New lawsuit argues Arizona ban on mask mandates was passed illegally
PHOENIX — A lawsuit filed Thursday argues that Arizona’s ban on face mask mandates in public schools should be invalidated because lawmakers violated the state constitution while passing it.
“Article IV, part 2, section 13 of the Arizona Constitution places two important limitations on laws passed the Legislature: (1) the laws can cover only one subject, and (2) their contents must be properly noticed in the title of the bill,” says the complaint filed in Maricopa County Superior Court by a coalition of educators, child advocates, doctors and concerned citizens.
“This legislative session, the Legislature passed several so-called ‘budget reconciliation bills’ that violate these constitutional mandates.”
Roopali Desai, an attorney for the plaintiffs, told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Friday the lawsuit is challenging the prohibition of mask mandates in K-12 schools and several other laws passed as provisions in the state budget in June.
“When the Legislature passes substantive laws, they cannot logroll into one bill unrelated subjects,” she said. “The same constitutional requirement also says that the Legislature has to give citizens fair notice of what’s contained in the laws that they are enacting by using a title, and that title has to adequately describe the substantive law changes that they’re making.”
Desai said those requirements “are intended to make sure that the people of Arizona know what their lawmakers are up to, have an opportunity to weigh in and participate in the process and to not have a situation like we had this past legislative session where legislators are just rolling together all of these pet projects and provisions that they want but without going through the full legislative process.”
Maricopa County Supervisor Steve Gallardo, who is part of the lawsuit as a citizen, not in his official role, said the ban on mask mandates is overreach of power that should remain in the hands of school boards.
“There’s a reason why our constituents elect school board members, city councilors and county supervisors, and not just state lawmakers and a governor,” he said in a statement. “This lawsuit is about reining in laws that go too far and restoring the power of communities to make their own decisions.”
The bill that includes the ban doesn’t go into effect until Sept. 29, but it contains a clause to make the mask provision retroactive to June 30.
However, there is an ongoing dispute over whether the retroactivity clause is enforceable after multiple districts required students and staff to wear face coverings on campus.
A Metro Tech biology teacher sued the Phoenix Union High School District over its mandate, and both sides argued their positions in court Friday. The district maintained the law doesn’t go into effect until Sept. 29.
Desai agrees with the district, saying new laws can’t go into effect until 90 days after the legislative session ends.
“We want the court to hear our case and to rule that these laws are unconstitutional prior to the effective date of the law so that they don’t go into effect at the end of September,” she said.
KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Griselda Zetino contributed to this report.