TUCSON — The Pima County Board of Supervisors has rescinded an expanded eviction moratorium enacted early this month after two Republican state lawmakers asked the Arizona attorney general to review whether it violated the law.
The 3-2 vote by the board at Tuesday’s meeting avoids the potential loss of state shared revenue the county would have faced if Attorney General Mark Brnovich agreed with the GOP lawmakers.
Sen. Vince Leach, R-Saddlebrooke, and Rep. Bret Roberts, R-Maricopa, alleged the move violates state law and the state constitution because it blocks evictions that aren’t covered under a federal eviction moratorium. A 2016 state law lets any lawmaker trigger an investigation if they believe a county, city or town is violating a state law.
Supervisor Matt Heinz said at the Feb. 2 meeting that some landlords were getting around a federal eviction moratorium by using loopholes to evict tenants who should be covered by a federal coronavirus eviction moratorium. He cited a sharp rise in evictions for material breach of contract as opposed to non-payment of rent, noting they have gone from 6% of evictions before the pandemic to 21% now.
On Tuesday, he lamented that supervisors have to “regulate or legislate human decency.”
Supervisors Steve Christy and Rex Scott said the vote on Heinz’s proposal was rushed. They said it was not properly noticed and landlords who need rental revenue to pay their mortgages were not given the chance to make a case against the expansion.
But Heinz said allowing evictions to continue during a pandemic is dangerous.
“Forcing more people into close proximity during a viral pandemic is extremely, extremely bad health policy,” said Heinz, a physician. “And it is totally inappropriate for us to rescind it right now because we will be endangering dozens of people in the meantime.”
The board plans to consider the moratorium again at its March 2 meeting after allowing for extended public comment.