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A look at the 9 measures on Arizona ballot

Here are the nine voter initiative and legislative referendum measures on Arizona’s Nov. 6 general election ballot:

SALES TAX INCREASE — Proposition 204 would replace a penny-on-the-dollar temporary sales tax increase set to expire in mid-2013 with a permanent increase of the same size. Revenue would have to be used for education, construction projects and social services. Initiative.

PRIMARY ELECTION — Proposition 121 would revamp the state’s primary election system. The two top finishers in the primary election would advance to the general election regardless of party affiliation. And voters, regardless of party affiliation, could vote for any candidate. Initiative.

STATE SOVEREIGNTY — Proposition 120 would have Arizona declare that the state has exclusive authority over all land within its borders. American Indian reservations and military bases would be exempt. Referendum.

PICKING JUDGES — Proposition 115 would give governors more say over judicial appointments. The governor would generally get at least eight nominations for each appointment, up from at least three now. Also, her appointments of attorney members of the nominating commission would not have to come off a list of lawyers recommended by the State Bar of Arizona. Referendum.

CRIME VICTIMS — Proposition 114 would provide a new legal shield to crime victims. A crime victim would not be liable for damages suffered by a person engaged in a felony or fleeing from a situation involving a felony. Referendum.

BUSINESS EQUIPMENT TAX— Proposition 116 would provide tax savings for smaller businesses. The exemption on value of equipment and machinery subject to property tax would increase from the current inflation-adjusted amount of $68,079 to $2.4 million for newly acquired equipment and machinery. Referendum.

PROPERTY TAX — Proposition 117 would impose a cap on property tax increases. Increases could not exceed 5 percent over the value for the previous year, beginning with the 2015 tax year. Referendum.

EDUCATION FUNDING — Proposition 118 would set a minimum amount for funding for schools and other designated beneficiaries of income from the state trust land fund for the next nine fiscal years. There is currently no minimum requirement on using the fund’s income. Referendum.

TRUST LAND SWAPS — Proposition 119 would allow swaps of state trust land under certain conditions. Trust land could be exchanged with other public land in Arizona to protect military installations from encroaching development or to convert trust land to public use. Referendum.


Open Elections/Open Government initiative moves to the November ballot

The Arizona Supreme Court let stand a lower court decision, rejecting an appeal by a political committee seeking to prevent the proposed Open Elections/Open Government citizen initiative from going to the November ballot.

“Five times now, we have been forced to go to court to defend the rights of Arizona voters to vote on this important amendment,” said Paul Johnson, Chairman of the Open Elections/Open Government campaign. “The political bosses and lobbyists were determined to stop us because they knew the best way to defeat Open Elections/Open Government initiative was to block it from going to the ballot. But finally, it’s time to let the voters decide.”

In order to qualify for the ballot, the Open Elections/Open Government campaign had over 700 individuals circulate petitions during a nine month drive that concluded with the filing of over 365,000 signatures on July 5th. In its suit, the Save Our Vote committee argued that tens of thousands of signatures on the initiative petition were invalid, claiming 69 circulators failed to meet eligibility requirements. Last week, Maricopa Superior Court Judge John Rea ruled that persuasive evidence existed that three gatherers were ineligible, and declared the signatures they gathered invalid. Rea ruled, however, that “there was absolutely no evidence of fraud or impropriety in the actual collection of signatures.”

The campaign conducted background checks on gatherers to determine their eligibility. “We knew the opposition would make every attempt to thwart the will of the voters, which is why we took the additional step to do all we could possibly do to preserve the integrity of our effort,” said Johnson.

With the Supreme Court decision, opponents have now exhausted all avenues to stop the proposed Constitutional Amendment that will do away with Arizona’s current Primary elections.

The initiative would create a Primary election open to all voters and all candidates. The top two vote-getters of that election, regardless of Party label, would then advance to the November general election, offering more choices to more voters in both the Primary and General elections.

The measure is supported by a wide variety of business and community organizations, including Greater Phoenix Leadership, the Southern Arizona Leadership Council, the Flagstaff 40, and numerous other organizations.

The measure is opposed by leaders of both houses of the Arizona Legislature, former state Senator Russell Pearce, Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox, and dozens of the top lobbyists at the State Capitol, among others.


Ruling allows sales tax hike to go on ballot

An initiative measure for a sales tax increase can appear on Arizona’s ballot this November despite a paperwork error that threatened to kill the proposal before it reached voters, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.

The brief order issued by a three-justice panel said it was enough that supporters of the initiative “substantially complied” with laws on initiative applications.

Supporters mistakenly filed an incorrect paper copy of their proposal with the state when they launched the initiative petition drive in March. They submitted a correct version on compact disc and attached correct copies to petitions circulated to voters.

The initiative technically hasn’t been certified yet for the ballot, but ongoing checks have already determined that supporters turned in enough petition signatures.

The initiative proposes a penny-on-the-dollar increase to take effect in 2013 upon the expiration of a same-size temporary increase.

The money would be directed to education, transportation projects and programs for children, but the two paragraphs omitted from the paper copy filed with Secretary of State Ken Bennett’s office affected how some of the money would be divided among those purposes.

Public school groups, business alliances, university students and others who support the initiative urged the justices to let the initiative go on the ballot. They said a minor paperwork mistake that was caught in time to prevent confusion shouldn’t thwart voters’ right to use the initiative process to set public policy.

Top Republican legislative leaders, a business-backed taxpayer organization and a conservative advocacy group joined elections officials in saying the initiative should be kept off the ballot because supporters didn’t follow rules that protect the integrity of the initiative process. They argued that the error caused confusion over how the sales tax would work.

Initiative supporters said the paper copy was an outdated version that lacked two paragraphs spelling how some of the sales tax revenue would be spent. They said a worker in the office of a lawyer who helped prepare the initiative printed the wrong copy to be filed.

The error wasn’t noticed until months later, before the circulated petitions were filed but after Bennett’s office posted the incomplete version on its website.

Initiative supporters sued after Bennett in June declared all the petitions invalid because the copies of the initiative attached to petitions didn’t match the paper filing with his office.

A trial judge overturned Bennett’s decision, ruling that the initiative petitions circulated to voters had the intended version of the initiative. Bennett appealed to the Supreme Court.

With the omitted two paragraphs, there would be bigger increases in funding for universities and transportation projects. Without the paragraphs, there’d be larger funding increases for K-12 education and community colleges.

The legislative budget staff said $650 million was at stake over 17 years, out of a total of $25 billion of sales tax revenue during the same period.