PHOENIX — Republican Gov. Evan Mecham fulfilled a campaign pledge today by formally rescinding a state holiday honoring assassinated civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.
Mecham, who took office Jan. 5, said throughout his campaign that he believed his Democratic predecessor, Gov. Bruce Babbitt, lacked authority to issue the proclamation, and he repeated that reasoning today.
He also offered lawmakers a way out of having to vote directly on the holiday again this year.
"I would urge you to address this issue in a manner that often brings you criticism--and that is to recommend that you pass a referendum to put the question to all the voters in the next general election," Mecham said in address to a joint session of the Legislature.
"In this case, I think it will be an act of courage for you to let the court of last resort, the people, make that decision," Mecham said.
House Minority Leader Art Hamilton, a Democrat and supporter of the holiday, called the referendum suggestion "less than courageous." He noted that Mecham had earlier said the Legislature, not Babbitt, should have decided on the holiday.