Maricopa County Transportation Tax Passes Arizona Legislature

Maricopa County Transportation Tax Passes Arizona Legislature

By Corinne Murdock |

The Arizona legislature approved the Maricopa County transportation tax on Monday along bipartisan lines, 43-14 in the House and 19-7 in the Senate.

The bill, SB1102, would allow voters to decide whether to maintain the current transportation excise tax: Proposition 400, set to expire at the end of 2025. It doesn’t maintain the original reformation desired by Republican lawmakers: a choice to separate roads and commuter rail when it comes to funding. Prop 400 binds the two together as a package deal.

The legislature convened to consider SB1102 after Gov. Katie Hobbs vetoed the version of the bill splitting the Prop 400 question (SB1246) last month.

The 14 House legislators who opposed the bill were State Reps. Neal Carter (R-LD15), Joseph Chaplik (R-LD03), Justin Heap (R-LD10), Laurin Hendrix (R-LD14), Rachel Jones (R-LD17), Alexander Kolodin (R-LD03), David Marshall (R-LD07), Cory McGarr (R-LD17), Steve Montenegro (R-LD29), Barbara Parker (R-LD10), Jacqueline Parker (R-LD15), Michael Peña (R-LD23), Beverly Pingerelli (R-LD28), and Austin Smith (R-LD29). The seven Senate legislators who opposed the bill were State Sens. Shawnna Bolick (R-LD02), Sally Ann Gonzales (D-LD20), Jake Hoffman (R-LD15), Anthony Kern (R-LD27), J.D. Mesnard (R-LD13), Wendy Rogers (R-LD07), and Justine Wadsack (R-LD17).

The bill’s passage marked a divide among Republican lawmakers as leadership declared it a win. Senate President Warren Petersen (R-LD12) said in a press release that the bill would ensure infrastructure development to counter the rising rates of vehicle congestion and travel times on the road while preventing ineffective environmentalist policies.

Sen. Frank Carroll (R-LD28) noted that the bill restricted any level of Arizonan government from restricting the use or sale of a vehicle based on its energy source, and required mass transit to recoup at least 10 percent of costs from farebox revenues beginning in 2027, and then 20 percent by 2031.

Opponents disagreed that the bill constituted a win. Kolodin argued during the floor vote that the bill denied voters true choice. Kolodin estimated that Prop 400’s continuation would halve road funding in order to pay for other commuter projects used by one percent of the population. He noted that SB1102 further bled roads funding by allowing those funds to be used for other projects, like bicyclist paths and sidewalks.

“This bill denies voters of Maricopa County a real choice. It holds road funding hostage in order that the voters, who would otherwise not vote in favor of spending 40 percent of the money of this new tax on transit projects that less than one percent of them use, that they choose to vote for them anyway to get the roads,” said Kolodin. “A tax extension is a tax increase.”

Rogers said the bill constituted a tax far too expensive and weak for her taste.

Democrats championed the bill as a necessity for achieving equity.

State Rep. Marcelino Quiñonez (D-LD11) said that Prop 400 was the “responsibility” of the legislature to pass.

Heap called the bill “disappointing.”

Heap and Jones predicted that the bill’s passage marked a major win for the Democratic Party and the Hobbs administration, one that would carry into the 2024 election.

State Rep. Matthew Gress (R-LD04), who voted in favor of the bill, said it would ensure the restoration of State Route 51 and other critical pavement rehabilitation. Gress said that the 3.5 percent cap on the existing light rail system, a contingency for Hobbs’ approval, constituted a win since it was far less than other proposed rates.

The Arizona Free Enterprise Club (AFEC) voiced opposition to the plan on Sunday, warning that the bill wouldn’t prevent road diets, Vision Zero projects, and progressive air quality control measures. AFEC offered a side-by-side comparison of SB1102 and the predecessor vetoed by Hobbs last month, SB1246.

AFEC further assessed that SB1102 would enable the Maricopa Association of Governments to enact its 2050 Momentum Plan.

Prop 400 will appear on the November 2024 ballot for final voter approval. The tax was set to expire at the end of 2025.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to

State Sued Over Alleged Illegality Of Early Ballot Signature Verification Process

State Sued Over Alleged Illegality Of Early Ballot Signature Verification Process

By Corinne Murdock |

The state is facing a lawsuit filed Monday over an alleged violation of state law with the early ballot signature verification process outlined in the secretary of state’s Election Procedures Manual (EPM). The plaintiffs requested special action relief due to an alleged lack of an equally plain, speedy, and adequate legal alternative remedy for their grievance. 

Statute requires that envelope signatures match those on the voter’s registration record. If not, the county recorder must contact the voter and confirm that the voter personally completed and signed the early ballot affidavit. 

However, the current EPM — written by Gov. Katie Hobbs in her former capacity as the secretary of state — instructs county recorders to validate early ballot affidavits if they determine the signature matches any signature in any election-related document available to them. The lawsuit argued that the EPM’s allowed materials aren’t legally considered “registration records” and therefore not lawful comparative references for conducting signature validation. 

“[T]he signatures encompassed within the EPM’s errant instruction cannot be used either to effectuate the registration of an individual or to lawfully amend an existing registration,” stated the lawsuit.

Arizona law doesn’t explicitly define the term “registration record.” However, the lawsuit argued that the natural understanding of the term relates to a document effectuating or amending voter registration that contains voter-supplied information required by federal and Arizona law, as well as a signed certification attesting to the provided information. 

“A properly executed and submitted registration form, as may be amended and updated by the registrant from time to time, ‘constitute[s] an official public record of the registration of the elector,’” stated the lawsuit. “Accordingly, the ‘record of the registration of the elector — i.e., her “registration record,” consists of the complete and facially valid federal and state forms submitted by that individual, and any amendments thereto made by the submission of new forms, an early ballot request form, a response to an Active Early Voting List notice, or a provisional ballot envelope.”

Citizens may register to vote using forms provided by the federal or state government; both forms require full name, residential address, date of birth, a government-issued ID number, political party affiliation if applicable, and a signed, sworn attestation of eligibility (including U.S. citizenship). An Arizona voter registration form also requires telephone number, location of birth, occupation, father’s last name or mother’s maiden name, age, proof of citizenship, and statements affirming residency, status of any other existing registration, and any absence of disqualifying felony conviction. 

The lawsuit stated that the named defendant, Secretary of State Adrian Fontes, has gone beyond his lawful jurisdiction and gone against statute by upholding Hobbs’ EPM. Fontes refused to heed lawmakers’ requests to reject Hobbs’ EPM earlier this year. 

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit are the Arizona Free Enterprise Club (AFEC), a nonprofit social welfare corporation specializing in limited government that includes election integrity; Restoring Integrity and Trust in Elections, a Virginia-based nonprofit social welfare corporation specializing in election integrity; and Dwight Kadar, a Yavapai County resident and elector. 

AFEC President Scot Mussi told AZ Free News that Hobbs’ EPM essentially rewrote state law to make invalid voting easier. 

“The current election procedures manual adopted by the Secretary of State has rewritten state law regarding signature verification for mail-in ballots,” said Mussi. “The result is a process that invites questionable methods and opportunities for abuse during the signature review process. It’s time for the courts to bring this illegal EPM practice to a halt.” 

Early ballot voters aren’t required to prove their identity through documents or additional personal information, like a birthdate or Social Security number. The sole validator for early ballot voters is the affidavit form signature on the exterior of the envelope housing the ballot. By signing the affidavit form, a voter attests under penalty of perjury that he has not voted and will not vote in any other jurisdiction, that he has registered to vote in the correct county, that he understands that multiple voting is a felony, and that he personally voted the ballot enclosed and signed the affidavit. 

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to

Groups Sue To Have Prop 211 Declared Unconstitutional

Groups Sue To Have Prop 211 Declared Unconstitutional

By Terri Jo Neff |

A civil rights lawsuit has been filed by two Arizona nonprofits in hopes of having the recently passed Voters’ Right To Know Act aka Proposition 211 declared unconstitutional.

The Arizona Free Enterprise Club (AFEC) and the Center for Arizona Policy have joined forces to seek a preliminary injunction barring implementation of Prop 211 while the case is litigated. The groups are represented by the Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation at the Goldwater Institute.

In announcing Thursday’s lawsuit, AFEC issued a statement which argues that Arizona voters “were misled into passing Prop 211” by supporters like former Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard who railed against the vague threat of “dark money” in the state’s elections.

Prop 211 received more yes votes than no votes in all 15 counties, and easily passed by more than 1 million votes. But the plaintiffs insist the new law jeopardizes and interferes with the right of all Americans to freely support campaigns and causes in Arizona without being intimidated.

The Voters’ Right To Know Act requires all entities and persons spending more than $50,000 in “campaign media spending” on statewide campaigns (or $25,000 on other campaigns) excluding personal monies and business income to disclose the original donors of any contribution over $5,000.

