Arizona voters could decide if they want to perennially revisit anything they adopt at the ballot.
On a voice vote, the state House approved a measure that says any initiative approved beginning this November that involves the spending of state funds would have to be reauthorized eight years later – and every eight years after that.
The future of HCR 2018 is far from certain, and not just because it still needs need Senate approval after a final roll-call vote in the House.
The measure amends the Arizona Constitution, and that means the mandate to revisit ballot measures can be enacted only if voters themselves decide in November that's what they want.
“This is common-sense legislation,” said Rep. J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler.
He said many state agencies that have been created by the Legislature automatically go through a “sunset” process every several years to determine whether they are still doing the job and are still needed. Mesnard said it makes sense to periodically look at voter-approved spending measures to see whether they still make sense.
But House Minority Leader Chad Campbell said this type of automatic referral every eight years is unnecessary. He pointed out that if voters no longer want something they are free to gather signatures to repeal it.
More significant, Campbell said if legislators themselves question the usefulness of a voter-approved program they are free, by simple majority vote, to put the question on the ballot. He said that is far preferable to forcing every group to raise the money to defend its own programs every eight years.
Mesnard countered that HCR 2018 won't take effect without being approved itself by voters.
“Giving them the option, I don't see the harm in that,” Mesnard said.
He said the real opposition is coming from various “special interests” who managed to get voters to approve their programs.
“It's their pet project that they've spent a bundle of money getting passed at the ballot,” Mesnard said. “They're afraid they're going to have to do that continually for their special pet projects.”
Proponents of the measure had to significantly narrow its scope to get it approved.
As originally crafted, HCR 2018 would have been retroactive, forcing a new vote on everything with funding approved since 1998. That could have forced long-settled issues to the ballot ranging from tribal gaming and the Arizona Lottery to the 80-cent-a-pack tax on cigarettes to fund expanded health care for the working poor.