ARIZONA NEWS

Judge considering challenge to Arizona’s school masks ban

Sep 13, 2021, 9:00 PM | Updated: Sep 14, 2021, 5:18 am
(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)...
(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

PHOENIX (AP) — A judge was considering whether to overturn several new Arizona laws that restrict the power of cities, counties and school districts to impose COVID-19 restrictions like mask mandates after hearing arguments in the case Monday.

A coalition of educators, parents and children’s advocacy groups argue in a lawsuit that the provisions were unconstitutionally tucked into several unrelated budget measures and that the highly contagious delta variant of COVID-19 makes the need for masks more pressing.

The laws prohibit public school districts and local governments from imposing mask mandates, bar universities from requiring vaccinations for students and prevent requirements that people to show they are inoculated to get into businesses. Similar legislation has passed in several other Republican-led states.

At least 29 Arizona public school districts have enacted their own mask requirements despite the laws. The districts account for more more than a third of the approximately 930,000 students attending more than 2,000 public schools.

The coalition’s attorney, Roopali Desai, said the laws run afoul of the state Constitution, which requires that the titles of legislation properly identify their contents. They were only given the bare-bones description needed for the state budget. The mask ban is particularly concerning, Desai said.

“Unless the laws challenged in this case are declared unconstitutional and enjoined, a great many children in Arizona will get COVID-19,” Desai told Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Katherine Cooper. “They will get sick. They will suffer from long COVID. They will be hospitalized, and they may die. This is not hyperbole.”

Desai said three measures that direct how to spent money in the main budget legislation were not described properly and should be struck down. She also argued that a fourth bill should be blocked as unconstitutional because it had virtually nothing to do with directing spending and contained unrelated policy items.

They include stripping the Democratic secretary of state of the duty to defend state election laws, allowing anyone to refuse to get vaccinated even during a major health emergency, letting the state Game and Fish Department register voters and setting up a special legislative committee to review the results of the state Senate’s partisan audit of the 2020 election.

“This hodgepodge legislation is so bad that the state has not even attempted to address in its response the miscellany of topics in the bill,” Desai said of SB1819.

The coalition also is trying to block a law prohibiting the use of state money for teaching critical race theory, a way of thinking about America’s history that centers on the idea racism is systemic in the nation’s institutions and that they function to maintain the dominance of white people in society.

The Legislature routinely has tucked unrelated items into budget legislation, but this year crammed many more than usual.

Patrick Irvine, an attorney for state Attorney General Mark Brnovich, said the Constitution does not require lawmakers to specify each item they include in so-called budget reconciliation bills that direct spending.

“What we’re saying is the definition of budget reconciliation bill cannot be narrowed down as they are seeking to do,” Irvine told the judge. “To the extent a budget reconciliation bill is necessary to implement the budget, that is something that the Legislature gets to decide.”

Irvine said in court papers that a ruling agreeing that the Legislature violated the Constitution could upend years of budget measures that added unrelated policy items. Irvine said if the court is concerned about the Legislature’s practice, it should ban it going forward, not block current laws.

Potentially upsetting the practice without warning “would be highly inequitable to the democratic process in Arizona over the last several decades,” Irvine wrote.

The judge said she will issue a ruling before the laws are set to take effect Sept. 29.

Meanwhile, the state on Monday reported 2,278 new COVID-19 infections but no new deaths, bringing the total since the pandemic began to over 1.05 million cases and 19,187 deaths.

In other developments Monday, University of Arizona President Robert Robbins announced the college will begin offering take-home COVID-19 test kits later this week. The tests will be available at nine campus locations.

Students and staff give a sample by gargling. They use their cellphone to scan the test so it’s in the tracking system and then turn the sample in. Robbins believes a lot more people will get tested with the option, giving a more accurate picture of the positivity rate in the community.

Lifetime Windows & Doors

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

Teofilo Acuna Gutierrez (Photo courtesy of DPS)...
KTAR.com

Silver Alert issued for 78-year-old man last seen in Phoenix

A Silver Alert was issued Wednesday in Phoenix for a 78-year-old man who hasn't been spotted since Friday.
13 hours ago
(New Life Center Photo)...
KTAR.com

Metro Phoenix domestic violence shelter opens dog park for pets of survivors

A metro Phoenix domestic violence shelter has opened a dog park tailored to survivors and their pets thanks to a grant.
13 hours ago
(Facebook Photo/Central Arizona Dental Society Mission of Mercy)...
KTAR.com

Free dental care available to 1,800 patients during 2-day clinic at Phoenix arena

Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix will become the state’s largest free dental clinic Friday and Saturday, with the capacity to provide care for 1,800 patients in need.
13 hours ago
(Phoenix Fire Department Photo)...
KTAR.com

Stolen car suspects crash, end up 200 feet down ravine after chase in Phoenix

Tempe police took two people into custody after a car chase that came to an end 200 feet down a Phoenix ravine Tuesday night.
13 hours ago
(Facebook Photo/Scottsdale Police Department)...
KTAR.com

Police arrest suspect who fled Old Town Scottsdale traffic stop, hit pedestrian

A suspect who fled a weekend traffic stop in Old Town Scottsdale and collided with a pedestrian was arrested Monday, authorities said.
13 hours ago
FILE - Three girls embrace before they are removed from the home of Samuel Bateman, following his a...
Associated Press

FBI: Polygamous leader had 20 wives, many of them minors

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — The leader of a small polygamous group near the Arizona-Utah border had taken at least 20 wives, most of them minors, and punished followers who did not treat him as a prophet, newly filed federal court documents allege. Samuel Bateman was a former member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ […]
13 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

(Photo via MLB's Arizona Fall League / Twitter)...
Arizona Fall League

Top prospects to watch at this year’s Arizona Fall League

One of the most exciting elements of the MLB offseason is the Arizona Fall League, which began its 30th season Monday.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Here are 4 signs the HVAC unit needs to be replaced

Pool renovations and kitchen upgrades may seem enticing, but at the forefront of these investments arguably should be what residents use the most. In a state where summertime is sweltering, access to a functioning HVAC unit can be critical.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Ways to prevent clogged drains and what to do if you’re too late

While there are a variety of ways to prevent clogged drains, it's equally as important to know what to do when you're already too late.
Judge considering challenge to Arizona’s school masks ban