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No ruling yet on budget bills prohibiting COVID protections

Oral arguments were heard Monday
Published: Sep. 13, 2021 at 6:23 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - On Monday, Sept. 13, a judge heard arguments in a case that seeks to overturn bans on local governments from imposing mask mandates and other COVID precautions. The bans were slipped into budget bills.

It was a virtual courtroom, as lawyers from the state and plaintiffs from the Children’s Action Alliance, Arizona School Board Association and more argued the legalities of COVID protocol bans written into so-called budget reconciliation bills.

“What we’re seeking is the ability of local school districts to protect the children in their care and to protect and teachers and to protect the families that these families go home to,” said Danny Adelman, executive director of the Arizona Center for Law and the Public Interest and one of the plaintiffs.

The hearing focused on four bills. SB 1828, SB 1824, SB 1825 and HB 2898, all titled as budget reconciliation bills, but have provisions written in them like banning schools and universities from mask and vaccine mandates, and teaching critical race theory. Plaintiffs argued the bills were unconstitutional under the state’s title and single subject laws.

“This case is not about the substance of policy.. but present a textbook example legislative enactment that violate the constitution’s single subject and title requirements,” said Roopali Desai, Coppersmith Brockelman, an attorney for the plaintiffs.

The state argued these kinds of things have often been done for many years, and argued without a constitutional definition of what a budget reconciliation bill should hold, what’s in them can be about as broad as the imagination.

“If it’s one thing that’s quite clear, it is not strictly applied, it is the legislature is given a lot of discretion, a lot of wiggle room,” said Patrick Irvine, arguing for the state.

No ruling was issued Monday, but Maricopa County Judge Katherine Cooper said she will have a ruling before September 29th, when the laws are set to go into effect.

Parties are ready to take this battle up the court system, with plaintiffs saying it’s likely to head to the Arizona Supreme Court or one of the appeals courts. The Governor’s office declined to give a comment for this story since the litigation is pending.

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