Photo by Jim Small | Arizona Mirror
A ban on face mask mandates and critical race theory in schools were highest-profile laws that were thrown out when the Arizona Supreme Court tossed numerous provisions of the state budget for violating the Arizona Constitution, but the list of new laws that are now off the books is far more extensive than that.
Many of the other rejected laws besides the prohibition on face mask mandates in K-12 schools pertain to the COVID-19 pandemic. Those laws included prohibitions on colleges and universities requiring students to wear masks, get vaccines or submit to regular testing; barring K-12 schools from requiring students to take vaccines that have received emergency approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration; and barring cities and counties from requiring “vaccine passports” or otherwise imposing pandemic-related restrictions on private businesses, schools and churches.
Another of the now-defunct laws would have severely curtailed future governors’ ability to use emergency powers to manage health emergencies such as the coronavirus outbreak. Starting in 2023, when Gov. Doug Ducey will leave office, governors would have been limited to 30-day emergency proclamations for public health emergencies, with the option to extend it for no more than 120 days — though it could be extended for longer with legislative approval.
Various election laws were also scrapped by the Arizona Supreme Court’s ruling. One provision would have required counties that wanted to include anti-fraud countermeasures in their ballots to use specific kinds of types of paper and specific technologies, such as holographic foil, special inks and watermarks. A $12 million “election integrity fund” that the state treasurer would have administered to fund election security measures at the county level is also now gone.
Also gone is the creation of a “major events fund” that would have helped the state shoulder the cost of hosting the 2023 Super Bowl, as well as attract sporting and other events in the future.
That same budget bill also included numerous changes to the structure of a committee the state created in 2019 to study missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. The committee still exists and can continue its work, but without the changes the legislature made to its membership and mission.
Meanwhile, a trial court ruling in a separate case on Tuesday rejected a provision of fifth budget bill, also on single-subject grounds, that would have barred the City of Phoenix’s plans for civilian review of its police department.
The city sued the state over the law, which mandated that any entity that investigates alleged misconduct by law enforcement officers or metes out discipline for that misconduct must primarily consist not only of people who have been certified as law enforcement officers, but of people who are from the same agency as the person being investigated. That law came shortly after the city created its new Office of Accountability and Transparency to investigate claims of police misconduct. The city expressly prohibited current or former law enforcement officers from serving with the new office.
All of the laws were deemed unconstitutional because they were included in budget bills, but had nothing to do with implementing the state budget. That meant the provisions violated the Arizona Constitution’s single-subject rule, which requires legislation be limited to a single topic.
The courts struck down all of the laws on procedural grounds, meaning that nothing would stop the legislature from passing them anew once they’re back in session. All they would have to do is pass them as standalone bills — the same way most legislation is passed — or in another manner that didn’t violate the single-subject rule.
Among the other laws that the Arizona Supreme Court struck down on Tuesday were statutes that would:
- Strip Secretary of State Katie Hobbs of the power to defend election laws in court, with that authority residing exclusively with Attorney General Mark Brnovich.
- Create a task force to investigate alleged political bias by social media platforms and other big tech companies, specifically regarding whether actions such as restrictions on individual candidates or biased algorithms constitute “unreported in-kind political contributions” to candidates or political parties.
- Authorize the attorney general to initiate civil action against any “public official, employee or agent of this state” who uses public resources for an activity that prevents a public school from operating, or against any teacher or school employee violates the ban on teaching curriculum that “that presents any form of blame or judgment on the basis of race, ethnicity or sex.”
- Establish a Special Committee on the Election Audit, consisting of members of the Senate Government Committee, to review the findings of the so-called “audit” of the 2020 election in Maricopa County.
- Require the state’s auditor general to review voter registration databases and early voting lists.
- Mandate tracking and reporting of “federal-only” voters who aren’t allowed to vote in non-federal races because they cannot provide proof of citizenship
- Require the Arizona Game and Fish Department to assist people who apply for hunting, fishing and trapping licenses with voter registration.
- Allow people to refuse vaccines mandated during a state of emergency or war based on their personal beliefs.
- Transfer oversight of the State Capitol Museum from the Secretary of State’s Office to Legislative Council.
- Change the legal definition of “newspaper” to include publications that haven’t been admitted under federal law as a second-class matter for at least one year, which would allow such newspapers to publish legally required public notices.
- Require the Arizona Department of Gaming to convert a dog racing permit to a harness racing permit if the holder meets the qualifications for a harness racing permit.
- Expand the powers of the Governor’s Regulatory Review Council to review existing agency rules to determine whether they’re prohibited by state law.
- Require the governor, superintendent of public instruction and Arizona Board of Regents to report all planned spending of $10 million or more from the federal American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 to the legislature before that money is spent.
- Prohibit the State Lottery from advertising at professional sporting events or in conjunction with a professional sports team.
- Create a state permitting director position, appointed by the governor, that would be required to establish an online state permitting dashboard.
- Establish a 13-member Advisory Committee on the Formation of a Southern Arizona Regional Sports Authority
Exempt money spent by the Arizona Department of Public Safety on body cameras from certain oversight and verification requirements.
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