An Open Letter to the Arizona Legislature

Today we sent the following letter to all 90 members of the Arizona Legislature, Democrats and Republicans alike. Republicans are in control. They may recess or adjourn at will and they set the agenda for bills to be heard in committees and on the floor. We hope that our legislators can set aside some partisan issues and address the urgent needs of the State and its citizens in light of the global pandemic.

Dear Arizona State Legislators: 

Northern Arizona has been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The two largest hospitals in our County – Flagstaff Medical Center and Tuba City Regional Health Center – have been at ICU capacity since March. They continue to experience critical shortages of staffing and of personal protective equipment. Our major city, Flagstaff, is projecting budget shortfalls and is already curtailing services. Our County’s emergency welfare fund is stressed. Based on epidemiological information from Northern Arizona University, these conditions seem unlikely to change in the foreseeable future and will be exacerbated if the Arizona “re-opens.” 

From our perspective, our Arizona leaders are failing us and we ask the Arizona Legislature to return to work and make a course correction. We have a Rainy Day Fund that has barely been tapped while a storm is devastating our part of the state. We need legislation to give relief to our county, which has been providing cash and other relief to our citizens. We need urgent action on behalf of property owners. We need changes in voting laws for the August and November elections to protect voters and election workers – and funding to support those changes. We need Governor Ducey to join with Colorado, Nevada, California, Washington, and Oregon in forming a regional plan to approach COVID-19 based on science – because this virus doesn’t recognize state lines. We need voices in the Legislature speaking out for our people and demanding that PPE be sent to hospitals and first-responders based on need rather than simply allocated based on population. 

County Treasurers across the state have called on the Arizona Legislature to grant them the authority to delay interest and penalties on overdue property taxes for homeowners unable to pay because of COVID-19 expenses or the COVID-caused recession. This is a simple but smart piece of legislation to help people stay in their homes. We urge the Legislature to take it up and pass it on May 1, which is when taxes are due and the Legislature is set to reconvene. 

County Recorders are calling on the State to accept $6.5 million dollars in federal aid offered to the State of Arizona by the CARES Act. They desperately need funds to safely and effectively administer the August and November elections. COVID-19 precautionary measures will require larger polling places, equipment (e.g., partitions, hand-washing stations), and supplies (disposable pens, masks, gowns). The problem is that the federal funds are conditioned upon the state providing a 20% match from state funds. Some qualifying funds have already been identified, so the actual appropriation can be less than $1.5 Million, but legislative action is needed to provide at least $1 Million in matching funds. 

The State should close state lands to campfires. The National Forests in Northern Arizona, as well as Coconino County and the City of Flagstaff, have already taken steps like this to prevent forest fires. Our wildland firefighters cannot take COVID precautions while fighting fires and the State has the duty to minimize their risk. We’ve had a dry winter and spring and the last thing we need in Northern Arizona is a devastating wildfire followed by flood risks. Legislators should be calling on the Governor and the State Land Department to act immediately.

During the year of this pandemic, our Legislature must take steps to protect Arizonans’ right to vote. People should not have to choose between risking their health and exercising this fundamental right. We know mail elections work – the majority of our voters already vote by mail. Take the simple step to mail ballots to all registered voters for the August Primary and the November General Election. Trust our County Elections Officials to do their jobs to ensure fair elections, but give them the tools necessary to do that in a pandemic. 

If grocery store clerks can be at work, so can our legislators. In fact, they can come together briefly and adopt rules allowing them to vote remotely, working from home as so many of us are doing. It’s time for Arizona’s legislators to get back to work and do their jobs.

Respectfully,

Coconino County Democratic Party 

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