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As the Legislature was negotiating the annual budget consensus and deciding on changes to the income tax structure, it also moved some bills dealing with the citizens’ right to make their own laws. As we’ve said before, while the initiative, referendum and recall have been points of pride for generations of Arizonans since their adoption when progressive ideas were common, the ability to enact legislation by ballot has its problems. Those occur when special interests, including some based out of state, take control of the process.

The main problem with propositions coming from special interests is that they do not undergo the process of compromise that occurs when elected legislators make laws. The proposition often is drafted as an ideal situation for the proposers, then sold with very creative advertising. Many voters do not understand the question well.

The new bills referred by legislators to the ballot would change the state Constitution to require initiatives to be approved by a supermajority of 55% of voters and also to confine them to a single subject. Another measure referred last week would allow legislators to alter citizen initiatives if any part were found to be unconstitutional.

Some initiatives approved by voters in recent years, including the fireworks and medical marijuana laws, were friendly to potential suppliers that supported the laws.

Legislators already have stiffened rules for initiatives, making it harder to get them on the ballot and easier to remove them. More recently some legislators have complained about multiple-issue initiatives, saying voters have no ability to split the two concepts.

There will be much discussion about whether these changes should be approved by voters in 2022, in effect “taking away their own rights.” However, the other argument is that legislators are elected to make the laws while having the ability to debate and compromise. Citizens of Arizona should study these changes, but they certainly deserve consideration.

— Donovan Kramer Jr.

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