Education funding initiative thrown off Arizona ballot for ‘opaque’ summary language, judge rules; RLG attorney Tom Galvin comments

 #RedForEd rally at the Arizona State Capitol in Phoenix on Monday, Feb. 17, 2020. Invest In Ed is throwing a rally for the kickoff of collecting signatures for its ballot initiative. Over 1800 signs were put up at the rally representing the over 1800 classrooms in Arizona without a certified teacher.David Wallace/The Republic

By Maria Polletta | Arizona Republic

A measure that would tax the state’s wealthiest residents to raise nearly $1 billion for education is unfit to appear on the November ballot because of “opaque” language in its 100-word summary, a judge ruled Friday.

The decision is reminiscent of 2018, when the Arizona Supreme Court kicked the “Invest in Education” initiative off the ballot over “misleading” language. Invest In Ed organizers had said they expected a similar fight this year but believed language in the restructured measure would withstand legal challenges.

Arizonans for Great Schools and a Strong Economy, a committee backed by the Arizona Chamber of Commerce, filed this year’s lawsuit. The group alleged the measure “was sold to well-meaning petition signers by way of a thoroughly misleading” synopsis.

“This was not a complete surprise and Judge Coury plainly explained how so. He noted (in footnote 15) that the “disappointing aspect of this case” is that Invest In Ed made the same mistake that led to it being thrown off the 2018 ballot. Judge Coury noted that two years ago, the Arizona Supreme Court “identified exactly” how Invest In Ed “could accomplish precisely what Invest In Ed seeks to accomplish.” He lamented that Invest In Ed “disregarded this instruction and elected to craft the initiative in its own way” by utilizing terminology from other states. Coury was given no choice but to apply the law and kick the Initiative off the ballot. Invest In Ed will surely appeal this decision to the Supreme Court but it’s apparent that they have a low chance of succeeding.”

Tom Galvin, RLG attorney


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July 2020