On Wednesday, the Arizona House approved a Senate bill to repeal the governor’s current executive powers in public health emergencies.
Instead, SB1009 would ensure governors only have the authority to issue a state of emergency for public health emergencies for 30 days. After that, the governor would be limited to extending that state of emergency for 30 days at a time with a limit of 120 days or about four months. Once that time is exhausted, the state legislature must consent to any new state of emergency.
The governor wouldn’t be able to extend the state of emergency more than once without additional reporting requirements. After 60 days of an emergency, the governor must submit a written report to a joint committee of the Senate and House health committees. That committee will assess the report along with a Arizona Department of Health Services briefing and publish a public review of the extension.
SB1009 also empowers the state legislature to extend the state of an emergency for public health emergencies as well. Those extensions would be limited to 30 days, too.
The bill passed along party lines. It now heads to Governor Doug Ducey for final approval.
Ducey only ended the COVID-19 state of emergency at the end of last month: well over two years after the initial state of emergency was issued.
This legislative session covered other changes to Arizona’s state of emergency protocol. Ducey signed HB2507 on Monday, ensuring that religious services would be considered essential during a state of emergency. Over the last two years, other state governments forced the closure of religious buildings and worship gatherings, punishing those who dared to defy their public health orders in order to exercise their religious freedoms.
On Tuesday, Republicans were stunned to discover that a popular bill, SCR 1003, had opposition in the Senate. The bill, sponsored by Sen Warren Petersen, passed with the support of all Republican legislators through the Senate earlier in the session.
The bill was amended in the House and needed the nod of the Senate before heading to the governor. However, Sen. TJ Shope, who had previously supported the bill, is now saying he is opposed.
Every Republican supported SCR1003 when it passed the Senate in February. Four months later the House finally sent an amended version back to the Senate. Now we’re hearing that @TJShopeforAZ has flip-flopped, & is blocking it from final passage. Sen. Shope: please support SCR1003 pic.twitter.com/7BWqeBzOKA
Because the bill deals with reining in the governor’s executive powers, Capitol insiders believe Shope’s opposition stems from his allegiance to the governor.
As amended the bill:
1. Authorizes the Governor to proclaim a state of emergency as provided by law.
2. Stipulates that a state of emergency, except for a state of war emergency, terminates by proclamation of the Governor or by concurrent resolution of the Legislature.
3. Directs the Governor to call a special session to assemble the Legislature within 10 days to determine whether to terminate or modify the state of emergency and to address matters by enacting laws or issuing legislative orders.
4. Asserts that legislative orders have the same authority as executive orders.
5. Outlines the powers, processes and procedures of the Legislature when called into a special session during a state of emergency.
6. Specifies that a special session may not adjourn until the state of emergency that caused the special session is terminated.
7. Provides requirements for when the Governor protests any actions due to the issuance of a legislative order or terminations or modifications of an executive order.
8. Prohibits the Governor, if the Legislature terminates a state of emergency, from proclaiming a new state of emergency arising out of the same conditions.
9. Stipulates that if the proclaimed state of emergency is terminated by the Legislature, the Governor may not proclaim a new state of emergency arising out of the same conditions for which the terminated state of emergency was proclaimed.
10. Directs the Secretary of State to submit this proposition to the voters at the next general election
In what could be a major rebalancing of powers between the executive and legislative branches, the State Senate passed legislation earlier this week to rein in a governor’s state of emergency powers.
Lawmakers have tried since January to pass legislation to ensure a governor confers with the legislature in certain instances once a public health emergency has been declared. The intent was to ensure a governor cannot issue unending emergency executive orders which impact business offerings, public health decisions, school functions, and whether families can see loved ones in nursing homes.
Many Arizonans do not realize the state remains under a declared emergency even though Gov. Doug Ducey has lifted many of his COVID-19 executive orders. Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita introduced a bill, SB1084, in an attempt to reassert the legislature’s power. Her bill was heard in the House and Senate but stalled in April due to concerns by some within the Republican caucus which holds a majority in both chambers.
Fast forward to the Senate’s marathon consideration of the 11-bill budget package on Tuesday and Wednesday. Ugenti-Rita proposed the text of her bill as a floor amendment to a budget reconciliation bill, SB1819. Her amendment passed on a 16 to 14 party line vote, as did SB1819 itself.
It is now up to House Speaker Rusty Bowers to secure 31 votes in his chamber to get the legislation to Ducey’s desk.
Current state law allows lawmakers to void a public health state of emergency based on a general majority vote in both chambers. However, if the legislature is not in session then two-thirds of lawmakers would have to authorize a special session, or the governor would have to call a special session.
According to the amendment language, a governor’s initial state of emergency
proclamation with respect to a public health emergency will be capped at 30 days beginning Jan. 2, 2023. It allows a governor to extend the public health state of emergency up to 120 days, but any single extension could not be for more than 30 days.
Once the 120 day period is up, the state of emergency will terminate unless extended in whole or in part by a concurrent resolution of the legislature. Lawmakers could vote to extend the state of emergency as many times as necessary in periods of not more than 30 days at a time.
Another key provision of the legislation prohibits a governor from proclaiming a new state of emergency upon termination of a state of emergency based on the same conditions unless there is passage of a concurrent resolution of the legislature consenting to the new state of emergency.
Another amendment which passed with SB1819 makes it clear what emergency powers cities, towns, and counties will have -and won’t have- in the future. It includes a ban on curfews, business closures, and other public health declarations such as mask mandates which run counter to a governor’s orders.