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10/12/2012 6:00:00 AM
Propositions limit lawsuits, change arcane state rules

Suzanne Adams-Ockrassa
Miner Staff Reporter


KINGMAN - Arizona voters face a long list of propositions on November's ballot.

These four propositions would prohibit criminals from suing their victims, change how judges are appointed to state courts, change how schools get money from the sale of state trust lands and allow the state to exchange land with the federal government.

Proposition 114, the Crime Victims Protection Act of 2012, would amend the constitution to prevent criminals from suing their victims if the suspect is harmed while committing a felony.

For example, a burglar enters your home and steals more than a $1,000 worth of valuables. As the burglar makes his way out the window, he trips over a toy and breaks his wrist. Under the current law, the burglar could sue for damages.

Proposition 115, Judicial Selection, would extend a superior court judge's time in office to eight years and an appellate judge and Arizona Supreme Court judge's would be extended from six to eight years.

It would also:

• Increase the mandatory retirement age for judges from 70 to 75.

• Change how people are appointed to the state's judicial nominating committee. The governor would get to appoint four attorneys to the commission and the State Bar of Arizona would get to appoint one attorney.

• Require attorneys on the commission to have lived and practiced law in Arizona for 10 years, instead of the current five years. They also cannot have any formal complaints filed against them with the bar.

• Require the committee to offer the governor a choice of eight candidates for each judicial seat that is open, instead of the three currently required by law.

• Remove the limit on the number of judicial nominees that can come from a particular political party.

• Require the Arizona Supreme Court to post the courts opinions and orders on its website, unless the documents have been sealed by the court.

Proposition 118 would amend the state constitution to change the formula used to distribute state trust land funds to schools. Currently, the money from sales and leasing of state lands is deposited in a trust fund, which is invested in securities, and then distributed to schools through a complex formula. The money is distributed based on the average rate of return on the investments over the last five years, adjusted for inflation.

Supporters of the proposition say that the current formula is flawed and results in some years where no money is distributed from the fund. The proposition would change the formula so that the annual distribution from the fund would be 2.5 percent of the average market value of fund during the preceding five calendar years.

This may also decrease the number of times the Legislature would have to dip into the state general fund to help pay for education.

This formula would last until 2021, when the state would revert to current formula.

Opponents agree the new formula would even out the distribution of money to schools but it would also decrease the amount of money schools would receive.

The second proposition dealing with state trust lands, Proposition 119, would allow the state to trade state land for federal land in order to protect a military base from encroachment by residential development. It could also be used to exchange state land with federal land to develop land for sale or public use, such as adding land to a state park.

Voters would have to approve the land exchange.

This is the seventh time the issue has been put on the ballot, according to the Morrison Institute for Public Policy at Arizona State University. Many of the previous propositions failed because they did not require voter approval of the land exchange.

Supporters say it will protect jobs in the military and businesses that provide equipment for the military and environmental groups say it will better protect state lands

Opponents of the proposition worry that it will allow the federal government to take control of even more land in the state and that exchanges could turn into political battles at the ballot box.

KRMC (career choice)-46961
Related Stories:
• Arizona opinion divided on property tax measure
• Good for business, bad for homeowners?
• Prop 121 aimed at 'extremists,' but would it limit voter choices instead?
• Prop 120 challenges feds over public lands


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