School Districts Say Millions At Stake In Case Against Legislature

July 23, 2013

State lawmakers should be able to ignore a law they wrote and was approved by the voters. That is what an attorney for the legislators told the Arizona Supreme Court Tuesday.

At stake are millions of dollars that school districts said the state legislature was supposed to provide but did not. In 2000 Arizona voters approved a law that required the legislature to provide increased funding to local school districts as inflation increased. In 2010 as the economy crashed and the state budget shrunk, lawmakers halted the adjustments.

School districts said that cost them almost millions of dollars. The schools say the legislature violated both the state constitution and the Voter Protection Act which severely restricts what the legislature can do to voter approved laws.

Assistant Attorney Gen. Kathleen Sweeney acknowledged those limitations but said the voters shouldn’t have approved law in the first place. Chief Justice Rebecca Berch was skeptical of the state’s argument.

"They drafted this using bad language. They got the voters to vote on their bad language, and now they're trying to disavow their bad language," Berch said.

"Perhaps, your honor," Sweeney replied.

Don Peters is the attorney for the school districts. He told the court the legislature has to follow the law like everyone else.

"In this case the legislature cannot amend, repeal or supersede that law, because it's voter protected," Peters said.

No word on when the court will rule on the case.


EDITOR'S NOTE: This article has been modified to correct the spelling of Chief Justice Rebecca Berch and to distinguish between speakers.