Ariz. gov, lawmakers slam cities on budget lawsuit

AP News
Posted: Nov 25, 2009 9:46 AM

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and top Republican legislators blasted Arizona municipalities for going to court to challenge the constitutionality of parts of a budget law, including provisions that deny government services and benefits to illegal immigrants.

The lawsuit filed by the League of Arizona Cites and Towns amounts to siding "with lawbreakers over lawkeepers," said Sen. Russell Pearce, a Mesa Republican who championed the provisions targeting illegal immigration.

Pearce appeared with Brewer, Senate President Bob Burns and House Speaker Kirk Adams at a news conference on Tuesday, one day after the league's lawsuit asked the Arizona Supreme Court to overturn multiple sections of the budget law, which lawmakers passed in August and Brewer signed Sept. 4.

The governor said it was "outrageous and shocking" that the league would challenge the budget law and its immigration provisions "at a time when Arizona is suffering from budget deficits of unprecedented proportions and the state is struggling to meet the basic needs of its citizens."

The illegal immigration section toughened existing prohibitions on providing services or benefits to illegal immigrants. It also makes it a misdemeanor for a state or local government employee to fail to report immigration law violations detected while administering a public benefit or service, and it allows anyone to sue the state or local governments to enforce the prohibitions.

League Executive Director Ken Strobeck said later that the league's concern with the immigration sections stems from the possibility of municipal employees being sued or criminally charged.

"We're not talking at all about the provision of benefits to people that are in the country illegally," he said. "That is something that people in cities and towns do not do."

The league's lawsuit said the challenged provisions were enacted unconstitutionally because they fell outside budget-related topics listed by Brewer when she called lawmakers into special session and because unrelated legislation was packaged in one bill.

Besides the immigration provisions, the league also is challenging sections concerning building codes, impact fees and construction contract taxes.