107 years ago, Arizona’s founders feared that legislatures could land in the pockets of special interests. They believed that ultimately, the people in power had to be accountable to the citizens. They gave us the power of referendum, recall and initiative. Today’s state Legislature wants to eliminate your access to that power.
Citizen initiatives have accomplished many great things in Arizona’s history. It was first used in 1912 to grant women the right to vote – and helped lead the way to the 19th Amendment of the United States Constitution.
The bills proposed and passed this session that take this power away from the people dishonor our founders. These bills dishonor Arizona’s history. And they dishonor more than 100 years of self-governance by the people of Arizona, for the people of Arizona.
The citizen initiative process built our freeways, gave funding to our schools, created the Arizona Lottery, ended legal cockfighting, taxed cigarettes to fund public-health programs, guaranteed elected officials couldn’t draw their own gerrymandered districts, required proof of citizenship to vote, protected private property from egregious eminent-domain seizure, limited taxing authority and allowed for gaming on tribal lands.
We may disagree on the partisan merits of some of these initiatives, but we are united in defending your right to hold the ultimate authority over the future of Arizona. We want to make sure that the Legislature is accountable to you, and not the other way around.
That is why we are at the helm of the Voters of Arizona, a bipartisan political committee poised to challenge and refer the bills that represent a new, major power struggle between the voters and the Legislature. The Legislature simply wants to take away the people’s rights – your rights – to refer their bad decisions to the voters. The Legislature wants to limit your right to initiatives.
They don’t trust you. They don’t respect you.
We do. And we need your help.
We know the rights of the people do not come from the generosity of the Legislature, but it’s the opposite – the Legislature’s rights come from the generosity of the people.
We know that Arizona residents have a proud history of defending equal rights, spending for education, improving health care, supporting public safety and creating smoke-free environments – all when a Legislature refused to act.
We know that the Legislature is elected by less than 5 percent of the public who actually vote in partisan primaries. We know that they are not accountable to you – or the majority – but rather, they’re beholden to very powerful special interests who control the primaries.
And we know that if they successfully rid our state of referendums and initiatives, there is no check left on the power they hold. Make no mistake, these bills are designed to do exactly that.
We also know, first hand, how difficult these efforts can be. We know the sweat, shoe leather and time they take. We know how the power elite will sometimes abuse power to stop you. And we know that victory, in our Republic, is never certain.
And we know that we need an aggressive, well-funded, nonpartisan coalition to succeed.
And we want you to understand this: We’re on track to succeed.
We’re at the table with a team of professionals more concerned about the future of our state than their political affiliations or personal convictions.
We are honored to be working with old friends and new partners to, once again, defend the idea that the Legislature must answer to the people and not the other way around.
According to the secretary of state, our campaign is just a couple weeks old, but we all know that’s not the case. This is a very important chapter – perhaps the conclusion – of a 107-year-old fight we’re proud to get into. We’re honored to help uphold the state’s Constitution.
You’re more than welcome to join us.
— Paul Johnson, former mayor of Phoenix, is co-founder and CEO of Redirect Health and treasurer
of the Voters of Arizona campaign.
— Grant Woods, former Arizona attorney general, is the founder and CEO of Grant Woods Law
and the chairman of the Voters for Arizona campaign.
The views expressed in guest commentaries are those of the author and are not the views of the Arizona Capitol Times.