PHOENIX - Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey delivered his annual "state of the state" address virtually due to the pandemic, forgoing the traditional speech to a crowd of lawmakers, their guests and state dignitaries on the floor of the House of Representatives.
Instead, the Republican governor gave his speech from his office in the state Capitol's executive tower around 2 p.m.
Ducey has traditionally used his address on the first day of the Legislative session to tout his successes and lay out his priorities for the budget and the coming year.
WATCH DUCEY'S FULL ADDRESS BELOW:
Ducey addressed Arizonans for nearly 30 minutes Monday, starting off with remarking about the Capitol riot, condemning the rioters' actions.
He then focused on the pandemic, vaccinations and the lockdown that many were asking him to enact to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
"For many families, 'lockdown' doesn’t spell inconvenience. It spells catastrophe, zero income, inability to make a payment, eviction, foreclosure and real personal anguish," Ducey said, adding, "Look at the experience of the other states that did lockdown. What do they have to show for their strict mandates and orders? They’re still dealing with the worst of it, just as we are."
He says his focus now is saving lives, the vaccine distribution, adding jobs and getting kids back into the classrooms.
"In strange, difficult circumstances, parents and teachers have done their resourceful best. But it’s time to get our students back where they belong. With every public health professional, from Dr. Fauci and the CDC on down, saying that the safest place for kids to be is in school. We will not be funding empty seats or allowing schools to remain in a perpetual state of closure. Children still need to learn, even in a pandemic," Ducey said.
Earlier in the day, Democratic leaders met to discuss their plans on working with the governor through the pandemic.
"Arizonans are suffering and this should not be a partisan issue. Whether GOP leaders or not will have the numbers to come together and really push forward legislation that will help all of our constituents, whether Democrat, Republican or not registered, I think there is an opportunity to get this done but a lot of that will hinge on the public," Ducey said.
The House and Senate plan to begin the session on schedule on Monday, Jan. 11 despite the pandemic with precautions that include air filters, plexiglass dividers, capacity restrictions and temperature checks. Masks will be required, though some Republican lawmakers have pledged to defy the mandate.
Republican Senate President Karen Fann said forgoing the traditional joint session of the Senate and House will take away "a kumbaya moment" that kicks off the legislative session.
"Usually we’re all on the floor together over in the House, and everybody’s shoulder to shoulder and we’re having all that pomp and circumstance and everybody being sworn in," Fann said Monday. "None of that’s going to happen this year, so it's definitely going to be quite anti-climatic."
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