Arizona Legislature takes up the 14th Amendment, slow drivers and breaking up Maricopa County

By Mark Brodie
Published: Monday, February 12, 2024 - 11:36am
Updated: Tuesday, February 13, 2024 - 12:02pm

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The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments last week in the case out of Colorado, in which the 14th Amendment was cited as a reason to keep former President Donald Trump off the ballot. That issue — albeit in a different form — will also be on the agenda in the Arizona Legislature this week.

Howard Fischer of Capitol Media Services joined The Show for his weekly breakdown of what's happening at the Arizona Capitol.

MARK BRODIE: So what’s going on with the 14th Amendment? Why are state lawmakers going to be talking about that this week?

HOWARD FISCHER: Well, obviously, there are some folks who are very concerned about what happened in Colorado, and we can certainly wonder whether the U.S. Supreme Court will uphold what Colorado did in terms of kicking the president off the ballot.

This legislation, sponsored by Republicans, would essentially say you can’t kick a president off the ballot. If you are the party’s nominee, the 14th Amendment does not apply. Now, whether a state statute overcomes the U.S. Constitution is an interesting question, but it is a political statement to say we’re not going to allow our courts to go there.

Now, there hasn’t really been a problem at this point. In fact, the only challenge that was made was by a guy who was trying to run on the Republican Party — name of John Castro, who went to federal court and a federal judge threw it out and said, you’re not even a serious candidate. You don’t have standing to sue.”

So we may be solving a problem that doesn’t exist. But again, we’re at the Arizona Legislature.

BRODIE: Yeah, it’s something that they sometimes do down at the Capitol. Howie, let me ask you about problem that a lot of folks maybe have dealt with in the past in terms of driving on the freeway and maybe you’re in the fast lane — as the Eagles taught us about, in the left lane — and you’re stuck behind someone who just won’t move over and just doesn’t go as fast as you want them to. A state lawmaker thinks there ought to be a law about that.

FISCHER: Well, it’s either that or putting a battering ram on the front of your car. But leaving that aside, it is already a violation of law to drive slow in the fast lane if, in fact, you can drive in the right lane. But (Republican) Sen. David Gowan — apparently on his trip up from Sierra Vista, probably on that two-lane stretch of I-10 they keep hoping to widen — was stuck behind somebody. So he has a bill to actually put in a $250 fine for anybody who is traveling slow in the fast lane.

Now, does this solve the problem? Well, again, it is already a violation of law. Do I see the DPS out there saying, “Oh, we’re going to trap those people,” given everything else going on and traffic? No. But again, it’s one of those feel-good bills. “We’ve solved the problem here for all of you,” and we can go home and get reelected because we made it a big fine to travel slow in the fast lane.

BRODIE: So those two bills are coming up today. Tomorrow, Howie, there’s going to be kind of what’s become a bit of an annual tradition at the Legislature in terms of trying to break up Maricopa County into several smaller counties.

FISCHER: Oh my God. This has been going on probably since Maricopa County was formed. There were only four counties at the time, now we’re up to 15.

There’s some interesting questions there. At what point does a county that has like 76% of the population in the state — that’s about 7.4 million — become too big to govern? Now, depends on who you talk to. (Maricopa County) Board of Supervisors will tell you, “We’re doing just fine. We have different committees. We can figure out what’s going on.” But you have supervisory districts that in some cases are larger than congressional districts in therms of how many people you have to represent.

So the idea is, well, maybe if we had four separate counties and we’ll figure out a way of doing it. Now there are some logistical issues in there. We have county bonds. We have things like the community college district, I suppose they could all put together. You have planning. But the other piece of it may be political. I can’t help but believe that some of the people who want four counties to say, “Hey, there’s is the supervisor seat I could opt into.” I mean, right now we’ve got five supervisors. We could have 20 supervisors.

Now, is that smaller government? Hard to say. But we’re also talking about creating, four different county transportation departments and four different county environmental departments. And the logistics of it become an issue. And then, as we’re talking about, is this really smaller government?

Are we doing better, because there are certain things that maybe you’re better off consolidating. This is the same group of lawmakers who say we should consolidate school districts because it’s more efficient and we do not need more bureaucrats.

BRODIE: In the past, the current Maricopa County has not been a huge fan of this proposal. Are they still not huge fans of this proposal?

FISCHER: Oh, I think that they’re saying it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. They don’t believe it’s broken. Now, could some of them be talked into it? Possibly. But I also think that some of them believe that this is being pushed by some of the same folks who insist that Maricopa County itself is broken because of the way they run elections.

Remember, we’re still litigating not only the 2022 election — in some ways, we’re still litigating the 2020 election. And there are folks in there who I think believe that if you had a different elections department — perhaps for the new East Valley county, whatever it’s going to be called, Red Mountain or Hohokam — that they could do a better job. So there’s a lot of politics behind this.

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