“The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” Unless you are New Mexico Governor Lujan Grisham, who thinks she can just declare a public health emergency and ignore what the Constitution says. Yes, in her view, she can declare an emergency and then all “rights” are on the table, and she is free to suspend them as she wishes.

Thankfully, this was too far for even anti-gun politicians like Rep. Ted Lieu from California and New Mexico’s own Attorney General who said he would not defend the declaration in court. In other words, it was so clearly unconstitutional that even the most radical gun control advocates distanced themselves from it.

Abuses of Emergency Powers During COVID

But it is an important reminder of the abuse of emergency powers we all experienced during COVID, and why it is critical to rein in these powers. While it’s clearly unconstitutional to suspend the 2nd amendment with an emergency declaration, most states over the last 100 years have granted extremely broad powers to the executive branch to declare so-called public health “emergencies.” These powers are usually enshrined in state law, and they have largely been upheld by courts as constitutional.

Arizona was not and is not immune from this. Here, the “emergency” declaration in response to COVID was not officially terminated until March 30, 2022, 749 days after it was first declared. During that time, businesses were closed, students were required to wear masks, and people were prevented from seeing loved ones in hospitals.

Many lawmakers wanted to halt the emergency declaration almost immediately, but quickly discovered that if they wanted to end the emergency outside of regular session, they needed 2/3 of the body to call a special session. And if the legislature was called into session, they were powerless at stopping local governments and Charter cities like Tucson or Phoenix from declaring their own state of emergency if the statewide emergency was terminated. It was quickly determined that without significant emergency powers reform, our freedoms and liberties will remain under threat from overreaching government.

States Need to Restrict Emergency Powers, and That Is What HCR2039 Will Do

Earlier this year, Justice Gorsuch wrote, “Since March 2020, we may have experienced the greatest intrusion on civil liberties in the peacetime history of this country” and “it is hard not to wonder, too, whether state legislatures might profitably reexamine the proper scope of emergency executive powers at the state level.” Thankfully, that is exactly what our legislature did in passing HCR2039, allowing the people to amend the constitution to ensure no future “emergency” declaration is without end and without a proper check from the legislature.

If passed by the voters in 2024, HCR2039 would constitutionally limit emergency powers of the Governor and provide the legislature with the authority to roll back any emergency declared in the state. HCR2039 would:

    • Require automatic termination of an emergency declaration by a Governor 30 days after it is declared.
    • Empower the legislature to call itself into a special session immediately after an emergency declaration by a Governor with just one third of the body.
    • Allow the legislature to alter, limit or roll back an emergency declaration at any time after it is declared.

HCR2039 Does Not Confer Any New Emergency Powers

Some believe that all emergency statutes are unconstitutional in the first place because they are not enumerated in the state constitution. That’s not true because states have inherent police powers, including for the protection of public health and safety.  That is why existing emergency powers statutes in Arizona have largely been upheld by the courts. Whether the Arizona Constitution makes mention of “emergency powers” or not, the legislature has the authority to prescribe the powers and duties of the Governor, including the ability to respond to emergencies. In other words, all powers not delegated to the federal government by the Constitution nor prohibited by it to the states under the 10thAmendment, are reserved to the states.

HCR2039 Is Supported by Conservatives and Opposed by the Radical Left

This pro liberty ballot measure was supported unanimously by conservative lawmakers and has the support of freedom-minded groups including the Arizona Free Enterprise Club, Goldwater Institute, Republican Liberty Caucus of Arizona, and EZAZ. Conversely, it was unanimously opposed by all Democrat lawmakers and by liberal pro-lockdown organizations including the Arizona Public Health Association, Civic Engagement Beyond Voting, National Organization for Women, the Sierra Club, and Arizona Center for Economic Progress.

Before the next “emergency,” it’s imperative that Arizonans enshrine a strong constitutional limit on the powers the legislature can delegate to the Governor to respond.

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