Jack Jackson Jr. (D-LD7, Window Rock), elected in November to his second term in the Arizona Senate, last week announced that he was leaving our great state to serve in the Obama administration, in the newly established position as State Department environmental liaison to Native American tribes.
Jackson will likely be smack in the middle of complicated negotiations related to the Keystone XL pipeline. I hope he has other projects to work on because Keystone should never be approved.
For Arizona, however, this raises the issue of filling the vacancy in the state senate. Arizona Revised Statutes § 41-1202 spells out the process.
A. If a vacancy occurs in the legislature and the vacant seat was represented by a political party that is organized pursuant to title 16, chapter 5, article 2 and that has at least thirty elected committeemen who are from precincts that are in the legislative district and that are in the county in which the vacancy occurred, the following apply...Jackson represented LD-7 which covers parts of Coconino, Mohave, Navajo and Apache Counties. Right now, it appears there are NO elected precinct committeemen (or women) in Apache County, which is where Jackson was registered to vote.
B. If the vacant legislative seat was represented by a political party that is organized pursuant to title 16, chapter 5, article 2 and that has fewer than thirty elected committeemen who are from precincts that are in the legislative district and that are in the county in which the vacancy occurred or if the vacant legislative seat is not represented by a political party that is organized pursuant to title 16, chapter 5, article 2, the following apply...
1. The board of supervisors of the county of residence of the person elected to or appointed to the office immediately before the vacancy shall appoint within three business days after a vacancy occurs a citizens panel to submit to the board within seven business days the names of three qualified electors who are members of the appropriate political party and who are residents of the legislative district and county in which the vacancy occurred to fill the vacancy. If the person elected to or appointed to the office immediately before the vacancy was a registered independent, the qualified electors shall be registered as independent.
2. Within five business days after receiving the list of names submitted by the panel and by a majority vote of all of the supervisors sitting as a board, the board of supervisors shall appoint one person from the list of names submitted by the panel to fill the vacancy.Translated into English, this means that the Apache County Board of Supervisors should have appointed a citizens panel by now to develop the list of three names from which those Supervisors will make the appointment to replace Jackson. I'll try to find out more from Apache County on Monday.
I've heard that current state Rep. Albert Hale (D-Window Rock) is interested in this appointment. Because there is no Democratic Party organization in Apache County, it's hard to tell who else might end up on a short list. However, if Hale is appointed to the Senate, the process will then have to be repeated to fill the subsequent House vacancy.
Will we have a repeat of what the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors did last fall about the House vacancy in the old LD17? I hope not.
On another subject, direct democracy is on the menu this summer in a big way. Besides various citizen initiatives that have begun collecting signatures, three referendum drives have gotten underway.
Christine Bauserman is the chair for the Quixotic quest to stop the Medicaid restoration.
Politics Uncuffed blogger Julie Erfle is the chair for the referendum to put the people's veto on the voter suppression act.
A lesser known referendum drive, chaired by one of Arizona's most prominent wingnuts, Wes Harris, seeks to reverse a legislative decision to double the bonding (debt) capacity for school districts. This is the Wes Harris as in Harris v AIRC.
However, the bill Harris's referendum claims to be about, HB2003, was not about school bonding capacity AND did not pass. A search for bills related to the statute the referendum relates to (A.R.S. 15-1021) turned up only one bill, HB2399, which did seek to double bonding capacity. But that bill did not pass either. So, I have to wonder just what Harris is up to with that particular petition drive.
I will leave it to the Arizona Capitol Times (which does follow mundane details like this) or to the Arizona School Boards Association which, if there is anything to what Harris is doing, should have attorneys looking into it.
Each referendum drive requires 86,405 valid signatures and faces a deadline of September 11, 2013 (for the Medicaid restoration drive) or September 12. Those deadlines coincide with the general effective date of the legislation passed. The special legislative session for the Medicaid restoration bill (and the 2014 state budget) adjourned Sine Die a day before the regular session (during which HB2305, the voter suppression act) was passed. The general effective date is the 91st day after the end of the session.
Citizen initiative drives underway now include decriminalization of marijuana use, an equal marriage rights amendment for same sex couples, requiring GMO foods to be labeled, a criminal penalties measure, an anti-union effort under the guise of protecting employee paychecks, and a constitutional amendment to require elimination of all redundant and ineffective laws.
At this time, I don't know how many of the initiatives are backed by people or organizations that have the "oomph" to actually get enough signatures to qualify for the 2014 ballot. But that might be a good research project for the near future. Initiative drives face a deadline of July 3, 2014. Now just a few days shy of one year to collect 259,213 valid signatures from registered voters for constitutional amendments or 172,809 signatures if they only seek to change Arizona Revised Statutes.
There are also recall petition drives listed at the link provided above at the Secretary of State's website. Recalls are given four months to come up with the required number of signatures or they die a quiet death. Currently open recall drives target John Kavanagh (deadline July 23) and Chad Campbell (July 10). Two recalls targeting Arizona's senior US Senator John McCain came and went with no fanfare (and no signature filing) before deadlines of March 30, 2013 and June 13, 2013.
Clearly, for direct democracy to have an impact, there must be popular support (evidenced by adequate numbers of signatures). But organizing that support takes resources, time and money. So we will find out what will fly and what will die in due course.
Wes Harris's referendum apparently seeks to make only one portion of the HB2003 from the special session subject to a people's veto. On page 111 of that bill, Arizona Revised Statutes § 15-1021 is amended to double existing school district bonding limits.
Thanks to Craig McDermott, publisher of the Random Musings blog for the insight and correction.