A judge on Tuesday refused to block a new state law making it easier for opponents to challenge citizen initiatives, but she sidestepped a decision on whether the law violates the state Constitution. The ruling from Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Sherry Stephens said opponents of the law passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature haven’t yet been harmed because there are no pending initiatives that would be affected by the new standard. “The Court finds this matter is not ripe for judicial review,” Stephens wrote. “Plaintiffs believe House Bill 2244 will affect their future initiative efforts but this Court finds that expectation is not sufficient to make this matter ripe for judicial review of the constitutionality of HB 2244.” The law goes into effect Wednesday and will apply to all future initiatives.
The ruling came weeks after a two-day hearing where activists who have backed previous initiatives testified that they would be hard-pressed to get them on the ballot under the new law.
Attorneys representing advocacy groups argued the Legislature overstepped its bounds when it passed the law making it easier to challenge initiatives. They also said lawmakers outlined their unconstitutional motives when they said the changes were needed because of their inability to change voter-approved laws.
Roopali Desai, an attorney for the groups, said an appeal is possible. She noted that the judge essentially agreed that initiative backers will have a harder time accessing the ballot.