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Initiative bill dies in committee

A measure aimed at combating fraud when gathering signatures for a ballot initiative faced a wall of opposition in the Senate, despite earlier getting substantial support in the House.
The bill, H2338, was defeated 1-5 today in the Senate judiciary committee.
After seeing the vote, its sponsor said he will not try to revive it this session.
“It’s dead,” said Rep. Kirk Adams, R-19.
But Adams said he has “not given up working up on the initiative process” and may try to introduce something similar next session.
The measure has several controversial points, and opponents said while the intent was good, the bill would not solve problems of the initiative process.
One critic cautioned lawmakers against “messing” with the initiative system, pointing out that it is a salient point of the state Constitution.
Another said it would make it more difficult for honest people to push for an initiative, while “crooks will find a way to get around it.”
The measure requires a political committee that files an application for an initiative or referendum to disclose its four biggest sources for funding at the bottom of the petition sheet.
It also requires those who sign a petition to print their first and last names and the date of signing; and mandates a third party who assists a disabled signer to put down his name, address and state where the assistance is made.
One of the biggest points of contention is that the measure prohibits petition circulators from getting paid per signature. Instead, it introduces a flat or hourly rate of payment.
Adams said the bill aims to curb fraud in the petition process and put in place a degree of transparency in the system. It is not perfect; it does not claim to be airtight, he admitted.
He cited the case of a homeless man in Tempe who simply copied the names of a phone book to a petition sheet and attached his own signatures.
Adams said he had asked an election officer if removing the per signature payment system would help reduce instances of fraud.
“Yes, it would,” he quoted the election officer as saying.
“It would reduce instances of fraud because a person is incentivize at that point to aggressively acquire signatures by hook or by crook,” Adams said.
Adams also said the idea behind the bill is, in fact, not new. It has been tried in other states with strong referendum or initiative systems.
“It has not resulted in disenfranchising voters. It has not resulted in dismantling the initiative process. None of that has happened,” he said.
But those who opposed the bill believed it would not solve problems and instead add impediments to citizens trying to put an initiative to the ballot, “especially grassroots organizations.”
“We think it doesn’t solve any problems but erects more impediments. It also establishes more of a double standard,” said Sandy Bahr of the Sierra Club-Grand Canyon Chapter.
She was referring to initiatives coming from citizens vis a vis those originating from the legislature.
Those that originate from the legislature do not have to carry the names of “big lobbying entities” who worked for it, according to Bahr.
These lobbying entities “don’t have to worry about getting their issues heard because they can get it here,” she said.
“The initiative process is there for when the Legislature ignores the people,” she added.

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