Arizona House votes to cap emergency declarations at 2 weeks

Vote by Arizona House Republicans comes after GOP Gov. Doug Ducey continually has renewed his emergency declaration.

Arizona House Republicans unanimously support ending an emergency declaration that has not received their consent to continue beyond a few weeks.

Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, continually has renewed his emergency declaration, which initially was ordered in March 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic had just begun. It is allowed his expanded powers of executive orders to remain for nearly two years.

House Bill 2471 would, if enacted, end an emergency declaration after 14 days unless the governor calls the Legislature into a special session to discuss the emergency.

The bill earned unanimous support from Republicans, who hold a slim majority in both legislative chambers.

Though Democrats have often criticized Ducey on many of his pandemic orders, they were unanimous in voting against the bill that would limit his executive powers.

“What if there is a flood or natural disaster that has necessitated the state of emergency that would prevent us from coming into a special session?” Rep. Kelli Butler, D-Phoenix, asked amid debate Wednesday in the Committee of the Whole. “There are times when it’s the government’s and the governor’s job to call for an emergency, and we should not just set an arbitrary date at which the emergency would terminate because we cannot contemplate all of the terrible things that could happen.”

Rep. Frank Carroll, R-Sun City West, said it is incumbent upon lawmakers to get themselves into the Capitol, regardless of the emergency.

Carrol is the sponsor of the legislation.

“All I’m doing in this statute is equalizing two sides of the coin,” he said. “One has to do with a state of emergency, which is an act of war, which requires the governor to call us into a special session. The other side is simply a state of emergency giving 14 days, calling us into session and working with the governor and doing our job.”

This is not the first piece of legislation aimed at curtailing the emergency powers of Arizona’s governor.

Senate Bill 1009 would cap a public health emergency declaration to 120 days. It passed in the Senate along similar partisan lines Feb. 2 but has yet to see consideration in a House committee.