Proposition roundup: Marijuana initiative too close to call - East Valley Tribune: Arizona

Proposition roundup: Marijuana initiative too close to call

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Posted: Tuesday, November 2, 2010 5:56 pm | Updated: 7:25 am, Thu Nov 4, 2010.

Proponents of medical marijuana use in Arizona will have to wait a little longer to see if voters rejected their proposed law allowing its use.

Proposition 203 was still too close for a race call by The Associated Press at midday Wednesday.

It was failing by 6,869 votes out of more than 1.3 million votes cast. The proposal narrowed its deficit by more than 300 votes overnight.

Proposals in 1996 and 1998 were approved but a problem with the wording blocked their enactment. In 2002, a far more sweeping proposal to decriminalize possession of up to two ounces of marijuana for any purpose was rejected.

This proposal would allow the use of the drug only for serious diseases including cancer.

PROP. 106

Voters approved a ballot measure that would allow Arizonans to opt out of any federal or state health care mandate.

Unofficial returns showed Proposition 106 leading by a wide margin.

Supporters offered the proposition to amend the state constitution in anticipation of the federal health care reform law enacted earlier this year. They argued that Arizonans should retain control over their health care decisions.

“The majority of Arizona voters, I believe, have said very clearly that the decision belongs in the hands of families and not in the hands of politicians,” said Dr. Eric Novack, chairman of Arizonans for Health Care Freedom.

Opponents said the measure could derail the benefits of health care reform in Arizona or, more likely, set up a costly and unsuccessful legal challenge over conflicts with the federal measure. Federal law almost always supersedes state laws in court rulings.

Shirley Sandelands, second vice president of the Arizona League of Women Voters, said, ““We have a very strong position that we would like to have affordable health care.”

Regarding passage of the proposition, Sandelands said, “I have a feeling it will end up being adjudicated.”

PROP. 107

Arizona voters have approved a ballot measure to eliminate affirmative action programs in state and local governments.

Unofficial returns showed Proposition 107 leading by a wide margin.

Supporters said the need for affirmative action has long passed and amount to discrimination. They succeeded in amending the state’s constitution to ban state government and municipalities from giving preferential treatment on the basis of sex, race, color, ethnicity or national origin.

Four other states have passed similar measures. They are California, Nebraska, Washington and Michigan.

Jennifer Gratz, spokesperson for “Yes on 107,” said the apparent victory in Arizona is the largest yet.

“It’s the biggest victory that the initiative has had,” Graz said. “I think that with the margin we saw here it’s clear that the people of Arizona believe in fair and equal treatment for everyone.”

The measure also covers school districts and the public universities, although programs that would lose federal grant money by complying with a ban aren’t included.

Opponents said public university students, in particular, would suffer under Proposition 107 because many benefit from affirmative action programs.

Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Phoenix, said she worries about the survival of programs such as Arizona State University’s Hispanic Mother-Daughter program, which works with Latina teens to prepare them for college.

PROP. 109

Voters rejected a ballot measure to make hunting and fishing constitutional rights in Arizona and forbid laws or rules that restrict such activities.

Unofficial returns showed Proposition 109 trailing by a wide margin.

Wildlife advocacy groups objected in particular to provisions that would make the Legislature the sole authority regulating hunting and fishing, forbidding any law or rule restricting the activities. They said that change would politicize wildlife management and curtail citizen initiatives.

Sandy Bahr, director of the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter, said voters recognized that Proposition 109 was a bad idea that did not belong in the constitution.

Bahr said defeating Proposition 109 was vital to the future of wildlife management in Arizona, ensuring decisions would be based on science and not politics.

“We hope that the Legislature gets the message,” Bahr said in a phone interview.

Robert Woodhouse, a member of the Arizona Game and Fish Commission, which endorsed the measure, expressed disappointment. “We put out a good campaign, we spent quite heavily, but the voters have gone the other way,” he said.

 

Brad Powell, vice president of Arizona Wildlife Federation, a supporter of proposition 109, said his group will meet in two days for an assessment of the effort and to decide the next course of action.

