Cities' lawsuit protects constitution - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Cities' lawsuit protects constitution

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Posted: Tuesday, November 10, 2009 12:33 pm | Updated: 12:35 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Our View: Arizona cities are taking an important stand to uphold a key principle of the state constitution even though they could face withering criticism from lawmakers and their own residents.

Arizona cities are taking an important stand to uphold a key principle of the state constitution even though they could face withering criticism from lawmakers and their own residents.

The League of Arizona Cities and Towns decided Friday to go to court again to stop several new laws that seem to have been adopted illegally during a special session called to address the state's budget crisis. Capitol Media Services reported these laws include a two-year moratorium on new impact fees from municipalities and a mandate that all local governments verify the immigration status of anyone seeking public services.

The League won an earlier lawsuit filed last year against the state that blocked the forced reimbursement of $30 million already sent to local communities. But a number of mayors who serve on the League's executive board opposed this new challenge. The questionable laws could return in a more onerous form during the next regular session. Also, there's a fear that key lawmakers might seek political retribution against municipalities for using the courts to thwart their agendas.

In light of these concerns, a majority of the League's board revealed courage in taking action that would defend the integrity of the state constitution.

The Legislature meets every year in general session, during which lawmakers can introduce bills on any subject they choose and seek to convince their colleagues and the governor to support them.

On the other hand, special sessions are called by the governor to address specific topics. The constitution's framers believed the governor should gather lawmakers for a genuine crisis or to conclude critical matters left unfinished. But the constitution's authors wanted to limit these meetings so they didn't last indefinitely or dissolve into a free-for-all that distracted from the problem at hand.

The Legislature, through the state's lawyers, will have an opportunity to argue in court that the laws opposed by the League did fall within the governor's call to special session.

But to leave these laws unchallenged would erode the distinction between the two types of legislative sessions and could open the door to a year-round Legislature in mockery of the notion of citizen lawmakers. Arizona already has gone too far down that road, as lawmakers now usually meet more than six months each year.

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