If you're like us, this November's ballot is overwhelming. There are 19 propositions that range from the obvious to the obscure. Some of them are worded in such a way that it's hard to tell exactly what they will accomplish.
It took hours of research for us to understand each ballot question, and, we imagine, the average voter doesn't have that kind of time.
But the truth is, if you don't decide how you feel about these propositions, someone else will decide for you.
On page 1A, there is an article that explains what is on the Nov. 7 ballot. To take it a step further, the editorial board debated and came to a consensus on each ballot item. We are not asking you to agree with us, but we hope that by reading through our thought process, it will help you be make your own informed decisions on Election Day.
Because there is not enough space to run down all 19 propositions, we have divided them up. We will continue to examine the remaining propositions in our editorials until each has been addressed.
Proposition 100: Bail for undocumented immigrants
A "yes" vote on Proposition 100 would amend the constitution to deny bail for any illegal immigrant who is charged with a Class 1, 2, 3 or 4 felony.
While we understand there is a danger that illegal immigrants will run back to their home country if let out on bail, we also know that our prison system is already overcrowded.
Our question is, "Where are we going to keep them and who is going to pay for it?"
Proposition 101: Government levy limits
Better known as the 2006 Taxpayer Protection Act, Proposition 101 would amend the constitution to remove unused taxing capacity and reset each taxing entity's limit to what was used in 2005. The new levy limit would increase by 2 percent each year.
This proposition will not hurt those towns and cities that have already maxed out their taxing limit but it punishes towns that are still growing and may need flexibility in the future. Towns that have taxed to capacity are Tucson, Phoenix, Scottsdale and Tempe. Though Payson does not rely heavily on property taxes, the town is still 27.5 percent below capacity. Perhaps the most damage would be done to our community college district, which is 43.8 percent below capacity.
Proposition 102: Punitive damages for illegal immigrants
Proposition 102 would prohibit any undocumented immigrant from receiving punitive damages in a civil lawsuit. Punitive damages is the money awarded a plaintiff as a punishment, above and beyond the compensatory damages that replace what is lost.
There were those on the board who believe that if a person is in this country illegally, they are already violating a law. It seems unreasonable to allow them to use the law to seek punitive damages.
But there were those who disagreed with that point of view. They believe that the purpose of punitive damages is to punish the party who was judged to have done wrong, and to discourage others from engaging in similar wrongful conduct. While we understand the desire of many to punish illegal immigrants, this proposition sends the wrong message to the perpetrators of the wrongful action. It implies that their actions are less egregious when done to an illegal and therefore they don't have to pay punitive damages in that circumstance. The current anti-immigrant feeling, while perhaps justifiable, should not cause us to change the intent and purpose of a law unthinkingly. The effect of the passage of Prop. 102 would be to encode into our constitution unequal treatment under the law. It would make a mockery of our pledge of "liberty and justice for all".
Proposition 103: English as official language
The proposition would require that local government preserve, protect and enhance the role of English as an official language. This is a constitutional amendment. The idea that English is a threatened language is improbable. We believe this proposition is unnecessary.
Proposition 104: Municipal debt
Proposition 104 would amend the Arizona Constitution to allow cities and towns to take on debt for public safety, law enforcement, fire and emergency facilities, streets and transportation facilities in the 20 percent debt limit (up from 15 percent), upon voter approval.
We like this proposition because the wording is specific -- it lists exactly how bonds may be used -- and it leaves the final decision up to voter approval.
Proposition 105: State trust land reform
Proposition 105 is the first of two on November's ballot aimed at state trust land reform. State trust land has historically been managed to raise money for schools -- usually by selling off parcels when necessary.
Proposition 105 has been referred to by opponents as a "spoiler measure," put on the ballot by the Legislature at the request of home builders to defeat Proposition 106.
It sets aside roughly 37,000 acres of open space that cities or counties could buy for fair-market value. It also would allow the Legislature to set aside another 400,000 acres in the future.
Proposition 105 would allow state trust land to be sold without advertisement and the wording of the proposition seems to cut off much public input from the land sale process.
Proposition 106: Conserving Arizona's Future
Proposition 106 is backed by environmentalists and the state teachers union. It conserves more land -- 690,000 acres. Roughly 360,000 acres could be bought by cities, counties or conservation groups at market value. This land would be managed by a to-be-created seven-member board of trustees.
Though we are not fond of the bureaucracy Proposition 106 will create, we want to see more flexibility within the State Land Department so they can do their job better and return more money to education. According to the ballot language, we believe Proposition 106 will accomplish this.
Proposition 107: Protect Marriage Arizona
Proposition 107 would amend the constitution by defining marriage as between one man and one woman. It would also ban the creation of any legal status that is similar to marriage for same sex couples. This was a difficult proposition for us to reach consensus on.
There were those of us who were bothered by the fact that this proposition banned any civil union contract keeping non-heterosexual couples from ever receiving the benefits of lifetime commitment -- such as family insurance coverage or the ability to leave assets to a partner. Those on that side of the issue also did not see the necessity of this proposition.
And then there were those among us who see this as a very necessary measure -- to define and protect the disintegrating institution of marriage.
Proposition 200: Arizona Voter Reward Act
The Payson Roundup came out against Proposition 200 soon after it officially made it onto the ballot. The proposition would award one voter $1 million by lottery, simply for going to the polls.
At the time we wrote, "How you feel about the Arizona Voter Reward Act might be a good measure of your level of cynicism ... This proposition is cheap and pandering. And we would like to say that we are not so cynical about our political process as to back this ballot measure."
See the Friday, Oct. 20 Payson Roundup for the remaining state ballot propositions.