This is the first in a series of capsulated looks at candidates and propositions Arizona voters will have to wrestle with in the state's Nov. 5 general election.
This part of the series will focus on Propositions 100 through 104 five proposed amendments to the Arizona Constitution which cover a range of issues from street projects to punishment for those suspected of rape or child molestation, and Propositions 300 through 304 five propostions proposed by the state Legislature that address a wide range of topics from extending the state lottery to doubling the taxes on tobacco products. Below is a brief summary of each measure and the pros and cons of the issue:
Prop. 100: Municipal Debt Limits (Streets) Would allow cities and towns to exceed debt limits to build/buy streets, highways, bridges, rights of way; repeal authority to use a city or town assessment for local debt.
Currently, municipalities are allowed to issue bonds up to that limit for improvements to services such as parks, water and sewers, but they are restricted from issuing bonds, which is borrowing money, for streets, police, fire and library services in excess of 6 percent of the assessed valuation.
The change would allow municipal officials to go to voters for permission to borrow money for road improvements for up to 20 percent of the assessed valuation in the community.
A "yes" vote would add street projects to the list of projects that can be financed up to 20 percent of a city or town's taxable property valuation. A "no" vote would maintain the current debt ceilings.
Prop. 101: State Land and School Sites Would enable existing law to take effect by allowing the Legislature to authorize the state to exchange state trust land for other land to preserve open space if it is in the state's interest and state trust income is not reduced.
A "yes" vote would allow public-to-public land exchanges, after public hearings, so that environmentally sensitive trust land could be traded for other publicly owned land of equal or greater value. A "no" vote would keep the system as it is now, with trust land being sold or leased for the highest and best use.
Prop. 102: Property Value Freeze (Seniors) Would reduce the maximum income a couple who jointly own property can have and still qualify for the residential property tax-valuation freeze available to some limited-income seniors.
In 2000, voters passed a proposition that allowed Arizona seniors to freeze the value of their home for property tax purposes. This time, voters will be asked to clarify just how much income a senior can have to qualify for the property tax freeze.
If passed, a couple who owns a home would qualify for the property tax rate freeze if they made $32,700 or less, instead of the current $49,020. A "No" vote would leave the issue ambiguous and require a court ruling to determine what the intent of the Legislature was when it created the original proposition.
Prop. 103: Bailable Offense (Legislative Prohibition) Would amend the Arizona Constitution to add rapists and child molesters to the bail restrictions currently in place for murderers and some felons. Bail could be denied when the proof is evident or the presumption is great that a rape or child molestation has occurred. This measure resulted from a legislative proposal authored by a home school student.
Currently Arizona does not allow bail for some crimes, including those offenses that are punishable by death, most commonly first-degree murder. Bail is not allowed for people accused of committing a felony while on bail for a different felony charge, and people who pose a substantial danger to any other person or the community.
A "yes" vote means that bail would not be an option for people accused of sexual assault, sexual conduct with a minor under the age of 15 or molestation of a child under the age of 15. A "no" vote would leave the system unchanged, with judges determining bail high enough to ensure the accused will appear in court, but not so high that it becomes a punishment in itself.
Prop. 104: School Spending Limit Exclusions Would exclude revenue from the school sales tax of 2000 from school spending limits; also exclude money a school gets from increased land and property rental earnings. It is commonly said that Prop. 104 "goes hand in hand" with this year's Prop. 300, which does the same for funds from the sale and lease of trust lands.
Prop. 104 would exempt from that spending cap sales tax money approved by voters two years ago in Prop. 301, which earmarked that money for boosting teacher pay, creating smaller class sizes and other educational needs.
A "yes" vote would exclude additional funding approved by voters two years ago from being counted against the overall school spending limits. A "no" vote would mean that some additional funding earmarked for schools couldn't be spent if it exceeded spending limits.
Prop. 300: School Trust Land Revenues Would make it more difficult for the state Legislature to use this money to fund schools. When Arizona became a state in 1912, it was given certain "state trust lands" intended to produce revenue for various public institutions, with the largest beneficiary being public schools. Until this year, trust land revenues were used to offset the state's responsibility to fund schools. Prop. 300 makes it clear to the legislature that such monies be added to legislative appropriations for education, and not take the place of those appropriations.
