Arizona's high court on Thursday released its full opinion upholding a lower court judgment that found the Republican-controlled legislature violated the state constitution by including new laws banning school mask mandates and a series of other measures in unrelated budget bills.
The lawsuit, filed in late August by a coalition led by the Arizona School Boards Association, the Arizona Education Association, and Children's Action Alliance, challenged Arizona's ban on face-mask mandates by school districts as unconstitutional.
A Maricopa County judge in late September struck down the ban, ruling it violated the "single-subject rule" for legislation by being inserted into a state budget bill.
The ruling also voided dozens of other pending laws crammed into budget bills, including a ban on teaching critical race theory, which called for $5,000 penalties for school districts and the loss of a teaching certificate, and a ban on COVID-19 mitigation strategies by universities and community colleges.
Arizona's Supreme Court justices in their opinion said "enacting wide varieties of legislation may be essential to achieving one purpose, but that is not the case here."
"The only identified purpose here, as reflected in the title, is the budget. But the contested sections do not relate to the budget at all; they are devoid of any reference or significance to budget procedure."
They added: "Absent such a common tie between this diverse category of topics, we cannot conclude that these sections fall under 'one general idea,' or render them germane to one general subject. Our conclusion is inescapable: SB 1819 contains an array of discordant subjects that are not reasonably connected to one general idea, and certainly not to budget procedures."
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