While preparing for the 2017 election, Karen Nally, general counsel for Maricopa Flood Control District, realized laws affecting flood protection districts, such as Maricopa Flood Control District, had undergone a substantial change. For that election, property owners whose real estate was held in trust or by executors, partnerships and corporations were not allowed to run for the board of directors nor were they allowed to vote in the election.
“This resulted from legislative action that took place in 2005,” said Nally. “During that legislative session, voter eligibility was opened up to these property owners. But, for reasons that are still unclear, the law included an automatic repeal, which would take place after 10 years. We suspect someone was supposed to keep track, so some further action could take place before the repeal, but that did not happen. So, on Jan. 1, 2016, the law went back to pre-2005 in its language.”
The result was that MFCD saw one of its lowest voter turnouts in years when ballots were cast in October 2017.
In December, Nally and District Manager David Alley met with Arizona state Sen. Frank Pratt, explained the dilemma caused by the change and asked him to sponsor new legislation. Pratt was familiar with flood protection districts, since his family had once farmed property near Stanfield. After hearing what they were trying to accomplish, he promised to sponsor the legislation.
“This should be an easy fix,” he said.
Nally drafted the new legislation and, with the support of other flood protection districts and Pinal County, added language to correct a couple of other problems. In addition to property held in trust or by executors, partnerships and corporations, she included property held by limited liability companies, which had previously been omitted. She also reintroduced language from an amendment which passed in 2012, but was wiped out with the automatic repeal.
While it is not a problem with MFCD, she said, “other districts experience great difficulty attracting people to run and serve on their boards. The 2012 amendment (which MFCD sponsored) allowed anyone who owned property within their district and who qualified otherwise, to vote the interests of their properties. If they ran and were elected, they could serve on their boards.”
In this new legislation, Nally re-introduced that language, so those property owners could vote and, if they chose, could run for and serve on their boards.
On April 12, Gov. Doug Ducey signed the bill. Representatives Brenda Barton and Mark Finchem added an amendment that put the law into effect when the governor signed it. The normal waiting period for legislation to take effect would have made the changes inconsequential for any elections taking place in 2018.
“The bill made it through the entire process without a single ‘nay’ vote,” said Dan Frank, MFCD president. “I’m very happy for the support we received from the other districts and Pinal County and from City of Maricopa. I know Supervisor (Anthony) Smith voiced his support to members of the Legislature. Kent Pace, of Magma Flood Control District, attended several committee meetings and testified in support of the bill. Bottom line, this was a change that was badly needed and we are happy the people at the Capitol agreed.”
For MFCD, the next election will be October 2019.