It’s interesting that the Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich has entered the fray on whether Maricopa County is required to comply with a subpoena seeking election materials.
Last month the President of the State Senate, Sen. Karen Fann, and Sen. Eddie Farnsworth, head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, issued the subpoena seeking copies of every mail-in ballot counted during the election along with a pile of other records.
When the Maricopa Board of Supervisors failed to comply, the senators filed a lawsuit asking a judge to force the county to act. Now the attorney general has entered the dispute, calling on Judge Timothy Thomason to enforce the subpoena and “… recognize the Arizona Legislature’s broad authority to issue and enforce legislative subpoenas.”
Aside from the lawsuit, this action offers more evidence of the state’s perception of its power.
It has no bounds.
Speaking specifically to the subpoena, there are provisions within Arizona law that empower the Legislature as a whole to issue a writ compelling action. This subpoena was not issued by a vote of the full Legislature, as provided by law, but instead was drafted by just two senators.
Nevertheless, Brnovich believes it well within the “broad authority” of the state to require Maricopa County to comply with this subpoena.
That’s consistent with previous actions by state lawmakers to grab power over local governments.
When legislators implemented laws prohibiting local bans on plastic bags, they also adopted provisions that empowered the state to withhold and reallocate revenue shared with the offending community. Bisbee, which was among the first cities in Arizona to outlaw one-time use plastic bags, was forced to abandon its environmentally-responsible ordinance out of fear that it would lose millions in state shared revenue.
Lawmakers reinforced that authority with another law, empowering individual legislators to request an investigation by the Attorney General’s office if they believe that a local government has an ordinance or restriction that in any way violates state law.
Tucson is now facing this challenge after being notified by state officials that its election schedule is not in compliance with Arizona laws mandating elections be held every two years, during even-numbered years. Like Bisbee, Tucson believes its status as a charter city makes it exempt from the law. State officials clearly think otherwise and appear prepared to prove the state’s authority.
We’ve mentioned in the past the irony of this perception. Any effort by the federal government to impose its will on Arizona draws the immediate ire of state officials who cry “overreach!” and quickly turn the argument into campaign fodder.
Yet these same officials, including and especially the attorney general, act without hesitation in seeking to extend the authority of state government over municipalities and counties.
The only solution for citizens is at the ballot box.
It’s no secret that Brnovich is planning a run for the governor’s office when the current officeholder terms out in 2022.
Here’s a good reason not to vote for him.