Arizona high court to consider case blocking school mask ban – New Haven Register

PHOENIX (AP) — The Arizona Supreme Court will hear arguments Tuesday in an appeal of a court ruling that found new laws banning schools from requiring masks and a series of other measures were unconstitutional.

Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich wants the court to overturn that ruling and allow provisions in state budget legislation that were blocked be to take effect. The high court will hear 40 minutes of arguments at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Katherine Cooper issued a ruling on Sept. 27 blocking the school mask ban and a host of other provisions in the state budget package from going into force on Sept. 29. She sided with education groups that had argued the bills were packed with policy items unrelated to the budget and violated the state constitution’s requirement that subjects be related and expressed in the title of bills.

Cooper’s ruling cleared the way for K-12 public schools to continue requiring students to wear face masks to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. At least 29 of the state’s public school districts issued mask mandates before the laws were set to take effect, and some immediately extended them after Cooper’s ruling.

Arizona cities and counties were also able to enact mask requirements and other COVID-19 rules that would have been blocked by the budget bills.

Republican opponents of school mask requirements and local COVID-19 restrictions were powerless to immediately pass new versions of the laws. That’s because of a series of GOP vacancies in the closely split Arizona House that prevented them from mustering a majority without Democratic support.

Cooper’s sweeping ruling also struck non-virus provisions that were slipped into the state budget and an entire budget measure that had served as a vehicle for a conservative policy wish list. They included a required investigation of social media companies and the stripping of the Democratic secretary of state of her duty to defend election laws.

The state is raising many of the same arguments in its appeal that were rejected by Cooper. They include that the education groups have no right to sue and that if the high court does agree with the trial judge that the legislation violated the constitution’s title and single-subject provisions, it should allow the laws to take effect and make its ruling only apply going forward.

The state is mainly trying to persuade the justices that there are not constitutional faults. It argues that the subjects they contained were all related and generally identified in the bill title.

Attorneys for the group of education advocates that sued, including the Arizona School Boards Association, said the lower court got it right.

“The trial court relied on well-settled precedent and properly ruled that each of the challenged laws was passed in violation of the constitution,” attorney Roopali Desai wrote in her brief to the court.

If the Supreme Court upholds Cooper’s decision, it will have far-reaching ramifications for the Legislature. Republicans who control the Senate and House have long ignored the constitutional requirement that budget bills deal only with spending items. Lawmakers have packed them with policy items, and this year majority Republicans were especially aggressive.