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Arizona voters will decide on a constitutional amendment to the governor’s emergency powers in 2024

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In Arizona, the state Legislature approved a constitutional amendment related to the governor’s emergency powers on June 12, 2023. Voters will decide on the amendment at the election on Nov. 5, 2024.

As of June 12, there were four statewide ballot measures certified in Arizona for 2024. These four measures are legislative referrals. One would amend state statute, while the remaining three would amend the Arizona Constitution.

The amendment would enable the Legislature to terminate a state of emergency or modify the emergency powers granted to the governor. Additionally, the amendment would provide that a state of emergency is automatically terminated after 30 days unless the Legislature extends the emergency powers granted to the governor. This would not apply to emergencies arising from a state of war or those triggered by a flood or fire.

On Feb. 7, 2023, the amendment was introduced into the Legislature as HCR 2039. The House passed it on March 1 with a vote of 31-28, receiving support from 31 Republicans and opposition from 28 Democrats. Subsequently, on June 12, the Senate approved the amendment with a vote of 16-14, with 16 Republicans voting in favor and 14 Democrats voting against it.

In the past two years, there have been 21 state and eight federal emergency declarations declared in Arizona. State Sen. J.D. Mesnard (R) said he supported the measure when it related to state emergencies in response to the coronavirus pandemic but had further comments on how the legislation might impact other state emergencies. Mesnard said, “The premise behind the bill, especially as it relates to COVID-type situation, I strongly support. We just want to make sure we’re not sweeping in things that make it either a challenge to sell to the voters or just a logistical challenge to fulfill as legislators.’’ The introduced version of the amendment did not provide for an exception for the state of emergencies related to a flood or fire.

State Rep. Joseph Chaplik (R), who sponsored the amendment, said that the Legislature has a right to review a state of emergency. He said, “It is our job as [the] Legislature to have a say and have a voice on behalf of our constituency when it comes to these things, regardless of who that governor is. That’s why I like this measure.”

In a press release, Arizona House Democrats opposed the measure, saying, “The reality is that once a state of emergency is called, it slips quickly from the media and the minds of the public. However, the lasting effects are ongoing and deeply personal for millions of Arizonans.”

Sen. Priya Sundareshan (D) also spoke in opposition to the measure, saying, “Our understanding and the interpretation is that you do need that active state of emergency declaration in order to be able to access the federal disaster funding.” She also said that allowing the Legislature to weigh in or rescind a state of emergency is something “that would have some pretty grave consequences.’”

Since March 2020, 12 bills aimed at increasing legislative oversight of gubernatorial emergency power authority have been enacted in nine states, including Arkansas, Colorado, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Utah. In May 2021, voters in Pennsylvania approved two ballot measures related to gubernatorial emergency powers. Question 1, which provided for the General Assembly to terminate or extend a state of emergency by a resolution that cannot be vetoed by the governor, was approved by voters 52%-47%, and Question 2, which limited the governor’s emergency declaration to 21 days unless the legislature voted to extend the order, was approved 52%-47%.There are four statewide constitutional amendments on the ballot for Arizona voters in 2024. As of June 12, there were 10 potential legislatively referred measures that have passed one chamber of the legislature and may also appear on the 2024 ballot if they pass the other chamber. For the legislature to refer a measure to the ballot, it must pass both the House and the Senate by a simple majority of votes. In addition, there are two citizen-led campaigns working to put initiatives on the 2024 ballot.

Last year, Arizona had 10 statewide measures on the Nov. 8, 2022 ballot—eight which were referred by the Legislature and two which were placed on the ballot by citizen initiatives. Seven measures were approved by voters, and three were defeated.

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