PHOENIX — The state legislature convened a new session Monday, with no pageantry, and protective fencing kept protestors at bay. The governor’s state of the state speech was delivered by satellite. While the legislature figures to deal with other issues, the Governor says beating the virus that is beating down the state should be its top priority.
“People still have bills to pay, children in need of schooling, businesses to run and employees who depend on them,” Arizona Governor Doug Ducey said. “There are lots of men and women who don’t have the option to work remote and don’t receive uninterrupted direct deposits.”
The governor promised to move quickly to get vaccines into the arms of people. He says his budget will provide additional funding to help children get the one on one coaching, teaching and tutoring they need to compensate for the lost time out the classroom.
But Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman was not impressed. Writing to teachers after the speech, Hoffman said, “The Governor’s State of the State speech ignored the reality of the worsening spread of COVID-19 and its severe impact on our schools, students and teachers.”
Some Republican lawmakers believe Ducey has ordered too many restrictions and are considering bills aimed at limiting his executive powers.
“I think the legislature would like to have more of a say to restore more of a check and balance into the overall system,” State Representative John Kavanaugh (R) Fountain Hills District 23 said. “It wasn’t ever designed to just be one person. It was designed for the legislature to have input.”
But Kavanaugh says it would be a mistake to take away the Governor’s authority because it would allow mayors to impose sanctions even greater than the ones the governor ordered.
Democratic leaders want Ducey to be more aggressive. They are pushing for increases in unemployment benefits as well as additional funding for rental and mortgage assistance and an equal distribution of the vaccine.
“Whether or not it happens is going to hinge not only on the Governor but our Republican colleagues to the extent they prioritize our COVID-19 priorities,” Senate Minority Leader Rebecca Rios said.
Governor Ducey is not proposing raising unemployment benefits, but he says there should be enough common ground to move forward on his plan to fund public health, public education and still have money left for a tax cut. We will learn how he plans to pay for it, when the Governor’s office releases it budget Friday.