Lawmakers want to reduce government emergency powers
PHOENIX – Two Republican lawmakers are preparing to reduce government powers in an emergency.
Oro Valley Representative Mark Finchem wants his colleagues to repeal laws that allow the governor to mandate vaccinations.
It’s not something Governor Doug Ducey – or for that matter, any Governor in recent history – has done. Finchem told Capitol Media Services, however, that just having such laws on the books is dangerous.
“Do you think the government should have the power to force you to take ‘drugs’ against your will? ” He asked.
But Gilbert’s Senator Warren Petersen has his eyes set on the powers Ducey, in fact, wielded: ordering certain businesses to shut down. He therefore wants to clarify in the law that neither Ducey nor any local official has such a right.
The two measures should only be the tip of a larger debate when the legislature meets on January 10 about when governors can declare emergencies, what powers they can exercise and, more specifically, for how long. they can unilaterally hold them in place. .
For now, there is no limit. In fact, the emergency that Ducey declared in March 2020 is still in effect.
“If anything has been clear for the past year and a half, it is that governors, whether Republican or Democrats, are all too willing to abuse their emergency declaration powers,” said Senator Michelle Ugenti -Rita, R-Scottsdale.
It has already introduced SB 1009. It would limit emergency declarations to 30 days, with the possibility of three extensions.
But anything after 120 days would require the consent of the legislature.
Governor CJ Karamargin’s press assistant said his boss was not commenting on the legislative proposals.
While Ducey voluntarily rescinded most of the restrictions he imposed in 2020, he retains the right to reimpose them. And it’s this list of what the governor can do that leads to some of what lawmakers want to debate.
Finchem points out that current law says that, during a state of emergency or war, the governor can order treatment or even vaccination of a person who has been exposed – or can reasonably expect to be exposed – to any highly contagious and highly fatal disease, including smallpox, plague, viral hemorrhagic fever or any other disease with similar transmission characteristics. Its HB 2022 would repeal this language.
“No one has the power to force you to accept something in your body that cannot be reversed,” Finchem said. And he said that is especially true in situations like COVID where he says “there are other treatments that are more effective”, the ones he said “that don’t change your DNA”.
Many medical sources say there is no evidence that COVID vaccines, which use messenger RNA to trigger an immune response, can alter genes or DNA.
Rep. Walt Blackman, R-Snowflake, has a related measure that is even broader. Its HB 2029 seeks to prohibit state and local governments from requiring that a person be vaccinated against COVID-19 or any variant or have some sort of “immunity passport” or other proof of vaccination or ‘immunity.
But it goes beyond what government employers can do. The law would prohibit state and local governments from contracting with any company that imposes a vaccination mandate on its own workers, whether or not there is a declared state of emergency.
“My goal is more to protect employees from discrimination for not having had the blow or having to carry a passport,” he said. Blackman compared it to the Jim Crow era when there were laws and policies in some states that imposed racial segregation.
“People have been discriminated against because of their color,” he said. “I say it’s the same.”
Blackman said that was why he wanted to extend protections against mandatory vaccinations to workers in private companies.
“I don’t think we need to fire people from their jobs or keep their jobs above their heads” for refusing to get the vaccine.
A potential sticking point could be the state’s ban on doing business with these companies.
It might not be a problem when deciding to buy office supplies from another company. But it becomes more delicate when the state deals with the bank which manages its checks or the public service which supplies electricity or gas.
“I hope that doesn’t go like that,” Blackman said. But he said he remains steadfast in his belief that no one should be put at risk for refusing to be vaccinated.
Petersen’s proposal also deals with private matters, but in a different way.
Arizona law allows mayors and people who chair county oversight boards to declare local emergencies. Its SB 1048 would specifically negate their ability during such an emergency to order the shutdown of any business.
But Petersen said the intention is to prevent all levels of government – including the state – from forcing a business to shut down.
It is not a vain speculation.
Ducey closed all bars and restaurants in March 2020. And this follows decisions already taken by the mayors of Tucson and Flagstaff,
Subsequent orders from the governor shut down gyms, water parks, and even tubing along Arizona’s rivers. Ducey separately banned gatherings of more than 50 people, although he exempted churches and political gatherings. And swimming pools, including public ones, in hotels and even semi-private in apartment complexes, were limited to a maximum of 10 people.
Petersen said this is all beyond the role of government.
“People have the fundamental right to work and earn a living,” he said.
“It’s totally possible to stay safe and keep businesses open,” Petersen continued. “And if people don’t feel safe going into a business, they can choose to stay away on their own.”