Paid petition gathers may be going out of business if a bill introduced by Arizona Representative Phil Lopes becomes law.
According to the Arizona Republic, the Arizona House Government Committee voted 8-0 in favor of HB 2587, which would ban petition circulators for initiatives and referendums from being paid based upon the number of signatures they collect.
Both former Governor Napolitano and current Governor Brewer have urged lawmakers to enact reforms that include ending the practice of paying petition circulators on a per-signature basis.
Initiatives and referendums are part of the system called direct democracy which gives the voter greater say in state government then just electing legislators to represent their interest.
The initiative allows voters to make law directly through the ballot and by-pass the legislature and approval by the governor. The initiative can also be used by the people to amend the Arizona Constitution directly. A Statutory Initiative requires a petition signed by 10% of the total vote for governor in the last election to get on the ballot and a Constitutional Initiative requires 15%.
There are three types of referendums; Constitutional, Legislative and, Popular. All amendments to the Arizona Constitution proposed by the legislature are placed on the ballot for voter approval without the necessity of petition by the voters. A Legislative Referendum is used by the legislature to by-pass the governor, who has the power to veto legislation they pass. No petition signatures by the voters are necessary for a Legislative Referendum to be placed on the ballot. If passed by the voters the referendum becomes law without the approval of the governor. The purpose of a Popular Referendum is to require that a bill approved by the legislature and the governor also be sent to the voters for approval and requires the petition signatures of 5% of the total vote for governor in the last election to be placed on the ballot.
The bill passed the House Government Committee without debate, and now goes to the House Judiciary Committee for approval.
It usually takes a large amount of money to pass an initiative or referendum and almost always requires the use of paid petition gathers to get the required number of signatures from registered voters to even get it on the ballot. Most grassroots citizen groups do not have the funds to pay professional petition gatherers or to finance a successful campaign, therefore, citizen initiatives and referendums are usually used by groups who represent special interests with the funds to finance them. Prohibiting per signature petition gathering should make it harder for special moneyed interests to exploit the direct democracy system, however, it will still be difficult for citizen groups without a large war chest to succeed in the direct democracy system.