On State Versus Local Authority, Arizona Courts Offer Mixed Messages

September 1, 2017

A judge on Wednesday ruled that a 2016 law barring towns, cities and counties from requiring employers to provide additional employee benefits is unconstitutional.

The decision from Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Joshua Rogers said the law passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature and signed by Gov. Doug Ducey violates a voter-approved law known as the Voter Protection Act. That law forbids the Legislature from modifying voter-passed initiatives unless three-fourths of the lawmakers approve and if the changes "further the purposes" of the initiative.

The United Food and Commercial Workers Union and 32 Democratic lawmakers sued, arguing the 2016 law illegally overruled a 2006 initiative that raised the state's minimum wage and gave counties, cities and towns the right to enact higher wages or boost fringe benefits.

The law was another example of the Legislature trying to bar liberal-leaning municipalities from enacting laws they don't like, but this time the law was rejected. Earlier this year, the Arizona Supreme Court upheld another law passed by the Legislature that penalizes cities that enact ordinances that conflict with state law.

"I think this ruling does a nice job of saying 'well at least when it comes to wages and benefits, the municipalities have complete authority,'" said Jim Barton, the attorney that represented the union and the Democratic lawmaker. He said that in light of the Supreme Court ruling, "it's really helpful to have this one come down."

View Full Story From AP/The Arizona Republic