Goddard says special scholarship funding unconstitutional

Chris Rizo Jul. 16, 2008, 4:26pm

Terry Goddard (D)

PHOENIX, Ariz. (Legal Newsline)-The speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives lacks the authority to direct surplus House funds to the Arizona Department of Education to bankroll two scholarship programs, Attorney General Terry Goddard said Wednesday.

The scholarships in question would allow families with disabled children and families with foster children to send them to schools of their choice.

Goddard said state law bars lawmakers from making the appropriation without going through the budget process.

"I know this is an emotional and personal issue for the families who have received these scholarships in the past, and I appreciate their frustration," Goddard said.

"But the law is clear. The Speaker of the House of Representatives has no power to spend funds for these scholarships, or for any other purpose, without going through the appropriations process," he added.

In a letter to House Speaker Jim Weiers, R- Phoenix, and Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne, Goddard said the authority to appropriate funds to agencies rests with the state Legislature and the governor through the appropriations process.

The Democratic attorney general said without approval from the full House, the state Senate and the governor, there is no constitutional authority for the House Speaker to fund the two scholarship programs.

"The Legislature had the opportunity to include these funds in the 2009 Budget and did not do so," Goddard said. "The Speaker does not have authority to sidestep the full legislative appropriation process."

From Legal Newsline: Reach reporter Chris Rizo at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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