By LAUREN GAMBINO
Cronkite News Service
PHOENIX — A House committee on Tuesday endorsed legislation that would allow the House speaker and Senate president to initiate legal proceedings and appear on behalf of their chambers in support of SB 1070.
House Speaker Kirk Adams, R-Mesa, said he and Senate President Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, intend to use private funds to join Gov. Jan Brewer in defending the law.
“Our hope is that we will be able to solicit outside financial support from people all over the county to defend the legality of SB 1070,” Adams, author of HB 2537, told members of the House Committee on Government.
The committee endorsed the bill on a 6-3 vote, with Democratic Reps. Ben Arredondo of Tempe, Eric Meyer of Scottsdale and Katie Hobbs of Phoenix voting against it.
Daniel Scarpinato, director of communications for House Republicans, said allowing legislative leaders to participate in court action involving SB 1070 would add a unique perspective.
“[The leaders] want to make sure that the Legislature has a voice and a role given that the Legislature is the one who crafted the law initially,” he said.
The Obama administration sued Arizona in July, questioning the constitutionality of SB 1070, the controversial immigration law Arizona adopted last year. A federal judge has placed a temporary injunction on the law’s most controversial provisions.
Jaime Farrant, policy director of Border Action Network, an Arizona-based human rights organization, noted to the committee that the bill allows Adams and Pearce to spend taxpayer dollars on private lawyers.
“They will have blanket authority to hire and direct counsel,” he said.
Farrant said he’s also worried about a provision in the bill that applies to future challenges to SB 1070.
The bill contains an emergency clause that would put it into law immediately upon the governor’s signature. It requires three-quarters approval from both houses.
The deadline for additional arguments in the federal case against SB 1070 is in less than two weeks.