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State appeals judge's ruling on mask mandates ban to Arizona Supreme Court

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Posted at 12:10 PM, Sep 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-29 15:10:27-04

PHOENIX — The fight over school mask mandates between the State of Arizona and school districts is headed to the Arizona Supreme Court.

On Monday, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Katherine Cooper ruled that the state's ban on mask mandates in schools, among other laws, violated the state's constitution, specifically the single subject rule.

Earlier this year, the Arizona Legislature included a number of policy decisions within the state's budget bill -- a legislative maneuver known as budget reconciliation. Under the single subject rule, bills have to focus on specific topics.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, as promised, appealed the ruling this week and asked that the case be heard by the Arizona Supreme Court, according to court documents.

Attorneys also requested that Judge Cooper's ruling be temporarily suspended until the Supreme Court issued its ruling. That request was denied, which means Cooper's ruling remains in effect.

One Republican consultant told ABC15 on Tuesday that if the judge's ruling ultimately stands, it could change how the Arizona Legislature discussed and passes bills in the future.

"The court decision is the most significant decision impacting the culture of the Arizona Legislature that I’ve seen in more than three decades of being involved with the Arizona House and Senate,” said Stan Barnes, a former state representative and current Republican lobbyist.

Prior to the most recent ruling, several districts in the state enacted their own mask mandates in defiance of the law.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has repeatedly maintained that he is not anti-mask or anti-vaccine, but that he is anti-mask mandates. He has encouraged people to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

He also has maintained that the state's ban on mask mandates would be upheld in court.

Following the ruling, the Governor's Office said in a statement," This decision is clearly an example of judicial overreach. 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."

"Unfortunately, today’s decision is the result of a rogue judge interfering with the authority and processes of another branch of government," the statement said, in part.