Ballot Propositions Are A Hallmark Of The State’s Populist Constitution But In These Days Of Extreme Views, They Are Mostly Band-Aids And Ideological Exercises in Futility
Nine Constitutional amendments will be on Arizona ballots Tuesday. Image by James Durkee and used under the terms of a Creative Commons license.
By Staff Report
Modern Times Magazine
Nov. 4, 2012 — Arizona’s populist Constitution gives great power to voters.
The electorate alone can amend the state Constitution — which has been done more than 125 times in 100 years. The legislature merely passes measures that authorize their placement onto the ballot. State residents can even get amendments they wish to make onto the ballot by collecting signatures.
In short, amending the state Constitution is all in the hands of the voters. But, for the vast majority of the population who watch more reality television than pay attention to state politics — it is very difficult to get past the catchy names ascribed to these amendments and understand the real motivations behind them.
This election cycle is no different.
In order to sort through the morass, we have assembled this easy to follow scorecard which include our recommendations.
Proposition 114 – Crime Victims Protection Act Amendment
What inspired Proposition 114 was a lawsuit: Sonoran Desert Investigations v. Miller that involved an incident at a Tucson Safeway grocery store. In this case, Frank M. Hernandez was seen concealing bottles of moisturizer within his clothing — shoplifting — by private security guard Joe Howard. When Howard confronted Hernandez, a physical altercation ensued, resulting in Howard holding Hernandez down onto the ground with his arm around his neck. By the time Howard was able to cuff Hernandez, he had stopped breathing and never regained consciousness. He died.
The security company attempted to get a lawsuit filed by the Hernandez’ family dismissed based on Arizona statute 12-712 which already protects state residents against lawsuits filed by those engaging in criminal acts. The court of appeals rejected this dismissal based upon article XVIII of the Arizona Constitution which provides letting juries decide whether a case is valid, or not. Former state Sen. Russell Pearce was the originator of this attempted constitutional amendment.
The end result is that if Prop. 114 passes, no one accused of a felony act could sue those they are committing the crimes against, or those attempting to apprehend them — even if they are killed while trying to steal moisturizer.
Modern Times opinion: No.
Proposition 115 – Judicial Selection Amendment
The Center for Arizona Policy is the group behind Prop. 115. They and other conservative groups have long lamented “liberal” judges. They also loathed that the Commission on Appellate Judicial Appointments included a “liberal” instead of a non-partisan — Colleen Mathis — when submitting a list of who might chair to the Independent Redistricting Commission.
Currently, there are three judicial commissions that gather names which are presented to the sitting governor for review when a judicial vacancy becomes open. Right now, these commissions are staffed by those appointed by the State Bar of Arizona. The governor then chooses which of the names suggested he or she will appoint to the bench. These appointed judges will then face voters as to whether they should be retained.
What Prop. 115 would change is allowing the governor to appoint four of five of the attorney held seats on the commissions and then select the judges.
Prop. 115 would also provide the legislature greater input into the nominating process by allowing legislative committees to hold public hearings for “informational purposes” on judges facing retention elections while also requiring on-line positing of judicial decisions. Judicial terms would also be increased to eight years and move the mandatory retirement age for judges from 70 to 75.
Conservatives pushed for more aggressive reforms that would have taken reviews out of the hands of voters and commissions altogether: the governor would have appointed and the Arizona Senate would have had to confirm.
Democrats and many former judges have come out against the proposition, including former Arizona Supreme Court Justice Stanley G. Feldman, who wrote, “If passed, it will be a monumental retreat from Arizona’s tradition of judicial independence.”
Modern Times opinion: No.
Proposition 116 – Property Tax Break For Business Equipment
Prop. 116 — a.k.a. the Small Business Job Creation Act — would amend the Arizona Constitution to allow the state to give businesses a larger break on taxes paid on newly acquired equipment or machinery.
Considering Arizona businesses have already been given tax breaks of more than $630 million over the next 10 years — and that the state budget is still underfunded — maybe enough is enough.
But don’t just take our word for it. The Joint Legislative Budget Committee has admitted that a median homeowner in Mesa would pay about $3 more a year in property taxes thanks to Prop. 116.
Modern Times opinion: Heck, no.
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