After legal wrangling and signatures checks, voters will have the chance to decide the fate of two citizen initiative campaigns in November.
One would raise income taxes on Arizona’s wealthiest residents to pay for education programs, while the other would legalize recreational marijuana use for adults over 21.
Two other initiative campaigns did not make the ballot. The courts declared that a healthcare initiative aimed at preventing insurance companies from discriminating against people with preexisting conditions, providing raises to healthcare workers and other provisions did not have enough signatures, while signature checks by election officials determined that a criminal justice reform proposal lacked enough valid signatures.
The Arizona Supreme Court ruled last week that the Invest in
Education initiative could appear on the November 2020 ballot after it was previously tossed out by a Maricopa County Superior Court Judge, who ruled its petition summary was “fraudulent or substantially confusing to Arizona voters.”
The initiative proposes a 3.5 percent surcharge in state income tax on Arizona’s wealthiest residents—individuals earning more than $250,000 per year or couples earning more than $500,000 per year.
The measure could potentially raise about $940 million in tax revenue per year for the benefit of Arizona public schools and their stakeholders and would affect only the top 1 percent of Arizona earners, according to the Invest in Ed campaign.
Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Christopher Coury made the ruling to toss the initiative last month, saying that their 100-word description on petitions signed by voters didn’t include key components of what the initiative would actually do.
The Invest in Education campaign appealed his ruling, and today the Arizona Supreme Court unanimously agreed that the initiative’s description “did not create a significant danger of confusion or unfairness and reverses the trial court ruling.”
“Today’s ruling by the Arizona Supreme Court keeping Invest in Education on the November ballot is an important victory because it gives millions of Arizona voters the opportunity to put more resources into our schools,” said Invest in Education Chairwoman Amber Gould in a press release. “We are confident voters will say ‘yes’ to improving Arizona’s K-12 schools by voting ‘yes’ on Invest in Education this November. The Invest in Education Initiative was crafted to benefit all of Arizona’s 1.1 million K-12 students while not taxing working and middle-class families impacted by the pandemic.”
The Arizona Supreme Court also paved the way for Prop 207, the Smart and Safe Act, to appear on the ballot. Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy, which opposes legalizing marijuana for recreational use by adults, had made a similar argument to Invest in Ed opponents, taking issue with the 100-word summary on petitions.
Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy had already lost in Maricopa County Superior Court after Judge James Smith ruled against them earlier this month.
In his ruling, Judge Smith said Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy “did not supply evidence that the summary actually misled any electors.”
“They did not provide survey data showing that potential electors would interpret the summary inconsistently with the initiative,” Judge Smith wrote. “Instead, their arguments turned on what hypothetical electors would want to know and how the summary deviated from those predicted desires.”
Stacy Pearson, a Smart and Safe spokesperson, said she was “thrilled” with the ruling, while Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy Chair Lisa James said she was “disappointed.”
“Now that this has advanced to the ballot, it’s time for Arizonans to be taking a close look at all 17 pages. This is an initiative that will harm our kids, put us at more risk on the road, hurt Arizona’s economy, and lock us into bad policy,” said James, who took issue with the complexity of the initiative, which includes a regulatory system for marijuana dispensaries.
Pearson said she didn’t understand why opponents would object to have regulations regarding cannabis sales.
“The opposition confuses me,” Pearson said. “Marijuana is going to be sold in [licensed dispensaries] much like it is today. But you’re not going to be able to go into Safeway and buy it in the produce section.”
Polling has shown significant support in favor of the initiative.
David Abbott contributed to this story.