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Here’s what the proposed ballot measures would do

Here’s what proposed ballot measures would do

Pot supporters seek legal medical marijuana

The Arizona Medical Marijuana Policy Project seeks to put Arizona among the growing ranks of states to legalize the medicinal use of pot.

The initiative would allow terminally and severely ill patients who get recommendations from their doctors to register with the Arizona Department of Health Services for permission to use the drug.

Patients who qualify would be allowed to possess up to two-and-a-half ounces of medical marijuana, which would be purchased from state- regulated dispensaries run by nonprofit organizations.

Patients would also be allowed to grow as many as 12 marijuana plants if no dispensary was available. Patients would qualify for medical marijuana if they had any of a host of diseases and medical conditions, including cancer, HIV/AIDS, Alzheimer’s disease, Hepatitis C and Crohn’s disease.

The initiative needs 153,365 signatures by July 1 to qualify for the ballot. Andrew Myers, chairman of the Arizona Medical Marijuana Policy Project, said the initiative has far surpassed that benchmark already, with about 250,000 signatures.

In a January campaign finance report, the Marijuana Policy Project reported more than $500,000 in contributions. The Washington, D.C.- based organization supports medical marijuana initiatives across the county.

If the initiative makes it to the ballot, as expected, it would mark the third time Arizona has voted on medical marijuana.

Voters approved a medical marijuana initiative in 1996, but the Legislature overturned the law the next year. Voters passed another medical marijuana initiative in 1998, but it was invalidated due to a drafting error.

A number of other states have already approved medical marijuana laws, including Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont, Rhode Island and Washington.

Burns: Debt measure targets ‘excessive borrowing’

The Legislature is advancing a proposal that’s been billed as a way to wean Arizona government from its addiction to borrowing, while also setting realistic debt limits.

The Senate on April 1 passed SCR1060, which was introduced by Senate President Bob Burns. Before qualifying for the ballot, it must advance through the House Appropriations Committee and then receive approval on the House floor.

The measure would delete the existing $350,000 debt limit in the state Constitution, which is largely ceremonial because the Legislature routinely finds ways to borrow far more than that amount.

Instead, the state would be allowed to borrow money on the condition that the total debt incurred cannot exceed 5 percent of the state’s net assessed value of property. In 2009, the net assessed value of property stood at $86.5 billion. Five percent of that amounts to $4.3 billion.

Also, the measure would require the Legislature, beginning in January 2012, to identify a revenue source other than the state’s general fund to pay for any new debt and debt servicing.

SCR1060 has yet to have a hearing scheduled in the House Appropriations Committee.

Burns, who served as Appropriations chairman both in the House and the Senate before becoming Senate president, has often railed against borrowing. At one point last year, he even had debt figures projected on the screen of the Senate floor, presumably for his colleagues to ponder.

“I believe it is time to put a stop to our excessive borrowing,” Burns said on the day the Senate passed the measure.

Photo radar could be gone in a flash if voters OK measure

Arizona’s contract with Redflex Traffic Systems, the company that operates its photo-enforcement cameras, expires this year. But opponents of the cameras are hoping a November ballot initiative will ensure that they are gone for good.

A grassroots organization called Arizona Citizens Against Photo Radar is pushing a ballot measure that would ban state, county and local authorities from issuing citations for speeding, running red lights or other traffic infractions based on evidence captured by the cameras.

The cameras began popping up on state roads in 2008 after lawmakers and then-Gov. Janet Napolitano approved a budget that included a two- year contract with Redflex. The system was billed as a way to raise more money for the state, but the actual revenue has fallen far short of projections.

To qualify for the ballot, Arizona Citizens Against Photo Radar must collect 153,365 signatures, and the group’s efforts have so far relied on volunteers. The chairman, Shawn Dow, would not say how many signatures have been collected so far, but said he expects to have about 300,000 by the time the group submits its petitions on July 1.

The group promotes its cause through the Web site Camerafraud.com.

The group’s anti-photo radar ballot initiative was one of three targeting cameras that were filed with the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office, but appears to be the only one gaining traction. Two others don’t have operating phone numbers for their campaign committees, and Dow said he believes they have abandoned their efforts.

Lt. Gov. post would replace Secretary of State

It’s been 35 years since Arizona had a governor who assumed control of the state’s highest office and then gave it up the way the founders envisioned. Instead, governors have died, resigned or been impeached, leaving the secretaries of state to take over the reins.

Twice since the late 1980s that meant a governor of one party was replaced by a secretary of state from a different party: Democrat Rose Mofford replaced Republican Evan Mecham in 1988 and Republican Jan Brewer replaced Democrat Janet Napolitano last year.

Now, lawmakers are pushing a measure, SCR1013, that would turn the secretary of state into a lieutenant governor. The measure has been approved by the Senate and the House Judiciary Committee, though it is still awaiting consideration by the entire House.

Under the proposal, candidates for governor and lieutenant governor would run separate primary elections, but those winners would team up in the general election, allowing voters to cast one ballot for the pair of candidates. The goal, say supporters, is to ensure a consistency in governance for Arizona’s top elected post.

