Testimony Before the Arizona House Committee on Government and Elections Regarding House Bill 2578

Published February 9, 2022

Testimony Before the Arizona House Committee on Government and Elections Regarding House Bill 2578

The Heartland Institute

February 9, 2022

Chairman Kavanagh and Members of the Committee,

Thank you for 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:

  1. Resolutions to immediately nullify an emergency proclamation.
  2. Time duration of an emergency order (renewed by legislature).
  3. 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.
  4. Permit an interim committee, or group of legislative leaders, to extend or reject emergency proclamations.
  5. 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.

Thank you for your time today.

For more information about The Heartland Institute’s work, please visit our website at www.heartland.org, or contact Samantha Fillmore at [email protected]