Toward the end of each legislative session in Arizona there is a flurry of activity to get certain controversial or previously unheard bills heard. This happens through the use of “strike everything” amendments or “strikers”. A striker is used to delete all of the text of a previously existing bill, regardless of topic, and to substitute new, generally totally unrelated, language.
Since this leads to the introduction of a brand new bill, legislators often use strikers to introduce bills after the deadlines for the introduction of new bills in committees, or, in many cases, to reintroduce a controversial bill that had already been killed in committee or one that had never even been heard in committee. Strikers create less transparency in the legislative process and breed distrust by the public when controversial bills “pop up” at the last second, hidden by a completely unrelated bill name in most cases.
During the 2017 legislative session, more than 100 strikers have been proposed. At this point in the 2017 legislative session, the Legislature is voting on two strikers that would undermine the initiative process in Arizona and therefore, the right of every voter in Arizona to be able to pass laws at the ballot. The Arizona Chamber of Commerce is pushing these two bills with one striker moving through the House and one through the Senate.
In the House, Representative Michelle Ugenti-Rita’s striker to SB 1236 is a catch-all from multiple bills that were previously killed in committee, that would have harmed voter’s rights at the ballot. This striker requires the inclusion of a warning on all advertising and fundraising materials for ballot measures that says “NOTICE: PURSUANT TO PROPOSITION 105 (1998), THIS MEASURE CANNOT BE CHANGED IN THE FUTURE IF APPROVED ON THE BALLOT EXCEPT BY A THREE-FOURTHS VOTE OF THE LEGISLATURE AND IF THE CHANGE FURTHERS THE PURPOSE OF THE ORIGINAL BALLOT MEASURE, OR BY REFERRING THE CHANGE TO THE BALLOT" and disqualifies any petitions gathered without a paid circulator’s registration number, even if all signatures on the sheet are valid.
In the Senate, HB 2244 had a striker attached to it by Senator Debbie Lesko which will apply a strict compliance standard to all signatures gathered for voter initiatives. This striker would therefore allow for minor technicalities like the petition being printed with slightly different margins or the collected signature having the zip code written in the wrong box to be reasons to throw the entire petition out and not counted, even when it is clear who the voter is who signed the form. Again the Chamber of Commerce is pushing this bill so that any future ballot measures will have basically no chance of getting the required number of signatures to reach the ballot.
These two strikers are clearly a way for the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and the Republican controlled Legislature to stop future ballot measures that lessen their power. What this signals is a grave problem for Arizona’s Cannabis industry because any future Cannabis initiatives will become much more costly and difficult to get on the ballot.