n the wake of two GOP defeats at the U.S. Supreme Court, Republicans at the Arizona Legislature are using their budgetary powers to sweep $695,000 from the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (“AIRC”). The funds were to be used in defending a state court action brought by key Republican lawmakers (and others) as that case heads towards trial next year. Arizona Governor Doug Ducey signed a new budget into law yesterday. It contains $1.1M for the entire Independent Redistricting Commission budget. That amount is not enough to cover the expected legal expenses for the Leach v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission case, which has already cost taxpayers $1.5M. Primarily because the Leach case had been placed on the back burner (by the parties and the court) while the (GOP-controlled) Legislature brought its constitutional challenge to the Supreme Court (2015) and Republican interests brought their challenge to the maps to the Supreme Court (2016), the AIRC currently has $695,000 in unspent appropriations from 2014 and 2015.
Discovery has been proceeding hot and heavy – with plenty of disputes – during the past year, and the AIRC estimates it will cost more than $1.8M for the fiscal year ending next month. Much of that is because the individual Commissioners each have had to have separate attorneys. A conference to set the case for trial is scheduled for November.
Earlier this year, the AIRC requested that the Legislature permit the AIRC to carry over the $695,000 balance to help cover the legal costs through trial. (A March 30 memo to AIRC Commissioners and cc’ed to legislative leaders is published below.) “The Legislature said no,” AIRC Deputy Executive Director Kristina Gomez told Arizona’s Politics. “They were not rude, they just did not do it.”