“Our goal is to have healthy fish and wildlife in Arizona and make sure the citizens understand how important fishing and hunting is,” he said.

Approving a bill authored by state Rep. Jerry Weiers, R-Glendale, the Legislature referred the matter to the ballot last spring. The Arizona Game and Fish Commission, which is responsible for managing wildlife, registered its support.

Twelve other states have established a constitutional right to hunt and fish.

The groups warned that Proposition 109 would interfere with citizen initiatives seeking to amend state statutes on wildlife issues. They noted that voters in 1994 approved such an initiative banning the use of steel-jawed traps.

If the Legislature has sole authority over hunting and fishing, in order to affect wildlife management citizens would have to amend the state constitution, which require more petition signatures. Initiatives to amend statutes require petitions signed by 10 percent of registered voters; the requirement is 15 percent for initiatives to amend the constitution.

PROP. 110

A ballot measure to allow Arizona to exchange state trust land was too close to call Tuesday night.

Proposition 110 would enable state trust land to be swapped for other public property if the goal is to preserve military bases or conservation.

Cronkite News bases its projection on unofficial returns showing the proposition with a slight edge toward approval.

The measure addressed a 1990 Arizona Supreme Court ruling that prevented the State Land Department from exchanging trust land. Instead, the state, which manages trust land to benefit public education, had to sell or lease such property.

The proposition had no formal opposition, but State Land Commissioner Maria Baier said voters are typically skeptical of changes to the state constitution.

Supporters of Proposition 110 claimed the restriction could interfere with efforts to prevent encroachment on military bases, including Fort Huachuca near Sierra Vista in southern Arizona, or keep state trust land from being added to federal conservation areas.

PROP. 111

Voters rejected a ballot measure to create the post of lieutenant governor, which would have replaced the secretary of state position.

Unofficial returns showed Proposition 111 trailing by a wide margin.

This is the second time such a ballot measure has gone down, with a similar proposition to create a separate office of lieutenant governor failing in 1994.

The measure, which was to take effect in 2014, would have had a party’s nominees for lieutenant governor and governor run separately in primary elections but as a joint ticket in general elections.

The state constitution would have been changed to rename the office of secretary of state as lieutenant governor. The office holder would have assumed the secretary of state’s duties, including administering elections.

Opponents called the proposition a strategic move by the major parties to ensure a cycle of incumbency for the party in power. They raised concerns about disenfranchising independent candidates.

Joe Sigg, director of government relations at Arizona Farm Bureau, which opposed the proposition, said he does not believe the idea of creating an office of lieutenant governor should be declared dead, only that the current proposition as written was not acceptable to voters.

“I’m guessing voters looked at this and probably assumed this is something the insiders want,” he said.

Supporters argued the proposition would help make Arizona’s line of succession clear, as governors have been replaced four times by secretaries of state (and once by the attorney general). They also said it would ease voter confusion by preventing the governor’s office from switching parties if there were a change mid-term.

PROP. 112

The outcome remained unclear for a measure to move up by two months the deadline for submitting citizens’ initiatives for the ballot.

Unofficial returns showed “yes” and “no” votes almost even late in the evening.

Citizen groups proposing initiatives to change statutes or the state constitution currently have a deadline of four months before the election. Proposition 112 would change that to six months.

Supporters of Proposition 112 said county officials need the extra two months to make sure initiative petitions are properly verified. They also said four months offers too little time for court challenges to petitions.

Rep. Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix, said he wasn’t surprised that the vote was so close because any change to the initiative process is complicated. But he said he remained confident the proposition would pass.

“We all think it will have a positive effect on the initiative process,” he said.

There was no organized opposition to the measure, although some have argued that moving up the deadline would make it more difficult to get initiatives on the ballot.

PROP. 113

Employees interested in forming a union in Arizona may find the process a little lengthier after voters approved a proposition requiring a secret ballot vote.

Unofficial returns showed Proposition 113 passing with a wide lead.

