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My Bro’s Picks

My brother has sent out his biannual recommendations for the ballot propositions to all of his scenester buddies. In the spirit of public service that this blog is famous for, I present it here.

I agree with most of them. I understand his position on 202, which is an attempted fix of a draconian employer sanction law. I, however, think that it doesn’t do enough to change the law, and is the worst of all possible worlds: it further marginalizes and criminalizes the undocumented while letting those who exploit them off the hook. I see this the way I do the ballot proposition a decade and a half ago that changed our state’s method of execution: how the heck do you vote if you think the premise behind the law is abhorent?

Anyway, here it goes:

Before we get started, it must be said that this whole initiative thing has clearly gotten out of control. This is something that I never thought I would say.

The concept of a well-organized group of dedicated citizens hitting the streets and asking their family, friends, and neighbors to sign a petition to get something on the ballot because the legislature is too lazy, corrupt, or unimaginative to act on an issue still has merit, and it would be nice if this was still how things worked. However, various failures in our political culture, combined with cynical “reforms” designed to make ballot access more difficult, have combined to create a shady industry of consultants who will do whatever it takes to get something on the ballot, often at a cost that runs into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Paid petition passers are not concerned citizens working for the good of their community, but are itinerants, often with problematic voter registrations, who are being paid up to five dollars a signature. These individuals are often ignorant of what they are circulating, or have been misled altogether, and occasionally circulate petitions for propositions that are mutually inconsistent. The system is ripe for mischief, which is why so many items were kicked off the ballot this year.

It was not so bad in Tucson, but in Phoenix paid passers were everywhere. Some folks might remember the video game Berzerk from the early 80s, where the robots would mill around aimlessly in the room until the player entered, whereupon they would immediately make a bee line for our hero. Every retail parking lot in Phoenix was much like that in the Spring and Summer of 2008.

There was a brief effort to reform the process last year, by limiting the activities of paid passers, cutting down the number of required signatures, requiring a geographically broader base of signers, allowing some limited legislative oversight, et cetera, but these were quickly rejected by some of our friends on the left who haven’t figured out that the process really isn’t working in their favor. The effort fizzled for lack of broad support.

In Phoenix, there are those who say that you can hear a low rumbling from Papago Park at night. That’s George W.P. Hunt spinning in his grave.

This year’s crop of ballot items can be characterized by their almost universal dishonesty. Some of my colleagues have suggested that we would all be better off just voting against all of them.

Proposition 100 (“Protect Our Homes”): No.
I have to take some responsibility for this thing being on the ballot, since I am even mentioned on the supporter’s website.

Back in 2007, Phil Lopes and I were working with Pima County to help find a means to provide money for the affordable housing trust fund. To this end, we introduced a bill that would have allowed the County to levy a tax of “one tenth of one percent” on new home sales for the trust fund, which would amount to less than $200 on an average home in Pima County. This would have allowed Pima County to provide housing assistance to about 400 families.

We tried to make it clear that we were open to any ideas from the industry or anyone else as to how to provide money for the fund, as the bill was really about the trust fund itself and not the tax. Instead of coming forward with any ideas, the realtors, ahem…REALTORS, put out a pink flyer calling me a socialist. Then, with alarmist doomsaying predictions about how “some politicians” (that’s me) were going to force people out of their homes, they paid good money to get this constitutional amendment on the ballot to prevent us from ever considering this again.

Ironically enough, the REALTORS (that is what they want to be called) argue for their proposition by claiming that such a tax would be a blow to affordable housing. Given how small this tax is, this argument is laughably silly, especially since annual homeowners association fees in new developments are usually much higher. Keep in mind that this is the same industry that blames the current financial mess on the fact that they can no longer engage in discriminatory practices like red-lining to deny minorities and working-class people access to the housing market and denies their own culpability in the situation.

The REALTORS have demonstrated time and time again that they have no concern for affordable housing, and Proposition 100 will do nothing to keep anyone in their homes. It is about retaining a special tax exemption for their industry and enshrining it in the constitution. It deserves to be killed in a big way.

Proposition 101 (“Freedom of Choice Health Care Act”): No.
This one is all wrapped up in bizarre Ayn Randian Gingrichism. Ostensibly, it bans the state from passing any law that would prevent you from choosing your doctor. In reality, it is written to prevent the state from creating a universal health care system. In the process, it is sufficiently broadly written to threaten the existence of programs currently in place such as AHCCCS and Health Care Group.

