Or maybe you'd rather increase the minimum wage, set aside state land for conservation or hand out $1 million to one lucky voter every two years?
These are just a few of the choices that Arizona voters will be sorting through on the November ballot, which could include as many as 19 propositions, depending on how the legal challenges shake out.
Some of the initiatives are the work of coalitions of various political stripes that want to set public policy. Some are the work of individuals with fat pocketbooks and dreams of changing the world.
And eight are proposals from the Arizona Legislature.
An aside: Whenever lawmakers put this many props on the ballot, some political observers suggest that the legislators were afraid to make tough decisions on controversial issues, so they pushed the responsibility onto voters. But that's not why lawmakers packed the ballot. In the case of six of the referendums, lawmakers are aiming for constitutional changes, which require voter approval. One of the other props--allowing judges to sentence first-time meth offenders to jail--also requires voter approval, because it changes a previous voter initiative. The final one--creating more restrictions on services available to illegal immigrants--was facing a veto from Gov. Janet Napolitano, so lawmakers circumvented her. (We don't doubt that the crafty legislators figure it was a way to bring conservative voters out to the polls and put a political squeeze on Napolitano.)
But we digress. Here's the downlow on this year's props:
Marital Disharmony Dept.
Prop 107Fearful that activist judges and their allies in the gay and lesbian community are out to destroy the sacred institution of marriage, the political committee Protect Marriage Arizona is pushing Prop 107, which asks voters to amend the state constitution to limit marriage to unions between one man and one woman while also banning local jurisdictions from recognizing--or offering benefits to--domestic partnerships of both straight and gay couples, as the city of Tucson and Pima County now do.
Protect Marriage Arizona had raised $377,158 as of May 31 and spent $329,640, including $242,086 to Maricopa County political consultant Nathan Sproul, a former executive director of the Arizona Republican Party who coordinated the petition drive.
The necessity of a constitutional amendment remains debatable, because Arizona law already limits marriage to one man and one woman. But as we've seen in other states, propositions to ban gay marriage create an effective wedge issue to split Democrats and bring out conservative voters on Election Day.
Arizona Together, a political committee formed to oppose the initiative, had raised considerably more money: $523,423 as of May 31. It had already spent $279,236, including more than $53,000 to Integrated Web Strategies for a very snazzy Web site, www.aztogether.org. The largest contribution came from the Human Rights Campaign, a D.C.-based gay-rights organization that contributed $130,055.
Last week, opponents of the initiative filed suit to knock the proposition off the ballot, because it would ban both gay marriages and domestic partnerships. They argue that the proposition violates the Arizona Constitution's "single-subject" rule, which forbids multiple topics in a single amendment.
Sproul has some experience with that legal question: He was also the consultant for an effort to torpedo Arizona's Clean Elections program, which was booted off the ballot for similar reasons in 2004 after backers spent more than a half-million dollars on a petition drive.
For more information:
Blame It on the Immigrants Dept.
Props 100, 102, 103, 300Four different propositions, all courtesy of the Arizona Legislature, target illegal immigrants.
Prop 100 would amend the Arizona Constitution to deny bail to any illegal immigrant accused of a "serious felony" if the evidence suggests the accused is guilty. The definition of a serious felony is left up to the Legislature to decide in the future.
Prop 102 would amend the Arizona Constitution to block illegal immigrants from collecting punitive damages in civil lawsuits.
Prop 103 would amend the Arizona Constitution to make English the official language of the state, because hay muchas problemas con Español. The prop would make a load of exceptions for law enforcement, health and safety, federal programs, tourism, international trade, terms of art or phrases from other languages, and several other categories. That means high schools could still serve burritos instead of wraps.
Finally, Prop 300 would extend the current ban on welfare services for illegal immigrants created by 2004's Prop 200. Also off-limits if it passes: subsidized child care, adult education programs and in-state college tuition. The proposition would also require state agencies to file reports twice a year regarding how many illegal immigrants were denied services.
Land War Dept.
