherded to the ballot in a way that circumvents the already minimal oversight provided by the normal legislative process, looks to be designed more to enhance industry profits than to enhance patient outcomes, and has deep-pocketed supporters who wish to remain in the shadows.

In the final analysis: this is a No vote.

As seems to be normal for AZ elections, the questions referred by the legislature merit a no vote, while the question referred to the ballot by something other than the lege merits a yes vote. 

Note: more on a similar drug proposal that was implemented in Colorado from a contributor to here

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