Arizona’s merit selection system was the subject of a package-amendment (Proposition 115) introduced in 2011 that failed at the November 2012 ballot box 27-73. Included in the Proposition was a provision requiring the state’s merit selection commissions give governors at least 8 names to select from, up from the constitution’s currently provision of at least 3. Apparently undaunted by the loss, advocates for changing the way the state’s merit selection system is set up are apparently trying to change by statute what they could not change by constitutional amendment.
Article 6, Section 37 of the state’s constitution provides for a merit selection commission for the state’s appellate courts. Paragraph A lays out the framework: the commission on appellate court appointments is to submit to the governor “the names of not less than three persons” to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court or Court of Appeals. Article 6, Section 41, Paragraph I has similar language with respect to the state’s Superior Courts that use merit selection: “not less than three individuals”.
HB 2600 adds a new section in state law to provide that the governor be given at least 5 names for any vacancy. In addition, it requires the voting records for all commission activities be made public, including and specifically how individual commissioners voted on individuals being considered.
Unlike the failed Proposition 115, which was a constitutional amendment requiring approval by Arizona voters, HB 2600 purports to make the change by statute, requiring only the legislature and a governor’s signature.
HB 2600 is set for a vote on Wednesday (February 20) not in the House Judiciary Committee, where all prior efforts to change the state’s merit selection have been dealt with, such as HCR 2010 of 2013 which would require judges in yes/no retention elections that are part of the state’s merit selection system identify on the ballot their party affiliation.
Instead, the House Public Safety, Military and Regulatory Affairs Committee will be voting on the measure this week.