The Arizona Legislature suspended the Fifty Fourth Legislature – Second Regular Session on March 23 as a result of the general shutdown caused by the Covid-19 virus. The Senate returned on May 8 only to vote to end their 2020 session altogether for the year. The House decided to remain in session. It now appears that the Arizona Senate will reconvene on Tuesday, May 26 as well.
During the week of May 18, the House passed 32 bills that had previously already been passed by the Arizona Senate. These bills have been sent to the Senate to be forwarded to the Governor. The House also passed two additional, new bills during the week. One was House Bill 2912 which passed along a strictly party-line vote, makes it much harder for an individual to sue a business if they become infected with Covid-19 while on their premises. This essentially overturns centuries of British and American law regarding liability for negligence and recklessness.
The bill also has provisions that remove criminal penalties from any emergency declarations made by Governor Ducey should a business refuse to follow those orders. It further bars the state from suspending or revoking a business license should they fail to follow those orders. This bill will need to be reviewed and passed by the Senate as well and it is unclear if Governor Ducey will sign it should it reach his desk. This bill, HB 2912, was sponsored by John Kavanaugh, LD 23, and both LD6 representatives, Blackman and Thorpe, voted in favor of the measure. (Remember in November!) The House voted on Thursday, May 21 to adjourn sine die and end their legislative session for the year.
The Arizona Senate will reconvene on Tuesday, May 26. Senate President Karen Fann has said that they will focus on passing some 28 “non-controversial” bills previously passed by the House. She did not say what will happen, if anything, with the two additional, new bills that the House passed this past week. The list of these 28 “non-controversial” bills is supposed to be available but I’ve not seen them.
In general, the Arizona Legislature has not, so far, done anything to further help the 330,000 Arizonans who are out of work or to provide any special support for the Navajo Nation or essential and frontline workers who face constant threat from Covid-19.
To put some things in perspective, the Navajo Nation has 4,434 positive cases of Covid-19 and 147 deaths as of today, May 24, 2020. That is a rate of 85 deaths per 100,000 people. Compare this with Maricopa county which has Covid-19 death rate of 9 per 100,000 people. The Navajo Nation death rate from Covid-19 is one of the highest in the world. For comparison, the total US rate is 30 and for Brazil it is 11 per 100,000 population. (Statistics per the New York Times and the Navajo Nation official web site)