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AZ Supreme Court won’t force budget transmittal

Roughly four hours after hearing oral arguments regarding a tense state budget stalemate, the Arizona Supreme Court decided it will not force the Legislature’s Republican leadership to submit its approved fiscal 2010 budget to Gov. Jan Brewer.

In a three-page order, Chief Justice Ruth McGregor noted the court accepted jurisdiction of Brewer’s petition for special action, although Republican lawmakers will have until June 30 to submit the budget to Brewer for consideration.

Earlier this month, Brewer asked the court to force Senate President Bob Burns to submit the budget to her office. But she also said she probably wouldn’t sign them.

The governor charged that the Legislature’s delay in sending the budget proposal violated the separation of powers clauses of the Arizona Constitution by denying her the ability to exercise her authority to present the final say on the legislation. The Legislature passed the budget bills on June 4.

McGregor’s order indicates the court agreed with Brewer’s contention that the Legislature’s delay does not comply with the state’s constitutional demand that “every measure when finally passed shall be presented to the governor for his approval or disapproval.

The court also found that the Legislature cannot delay transmitting a bill to the Governor’s Office beyond any stoppage necessary to perform required “ministerial duties.”

But, calling the issue a “good-faith dispute between coordinate branches of government,” McGregor declined to force the Legislature’s hand, noting the budget bills will be submitted no later than June 30.

Justice Andrew Hurwitz predicted the bills would produce an immediate veto, but the Legislature’s attorney, David Cantelme, told the court there still is time to for lawmakers to rescind or reconsider the budget package.

“Any member of the Senate could upset the apple cart if they could command 16 votes,” he said, adding the governor’s petition for special action amounts to a request for an unwarranted intrusion into a political squabble.

To date, the Legislature’s Republican authority has stalled on sending the legislation to Brewer under the explanation that there is still time left to compromise on a solution and avoid a swipe from the governor’s veto pen.

Brewer’s chief counsel, Joseph Kanefield, argued before the court that waiting any longer would deprive Brewer of a five-day waiting period that the Constitution allows a sitting governor to consider action on approved legislation.

The delay also could force a shutdown of essential governmental services if a budget is not agreed upon by July 1, the beginning of the 2010 fiscal year.

Kanefield argued that the financial nature of the stalled bills warranted the Arizona Supreme Court taking the unusual action of entering into a standoff between the legislative and executive branch.

“It is different and deserving of special treatment,” he said.

Read the Arizona Supreme Court’s order at http://azcapitoltimes.com/wp-files//budgetdisputeorder.pdf

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