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Legislative District 12 voters voiced their satisfaction with their state senator and state representatives on Election Day.
A Sierra Vista Republican will become the first House speaker from Southern Arizona in a quarter century.
PHOENIX -- A Sierra Vista Republican will become the first House speaker from Southern Arizona in a quarter century.
PHOENIX (AP) — The Republicans who control the Arizona Legislature are meeting to elect new leaders as they appeared poised to gain seats and boost their majority.
For Gilbert residents, Election Day will be heavily focused on deciding who will serve on two of the town’s school boards, as well as who will represent them in the state House and Senate.
As a member of the Gilbert Town Council, I join with other current and former elected officials who fully endorse Ron Bellus for the Gilbert School Board. We understand the importance of building relationships when working with one another in the governing process. Those relationships aren’t created overnight; it takes time to build trust and mutual respect.
PHOENIX -- State lawmakers cannot ignore a court order to provide more funds for schools now while they appeal the findings, a judge ruled Tuesday.
Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Katherine Cooper rejected arguments by attorneys for the Legislature that her decision the state owes schools what translates to an extra $331 million is somehow not in effect. They had argued that her July ruling was subject to an automatic "stay'' while they seek Court of Appeals review.
She said her ruling simply ordered lawmakers to start complying with a previous decision by the Arizona Supreme Court that they had ignored a 2000 voter-approved mandate to adjust state aid to schools each year to account for inflation. More to the point, her order calculated exactly how much needs to be added to basic state aid "to fulfill that mandate.''
What that means, she said, is her order is in effect -- and enforceable.
Peter Gentala, an attorney for the state House, said Cooper is wrong in believing the state has to start paying the money before the Supreme Court gets a chance to see how she calculated the figure.
Gentala also said that ignores the state's financial problems. He pointed to a report released Tuesday from the Joint Legislative Budget Committee projecting a $200 million deficit for this fiscal year even without the payment to the schools.
Don Peters, who represents the school districts that sued, said Tuesday's order does not require the Legislature to come into session immediately to appropriate the funds.
But what it does, Peters said, is provide options the schools can seek to ensure the money starts flowing and is not held up by delays caused by appeals. And he said it even could provide a method of getting the money even if lawmakers balk.
Peters said the judge could simply direct the state treasurer to hand over the money to the Department of Education to be distributed to schools. That would bypass the Legislature entirely and make legislative inaction irrelevant.
And he said that order could have teeth, with Cooper empowered to jail for contempt those who ignore their orders -- including the treasurer.
Peters stressed, though, he is hoping it does not come to that.
Lawmakers at first fought the whole question of whether they were obligated to comply with the voter mandate, contending that 2000 vote was not binding on them.
That argument, however, was rejected last year by the Supreme Court. That left it up to Cooper to decide what was really owed.
That $317 million figure is what Cooper said would have been available this year to schools had legislators not ignored the inflation-funding mandate for several years during the recession. In essence, she looked at state aid for the last year when there was compliance, computed each year's inflation, and came up with a number.
Senate President Andy Biggs, however, contends that number needs to be offset by the money lawmakers gave to schools above and beyond what was required by inflation. He puts that figure at about $240 million.
Cooper, however, ruled in July that's not the way the law reads. And Tuesday's order says unless the appellate court intervenes, it's time for lawmakers to start paying up.
Peters said there is precedent for what the judge is doing -- and for the schools to seek some sanctions if lawmakers balk.
One is directing the treasurer to distribute the funds under threat of contempt. But he said there are other options.
Two decades ago the Supreme Court ruled that the system of funding school construction violated state constitutional provisions for a "general and uniform'' school system. The justices said it resulted in gross disparities between the ability of "rich'' and "poor'' districts, with some being able to afford domed stadiums while others had crumbling bathrooms.
But the justices did not spell out for lawmakers how to fix the system. Instead, they ruled that if lawmakers did not come up with an acceptable plan, they would bar the treasurer from distributing any funds to schools, a move that would have effectively shut down the education system.
It never came to that. And Peters said he presumes the same sort of compliance if the courts issue a similar order in this case.
"There have been times the Legislature didn't like court rulings,'' Peters said. "But there's never been an occasion where they just said, 'We're not going to do it.' ''
He said no one wants to see that kind of stalemate.
"But I will also tell you that if it comes down to that, I'm going to bet on the courts,'' he said. "Because they can send somebody to jail.''
Cooper is separately considering a claim by schools they are entitled to about $1.3 billion they did not get in inflation funds for prior years. A hearing on that is set for later this month.
Follow Howard Fischer on Twitter at @azcapmedia.
State lawmakers cannot ignore a court order to provide more funds for schools now while they appeal the findings, a judge ruled Tuesday.
Q. Why are you running
PHOENIX -- The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Thursday to decide who can legally draw Arizona's congressional districts.
In a brief order, the justices said they will consider arguments by legislative leaders that the U.S. Constitution allows these boundaries to be drawn only by the majority of the 30 members of the Senate and 60 state representatives. The lawmakers want the high court to void part of a 2000 voter-approved law which gave that power to a separate Independent Redistricting Commission.
A hearing could occur as early as January.
There are profound political implications for Arizona if the court agrees. Most immediately, it would void the maps for the state's nine congressional districts that the commission created.
But the real repercussions would occur if the court hands that responsibility back to the Legislature.
That would free the Republican majority to redraw the lines for the 2016 election and beyond in ways more favorable to GOP candidates. And that likely would mean the political makeup of the state's congressional delegation, currently split 5-4 between Democrats and Republicans, would shift, perhaps sharply.