Props 105, 106Prop 106 is the latest effort to resolve the vexing issue of state trust lands, which were set aside at statehood for various beneficiaries, primarily education. About 9 million acres of land remain in the trust, making the State Land Department the biggest land speculator in Arizona.
The Arizona Constitution now requires that the land be sold off for "highest and best use," which has been interpreted to mean "sold off for high-density housing or commercial development." And it's recently paid off handsomely for the trusts; last year, nine auctions of a total of 2,550 acres brought in $514 million. The previous year's take was $337 million.
Here's the downside: Many of the parcels held in the trust are ecological jewels that are ideal for conservation, such as the Tortolita Fan north of Tucson, or popular recreational spots, such as Fantasy Island on Tucson's eastside. But various efforts to reform the system to set aside such parcels have failed over the last decade, because different stakeholders--homebuilders, teachers, environmentalists and ranchers--have had a tough time coming to an agreement.
Now a coalition of education, business and environmental groups have spent more than $700,000 to bring Conserving Arizona's Future to the ballot. The initiative would set aside 690,000 acres for conservation, update the planning powers of the State Land Department and institute other reforms.
While environmental groups such as the Nature Conservancy and the Sonoran Institute are on board, one major green group has reservations: The Sierra Club is remaining neutral so far, because its leaders don't think the initiative does enough for conservation.
But the Sierra Club isn't outright opposing it, unlike ranchers and home builders. The Arizona Cattle Growers Association had spent $25,000 on a political committee called Protect Teacher Pay as of May 31. The group got an additional $7,500 in-kind contribution from the Home Builders Association of Central Arizona in the form of a poll.
More recently, the Home Builders Association of Central Arizona poured at least $100,000 into a new political committee, Arizonans for Responsible Planning, to oppose Prop 106.
The Arizona Legislature has offered an alternative State Trust Land proposal, Prop 105, that would set aside an initial 42,000 acres for conservation. The Legislature would have to approve future set-asides.
For more information:
Prop 207The U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Kelo vs. New London, which determined that municipalities had a right to take private property from one owner and give it to another for redevelopment, stirred outrage across the country.
Here in Arizona, it has surfaced as Prop 207, the AZ Home Owners Protection Effort (or AZ HOPE), which would prevent government from seizing private property for private redevelopment.
While supporters of the prop talk a lot about protecting property owners from condemnation proceedings--which, incidentally, the Arizona Constitution already restricts--the deeper impact can be found in another element of the proposition, which would also enact "takings" legislation that would require governments to reimburse property owners for any actions that lower potential property values.
Environmentalists like Sandy Bahr of the Sierra Club worry that could undercut efforts to enact development restrictions in washes and hillsides, or even major environmental planning efforts such as Pima County's Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan.
The initiative is being primarily funded by Americans for Limited Government, a Chicago-based group which has contributed $152,000 of the $186,000 that AZ HOPE has raised. Americans for Limited Government is pushing similar plans in eight other states.
For more information:
Puff and Stuff Dept.
Props 201, 203, 206Those busybodies at the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association and the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association have teamed up to give us Prop 201, aka Smoke-Free Arizona, which would ban smoking in most public spaces, including restaurants, bars, arenas, offices, bowling alleys and--can you believe this crazy idea?--nursing homes. Money to enforce the smoking ban would be raised by increasing the tax on a pack of smokes by 2 cents.
The do-gooders have raised $578,168 for their campaign, including $303,333 from the American Cancer Society.
But the folks you can really trust to look out for your health--RJ Reynolds--have formed the Arizona Non-Smoker Protection Committee to offer an alternative to Smoke-Free Arizona. Prop 206 "creates a balanced, reasonable, consistent, statewide nonsmoking law, protecting minors and preserving private property rights," according to the statement filed with the Secretary of State's Office, by banning smoking in restaurants and offices, but allowing people to smoke in bars. It would also prevent local jurisdictions from establishing stiffer anti-smoking regulations--all in the interest of helping protect you from secondhand smoke. The altruistic RJR had donated $191,000 to this effort as of May 31.
