Arizona voters think the state’s lowest-paid workers deserve a raise, according to unofficial election results released Tuesday night.
Opponents’ warnings of higher prices and privacy violations did not deter voters from approving Proposition 202, which will raise the hourly minimum wage from the current $5.15 to $6.75 for workers who do not receive tips, and from $2.13 to $3.75 for tipped workers.
The minimum wage also will be increased annually based on changes in the consumer price index. The higher wages take effect Jan. 1.
Alicia Russell, treasurer of the Arizona Minimum Wage Coalition, said the strong showing for Prop. 202 proves that voters agree workers need a higher wage.
“It shouts it out that Arizona feels the same way, that hard work deserves fair pay,” Russell said.
The Vote No on 202 campaign, led by representatives of the hospitality industry and small business owners, inundated voters during the past few weeks with ads saying the way Prop. 202 will enforce the minimum wage could lead to the availability of sensitive employee data to identity thieves.
The Minimum Wage Coalition countered with legal experts who said the new rules would not invade workers’ privacy or lead to identity theft, as their opponents claimed.
Supporters also emphasized that raising the minimum wage would affect more than just teenagers, since 74 percent of Arizona workers making less than $7 an hour are adults. They also noted more than 58 percent of the state’s minimum wage earners are women, a third of them the primary wage earners in their households.
Voters snuff out smoking statewide
Arizona bars and restaurants will have to pack up their ashtrays or move them outside, based on unofficial election results released Tuesday night.
The majority of voters appeared to be in favor of Proposition 201, which would strip Arizona restaurants, bars, bowling alleys and other establishments of their right to allow smoking indoors.
Smoke-Free Arizona spokesman Troy Corder said supporters of Proposition 201 remained “cautiously optimistic” late Tuesday that the measure would pass, based on early voting results.
In addition to prohibiting smoking in all public buildings, Proposition 201 also includes a 2-cents-per-pack cigarette tax to fund enforcement of the statewide ban.
Arizonans were less enthusiastic about competing Proposition 206, which would have permitted smoking in bars and some restaurant areas, as long as those areas were fully enclosed, had separate ventilation systems and did not allow minors.
Unofficial results had voters soundly rejecting Proposition 206 despite — or perhaps because of — more than $7 million in campaign contributions from cigarette maker RJ Reynolds.
“They saw 206 was sponsored by a tobacco giant out of North Carolina, and that drove their decision,” Corder said.
The Arizona Restaurant and Hospitality Association had expressed concerns that Proposition 206 would favor restaurateurs who could afford to build expensive bar additions — and create the potential for costly liquor-licensing problems. It supported Proposition 201 despite some of its members’ opposition to the measure.
Voters strike down gay marriage ban
Voters on Tuesday appear to have made Arizona one of the first states in the nation to reject a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages.
Proposition 107, known as Protect Marriage Arizona, appeared to be headed for failure after most ballots were counted.
“I’m optimistic that the trend is going our way,” state Representative Kyrsten Sinema, D-Phoenix, who was also chairman of the anti-Prop. 107 campaign.
Although gay marriage is already illegal in Arizona, the measure would have amended the state’s constitution to define marriage as between only one man and one woman.
But opponents said the measure would have hurt many heterosexual unmarried couples as well, because it would have prevented local governments from providing the same benefits to employees’ domestic partners as they do their married workers.
Currently Tempe, Scottsdale, Tucson and Pima County offer domestic partnership benefits for unmarried couples.
Supporters of the measure said it would have provided further protection against “activist judges” who want to legalize same-sex marriages.
They pointed to a ruling last month by the New Jersey Supreme Court that opened the door to gay marriage. The court gave the state Legislature 180 days to craft a law offering homosexuals the right to marry or offer something similar.
Supporters did not concede the measure’s defeat as of press time.
Seven other states also voted Tuesday on similar constitutional bans against same-sex marriage.
New immigration restrictions reflect voters’ dismay
Four propositions aimed at curbing illegal immigration were headed for a landslide victory on Tuesday, a clear sign that Arizona voters are frustrated with the lack of congressional action on the issue.
