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Biomed research group sues state over funds transfer

The Arizona Biomedical Research Commission filed suit June 10 against the state to stop the enactment of a new law that turns over the administration of certain special research funds to the Department of Health Services.

The commission alleges in the suit, filed in Maricopa County Superior Court, that the state budget enacted earlier this year violates the Voter Protection Act of 1998 and the state Constitution’s single subject rule.

“Although the transfer of authority from ABRC to DHS has not yet taken effect, the ABRC has learned that entities have already begun lobbying of the Director of DHS to expend the funds in the ABRC Accounts differently than the ABRC has allocated those funds in the past,” reads the lawsuit, which was filed by attorneys with Lewis and Roca LLP.

The commission administers the Health Research Account, Disease Control Research Fund, and the Health Research Fund.

The lawsuit argues that each of those accounts is funded by revenue dedicated to them by voter initiatives passed after the Voter Protection Act, which curtails the Legislature’s ability to alter voter-approved measures.

Money from the funds is spent researching disease and prevention.

In 2000, voters approved Proposition 200, which implemented a tobacco tax and directed some of the funding to go into the Health Research Account. That same year, voters also approved Proposition 204 to allocate tobacco tax settlement money to supplement any shortfall of the lottery revenues that supply the Disease Control Research Fund. Voters in 2002 approved Proposition 303 to allocate some of the tobacco tax revenues into the Health Research Fund and Health Research Account.

The fiscal 2012 budget also turns the commission, which has existed since 1984, into an advisory panel.

The bill, SB1615, also consolidates the Capitol Police with the Department of Public Safety and the Department of Mines and Mineral Resources with the Geological Survey. Additionally, it gives the Department of Administration new responsibilities while taking away some and creates a new fund to be controlled by DOA that is funded with towing fees.

The commission alleges that all of those changes violate the Constitution’s single-subject rule, which states that every piece of legislation embrace only one subject and “matters properly connected therewith.”

The Constitution also requires that all appropriations made apart from the general appropriation bill “shall be made by separate bills, each embracing but one subject.”

“SB1615, which made numerous structural changes to state government other than transferring authority over the ABRC Accounts from the ABRC to DHS, encompassed more than one subject,” the lawsuit states. “SB1615 also included an appropriation relating to the administration and use of towing charges collected by the Department of Administration, a subject unrelated to the transfer of authority over the ABRC Accounts.”

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