A state judge has ruled that an initiative designed to conserve hundreds of thousands of acres of state trust land is indeed legal.
Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Douglas Rayes rejected arguments by foes of the measure that it improperly deals with more than one subject. Rayes said in a ruling published Thursday that while there are multiple components to Proposition 106, they are “sufficiently related to a common purpose or principal.’’
Attorney Tim Casey, who represents the home builders who sought to block a vote, vowed an appeal to the state Supreme Court.
Casey said the whole purpose behind the single-subject requirement is to ensure that voters don’t have to accept something they don’t like in order to get what they do. That practice is known as “log-rolling.’’
Proposition 106 would guarantee that about 300,000 acres of state-owned land would remain open space, with close to another 400,000 eligible to be set aside for preservation if cities or conservation groups come up with the necessary cash.
“A reasonable voter may very much like the idea of setting aside hundreds of thousands of acres of land for conservation purposes,’’ Casey said. And, he said, they might even approve of the initiative’s plan for a new system of managing those lands.
But he said they might “strongly disfavor’’ creation of a new board of trustees.
“And that board will have, despite what other may say, the ultimate authority
and discretion to decide all issues over the management of all 8.2 million acres that remain of trust land,’’ Casey said.
He said that board, chosen by the governor with Senate consent, would be “un-elected, unaccountable to voters, unaccountable to the governor, unaccountable to the Legislature and, without a legal challenge, unaccountable to the courts.’’
Rayes conceded the measure might create a dilemma for some voters. Still, he decided that Proposition 106 “should stand or fall as a whole.’’
Unless overturned, that means voters who don’t want the independent board have to reject the whole plan.
The home builders and their allies are backing an alternative plan put on the ballot by the Legislature.
Proposition 105 clarifies that 40,000 acres of urban land already earmarked for conservation could be sold to communities. It also directs the Legislature to set up procedures to preserve another 400,000 acres of land in rural areas.