PHOENIX -- A new state law barring schools from imposing mask mandates on students and staff is unconstitutional, a judge ruled Monday.
In a broad ruling, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Katherine Cooper also voided a host of other laws approved by the legislature in the waning days of the session. These range from requirements for anti-fraud measures for ballots and prohibitions against cities and town from requiring face coverings or imposing curfews to banning proof of vaccination to attend universities or community colleges and limits on teaching what lawmakers have incorrectly referred to as "critical race theory.''
Cooper did not find that any of these provisions, by themselves, is illegal.
What is, she said, was piling them into just four separate so-called "budget reconciliation'' bills, each with what she said are broad, generic titles that fail to inform voters of the changes they enact.
And Cooper said there are separate constitutional requirements that legislation deal with only a single subject.
"Together these requirements promote transparency and the public's access to information about legislative action,'' she wrote.
The judge also brushed aside claims by the state that the issue of how legislation is crafted is a "non-justiciable political question'' beyond the reach of the courts.
"The issue here is not what the legislature decided but how it decided what it did,'' she wrote. "Whether the legislature complied with the requirements of (the Arizona Constitution) and whether a provision is reasonably related to 'budget reconciliation' are questions property before the court.''
Cooper also said if lawmakers try to enforce the provisions she declared unconstitutional she will issue further orders.
There was no immediate response from either the Republican legislative leaders who pushed the packages through or Gov. Doug Ducey who signed them.
Monday's ruling does more than void the challenged sections of the laws.
It also sends a message to lawmakers that they can no longer use the practice of piling apparently unrelated issues into bills in an effort to corral the votes for the entire package. And that could result in difficulty in getting approval of future controversial measures.