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Arizona House passes sharp limits on states of emergency, as COVID-19 emergency status continues

House Republicans approved severe
limits on states of emergency, in a clear move against proclamations
made during the pandemic. 

Arizona has been in a state of emergency because of COVID-19 since March of 2020, which has allowed Gov. Doug Ducey to mobilize efforts to support vaccination and monitoring of the virus, as well as receive $2 trillion in federal CARES Act money

State law currently doesn’t limit how
long a state of emergency can last. The legislation that cleared the
state House of Representatives on Wednesday would limit that to just 14
days — unless the governor calls a special session of the legislature to
determine what actions to take next and whether or not to extend the
state of emergency.

House Bill 2471,
which passed on a 31-28 vote, places much stiffer limits on states of
emergency than a Senate proposal that won approval in the upper chamber
earlier this month. That bill would allow emergency declarations to stand for a total of 120 days in 30 day increments before expiring. 

Rep. Kelli Butler, D-Phoenix,
questioned the logic behind the bill, and said limiting a state of
emergency to only 14 days ignores the reality that the emergency might
last past those two weeks, and impede the gathering of the special
session. 

“What if there is a flood or a natural disaster…that would prevent us from coming into a special session?” she asked. 

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Frank
Carroll, R-Sun City West, was dismissive of the concern, saying that
it’s unlikely a single disaster would prevent all legislators from
fulfilling their duties as public servants. 

“Our responsibility as legislators is
to overcome those obstacles. We do what we can. I don’t think everybody
lives on the other side of the river and won’t be able to come here,”
he said. 

Butler reiterated that some
emergencies may affect the availability of all legislators, citing a
nuclear meltdown as a possible example. 

“I see us holding session in heaven then, at that point,” Carroll responded dryly. 

Rep. Pamela Powers Hannley, D-Tucson,
called HB2471 a “bad bill” because it handcuffed the governor’s ability
to respond to varied emergencies. Natural disasters are handled very
differently from ongoing public health concerns like COVID-19. 

“This is a one-size-fits-all
approach, and I would say that emergencies are not a one-size-fits-all
situation,” she said. “We should have flexibility in how we respond to
emergencies and not hamstring the government.”

Gloria Gomez is a senior at the University of Arizona and the 2022 UA School of Journalism’s Don Bolles Fellow. The UA School of Journalism started the fellowship in 1977 to honor Don Bolles, an Arizona Republic reporter killed in a 1976 car bombing.

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