Remember back when legislative leaders were optimistic about holding a short legislative session and wrapping up the state budget by the end of March? What were they smoking?
Lawmakers seem to be in no rush, with light committee agendas and floor action this week. No budget bills have dropped yet as negotiations continue between the governor’s office and legislative leaders.
And now the Arizona Capitol Times reports, Arizona lawmakers mull shutting down session to prevent coronavirus spread:
Legislative leaders plan to meet Monday morning to discuss how to proceed with the budget and pending bills amid calls from some senators and representatives to temporarily suspend the session to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus, known as COVID-19.
Lawmakers already decided yesterday to shut down the Senate and House galleries and limit public testimony on bills as safety measures. And state Sens. Heather Carter and Paul Boyer pledged to stay away from the Capitol for the foreseeable future to promote “social distancing,” taking with them two votes needed to pass any partisan legislation.
Boyer, R-Glendale, and Carter, R-Cave Creek, said they would be working from home for the foreseeable future. Boyer, a high school teacher, and Carter, a university professor, are already doing their day jobs from home as universities and schools shuttered or moved online, but they can’t vote on legislation unless they’re physically in the Senate.
House Education Committee Chair Michelle Udall, R-Mesa, and House Regulatory Affairs Chairman Travis Grantham, R-Gilbert, announced they would run their committees on Monday without an audience or public testimony, and other committee chairs are weighing their options. Lawmakers shouldn’t be voting on anything if they’re not allowing public input, Boyer said.
“My two cents is it’s just not fair to the public,” Boyer said. “If we’re not allowing public input on bills and then voting on them, it’s not right.”
Senate President Karen Fann texted the 16 members of her Republican caucus on Friday afternoon to tell them she would meet with House and Senate leaders, according to a copy of the message shared with the Arizona Capitol Times. Neither Fann nor Senate Minority Leader David Bradley immediately returned phone calls.
House Speaker Pro Tem T.J. Shope, R-Coolidge, told the Yellow Sheet Report, a sister publication of the Capitol Times, that he thinks the Legislature should take a break until April 6.
Waiting until April also means lawmakers will see March revenue numbers and revise budget requests accordingly, he said. While revenues have been higher than expected throughout the year, the COVID-19 outbreak and related closures are expected to slow the economy.
“With spring training canceled, those revenue numbers will have to come down,” he said.
Both chambers on Thursday unanimously authorized the state health department to spend up to $55 million to combat the spread of COVID-19. Moving quickly on the funding was necessary “on the slim chance that if we had to suspend session and would not be here, we would have the funds to handle it,” Fann said.
Legislatures in Colorado, Georgia and Vermont already announced temporary shutdowns. Several other states, which pass budgets every two years instead of annually as Arizona does, already ended their short sessions.
Wait, didn’t Donald Trump and his propagandists at Fox News all dismiss the coronavirus as just a “Democrat hoax” and media “hysteria”? And “Trump suggested that people infected with the virus could still go to work and make full recoveries”?
What, Arizona Republicans are no longer listening to their “Dear Leader” and the propagandists at Fox News? Is there now reason to hope that the cult fever has broken?