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Thu, May 23

Governor vetoes succession plan bill

PHOENIX - Gov. Doug Ducey isn’t worried that a disaster, natural or otherwise, is going to leave Arizona without a leader.

Ducey on Thursday vetoed legislation that would have required the secretary of state, attorney general or treasurer be taken somewhere else the next time there’s an event that normally would include all of them plus the governor. That’s mainly aimed at things like the annual State of the State speech or the inauguration for statewide officers every four years.

Sen. Judy Burges, R-Sun City West, said it’s a simple matter of ensuring government will continue. She said if everyone in the line of succession is wiped out, there’s no provision in the Arizona Constitution for who is in charge.

Ducey essentially dismissed the whole idea as interesting - but unnecessary. “I appreciate the sponsor’s concern and hard work on this issue,” he wrote in his veto message. “However, I have great confidence in the capabilities of our law enforcement professionals to detect threats and protect us on a daily basis.”

Burges said that’s too bad. She said all she was trying to do is prepare for possibilities.

“It was a cautionary measure,” Burges said. “What if something were to happen?”

It won’t, said gubernatorial press aide Daniel Scarpinato.

“The Department of Public Safety obviously tracks any threats,” he said.

Yes, but what about a different kind of disaster? The weather can be unpredictable. Or the inaugural stage could just collapse. “Things do happen,” said Burges.

“That has not happened,” Scarpinato said. “It doesn’t seem like that’s a real issue.”

Anyway, Scarpinato said, the state hasn’t lost a chief executive to a terrorist, a windstorm or even a faulty stage in its 104-year history.

There is precedent for what Burges was requesting.

At the federal level, after the president and vice president, the line of succession passes to the speaker of the House and president pro-tem of the Senate. All of them normally attend the annual State of the Union.

But the line goes deeper than that. Members of the Cabinet also are in the line of succession, based on when the agency was created. That starts with the secretary of state and ends with the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

Historically, one member of the Cabinet does not attend. Burges said her legislation simply extended that same caution.

Burges said she’s not giving up. She promised to reintroduce the same measure in the 2017 session.

There was a quirk of sorts in what Burges proposed.

There actually are four people who are in the state line of succession. After the secretary of state, attorney general and treasurer, there is the superintendent of public instruction.

Burges said this was not a slap at Diane Douglas, the current holder of that office, but simply an acknowledgment that whoever is in that position may be less familiar with the daily issues of government than the other three.


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