With a controversial elections law headed for a possible repeal, focus at the state Capitol is shifting to what, if anything, will replace it.

Opponents of House Bill 2196, which passed a key committee Thursday on a 4-2 party-line vote, say lawmakers should not tinker with further election-law changes if the Legislature repeals the elections bill it passed last June.

But some Republicans have indicated parts of the elections law should be enacted on a piecemeal basis this year, arguing changes are needed to tighten elections procedures.

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As the sun rises on the 2014 session of the Arizona Legislature, politicians seem to be scurrying about. Citizens in Charge strongly opposed controversial House Bill 2305, a grab-bag elections bill stuffed with partisan power-plays that passed in the waning hours of last year’s legislative session, and we endorsed the petition signed by more than 110,000 unhappy voters to put that misguided measure to a voter referendum this November.

Apparently, we’re not alone in wanting to see HB 2305 repealed. So now, too, does its author, Rep. Eddie Farnsworth (R-Gilberts). Farnsworth just introduced House Bill 2196, which simply and completely erases last year’s reckless, anti-democratic, late-night legislative swerve known as HB 2305.

State lawmakers are moving to repeal major changes in voting laws made last year — and then reenacting at least some of them in a way to thwart a referendum drive.

The proposal from Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert, comes after foes of those changes gathered enough signatures to put the measure on hold. And it will remain there until November when voters get to decide if they approve of what lawmakers have done.

HB 2196 would repeal the law, making the November vote unnecessary.

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A referendum petition concerning Arizona’s House Bill 2305 has qualified for a place on the state’s November 2014 ballot, with more than 100,000 valid signatures submitted to meet the 86,405 voter signature requirement.  By qualifying for the ballot, the referendum now blocks all the provisions of HB 2305 from going into effect, pending the result of the referendum vote in the 2014 election.

Thus, the partisan bill’s many election-related provisions will not affect the outcome of next fall’s election, nor the petition process leading up to it, because HB 2305 is simply not yet law.

Counties have verified there are enough valid signatures on petitions to give voters the last word on extensive changes in election laws pushed through the Republican-controlled Legislature.

The Secretary of State’s Office said Wednesday that a random check of signatures found 18.38 percent to be invalid. Applying that to the 139,161 that Ken Bennett’s office found preliminarily valid, that leaves backers with 113,583, far more than the 86,405 needed to delay enactment of the law and put the issue on the 2014 ballot.

But Barrett Marson said the Republican interests he represents who want the changes on the books may still sue in a last-ditch attempt to keep the issue from voters.

A new Arizona law that would make it more difficult for minor-party candidates to land on the ballot and prohibit some political groups from collecting absentee ballots before Election Day will likely be put to a vote next year after opponents of the measure turned in significantly more than the required number of signatures last week.

The bill enrages Democrats and representatives of smaller parties who say it makes it harder for legitimate voters to cast a ballot, and for third-party candidates to gain access to that ballot in the first place.

Supporters of the referendum turned in more than 146,000 signatures, 60,000 more than required to force a vote.

Voters in Arizona will get a chance to ratify or block a piece of legislation passed in the waning days of the last legislative session.  More than 146,000 signatures were turned in for verification to the Secretary of State, of which, 86,405 need to be validated.

The bill has provisions which drastically alter election laws in the Grand Canyon State.  These provisions include limiting who is able to turn in an early ballot at a polling place and making requirements regarding the ability to propose laws through the initiative process much more onerous.

“The initiative process is designed to allow voters to consider an issue in a democratic fashion,’ said Kari Nienstedt, state director of the Humane Society of the United States.

Looks like voters will get to decide whether the city should scrap its current pension program.

Political consultant Pete Zimmerman emailed The Range today to inform us that the Committee for Sustained Retirement Benefits has turned in more than 23,000 signatures to put the Sustainable Retirement Benefits Act on the November city ballot. The group needed 12,730 valid signatures, so there’s lots of padding there to fight off legal challenges.

The initiative would force the city to scrap the current pension program for new hires and instead enroll them in a program similar to a 401K system.

Arizona legislators and Governor Jan Brewer snuck one past the citizens of the Grand Canyon state in the final hours of this year’s seemingly never-ending legislative session. Legislators passed House Bill 2305, a sweeping new elections law that, among other suppressive features, allows officials to throw out perfectly valid signatures of Arizona voters on initiatives, referendums and recalls on the slightest of hyper-technical grounds.

Though Democrats protest that Governor Jan Brewer promised she would veto this legislation, she signed the controversial legislation into law last week.

Gov. Jan Brewer on Wednesday signed into law a controversial bill that will reshape the way Arizona runs its elections.

Her action angered Latinos and Democrats who say that, with one stroke of her pen, the Republican governor wiped out the goodwill of last week’s bipartisan accord on the state budget and Medicaid expansion by enshrining in law practices they view as voter suppression.

Matthew Benson, the governor’s spokesman, defended the legislation as “common sense.” He said concerns that the legislation will disenfranchise voters are overblown.

A recall effort against Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio went down in flames Thursday. Leaders of the group, Respect Arizona and Citizens for a Better Arizona did not collect the necessary number of signatures to force a recall election, the Los Angeles Times reported.

They needed 335,000 by 5 p.m.

Citizens for a Better Arizona President Randy Parraz said the two groups only got 300,000, United Press International reported.

The failure was not much of a surprise. Early Thursday morning, group members were suggesting in various media reports that they weren’t going to meet the recall requirements.

The effort to recall Sherriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona, has hit a brick wall … again.  On April 22, Respect Arizona, the group sponsoring the recall effort reportedly had more than 200,000 signatures, but was well short of the 335,000 needed by May 30. 

Last week, with the coffers of the campaign apparently dry, a message was sent out to halt the paid portion of their canvassing effort. This means that only volunteer petitioners are still collecting signatures, which makes gathering the additional signatures required – almost 10,000 a day for the remaining two weeks – all but out of reach.

When our nation’s founders wrote the language in the First Amendment guaranteeing the right to “petition the government for a redress of grievances,” there were no words describing the form of that petition.

Obviously the intent was to make sure the content of your complaints to your government would never land you in jail or to suffer some other harm.

Now, of course, common sense would say that for your petition to have any effect, your words would have to be legible and understandable to a reasonable person. Skywriting or putting a couple of thousand words on a thimble head might impede that legibility or understandability, for example.

The roller-coaster campaign to recall Sheriff Joe Arpaio took another dive today. With just two weeks left before the recall’s May 30 deadline, the on-again, off-again paid effort to gather signatures is off again.

This afternoon, I was forwarded a text message sent out to paid canvassers by Sign Here Petitions, informing them that the recall Arpaio committee Respect Arizona had “shut off” the paid drive. They were ordered to stop collecting signatures and turn in their petitions Friday.

Recall Arizona campaign manager Lilia Alvarez confirmed that this was the case. She explained that Recall Arizona had been in negotiations for more funds to keep the paid drive alive, but the funds did not materialize.

A senate panel voted Wednesday to throw some additional hurdles in the path of Arizonans who want to write their own laws.

Existing law already has a set of requirements for putting a measure on the ballot to propose a new statute or constitutional amendment. These include for who can circulate petitions, what has to be on each page and how many names can be on each sheet.