Today: Jul 07 , 2020

Opinion: Arizona is Reopening, but Questions Remain

23 May 2020   Myrna Lieberman, Political Columnist

An interview with Karen Fann about the shutdown.

Arizona‘s Stay at home order expired on May 15 and we are now in the next stage of economic recovery. Prior to May 15, I interviewed Karen Fann, President of the AZ Senate, because Yavapai County, a retiree community was doing very well in comparison to other populated communities. Why should the stay at home order remain in place? The interview was conducted by email.

Radio talk show host and former Flagstaff City Council, Jeff Oravits on Facebook, stated that the President of the Senate Karen Fann emailed all the legislators that if a resolution to end the emergency stay at home order is passed, Arizona would lose money. When I asked which legislator informed him, he would not disclose.

Oravits tweet.jpg

Representative Kelly Townsend tweeted on April 30, 2020 and proposed a resolution to end the declaration of emergency. She was told that if they do, AZ loses Federal money immediately.

Townsend Tweet.jpg

I contacted President of the Senate, Karen Fann, to ask if what is reported is correct.

I specifically asked if the money is the stimulus money or in any of the President’s Executive orders. In addition, is the reported loss of funds based upon law?

All our communications were by email.

Here is her answer which was also in Facebook:

“First and foremost, I have never been in favor of the extended shut down. I merely replied to an email with information I had just received from the Senate Legal Counsel, JLBC, and Legislative Council. I triple checked to make sure all the information was correct. That email was sent by someone else to all 90 legislators asking if they would support a concurrent resolution to end the stay at home order. Because I had just received the new information the night before, I thought it prudent to “reply all” and give them the new information so they could have the updated info. Unfortunately someone decided to cut and paste and then tagged that it was all about the money which was never true. The following is the email response I have sent to all the emails I have received:

“My apologies for not responding to all of you sooner. This has been a frustrating week for everyone. First let me emphatically state I am in favor of opening Arizona’s economy more rapidly than what is currently being proposed. We need to do it safely by protecting our elderly and vulnerable and by avoiding large crowds. However, I believe we should immediately allow small businesses and outdoor activities to start opening with the proper safety guidelines of distancing, sanitizing and proper personal protection. “If it’s ok for someone to go to Costco to buy a mothers’ day gift, why can’t they go to the small jeweler’s store?” This will allow employees to return and business owners to rebuild their businesses sooner in a smooth transition. Also for the record, this has never been about the money as some may think. I try to get as much information out to educate everyone about what exactly are our options and potential upsides or downsides. It’s up to each of us to make decisions based on good information. I pray you and your families are safe and for a quick return to normal.

Senate President Karen Fann”

Here is additional information on the monies: If the declaration of emergency is rescinded, we will still get to keep the Covid 19 monies which go directly to the governor for Covid related needs. (We have received about 1.8 million to date.) However, we would not be entitled to receive any of the FEMA/DEMA monies any longer which could add up to many millions. These monies come from the Stafford Act which can be used in various ways but more importantly it can go directly to municipalities and individuals. Lastly, if the declaration of emergency is rescinded, all of the Governor's emergency directives would immediately cease. These are things such as the delay in state income taxes to July 15th, preventing home and business evictions, preventing liberal mayors from shutting down more businesses, etc etc etc.”

Why can’t Arizona either end or modify the shutdown without jeopardizing Federal Aid? This is what Representative Townsend’s proposed resolution is about. Other Governors are reopening their states but not ending their Declarations of State emergencies. A Declaration of Emergency is necessary to receive FEMA money under the Stafford Act but a declaration is not the same as a government shutdown.

Senator Fann's response was that Governor Ducey is following the guidelines of the President and supports the President 100%. She agreed that other Governors of other states are reopening without cancelling their declaration of emergency and cannot comment on their decision making.

If you agree that that the shutdown can happen without jeopardizing funds, then why send out a memo to your colleagues advising them not to challenge the shutdown?

You indicated that Arizona has received 1.8 Million in Covid 19 monies. How much has FEMA money has Arizona received and how much more is Arizona likely to receive?

Her response to this question is that the proposed resolutions from Representative Townsend and Senator Ugenti would overturn the declaration of emergency. This would not end the stay at home order. If the state of emergency was ended then the FEMA/ DEMA funds would no longer be received. She cited the May 8 2020 announcement from the Yavapai County BOS extending the county’s emergency declaration to another 60 days (July 5) and can be cancelled at any time. She was unable to state how much FEMA monies AZ has received nor what monies AZ can expect to receive. According to the April 4 2020 FEMA Statement the federal cost share is 75%.

According to the report from the Arizona State Treasurer, the U.S. Treasury paid a total allocation of $2,822,399,971.50 under the CARES ACT. Eligible local governments that were certified were Maricopa County, Pima County, Mesa city, Phoenix City and Tucson City. Cities with populations greater than 500,000 received money automatically. Smaller cities need the money legislated to them.

In addition, there is $88 million which needs to be legislated.

Yavapai County is the 4th largest county with an estimated population of 228,055, but was not listed as a certified eligible local government.

On May 4, 2020 the Senate voted 24-6 to sine die.The Republicans hold 17 seats.

(Sine Die is Latin for “without a day” and marks the end of the legislative session because it does not set a time for reconvening. It terminates all unfinished business).

The House rejected the plan to end the 2020 legislative sessions. The Majority of the Republican caucus called for the House to stand against the Governor’s disparate treatment of businesses.

Why did the President and the members of the Arizona Senate not see the need to remain in session? Do they not see this as neglectful of their duty to the people who elected them? There are bills that have cleared the House but need to be voted on by the Senate.

Arizona is working on reopening safely and recovering our economy. There is concern that the business community needs protection from frivolous litigation that could harm their businesses and from criminal penalties some businesses will face for ignoring the emergency virus orders. The penalties need to be reduced, some of which are frivolous.

HB 2912 was sponsored by Rep John Kavanaugh and introduced by Republican House Majority Leader Warren Peterson on Monday, May 18. The genesis of the bill is to protect businesses from frivolous lawsuits.

There is also the $88 million dollars which needs to be legislated.

On May 19, Rep. Michelle Udall, R-Mesa, sponsored HB 2913 that would appropriate $88 million in federal grants from the CARES Act to support the state’s child care centers as they begin to reopen. Many are struggling as a result of the Coronavirus shutdown.

It is my opinion that when the Senate voted to sine die, these elected legislators abandoned the people of Arizona during this unprecedented time in our country’s history. The Legislature was not able to address any of Governor Ducey’s executive orders or the emergency declarations. All the power was left in the hands of the Governor.

Bills that cleared the House, need to be voted on by the Senate. Legislation needs to be passed to protect businesses that have already suffered economic losses during this pandemic.