The proposition is a move to counter proposed federal legislation called the Employee Free Choice Act that would eliminate the option of a secret ballot if a majority of workers sign a petition in favor of unionizing.

Supporters of the proposition, aimed at making a secret ballot mandatory after workers petition to form a union, say that without confidentiality employees are vulnerable to pressure to join in.

“We don’t just want to kill the Employee Free Choice Act, we want to kill the idea,” said Lucy Caldwell, spokeswoman for Save Our Secret Ballot, a Las Vegas-based national organization that was backing similar measures in South Carolina, South Dakota and Utah. “This speaks to the importance of the issue … hopefully it represents a change in tide.”

Opponents including the AFL-CIO and Arizona Education Association had argued that employers would intimidate workers in the time required to conduct a secret vote.

Linda Brown, executive director of the Arizona Advocacy Network, said she was “extremely disappointed” that the proposition passed. She said she thought voters were confused by the title of the proposition – Save Our Secret Ballot.

“In fact, they were voting to ensure workers don’t have the opportunity to organize easily,” Brown said. “The last thing Arizona workers need is another roadblock on the way to decent wages, and that’s what this is.”

Supporters of Proposition 113 say they anticipate lawsuits if the federal Employee Free Choice Act passes and are eager for a debate.

PROPS. 301 and 302

Voters rejected two ballot propositions that would have transferred almost $450 million from two voter-approved funds to address the state budget deficit.

Unofficial returns showed both propositions trailing by a wide margin.

Legislative leaders called the defeat of Proposition 301 and Proposition 302 a huge blow that will require cuts to state programs.

Proposition 302 would have transferred $325 million from First Things First, which provides early childhood health and development services, along with $123.5 million from Proposition 301, a voter-approved land-conservation fund.

State Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said that the state faces an even bigger shortfall.

“It’s a monumental amount of money,” Kavanagh said.

He said the state’s borrowing capacity is extremely limited at this time and that most of this deficit is going to be addressed with program cuts.

Robert “Bob” Burns, the outgoing Senate president, said the next Legislature now faces hard choices about what to do about the state’s budget deficit.

“There are very few choices left,” Burns said. “There are going to be stiff cuts in programs.”

He said it’s likely the state will target programs that are not ballot-protected such as services for autism and for the developmentally disabled.

“I’ve concerned about the fiscal stability of the state of Arizona,” Burns said. “We are skating on thin ice.”

The Arizona budget passed based on the assumption that voters would approve both Propositions 301 and 302. State law requires voter approval because voters created both programs.

Opponents of Proposition 302 said voters created First Things First in 2006 to help young children that would have suffered if those funds were swept to shore up the state budget.

“First Things First is so important for children and childhood development,” said Nadine Basha, the chairwoman for No on 302, a group opposed to the proposition. “Arizona voters recognize the importance of early childhood development and that we are about prevention and making sure that every child comes to school healthy and ready to be successful in school.”

The program was approved in 2006 out of concern about a gap in services addressing the needs of children 5 and under.

Voters also rejected Proposition 301, which would have swept $123.5 million from a voter-approved land-conservation fund to balance the budget.

Opponents said that closing tax loopholes or scaling back spending in other departments were preferred alternatives to balancing the budget.

“I think it’s pretty clear that Arizona voters, even in tough times, think it’s important to conserve land,” said Sandy Bahr, executive director of the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter. “They didn’t believe the false choices the Legislature offered.”

She said the proposition would have have hurt children and land conservation in the state.

“This is a big win for Arizona, our school kids, and our future,” Bahr said. “It’s too bad we even had to spend time on this, because the Legislature really needed to look at the budget in a comprehensive way.”

The Land Conservation Fund is administered by the Arizona State Parks Board. The money is allocated to communities on a dollar-for-dollar matching basis to purchase state trust land.

“Voters have said they support long-term land conservation opposed to short-term fixes for our budget,” said Carolyn Campbell, executive director of the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection.

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The Associated Press and Cronkite News Service contributed to this report

 

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