Arizona Senate President Issues Strict Rule To Enforce Mask Mandate

By Ben Giles
Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services
Published: Thursday, January 7, 2021 - 5:24pm
Updated: Friday, January 8, 2021 - 8:17am

Senate President Karen Fann
Howard Fischer/Capitol Media Services
Arizona Senate President Karen Fann on May 8, 2020.

Arizona Senate President Karen Fann warned her fellow lawmakers two weeks ago: Wear a mask, or risk disrupting the legislative process.

On Wednesday, the Prescott Republican followed through on that promise by issuing an emergency rule for the upcoming legislative session. It states that if the Senate’s COVID-19 protocols, including a mask mandate, are broken, committee hearings or floor sessions “shall immediately be recessed until such protocols are strictly followed.”

The rule follows threats by some of Fann’s fellow Republicans to break the mask mandate, which applies to anyone who enters the Senate — staff, visitors and senators.

Senator-elect Kelly Townsend told Capitol Media Services in December she has no intention of complying.

"I've already told them where I stand," said Townsend (R-Mesa). "What are they going to do? Arrest me?"

Kelly Townsend
Howard Fischer/Capitol Media Services
Kelly Townsend

Fann did not respond to a request for comment through a spokesman.

Given the reluctance by Fann’s fellow Republicans to follow the protocols, House Minority Leader Rebecca Rios said Fann’s latest emergency rule is crucial.

“I think it's important for her to be firm and follow through with the enforcement,” Rios said. “So stopping business, after giving them a couple opportunities to follow the rules, I think is a fair call on her part.”

The rules also detail how senators will be allowed to participate in legislative proceedings remotely. A five-person limit on the number of senators who’ll be allowed to participate in committee hearings in person assures that at least some lawmakers will cast committee votes virtually.

The rules state that lawmakers must be alone in their Senate offices while virtually participating. They must keep their video cameras on at all times. And any votes they cast will be verified in writing.

Similar rules apply to senators who opt to vote virtually, rather than in person, on the Senate floor.

Members of the public will also be allowed to testify at committee hearings through virtual means. 

Agendas for each committee will include instructions to email a specific Senate committee staffer to request remote access to the hearing. The request must be made at least 24 hours before the start of a hearing. 

Members of the public who want to participate remotely must still sign up to testify through an online portal.

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