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Not so fast: Arizona Legislature may meet after all

April 23, 2020 GMT

PHOENIX (AP) — A plan by Republican leaders of the Arizona Legislature to adjourn their recessed session on May 1 and only return if needed to revamp the state budget in a special session has hit a roadblock.

The deal to cancel the session was announced Tuesday by House Speaker Rusty Bowers and Senate President Karen Fann. Lawmakers had recessed on March 23 because of the danger of holding mass gatherings caused by the coronavirus.

By Wednesday afternoon, majority House Republicans had persuaded Bowers to reconsider. House spokesman Andrew Wilder said they wanted to complete the session as normal.

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Fann has agreed to ask senators if they would go along, Wilder said.

The moves came as a Democratic senator became the first Arizona state lawmaker to come down with the infection.

Sen. Lupe Contreras of Avondale, his wife, mother, father and a niece are all quarantined at home, said Sen. David Bradley, the minority leader. Contreras, 44, lives in Avondale and has six children and four grandchildren.

Bradley said the announcement shows how difficult it would be to try to resume the legislative session.

“It certainly seems a risky proposition at best,” he said.

They say this weill take two weeks – that’s absolutely riduloug

The session was put on hold after lawmakers passed a bare-bones budget on March 23. Adjourning for the year would kill hundreds of pieces of legislation that had been making their way through the chambers.

Fann said Tuesday that senators of both parties were OK with that. House Republicans apparently weren’t.

Adjourning on May 1 would also allow members from both parties to campaign and freely raise funds.

The state’s primary is Aug. 4.

Bowers said in a statement Wednesday that his decision had been made in good intent. “After speaking now with our caucus, a substantive majority of my members have expressed a strong desire to return and finish the work of the legislative session,” he said.

Fann said in a telephone interview that only a quick session was planned on May 1, only long enough to cycle members into the chamber in small groups to vote to adjourn.

When they could actually return to do substantive work is a major question that remains unresolved, she said.

“The reality of it is we are not even sure when we can go back in because we’ve got to have at least a quorum,” Fann said.

Dozens of staff members who have been working from home also must be called back to work. There are many lawmakers who are older or in at-risk groups who may not want to return.

In March, two Republican sat out days of sessions because of that risk, and the House set up a remote voting system for members who wanted to stay away.

Lawmakers passed a bare-bones budget for the fiscal year starting July 1 before recessing, meaning they have done the essentials to keep government working through the year.

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Arizona had tallied 229 deaths as of Tuesday and more than 5,400 confirmed infections.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death. The vast majority of people recover.