With the Arizona Legislature considering nearly 1,500 bills, memorials, and resolutions each session, it is difficult to know whether legislators individually, or as a whole, are acting within the parameters of the Arizona Constitution. Like the U.S. Constitution, the Arizona Constitution delineates the purpose and scope of government and enumerates the rights of the people. The primacy of individual rights and its corollary, a government of limited and defined powers, is established in the opening declaration:
A frequent recurrence to fundamental principles is essential to the security of individual rights and the perpetuity of free government. All political power is inherent in the people, and governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, and are established to protect and maintain individual rights. The enumeration in this Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny others retained by the people.
As the branch of government explicitly charged with lawmaking, the legislature has the potential to be the greatest violator, or the greatest guardian, of constitutionally enshrined rights. To determine whether legislators furthered or hindered the rights of the people during the 2005 session, this report analyzes 354 legislative votes in four policy areas: Education, Constitutional Government, Regulation, and Tax and Budget.
Despite enacting an increase in spending, preferential treatment of sports teams, and onerous business regulations, legislators also restricted government powers of eminent domain and expanded freedom of choice in the education marketplace.
Average scores are higher this year than last. Since 2003, average scores have risen nine points in the Senate and nine points in the House, indicating the legislature is improving in its role as a guardian of individual rights.
Legislators in the "A" range for the greatest number of votes cast in favor of individual rights and limited government are Reps. John Allen, Andy Biggs, Judy Burges, Eddie Farnsworth, Pamela Gorman, Chuck Gray, Rick Murphy, Warde Nichols, Russell Pearce, Doug Quelland, Colette Rosati, and Bob Stump; and Sens. Ron Gould, Jack Harper, Marilyn Jarrett, Karen Johnson, and Thayer Verschoor.