Trust the politicians, not your neighbors?

Posted: Oct 10, 2010 12:00 AM

This November, voters in four states will see ballot measures seeking to place a right to hunt and fish into their constitutions. In three of those states, the issues are likely to pass quite comfortably, but not in Arizona.

I hope.

In the finest American tradition of outside agitators, I’m traveling to Arizona this week to campaign against Proposition 109.

A friend in the state surprisingly inquired, “You have a dog in that fight?”

I do. More importantly, Citizens in Charge does. That’s my day job (and night job . . . and weekend job), rallying Americans to protect our right to initiative, referendum and recall.

Personally, I favor a right to hunt and fish as long as property rights are respected.

But my personal opinion doesn’t matter to Citizens in Charge, the nation’s only political advocacy organization dedicated to protecting citizen access to initiative, referendum and recall. No matter what the particular policy issue, Citizens in Charge focuses in on the right of voters to decide, not the measures themselves. So, we take no position on ballot measures except when they directly affect the voter-empowering political processes we cherish.

So why is Citizens in Charge joining the NO on Prop 109 campaign?

Because the only concrete change in policy regarding hunting and fishing that Arizona’s Proposition 109 will accomplish is ceding to the state legislature “exclusive authority” over all wildlife matters, completely removing the issue from citizens through the state’s initiative and referendum process.

In this political season, when an awake and justifiably angry electorate surveys their choices at the ballot box, Proposition 109 can best be summed up as a power grab by politicians. The Push the People Out Proposition.

The Arizona Constitution’s initial grant of legislative authority to the House and Senate is followed by these words: “but the people reserve the power to propose laws and amendments to the constitution and to enact or reject such laws and amendments at the polls, independently of the legislature, and they also reserve, for use at their own option, the power to approve or reject at the polls any act, or item, section, or part of any act, of the legislature.”

Proposition 109 says forget about all those silly checks and balances.

Adding insult to injury, Proposition 109 is a sneaky, back-door power grab by legislators. Most folks, like my friend, have only heard that this constitutional amendment will protect hunting and fishing. Barely a word has been uttered about Prop 109 carving the public out of any decision process.

And that matters. To me. To Citizens in Charge. To the good people of Arizona.

Thankfully, the negatives aspects of the measure have received some public attention. An Arizona Republic editorial pointed out that the “proposed constitutional amendment, which goes far beyond its advertised purpose of establishing the right to hunt and fish, is a minefield of potential problems.”

Those problems include the likelihood of non-stop litigation that could hit Arizona taxpayers dearly. “This proposed amendment — with broad, undefined terms — is ripe for legal battles,” the newspaper concluded.

But the most important reason to vote against Arizona’s Proposition 109 is that it rips power from voters and gives it to politicians.

Hooray for hunting and fishing. But a flat NO to a power grab against the democratic rights of Arizonans.