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Ariz. Sch. Bds. Ass’n, Inc. v. State - 1/6/2022

Arizona Supreme Court holds that parts of the state legislature’s budget reconciliation bills are void due to violations of the title requirement and single subject rule.

The Arizona Constitution requires that appropriations beyond the scope of the general appropriations bill “shall be made by separate bills, each embracing but one subject.”  Ariz. Const. art. 4, pt. 2, § 20.  Two requirements come from this constitutional provision: the single subject rule (i.e., each act may address only one subject) and the title requirement (i.e., that subject must be expressed in the title).  A violation of the title requirement voids the part of the act not expressed in the title.  A violation of the single subject rule voids the entire act.  The state legislature passed a 2022 budget that included eight separate budget reconciliation bills.  A school boards association challenged four of these bills (HB 2898, SB 1824, SB 1825, and SB 1819), arguing that the bills violated the title requirement.  The school boards association also alleged that SB 1819 violated the single subject rule. 

The trial court granted the school boards association’s request that the challenged sections of each of the four bills be declared unconstitutional.  The Arizona Supreme Court transferred the appeal from the court of appeals and affirmed.  The Supreme Court explained that the titles of each of the bills at issue did not have a natural connection to the subject matter of the challenged portion of the bills at issue.  The Court also held that SB 1819 violated the single subject rule because that bill contained fifty-two sections that spanned approximately thirty distinct subjects—from dog racing to election integrity, as well as COVID-19.  The Court reasoned that these subjects did not fall under “one general idea” nor were they “germane to one general subject” and so declared all of SB 1819 unconstitutional.

Justice Lopez authored the opinion for the unanimous Court.  Justice Bolick authored a short concurrence regarding the political question doctrine.

Disclosure: Osborn Maledon attorneys were involved with this case.

Posted by: John Bullock

Posted On: 2/9/2022