Arizona Businesses Target 'Out-of-State Interests' With 'Bad Ideas' From Getting On Ballots

Published: Saturday, January 7, 2017 - 5:05am
Audio icon Download mp3 (1.58 MB)
(Photo by Christina Estes - KJZZ)
Legislative leaders take part in a panel discussion at the Arizona Chamber's 2017 legislative forecast luncheon at the Sheraton Grand in downtown Phoenix.

Arizona’s business community wants to change the way some propositions make it to the ballot box. During the Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry’s legislative forecast luncheon on Friday, leaders promised to work with the governor and lawmakers to alter the initiative process.

That process led Arizona voters last November to reject the legalization of recreational marijuana and support a higher minimum wage and paid sick time. Incoming House Minority Leader Rebecca Rios was among four legislative leaders taking part in a panel discussion.

She said the initiative process may not be perfect, but it’s necessary. “It is a way for the electorate to tell Arizona you’re falling down on the job. You’re not addressing the issues that are important and you need to allow them that mechanism because there have been a number of issues that I think many of us would agree the legislature has been slow to act,” she said.

But Speaker-elect J.D. Mesnard said the process has become a tool for special interests.

“Somebody with $2 (million) or $3 million comes in and buys enough signatures to get on the ballot,” he said. “This is not a popular uprising. If there were a popular uprising this would happen naturally. They wouldn’t have to pay for it.”

Several business groups across Arizona have filed a lawsuit challenging Prop. 206, which increases the state’s minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2020 and requires employers to provide paid sick time.

A key part of the Arizona Chamber’s 2017 Business Agenda is what the group describes as initiative reform to ensure “that out-of-state interests cannot so easily place their bad ideas on Arizona ballots.”

Arizona’s first ballot measure in 1912 granted women the right to vote. In 1998, Arizona voters approved a constitutional amendment designed to keep the governor and legislature from changing voter-approved measures.