One reason lawyers draft contracts is to define the terms of an agreement, regardless of who is involved. Contracts can “live” beyond people and set forth what is agreed upon if one or more of the parties is no longer alive or otherwise not involved.
One reason our form of government works and continues to be the envy of the world is our system of checks and balances. The separation of powers between the three branches of government provide citizens an assurance that no one branch will control too much power.
We think Gov. Ducey should consider these basic ideas when he is confronted by a legislative effort to rein in his executive authority.
First, and most important, the governor must remember that this effort isn’t personal — or at least it shouldn’t be. When the pandemic hit Arizona, Gov. Ducey used the authority of his office to slow the spread of the coronavirus. His executive orders were effective in creating public awareness of the seriousness of the threat and in implementing behaviors necessary to “flatten the curve,” to prevent hospitals from being overrun with patients.
His performance was and continues to be exemplary in combatting COVID-19. Gov. Ducey managed to balance the capacity of Arizona’s health care facilities and the impact of the pandemic on the state’s economy, to weather the storm much better than California, New York and other states.
The anticipated effort to address the executive powers of a sitting governor should not be viewed as a report card on Gov. Ducey’s performance or decision-making during the pandemic.
Instead, the expected legislation should be considered for what it is: an initiative to “check” the power of the state’s executive branch by putting a limit on the amount of time an executive order can remain in effect without review by the Legislature.
Scottsdale Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita made headlines earlier in the month by announcing she intends to present a resolution after lawmakers return to session on Jan. 11. The intent of the bill, she states, is to make sure the “… public has a seat at the table” when the governor issues an executive order. The initiative spells out that gubernatorial-declared emergencies continue until the governor decides it is no longer necessary or until the legislature, by a majority of both chambers, votes to end it.
What we don’t want to see is a repeat performance by Sen. Kelly Townsend (R-Mesa) bashing Gov. Ducey’s handling of the pandemic to fuel her ultra-conservative political ideology. Last summer she lashed out at the governor’s order to “shelter-in-place,” and his decisions to close gyms, theaters and other public venues to improve public safety and address the spread of the virus.
Sen. Ugenti-Rita has the right idea. Let’s keep this debate about the importance of maintaining checks and balance for future governors, to make sure citizens have a voice when they are directly impacted by executive orders.
That’s not politics, that’s good government.