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Arizona lawmakers nearing cut on ballot measures

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Arizona lawmakers nearing cut on ballot measures
StoryCommentsBy PAUL DAVENPORT | Posted: Friday, April 9, 2010 1:19 pm | Comments

Font Size:Default font sizeLarger font sizeFive ballot initiative will present Arizona voters with questions on speed cameras, medical marijuana and other issues, but legislators are poised to put still more issues on the November ballot.

A referendum addressing Republican frustrations with voter-approved spending mandates is a near-certainty. Others that have advanced in the legislative process involve establishing a constitutional right to hunt and fish and a ban in human cloning.

Additional possible measures would provide students attending failing public schools with taxpayer-funded vouchers to attend private schools, and require the election of a lieutenant governor instead of a secretary of state.

With the legislative session expected to end by early May, the final culling of legislative referendums will occur well before the July 1 deadline to file qualifying signatures for petitions.

Measures to repeal the state speed-camera program and legalize medical marijuana are considered the most likely to qualify.

Some measures that were considered viable candidates for ballot spots fell by the wayside recently.

Separate House- and Senate-passed measures to repeal or modify legislative term limits failed to get required committee hearings in the other chamber.

And a Senate-passed measure to gut the state's Clean Elections public campaign finance system by diverting its funding failed in a House committee on Thursday. That apparently ended consideration of that priority for business groups critical of the system.

Anything the Legislature sends to the ballot in coming weeks would be in addition to three proposed constitutional amendments that lawmakers referred during their 2009 session.

Those include a constitutional ban on preferential treatment or discrimination based on race, sex and other criteria. Another would require secret ballots in union-representation elections. The third would enshrine rights to make choices on health care services.

Earlier this year, the Legislature sent voters two ballot measures to divert $450 million from two voter-mandated programs. One measure would repeal the First Things First early childhood development program. The other program would leave the Growing Smart land conservation program alive but take all of its current funding.

House Majority Leader John McComish, R-Phoenix, said GOP leaders haven't yet decided how many additional referendums to put on the ballot.

"It's an art, not a science," McComish said. "If you have too many, you have voter fatigue. And yet there are a number of important measures."

Proposals dealing with the current constitutional protection for voter-approved spending mandates are a favorite of majority Republicans.

The "Voter Protection Act" approved by voters in 1998 as that year's Proposition 105 has been a source of frustration for Republicans looking for ways to cut or redirect state spending, particularly during the current budget troubles.

Proposition 105-related measures include a House-passed resolution to ask voters to let lawmakers temporarily suspend voter-protected funding during hard times. Another measure would require periodic voter reconsideration of previously approved spending mandates.

"There will be something dealing with Prop 105," House Speaker Kirk Adams, R-Mesa, predicted.

Criteria used by leaders to decide which ballot measures will make the final list include assessments of whether the proposals will improve the state and have enough appeal to win voter approval, McComish said.

Robert Dalager, a Republican lobbyist who participated in past ballot-measure strategy meetings while a senior legislative aide, said consideration also extends to whether certain measures will attract particular groups of voters.

"They tend to look at the whole picture," including what initiatives are being circulated, Dalager said. "And it's a political discussion. It's what do we want to accomplish and how can we frame the ballot that gives our things the best chance of happening."

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