Bill To Change Citizen Initiative Process Moves To Arizona House

Published: Friday, February 17, 2017 - 2:53pm
Updated: Friday, February 17, 2017 - 3:00pm
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The ability of Arizona residents to take issues directly to the ballot could be severely limited, under a measure that won the approval of a state House committee Thursday.

Among other provisions, HB 2404 would prohibit groups from paying petition circulators by the signature; instead, they’d have to pay by the hour, which eliminates the incentive for those circulators to collect as many signatures as possible.

Critics worry that would have the effect of stopping groups from using paid circulators altogether. Doris Provine, president of the Arizona Advocacy Network, says that would make it nearly impossible for groups to refer measures to the ballot.

"This bill is killing the initiative process by small cuts. And I believe it, because of that, goes against the original intent of the founders of this state," Provine said.

The new requirements on signature gatherers would apply only to citizen initiatives, not candidates. The bill would also require any initiative committee that uses paid circulators to buy a bond of up to $50,000.

Rep. Vince Leach, a Tucson Republican and the bill’s sponsor, did not explain what that’s intended to cover, but he says the measure is needed to make sure there’s no fraud or forgery in the initiative process.

"This in no way is designed to limit initiatives that are coming from grass roots. It's no way designed to interfere with anybody that has a grass-roots rising that says we want to take care of this particular issue," Leach said.

The bill, which was largely crafted by the Arizona Chamber of Commerce, appears to be in response to the approval this past November of the higher minimum wage in Prop. 206, which business interests opposed. The House Government Committee approved HB 2404 on Thursday on a party-line 5-3 vote — it now moves to the full House for debate.

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