Suit seeks wider Prop. 200 scope
Capitol Media Services
November 19, 2004

By Howard Fischer

Initiative backer seeking to void Goddard's narrow interpretation
PHOENIX - A key supporter of Proposition 200 filed suit Thursday challenging the opinion of Attorney General Terry Goddard that the initiative applies to only a handful of welfare programs.
Randy Pullen said Goddard's 14-page opinion issued last week is too narrow in its scope of what services are covered by the initiative. The initiative language requires that applicants for "public benefits" prove they are in this country legally.
Goddard said Proposition 200 covers only programs established by Title 46, the state's Welfare Code - and only those not funded in whole or part with federal money. That left only a handful of programs like rental and housing assistance, the opinion said.
Pullen's lawsuit says the initiative is far broader, including everything from home care for the elderly and temporary assistance to needy families to the state's health insurance program for the poor.
Pullen, chairman of the Yes on 200 Committee, said at the time of Goddard's opinion that he would not sue but instead ask the Legislature to extend the requirement to various other public services.
What changed?
"It wasn't going to be settled anyway," Pullen said, noting that the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund is preparing its own lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the initiative. Pullen said that since the scope and validity of Proposition 200 is going to be decided in court, he might as well have his own position heard.
Attorney David Abney said he filed suit now - before the measure is declared law later this month - because Goddard's opinion creates a situation that has to be remedied immediately. He compared it to the old advertising slogan: When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen.
"When the attorney general talks, agencies and governments across the state will say, 'OK, that's what we're going to do,' " he said.
"His opinion is incorrect and it will cause a great deal of incorrect action to be taken across the state," Abney continued. "Now's a good time to fix the problem before the wheels completely come off."
Andrea Esquer, Goddard's press aide, said her boss had not yet seen the lawsuit and would not comment. But she said Goddard believes he has issued a "sound opinion."
Formal certification that Proposition 200 passed comes Monday.
But Tim Nelson, chief counsel to Gov. Janet Napolitano, said she won't formally proclaim the results for another week or two, saying the governor wants to ensure that the Department of Economic Security, which administers most of the affected programs, has time to prepare to enforce the identification requirements.
Pullen's lawsuit was filed in the Mesa office of Maricopa County Superior Court rather than the main location in downtown Phoenix. Pullen said that was no accident.
"Sometimes you've got to think about what judges you might get," he said.
The legal action angered Kathy McKee, organizer of the original Protect Arizona Now Committee, which crafted the measure. She said Pullen's group, which splintered away from her group, "is clearly a front for these out-of-state groups" who fund the Yes on 200 committee.
"Now they're trying to litigate their way into saying what our initiative means, what our attorney general said it means," she said. "And I think it's very offensive."
Pullen acknowledged much of the legal support for the lawsuit comes from the Federation for American Immigration Reform.
Also joining the lawsuit is Bob Park, the author of the successful 1988 constitutional initiative to declare English the official language of the state. The measure eventually was struck down by the courts.