Lawmakers push to strip 19 cities of home rule rights

By Howard Fischer | Capitol Media Services

Arizona lawmakers are moving to strip 19 cities of their right to home rule simply to help get Republicans elected to the Tucson City Council.

A proposal awaiting action by the full Senate would ask voters to repeal a provision in the Arizona Constitution which allows cities to adopt their own charters. These charters, approved by local voters, can govern a host of issues about how the city is run, ranging whether to have a city manager to the size of the council and the dates for an election.

But Sen. Justine Wadsack, R-Tucson, said she really is interested in killing just one local right: the ability to decide how to elect council members. And the object of her ire is the unusual — and unique in Arizona — system by which Tucson chooses who will serve on the council.

Only thing is, lawmakers lack the power to simply override what Tucson voters have decided, with judges concluding that the method of electing council members is a matter of strictly local concern. And that, they said, is protected by Tucson’s status as a charter city.

So Wadsack has crafted SCR 1023 to remove the authority to form charter cities. That measure, if approved by state lawmakers and ratified in 2024 by voters, then would free lawmakers to tell Tucson how it must run elections.

What SCR 1023 also would do, though, is undermine the charters of 18 other cities, repealing their own locally crafted laws and making them, too, subject to the whims of state lawmakers.


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