Arizona Supreme Court hears arguments on First Things First challenge

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July 13, 2009

PHOENIX, Arizona: The Arizona Supreme Court has started hearing arguments on both sides of a challenge to lawmakers attempted sweep of funds from the First Things First fund in January 2009. Challengers petitioned the Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the legislators' removal of millions of dollars from the fund. First Thing First is a fund created as a result of Proposition 203 in 2006. The fund is composed of revenue from an 80-cents-per-pack tax on cigarettes. Funds are generally used for children's health care. According to the Arizona Constitution, lawmakers can alter the original proposition but only if it is approved by 2/3rds of the legislature and if the change advances the original purpose of the policy. Some argue that this limits the movement of funds within the structure and duties of the Arizona Early Childhood Development and Health Board, said Paul Eckstein, an attorney representing the board. Solicitor General Mary O’Grady, acting on behalf of Gov. Jan Brewer, argued that the initiative's statutory wording, "except as otherwise provided by law," permitted the relocation of the funds to the general fund, as legislators had chosen to do in January.[1]

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* Arizona Proposition 203 (2006)