By Terri Jo Neff
Gov. Doug Ducey described bipartisan legislation which sought to strengthen the State Emergency Council “well intentioned,” but he vetoed the bill anyway on Friday.
Senate Bill 1719 was one of 24 bills transmitted to the governor’s desk June 30, the last day of the legislative session. It was the only one vetoed by Ducey, who believed changing the law related to the State Emergency Council “would add unneeded bureaucracy to the management of emergencies, especially wildfires.”
There are 12 voting members of the State Emergency Council which recommends rules, orders, policies, and procedures to the governor during a declared state of emergency. State law requires the Council to “monitor each emergency declared by the governor” as well as the activities and responses to the emergency.
The Council is also required to recommend to the governor or the legislature when it believes emergency conditions have stabilized and the emergency “is substantially contained.”
Currently, the Council can be convened by the director of the Arizona Division of Emergency Management if the governor “is inaccessible.” It can then issue a state of emergency proclamation if approved at by at least three members of the Council, at least one of whom must be an elected official.
However, the law makes no mention of what happens if an accessible governor fails to convene the Council.
SB1719 was introduced in January by Senate President Karen Fann and Senate Minority Leader Rebecca Rios to bipartisan support. It would have required a governor to convene the Council “on or before the fourteenth day after proclaiming a statewide state of emergency…and shall continue to convene the council at least once every fourteen days for the duration of the statewide state of emergency.”
Under the bill, a statewide state of emergency would terminate if the governor failed to convene the Council according to the ongoing 14-day timeline.
The House passed SB1719 on a 44 to 14 vote margin and the Senate unanimously passed it on a 29 to 0 vote. But Ducey vetoed the bill.
In a July 9 letter explaining his action, the governor wrote such a law was “unnecessary given the good and thoughtful reformed developed this session between my office and the legislature to ensure guard rails during future health emergencies, preventing the potential for the kind of extreme and job destroying measures that we saw in other placed around the country last year.”
The members of the State Emergency Council are: the governor, the secretary of state, the state attorney general, the Arizona Adjutant General, the director of the division of emergency management, the director of the department of transportation, the director of the department of health services, the director of environmental quality, the director of the Arizona Department of Public Safety, the director of the state’s department of agriculture, the director of the department of administration, and the director of water resources.
There are also two advisory members -the Senate President and the Speaker of the House- who may give advice to the other members of the State Emergency Council but who is not eligible to vote. SB1719 included a provision to add several other legislative leaders as advisory members.