Research & Commentary: Arizona Lawmakers Reeling in Emergency Executive Powers
In this Research & Commentary, Samantha Fillmore examines a House Bill in Arizona that would curb gubernatorial powers during a state of emergency.
The Arizona State House Committee on Government & Elections will be holding a hearing on House Bill 2578, a bill that would create legislative oversight of gubernatorial powers concerning emergency proclamations.
During the pandemic, many Americans saw their respective governors wield unprecedented power with seemingly unlimited emergency declarations. This overnight shift in governance, coupled with a plethora of governors who abused their pandemic emergency powers, has left several states reevaluating the statutes in their constitutions pertaining to emergency provisions and powers granted to the governor during a state of emergency. With HB 2578, Arizona is no exception.
House Bill 2578 stipulates that beginning January 2, 2023, the governor may issue an initial emergency proclamation for a public health emergency for a period of no more than 30 days. Further, under Subsection G of HB 2578, the governor may extend the state of emergency, but for no longer than 120 days. Additionally, extensions for the state of emergency cannot exceed 30 days at a time.
If passed, any future state of emergency would be terminated after 120 days unless the state of emergency is extended in whole or in part, by the passage of a concurrent resolution of the legislature. The legislature may extend the state of emergency as many times as necessary for public health by concurrent resolutions, but these legislative extensions cannot exceed 30 days at a time.
HB 2578 would also require the governor to submit a written report to a joint committee of the Health Committees of the Senate and House of Representatives in order to extend a state of emergency. Additionally, after the first 60 days of a public health emergency, the director of the department of Health Services and a representative of the governor’s office would be required to provide a briefing to the joint committee for a favorable or unfavorable review of the extension. The joint committee would provide its recommendation to all members of the legislature and the governor.
This amendment to the current Arizona emergency proclamation statute is paramount because we saw governors excessively extend their state of emergency timelines throughout the pandemic. Giving the legislative branch of Arizona oversight of the process of emergency proclamations and emergency powers affords constituents a voice pertaining to mandates that deeply affect their lives. After all, elected senators and representatives are how citizens make their voices heard and concerns known. Excluding the legislature is no different from excluding citizens.
The concept HB 2578 was created under isn’t complicated: it restores the authority of the legislature as a co-equal branch of government.
Throughout 2020, The Heartland Institute developed a set of principles that legislators could reference when governors began abusing their newfound powers, which include:
- Resolutions to immediately nullify an emergency proclamation.
- Time duration of an emergency order (renewed by legislature).
- Pass a resolution that requires the governor to call a special session to approve of an emergency proclamation if the legislature is out of session.
- Permit an interim committee, or group of legislative leaders, to extend or reject emergency proclamations.
- Impose specific limits to executive authority during an emergency proclamation. (i.e., restrict the governor from unilaterally closing businesses, closing houses of worship, etc.)
There is a clear appetite among the lawmakers in Arizona to restrain any governor’s emergency powers while ensuring safeguards to prevent future gubernatorial tyranny under the guise of emergency declarations. Coequal governance, checks and balances, and the decentralization of power are bedrock American principles. Yet, these fundamental principles have been AWOL in Arizona since the pandemic.
Fortunately for the cause of freedom, Arizona lawmakers are standing up to gubernatorial overreach by reasserting their rightful place as a much-needed check against the executive branch.
The following documents provide more information about executive authority in a state of emergency.
Testimony Before the Georgia House Judiciary Committee regarding legislative and executive authority in a state of emergency.
Cuomo has issued multiple statements in an attempt to quell the backlash and frustration of New Yorkers and lawmakers in Albany to no avail.
The Heartland Institute hosted a webinar on Aug. 27, 2020 for state legislators to discuss how they can rein in governors, who wield seemingly unlimited powers in the wake of COVID-19. For many months, Americans have been abhorred by out-of-control governors who have imposed draconian lockdowns, which have decimated small businesses and people’s livelihoods. For instance, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been roundly criticized for his heavy-handed and ineffectual response to the coronavirus outbreak in New York, which has drawn substantial blowback. Cuomo has also attempted to coverup his disastrous policy of forcing elderly patients with COVID-19 to return to nursing homes, where they spread the deadly diseases like wildfire among New York’s most vulnerable. As the days grow shorter and the temperatures dip lower, now is the time to begin exploring oversight over dictatorial governors and restore power where it rightfully belongs: With we the people, not I the governor.
Nothing in this Research & Commentary is intended to influence the passage of legislation, and it does not necessarily represent the views of The Heartland Institute. For further information on this and other topics, visit the Budget & Tax News website, The Heartland Institute’s website, and PolicyBot, Heartland’s free online research database.
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