Voters will get a Nov. 7 ballot filled with 19 proposed laws and state constitutional amendments, tying a state record for the most propositions in a general election. The Tribune Editorial Board presents this guide to help voters decipher the issues, and to spark some debate with your friends and family by sharing our opinion about these ballot measures.
OUR VIEW: Four ballot measures related to illegal immigration have more to do with party politics than seeking to solve the problem.
Prop. 100: Bailable offenses
What it would do: Amend state constitution so bail from jail can be automatically denied for illegal immigrants charged with “serious felony crimes” under state law.
Pro: Prevents accused criminals from fleeing the country before trial.
Con: Leaves the decision about which crimes would qualify to the Legislature.
Our view: Judges already consider immigration status in setting or denying bail; this would grant too much power to lawmakers over a fundamental constitutional right.
Prop. 102: Standing in civil actions
What it would do: Change state constitution to deny punitive damages in civil lawsuits filed by illegal immigrants.
Pro: Limits potential taxpayer costs if immigrant sues the state.
Con: Erodes constitutional right that voters have protected several times in past elections.
Our view: Passage would open door for a future push to reform punitive damage awards, which have spiraled out of control in our litigious society.
Prop. 103: English as the Official Language
What it would do: Amend state constitution to require state and local governments to conduct most official business in English, exempts law enforcement, matters regulated by federal government such as election materials, Indian tribal languages.
Pro: Seeks to fix problems of 1998 constitutional amendment on same subject; respects First Amendment rights by exempting informal communications.
Con: Largely symbolic, will do little to persuade immigrants to learn English.
Our view: Too many gray areas likely will lead to expensive lawsuits without a
clear benefit to state.
Prop. 300: Public Program Eligibility
What it would do: Expands the list of state programs open only to citizens or legal residents to include adult education classes, child day care subsidies, and in-state tuition at universities and community colleges.
Pro: Fulfills public expectations that illegal immigrants not benefit from taxpayer-funded programs.
Con: Immigrants brought here as young children and raised in Arizona primary schools might not be able to afford out-of-state tuition after getting high school diplomas.
Our view: Reasonable expansion of initiative approved by voters in 2002; doesn't deny children of immigrants of a right to attend college, just keeps them from taking advantage of taxpayer subsidy.
Prop. 107: Protect Marriage Arizona
What it would do: Constitutional amendment to say marriage must be between one man and one woman, would forbid the creation of civil unions for same-sex partners and would revoke domestic partner benefits offered by local governments.
Pro: Reaffirms current state law on marriage, doesn’t affect domestic partner policies of private businesses.
Con: Interferes with employment policies of local governments, affects some unmarried heterosexual couples.
Our view: Unnecessary constitutional change, government shouldn’t license religious institution of marriage anyway.
Prop. 202: Arizona Minimum Wage
What it would do: Establish a state minimum wage for most jobs at $6.75 an hour.
Pro: Sets minimum wage higher than federal version of $5.15. State minimum would automatically rise with inflation.
Con: Grants state broad new powers to regulate business, vast majority of Arizona employees already make more than $6.75 an hour.
Our view: Reject as government meddling in private marketplace issue while helping few people.
Prop. 201: Smoke-Free Arizona
What it would do: Create first statewide ban on smoking in indoor public places. Would include all restaurants and bars. Funded by small increase in tobacco tax.
Pro: Would eliminate widespread differences in local regulations affecting bars and restaurants.
Con: Cities and counties could adopt even stricter smoking bans.
Our view: Fails to create consistent standard for smoking regulations.
Prop. 206: Arizona Non-Smoker Protection Act
What it would do: Pre-empt all local smoking bans to set single, statewide rule; stop all smoking in restaurants but allow in bars with separate ventilation.
Pro: Sets uniform rules across state.
Con: Silent on enforcement, could become unfunded mandate for cities and counties.
Our view: A statewide ban is inevitable; this still allows some freedom to bar owners and smoking patrons.
Prop. 200: Arizona Voter Reward Act
What it would do: Create a $1 million lottery from unclaimed state gaming proceeds, awarded every two years to someone who casts a ballot in state primary or general elections.
Pro: Should attract more people to vote.
Con: Probably will attract more uninformed voters who cast ballots with little thought, might violate federal anti-bribery laws.
Our view: An insult to the democratic process in which informed voters act in their own best interests. Particularly troublesome if this passes along with Prop. 205.
Prop. 205: Your Right to Vote
What it would do: Automatically mail ballots to every registered voter in state elections. Significantly reduce the number of polling places on election day.
