Changes to the Arizona Constitution need to meet certain standards. It’s the law of our land, the code that governs us, and it should be treated as such. That doesn’t mean it’s untouchable, but if we’re going to alter such a document we’re going to set the bar high. And most of the propositions on this year’s ballot don’t rise to that level. Many simply aren’t necessary — non-issues that are being brought up by the Arizona Legislature in the event that something might happen in the future (and give them a chance to snub the federal government in the process). Consider:
Prop 106: Health care (No)
Much of this referral was originally meant to counter the public-option component of federal reform — a moot point because it no longer includes such a public option. Beyond that, this proposition may be legally pre-empted by federal law, which could result in needless lawsuits. We understand the desire to fight back against federal health care, but this is a pointless way to do it.
Prop 107: Affirmative action (No)
The most egregious affirmative action policy identified by this measure — quotas — doesn’t exist anymore. Does preferential treatment still happen? Sure. But, we would argue, sometimes that’s a good thing. If a government agency or school is skewed heavily toward males or whites, for example, it should have the option to hire a female or a minority — all other factors being equal — to improve diversity. A complete ban on affirmative action goes too far.
Prop 109: Hunting and fishing rights (No)
Two big problems with this measure: First, the threat to hunting and fishing rights doesn’t exist, so this is a solution in search of a problem. Second, the wording is far too vague and could lead to expensive litigation to resolve. (By the way, fears that the Legislature would take control of wildlife management from Game and Fish, should this pass, are not warranted. The Legislature already has that authority and would still delegate it to Game and Fish).
Prop 110: State trust lands (Yes)
This prop brings the Arizona Constitution, which does not allow land exchanges without public auction, in line with the 1936 U.S. Congressional Act, which gave states that right. This helps end the checkerboard pattern of ownership along railroad lines and enables the state to consolidate trust land in larger blocks. To avoid potential abuse or sweetheart deals to land developers, safeguards are included that require two detailed independent appraisals of the exchange, a public hearing and, finally, voter approval of any deal.
Prop 111: Lieutenant Governor (No)
We like parts of this proposition. Renaming the office of secretary of state helps emphasize to voters that the position is first in line to succeed the governor (which has happened five times in Arizona history, most recently with Jan Brewer). But the problem with this measure is that the lieutenant governor would still retain the duties of secretary of state — which is to oversee elections. Prop 111 requires the lieutenant governor to run on the same party ticket as the governor in the general election (to ensure a possible governor’s successor comes from the same party). That’s all well and good, but do you really want a lieutenant governor whose job is to oversee the election of his/her running mate? That screams conflict of interest.
Prop 112: Changing initiative deadline (Yes)
This extends the deadline for filing petitions from four to six months prior to an election — which gives election officials more time to verify signatures.
Prop 113: Secret ballots for unions (No)
It sounds good on its surface (ensuring that union elections are done by secret ballot). But, again, this is in response to a federal law that doesn’t yet exist — it has only been proposed at this point. And if the federal law does pass, it would supercede state law anyway. Prop 113 would be declared unconstitutional, but only after lengthy and costly litigation. What’s the point?
Prop 203: Medical marijuana (No)
This is the only citizen-backed initiative on the ballot. And while we’re not insensitive to the needs of the chronically ill (although there are some questions as to the validity of marijuana as a medicine), the negatives of this measure are far too great. Look at states like Colorado, Montana and California, where medical marijuana laws are widely abused (essentially legalizing the drug) and crime has risen sharply around centers that distribute the drug. Marijuana also is considered a “gateway” to more serious drugs. This proposition is bad medicine.
Prop 301: Sweeping funds from Land Conservation Fund (Yes)
Protecting Arizona’s scenic resources and open spaces is important. But the appropriation for this fund runs out in 2011 anyway. And securing the $123 million available from this fund will help alleviate the state’s severe budget crisis and prevent more important programs from being cut.
Prop 302: Sweeping funds from First Things First (No)
The same argument from 301 can be made for passing Prop 302 — in fact, $345 million in FTF funds would make an even bigger dent in the state’s budget deficit. But we’re not ready to pull the plug on this important pre-K education program. Early education programs such as First Things First ensure that many students are more prepared when entering school, which is essential if we are to reverse the downward spiral education has undergone in Arizona.
Prop 420: Cubs spring training (Yes)
As our Oct. 10 editorial spelled out, Mesa’s plan to keep the Cubs involves more than just funding a spring training facility. It includes a year-round “Wrigleyville West” retail and shopping center that would pour money into the city’s coffers. Mesa desperately needs assets like the Cubs around which to attract new businesses, and the city is funding the complex without raising sales taxes or property taxes (instead selling land it owns in Pinal County). The development agreement is not yet finalized, but the city has pledged to cap its expenses at $99 million. What’s more, it will save more than $1 million annually that it currently spends on operational costs (which the Cubs will assume). Bottom line: For a team that generates an estimated $138 million annual economic impact, this is an investment well worth taking.
Another ballot measure related to the Cubs — labeled Question 2 — would allow Mesa to increase the bed tax on city hotels by 2 percent to help fund tourism-related programs to promote Mesa and Cactus League baseball. A tourism-related tax makes sense to fund this program.