Gov. Ducey Opposes 3 Out Of 4 Arizona Ballot Measures Expected This November

By Jill Ryan
Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services
Published: Friday, July 31, 2020 - 9:30am
Updated: Friday, July 31, 2020 - 9:31am

Gov. Doug Ducey
Howard Fischer/Capitol Media Services
Gov. Doug Ducey at a press conference on June 4, 2020.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey opposes three of the four initiatives expected to be on the ballot this November.

The only measure he didn’t respond to was about criminal justice reform.

In submitted statements, Ducey says he  is opposed to the recreational marijuana measure, increased taxes on the wealthy to fund K-12 education, and he’s opposing a third ballot measure that relates to various hospital and health care provisions, including raising pay for hospital workers.

On marijuana, the governor called what is expected to be on the ballot as Proposition 207 it "a bad idea based on false promises,'' saying the experience from other states shows it will lead to more highway deaths, dramatic increases in teen drug use and more newborns exposed to marijuana. Anyway, Ducey said, the current system of medical marijuana, approved by voters in 2010 "is serving the people who need it for health-related reasons.''

Ducey is not alone, particularly on the issue of whether Arizonans should be able to legally buy and possess marijuana for personal use. The Secretary of State's Office got dozens of arguments from foes. All those arguments will be placed into publicity pamphlets mailed to the homes of all registered voters.

Pamphlets with arguments in favor of the measure will also be sent out, including one from from former Gov. Fife Symington III.

"Today the evidence is overwhelmingly clear: Criminalizing law-abiding citizens who choose to responsibly consume marijuana is an outdated policy that wastes precious government resources and unnecessarily restricts individual liberty,'' he wrote. "A far more logical approach would be to respect the right of adults to choose to consume marijuana while regulating and taxing its production and sale.''

He has at least a passing familial interest in the issue: His son, Fife Symington IV, is managing director of Copperstate Farms which operates what is believed to be the largest medical marijuana cultivation facility in the state. And those already involved in medical marijuana are going to get first crack at the expanded recreational system if voters approve. The pamphlet actually contains two arguments by Will Humble, the former director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, one in favor and one against.

Humble told Capitol Media Services his organization sees the issue through a pair of lenses. On one hand, he said, there are members of his organization who support the idea of "criminal justice reform,'' getting rid of state laws that make it a felony to have any amount of marijuana at all.

"But, on the other hand, there is good evidence that these retail marijuana laws increase access to people under 21,'' Humble said. "It's harmful to adolescents.''

He said voters will get to read both perspectives. But Humble said he will probably vote for it, saying there's no reason to make felons out of people who have small quantities of marijuana.

"Even if they don't do time for it ... part of it is going through being arrested, paying the fees for the court, suffering through the criminal justice system, paying for all those classes they make you take," Humble said.

On the other side are Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall and Sheila Polk, her Yavapai County counterpart. The measure also is opposed by Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy whose organization if financing much of the campaign against the initiative.The proposal to increase income taxes on the state's top earners, Proposition 210, also drew lots of comments. Most of the support comes from members of the education community like Joshua Buckley, president of the Mesa Education Association.

"A decade of cuts to education have hit hardest on our state's most vulnerable population -- our children,'' Buckley wrote.

And Steve Adams, co-president of the Tempe School Education Association, said the funding is needed to make up for cuts made during the past decade.

The measure would affect only the top 4 percent of earners in Arizona, raising the rate only on earnings of more than $250,000 a year for individuals and $500,000 for couples filing jointly. It is billed as raising $940 million a year for K-12 education.

"That's a whopping amount, especially considering that our economy is recovering from recession and high unemployment,'' Ducey wrote. And he said there is no guarantee how much of this actually would wind up in the classroom.

Various business groups also have taken positions against the measure. And state Sen. Vince Leach (R-Tucson,) said the measure "will result in a huge drag on the overall economy.''

"If we can't grow the economy, we can't invest in schools and raise teacher pay,'' Leach argued.

The health care measure, Proposition 208, pulls some of the same interests together in opposition. It would require a 20 percent pay hike for hospital workers, impose new infection-control standards on hospitals, provide protections for insured patients against "surprise'' medical bills for out-of-network care, and guarantee that people with pre-existing conditions can get affordable health insurance.

Glenn Hamer, president of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry called it part of a "radical agenda'' by "out-of-state special interests.'' That refers to the fact the measure is being financed by a California chapter of Service Employees International Union.

"Dramatically increasing health care costs at a time when the Arizona economy is struggling with double-digit unemployment rate and record jobless claims will devastate hardworking families and delay the state's economic recovery,'' Hamer said.

But it has support from groups ranging from the Arizona Faith Network and Living United for Change in Arizona to Poder Latinx and the Sky Harbor Lodge 2559 of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.

The lone item Ducey has not weighed in on is Proposition 209, designed to partly reverse laws on mandatory prison terms imposed in 1978 and modify the 1993 "truth in sentencing'' law that requires criminals to serve at least 85 percent of their term before being released. It also would end the ability of prosecutors to "stack'' multiple charges committed by someone before arrest to allow them to have the person designed a repeat offender.

State lawmakers actually approved that change last year only to have it vetoed by Ducey because of what he said where "unintended consequences that may raise from this legislation.''

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