by Cole Lauterbach
Arizona’s high court has elaborated on their decision to void additions to the most-recent state budget, saying lawmakers ran afoul of provisions in the state constitution meant to simplify legislation.
Justices released their unanimous opinion Thursday in Arizona School Boards Association et al. v. State of Arizona. The ruling, initially announced in September, affirmed a lower court ruling that said the Legislature went against two parts of the Arizona Constitution.
The opinion nullifies the state’s ban on mask mandates in schools, laws shoring up local election security and other laws justices concluded had little to do with the state budget.
The constitution’s “title provision” says lawmakers cannot include extemporaneous provisions into a proposal that doesn’t relate to the topic it’s named after. Should those extra facets of a bill be struck down by the court, the rest of the bill would stand.
“Although the bills’ challenged sections may superficially relate to those subjects, this does not satisfy the requisite inquiry,” the opinion read. “Contrary to the State’s claim, a closer examination of the challenged sections manifests the disconnect between the titles and the substantive provisions.”
Justices ruled portions of House Bill 2898, Senate Bill 1824, Senate Bill 1825 and Senate Bill 1819 violate the title requirement.
Justices said the Legislature titled these bills as “appropriation” and “budget reconciliation” or “budget procedure” provisions but have sections that are entirely unrelated to those issues.
The constitutional “one-subject rule” requires legislation to stick to one realm of law. If a bill is struck down under this provision, the entire law is struck down. This is the challenge plaintiffs alleged the state was guilty of “log-rolling” several non-budgetary laws into one bill.
The court found SB 1819, which contained 52 different sections, was unconstitutional under this rule.
“Our conclusion is inescapable: SB 1819 contains an array of discordant subjects that are not reasonably connected to one general idea, and certainly not to budget procedures,” the opinion read.
The state warned that nullifying any of the provisions retrospectively could open the state to challenges regarding previous years’ budgets. Justices disagreed, saying the challenges wouldn’t stand up to long-spent funds.
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Cole Lauterbach is a regional editor for The Center Square covering Arizona, California, Oregon, and Washington. For more than a decade, Cole has produced award-winning content on both radio and television.
Photo “Arizona Supreme Court” by davidpinter CC BY 3.0.