Lawmakers often brush off constitutionality concerns
By The Associated Press
(Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Arizona lawmakers frequently rebuff the legal advice of lawyers who say their proposed bills are unconstitutional.
Almost every year the Legislature approves a bill that courts later toss out over constitutional issues, reported the Arizona Capitol Times.
Rules attorneys had flagged nearly all of these pieces of legislation as potentially unconstitutional.
These attorneys are typically barred from speaking on the record with members of the media, but former rules attorneys say the job requires flexibility as lawmakers consider advice.
Experts say reasons for pursuing potentially unconstitutional bills range from weighing a close call to forcing lawsuits on issues like abortion.
"You could ask 10 different attorneys the same legal question and get 10 different answers," former Senate rules attorney Stacey Weltsch said. "So you learn your opinion is not the be-all-end-all of the legal world. You do have to have a little bit of humility and understand your place in the process."
House Rules Committee members recently pushed forward a bill restricting use of certain resources to help carry out federal actions that are considered to be "commandeering."
Rules attorney Tim Fleming had warned the committee on Jan. 23 that the bill was likely unconstitutional.
Under the bill, the Legislature would be able to disregard U.S. Supreme Court decisions that state lawmakers deem unconstitutional.
"That kind of puts our whole system on its head," he told committee members before they voted to move the bill forward anyway. "It doesn't quite work that way."
Fleming raised similar concerns when Republican Rep. Bob Thorpe introduced the bill last year as well.
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