/ Modified jun 20, 2012 9:55 a.m.

School Sales Tax Initiative Hits Legal Snag

Campaign calls it 'clerical error;' state official says he will reject petitions

By The Associated Press

Supporters of a proposed Arizona ballot initiative for a 1-cent sales tax increase say a "clerical error" has been found in a document filed for the initiative proposal, something that has the potential to lead to its demise.

The campaign announced in a press release that it is confident the initiative proposal meets the state constitution. At the same time, campaign officials said, they have hired retired Arizona Supreme Court Justice Stanley Feldman in case there's a legal challenge to the petitions.

"The campaign recently discovered that a clerical error was made in a single document filed with the Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett on March 9," the press release said.

" ... The campaign, however, is confident that the will of more than 260,000 voters protected by the state Constitution will be upheld," the press release further said. "Citizens' initiatives are held to a 'substantial compliance' requirement, as opposed to the 'strict compliance' requirement applied to referenda."

The error is that the wording of the paper-copy initiative filed with the secretary of state's office differs from the wording on petitions.

The Arizona Capitol Times quoted Bennett as saying he will not accept any petitions for the Quality Education and Jobs initiative that include the version that is different from what was filed with his agency.

“We would reject anything that was collected, attached to something other than what they filed with us,” Bennett was quoted by the Capitol Times as saying. “Potentially it’s a huge issue, depending on whether they’ve been collecting the signatures for the version they have on their website or the version that was filed with our office. But we can only accept signatures collected, attached to the version that they’ve filed with us.”

The Arizona Education Parent Network, chief sponsor of the drive for what it proposes to call the Quality Education and Jobs Act, reported in a press release that voter signatures from all 15 Arizona counties have been obtained.

A minimum of 172,809 valid signatures are required by the July 5 deadline. Campaign chairperson Ann-Eve Pedersen says organizers will do a final validity check before submitting the petitions.

Money raised by the 1-cent sales tax increase would be directed to education, health care and other state services. The increase would take effect after a previously approved temporary increase expires in mid-2013.

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