The Arizona Supreme Court unanimously ruled against a challenge brought by our corporate overlords in the Chamber of Commerce organizations to the voter-approved Prop. 206, the minimum wage initiative, raising the state’s minimum wage and providing for paid time off regulations. The Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required) reports, Supreme Court upholds minimum wage law:
The justices rejected arguments by a group of plaintiffs, led by the Arizona Chamber of Commerce, that Proposition 206 led to an unconstitutional mandate for the government to spend money. Attorneys for the chamber argued that expenses caused by Prop. 206, which raised the minimum wage to $10 per hour on January 1, violated the Arizona Constitution’s revenue-source rule.
Adopted in 2004, the rule requires ballot initiatives to identify funding sources for any new government spending.
Chief Justice Scott Bales announced the ruling in a brief order released Tuesday afternoon. A lengthier written opinion will be released at a later date.
Bales and other justices were skeptical of oral arguments made by Brett Johnson, an attorney for the chamber, during a hearing on March 9. Some justices wondered if it would be nearly impossible for a citizen-driven initiative to pass a constitutional test when even indirect expenses were a sufficient cause to violate the revenue source rule.
Justice Ann Scott Timmer, for example, asked if a requirement to send even one simple letter qualifies as an increase in spending under the revenue source rule.
Jim Barton, an attorney for Arizonans for Fair Wages and Healthy Families, the committee that placed the minimum wage hike on the ballot, said the ruling is a victory for Arizonans who will now get to keep the higher wage they have begun earning since January 1.
“You saw that some of the justices were questioning me very hard. They were questioning the assistant Attorney General very hard, and maybe they disagreed with the substance of the law, but the Arizona Supreme Court did what they always do. The ruled that the law means what it says,” Barton said.
The justices’ full written opinion may even have some implications for the initiative process in the future, Barton said.
“In order to know the impact that the ruling will have on the initiative process, we’ll have to wait for the opinion,” he continued. “What we do know is that the citizens of Arizona who put this on the ballot, they won today.”
Attorney General Marc Brnovich, whose office defended the law while other state agencies sent mixed signals, applauded the court’s ruling.
“As Attorney General, my job is to uphold the rule of law,” Brnovich said in a news release. “The constitution is designed to protect our rights. It’s not a tool to be used to undermine the will of the people.”
Glenn Hamer, the chamber’s president and CEO, acknowledged defeat in a statement.
“While we’re disappointed that the result did not go our way, we respect the Court’s ruling,” he said. “Lawmakers and the governor can now craft a state budget that considers the law’s impact on state revenues, and employers can calibrate their operations with the understanding that the minimum wage and paid leave law will stand.”
The Chamber of Commerce organizations will now double-down on a slate of bills they have before the Arizona legislature to make your constitutional right to enact laws by citizen initiative virtually impossible to do by erecting new barriers and requirements to exercising your constitutional right. Focus on defeating these bills already approved in the Arizona House:
HB 2404, sponsored by Rep. Vince Leach, R-SaddleBrooke, would effectively eliminate the ability of groups to use paid circulators by prohibiting payment by the number of signatures gathered. Paid circulators would still be allowed — but only if compensated on an hourly or other basis. But that removes any incentive for circulators to gather as many signatures as possible.
HCR 2002 asks voters to repeal the 1998 Voter Protection Act for citizens initiatives. Sponsored by Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale.
HCR 2007 asks voters to remove the Voter Protection Act’s power over legislative referendums – legislation that is referred to the ballot by lawmakers for the public’s approval. Sponsored by Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale.
HB 2320 would require a warning on the ballot that any voter-approved measure is difficult for lawmakers to change because of the 1998 Voter Protection Act. Sponsored by Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale.
HB 2255 would ban out-of-state contributions to ballot initiative campaigns. Sponsored by Rep. Bob Thorpe, R-Flagstaff. Elections attorneys have warned that the measure is likely unconstitutional.
HCR 2029 would require anyone launching a petition to acquire voter signatures from each of Arizona’s 30 legislative districts to qualify for the ballot. The required number would be a percentage of people who voted for governor in the most-recent election. Sponsored by Rep. Don Shooter, R-Yuma.
HCR 2029 companion bill in the Senate is SCR 1013; no action taken on this bill.
UPDATE: HB2404 was approved Thursday by the Senate Judiciary Committee on a party-line vote. The bill would make it illegal to pay initiative petition circulators based on the number of signatures they gather. The legislation Leach is advancing is the top priority of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry.