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Ducey Signs Bill That Penalizes Cities For Not Following State Laws

Ignoring a last-minute plea from cities, Gov. Doug Ducey signed legislation Thursday that will financially penalize those localities that do not fall in line with state law.

The new law allows the attorney general in essence to make the unilateral decision that a city or county ordinance is contrary to state statute or Arizona's constitution.

On Thursday, the mayors of Tempe, Chandler and Lake Havasu City wrote to Ducey saying the bill is, "heavy-handed, intrusive and minimizes the important role of local elected officials." They also complained about the lack of due process-- if a city is found to be in violation, that could lead to an automatic loss of their revenue sharing dollars without so much as a court hearing.

The governor's office press aide Daniel Scarpinato said there's nothing improper about that. "What we're dealing with is state shared revenue. I don't believe that the court is involved in the allocation of state shared revenue."

Plus, Scarpinato said the cities themselves have argued the legislation is unnecessary because they're not breaking any state laws. "And if that's the case, then they have nothing to worry about," he said.

The dissenting mayors said it's not that simple. They argued that reasonable minds can disagree on whether enacting a particular city ordinance, like a ban on plastic grocery bags in Bisbee, is within that city's power despite a contrary state law. And that's precisely what courts are for, they said.