Pro: Oregon and some Arizona cities have seen a rise in voter turnout with all-mail elections.
Con: Would end election day traditions, especially in more remote areas such as the Navajo Nation.
Our view: Why not send ballots by mail and keep traditional polling places, too?
EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION
Prop. 203: First Things First for Arizona’s Children
What it would do: Raise $150 million from new tobacco taxes to fund local childhood development and health care programs.
Pro: Provide necessary resources to aid young children at critical stages of development, emphasizes local decision-making instead of state mandates.
Con: Future funding at risk as number of smokers continue to decline, adds new layer of bureaucracy.
Our view: A worthy, concrete agenda, but should be funded by all taxpayers instead of picking on an unpopular minority. CORPORATE FARMING
Prop. 204: Humane Treatment of Farm Animals
What it would do: Mandate minimum space availability for veal calves and pregnant pigs so they can stretch, turn around and lie down.
Pro: Only one farm operation, a hog confinement business in St. Johns, currently would be affected by the proposed law.
Con: Farmers dispute the rules would improve lives of animals, affected confinement farm could be driven out of business.
Our view: Follows basic laws forbidding cruelty to domestic animals, best to adopt these standards before more businesses move into state.
Prop. 301: Probation for methamphetamine offenses
What it would do: People convicted of felony possession of meth on first and second offense would be ineligible for mandatory probation and drug treatment, could face a jail or prison sentence.
Pro: Recognizes rapid spread of meth and difficulties in getting users to quit.
Con: Creates new exception to initiatives approved by voters in 1996, 1998; could add to jail overcrowding.
Our view: Judges should have discretion to determine sentences based on circumstances.
STATE TRUST LANDS
Prop. 105: State Trust Land Reform
What it would do: State constitutional amendment gives State Land Department new powers to prepare property for development, authorizes 1998 Arizona Preservation Initiative for urban conservation, would allow lawmakers to preserve another 400,000 acres in rural areas.
Pro: Recognizes reform of state trust land management would bring in more money for education.
Con: Doesn’t allow for future conservation in urban areas, leaves rural decisions in hands of lawmakers.
Our view: This was placed on ballot to confuse voters and hopefully block passage of Prop. 106.
Prop. 106: Conserving Arizona’s Future
What it would do: State constitutional amendment that would reform State Land Department, create new board of trustees to oversee policies, set aside up to 690,000 acres in urban and rural areas for conservation.
Pro: Sets aside more land for immediate conservation, requires state and local governments to plan together.
Con: Vague language could result in less than maximum value to trust if new board or Legislature loses sight of proper role of State Land Department.
Our view: Continued growth makes state trust land reform an urgent issue, this measure is probably the best package voters will ever see. CITY GOVERNMENT
Prop. 104: Municipal debt
What it would do: Constitutional amendment would increase the maximum amount of bonding allowed from 6 percent to 20 percent of tax base for fire and police facilities, street construction and other transportation needs.
Pro: Gives cities more flexibility to fund most critical functions, 20 percent limit already applies to water, sewer and lighting projects, voters still must approve additional bonds.
Con: Additional debt could cost taxpayers more in the long run.
Our view: Voters would have more freedom to decide what to spend on public safety and transportation.
Prop. 207: Private Property Rights Protection Act
What it would do: Eliminate the use of eminent domain for economic development, requires government to pay land owners when zoning changes decrease value of their property.
Pro: Further protects property from government seizure, applies only to future zoning decisions.
Con: Could disrupt all future zoning decisions. More than $5 billion in claims have been filed against Oregon since similar law was adopted there two years ago. Provides no funding source to pay for such claims in Arizona.
Our view: An overreaction to bad Supreme Court decision; ignores stronger protections available under state constitution.
Prop. 302: State Legislators’ Salaries
What it would do: Raise the annual salaries of Arizona lawmakers from $24,000 to $36,000.
Pro: Recognizes heavier workload of lawmakers, which continues throughout the year.
Con: Legislature is supposed to be part time; lawmakers receive per-day stipends not counted in salary.
Our view: Don’t encourage lawmakers to spend more time at the Capitol coming up with ways to run our lives.
Prop. 101: Local property tax levies
What it would do: Require local governments to base their 2007-08 budgets on property tax valuations from 2005.
Pro: Provide taxpayers relief from huge increases in 2006 property valuations.
Con: Local governments won’t receive as much money to deal with growth and increasing demands for services.
Our view: Best of this year’s proposals to ease pressure from taxpayers alarmed by rising property values.
Compiled by Le Templar; graphic by Scott Kirchhofer/TRIBUNE