The Act involves the disclosure of those donors’ names, mailing addresses, and occupations. It also requires disclosure of the identities of those donors’ employers.

“This is just another attempt to target, harass, and dox conservatives who won’t submit to the Left’s agenda,” the AFEC statement reads. “And if you don’t think this happens, think again.”

The statement notes the experiences of its own staff “who have received numerous phone calls and voicemails threatening violence—including one staff member whose car was vandalized for engaging in public communications on our behalf.”

As required by state law, the Plaintiffs were required to provide notice to the Arizona Attorney General, the Speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives, and the President of the Arizona Senate that they are seeking to have Prop 211 declared unconstitutional.

There is recent precedent for the legal arguments put forth by the Goldwater Institute for the plaintiffs. A U.S. Supreme Court decision last year in Americans for Prosperity v. Bonta struck down a similar law in California on the grounds that the First Amendment protects the freedom to anonymously support organizations and nonprofits.

A central theme of the Arizona lawsuit against Prop 211 is the guarantee in the state Constitution that citizens have the right to speak freely, a right even broader than what is guaranteed under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

The lawsuit notes the Arizona Constitution expressly guarantees that an individual’s “private affairs” will not be disturbed, particularly those that pertain to financial information and one’s choices when casting a ballot.

“Transparency is for government; privacy is for individuals,” the lawsuit argues.

Another problem with Prop 211, according to the lawsuit, is its definition of campaign media spending to include any public communication which “promotes, supports, attacks, or opposes” a candidate within six months of an election or “refers” to a candidate 90 days before a primary election.

That overly broad language means any article, blog, or social media post by groups like AFEC or Center for Arizona Policy about something as commonplace as a vote by a lawmaker could trigger compliance with the new law if that lawmaker is running for office or opts to soon after the communication.

“And if you think that by simply avoiding traditional campaign media spending (sending out a mailer, airing a TV commercial, etc.) will protect you from Prop 211, think again,” the AFEC statement notes. That is because the new law applies to all “research, design, production…or any other activity conducted in preparation for” a public communication about a candidate.

“Since writing articles and producing social media posts have a cost, we would have to calculate and regularly track how much staff time and office resources are used to produce these materials,” the statement notes.

Such an onerous level of accounting would force AFEC to drastically limit its public communications—even if a communications are not campaign related—“to avoid the absurd dragnet and complex regulatory labyrinth established by this Act,” the group noted.

Joining AFEC and Center for Arizona Policy as plaintiffs are “Plaintiff Doe I” and “Plaintiff Doe II,” both described as Arizona citizens and Maricopa County residents. The Doe plaintiffs allege that it is unconstitutional to require them to “reveal his or her identity when donating to charitable organizations that engage in public communications supporting issues and candidates” the two support.

Their lawsuit has been assigned to Judge John Hannah of the Maricopa County Superior Court. The defendants include Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs as well as the Arizona Clean Elections Commission, its executive director, and its five commissioners.

It is the Clean Elections Commission which is tasked with establishing and interpreting the new standards outlined in Prop 211. The Commission has often been at odds with AFEC in past ballot initiatives and litigation, including one case in which the U.S. Supreme Court significantly reduced the Commission’s power.

Terri Jo Neff is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or send her news tips here.

State Sued Over Alleged Illegality Of Early Ballot Signature Verification Process

Relief Expressed As Radical Election Initiative Fails To Make The Ballot

By Terri Jo Neff |

Arizona Free Enterprise Club (AFEC) is reveling in Friday’s Arizona Supreme Court ruling affirming that the attempt to get the Arizona Free and Fair Elections Act on the upcoming general election ballot as a voter initiative has failed.

“The ruling today vindicates what we knew all along: the radical Free and Fair election initiative lacked enough lawful signatures to qualify for the ballot,” AFEC President Scot Mussi said after the order was issued under Chief Justice Robert Brutinel’s name. “Arizona voters, the rule of law, and basic math were victorious today.”

What would have been known as Proposition 210 on the 2022 General Election ballot included numerous changes to state law drafted by the Arizona Democracy Resource Center (ADRC Action), such as a ban on legislative election audits and allowing election day voter registration.

AFEC took the lead in opposing the voter initiative, while some elections officials worried making that many hodge-podge changes to election and campaign finance laws at one time would have negative unintended consequences.

