Vote 2014: Proposition 122, Sovereignty Amendment

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Proposition 122 would allow Arizona to decline to use state and local tax money to enforce what proponents of the constitutional amendment say is bad federal law. Jonathan Paton of the Yes on 122 campaign and Sandy Bahr, director of the Grand Canyon Chapter of the Sierra Club, will debate the pros and cons of the measure.

Ted Simons: Good evening. Welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Our vote 2014 coverage continues tonight with a debate on proposition 122, which would prohibit Arizona from using state and local tax money to enforce what the state legislature determines as a bad or unconstitutional federal law. Here to debate prop 122 is Jonathan Paton of the yes campaign. Against the measure is Sandy Bahr, director of the Grand Canyon chapter of the Sierra club. What exactly does prop 122 do?

Jonathan Paton: Like you said it gives the citizens or the legislature and the governor the ability to opt out of spending money or using state resources on certain federal measures that they vote that they don't like.

Ted Simons: Why is this necessary?

Jonathan Paton: When you look at most federal laws that are passed most of them need the state's or County or the city's input or involvement in order to actually enforce them. Some of those things are bad for the state of Arizona. I think we have had a lot of debates over Obamacare here. This gives citizens a way of saying this is certainly federal law, it trumps state law but we don't have to spend our resources on it.

Ted Simons: How do you see prop 122 and why you think it's not necessary.

Sandy Bahr: First of all it's another really bad idea referred by the Arizona legislature, and they have a history of referring measures to the ballot and passing measures that are unconstitutional. This is another one of those. The state legislature does not have the authority to decide what is and what is not constitutional. That's really the crux of the problem with it. They already have the authority to ski what is funded and what is not funded. But they can't decide that the endangered species act, clean air act, clean water act, religious freedom act, any of those important federal laws that are broadly supported by the American people and the people of Arizona, the legislature doesn't get to decide, no, those are unconstitutional and by the way we're in the going to cooperate, it's not just about spending money, it's about cooperating and implementing those important laws.

Ted Simons: The idea that the legislature -- nice idea but the legislature can't do this.

Jonathan Paton: Well earnings first of all Sandy is fundamentally wrong that it's a legislature that decides whether something is constitutional or not. The U.S. Supreme Court decides whether something is constitutional or not. It says in the bill the way the language is we can for the do something that's unconstitutional. It restricts us from doing something that's unconstitutional but it certainly doesn't put that as a restriction on us that it has to be constitutional or unconstitutional for us to actually implement prop 122. If it isn't right for Arizona we don't have to spend the money on it? Even a debate about whether it's constitutional.

Sandy Bahr: First of all, I disagree with that, obviously. That's not what it says. It does give the legislature the authority although I would agree that it is contrary to U.S. constitution and the separation of powers that is in the U.S. constitution. The thing about this is that I think a lot of people don't understand the legislature tries to restrict programs from being implemented all the time. Good example is Pima County. They have the Sonoran desert conservation plan, a plan to implement the endangered species act provision. Pima County voters have voted to fund that program and implement it. The legislature under this could say, no, we think it's unconstitutional and we say no state funding, no resources, no cooperation relative to the endangered species act. Pima County couldn't implement T.

Ted Simons: Response?

Jonathan Paton: My response is the legislature on its own could not do that. Sandy knows. That the only -- it would have to be the legislature and the governor together or the people some of the there is a political process and by the way, if the legislature wanted to do what Sandy is talking about they could do that tomorrow. If they were in session. They don't need prop 122 to do what she's describing but there are other issues that proposition 122 would be helpful with. A perfect example, child protective service is is an issue very important. They have consistently used the federal law as an excuse of why they cannot release information on fatalities and near fatalities. Prop 1 2 could say, no, you have to -- we will not cooperate or spend our resources on any program that conflicts with state law.

Sandy Bahr: The problem with is that not the federal law. The problem is the state agencies and the people in the state. Right now the state legislature could demand that they comply and…Also properly fund the agencies to do the work that is needed. The fact that you guys are trying to hang this on federal privacy laws is pretty outrageous I think.

