PHOENIX – On Wednesday, Arizona State Rep. Bob Thorpe LD-6 called out House leadership for making him and his fellow legislators feel like nonessential workers. House Speaker Rusty Bowers and Senate President Karen Fann have refused to reconvene the Legislative Session. As a coequal branch of the State government, the Legislature has not finished the people’s work, or addressed the hardships experienced by Arizonans during Governor Doug Ducey’s stay-at-home Executive Orders (EO), or the punitive restrictions imposed by some city and county officials.
Lawmakers, like senior House member Thorpe, have been frustrated and even angered by the Governor’s unwillingness to meet with the Legislature, or to adjust or quickly end his EOs based upon Arizona’s new realities. For example, where the most vulnerable, the elderly in nursing homes and long term care facilities, are not being adequately protected against Corona. And where innocent, healthy families and their breadwinners are unnecessarily sequestered in their homes, unable to earn a living. Unconstitutional actions?
Thorpe discussed his frustration in an interview on KFYI’s James T. Harris show:
Thorpe and other lawmakers have also been frustrated by what they believe are the unequal applications of the EOs. While the Governor has finally allowed hospitals to start performing elective surgeries again this week, he will not allow barber shops and salons to reopen until next week. Customers have not been able to visit a jewelry store, but they have been able to shop at big-box jewelry counters. This disparate treatment does not appear to have any scientific basis, and legislators argue that they are both arbitrary and capricious.
House Majority Leader Warren Petersen has tried in vain to convince leadership to act against Ducey’s EOs, but has run up against a brick wall. On Wednesday, that frustration took voice in his Tweet:
Imagine if we had shut down government for 8 weeks with no pay to its workers. What would happen?
— Warren Petersen (@votewarren) May 6, 2020
Thorpe joked in response, “Since we legislators appear to be furloughed workers, we might qualify for unemployment benefits. We certainly would make more money on unemployment than we do right now.”
Even if Legislators could receive unemployment, the Ducey administration has been slow to distribute those benefits, and out-of-work citizens will see a delay of their payments for at least 21-days after they’ve applied.
The Legislature had the opportunity to pass a resolution or take other actions in order to end the governor’s EOs, and to once again get Arizona ‘Open for Business’. However, neither Bowers or Fann have agreed to call lawmakers back to work.
Last week, the Arizona Daily Independent came into possession of an email sent by Fann to Legislators, warning against any attempt to take actions against the Governor’s EOs.
On April 30, 2020 Fann wrote: “Before everyone weighs in on this email, I would like to relay some information we found out yesterday from legal counsel. If this resolution passes, the Governor’s emergency declaration will end. That means Arizona will get to keep the Covid money we have received to date but will NOT be entitled to all the millions of FEMA or DEMA funds. In addition, all of the emergency declarations the governor has passed over the past few weeks will end immediately.. these include things like state income tax deferral to July 15th; protections for our constituents from evictions, etc., etc..etc.”
It appears that receiving free Federal Government ‘Cheese’ is more important than Arizona businesses and Arizona jobs.
After the email became public, Petersen told Harris in an interview that he was encouraging lawmakers to join him in passing just such a resolution.
Rather than doing the people’s work, says Thorpe, Bowers has been holding weekly Zoom caucus meetings, that do little but allow Legislators to vent, and to grow even more frustrated with the lack of any tangible results.
A couple of weeks ago, without first discussing it with his members, Bowers leaked that the House would reconvene in order to Sine Die. Many House members felt angry and betrayed. Leadership had promised its members that if they passed a skinny baseline budget, the Legislature would reconvene after a recess in order to finish voting on bills, and to consider additional budget work.
Once again, it appears that Bowers now wants to Sine Die as early as this Friday — a year’s worth of the people’s work down the tubes. At this time, it’s unclear if Legislators will receive cheap plastic participation trophies — in lieu of their bills and budget requests.