This thing is being pushed by an especially arrogant think-tank called The Goldwater Institute, which is composed of otherwise unemployable right-wing nerds who are so obsessed with the beauty of their own rhetoric that the day-to-day reality of most people doesn’t factor into their thinking. Currently, they are pursuing legal action against some state officials who had the temerity to speak honestly about this proposition.

During the 1990s, snotty movement conservatives were fond of saying “ideas have consequences.” I agree, lets think about consequences instead of being obsessed with an imaginary libertarian paradise. Anyone who wants policymakers to take the issue of health care seriously should vote no on 101.

Proposition 102 (“Marriage”): No
Veteran lobbyists at the capitol generally agreed that the 2008 session was the ugliest in their memory, and the ugliest moments of the session centered around this bill. If you are reading this, you probably already know that this thing is hateful bullshit and are already intending to vote against it. It might be useful and informative, however to know how this came about.

Even though this thing got to where it is largely through the efforts of Senate President Tim Bee, it was not an effort to pander to conservatives for his congressional race. In fact, at one point he seemed to lose enthusiasm for this issue, a result at least in part, many of us thought, of the fact that it does not really poll well in CD 8. In reality, it was pushed by the Center for Arizona Policy, a would-be taliban of right-wing busy-bodies, to stir up fundraising, since they were nearly broke after getting spanked at the ballot box in 2006.

After this passed, I noticed that their executive director still had a scowl on her face. Perhaps these are just unhappy people.

Despite this, folks should all remember who carried the CAP’s water, and how legislation critical to economic development in Tucson was allowed to die without a vote so that this hateful thing could move forward. Vote no on 102 and for Giffords in CD 8.

Proposition 105 (“Majority Rules”): No.
This is quite possibly the stupidest item on the ballot. It requires that initiatives calling for new taxes get a majority of registered voters, rather than just a majority of votes. Effectively, it means that folks who don’t bother to show up to vote would be counted against those who do.

Proposition 200 (“Payday Loan Reform Act”): No.
The special law that allows payday loans in Arizona expires in 2010, after which they would have to go away, leaving their lobbyists scrambling to extend their peculiar institution indefinitely.

We sat down with a battalion of payday lending hirelings, at least half a dozen of the slickest lobbyists at the capitol, in an attempt to negotiate some reform of the industry. They went back and forth, agreeing to some things, then not agreeing to them, speaking in squishy terms and even outright lying in an effort to get us to agree to let them continue current practices forever in exchange for a promise of better behavior, sounding in some ways like someone’s errant no-good boyfriend who really wants to change. We held firm, and the industry’s efforts fizzled and died.

The industry responded with this thoroughly dishonest proposition which claims to be about “reform” but is actually crafted by the industry to let them continue forever with almost no interference from the state. The “reforms” in the initiative are meaningless, counter-productive, or already mandated by federal law. Apparently, meaningless self-regulation of financial institutions has been working so well lately.

A “no” vote on 200 will help see that this predatory industry dies in 2010.

Proposition 201 (“Homeowner’s Bill of Rights”): Yes.
This one creates a 10 year warranty on all new home construction and allows buyers of new homes some recourse when construction-related problems occur.

The homebuilders, who have been building crappy subdivisions for years, of course, hate this, claiming that it would lead to “lawsuit abuse” and would inhibit their ability to build affordable housing. Well, we all know that they, by and large, have consistently demonstrated no interest in building affordable housing. Additionally, a number of spectacular failures in Pinal County in recent years have demonstrated the need for some consumer protections in this often sleazy industry.

A “yes” vote will create enforceable standards in homebuilding.

Proposition 202 (“Stop Illegal Hiring”): Yes.
Like many of the above, the title here is somewhat deceptive, having been chosen, apparently, to look a bit more mean-spirited than it actually is. In reality, this is a mild but necessary fix to the state’s draconian employer sanctions law.

Among other things, the employer sanctions law, passed at the height of the anti-Mexican hysteria (which seems to be on the wane, fortunately) of a few years ago, made it so that an entire business (even with multiple and autonomous locations) would be shut down for what may well have been a mistake, putting perhaps hundreds of innocent people out of work. This proposition makes these laws fairer, more reasonable, and enforceable. This protects workers and our economy while still holding employers responsible for exploitation of illegal labor.

A “yes” vote will be a step toward restoring sanity to the immigration debate.

Proposition 300 (“State Legislator’s Salaries”): Yes.
Anyone who opposes this is pandering. If we expect our legislators to take their jobs seriously, we ought to pay them something more than a pittance. Voting against this really doesn’t prove anything.

