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AZAPP Blog Your resource for news and analysis of cases in Arizona's appellate courts.

Hoffman v. Reagan - 11/1/2018

Arizona Supreme Court holds that measures referred to the people by the legislature are “acts” subject to the single subject rule, and that a measure which proposes multiple amendments to the same act does not violate the rule.

Voters passed an initiative measure to enact the Clean Elections Act.  Two decades later, the legislature passed a measure with two separate amendments to the Act and referred the measure to the voters for approval.  Two challengers filed suit to bar the measure from the ballot, arguing the measure violated the single subject rule in article 4, part 2, of the Arizona Constitution.  The superior court held the single subject rule did not apply to measures enacted by the legislature and referred to the people for voter approval.  The challengers filed an expedited appeal to the Supreme Court. 

The Supreme Court held that the single subject rule did apply, but that the measure did not violate the single subject rule.  Article 4, part 2, section 13 of the Arizona Constitution states that “every act shall embrace but one subject . . . which shall be expressed in the title.”  This provision does not apply to initiative or referendum petitions, only acts enacted by the legislature, but when the legislature refers a measure to the voters for their consideration, it involves enacting or passing a bill, and thus is an act within the meaning of article 4, part 2.  An act, however, which offers two separate amendments to the same statute complies with the single subject rule as they embrace one general subject, the statute to be amended.  Because the referred measure’s amendments both amended the Clean Elections Act, the measure does not violate the single subject rule. 

The Supreme Court also rejected an argument that litigation was premature because a measure referred to the voters is not an act until approved by the voters.  The issue of compliance with the single subject rule is ripe once the legislature enacts the measure, and challengers need not wait for the voters to approve the act. 

Chief Justice Bales delivered the unanimous opinion of the court.

Posted by: Emma J. Cone-Roddy

Posted On: 11/12/2018