Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Redistricting -- Supplemental Appropriation?

It is still too early to determine if the legislature blinked, but House Appropriations chair John Kavanagh today introduced HB2862 to provide a supplemental appropriation for the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission.

The entire text of the bill is:

Be it enacted by the Legislature of the State of Arizona:
Section 1.  Supplemental appropriation; independent redistricting commission
In addition to the appropriation made by Laws 2011, chapter 24, section 50, the sum of $1,130,000 is appropriated from the state general fund in fiscal year 2011-2012 to the independent redistricting commission for the operating expenses of the commission.
A bill as introduced has no effect of law, but is only the starting point for the legislative (deliberative) process requiring 16 and 32 (the votes of 16 senators and 32 representatives on third read in the respective chambers) and the governor's signature in order to be enacted. Nevertheless, this is a necessary step.

In the case of the AIRC, there had been a fair bit of public testimony -- likely rising out of the UNfair Trust propaganda drive beginning in the Spring of 2011 -- that the IRC had been authorized to spend $10 million.  That was clearly and emphatically refuted (with documentation from the Joint Legislative Budget Committee's Budget Fiscal Year 2012 report) but TP complainers had a hard time understanding the legislative appropriation process.

Even when this supplemental appropriation passes, this year's AIRC will still be far below $10 million in current and projected expenditures. To Kavanagh's credit, it WILL save the state significant amounts of money to pass HB2862 now. The alternative is the legislature instigating further litigation just to get the GOP supermajority to comply with the clear, specific language in the Arizona Constitution (cited at the end of this blog post).

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And speaking of AIRC related litigation, I have obtained a copy of Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery's opening brief in the appeal of Judge Fink's ruling late last year that the IRC is subject only to the Open Meeting Clause in the state Constitution but not to Arizona's Open Meeting Statutes.


Informally, I heard today that there might be some kind of deal in the works to drop Montgomery's appeal. However, that word did not come from the Maricopa County Attorney's office, so I don't know how much weight to give it. The Arizona Republic ran a story in today's edition about a bill, HB2807, which purports to make the AIRC subject to Open Meeting Statutes, by including it in the definition of a "public body."
Public body includes all commissions and other public entities established by the Arizona constitution or by way of ballot initiative, including the independent redistricting commission, and this article applies except and only to the extent that specific constitutional provisions supersede this article.

Sec. 2.  Legislative intent; clarifying languageIt is the intent of the legislature by this act to clarify that the independent redistricting commission, a constitutionally created public body, was and is subject to the open meeting statutes contained in title 38, chapter 3, article 3.1, Arizona Revised Statutes, except for those limited instances in which the more specific provision in the Arizona Constitution applies.
Of course, the main caveat here is that in order to get to the place where everyone agrees on what "those limited instances in which the more specific provision in the Arizona Constitution applies," will require MORE LITIGATION. How much taxpayer money will it take to resolve the issue? One way to look at this is that it boils down to the AIRC and the Arizona Supreme Court giving the governor and the legislature a wedgie and they want to strike back.

Another perspective is that HB2807 is intended to make it easier for the legislature to usurp the independent redistricting authority of the commission by recasting scenarios like the political melodrama we watched play out last November. Bet your bottom dollar that the vision of those who wrote HB2807 is to give the state senate and the governor something more tangible to label "substantial neglect of duty, gross misconduct in office, or inability to discharge the duties of office" in the year 2021.

Why will this NOT pass constitutional muster? Because Fink's underlying rationale for ruling that the AIRC is not subject to Open Meeting Statutes was that the legislature must not be allowed to have ANY leverage over the commission to influence where district lines are drawn. Yet, this is clearly what the dozens of Republican sponsors of HB2807 want to have.

Of course, I wouldn't put it past this bunch of yahoos, er, "HONORABLE representatives of the people" to try to use it to go after THIS AIRC, though that would just seem petty at this stage.

3 comments:

  1. Steve,

    From my understanding, if the Legislature ("tea party" & conservative Republicans) want the AIRC to be subject to the Open Meetings Law the Legislature devises, that it has to be done by changing the AZ Constitution. Since the AIRC was created by Constitutional amendment, wouldn't any changes have to done at the Constitutional level?

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  2. Well, since I'm not an attorney, I can't say with any degree of certainty. But my initial impression agrees with yours. That's why I believe the main thing they will cause by passing this bill (if it is enacted, with or without the governor's signature) is more litigation and more cost to taxpayers.

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  3. Steve: Just wanted to say how much I appreciate your due diligence and informative writing on this entire redistricting process. I'm looking forward to your continued focus on this and other Arizona political stuff.
    E. McKenna

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