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Mon, Feb. 24

Several ballot items assert states' rights

The Arizona Legislature is asserting states' rights over federal rights through four propositions it placed on Arizona's Nov. 2 ballot.

These measures all would amend the Arizona Constitution to say Arizonans don't have to carry health care insurance, despite a new federal law requiring it (Prop. 106); prohibit affirmative action hiring at the state or lower governmental levels, while it's still in force at the federal level (Prop. 107); assert absolute hunting rights in the Constitution (Prop. 109); and guarantee the right to vote a secret ballot for union representation, in the face of The Employee Free Choice Act (commonly called "Card Check") introduced in Congress that unions support (Prop. 113).

The Legislature has tried to amend the Arizona Constitution about a half-dozen times every two years since 1998, and this year it's asking voters to approve seven changes to the Constitution, the most since 1992. In all, the Legislature put nine measures on the Nov. 2 ballot, compared to one that came from citizen petition drives.

Local legislative leaders said they believe it is necessary to place all seven proposals in the Constitution.

"States need to stand up," said Senate Majority Whip Steve Pierce, R-Prescott. The federal government is good at creating unfunded mandates that states can't afford, he added.

For example, Arizona doesn't have the money to cover all the new patients who will need government aid under the new federal health care law, said House Majority Whip Andy Tobin, R-Paulden, estimating a $1 billion state price tag. Passage of Prop. 106 would help Arizona's lawsuit against the new health care law, he added. Pierce predicted that Prop. 106 will end up in court itself. Other states also are challenging the health care law and voting on similar ballot measures.

"It's the ultimate states' rights issue," Tobin said. Propositions 107, 109 and 113 also deal with states' rights, he added.

Just two years ago, voters rejected a proposition (101) that sought to get Arizonans out of any health care insurance requirements. That was a voter initiative, and it lost by a narrow margin, 1,048,512 to 1,057,199.

Local nurse Donald Martin, a co-chair of the Arizona Coalition for a State and National Health Plan, predicted approval of Prop. 106 would deny Arizonans the opportunity to choose a health care plan.

"This (proposition) is for rich people without serious illnesses," Martin said during a recent Secretary of State meeting in Prescott about the ballot propositions. "And it will cost Arizonans legal battles for years."

Martin also wondered out loud about the need for seven proposed constitutional changes on the ballot.

The Secretary of State's ballot propositions publicity pamphlet carries a long list of pro and con statements on Prop. 106.

Supporters generally say consumers shouldn't be forced to have health care insurance.

The League of Women Voters, however, argues that people actually will lose freedoms with Prop. 106. For example, it could limit legislative options to fight insurance industry abuses. The League also argues it would increase premiums for people with insurance, because others would unnecessarily use the emergency room for health care services or carry health insurance only when they really need it.

The National Organization for Women argued Prop. 106 actually is for insurance companies, because it would constitutionally prevent measures to limit consumers' costs.

In support of Prop. 107, Pierce said once someone is hired using affirmative action preference for race or sex, they have a hard time advancing because people look down on them.

Discrimination applies to all colors, Tobin said. He predicted this measure also would end up in court if voters approve it.

Republican Legislative District One (LD1) House candidate Karen Fann of Prescott said she started her highway signs business at the urging of her parents, who were having a hard time meeting their federal affirmative action quotas. She said she faced discrimination from other construction company workers when she started out a quarter-century ago, but in her experience it's not a local issue anymore for women or minorities.

So Fann supports Prop. 107 unless it would cause the state to lose federal project money. Fann also supports the other three ballot measures listed in this article.

Prop. 107 would outlaw regulations in Phoenix and Tucson that give a seven-percent bid preference to minority contractors, said Jennifer Gratz, a member of the "Yes on Prop. 107" campaign who spoke at the recent Secretary of State meeting in Prescott about all the Nov. 2 statewide ballot propositions. It also would put a stop to University of Arizona hiring quotas, she said.

Opponents of Prop. 107 say it would put an end to a wide variety of programs that seek to help young women and minorities succeed in life, too.

While Prop. 109 also is a states' rights issue, some federal rights would continue on federal lands, Tobin said. He wasn't sure if the proposition could affect the management of federally endangered wolves.

The proposition would prohibit any laws that "unreasonably" restrict hunting, fishing or harvesting of wildlife, as the Legislative Council explains it. Some groups fear that would open the state up to lawsuits when it puts bag limits on game animals.

Voters rejected a related measure in 2000 (then called Prop. 102), and by a sizable margin of 896,500 to 538,104 (62 percent against). It would have required a two-thirds vote to approve wildlife-related initiatives.

And in 1994, voters approved a voter initiative (Prop. 201) to prohibit indiscriminate leg holds, traps and snares by a margin of 635,277 to 450,581 (58.5 percent approval). Since that was a statutory change, Prop. 109 opponents argue it's possible it could be subject to reversal if voters approve Prop. 109 on Nov. 2.

Prop. 109 would prevent the introduction of new laws like one in California that prohibits lion hunting. Prop. 109 generally relates to protecting gun rights, too, Pierce said.

LD1 Senate candidate

Bob Donahue and LD1 House candidate Lindsay Bell of Prescott, both Democrats, say Prop. 109 is unnecessary, especially in the Constitution.

"It's a solution in search of a problem," Donahue said.

Prop. 113 would prevent unions from intimidating workers by keeping secret their votes on whether a workplace should unionize, Pierce said.

Democratic LD1 House candidate Lindsay Bell of Prescott, who opposes all four propositions listed in this article, said the proposition's approval would force workers to conduct elections when they wanted to join a union, instead of letting them form a union via a petition drive.

Arguments in the state pamphlet agree, calling Prop. 113 deceptive and saying the elections would be a way to slow down the unionization process so employers have more time to fight it.

As the Arizona Education Association explains it, current federal law allows employers to request a secret ballot vote even if most workers already signed a petition supporting a union. Prop. 113 would ban formation of unions by petition alone and require such a secret ballot.

A group calling itself "Save Our Secret Ballot" is pushing Prop. 113 and has dumped $600,000 into a support campaign. It's headed up by conservative Sydney Hay, a mining industry representative who has run twice for Arizona's 1st Congressional District seat as a Republican.

Numerous local chambers of commerce registered their support for Prop. 113 in the state's publicity pamphlet, including the chambers representing Prescott and Prescott Valley.

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