Proposition 403 (TUSD Override): Yes.
This is a no-brainer. Our schools need the money and the authority to spend it. The TUSD board has gotten a lot of well-deserved criticism for fiscal foolishness but the current leadership at ten-ten seems to be willing to conduct these things differently. Even if this were not the case, the fact remains that much of the problem lies with the unwillingness of my soon-to-be-former colleagues to address the problems of school funding, a situation which has left many districts in a bad position. As long as this is the case, we have to handle the problem locally.

17 Comments

  1. Karen Michael wrote:

    Thanks to Rep. Tom Prezelski for his comments on Prop 105 – the most deceptive measure on the ballot. This constitutional amendment wouldn’t only apply to initiatives calling for new taxes. According to the language Prop 105 would apply to all citizen initiatives that impose “spending”. That’s the key word – every measure requires some administration or enforcement, even if it’s a minimal cost. Prop 105 would put an end to ALL measures placed on the ballot by citizens.

    As a legislator, Rep. Prezelski has been a strong defender of Arizona’s citizen initiative process which was given to us by state founders to provide citizens with a voice.

    We cannot allow the tobacco, liquor, and fast-food lobbies behind Prop 105 to take away our constitutional voting rights. More information at http://thevotersofaz.com

    Tuesday, October 21, 2008 at 11:26 am | Permalink
  2. Jake of AZ wrote:

    Thanks Ted and Tom for your service and for your position on Prop 105.

    105 is a dangerous and deceptive amendment that almost everyone agrees is a bad idea, once they understand it. In short, it would change our constitution to count those who don’t vote–whether they moved out of state, died, stayed home, or skipped an initative when they voted. Under 105′s Orwellian rules they would be counted as automatic No votes. This is un-American and it deceptively kills our state’s initative process. Thanks for your write up.

    I encourage everyone to join the cause to defeat this. Email your friends and family. This is a non-partisan issue–anyone who believes in democracy will be against this iniative.

    No on 105.

    Visit http://thevotersofaz.com

    Tuesday, October 21, 2008 at 1:00 pm | Permalink
  3. Todd from north of the Gila wrote:

    Prop 202: “A “yes” vote will be a step toward restoring sanity to the immigration debate.”

    Uh no… a yes vote will alter the law to heavily favor employers, and then voter-protect it so we’ll never be able to fix it again without another divisive ballot initiative. Vote NO on 202.

    Tuesday, October 21, 2008 at 1:08 pm | Permalink
  4. Tom Prezelski wrote:

    Todd may be right. I guess it wouldn’t be the first time I got in trouble for trying to make a bad law better.

    Tuesday, October 21, 2008 at 1:17 pm | Permalink
  5. Tim R. wrote:

    Prop 202 is a JOKE!!!!
    It’s a SHAM
    It’s for those that want to hire illegals.

    Vote NO on Prop 202.

    Tuesday, October 21, 2008 at 1:22 pm | Permalink
  6. Tom Prezelski wrote:

    Thank you, Tim R., for helping me make my original point about restoring sanity to the immigration debate.

    Tuesday, October 21, 2008 at 1:26 pm | Permalink
  7. Great to hear from you on 105, Ted. We really need to beat that one. It is so unfair to voters and we appreciate all your doing to support its defeat.

    Tuesday, October 21, 2008 at 1:29 pm | Permalink
  8. Barbara Klein wrote:

    Thank you for your stance against 105.

    The League of Women Voters of Arizona has also taken a position against proposition 105

    Regardless of the intent of the backers, the proposition is about voting rights. It takes away the voice of voters and basically destroys the tradition of citizen initiatives we have enjoyed since Arizona statehood. The first Arizona citizen initiative gave women the vote. We are particularly supportive of this type of effort.

    The League has also long had a motto that ‘Democracy is not a Spectator Sport’ – it is something you have to work at and work for. But proposition 105 would take this away. Anyone who chose not to participate would be given a large voice – with the government supplying them a ‘no’ vote.

    Most people are interested in removing out-of-state big checkbooks from our Arizona system, but this is not the way (although there may be others). Backers continue to say that this is about ‘special interests’ increasing our financial burdens, but that appears to be a distraction trick to take voters attention away from the fact that 105 will take the power away from voters and give it to the legislature. We hope voters will understand that this proposition threatens their voice – their vote.

    Thank you for pointing people in the right direction on 105; your readers can see more information at http://www.votersofaz.com

    Barbara Klein
    1st VP League of Women Voters of Arizona

    Tuesday, October 21, 2008 at 1:51 pm | Permalink
  9. Organize Now! wrote:

    Ted, I like your “less is more” style on your correct assessment of 105. But I’m an English teacher, and we can always use 100 words when twenty will do.