The most controversial of the four immigration-related propositions is 300, which will prohibit illegal immigrants from receiving in-state tuition, financial assistance or access to state-subsidized childcare and family literacy programs. It will also require the Board of Education, community colleges, universities and the Department of Economic Security to report any illegal immigrants who try to apply for those programs.
The other three measures will make English the official language of Arizona, deny bail to illegal immigrants accused of felonies and prevent illegal immigrants from collecting punitive damages in court.
Rep. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, one of the state’s most outspoken supporters of immigration reform, said he was happy with the results Tuesday night. Pearce said that based on his conversations with his constituents, he was confident all along the propositions would pass.
“They are common sense,” Pearce said of the referendums. “They give me faith in the public.”
He added: “We recognize the importance of assimilation. We recognize that noncitizens, especially those in the country illegally, should not be treated better or equal to citizens.”
Immigrants’ advocates in Arizona have been fighting Prop. 300 because they believe it will be most detrimental to immigrant families. The proposition has been the target of several student protests at Arizona State University, and organizations like Arizona Interfaith Network have actively campaigned against the measure.
Immigration leaders have noted that the measures seem counteractive. On one hand, Prop. 103 declares English the official language as a means to encourage new residents to learn the language. But Prop. 300 would deny access to adult education for illegal immigrants who are looking to enroll in English language classes.
On Tuesday, activists were extremely disappointed in the election results, but they were not surprised.
“I think that this is just a sign that Arizonans are frustrated with the immigration issue,” said Linda Brown, the executive director of the Arizona Advocacy Network. “You could put that illegal immigrants are not allowed to eat bacon and eggs on the chart, and it would go down.”
Land preservation initiative likely headed for defeat
Proposition 106, an initiative to reform the Arizona Land Department and preserve up to 694,000 acres of state trust land, appeared to be headed for a narrow defeat late Tuesday night.
Voters soundly rejected Proposition 105, a competing referendum measure drafted by state legislators that allowed for up to 400,000 acres of open space in rural areas, but only with legislative approval on a case-by-case basis.
Under Prop. 106, about 300,000 acres automatically would be preserved, and the remainder would be composed of provisional reserves.
It also would create a governor-appointed board of trustees for the land department and encourage planning and profit-sharing agreements between developers and the state.
The Home Builders Association of Central Arizona oppose Prop. 106 because it would require bidders for state land to perform capital-intensive planning on the surrounding land and share profits from home sales with the state.
Homebuilders said developers would be able to offer a relatively low cash bid but still win the auction by committing to share a larger portion of the back-end profits, which the homebuilders would end up paying.
But conservation groups say they have been trying for more than 15 years to pass some kind of legislation to save pristine trust land before it is all developed. Each time, their efforts have been shot down, in part because of opposition from developers.
If voters reject both measures, it may be difficult for the two sides to rejoin and start negotiations over again because of the heated and sometimes nasty political campaign.
A measure to beef up early childhood programs was hanging on to a slim lead Tuesday, while voters were overwhelmingly supporting kinder treatment for farm animals.
But state legislators, it appeared, would have to wait at least another two years for a raise. And measures to change voting laws were going down by 2-1 margins.
Proposition 203, known as First Things First, would dedicate at least $150 million a year in new tobacco taxes to help children start kindergarten ready to learn.
Launched by Chandler educator Nadine Mathis Basha and her husband, grocery chain owner Eddie Basha, the measure had widespread support among Republican heavy-hitters and developers, who donated millions to the campaign.
“I think it’s trending in the right direction,” said Mathis Basha. “We’re optimistic.”
Opponents argued that the measure was another attack on families, failed to have clear standards for success and unfairly targeted smokers.
Proposition 204 was a bitterly fought campaign pitting animal rights advocates against pork producers. Voters cast most of their ballots for the critters, requiring a minimum amount of space for veal calves and pregnant sows.
For the third time, voters rejected a salary increase for state legislators, leaving them at $24,000 a year, plus per diem.
Propositions to award $1 million to a voter once every two years and automatically send voters ballots in the mail were losing big with most precincts reporting late Tuesday.