The state law forbidding community college districts from using public resources to influence voters is called a law without consequences because it carries no penalty.
But a state lawmaker is calling for revisions that would include strict penalties.
At issue in this election is a $1 billion bond measure sought by the Maricopa Community College District
A Tribune review of district records found district officials and employees have been using the district’s e-mail system to promote the bond measure.
It’s against the law for a community college district to use its personnel, equipment, materials, buildings and other resources to influence the outcomes of elections. However, there is no penalty spelled out in the law.
Rep. Linda Gray, RGlendale, who this week asked the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office to begin a criminal investigation into the district’s activities, wants to see the law strengthened.
"So what?" Gray said of the current situation. "You get your hands slapped. You go back to the cookie jar."
Gray said the Maricopa County Elections Office might be able to push for penalties under campaign finance laws. Karen Osborne, the county elections director, couldn’t be reached Friday.
District employees who break the law should be fined, Gray said.
Last year, Gray revised the law pertaining to school districts to include such fines and repayment provisions.
She pushed for the change after people complained that brochures paid for by school districts promoted school board candidates.
The law governing community college districts was not changed.
The laws pertaining to both school districts and community college districts originally carried a penalty provision when they were introduced in the state Legislature in 1996. The penalty was that the election would be invalidated.
But, according to records of hearings on the bills, lawmakers worried that the penalty was too stiff.
Spokesman Bill FitzGerald said Friday it is too soon to know whether the county attorney will investigate.
District officials said they hadn’t been contacted by the county attorney’s office.