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AG’s office changes wording on Prop 127 ballot

Cutline: In this screen capture of a political ad, APS is uses a picture of the ballot, with the revised language added by a top aide to Attorney General Mark Brnovich, to convince voters to reject Proposition 127.

Cutline: In this screen capture of a political ad, APS is uses a picture of the ballot, with the revised language added by a top aide to Attorney General Mark Brnovich, to convince voters to reject Proposition 127.

A key aide to Attorney General Mark Brnovich altered language of the ballot description of Proposition 127 that the state’s top elections officer called “eyebrow raising” and the lawyer for initiative organizers said is designed to help Arizona Public Service convince voters to reject it.

Brunn Roysden took the explanation which state Elections Director Eric Spencer crafted on the renewable energy initiative and added the words that the change, if approved, would come “irrespective of cost to consumers.” That’s precisely the argument APS has been making against the measure.

And within days, a picture of the ballot with that new language showed up on an APS-financed TV ads.

A spokesman for Brnovich’s office said that Roysden, acting chief of the agency’s civil division, was within his legal rights to alter the description. And he said the explanation that came out of Spencer’s office came up short.

But Spencer, who said his original explanation was what Arizona law requires voters to be told, called the new verbiage added by Roysden “eyebrow raising” and suggested it comes with both legal and political risks.

The fight is over a ballot measure which would amend the Arizona Constitution to say that private utility companies must produce at least 50 percent of their electricity by 2030 from “renewable” sources. By contrast, the Arizona Corporation Commission, which has purview over those same companies, has a mandate of just 12 percent by 2020 and 15 percent by 2025.

APS the state’s largest utility has taken the lead in fighting the measure, first with an unsuccessful lawsuit to keep it from the November ballot and now with an expensive and extensive campaign under the banner of Arizonans for Affordable Electricity to convince voters that the mandate is a bad idea. And the central argument is the claim — disputed by Prop 127 organizers — that the requirement will lead to sharply higher rates for customers.

By law, the Secretary of State’s Office crafts the wording that appears on the actual ballots sent to voters.

Spencer’s proposed language said the initiative would require utilities to hit that 50 percent requirement by 2030, noting that is a 317 percent boost from the current 2020 mandate. It also mentions a requirement for utilities to boost what they get from “distributed generation,” essentially what they have to purchase from customers who have installed their own rooftop solar panels.

Roysden, whose office has to approve of final ballot language, struck some of what Spencer crafted and added a couple of points. One is that nuclear generation does not count as renewable.

But the language that has alarmed attorney Jim Barton and got the attention of Spencer spells out on the ballot that approval of Proposition 127 would impose the mandate “irrespective of cost to consumers.”

That’s precisely the argument being made by APS. But Ryan Anderson, a spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office, said that does not make it any less true.

He said that the current 15 percent mandate, having been enacted by utility regulators, can be changed if they conclude that reaching that goal would have a serious detrimental effect on ratepayers.

By contrast, Anderson said, Proposition 127 would put the mandate into the Arizona Constitution — and beyond the reach of the regulators. The only way to change it, he said, would be to put the issue back on the ballot.

The new description, which the Secretary of State’s Office is obliged to use, got the attention of Spencer who expressed his surprise in an email to Roysden obtained by Capitol Media Services.

“The Prop 127 language is certainly eyebrow-raising because it cites information exogenous to the ballot measure itself,” Spencer wrote, using a term to mean that the words in Roysden’s explanation are not taken from the ballot language itself but from outside factors.

“But, I’m sure you’ve calculated the legal and political risks of adding that,” Spencer added.

Anderson defended the added language, saying that the initiative, if approved by voters, will increase the amount of renewable energy utilities have to generate.

“That was done irrespective of the cost to consumers,” he said.

Anderson said the fact that Barton did not sue to strip that language is proof that even initiative supporters acknowledge the added words are accurate. But Barton said that’s not true.

