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Two Lawmakers Want To Scale Back Arizona's Voter Protection Act

JD Mesnard
(Photo courtesy of the Arizona State Legislature)
Republican House Speaker J.D. Mesnard

State lawmakers are trying to scale back the Voter Protection Act.

The 1998 constitutional provision says when people enact their own laws at the ballot box, lawmakers can alter them only with a three-fourths vote -- and only when it furthers the purpose of the original measure. Rep. J.D. Mesnard wants to lower that margin for tinkering to the same voting level as when the act was originally approved. For exaple, if an initiative passed with 51 percent, it would require 51 percent of lawmakers to alter it.

And Mesnard wants to scrap the requirement that alteration further the purpose of the original measure. Put another way, it would let legislators to repeal a voter-approved law outright without first asking for voter approval as now required.

"I doubt many of them know that it's locked in stone for all practical purposes, and that our ability to adapt or manage is hindered with the existing setup," he said.

Rep. Bob Thorpe has a more far-reaching measure. What Mesnard proposes would affect only future voter-approved initiatives. Thorpe's plan is retroactive, allowing lawmakers to alter initiatives approved by voters in the past. He said lawmakers need oversight because it's far too easy for a bad law to get approved at the ballot.

"You could have a kid in sixth grade write a referendum. And if it's marketed correctly to the voters, it could get passed without any kind of oversight, any kind of vetting," Thorpe said.

The final word on both proposals would be put to voters in November.