PHOENIX — A new Arizona law that requires people who gather ballot signatures be present for legal challenges could throw several citizen initiatives into disarray.

Legislation that became law in 2014 mandates a judge invalidate signatures collected by circulators who are subpoenaed but don’t show up for court proceedings challenging their efforts, the Arizona Capitol Times reported (http://bit.ly/2bjqXeV).

Attorneys for the Arizona Restaurant Association used the new law to challenge signatures behind a measure that would raise the hourly minimum wage to $12 by 2020.

More than 80 of the subpoenas were quashed by a judge but dozens of signature gatherers still had to show up and wait to possibly be called to the stand.

An Arizona Healthy Working Families news release says a judge invalidated about 50,000 signatures.

Attorney Jim Barton represents the minimum wage backers and said the signature gatherers were “subpoenaed just to see if they wouldn’t show up.”

Andy Gordon, an attorney for the restaurant association, says attorneys wouldn’t issue subpoenas without good reason. He said the new law creates a way for attorneys to question workers about how they gathered signatures.

“They’re the people that have the best information regarding that,” Gordon said.

To get onto the ballot, a measure needs 150,642 valid signatures.

Secretary of State Michele Reagan was a state senator when she pushed for the amendment that passed with almost unanimous approval.

Signature gatherers tend to move on from one initiative to the next. Previously, subpoenas were difficult to serve without Arizona addresses on file.

The new law requires these workers to submit a local address to the secretary of state.

A spokesman says Reagan may pursue an amendment to the law that would move up the deadline to file citizen initiatives.

The official said the law is “sound policy that can be improved.”


Information from: Arizona Capitol Times, http://www.arizonacapitoltimes.com