In supporting Prop. 300, Governor Jane Dee Hull said the measure will make it more difficult for future Legislatures to divert these monies.
Others supporting Prop. 300 include Penny Kotterman, president of the Arizona Education Association; Jaime Molera, state superintendent of public instruction; and Harold Porter, executive director of the Arizona School Administrators.
The secretary of state received no arguments against Prop. 300.
Prop. 301: Extend the State Lottery Would continue the Arizona State Lottery until 2012. If it is not passed, the lottery will terminate next year.
In supporting Prop. 301 Catherine Connolly, executive director of the League of Arizona Cities and Towns, emphasized that lottery-funded projects greatly enhance the quality of life of Arizonans and support the ability of local governments to provide vital public services.
Lottery revenues are used to fund street projects, parks, playgrounds, mass transit, historic preservation, wildlife conservation, child protection and economic development. Tonto Natural Bridge State Park has received lottery money in the form of Heritage Fund grants.
Arguing against Prop. 301, Gary McCaleb and Cathi Herrod of The Center for Arizona Policy point out that taxpayer dollars should not be spent to promote gambling.
"But every year since we've had the lottery, the state takes your money and encourages our citizens often those who can least afford it to gamble away their paychecks on the false hope of riches," they said. "In reality, you've got a better chance of being repeatedly struck by lightning than winning the Arizona lottery."
Prop. 302: Punishment for Controlled Substances Would allow courts to impose a term of incarceration if a person convicted of personal possession or use of a controlled substance or drug paraphernalia violates probation by committing a drug-related offense or violates a court order relating to drug treatment, or if the person refuses drug treatment or rejects probation at sentencing.
Arguing in favor of Prop. 302, Maricopa County attorney Rick Romley says that drug courts in Arizona are hamstrung because "judges do not have the ability to force drug users to confront their drug problem." About 30 percent of those who go through drug court refuse treatment and the judge can do nothing about it.
"Prop. 302 will change that," Romley said. "(It) will allow a judge to impose a short jail term to encourage a person to go into treatment."
In urging a "no" vote on Prop. 302, a group of seven medical doctors argue that jails are no more effective in curing the disease of drug abuse than they are in curing cancer.
"Prop. 302 represents yet another attempt by the politicians and bureaucrats to repeal the drug treatment provisions Arizona voters overwhelmingly approved in 1996 ... and reaffirmed in 1998 to deal with drug abuse as a medical problem rather than a criminal problem," the doctors wrote.
Prop. 303: Tobacco Tax Increase Would increase the state tax on cigarettes, cigars and other tobacco products to more than double what it is today. Revenues collected would provide funding for health-care programs for low-income Arizonans, early cancer detection and prevention, trauma centers, and emergency and primary medical care.
Arguing in favor of Prop. 303, Pamela Meyerhoffer and Van Wolf of the American Cancer Society emphasize that tobacco is responsible for 30 percent of all cancer deaths.
"We know from experience that increasing the tobacco tax will result in a decrease in tobacco consumption," they wrote. "Higher prices on cigarettes mean fewer smokers and healthier lives."
Others supporting this proposition include representatives of Church Women United in Arizona, the American Lung Association of Arizona, the American Heart Association - Phoenix, and the Arizona chapter of March of Dimes.
The secretary of state did not receive any arguments against Prop. 303.
Prop. 304: Salary Increase for State Legislators Would raise the salaries of state legislators from $24,000 to $36,000.
Arguing in favor of Prop. 304, Dennis Burke and Joel Harnett of the Valley Citizens League point out that legislators have not had a raise since 1998, and that Arizona ranks 21st among the 42 states that pay legislators an annual salary.
"It ought to be possible for regular, working Arizonans to serve in their legislature," they wrote. "The present low salary, $24,000, makes it difficult for anyone with family responsibilities to serve, especially when the legislative paycheck is the primary family income."
Bruce Friedemann, state legislative candidate from Tucson, believes the current compensation structure, which includes a per diem, retirement benefits and health insurance, is more than adequate.
"These generic, clueless legislators do not deserve $36,000 for only 100 days work," he said.