Supreme Court to lawmakers: Non-budget laws can’t be in the budget

 The state seal for Arizona on a door into the House of Representatives at the Capitol. /Photo by Jerod MacDonald-Evoy /Arizona Mirror

By Jeremy Duda | Arizona Mirror

As lawmakers and Gov. Doug Ducey prepare for the start of the 2022 legislative session, the Arizona Supreme Court provided a simple blueprint for how not to craft their budgets.

The lesson is simple: Don’t include laws in the state budget that don’t actually have anything to do with the funding in the state budget.

On Thursday, the court issued its full opinion on its unanimous ruling from November that struck down substantial portions of last year’s state budget on the grounds that the bills violated a provision of the Arizona Constitution known as the single-subject rule. That provision requires the bills that the legislature passes to encompass a single subject, and for the bill’s title to provide adequate notice about what subjects it pertains to. The provision is intended to prevent a practice known as “logrolling,” in which lawmakers are forced to vote for something they oppose in order to pass another law they support.

Four budget bills were struck down in whole or in part, which scrapped dozens of new laws covering a wide variety of disparate subjects, including banning public schools from requiring face masks or vaccinations to combat COVID-19, prohibiting the teaching of “critical race theory” in K-12 schools, imposing new requirements for security measures in ballots, changing to dog racing and harness racing permitting requirements, stripping the secretary of state of authority over the state Capitol museum and of her ability to defend the state election laws in court, and changing the state’s definition of what constitutes a newspaper so more publications can publish public notices. 

Three of the budget bills that the Arizona School Boards Association challenged will stand, sans the provisions that failed to comply with the title requirement in the single-subject rule. One of the bills, described only as a budget reconciliation bill for “budget procedures,” was struck down in its entirety.

Justice John Lopez noted in the court’s opinion that the bill, Senate Bill 1819, contains 52 sections that cover 30 distinct subjects. Despite the state’s claim that “budget procedures” is a broad concept that covers a wide variety of topics, Lopez wrote that the challenged laws have no relation to the state budget and that they’re “devoid of any reference or significant to budget procedure.”

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