Ariz. Supreme Court Rejects Industry Arguments Attempting to Keep Garnishment Question off Ballot

The Arizona Supreme Court yesterday unanimously rejected an appeal from an industry group seeking to prevent a question from being added to the ballot in the upcoming November elections that would give voters the opportunity to raise the limits on what can be shielded from wage garnishments while also lowering the judgment interest rate, ending the group’s efforts.

The original lawsuit, and the subsequent appeal to the Supreme Court, centered on a state law requiring the individuals who circulated the petitions to get the measure added to the ballot file affidavits certifying they met legal requirements each time they told the secretary of state they would gather the needed signatures. Ultimately, the Supreme Court ruled, the individuals were limited by a system set up by the secretary of state to submit more than one affidavit. The secretary of state “rendered it impossible for circulators to successfully submit a registration application as required” by state law “if they had already registered to circulate other petitions,” the Supreme Court wrote.

A copy of the ruling is available by clicking here.

If a majority of the voters approve the initiative in November — which is expected to happen — it will raise the homestead exemption to $400,000 from $150,000, ban garnishing the wages of anyone earning less than $50,000 per year — with annual increases, and raise the exemption threshold in bank accounts to $5,000 from $300. Judgment interest rates on unpaid medical debts would be capped at 3%. The new law is expected to eliminate up to 70% of existing garnishments.

There are concerns within the industry that similar movements may start occurring in other states that allow these types of questions to be added to the ballot by petition.

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