The fight turns on the Elections Clause of the U.S. Constitution which says that the "times, places and manner'' of electing members of Congress "shall be prescribed in each state by the Legislature thereof.''
That's the way it occurred in Arizona prior to 2000. It was also a process that often resulted in districts designed to give an advantage to the majority party.
That year, however, year voters amended the state constitution to create the five-member commission, charging it with drawing both legislative and congressional lines. The new commission then crafted lines for the coming decade.
As required by law, new districts were drawn following the 2010 census and the state got another seat in the U.S. House. It was only then that Republican legislative leaders expressed concern -- and filed suit -- when the lines were drawn in a way that eventually gave Democrats five of the nine seats.
A majority of a three-judge panel rejected the challenge, saying Arizona voters were within their rights. That sent the case to the high court.
Commission attorney Mary O'Grady acknowledged the federal constitutional language. But she said Thursday it doesn't mean what lawmakers contend.
" 'The Legislature' in this context, in the Elections Clause, is referring to the lawmaking process of the state,'' she said.
"It's not dictating how that lawmaking process ought to be exercised,'' O'Grady continued. "It's just referring to whatever the lawmaking process of the state is.''
And in this case, she said, the Arizona Constitution specifically authorizes voters to write their own laws through the initiative process, which is exactly how the commission was created in the first place.
"That's a wholly specious argument,'' responded Senate President Andy Biggs. "It makes me giggle.''
He wants the justices to conclude that the word "Legislature'' means exactly what it suggests.
"Both the state and the federal constitution say that every state shall have a republican form of government,'' Biggs said.
"That means it's not a direct democracy,'' he continued. "That means that we don't vote on every issue.''
He conceded that the Arizona constitution does permit voters to exercise legislative powers.
"In fact, Arizona has more direct democracy than most states,'' Biggs said. But he said that does not make the people of Arizona into "the Legislature,'' a term he said is defined in the state constitution as "the bicameral (body) consisting of the House and Senate, elected by the people to be their elected representatives in the Legislature.''
In issuing their order Thursday, the justices gave themselves a way out of the whole legal argument. They said they first want to decide whether lawmakers have has the right to ask them to essentially void a provision of the state constitution because it trimmed their political power.
"There's lots of case law that says that's not really the kind of injury that gives standing to file suit,'' O'Grady said.
Thursday's action by the Supreme Court does not affect a separate lawsuit challenging the lines the commission drew for the state's 30 legislative districts, one which the high court has not yet decided whether to review.
In that case, however, the challengers do not dispute the commission can draw legislative districts. Instead, they dispute how those districts were drawn.
Challengers contend commission members acted improperly when they intentionally "packed'' non-Hispanic Republicans into some districts. That meant remaining districts had a higher proportion of Democrats, giving candidates from that party a better chance of getting elected.
Attorney Thor Hearne said what makes that illegal is not the partisan motives but hot it was done. He said the commission ignored state constitutional requirements that it create districts of equal population. Using 2010 census figures, each district should have about 213,000 residents. But the commission, by its own admission, had districts ranging from 203,026 to 220,157.
The majority of a three-judge panel rejected the challenge, concluding the U.S. Constitution does not require that legislative districts have precisely equal population.
Instead, the judge said, there can be "divergencies'' that are necessary to achieve other goals. And in this case, they said, that the commission's decision to manipulate the lines was primarily to comply with requirements of the Voting Rights Act to not dilute minority voting strength and not to give Democrats a political leg-up.
But Judge Neil Wake, in his dissent, disagreed, saying "it does not take a Ph.D. to see this stark fact of intended party benefit.''
Follow Howard Fischer on Twitter at @azcapmedia.
State lawmakers should stop fighting public schools in court and come up with the money they are due to compensate them for inflation, Gov. Jan Brewer said Wednesday.
School officials are warning lawmakers that if they don't take a deal to settle the inflation adjustment lawsuit — and soon — taxpayers could be on the hook for another $1.3 billion.
Conservative lobbyists want Arizona to join the growing list of states applying for the nation’s second constitutional convention.
The Father of our Country on the Gilbert School Board? George Washington?
State Sen. Bob Worsley addressed issues related to education, economics and Medicaid during a forum hosted by the East Valley Tribune on July 16.
A University of Arizona doctor who was pushing for more research into medical marijuana is being let go — she believes for political reasons.
The field of contenders to represent East Valley residents in Congress, the State Senate and the State House of Representatives has been finalized.
Arizona is pulling out of a controversial multi-state consortium that is crafting tests for students.
Rebuffing a bid to add new last-minute string to funding, state senators gave preliminary approval Wednesday to creating a new Department of Child Safety and providing what is now $63 million in new cash to get it started.
Top legislative leaders are telling Gov. Jan Brewer she can have the money she wants for child welfare — but not all at once.
The Air Force’s mission is to fly, fight, and win … in air, space, and cyberspace. This is a mission that relies heavily on energy and electricity.
Calling the spending premature and perhaps unnecessary, Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed a measure Wednesday to hire an outside expert to study the state's child welfare agency.
Glendale will not be getting help from the rest of the state to cover the cost of public safety at next year's Super Bowl.
The House gave final approval Monday to legislation to require an external review of how Arizona has been handling its child protective services.
Do not fret Gilbert teachers, you have a voice. Even though the school board wants to silent your voices, the voice you have will be in the voting booth. To finally bring sanity to the Gilbert school board, all of your voices have to come with your votes.