Capital COVID: State, federal lawmakers face different pandemic rules

While U.S. House members can still vote by proxy and participate in hearings virtually because of the ongoing threat of COVID-19, lawmakers at the Arizona Capitol have to show up in person this year to participate, as leaders try to restore a “sense of normalcy” to the proceedings. /File photo by Ellen O’Brien/Cronkite News

By Emily Sacia. | Cronkite News

Even though Rep. Raúl Grijalva tested positive for COVID-19 Wednesday, the Tucson Democrat was still able to cast votes in Congress by proxy Thursday while he was quarantined at home.

That’s an option state Rep. Kelli Butler, D-Scottsdale, wishes she had.

The Arizona House largely reverted to pre-pandemic rules this session, which means representatives have to be present at the Capitol to vote or debate. And that means Butler, who remained in isolation Thursday after a positive test earlier this week, cannot perform her legislative duties.

“I think it’s a threat to democracy,” Butler said. “It’s necessary for democracy and it’s necessary that people can weigh in on bills that are going to affect their lives.”

But state Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, thinks the state Constitution is clear – legislators need to do their lawmaking in person.

“The main rule is that you have to be in the Capitol building,” Kavanagh said. “And this is because it’s a requirement of the Arizona Constitution.”

Butler is not the only one upset by the change.

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