AFEC’s legal challenge alleged myriad problems with more than one-half of the 475,290 petition signatures submitted by ADRC Action. It ended with Brutinel’s order affirming Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Joseph Mikitish’s finding that the minimum 237,645 signature threshold was missed by 1,458 signatures.  

The outcome is exactly what AFEC’s Mussi predicted. In a series of statements Friday, Mussi called out ADRC Action for the “rigged methodology” the group’s attorneys pushed the courts to use when calculating the number of valid signatures. He said the mathematic gymnastics was intended “to sneak their disqualified measure onto the ballot.”

“Their dubious formula cherry picked data that boosted their numbers, even including signatures that were disqualified by the counties in the random sample,” Mussi said. “None of their formula was rooted in statute or historical precedent and was a Hail-Mary attempt to resuscitate thousands of signatures that simply should not have counted.”

The justices ordered Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs to rescind the prior determination that the initiative had qualified for the ballot.

Advocacy Group Sues To Block Effort Which Could Overturn Arizona’s New Tax Structure

Advocacy Group Sues To Block Effort Which Could Overturn Arizona’s New Tax Structure

By Terri Jo Neff |

A lawsuit filed in Maricopa County Superior Court on Wednesday argues that efforts to have voters decide whether Arizona’s new flat-rate income tax and other tax law changes should go into effect are unconstitutional.   

The Arizona Free Enterprise Club (AFEC) is among the plaintiffs seeking a court order to bar the acceptance of petition signatures gathered by Invest In Arizona, a political committee sponsored by Arizona Education Association and Stand for Children – Arizona, which wants voters to overturn three revenue-related bills recently signed by Gov. Doug Ducey.

The problem with Invest in Arizona’s plan, the lawsuit argues, is that Article 4 of the Arizona Constitution prohibits referendums of legislation which deals with revenues and appropriations used for the “support and maintenance of the departments of state government and state institutions.”

AFEC is a nonprofit 501(c)(4) corporation organized and operated for the promotion of social welfare. It does so by engaging in public education and advocacy in support of free markets and economic growth in the State of Arizona.

Joining AFEC as plaintiffs in the lawsuit is the group’s executive director, Scott Mussi, as well as Diane Schafer, a registered voter from Yavapai County.

The legislation which Invest in Arizona wants to challenge via referendum are Senate Bills 1783, 1827, and 1828. The bills were passed near the end of the recent legislative session and then signed by Gov. Doug Ducey.

SB1828 amends Arizona’s current income tax brackets and tax rates and provides for a single income tax rate of 2.5 percent conditioned on certain general fund revenue thresholds. It was the cornerstone of Ducey’s budget package approved by the legislature earlier this month.

A companion bill, SB1827, ensures an individual taxpayer’s taxable income will not be subject to an overall marginal tax rate of more than 4.5 percent when a tax surcharge from Prop 208 (Invest In Ed) is considered.  Meanwhile, SB1783 allows certain small business owners to pay an alternative small business tax.

The legislation is slated to take effect 90 days after the governor affixed his signature. That 90-day window provides time for challengers to initiate a petition signing drive to take the matter out of lawmakers’ hands and put it before voters across the state via a referendum.

Getting a matter onto a ballot as a referendum requires valid petition signatures to be submitted to Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs equal to five percent of the total votes cast in the last gubernatorial election. If that happens, then the new laws would remain on hold until voters have their say in a statewide election.

And that, according to AFEC, Mussi, and Schafer, should not be allowed to happen with SB1783, 1827, and 1828 because each deals directly with the generation of state revenue for funding Arizona’s state government and state institutions.  Their lawsuit asks a Maricopa County judge to bar Hobbs from accepting petition signatures for any of the three bills.

“The filing of petitions in support of the Proposed Referenda will injure the Plaintiffs and all Arizona taxpayers by unconstitutionally delaying the effective date of non- referrable laws duly enacted by the elected Legislature and approved by the Governor,” the lawsuit states.

The plaintiffs are represented by Thomas Basile of the Statecraft Law Firm. Basile says his clients are not against voter referendums in general and only initiated this legal action to ensure the Arizona Constitution is followed by Hobbs’ office.

“At the core of our case is that while the right of referendum is broad, it is not unlimited,” he told AZ Free News on Thursday. “The framers of our Constitution carved out certain categories exempt to referendum, such as in the case of tax reform and appropriations.”

Hobbs is named as a defendant in her official capacity as the state officer responsible for accepting or rejecting referendum petition sheets. Invest in Arizona is also named as a real party in interest.