Voter referral filed against bill targeting initiatives

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(Source: Stock photo) (Source: Stock photo)

An effort to block a new law signed by Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey that opponents say would make it tougher to get citizen initiatives on the ballot was launched Thursday, less than a week after Ducey signed it into law.

Former Libertarian Party congressional candidate Mike Shipley filed papers to refer the law signed last week to voters. Shipley is listed as chairman of the Grassroots Citizens Concerned committee on paperwork he filed with the Arizona secretary of state's office.

The group must file slightly more than 75,000 valid signatures within 90 days of the end of the legislative session to block the new law. That's when newly enacted laws take effect in most cases. It would be on hold until a vote during the November 2018 general election.

The Legislature aims to adjourn in about three weeks, although there is no set time for it to end its session.

The law, known as House Bill 2404, bans paying initiative petition circulators per signature and makes it easier to challenge citizen initiatives in court. Republican backers of the law say it will reduce fraud in signature gathering.

It is one of a series of measures being pushed by the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry in the wake of voter approval of a minimum wage increase in November. Two other bills, one tightening the legal standard for initiative challenges and another that places a series of new regulations on petition circulators, await action in the Legislature after being revived this week.

[RELATED: Arizona voters pass minimum wage increase (Nov. 8, 2016)]

Shipley didn't immediately return a call seeking comment.

Ducey's spokesman said his office would review the filing but had no other comment. In a statement issued after he signed the bill last Friday, he called it a "common-sense reform" that strikes the right balance to ensure the initiative process continues to work well.

"We live in a state where citizens have significant input into the policy-making process," Ducey said in a statement. "That's a good thing, and this tweak to the law helps ensure the integrity of ballot measures moving forward."

Democrats and voting rights groups have harshly criticized the proposals, calling them an all-out attack on the right of citizens to enact their own laws that has been in place since statehood.

Republican backers of the measures say they're needed now because a 1998 voter-approved law called the Voter Protection Act that prevents the Legislature from making major changes to initiatives.

Most circulators are now paid by the signature, rather than hourly.

The bill Ducey signed does not apply to candidates for office, many of whom use paid circulators to gather qualifying signatures.

[PDF: House Bill 2404 (chaptered version)]

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