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Legislature sends nine referrals to ballot – initiative still coming

Lawmakers are asking voters to weigh in on nine items when they head to the polls in November, including revamping the way the state’s top two elected posts are chosen.

Two more questions – one seeking the elimination of photo-enforcement cameras, and another that would legalize medical marijuana – could land on the ballot courtesy the citizen’s initiative process, which allows people or groups to put things to a public vote, provided they turn in enough signatures from registered voters.

The Legislature considered nearly two-dozen ballot referrals during the past session, which ended April 29. Some measures simply didn’t have enough support to pass, but lawmakers also were trying to avoid the type of ballot overload that perplexed voters with 19 statewide measures in 2006.

This year, legislators sent another six questions to the ballot. Two were approved in March as part of the budget; both ask voters to sweep the money from a pair of voter-approved funds in order to help fill in deep shortfalls. Taking the money from the two funds, First Things First and Growing Smarter, would cut the deficit by about $500 million.

On April 21, the House gave final approval to another measure, which would ask voters to allow the state to exchange trust land for other public lands in order to preserve military bases.

The Senate followed suit the next day by passing a measure that would ask them to amend the constitution to make hunting and fishing a fundamental right of Arizona citizens. It would also give “exclusive authority” to regulate hunting and fishing to the Legislature and declare hunting and fishing as the preferred means of controlling wildlife.

Lawmakers also sent two more items to voters in the waning days of the legislative session. One would ask voters to rename the Secretary of State’s Office to the Office of the Lieutenant Governor.

The ballot measure, if approved by voters, would also change the mechanics of general elections by requiring same-party candidates for governor and lieutenant governor to run as a team. So, for instance, the Republican candidate for governor who emerges from the primary would have to run with the winning Republican candidate for lieutenant governor.

The other ballot measure would require petition signatures for citizen’s initiatives to be turned in to the secretary of state two months earlier.

Last year, lawmakers agreed to send three constitutional amendments to this year’s ballot. One would end programs that give preferential treatment to minorities and women, while another would guarantee secret ballots for the election of public officials or for union representation.

The third would amend the state Constitution to say that no law shall require Arizonans to participate in a health care system or be penalized for failing to do so. The measure, if it passes, may set up a showdown with the federal government over the health care law, which requires most Americans to buy health insurance or pay a fine.

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