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Public interest group claims last-minute HOA bill is unconstitutional

Rep. Michelle Ugenti (File photo)

The Legislature violated the state Constitution by combining a comprehensive homeowners association bill with a minor elections bill in the last hours of the 2013 session, a public-interest law firm alleges in a lawsuit filed July 16.

The Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest, suing on behalf of two HOA activists, is asking Maricopa County Superior Court to declare SB1454 unconstitutional because it violates the Constitution’s same-subject rule.

Tim Hogan, the center’s executive director, also alleges in the suit that the bill’s title did not provide notice of the HOA subject matter. Gov. Jan Brewer signed the legislation on June 20 and the law would take effect Sept. 13.

The original bill, sponsored by Sen. Kimberly Yee, R-Phoenix, modified the definition of “in-kind” contribution, and was read for the first time in the House on March 7 after passing the Senate.

Rep. Michelle Ugenti, R-Scottsdale, meanwhile, introduced the omnibus HOA HB2371, which had died in the Senate in March. Among a handful of provisions, the bill prohibited cities from requiring developers to establish a planned community and allowed management companies to appear on behalf of HOAs in court or in obtaining liens.

Ugenti said today that the rules committee staff found her amendment to be germane to the original bill. The HOA amendment included provisions addressing political signs in planned communities and HOA elections, she said.

The Senate bill made it to the House Committee of the Whole on June 13, and Ugenti attached a 65-page amendment that contained three of her bills that failed, including the omnibus HOA bill.

Ugenti explained on the floor that they were all bills that had passed out of the House during the session with bipartisan support. But Hogan said they violated the Constitution nevertheless.

“Because House Engrossed Senate Bill SB 1454, which was passed by the Arizona Senate and signed by Governor Brewer, represents two separate bills which were log-rolled together, it embraces more than one subject and violates (Arizona Constitution),” he wrote.

Hogan said that if his clients prevail in court on the same-subject rule, then the entire law will be struck. If a court rules in his favor on only the title allegation, then only the Ugenti amendment would be struck, he said.

The lawsuit is the second one in the last week to challenge 2013 legislation. On Friday, four members of the Arizona Commission on Appellate Court Appointments filed suit to stop HB2600, a measure that gives the governor more nominees in appointing judges, from taking effect.

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