If the measure makes the ballot, it would give voters a second bite at the apple: In 1994, they rejected creating a new lieutenant governor position by a nearly 2-1 margin. The main proponent of it back then? Brewer, who said at the time, “Arizonans deserve to have a governor that will continue the same policies as the one they elected.” Installing a lieutenant governor also has the backing of participants in the O’Connor House Project, a group spearheaded by retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

Fiscal crisis pushes lawmakers to seek voter-protected cash

Looking back at the past two years of massive budget deficits, lawmakers say the biggest problem was that very few options were available to cut spending.

Lawmakers who wanted to reduce state spending were stymied by federal mandates and a state law that bans lawmakers from cutting spending for programs approved by voters.

Now, lawmakers are planning to ask voters to give the Legislature more authority to adjust spending levels for voter-approved programs.

HCR2039 would grant lawmakers, through a simple majority vote, temporary access to half of any funding stream that was created by voters for a specific spending measure. The measure would be in effect for four years.

Another ballot measure, HCR2041, would require all voter-approved programs to be reauthorized at the ballot every eight years.

Voters, though, might not be receptive to the idea of giving up more control to the Legislature. The restrictions are in place largely because the Legislature had a history of overturning measures that voters had approved.

In 1998, voters approved Proposition 105, which prevents lawmakers from amending laws created at the ballot, unless the amendment furthers its purpose and the change is approved by a three-fourths majority in each chamber of the Legislature.

Voters already had made it more difficult for the Legislature to raise taxes or fees before that. Six years earlier, the public passed Proposition 108, which requires a two-thirds vote among lawmakers for any act that results in a “net increase” in state revenues.

Both referrals have already received the nod of the House, as well as the approval of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Their next stop is the Senate floor.

Measure seeks to scrap lawmaker term limits

More than a quarter of Arizona House members will be forced out of their seats at the end of this year because of a constitutional amendment that limits how long they can stay in office.

The turnover is higher in the Senate, where 11 senators face term limits.

Now a veteran lawmaker who was partly responsible for the law said she has since seen its errors and is working on legislation to ask voters this November to repeal a constitutional amendment that limits lawmakers to four consecutive two-year terms in one office.

Sen. Carolyn Allen, a Republican from Scottsdale, is sponsoring SCR1007, which would ask the public to overturn the Constitution’s term-limits provisions.

Critics of term limits say they have shifted power away from lawmakers to longtime lobbyists and legislative staffers.

Among those who are term-limited this year are legislators who have been around since the 1980s and 1990s. They include, for example, Senate President Bob Burns, who was first elected to the Legislature in the late 1980s.

Those who support term limits say the restriction is a way to force “career politicians” out, injecting new blood into the system.

The term limits provision in the Constitution doesn’t prevent lawmakers from running for election to a different seat. It’s become normal for House members to run for the Senate when they reach their limits, and vice versa.

Measures would dismantle Clean Elections funding

A pair of constitutional amendments supported by Republican lawmakers would gut the Clean Elections public campaign finance system, which voters created in 1998.

One would ban the use of “taxpayer money” to pay for political campaigns, while the other would ask voters to redirect all money in the Clean Elections fund to maintenance of school classrooms.

Both would be a death knell for the Clean Elections system, which provides money to candidates for legislative and statewide offices.

SCR1009, which would prohibit the use of government money for elections, is supported by groups such as the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the O’Connor House Project, a coalition of community leaders organized by retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

Business groups have been fighting to eliminate Clean Elections almost as long as the system has been in place. Before candidates could take the public money, which is funded largely through surcharges on traffic tickets and voluntary donations from taxpayers, the business community had more influence over elections as one of the main sources of contributions to candidates it felt would best represent business interests at the Legislature.

The business groups are also backing SCR1043, which sends the money to classroom maintenance. The main selling point, supporters say, is that with recent budget cuts to education, voters will jump at the chance to return at least some of the money to schools.

Both measures failed to get out of the House Judiciary Committee – SCR1043 failed April 8 and SCR1009 was never heard – but supporters said they are trying to find a way to ensure they receive a vote on the floor.

Legislature wants control over federal money

Arizona has one of five legislatures in the U.S. that lacks the ability to decide how federal money should be spent, an authority that is vested in the governor.

Now some lawmakers want voters to wrestle that authority from the chief executive. They argue that only the Legislature should decide how to spend all discretionary money given to the state.

Right now the Legislature has authority over general fund spending, which comes to less than $10 billion each year. At the same time, the federal government gives Arizona anywhere from $10 billion to $15 billion each year, which is controlled by the governor.

SCR1022, sponsored by Tucson Republican Sen. Al Melvin, has already received Senate approval. The House Appropriations Committee also has approved the measure, which now awaits a vote on the House floor.

Republicans support the measure, while Democrats oppose it.

Previous governors have vetoed past efforts by the Legislature to seize control of the federal money given to Arizona each year. To avoid a similar outcome this time, lawmakers want to directly ask the public to give them that authority.

SCR1022 would give lawmakers control of all federal money that the state has some discretion over how to spend it. Federal money that must go toward a specific purpose, such as Medicaid, would still be under the governor’s control.

Melvin said giving the Legislature authority over federal money is the right thing to do, especially in times of financial crisis.

Critics say the governor, regardless of party affiliation, would make better decisions about federal money.

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