Components of the Arizona Constitution

Instructor: Ashley Dugger

Ashley is an attorney. She has taught and written various introductory law courses.

The Arizona state constitution is the main governing document for Arizona. In place since Arizona was granted statehood in 1912, it includes several unique provisions. This lesson looks at some of the major components of Arizona's constitution.

Arizona Constitution

'The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.'

Those famous words come from the Tenth Amendment of our U.S. Constitution. Based on the Tenth Amendment, each new state set about establishing its own state government. Those governments were established through state constitutions. Each of the 50 states has their own state constitution. A state constitution serves as the governing document for that particular state.

Arizona's state constitution has been in place since Arizona became a state in 1912. Though it's been amended 152 times, it is the same constitution.

State constitutions vary by state, though many contain the same or similar provisions. State constitutions typically outline the structure of that state's government and set out a state bill of rights. Arizona's bill of rights is known as a Declaration of Rights and is Section 2 of its constitution. State constitutions also serve to establish a state executive branch headed by the governor, establish a state legislature and establish state courts.

Arizona's constitution contains several unique provisions not seen in most other state constitutions. For example, Arizona's Article 18 regulates child labor and Article 28 establishes English as the state's official language.

Arizona's Recall Provision

Another fairly distinct provision is Article 8, which is Arizona's recall provision. It allows Arizonans to remove elected officials from office. The officials can be 'recalled' or impeached through a vote.

Currently, only 18 other states allow recall for their state officials. However, only two other states allow recall for any elected official. This includes judges, legislators, and executive officials.

Article 8 was an original portion of Arizona's proposed state constitution, in place when the territory was slated for statehood. However, President William Howard Taft strongly opposed the measure. In general, President Taft thought Arizona's constitution was too progressive. He specifically felt the recall provision should not include judges. In a joint resolution and at Taft's request, Congress agreed to admit the territories of New Mexico and Arizona but only if the people of Arizona amended their constitution to exempt judges from the recall provision.

But Arizona was sneaky. State officials amended the state constitution, and Arizona was admitted as the 48th state. Then, nine months later, they reinstated the provision. Judges were once again subject to Arizona's recall provision.

Arizona's Initiative Provision

Like Article 8, Article 4 is progressive, unique, and grants Arizonans power typically reserved for the government. Article 4 is Arizona's initiative provision, which is another original to Arizona's constitution and allows Arizonans to exercise legislative authority by using initiatives. Only 24 states use initiatives.

The measures are called 'initiatives' because they are 'initiated' by the citizens of Arizona. Arizonans are authorized to initiate state laws or constitutional amendments. For example, once Arizona became a state, the citizens were quickly able to initiate the amendment allowing judges to be recalled.

Example

The process is fairly straightforward. Let's say Arty wants to craft an initiative. First, he needs to file an application to petition. The application is a form, and must include basic information including Arty's name and address, and a summary of Arty's proposed measure. Once approved, Arty will put together his petition. The petition must contain the full text of Arty's proposed measure.

In order to get his initiative on a voting ballot, Arty must gather a specified number of signatures on his petition. If Arty's initiative is a proposed state law, he needs 10% of the total number of votes cast in the last governor's election. If Arty's initiative is a proposed constitutional amendment, he needs 15% of the number of total votes cast. In 2016, an initiative proposing the legalization of marijuana was made, which required 150,000 signatures in order for that state law initiative to reach a ballot.

Once the required number of signatures are received, the Arizona state legislature places the initiative on a ballot for public vote. The initiative must still pass by a majority vote in order to be enacted.

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