Arizona Proposition 103 (2008)

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Arizona Proposition 103, which was also known as the Conserving Arizona's Water and Land Act, filed signatures on July 3, 2008 to qualify for the November 4, 2008 ballot in Arizona, but problems with signature validity led to a decision by the Arizona Secretary of State that it had insufficient signatures to qualify.[1][2]

The goal of initiative supporters was to conserve and protect approximately 580,000 acres of Arizona land.

Proposition 103 was one of three Arizona ballot initiatives in 2008 that filed signatures but failed to make the ballot. Initiative petition sheets that are said to be flawed to a possibly criminal degree have been referred to the state's attorney general for investigation relating to petition drive management practices.[3][4]

Ballot status

On Aug. 15, 2008, Secretary of State Jan Brewer concluded that Proposition 103 did not have enough valid signatures to make the ballot.

Brewer said backers turned in nearly 370,000 signatures, but more than 33,000 of these were rejected by her office. The result, said Brewer, was that the measure came up nearly 20,000 signatures short of the 230,047 required to put the measure before voters in November.

Backers of Proposition 103 filed a lawsuit to get a judge to restore at least some of the signatures.[5][6] However, a trial judge ruled in mid-August that supporters missed a deadline to challenge petition checks by Secretary of State Jan Brewer's office.[7]

Signatures for the ballot initiative were collected by Petition Partners, earning $491,808 through the end of June.[8]


In 1910, the United States Congress passed the Arizona-New Mexico Enabling Act, allowing Arizona to become a state. The Enabling Act granted Arizona 10.9 million acres of land, referred to as "state trust land," to be held in trust for the benefit of the named beneficiaries, primarily the public schools, as well as other public institutions (colleges, hospitals, prisons, etc.). Both the Enabling Act and the Arizona Constitution provide that the state can lease or sell trust land, and the natural products (timber, minerals, etc.) of the land, to the "highest and best bidder" at advertised public auction and lands and products offered for sale must be appraised at and sold for not less than "true value."

The state currently has 9.3 million acres of trust land remaining.

Conservationist and some developers argue land is more valuable when open space is preserved for future generations and that homeowners are usually willing to pay more to live near protected land. Arizona Republic, Ballot measure sought to save 570K acres, April 11, 2008</ref>

A key element of the proposal included setting aside some of the state's trust land to be conserved as open space without payment to the trust.[9] As things stand now, the Arizona Constitution mandates that state trust land be sold or leased at auction to the highest bidder, with funds going to schools and other public agencies.[10] The new initiative would have given greater flexibility to the Arizona State Land Department concerning areas of preservation versus those that can be developed. A similar initiative that failed in 2006 was opposed by the Arizona School Boards Association.[1]

On August 1, the Arizona Republic wrote that election officials scrutinizing signatures submitted on Proposition 103, along with two other initiatives aiming for the November ballot, found a 35% rate of invalid signatures on the petitions submitted in early July, which resulted in not enough valid signatures to qualify for the ballot.[11]


Conservationist, Patrick Graham, state director of the Nature Conservancy sponsored the initiative under the group name "Conserving Arizona's Water and Land." The Sierra Club's Grand Canyon Chapter and the Arizona Republic also supported the initiative.[12]

John Wright, president of the Arizona Education Association, said his group supported the effort. The Arizona School Boards Association, however, was worried about the long-term cost of conserved land.[13]

Donors to Proposition 103

By the end of July, supporters of Prop. 103 had given about $820,000 to a campaign committee organized to promote the initiative. The Arizona Republic reported that most of this funding came from:

  • The Nature Conservancy.
  • A development firm "owned by Democratic benefactor and former state-party boss Jim Pederson."
  • John Graham, chairman of the board of the Arizona chapter of the Nature Conservancy, who had given $50,000.[14]


Many of the same opponents of Proposition 105 in 2006 were also against the new measure. Bas Aja, director of governmental affairs for the Arizona Cattleman's Association, had supported a compromise. Aja, despite not having read the exact initiative language, said that he generally opposes setting land aside for conservation.

"They have designated land that can't be used or sold or developed," he said. "That's kind of like me telling you that you've got $30,000 in the bank but you have to keep it in a security deposit box. You can't use it to buy groceries, or pay bills or anything else."[15]

State Sen. Jake Flake, R-Snowflake said, "We will definitely work against this (initiative). I don't like the idea of giving away half a million acres of land for free. This could make a difference for (Arizona) being the last in funding for (educating) our kids...I am very disappointed."[16]

The Home Builder's Association of Central Arizona, however, had agreed to take a neutral stance on this initiative, in exchange for support for a transportation initiative proposal.[17]

See also

External links