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Arizona legislature to close for week due to COVID-19 concerns

Arizona House
Posted at 7:15 PM, Dec 06, 2020

PHOENIX — The Arizona House of Representatives will close for a week due to COVID-19 concerns, according to state officials.

The building will be closed starting Monday, December 7, according to an email sent Sunday afternoon.

According to Michael E. Hunter, the Chief of Staff for the Arizona House of Representatives, no one will have permission to work or meet in the building and all staff will perform all work and schedule meetings remotely.

The decision comes a week after New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who tested positive for COVID-19, visited Arizona to argue Arizona's election results aren't legitimate.

More than a dozen Republican members of the legislature attended the meeting.

Democratic Minority Leader Representative Reginald Bolding (D-LD 23) welcomed newly elected leaders on the house floor Wednesday but noticed some GOP lawmakers ignoring safety recommendations.

"They did not wear masks, they were congregating next to each other," he said. "What should’ve been a place of excitement for new members, went to a place of concern and a place of fear.”

“You have members who are working on bills, you’ve got people who are taking meetings with constituents, getting their offices together, getting constituent services together," said Bolding. "All of those are things that should be taking place right now, but because of the disregard for public health and safety, those things will have to be put on the back burner."

Some Republicans are criticizing Speaker of the House Rusty Bowers for his quick decision to close both the House and Senate buildings. Dr. Kelli Ward calling the move "unnecessary" and "cowardly."

Legislative District 23 Representative-elect Joseph Chaplik tweeted, “I’m ready to start work and prepare for the new session, but we're closed?!?!"

Meanwhile, District 26 Representative Melody Hernandez also took to social media to share her reaction, saying in part: "None of the Republicans attending (except for one) were wearing masks. They called themselves the ‘fun group’.”

Lawmakers including Kelly Townsend, Mark Fincham, Paul Gosar, David Cook, Anthony Kern and more were seen in a mostly mask-less ballroom inside the Hyatt in Downtown Phoenix last week, where Rudy Guliani and members of President Trump's legal team argued that Arizona's election results were false and should be overturned, despite a lack of evidence, and several failing legal challenges.

The Trump campaign issued a statement Sunday after President Trump confirmed Giuliani's diagnosis, denying the potential of exposure to any Arizona lawmakers.

"Mayor Guliani tested negative twice immediately preceding his trip to Arizona, Michigan and Georgia. The Mayor did not experience any symptoms or test positive for COVID-19 until more than 48 hours after his return."

According to the World Health Organization, those infected with COVID-19 who may be asymptomatic can still spread the virus.

Rep. Bolding hopes this can be a learning opportunity for state leaders, both on what's important moving closer to the start of the legislative session, and how their example resonates with constituents.

"The reality is that we have over 360,000 people who have tested positive in Arizona, nearly 7,000 deaths and we’re just allowing this to take place without any sign of leadership," added Bolding. "We have to have the same level of reaction that we have to the State Capitol complex that we have to the state of Arizona.”