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Bill to give sheriff, other county officials control over budget fails

Legislation aimed at giving county sheriffs and other county officers full control over their budgets failed to get the nod of a Senate panel on Feb. 10.

The bill, S1017, would have required that a county’s board of supervisors appropriate lump sum funds to county officers, such as the sheriff, the recorder, the country attorney and the treasurer.

The measure also stipulates that an elected county officer has the “full authority and discretion” how to perform that office’s statutory or constitutional duties, and that all “necessary or implied power or authority of a county office is reserved to each elected county officer.”

Those authorities include the delivery of services or the organization of the office, including appropriating money to buy goods and property that the officer deems to be necessary in accomplishing the office’s functions.

Lawmakers crossed party lies to vote the bill down by a vote of 4-5.

Sen. Russell Pearce, chairman of the Appropriations Committee, said the bill provides protection to elected officials to do their job.

“I’m very concerned when we continue to facilitate policy that would allow another elected official to dictate to an elected official how to do their job,” said Pearce, who introduced the measure.

“We don’t elect the board of supervisors to run the office of the sheriff. We don’t elect the board of supervisors to run the office of the county assessor. We don’t elect the board of supervisors to run the treasurer. We don’t elect board of supervisors to run the county attorney’s office,” he said.

Pearce was likely referring to the running feud between the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors and the Sheriff’s Office and the County Attorney’s Office.

But Sen. Sylvia Allen, a Republican from Snowflake, said small counties operate well under the current system.

“I think what you need to do is switch out and try to reform these larger counties, but to lump my small counties into it – where they are not asking for this and they don’t want this. In fact, it is going to cause problems for them in the way that they run their counties – that’s the big problem for me,” Allen said, explaining her “no” vote.

Senate Majority Whip Steve Pierce, a Republican from Prescott, also opposed the measure.

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