American West Briefing Tour: Tour group pages Dr. Eric Novack, leader of Arizona health care reform
By Al Ortiz
PHOENIX, Arizona: Our time in Phoenix is beginning to wind down. Today, we'll finish up the Arizona leg of the tour, and we will be departing for Portland, Oregon in the middle of the day. Before that happens, however, our meeting with the fascinating Dr. Eric Novack yesterday must be noted.
Dr. Novack, one of the key proponents for health care reform in the state of Arizona, sat down for breakfast with our group to discuss his experiences in the state initiative process, as well as his beliefs behind his efforts.
(Side note: It seems like every meeting we have involves food. Weight gain is starting to be a problem with yours truly)
Novack circulated an initiative in 2008 to place a measure on the ballot that would have barred any rules or regulations that would force state residents to participate in a health-care system. His measure failed to make the ballot. However, all was not lost for Novack and his fellow supporters, as in 2010, a measure with similar effects was placed on the ballot by the state legislature.
The constitutional amendment passed with 55.3 percent voting in favor.
According to Novack when referring to his 2008 efforts: "Losing is a good thing. You can learn more by losing than from winning." The orthopedist, who grew up in Connecticut and picked up on his political desires in 2005, stated that there is a natural vetting process behind trying to achieve goals in the initiative process. If you fail to place an initiative on the ballot, you can go back and see what you did wrong, what you can fix and how to improve on certain things, says Novack.
In short, according to Novack: "Losing keeps you humble."
Aside from the nuts and bolts of the political process, the doctor commented on his beliefs that spurred his activity in creating "health care freedom" for the state of Arizona: "As someone who takes care of patients for a living, I've seen that when you put families in charge of their own health care, it becomes less dangerous."
In an opinion piece back in 2010, in the months leading up to the general election and the vote on the health care measure, Novack wrote: "Prop 106 will guarantee that all Arizonans have the right to spend their own money to obtain legal health care services. Second opinions; additional medical treatments; life-saving legal drugs: No government bureaucrat should ever be able to tell you that your life and health are not worth it."
Opponents of this measure included Kyrsten Sinema, Assistant House Democratic Leader, who also stated in an opinion column: "Prop. 106 is completely useless because the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution establishes that laws established by Congress are the supreme law of the land. Through Proposition 106, the state may not tell the federal government what to do."
Sinema also stated that the measure was a waste of time because the state had many other issues that it should have been tackling at the time. Sinema wrote, "With so many things wrong with our state - Republicans' massive cuts to jobs, education and health care - we've to got to focus on the priorities, not ideological ballot initiatives that fail to yield results."
The tour also met with two other initiative experts in the state, but due to time constraints, and a plane to catch, we'll update that as soon as possible! It's been a hectic visit to Phoenix.
Initiative and referendum process in Arizona
Below is a quick description of the signature gathering process in Arizona:
The number of signatures required to qualify an initiative for the ballot is tied to the number of votes cast for the office of Arizona governor in the most recent gubernatorial election. The number of signatures to qualify a statute is 10% of votes cast for governor and 15% to qualify a constitutional amendment . The number of signatures required to qualify a veto referendum is 5% of votes cast for governor . Once the signatures are submitted, they are validated via random sampling by the Arizona Secretary of State. This process usually takes about a month.
Signature requirements for 2012:
- Legislatively-referred state statute: 172,809
- Petition drive deadline: July 5, 2012
- Current City: Phoenix
- Next City: Portland (September 25)
What else to look for today
- Flight to Oregon: Our last state in the American West Briefing Tour!
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