Local ballot measures, Arizona

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Pension Hotspots: Trend of unfavorable ballot summaries for pension reform measures continues Jul 25, 2014

By Josh Altic

The Pension Hotspots Report is a monthly publication about local pension reform efforts.

It happened again: pension reformers face yet another objectionable description of an initiative on the official ballot. Proponents of Phoenix Proposition 401, outraged over ballot language approved by the city council, decided to spend money on campaigning for their measure, rather than fighting the city in court. Meanwhile, Ventura County features a classic state control vs. local control court battle over pension reform that could affect millions of Californians. These, among other stories, are covered in the July edition of the Hotspots report.

As of July 25, 2014, eight pension related measures have been proposed. Three of these have been approved, one was defeated, and the remaining four are pending. A court decision on June 26, 2014, removed one initiative, the one in Pacific Grove, leaving two measures scheduled for voter decisions and one in the planning stages.

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School bond and tax votes

Arizona requires school districts to hold elections for issuing new bonds or to override a school district budget. School districts are given up to five percent to override on a school district budget. Any override over five percent needs voter approval. Override is similar to exceeding a levy limit which is commonly called in other states. Arizona laws require school districts to have a substitute budget on hand in the event a budget override measure gets defeated. Arizona also has a debt limit protected by the Arizona Constitution with regular school districts having a six percent debt limit while unified school districts have a thirty percent limit based on the district's total value of taxable property.

Prescott Controversy

A controversy arose in the city of Prescott in late 2009 when residents tried to have an initiative placed on the November 3, 2009 ballot. The issue stemmed from the necessary signatures needed to put the initiative up for a public vote. City Clerk Elizabeth Burke told petition gatherers that they needed to get 2,058 signatures. This number represented 15 percent of the voters in the previous election. However, Gary Kidd, the City Attorney, disputed that the effort required at least 25 percent of voters' signatures.

The dispute began when officials pointed out that there was conflicting initiative procedures between the Arizona Constitution and the state statute. The initiative could appear on the November ballot, but legal action could be taken afterwards.[1]

A letter from Councilwoman Lora Lopas can be read here, along with other case-related document. In her letter, Lopas described her discontent with the way the situation on this issue was handled.

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