Initiative Backers and Leg Dems 3 for 3 on Lawsuits Over GOP Bias in Publicity Pamphlet Language
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Aug 13, 2020
Initiative Backers and Leg Democrats 3 for 3 on Lawsuits Over GOP Bias in Publicity Pamphlet Language
PHOENIX – With a judge's ruling today on the Stop Surprise Billing and Protect Patients Act, Democratic legislators and the backers of three citizen initiatives have now won all of their court challenges over biased and politicized language that Republicans inserted into publicity pamphlet language that is supposed to be fair, impartial and neutral. The controversial language was adopted over Democratic objections during a meeting of Legislative Council on July 24. Earlier this week, Superior Court judges rebuffed those Republican efforts to mislead voters on the Invest in Ed (funding for public education) and Second Chances (sentencing reform) initiatives, while a judge ruled from the bench after hearing arguments on Stop Surprise Billing today. In all three cases, the court ruled that the wording in the analyses adopted by the majority members of Legislative Council would mislead the voters, was argumentative, and lacked neutrality and impartiality.
"We hate to say we told you so, but we told you so," said House Democratic Leader Charlene Fernandez, D-Yuma. "It's good for voters and the initiative process that we won these challenges, but it's so disappointing that we have to go through this process over and over again when the majority disagrees with the goal of a citizen initiative, which is most of the time. The Speaker and Senate President wasted everybody's time, even hiring outside counsel at taxpayer expense, only to be told what we were telling them from the start. The Legislative Council is supposed to provide neutral language for citizen initiatives whether we agree or not. Stop trying to put your thumbs on the scale and just do your jobs."
“Today’s decision is a win for Arizona voters and Democracy," said Senate Minority Leader David Bradley, D-Tucson. “We’re glad to see the judges side with fairness and impartiality when making the decision to denounce the Legislative Council’s descriptions for these initiatives and ruled that the Legislative Council ‘abused its discretion by failing to ensure the analysis is impartial and complies with the statute’s requirements.’ The GOP members have turned the Council into a tool for their own benefit, attempting to tip the scales of justice in their favor by adding biased and misleading language to the initiatives in an attempt to confuse voters. Arizona has a proud history of citizen-led democracy, of which the citizens’ ballot initiative process is a crown jewel. It’s time for the Legislative Council to return to its original purpose of making impartial and unbiased descriptions. These rulings were the right ones to tip the scales back in favor of protecting Arizona Democracy and maintaining the trust of voters.”
Senate Democratic General Counsel Lisette Flores, and House Democratic General Counsel Rhonda Barnes and staff attorney Jane Ahern prepared briefs and argued on behalf of the caucuses at no additional expense to taxpayers. The Legislature's analyses (and links to the initiative themselves) can be found here. The ruling on Second Chances can be found here, and the ruling on Invest in Ed here. The Stop Surprise Billing ruling has not yet been posted.