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Legislative immunity measure dead

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Gov. Doug Ducey’s push to repeal legislative immunity this session is likely dead.

Speaker of the House Rusty Bowers has no intention of letting proposed legislation to repeal the legislative privilege move through the House, Bowers’ spokesman told the Arizona Capitol Times on Friday.

HCR2008, proposed by Rep. T.J. Shope, was never assigned to a committee by Bowers, a move that effectively shelves the proposal.

February 22 is the deadline for House bills to be vetted in House committees. Without a committee assignment, it’s now assured that the bill won’t advance.

Shope did not immediately return a call for comment Friday.

Like many lawmakers, Bowers bristled at the portion of Ducey’s State of the State speech where the governor called for a repeal of legislative immunity. Bowers previously indicated he thought legislative immunity was put in Arizona’s Constitution by voters for a reason.

In his address, Ducey called for a repeal of Arizona’s unnecessary laws and labeled legislative immunity the “most unnecessary law of them all.”

A spokesman for the governor declined to comment on Bowers’ inaction, but pointed back to Ducey’s State of the State address, in which the governor clearly informed lawmakers of his priorities for the year.

Ducey first called for a repeal of legislative immunity after former GOP Rep. Paul Mosley claimed “legislative immunity” during a traffic stop where he was pulled over going more than 40 miles per hour over the speed limit. But a handful of other law-breaking lawmakers have also invoked “legislative immunity” in the recent past.

Because legislative immunity is enshrined in the state constitution, Shope’s proposal would not only need to be approved by lawmakers, but ultimately by voters. HCR2008 would refer the question over repealing that legislative privilege to the November ballot in 2020.

Legislative immunity stipulates lawmakers cannot be arrested during the legislative session or in the 15 days leading up to the session unless they are charged with treason, a felony or “breach of the peace.” Nothing immunizes them from being arrested and prosecuted after the session is over.

The provision was initially put in the state’s Constitution to prevent law enforcement from keeping lawmakers from making it to legislative votes, which stems from wild west days when sheriffs or other officers would arrest lawmakers to prevent them from going to the Capitol.

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