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League will file suit against state over impact-fee limits

Municipalities are gearing up for a lawsuit challenging restrictions lawmakers put on cities and towns when they approved the fiscal 2010 spending plan.

The executive committee of the League of Arizona Cities and Towns, an association that represents 90 incorporated cities and towns, voted 12-8 Nov. 6 to file a special action with the Arizona Supreme Court over some budget provisions that directly affect cities.

The main point of contention was a section of the budget that limits the fees municipalities can charge developers. It prevents cities and towns from adopting new development impact fees or increasing existing fees for two years. Those fees are applied to new construction and generally pay for services such as streets and sewers.

Some cities also objected to another budget provision that requires public employees to verify the legal status of people before they can receive public benefits. Failure to do so is a misdemeanor, and citizens were also given the ability to sue if they believe a governmental entity is not properly verifying citizenship.

The lawsuit will argue that the provisions are unconstitutional because they were approved outside the scope of the special legislative session, which was called by Gov. Jan Brewer in July. It originally was limited to fixing the state’s budget shortfall and approving a sales tax increase. However, several weeks later, she amended the call and expanded it to include anticipated legislation on tax reform and changes to voter-protection laws.

The Arizona Constitution says that “no laws shall be enacted except such as relate to the subjects mentioned in the call.”

The League will argue that the provisions it is objecting to have nothing to do with the budget, fixing the state deficit or implementing the other reforms specified in the special session call, said Ken Strobeck, executive director of the League. Rather, those provisions are policy oriented.

Strobeck said it was unclear when the lawsuit would be filed.

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