    105 is Orwell’s novel come true: Wrong is Right; Ignorance is Strength, and those who sit on the couch and don’t vote have their voice heard anyway. Why let a little thing like not voting get in the way of shaping policy?

    It’s interesting to me that the 105 proponents want to squeak this one by under the current definition of a majority, mainly because they couldn’t meet the requirements they want to impose on everyone else in future elections.

    This is not only a false definition of a majority; it is a new example of corruption.

    Tuesday, October 21, 2008 at 1:52 pm | Permalink
  10. John Wanek wrote:

    Thank you Ted and Tom. You both have a grasp of the issues involved and realize the grave consequences of Proposition 105′s approval.

    Tuesday, October 21, 2008 at 5:23 pm | Permalink
  11. Ted,

    Thanks for taking positions on the propositions.

    Prop 105 is especially pernicious.

    It would kill the initiative process in Arizona–a fact that is hard to know just by reading the ballot language.

    Prop 105 would count by Constitutional fiat anyone on the voters rolls–living and dead, in state or out of state, who don’t vote on an initiative. It counts them and picks their vote.

    How’s that for crazy?

    Vote No on 105.

    Regards,

    Jim

    Tuesday, October 21, 2008 at 6:03 pm | Permalink
  12. Ex-AZ wrote:

    Thanks, Tom (and Ted) for this.

    By the way, the closest thing to Prop 105 ever tried anywhere else was in Oregon in 96. That got 11% of the voter in favor (Not a typo). Let’s see if Arizona can do better than that.

    Tuesday, October 21, 2008 at 7:10 pm | Permalink
  13. Donna wrote:

    Prop 105 is biggest pile of malarkey ever to be foisted upon the citizens of AZ. If it passes, I swear to god I will commit myself to fighting it in court. I will also work to get a proposition on the ballot to demand clear language for any ballot initiative. “Qualified electors” describes f*ck all to the average voter. I can’t believe this piece of crap even got on the ballot. Grr….

    Tuesday, October 21, 2008 at 8:38 pm | Permalink
  14. LaMigra wrote:

    You cannot collect fines! the only thing we can go after is the business license and that is why they haven’t been able to throw it out of court.

    If this lie passes that is what will happen every case will be thrown out.

    This is exactly why they want you to pass it!

    VOTE NO against Prop 202 (Stop Illegal Hiring) because if passed, it will kill all the work we have done in
    Arizona in regards to the current Employers Sanction Law.

    Arizona has one of the best laws on the books in regards to stopping illegal hiring and now we have BIG GREEDY BUSINESS trying to deceive everyone so they can write their own law?
    They tried 4 times in court to shut down the current law and LOST, so now they try this!!!

    We are joining other Arizonans in an Opposition Campaign to defeat Prop 202 this November 4th in the General Election.

    Vote NO on Prop 202
    It’s not what they say it is!
    http://www.stopproposition202.com
    http://www.votenoprop202.com/

    GOT NOTHING TO HIDE??? THEN E-VERIFY!!

    May God Protect ALL our innocent children and our boots on the ground who are truly in the line of fire from all terrorist !

    United we stand, divided we will lose it all!

    Wednesday, October 22, 2008 at 7:48 am | Permalink
  15. Theresa wrote:

    Thank you for bringing to light prop 102 and prop 105. These are both divisive and misleading amendments to the constituion and everyone who actually votes should vote no on both.

    Wednesday, October 22, 2008 at 11:01 am | Permalink
  16. Julie Horwin wrote:

    I urge everyone to vote NO on Prop 105.
    AZ Women’s Political Caucus has taken a stance against this hurtful law. Like all foolish laws it will impact women in a most negative way. Please tell your friends and family to vote NO on Prop 105.
    Majority Rules is how we set up our democracy, but, Prop 105 will take that away from us. Those who read, research and vote will have no say in the law. Those who sit on the couch, do nothing will rule the day. That is not democracy. That is stupid-ocracy.

    Wednesday, October 22, 2008 at 11:27 am | Permalink
  17. Linda wrote:

    Thank you for addressing Prop 105 and for recommending a “No” vote on this insidious ballot measure. Giving non-voters (as well as the deceased or those who have moved away) a say in any election is just plain wrong. It is completely unfair, not to mention un-American, to negate the votes of those of us who take the time to vote by counting those who don’t vote. Vote no on Prop 105. For more information, go to http://the votersofaz.com

    Wednesday, October 22, 2008 at 3:05 pm | Permalink