PHOENIX – Following are the three statewide propositions appearing on the November ballot, which will be in the mail next week for those who are signed up for early voting.
Prop. 122, placed on the ballot by Senate Concurrent Resolution 1016, intends to protect the freedom and preserve the checks and balances of the U.S. Constitution by allowing the state to exercise its sovereign authority to prohibit the state and all its political subdivisions from using any personnel or financial resources to enforce, administer or cooperate with the designated federal action or program it has deemed unconstitutional.
This measure is simply an enabling act that would amend the Arizona Constitution to allow the legislature to enact laws prohibiting state agencies from providing aid to federal agencies with either funds or personnel, if the activity it is engaged in is deemed unconstitutional.
Prop. 303, called the Right to Try Act, placed on the ballot by House Concurrent Resolution 2005, allows terminally ill patients to use investigational drugs, biological products and devices that have successfully completed phase one of a clinical trial but have not yet been approved for general use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, when the probable risk to the person is not greater than the probable risk from the disease or condition.
The Goldwater Institute was behind getting the Act to the legislature and is working to get it on the ballot in other states.
Prop. 304 was referred to the ballot by the Commission on Salaries for Elective State Officers and, if passed, would raise the salary for state legislators from $24,000 to $35,000.
Former Sen. Karen Johnson, who serves on the Commission on Salaries for Elective State Officers, said she disagrees with the commission’s recommendation to increase pay.
According to Johnson, Arizona’s legislative pay is in the mid range of salaries for the 50 states.
She points out New Mexico doesn’t pay its legislators at all, while New Hampshire pays theirs $200 for the two-year term.
Johnson said at least 17 states pay their legislators less than $20,000 per year and scoffs at the argument that higher salaries will attract better legislators.
Pointing out Illinois, New York and California, which are among the top five states in legislative salaries, pay their legislators $67,836, $79,500 and $90,526 per year, respectively, Johnson stated, “Those states are poorly run and drowning in debt.”
She also said, “As the salary grows, legislators stay in session longer, write more bills and pass more laws.”
Johnson believes there are well-founded reasons for modest legislative salaries, stating, “First, most legislatures are part-time, so no one should expect a full-time paycheck.”
She also believes offering modest pay helps screen the field of candidates, whereas those who run for office are more likely older, well advanced in their career or even retired.
According to Johnson, they would most likely be people who have been in the working world for some time, run a business, bought a home and raised a family.
In other words, she believes modest salaries will bring candidates who are more mature, more seasoned, wiser and “less vulnerable to the flattery and the elitist mentality of the government class.”
She said election to the legislature was never envisioned to be “employment” and should not be treated as such.
“It’s not a ‘job;’ it’s public service,” said Johnson, adding “It’s a responsibility of citizenship. It isn’t about earning a living; it’s about protecting liberty.”
Johnson claims, “Bigger salaries will only give us bigger government, not better statesmen,” as she urges citizens to vote against Prop. 304.
Prop. 480 is a countywide proposition to raise property taxes of only Maricopa County property owners to expand the Maricopa Integrated Health System and replace the current county health care facility, which is utilized by people throughout the state, including those with no ability to pay.
One concern raised by opponents of Prop. 480 is the use of taxpayer money to compete with private enterprise.
The Yes on 480 political action committee is extremely well-funded and had amassed close to $1 million through the Aug. 22, 2014, campaign finance report.
Visit http://126.96.36.199/CampFinDocs/pdf/2014_33542.pdf to see where the money is coming from.
Read last week’s Sonoran News article: “Fear mongering for taxes parades out its new poster boy,” for more information about Prop. 480 and the Maricopa Integrated Health System.”
For city of Phoenix residents, Prop. 487 was placed on the ballot by Citizens for Pension Reform, working in concert with the Arizona Free Enterprise Club.
The group turned in more than double the required 25,480 valid signatures to place the initiative on the ballot.
Prop. 487, if passed, changes the city’s public employee retirement system from its current defined benefit system, in which retirees are guaranteed payments despite investment performance, to a 401(k) style defined contribution plan, in which the city contributes a set amount and the retiree’s benefits depend on his or her own contributions and investment performance.
The current system is unsustainable with funding levels down to only 56 percent while the annual supplementary pension payments of the city rose by 40 percent over the past two years.
The group states, “The Act is necessary to protect city employees’ pensions by securing past promises to them while modernizing the retirement system for the next generation of workers.”
Public safety workers, such as firefighters and police, are not affected and are specifically excluded.
The Act also terminates the practice of pension spiking, which is applicable to all city employees.
The public sector union is suing the city to retain its pension spiking practices, which essentially allows them to amass and defer sick, vacation and other paid time to be paid out right before they retire, so their retirement benefits are calculated at a much higher rate than their actual salary, which, in some instances, has produced retirement benefits greater than the employees’ salaries when they were working.
Unions are behind the “Vote Yes” signs.
This is a can that has been kicked down the road for a very long time and could eventually bankrupt the city if it’s not addressed.
Carefree citizens are being asked to vote on Props. 488 and 489, which propose to increase council terms from two years to four-year staggered terms and the mayor’s term from two years to four years, respectively.
Increasing terms to four years runs afoul of the 2011 voter-approved (by a margin of nearly 2-1) measure, limiting terms for both mayor and council to three two-year terms or six consecutive years.
The proposal will not save the town money on elections since, with staggered terms, the town will still need to hold elections every two years.
If citizens are pleased with their council in two years, they can always reelect them. If not, they can vote them out.
As far as judges go, judges are deemed retained unless more people vote no than vote yes or not at all.
There are two Maricopa County Superior Court judges that appear should receive the boot this election cycle, Bejamin Norris, appointed by Gov. Janet Napolitano in 2008, and Gerald Porter, appointed by Gov. Jan Brewer in 2011.
Both are currently assigned to family court.
While the Judicial Performance Commission is generally unanimous in its finding that judges meet judicial standards, in Norris’ case only 3 of the 29 commissioners voted he meets those standards, 25 voted he does not meet judicial standards, with one not voting.
Attorneys responding to the survey rated Norris’ judicial temperament at 59 percent and communication skills at 67 percent.
His best marks were 87 percent for integrity and 84 percent for administrative performance.
Norris received 75 percent for legal ability, in a field of judges with marks mostly in the 90s.
Litigant/witness survey responses rated Norris highest for integrity at 93 percent and lowest for communication skills at 86.
Eleven of the 29 commissioners voted Porter does not meet judicial standards, while 18 voted he does.
Although a majority believes he meets judicial standards, more than one third do not agree.
His ratings from attorneys, however, were all in the 90s, except communication skills, where he received an 88.
Litigant/witness responses rated Porter highest for integrity at 77 percent and lowest for communication skills and judicial temperament at 66 percent each.
Bradley Astrowsky, who was appointed by Brewer in 2012 and currently assigned to juvenile court, received four negative votes from the commission.
While litigant/witness survey responses gave him 100 percent marks across the board, attorneys ranked him 77 percent for judicial temperament, 83 percent for administrative performance, with the rest in the low 90s.
Peter Reinstein, currently assigned to criminal court, was appointed by Gov. Jane Dee Hull in 1998.
He received one negative vote from the commission. Otherwise, Reinstein received attorney ratings mostly in the 90s with an 89 percent for communication skills and an 80 percent for judicial temperament.
Litigant/witness rankings gave him 98 percent for integrity with the rest of his marks in the high 80s.
Because the commission almost never votes against judges meeting standards, it’s probably worth noting when even one commissioner does.