Senate approves measure to curb governor’s emergency powers

Gov. Doug Ducey and Cara Christ, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, answer questions at a press conference March 11 in which Ducey announced a state of emergency to combat the spread of Covid in Arizona. /PHOTO BY PIPER HANSEN/ARIZONA CAPITOL TIMES 

By Howard Fischer | Capitol Media Services 

Republican senators voted Wednesday to curb the emergency powers of the governor, but do it in a way he can’t veto.

SCR 1003, approved on a party-line 16-14 vote, would terminate any emergency declared by the governor in 30 days unless both the House and Senate agreed to an extension. And any extension could be for no more than 30 days, though there could be continued reauthorization.

The proposal now goes to the House.

Nothing in the measure would affect the current emergency that Gov. Doug Ducey declared in March.

That’s because the legislation requires voter approval. Sending it to the ballot skirts the normal requirement for gubernatorial approval.

But lawmakers may yet get a chance to pull the plug on the current emergency. SCR 1001, which would do just that, already has cleared two Senate committees and awaits floor debate.

Wednesday’s vote comes following months of complaints by many GOP lawmakers that the Republican governor has used his emergency powers to infringe on individual rights. That has included the closure of businesses he has declared to be “non-essential,” a moratorium on evictions, and what amounted to a stay-at-home order for people who do not need to be out.

Most of those are gone. But his orders still keep bars closed unless they operate like restaurants, with sit-down food service and no dancing. And restaurants can operate with only limited seating capacity.

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