Measure would allow Legislature to amend unconstitutional voter-approved initiatives

Voters in November will consider Proposition 128, which would allow the state Legislature to amend or repeal a voter-approved ballot initiative if the Arizona Supreme Court or the U.S. Supreme court declared a portion of it unconstitutional or invalid.

Due to 1998’s Proposition 105 , also known as the Voter Protection Act, voter-approved initiatives are nearly impossible to alter. The act, which passed with 53% support, prohibits the Legislature from amending or repealing voter-approved ballot initiatives and referendums unless it can secure a three-fourths majority vote and “further the purpose” of the underlying measure. 

In arguments for Proposition 128 published by the Secretary of State’s Office, the Arizona business community lined up in support of the measure for permitting the ability to correct illegal or unconstitutional language.

“Under current law, the state legislature is powerless to correct the illegal or unconstitutional language,” said Suzanne Kinney, president & CEO of the Arizona Chapter of NAIOP, a commercial real estate advocacy group. “This means that proponents of the proposition may have to go back to the drawing board, starting over with the entire costly and lengthy process of getting a new initiative on the ballot in the next election. During the interim, the measure previously approved by voters would not be in effect.”

Scot Mussi, president of the Arizona Free Enterprise Club, and Roy Tatem, Jr. of the East Valley chapter of the NAACP, debated Proposition 128 recently. 

“Right now, there’s no mechanism in place if a measure is found to contain illegal or unconstitutional language, absent trying to perhaps maybe go back to the voters which could cost a lot of money,” Mussi said, noting that going back to voters could take “years.” 

Tatem countered, saying the proposition is “too ambiguous.”

Also in support of the proposition is the Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry. 

“Proposition 128 ensures the Legislature can correct the mistakes of out-of-state special interests using our ballot box to impose their views on Arizona,” Chamber President and CEO Danny Seiden said. “Preserving the power of the people is core to our democracy, but if language is enacted that is clearly in violation of the law or state Constitution then we must allow a path for our elected policymakers to correct course.”

Humaira Zafari

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