The AZ Power Trip

As I am sure many of you have realized from our class discussions, I am a local/state political junkie. The decisions made by your local city council and or your state legislature have a more immediate, visible, and direct effect on your day to day life as compared to any action taken by the larger federal government. I think that my interest in local politics really stems from the unsettling voter turnout statistics in local and statewide elections and furthermore a general unawareness of what is happening in city council hearings or at the state legislature.

For a fun (or horrifying) social experiment – ask your friends, roommates, or that random guy on the street “Who is Mayor of (insert City or Town HERE)” – you are more than likely to get a laughable response than an educated guess…

I’ll step down from my soapbox now. The scope of this class is largely focused on the federal government and how the Supreme Court operates within it. The State of Arizona Supreme Court has proved to be a vital check on the balance of power in Arizona in recent years.

SB 1487 was introduced in the State Senate during the 2016 legislative session by the then, President of the Senate, Andy Biggs (who is now in the U.S House). In alliance with the Governor’s office, SB 1487 would allow a single member of the State Legislature to order the State Attorney General to investigate a city or town for violating state law. The kicker of the bill is that the minute the AG opens up an investigation the State Treasurer will withhold all state-shared revenue – which accounts for almost half of a municipal budget. Believe it or not this whole disastrous bill stemmed from the Town of Bisbee – when they outlawed plastic grocery bags – a violation of State Law.

This statement from the League of Arizona Cities and Towns illustrates the pissing match the State and the Cities are currently engaged in:

“In October 2016, Rep. Finchem filed a complaint against Tucson alleging a violation relating to the City’s destruction of firearms. On December 6, 2016, the Tucson City Council voted unanimously to defend the City and challenge the constitutionality of SB1487 and that same day the Attorney General filed a special action petition in the Arizona Supreme Court seeking an order declaring that Tucson’s ordinance violates state law and to withhold the City’s shared revenue if the ordinance is not repealed.

The City of Tucson filed a response to the petition arguing that the city charter supersedes the state law in this matter and challenging the constitutionality of SB 1487. The Court has also ordered the City and the Attorney General to file supplemental briefs by February 15 addressing the constitutionality of SB 1487 in addition to the underlying complaint involving the issue between the Tucson City Charter and state’s firearm laws.

Additionally, the City of Tucson filed a complaint against the State of Arizona in Pima County Superior Court on December 12, 2016 seeking to declare SB1487 unconstitutional. The League has filed a motion to intervene in this case. The parties agreed to stay the superior court proceedings until the Supreme Court determined whether it would accept jurisdiction in the petition filed by the Attorney General.” (League, 2017).

The State Supreme Court is acting as the a-political mediator between the State and the Cites in what is a very political issue. While oral arguments have been heard, the Court has yet to issue the long-waited decision.

The legislative power trip did not end with it’s attack in the cities though. Currently, a handful of bills in the legislature aim to make the ballot initiative process even more difficult – mainly by dismantling portions of Prop. 105 (voter protection). The animosity towards voter initiatives stems from the recent Prop. 206 – the increase in minimum wage. Just last week the Court issues their ruling on a Prop. 206 lawsuit, and ultimately said the wage increase was legal.

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Between the battle with the cities and the battle over minimum wage and voter protection, the State Legislature will absolutely be keeping their eye on the Courts in the coming months and will almost certainly attempt to pass more legislation to increase their own power. The only question is will the State Supreme Court allow it?

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One Response to The AZ Power Trip

  1. Ryan Wadding says:

    Let us hope the court does not allow it! I am glad you brought up Prop 105. I know many people do not care about politics as much as you or the folks on this blog; yet it surprises me that voters are not upset about this attack by our legislature on our ability to initiate change for ourselves. As you said, the decisions of our local and state legislatures have the most direct and immediate impact on our daily lives. Additionally, Arizonans can drive those decisions quite directly, as we did with Prop 206. We of course can disagree on whether Prop 206 was a good decision or not, but if we disagree should our immediate response be to remove our own power to make those decisions? I do not think so. So why are we not upset about our legislature trying to do so? The reason Prop 105 exists is so voters can (peacefully) take matters into their own hands when the legislature is failing to address those matters. The legislature was not going to raise the minimum wage despite many Arizonans wanting the minimum wage raised, so we decided to raise the minimum wage ourselves. Is there anything wrong with that? I do not think so. And I hope the court sees it that way. Anyway, great post Morgan. Cheers!

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