Jonathan Paton: But it's absolutely true. They don't need money to make copies to give to media sources. They don't need money to make copies for the citizens of this state. But they have used a federal law as an excuse why they cannot release that information.

Sandy Bahr: They used it as an excuse. It's not about the federal law.

Jonathan Paton: Prop 122 would take that excuse away from them.

Sandy Bahr: You can see them saying, oh, well, we don't like the clean air act provisions and so we're not going to allow -- the legislature has already tried to restrict the department of environmental quality from cooperating on clean air act provisions.

Ted Simons: But why should cities, towns, counties pay for federal laws that cities, towns, counties, the state, Arizonans don't want? Don like and don't think they need?

Sandy Bahr: Well, just because the legislature says they don't like it doesn't mean the people of Arizona don't like it. That's one thing. The other thing is unless we're still part of the United States of America, and we do implement federal laws. There is cooperation, and it's important that we have it. There's a long tradition of doing that, of working cooperatively whether it's on wildlife issues, whether it's on air quality. I don't think we want it any other way. This is just asking for a lawsuit. We have enough lawsuits from the legislature.

Ted Simons: The idea of making these changes through Congress, federal laws, go through Congress to make these changes as opposed to something at the state level which critics say will wind up in court pronto.

Jonathan Paton: Goldwater Institute drafted this ballot measure. They have had pretty good success rate with the U.S. Supreme Court. We're very confident that we'll win if we are sued on this issue. The fact of the matter is there's nothing that requires us or obligates us as a state to pay for federal laws. It's simply not true. The prince decision, if that was actually a decision that came out of Arizona itself, the County sheriff says I don't have to spend my money to do background checks for the federal government. The Supreme Court agreed with him. I still want to finish this. They agreed with him and there's been multiple other decisions just like that including on environmental issues when they were trying to force the state of New York to put in nuclear waste sites there they said no, we're not going to use our resources for T. that's completely within the prerogative of the state.

Sandy Bahr: And I just said that earlier. You're totally missing the point. Of course the legislature hat authority to decide where the dollars go, but they don't have the authority to decide that something is constitutional or not. It does indeed appear it prohibits -- it says that legislature can prohibit cooperation, implementation, any effort to work on a law that it decides is unconstitutional.

Jonathan Paton: She keeps saying the legislature. We have a political process of checks and balances within our own state. The legislature certainly proposes legislation but the governor signs or vetoes that legislation. It's no different in this process. The governor would have to sign or veto it. Or it would be voted on by the people. So you can't just simply say it's only the duly elected people of individual districts around the state. It's also those people plus the governor, the chief executive.

Sandy Bahr: Of course that's basic civics. I wasn't saying the governor doesn't have a role but the legislature sends a lot of really bad stuff up to the governor. The governor doesn't always veto it. This governor has vetoed some of the stuff. The legislature bypassed her on it because it's so ridiculous and sent it to the ballot.

Jonathan Paton: It's a constitutional amendment. You have to send it to the people.

Ted Simons: Bottom line, for those who support this it protects generally against federal overreach. Good thing?

Sandy Bahr: I would say that this in itself is overreach. This is not about protecting against federal overreach. This is overreach to undermine important federal laws and muck up the works so they are not implemented until the lawsuits are decided. I have read this many times. I have talked to many people about it. If you look at most of the newspapers that have come out against it, again saying this is a lawsuit waiting to happen. It's another one of those ridiculous ideas from the Arizona legislature. Time to work cooperatively to problem solve and stop thumbing our noses at the state at the federal government.

Ted Simons: With that, bottom line, opponents say makes Arizona look extreme, makes Arizona look irresponsible, makes Arizona look foolish.

Jonathan Paton: I think a check and a balance doesn't look extreme or foolish. That's about as American as it gets. This gives the citizens of Arizona the chance to say no to a federal government that is reaching beyond what it was intended to do. It gives us, certainly gives the people of Arizona the citizens the right to vote on some of these important issues.

Ted Simons: All right, good debate. Good to have you both here.

Jonathan Paton:Yes on 122 Campaign; Sandy Bahr:Director, Sierra Club - Grand Canyon Chapter;

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