Legislature limiting public access, approves coronavirus funding




Photo by Jerod MacDonald-Evoy | Arizona Mirror

Starting Friday, the Arizona House and Senate galleries will be closed to the public amid concerns about the spread of the coronavirus in Arizona. 

The orders come from House Speaker Rusty Bowers and Senate President Karen Fann who in an email to members outlined new guidelines in order to prevent the spread of the virus and eliminate additional risks. 

The virus, which causes the illness COVID-19, was declared a worldwide pandemic on Wednesday by the World Health Organization and Gov. Doug Ducey declared it a public health emergency

Members of the public can still attend committee hearings, but are encouraged to limit their attendance “until further notice.” Legislative committee chairs are being asked to limit testimony. Rather than showing up in person, House Speaker Rusty Bowers and Senate President Karen Fann are asking that members of the public utilize email, phone calls and the request to speak system to voice their opinion on legislation. 

Additionally, all field trips to the Capitol, visits from outside organizations and foriegn dignitaries are also cancelled. 

Lawmakers are being encouraged to avoid shaking hands. They have also been directed to curtail in-person meetings and instead hold meetings via video conference or phone call whenever possible. 

Sick employees are now being told to stay home or go home, all candy dishes and food containers are being removed and commonly touched surfaces are being disinfected regularly. 

“This situation is evolving rapidly, and we will continue to take further measures as necessary to respond to this challenge,” the email by Fann and Bowers says. 

At the same time, the House of Representatives unanimously approved $55 million in funding from the state’s rainy day fund for the Arizona Department of Health Services to pay for the public health emergency. The Senate also approved the fast-tracked spending.

The funding was attached to a bill that re-authorizes the agency to operate until 2028.

If you are looking for information on the coronavirus and COVID-19 in Arizona, you can read up on it here. For the most up to date information, check the Arizona Department of Health Services.