Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a reasonable argument can be made that civil liberties have been thrown out the window. As governors across the nation grapple with a rise in case numbers, their increase in power at the state level is a cause for concern. In Arizona, Governor Doug Ducey has seized upon the opportunity to flex his muscle, much to the chagrin of some elected officials.
State Representative Kelly Townsend sees a need for Governor Ducey to begin the process of involving the Arizona Legislature in decision-making. With his unchecked and remarkable broad powers, according to Townsend, the Chief Executive in Arizona has amassed the kind of authority lawmakers with which citizens should be concerned.
Townsend, R-Mesa, wants to convene a Special Session of the Arizona State Legislature to force a check on the governor’s office. In a statement dated June 30, Townsend calls for a “Special Session of the Legislature to address the State Of Emergency, in an effort to restore the balance of power in these trying times.” Powers that were extended to governors after the attacks of 9/11.
In remarks made to the Arizona Capitol Times, Ducey Chief Of Staff, Daniel Scarpinato, said the laws regarding “special powers” are “working the way it was designed.” Simply put, as long as Governor Ducey reads this event as he has been, with only his cadre of attorneys advising him, no end in sight might be a new normal.
“Our perspective would be that the way to determine whether a public health emergency should continue would be based on public health, the recommendation of public health (officials) and the facts on the ground” Scarpinato said. “In this case, the crisis is escalating, the cases are growing.”
For Representative Townsend, the lack of guidance, or any information from the Governor’s Office is troublesome. She is right to stress that the Legislature is a co-equal branch of government. Her call for a Special Session is particularly critical as she would point out that as of July 9, there have been 44 days without 3 equal branches of the government functioning on behalf of the citizens in Arizona.
The work to get enough signatures to compel Governor Ducey to call a Special Session has begun and will be a heavy lift for Townsend. Given the political environment, and pressures from some of the more vocal Arizona mayors on cable news, Ducey looks to be in a position to continue to move the goal posts however he sees fit.