Wennerstrom v. City of Mesa
In Wennerstrom v. City of Mesa, 169 Ariz. 485, 488, 821 P.2d 146 (1991), the Arizona Supreme Court adopted a general test for evaluating whether a particular act is legislative, and thus referable, or administrative, and not referable:
Actions relating to subjects of a permanent and general character are usually regarded as legislative, and those providing for subjects of a temporary and special character are regarded as administrative.
In this connection an RESPECT et al. v. ordinance which shows an intent to form a permanent rule of government until repealed is one of permanent operation.
The test of what is a legislative and what is an administrative proposition, with respect to the initiative or referendum, has further been said to be whether the proposition is one to make new law or to execute law already in existence.
The power to be exercised is legislative in its nature if it prescribes a new policy or plan; whereas, it is administrative in its nature if it merely pursues a plan already adopted by the legislative body itself, or some power superior to it.
Similarly, an act or resolution constituting a declaration of public purpose and making provision for ways and means of its accomplishment is generally legislative as distinguished from an act or resolution which merely carries out the policy or purpose already declared by the legislative body. 169 Ariz. at 489.
As noted by the supreme court, the test is "far easier stated than applied," and the "plethora of cases" applying the test are "often irreconcilable." Wennerstrom, 169 Ariz. at 489.