UPDATE: Please also consider reading my analysis of the changes to legal process contained in HB 2912.
HB 2912 is a wide-ranging grab for power over state public health regulations and our court system by the Arizona legislature. It very well may be unconstitutional in some of its goals and specifics, which I will address in a later post, but it is positively dangerous to public order and health during this global health crisis.
I have many legal and practical objections to some aspects of the bill, which I will share later, but this aspect of the bill positively chills me. I’m deeply worried that this bill eviscerates public health enforcement in Arizona during this health crisis.
HB 2912 seeks to limit any violation of the Governor’s Executive Orders regarding the COVID19 epidemic to a $100.00 fine, which is waivable if the violation is remedied within 24 hours.
I could live with this provision as a petty political tussle between the legislature and Governor over enforcement of Executive Orders. Such limitations are very likely unwise for public order and compliance with valid government health police powers, but, since there hasn’t been much in the way of actual enforcement anyhow, it may ultimately be of little real import.
But HB 2912 also seeks to completely kill the ability of ANY government in Arizona to shut down active hazards to public health during this health emergency:
“[A] license or permit to a person to conduct a business, profession or service in the issuing jurisdiction, including a church, religious institution or nonprofit organization, may not suspend or revoke the license or permit that is issued to the person based on an act committed by the person or involving the business, including a church, religious institution or nonprofit organization, that is directly prohibited or required by an executive order”
This bill basically neuters ANY government control over private actions that endanger public health due to COVID-19. That is wildly dangerous and irresponsible.
This is not merely limiting liability for criminal penalties arising during an emergency, which is decidedly unwise, this is ripping the heart out of ANY enforcement of health measures during a health crisis. That could be positively deadly to any community in Arizona.
This is how reckless and heedless of consequence to the public health the GOP majority in the state legislature has become: they ACTUALLY passed this on a party-line vote in the House! They are actually poised to make this state law this coming Tuesday!
What I find even more unforgivable is that some Democrats were reportedly considering voting for this idiocy, in exchange for some crumbs of ‘worker protection’. Did any of those Democrats actually read this thing? I challenge any of those Democratic legislators who even considered voting for this bill to defend their position in the comments.
The GOP majority want to wholly stop ANY enforcement of public health measures – from their own party’s Governor, down to the local dog-catcher.
Let’s take a quick look at a plausible hypothetical under HB 2912:
Let’s say that a mega-church in Phoenix, Our Lady of Infectious Worship, decides it’s going to re-open, and stay open, regardless of what the government might tell them is best for the public health.
They open this weekend for services for the thousands of worshipers of their church. Two weeks from now the Governor sees a huge spike in COVID19 cases and decides we need to close down large gatherings once again to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Maricopa County Health Department contact tracers, chasing a huge outbreak in Phoenix, trace hundreds of infections to the congregation of Our Lady of Infectious Worship.
The Governor calls upon them to shut down services to stop the spread of infection. They thumb their noses at him, telling him it’s “God’s will” that they continue to gather to worship.
The Mayor of Phoenix and the Maricopa Board of Supervisors look into pulling Our Lady’s permit of habitation to shut them down, but find that both the City Phoenix and Maricopa County, and the Governor himself, are powerless to shut down the church – based on HB 2912.
This is a totally plausible scenario that could be applied to any business or enterprise such as bars, restaurants, flea markets, truck rallies, major sporting events, whatever someone might like to do.
HB 2912 completely neuters the last line of defense our state, or any jurisdiction within our state might have to mitigate a public health threat.
This is legislative suicide.
HB 2912 is not law; it is anti-law.
This is our legislature renouncing the fundamental powers of our sovereign state government to protect the health of its citizens.