Barton said he got a copy of the ballot description Aug. 29, the day before the ballots were to be sent to the printer. At that point, he said, it would be virtually impossible to convince a judge to order printing delayed while the issue was litigated.

And Barton said the law in Arizona works against those who would challenge a ballot description.

“The case law on it says it has to be either arbitrary or undeniably inaccurate,” Barton said. “It’s a very, very high standard to be able to get ballot language struck down.”

And there’s something else that bothers Barton.

Within days of Roysden adding the language to the official ballot description, APS had a TV commercial on the air with a picture of the revised wording, even highlighting the new “irrespective of costs to consumers” language.

Collusion?

“Collusion is a word that’s almost lost meaning,” Barton responded.

“I’m very suspicious of the use of that language in a commercial so soon after the language was released,” he continued. “I think it’s suspicious.”

Anderson denied that Roysden or anyone in the office got the added language from anyone at APS. And he said the new wording was not shared with the utility until it became public.

10 comments

  1. Attorney General Mark Brnovich should be sued and serve time behind bars for his lies and deception. The first step is to make sure he doesn’t get re-elected in November.

    When we all have solar on our rooftops with home battery backup within the next decade (only getting cheaper as the days go by, folks,) rate payers will remember all of this dirty business that APS and their political cronies participated in and will cut the cord on their filthy electricity. Then, this corrupt utility will go the way of the dinosaur. Good riddance.

    Vote YES on 127!

  2. Funny how the AG’s office can change ballot language to distort the purpose of Prop 127, but couldn’t change a few words in the RedforEd initiative to keep it on the ballot.

  3. bradley taylor hudson

    Who owns our government? We now have the State Atty General working for APS, so the answer is clear. This is a political opinion inserted into the Ballot itself. On it’s face it is true, since there is no limiting language, but there are many many “true” facts about the Ballot that could also be on the Ballot. In fact, the list of “true” statements could go on adinfinitum. Clearly it is designed not to provide Ballot-necessary information, but to sway voters to vote “No”. ….. And, One can read the timeline to see that Mr. Anderson’s defense of this sneaky attack (that Barton did not sue to strip that language is proof that even initiative supporters acknowledge the added words are accurate) is misleading enough to be called a lie. ….. As voters, and consumers, we have to get money-control out of our government and out of politics. This is just another example of the corruption it produces.

  4. What is going on! If this is not a Nazi Germany tactic what is? As a Vet, this is not the type of system i gave 4 years of my life for.

  5. Totalitarian government tactics.

  6. If you are so set on turning AZ into a CA and like what they are doing, then move to CA. You can replace the residents that are leaving for States that require less government control.

  7. I am into turning the whole United States of America into an equitable and sustainable nation not controlled by elites and big business. The whole California vs Arizona tribal mentality if inmature and selfish. So what’s new in history? Ah, The north vs the south.

  8. Who is the north, the government that is trying to give people a choice by actually printing the possible outcome or the big money un-elected backers of a program that misrepresents an initiative to get an amendment to the state constitution which will accomplish their goals without regard to all the people that have to pay the bills, no matter what their income levels. This is not an unintended consequence, just like the Fraud for ED ballot measure, it is outside big money groups making a grab for power by deception!
    Both measures, red for ed and renewable energy may have redeeming goals but the organizers should be honest and give the voters all the information necessary to make an informed decision.

  9. If a homeowner initiates home improvements (either major or minor), requiring a Permit, does Prop 127, force and/or REQUIRE a homeowner to install any Solar related or other systems not planned for by that same homeowner, and if so, is the homeowner penalized for not installing any unwanted or unplanned improvements related to their personal property and can their permit be rejected?

    California has mandates requiring homes to install Solar by certain demand dates, without all homeowners approval, consent, or otherwise desire for such solar related systems. Sure the builder has to force this costs into the sales price of any residence in the future and perhaps existing homes.

    Arizona CANNOT GO THAT ROUTE.

  10. Fake, use ballotpedia.net and research for yourself. Says it verbatim exactly as written.

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