James and Donna Hamm challenged the constitutionality of A.R.S. §41-1604(B)(3) which allows the Director of the Arizona Department of Correction to establish a one-time fee for conducting background checks for prison visitors. The fees are deposited in the building renewal fund. Section 41-797 requires the building renewal fund to be used to “repair or rework buildings and supporting infrastructure.” A.R.S. 41-797(B). The trial court rejected the Hamms’ arguments that (1) section 41-1604(B)(3) constitutes special legislation in violation of the Arizona Constitution and (2) the fee is an unconstitutional tax. This appeal followed.
The Court of Appeals rejected the Hamms’ first argument that the statute was an unconstitutional special legislation. The Court explained that the statute was rationally related to a legitimate governmental objective and the classification encompassed all members of the relevant class. Contrary to the Hamms’ contention, a special legislation does not need a direct connection between the legislation’s purpose and the service it performs, but, rather, simply a rational relationship between the government objective and the statutory classification. The legislature has a legitimate interest in recovering costs of those who visit the prison, and because visitation imposes special costs that other groups do not, the fee targeted the relevant class. The Court also rejected the Hamms’ second argument that the fee is an unconstitutional tax because the Hamms did not cite to any supporting constitutional provision or otherwise develop their argument.
Judge Brown authored the opinion; Judges Thumma and Johnsen concurred.
Posted by: Joshua Ernst