Draining away rights - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Draining away rights

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Posted: Sunday, February 23, 2003 11:12 pm | Updated: 2:19 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

Budget crises can do strange things to the minds of legislators. Like vampires who are, shall we say, down a pint, these lawmakers will go anywhere — anywhere — to find the lifeblood of government, tax dollars, to satiate their thirst to balance the budget.

As important as balancing the budget is, where House Concurrent Resolution 2018 is unfortunately going is to suck our rights to use our votes to make laws right out of us.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Karen Johnson, R-Mesa, would amend the state constitution, so at least we coulc crush it at the ballot box if it makes it out of the state capitol. It calls for every law created by initiative — citizens gathering signatures to propose a new law followed by a successful statewide vote — to expire after eight years.

Johnson’s explanation is that some initiatives end up costing more than originally thought. It’s one of the most fatuous arguments we’ve ever heard for justifying legislation.

Virtually none of the law the Legislature makes itself expire. Still, we’ve got those for good, and those laws are responsible for nearly all state spending. Given the comparatively tiny percentage of spending that comes from initiatives, Johnson and any similarly batty colleagues should stop wasting their time hacking away at our cherished rights to direct democracy and concentrate instead on cleaning up messes of mostly their own making.

If Johnson’s bill had been law already, several well-known, relied-upon state statutes would no longer exist or be destined for oblivion. They include the medical use of marijuana, a ban on state tax increases without a public vote and a ban on changing laws passed by initiative or referendum without a two-thirds majority vote of legislators.

The Arizona Lottery was created two decades ago by initiative. So was 2000’s Proposition 301 directing a six-tenths-cent sales tax for teacher salaries and classroom-related costs. The people’s wisdom at recognizing the need to themselves change laws they had passed is well-documented. In 1992 Arizonans repealed a requirement they made law a few years earlier that to be elected governor requires an absolute majority or a runoff would be held. And in 2002 they rejected a proposal to strengthen their earlier medical-marijuana laws.

If state officials find a voter-passed law to be too costly, then let the Legislature refer that law to another public vote to determine its fate. Meanwhile, let a stake be driven through the heart of HCR 2018.

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