16-192. Use of state, special taxing district resources to influence elections; prohibition; civil penalties; definitions

A. Notwithstanding any other law, this state and special taxing districts and any public agency, department, board, commission, committee, council or authority shall not spend or use public resources to influence an election, including the use or expenditure of monies, accounts, credit, materials, equipment, buildings, facilities, vehicles, postage, telecommunications, computer hardware and software, web pages and personnel and any other thing of value of the public entity.

B. The prohibition on the use of public resources to influence the outcome of bond, budget override and other tax-related elections includes the use of special taxing district-focused promotional expenditures that occur after an election is called and through election day. This prohibition does not include routine special taxing district communications.

C. This section does not prohibit:

1. The use of public resources, including facilities and equipment, for government-sponsored forums or debates if the government sponsor remains impartial and the events are purely informational and provide an equal opportunity to all viewpoints.  The rental and use of a public facility by a private person or entity that may lawfully attempt to influence the outcome of an election is permitted if it does not occur at the same time and place as a government-sponsored forum or debate.

2. The presentation of factual information in a neutral manner for the purposes of educating and informing voters as otherwise provided by law, including information on a bond, budget, override, candidate or other type of election and including publications and activities otherwise prescribed by chapter 6, article 2 of this title for the citizens clean elections commission.

D. The attorney general, the county attorney for the county in which an alleged violation of this section occurs or any resident of the jurisdiction that is alleged to have committed a violation of this section may file an action in the superior court to enforce this section.

E. Any person or public entity that knowingly violates this section or that knowingly aids another person or public entity in violating this section is liable for a civil penalty of not more than five thousand dollars for each violation. The court also may order the person or public entity in violation to pay an additional penalty in an amount that equals the value of the public resources unlawfully used. The civil penalties shall be paid as follows:

1. For civil penalties ordered in an action filed by the attorney general, to the office of the attorney general to defray the costs of enforcement.

2. For civil penalties ordered in an action filed by the county attorney, to the office of the county treasurer for deposit into the general fund of the county.

3. For civil penalties ordered in an action filed by a resident of the jurisdiction in violation, to the resident.

F. This section does not deny the civil and political liberties of any person as guaranteed by the United States and Arizona Constitutions.

G. With respect to special taxing districts, this section applies only to those special taxing districts that are organized pursuant to title 48, chapters 5, 6, 8, 10, 13, 14, 15 and 16.

H. For the purposes of this section:

1. "Government-sponsored forum or debate" means any event, or part of an event or meeting, in which the government is an official sponsor, which is open to the public or to invited members of the public, and whose purpose is to inform the public about an issue or proposition that is before the voters.

2. "Influence an election" means supporting or opposing a candidate for nomination or election to public office or the recall of a public officer or supporting or opposing a ballot measure, question or proposition, including any bond, budget or override election and supporting or opposing the circulation of a petition for the recall of a public officer or a petition for a ballot measure, question or proposition in any manner that is not impartial or neutral.

3. "Routine special taxing district communications" means messages or advertisements that are germane to the functions of the special district and that maintain the frequency, scope and distribution consistent with past practices or are necessary for public safety.