Arizona Judge Katherine Cooper blocked an attempt from state Republicans to ban schools from implementing mask mandates.
Blocking the bill just two days before it was set to become law, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Katherine Cooper ruled that the Republican-passed law was “unconstitutional” and undermined local government power. The law also restricted the state’s ability to impose Covid-19 prevention measures of any kind.
According to New York Post, over 29 public school districts in Arizona had defied the law anyway by continuing to implement mask mandates for their students.
Arizona Governor Doug Ducey is expected to appeal the ruling, which he said was “clearly an example of judicial overreach.”
Judge Katherine Cooper’s decision was also due to the bill’s cobbled-together policies, which she claimed was chock-full of other conservative agendas that had nothing to do with Covid-19 or mask mandates.
Cooper said that the bill violated the “single-subject rule” for legislation by slipping in measures about the state budget bill and the powers of the democratically-elected Secretary of State.
Most of the bill, described as a “conservative party wish list,” was a “medley of special interests cobbled together to force a vote for all or none,” Cooper alleged.
Besides a ban on mask mandates, the bill included a ban on teaching “critical race theory,” implementing vaccine mandates, changes to election review, altering the authority of liberal Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, and a 55-page state budget review.
New York Post reported that another measure in the bill would have turned state voter registration over to the Game and Fish Department, as well as setting up yet another special legislative branch to review the 2020 presidential election results.
Concluding its audit of the 2020 election just last week, Republicans found that not only did Joe Biden still beat Donald Trump, but that upon recount Biden had actually picked up a couple hundred more votes than before.
According to lawmakers, this kind of “log-rolling” measure is how the state’s budget is usually accounted for – overnight and full of other bills that help to get the budget passed. State Republicans argued that everything was related, since every measure of the budget had to do with spending on health and education.
Judge Katherine Cooper, however, believed that too many provisions of serious consequence for the state and its citizens could not be swept through under the radar.
“The Legislature has discretion to title a bill,” she said, “but, having picked a title, it must confine the contents to measures that reasonably relate to the title and to each other to form one general subject.”
“None of these subjects have any logical connection to each other nor ‘fall under some one general idea,'” Cooper explained.
Parents in the state are very divided on the issue, though a group of educators has sued to challenge the government’s ability to ban mask mandates. Judge Katherine Cooper’s ruling is partly based on the wish the state’s school districts to be able to impose mask and vaccine mandates should they decide.
“Arizona’s state government operates with three branches, and it’s the duty and authority of only the legislative branch to organize itself and to make laws,” said a spokesperson for the Governor’s office. “Unfortunately, today’s decision is the result of a rogue judge interfering with the authority and processes of another branch of government.”
“Further action will be taken to challenge this ruling and ensure separation of powers is maintained,” the spokesperson declared on behalf of Governor Doug Ducey.
The law banning mask mandates would have affected over 334,000 students from roughly 500 schools across the state of Arizona.