Bowers Opponents Find Confusing Laws Make It Difficult To Recall A Legislator

Bowers Opponents Find Confusing Laws Make It Difficult To Recall A Legislator

By Terri Jo Neff |

The failure of the Patriot Party of Arizona to properly circulate petitions in its effort to recall House Speaker Rusty Bowers is the latest example of how difficult it can be for the average citizen to comply with confusing laws written by legislators to protect themselves from recalls.

On Thursday, the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office (SOS) announced it would not count any of the estimated 24,500 signatures contained on 2,040 recall petitions submitted by the Patriot Party of Arizona. The reason given by the SOS is that the petitions sheets were not attached to a “time-and-date marked copy” of the recall application.

A recall petition states the reason a recall election is being sought against a current elected official. It also includes room for several registered voters within the jurisdiction of the elected official to affix their name, address, and signature.

The number of signatures needed to get a recall election on the ballot is determined by state statute; for Bowers’ recall organizers it was 22,311. But before any signatures can be gathered someone had to apply for a recall serial number by which all paperwork will be filed and tracked.

It is two other recall statutes which have tripped up at least two other recall efforts in recent years due to the fact the two statutes have to “taken together,” the Arizona Supreme Court ruled in 2019. Such an interpretation requires a “time-and-date marked copy” of the recall application with the official serial number to be “attached” to each petition sheet.

The Patriot Party of Arizona declined to comment on the SOS’s determination about the non-attached applications.

Bowers attracted the wrath of the Republican-spinoff group by not supporting 2020 election fraud claims and not pushing back against Gov. Doug Ducey’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Public support for the recall effort came from well-known pro-Trump names, including attorney Sidney Powell, America Restored executive director Tomi Collins, and My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell.

For his part, Bowers (R-LD25) publicly stated this week he expected to stand later this year for a recall election. “I was gearing up to go through a recall,” he said.

The non-compliance by the Patriot Party of Arizona is somewhat similar to the situation Tanya Duarte found herself in when trying to recall then-Mayor Robert Uribe of Douglas in 2019. Duarte applied for a recall number and made dozens of copies of the time-date copy of the application, which were placed behind each petition on a clipboard.

This made the application readily available for anyone to read, Duarte later testified. The Douglas city clerk initially certified 668 petition signatures, more than enough to force Uribe to stand for election 10 months before the end of his term.

But Uribe’s wife -as a Douglas voter- challenged all of the signatures due to the lack of applications attached to the petitions.

Judge David Thorn of the Cochise County Superior Court heard the case and noted that lawmakers failed to include a description in the recall statutes for how the application copy is to be attached to the petition. He even pulled out an ordinary dictionary to review definitions of the word attached.

In the end Thorn ruled the common language definition requires the application copy to be affixed or adhered to the petition whether “it be tape, staple, glue” or some other manner to ensure the two documents are not easily separated.

Thorn also commented that the Legislature “gets to make laws, to make it more exacting” for average citizens to recall public officials.

The Arizona Supreme Court also tackled the recall process in 2019 after the Urban Phoenix Project political action committee (Committee) ran into the “attached” issue during its attempt to recall then-City Councilman Michael Nowakowski in 2018.

The group submitted petitions containing more than 2,300 signatures from which the city clerk deemed enough were valid to make Nowakowski stand for election again. But a voter of Nowakowski’s district challenged the city clerk’s decision, arguing in part that a copy of the application was not attached to any of the petitions.

A Maricopa County judge ruled the City Clerk should not have counted any of the petitions due to missing copies of the application. The case went to the Arizona Supreme Court where then-Chief Justice Scott Bales authored a unanimous opinion which acknowledged the effort it takes to collect so many signatures.

The opinion also noted the recall statutes can be confusing for most citizens. But the two separate statutes related to circulating petitions have to be read together in order for any signatures to be valid, Bales wrote.

“The time-and-date-marked copy of the application –unlike the petition sheets– both identifies the applicant (including any organization, certain officers, and contact information) and reflects that the application has in fact been filed. Requiring the attachment of a such a copy also helps ensure that signatures are not obtained before the application is filed,” consistent with state law, he wrote.

“Our state constitution guarantees voters the right to recall elected officers for whatever reasons they choose…That right, however, must be exercised pursuant to constitutional and statutory provisions,” Bales added.

Strategic Move Will Force Lawmakers To Explain Vote Against Budget Bills

Strategic Move Will Force Lawmakers To Explain Vote Against Budget Bills

By Terri Jo Neff |

In a decision seen by some as desperation and others as a brilliant strategic move, House Speaker Rusty Bowers has ordered his 59 fellow Representatives back to work Monday to take up 11 stalled budget bills.

Whether Bowers and other House leaders can pull together 31 votes -the same number of the Republican House caucus- is unclear, but House Majority Leader Ben Toma believes it is time for members to put up or shut up.

Amendments are expected to be proposed for all the bills but there is no guarantee any bill will receive the requisite 31 votes for passage. But Toma said last week taking the bills to the floor will force each representative to go on the record with a vote, something that could come back to haunt some lawmakers if the state government is shut down due to no new budget.

Toma spent months on the budget team before the budget bills were put forth last month with the blessing of Gov. Doug Ducey. He said it is a “constitutional duty” for representatives to vote on the bills, but for those who believe what is  on the table is “not good enough, they’re going to need to explain why it’s not good enough, to their constituents and pretty much everyone else.”

Among the issues is how much of the more than $1 billion surplus to spend now, how much to turn toward the State’s debt, and how much to give back to taxpayers via tax cuts.  There is also disagreement over how to phase in a flat rate income tax that is expected to result in a 10 to 12 percent drop in state revenues.

Much of the opposition to the tax cuts and flat rate tax plan are based on complaints about the expected affects due to the state’s shared revenue agreement with cities and towns. If less revenue is coming into the state, then less revenue will be received by municipalities, unless the shared revenue agreement is amended.

Last week Speaker Pro Tempore Travis Grantham said it was time to look beyond who was at fault with the original budget plan that did not have better support. Instead, he said it was time to work on finding a consensus to get a budget passed so the legislature can adjourn.

But for that to happen, Grantham says some lawmakers need to realize the surplus “is the people’s money, it’s not the government’s money” and move forward with approving tax cuts.

“The issue we’re having is there is so much money in the pot and there is so many people with so many wants and so many needs we’re having trouble staying focused on the finish line,” he said.  “We just need to focus on the budget, we need to focus on cutting taxes, and we need to focus on getting out of there.”

There is also the issue of 22 bills, all Republican supported and some with unanimous bipartisan support, which Ducey vetoed out of frustration with the progress being made on the budget bills.  Some legislators are insisting that there needs to be assurance that those bills will all be reintroduced and signed by Ducey before they will vote for the budget.

The Senate is currently set to come back June 10, although Senate President Karen Fann could call everyone back on 24-hours. Like the House, Fann has a handful of budget-objectors in the Republican caucus whose votes are necessary for passage of the budget bills.