Some cynics have suggested that the tobacco companies may be trying to confuse voters with this alternative, but they probably just want to give the citizens of Arizona a big laugh when they see the health nuts trying to explain why they should vote yes on one anti-smoking initiative and no on another.
Speaking of cigarettes: Prop 203 would hike the tax on a pack of cigarettes by 80 cents to pay for preschool and early childhood health programs.
The First Things First for Arizona's Children committee, chaired by Nadine Basha, wife of supermarket magnate and onetime Democratic gubernatorial candidate Eddie Basha, had raised a staggering $2,253,533 and still had $1,719,307 as of May 31. RJR might just get smoked on this one.
For more information:
How About a Raise? Dept.
Props 202, 302Prop 202 would increase the minimum wage in Arizona to $6.75 an hour, with annual increases for inflation, from the current federal mandate of $5.15. This effort is backed by labor unions (which had contributed most of the $337,703 raised so far), as well as the Arizona Democratic Party. That's because minimum-wage initiatives are, politically speaking, the liberal yin to the conservative yang of initiatives that ban gay marriages: popular measures that bring out Democratic voters. This year, initiatives to raise the minimum wage are on the ballot in at least three states.
In related news: The Commission on Salaries for Elective State Officers recommends that state lawmakers who have opposed minimum-wage increases deserve a raise. Prop 302 asks voters to increase state lawmakers' pay from $24,000 to $36,000.
For more information:
Luck of the Draw Dept.
Prop 200Prop 200, the AZ Voter Reward Act, would create a lottery that would reward one lucky voter every two years with $1 million. Mark Osterloh, a veteran of health care and Clean Elections initiative campaigns who lost a gubernatorial run in 2002, has loaned the campaign virtually all of the $192,448 that it had spent as of May 31. Osterloh says the lottery will increase voter turnout. Critics say it will lead to larger numbers of uninformed voters casting ballots. They're probably both right.
Mail Order Dept.
Prop 205Prop 205, aka Your Right to Vote, would scrap most polling places on Election Day in favor of a vote-by-mail system. Supporters say it would increase turnout and decrease costs, based on what's happened in the state of Oregon, as well as jurisdictions in Arizona that have adopted the program. Opponents say it violates the great American tradition of going to the polling place.
This is another of the initiatives that's the work of one man--in this case, Rick Murphy, a rural Arizona radio-station magnate and failed congressional candidate who had poured $341,915 into the signature-gathering effort as of May 31.
Creature Comforts Dept.
Prop 204Prop 204, the Humane Treatment of Farm Animals Act, comes to us from the Arizona Humane Society and the Humane Society of the United States. It would require that pregnant pigs and calves raised for veal "be given sufficient space to turn around, lie down and fully extend their limbs when tethered, or confined in crates, cages or other enclosures," according to the description filed by the Secretary of State's Office.
The political committee behind the effort, Arizonans for Humane Farms, had raised $432,333 as of May 31.
The Campaign for Arizona Farmers and Ranchers has labeled the initiative "hogwash" on its Web site, claiming it's really an "animal rights mandate being pushed by out-of-state activists intent on ending farm animal production and converting you into a vegetarian." The group had raised $334,767 of May 31. The Iowa Farm Bureau contributed another $10,000 on June 27.
For more information:
Prop 301Remember when we were liberalizing our drug laws as part of those medical-marijuana initiatives? Lawmakers think we went a little too far with that whole probation-for-first-time-offenders provision, especially with those crazed meth heads loose on our streets. Prop 301 asks voters to declare that even first-time tweakers are eligible for jail time, if a judge finds it appropriate.
Boring Procedural Stuff Dept.
Prop 101, 104The two most boring propositions revolve around municipal budgets. Prop 101, placed on the ballot by the Arizona Legislature, would limit how much counties, cities and towns could increase property taxes.
Prop 104, also courtesy of the Legislature, would allow counties, cities and towns to borrow more money--and, most likely, increase property taxes--to pay for roads, cops and firefighters.