Arizona voters approved an initiative measure authorizing cities and towns to regulate their own minimum wage and benefits. The legislature subsequently adopted a law removing the municipalities’ power to regulate nonwage benefits (H.B. 2579).
A group of plaintiffs, including several City councilmembers and the legislators who voted against the law, sued. They argued that H.B. 2579 violated the Voter Protection Act, which limits the legislature’s power to amend, repeal, or supersede voter-approved laws. On cross-motions for summary judgment, the trial court agreed that H.B. 2579 impliedly repealed the voter-approved wage act granting regulatory power to municipalities. The State appealed.
The Arizona Court of Appeals affirmed. The Court found that H.B. 2579’s plain text could not be harmonized with the wage act’s grant of power to counties, cities, and towns to “regulate minimum wages and benefits” because “H.B. 2579 explicitly removed from cities, towns, and other political subdivisions the authority to regulate ‘employee benefits, including nonwage compensation.’” Thus, it concluded that H.B. 2579 impliedly repeals and amends a portion of the voter-approved wage act.
The Court rejected the State’s argument that no conflict existed because the laws meant different things by the term “benefit.” It noted that the State’s reading conflicted with the ordinary meaning of that term and would lead to a grammatically impossible construction. Finally, the Court refused to consider secondary interpretative methods, like legislative history, because the plain statutory text resolved the issue.
Judge Campbell wrote the opinion; Judges McMurdie and Cattani joined.
Posted by: Hayleigh S. Crawford