By Corinne Murdock |
On Monday, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Katherine Cooper ruled that many laws passed within the recent budget were unconstitutional. Cooper stated that the legislation violated the single subject rule of the Arizona Constitution. The case, Arizona School Boards Association Inc., et al., v. State of Arizona, et al. (CV2021-012741) had a total of 15 plaintiffs. In all, Cooper’s ruling impacted a variety of budget-related bills, or BRBs: HB2898, SB1824, SB1825, and struck down SB1819 in its entirety.
“Subject and title of bills[:] Section 13. Every act shall embrace but one subject and matters properly connected therewith, which subject shall be expressed in the title; but if any subject shall be embraced in an act which shall not be expressed in the title, such an act shall be void only as to so much thereof as shall not be embraced in the title.” (emphasis added)
In a copy of the opinion obtained by 12 News, Cooper asserted that Section 13 was made with the intent to prevent “logrolling”: inserting a multiplicity of subjects into one bill in order to push a vote through. The judge supported her claim with Arizona Supreme Court precedent. In explaining her decision to strike down all of SB1819, a sweeping bill that expanded voter registration, modified ballot security requirements, removed the secretary of state’s legal authority over election laws, established an election integrity fund, limited the length of public health emergencies, and created a special committee to audit the voter rolls, among other things.
“No matter how liberally one construes the concept of ‘subject’ for the single subject rule, the array of provisions are in no way related to nor connected with each other or to an identifiable ‘budget procedure.’ The bill is classic logrolling – a medley of special interests cobbled together to force a vote for all or none,” wrote Cooper. “In this case, the State’s view would allow the Legislature to re-define ‘budget reconciliation’ to mean anything it chooses. Going forward, the Legislature could add any policy or regulatory provision to a BRB, regardless of whether the measure was necessary to implement the budget, without notice to the public. The State’s idea of ‘subject’ is not and cannot be the law.” (emphasis added)
Cooper also asserted that the bills in question weren’t in compliance with the state constitution’s requirement that bill titles clearly reflect the content of the legislation.
In striking down the entirety of SB1819, Cooper explained that prior court decisions don’t allow for severability to salvage portions of the bill.
“When an act violates the single subject rule, the whole act fails,” stated Cooper.
Whereas for the other bills, Cooper explained that the certain provisions banning mask, vaccine, and testing mandates; critical race theory education; and vaccine passports weren’t reflected in the bill titles. Therefore, they were invalid.
As AZ Free News reported last week, the main plaintiff in the case, Arizona School Boards Association (ASBA), recently hosted a law conference where photos showed attendees maskless and not social distancing, though spokespersons informed us that masks were required. ASBA also told us they encouraged some attendees to take off masks momentarily and group together for pictures.
The mask mandate ban would’ve gone into effect on Wednesday.
Governor Doug Ducey’s spokesperson characterized the ruling as “judicial overreach.” The governor’s office promised that they would challenge the ruling.
“We are still reviewing the ruling, but this decision is clearly an example of judicial overreach. Arizona’s state government operates with three branches, and it’s the duty and authority of only the legislative branch to organize itself and to make laws,” stated Ducey’s spokesman. “Unfortunately, today’s decision is the result of a rogue judge interfering with the authority and processes of another branch of government. Further action will be taken to challenge this ruling and ensure separation of powers is maintained.”