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Mesnard Considers Filing Lawsuit To Overturn Proposition 206

JD Mesnard
(Photo courtesy of the Arizona State Legislature)
Republican House Speaker J.D. Mesnard

The new speaker of the Arizona House is hinting there may be legal grounds to overturn Proposition 206, the minimum wage hike just approved by voters last month.

Critics of the new law argue that the increase is unconstitutional and could hurt the state’s most vulnerable citizens.

JD Mesnard is considering filing a lawsuit contending the increase is in violation of the state Constitution since it deals with contracts already in place with the state.

Those contracts, utilizing tax dollars, are used to provide services to the developmentally disabled for both public and private organizations.

“As people talk about this or that, one of the things that's come up is this idea of a funding source. Most of the impact of 206 that people have brought up is funding," Mesnard says.

The minimum wage rises to $10 an hour next month, then up to $12 an hour by 2020.

Harlie Garcia, president of the board of directors of Echo Hope Ranch, which serves developmentally disabled in Cochise and Pima counties, says her organization has to make up the difference itself.

"We hope we're going to be OK for the first round of increases. But when it goes to $12 an hour, it's going to be very difficult for us to keep all of our programs and do everything we need to do for this important population," Garcia said.

Attorney Jim Barton represents the group that got voters to approve the measure.

He contends that the constitutional provision Mesnard cites provides no basis to void the initiative and that the state is not obligated to fund the additional dollars.

"These are contracts the state has where it gives a contractor a bunch of money to do something, right? Our initiative doesn't mandate any increase in that," Barton said.

He adds that if a contractor’s costs go up, that’s because they must now pay employees a living wage.

Mesnard says he has not yet decided whether or not to file a lawsuit to challenge the new law.

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Phil Latzman is an award-winning digital journalist and broadcast professional with over 25 years of experience covering news and sports on a multitude of platforms.