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Why A Republican State Senator Wants To Terminate Ducey's Emergency Declaration

LAUREN GILGER: Gov. Doug Ducey has been criticized for his pandemic response from all sides, including members of his own party. Now a state lawmaker wants to strip the governor of the emergency powers he has exercised this year. Republican Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita says Ducey's emergency order has interfered with individual rights, and she joins us now to talk more about it. Good morning.


GILGER: So public health experts and others have actually encouraged the governor to do more with his emergency power. But you say he's already gone too far. Is that right?

UGENTI-RITA: Well, what I'm saying is I want to terminate the emergency declaration, not strip him of his ability to declare an emergency. And that's because I believe in a representative government and using a deliberative process — a legislative process that we already have — to come up with these solutions.

GILGER: So in your mind, this would turn to lawmakers like you — to the state Legislature?

UGENTI-RITA: Yes, absolutely. So the public is often told how important it is to be involved and to vote and vote for their representative to go down to the Capitol to represent their interests. And then here we have a situation where, where we are facing a life-altering health crisis. And then you cut out the very people that the public elected to represent them down at the Capitol. It's un-American. It's not necessary. We have a process and we should be debating this in a public forum, so that there's transparency and so that you can bring in a variety of different experts and opinions and have a productive, responsible conversation, so that you can pick solutions that the public wants to live by. And I think you'd get a lot more compliance that way as well.

STEVE GOLDSTEIN: Senator, you talked with us few months ago about this. So this is not new for you. But I want to ask you in terms of the fact that, even as Lauren referred to in our introduction there, the governor has been getting this and getting criticism from all sides. Can you give me an idea of what specifically you'd like to see? I certainly understand where you're coming from, saying the Legislature is an equal branch of government, why are you not more involved in this? But, but what has he done that is really taken away individual rights?

UGENTI-RITA: That's the wrong premise. The premise is we have a process. We have a representative government. That's what makes the United States, the greatest country on Planet Earth — is that we have this very, very special process. And so to abuse circumstances, to circumvent that process is wrong. We could be coming — you know, there's nothing to say that the mitigation measures that the governor has put in place in his executive orders wouldn't have been the exact mitigation measures that would have come out of the Legislature. We would never know, though, because we're not using that process. So this is about making sure that the public is represented and that they have a seat at the table.

GILGER: I want to ask you one other question about how you think the governor's emergency orders interfered with individual rights. It sounds like you also have an issue with the substance of it, even if that might have been what came out of the Legislature.

UGENTI-RITA: Yeah, personally, I know I would have been very reluctant to close businesses and schools. Remember, there's a lot of societal costs with the governor's choices and how he's decided to manage COVID-19. But I could respect the fact that those decisions could have been borne out of a deliberative process using the Legislature. But we've been denied that opportunity. Let's look at the mask mandate. You may have gotten a statewide mandate if you put it up for a vote at the Legislature. You know, you think of all the Democrats, perhaps, and you know, half or more or maybe just a little less than the Republicans — you may have gotten that. But we don't have the ability to even work through whether that's what we want to pass or if there's public buy-in for that, because we're not using the very process that we have to come to these conclusions. And so that's where I struggle. Having one individual responsible and hand-selecting their desired experts to come up with mitigation processes and shut out the public is wrong. And let's not forget that this emergency declaration has no end date. So as far as the public's concerned, it's in perpetuity until the governor decides at some later date he wants to end it.

GILGER: We'll have to leave it there. That is Republican Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita joining us this morning. Thank you so much for the time, senator.

UGENTI-RITA: Absolutely. Thank you.

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Lauren Gilger, host of KJZZ's The Show, is an award-winning journalist whose work has impacted communities large and small, exposing injustices and giving a voice to the voiceless and marginalized.