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After a decade of total control at the Capitol, in-fighting between Republican leadership is exposing divisions within the party.
The Arizona House returned to the Capitol on Tuesday after a two-month recess triggered by the coronavirus pandemic and despite the Senate’s decision to try to adjourn for the year.
House Majority Leader Warren Petersen said Saturday that the plan is to take up more than 60 Senate bills in the coming days. That includes holding committee hearings, floor debate, and votes.
“Most people at least want to get work done,” Petersen said. “The stay-at-home order was lifted on the 15th, and we want to be safe and use best practices, but we want to finish the people’s work as best we can.
He added, “But we’ll see – you never know what’s going to happen.”
The Legislature has been on recess since it passed a basic state budget on March 23, along with a series of bills that provide more than $100 million in emergency funding for health and community relief during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Senate only returned once since recessing—to move to end the session. The House, however, must approve, and GOP leaders don’t plan on following suit. This division signals a rift within the party, as House Republicans’ decision to continue passing legislation challenges the Republican-led Senate’s resolve to adjourn.
One proposal House and Senate Republicans are united in supporting is a measure that would shield businesses from choosing to reopen from lawsuits. It would also protect them from being financially responsible if workers or members of the public are infected with COVID-19 unless they are grossly negligent. Majority Republicans who control the Legislature and GOP Gov. Doug Ducey have sought such protections, saying they’re needed to prevent frivolous litigation that could damage businesses.
House Speaker Rusty Bowers said Monday that the protections are needed if businesses are to reopen and not be subject to “trial lawyers” who may see an “open season” on litigation brought against businesses.
“Our goal and hope is to move business forward, to remove the obstacles that keep them from opening so we can get people back employed and to open up society,” Bowers said. “One of the major challenges to all businesses right now that they have expressed to us is their fear of uncontrolled liability in a very hyper-litigious society.”
But the contents of the bill put the Legislature at odds with the governor. Along with liability protections, the proposal removes criminal penalties for businesses that ignore emergency virus orders Ducey has issued. And it bars the state from suspending or revoking business licenses for violations.
It’s unclear if the governor would…Read more on The Copper Courier here. Reprinted with permission.