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Campaign to overturn citizen initiative restriction dead

All efforts going into court challenge

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Foes of new restrictions on the ability of people to propose their own laws have suspended their effort to used paid circulators to gather signatures to quash the law.

Campaign manager Joe Yuhas said July 13 that all the financial resources of Voters of Arizona are being funneled into convincing a judge that one of the changes violates the state constitution. What that means, he said, is no cash for anything else.

Yuhas said that, strictly speaking, the political campaign to refer — and overturn — what the legislature did is not over. He said volunteers continue to try to get the 75,321 valid signatures on each of two separate petitions.

But Yuhas, who has worked on multiple petition campaigns, conceded that the chances of putting both measures before voters are sharply diminished without paid circulators.

“It’s speculative,” he said. “We know from the outset that a referendum drive is very challenging.”

Backers have just 90 days from the end of the legislative session to gather the signatures, a deadline that is up on Aug. 8.

“So we knew it was an uphill challenge to begin with,” he said.

But the campaign still has hopes of voiding at least one of the changes without having to go to the ballot: convincing a judge that the legislature had no right to do what it did.

That challenge is to HB 2244 which would require judges to invalidate initiative petitions — those that propose new laws — if there is not “strict compliance” with all election requirements. That measure would overturn Arizona Supreme Court rulings which said voters should get a chance to make a final decision on proposals if petition drives are in “substantial compliance” with the law.

Attorneys for the campaign wrapped up their case late today, asking Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Sherry Stephens to conclude lawmakers had no right to do what they did. Stephens, after hearing arguments from both sides, said she will decide by Aug. 4, just days before the law is set to take effect.

But the campaign is not seeking to overturn HB 2404, also approved earlier this year by the Republican-controlled legislature. That measure makes it illegal to pay petition circulators based on the number of signatures they gather.

And with the referendum drive to kill that one all but dead, that measure will take effect as scheduled on Aug. 9 and be in place for future petition drives.

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