- Associated Press - Monday, February 20, 2017

PHOENIX (AP) - A Republican lawmaker is proposing yet another change to how citizens can enact laws in Arizona on top of others already working their way through the Legislature.

Rep. Don Shooter, R-Yuma, wants to require backers to gather signatures from 10 percent of voters in each of the state’s 30 legislative districts before an initiative makes the ballot and 15 percent to qualify a Constitutional amendment. That’s a change from requiring a percentage of all eligible voters to sign.

Shooter said Monday that the change is needed to protect minority rights and prevent liberal out-of-state interests from pushing voter initiatives in Arizona.

“If it’s coming from the people, they’re going to rise up and show us how the cow ate the cabbage,” Shooter said. “That’s the intent of the whole referendum process. It’s supposed to come from the people, not from George Soros’ pocketbook.”

Soros is a billionaire businessman who backs liberal causes.

If Shooter’s effort is successful, those trying to qualify a measure for the ballot would be at the mercy of voters in the most conservative or liberal district in Arizona.

Rep. Ken Clark, D-Phoenix, noted that the Legislature has tried previously to require signatures be gathered from specific areas but pulled back after a court challenge. If it is enacted and survives a challenge, he said Shooter’s bill would allow a small minority to effectively veto initiatives that have broad support.

“You could easily see a situation where the minority could dictate the will of the majority,” Clark said.

Voters would have to approve Shooter’s HCR 2029 because it changes the state Constitution. It is set for a hearing Wednesday in the House Appropriations Committee.

The effort comes as Republican lawmakers and the business community have grown increasingly upset with voter initiatives that lock in spending or put in place laws that Republicans don’t like. They point to a raise in the minimum wage that was enacted by voters in November.

Two other measures asking voters to revise protections on voter-approved measures are awaiting votes in the House. One would repeal the Voter Protection Act, which bars the Legislature from changing voter-approved laws unless they both advance the purpose of the law and receive a two-thirds vote. The other would restore the Legislature’s ability to change laws they refer to the voters for approval.

A proposal that doesn’t require voter approval makes wholesale changes to how signatures can be gathered for initiatives, a push that Democrats and voting rights groups say would make it much harder for a measure to make the ballot.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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