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Lawmakers seek penalties on Pima Co. virus regs

Say rules illegally exceed state law
Posted at 6:42 PM, May 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-15 21:49:28-04

TUCSON, Ariz. - While restaurants try to get a grip on new virus safety rules, a dispute’s broken out between Pima County and some state lawmakers over whether the County’s rules are breaking the law.

If the county’s wrong, its budget could take a big hit.

Not every restaurant has re-opened for dine-in since Governor Ducey gave the okay. They are walking a tightrope between state and county regulations.

At Poco and Mom’s Cantina, they’re grateful for their take out customers. Now they’re happy to be free to direct diners to a patio nearby but they’re putting off opening the dining room while they figure out how to keep everyone safe and live up to virus rules from the Governor and from Pima County.

Kimberly Sisemore says, “We want to follow the rules, and we will, you know, the only thing is that we would have seen and we appreciate all of the everyone's just listening you know I think it's, we all love Tucson so we want it back.”

But the Governor’s order said local governments must not have rules more strict than the state's.

So when Pima County Supervisors issued their own rules, three state lawmakers invoked a state law that says it’s illegal.

State Rep Mark Finchem is one of those lawmakers.

He says, “Frankly it was written to prevent a very kind of what some folks might refer to as local tyranny, that if you're going to violate a state law, if you're going to violate basically a state law that the governor is using for his executive order. Then there's a consequence.”

The consequence if the State Attorney General agrees Pima County went too far could be the County losing a big chunk of state money.

Pima County Board Chairman Ramon Valadez contends the County’s not going beyond the Governor’s order but living up to the spirit of it.

He says, “He (Governor Ducey) is cautioning people to take measures to be safe and is cautioning vulnerable populations to saying home. He is cautioning people not to take dining experiences, the way they used to be before COVID-19. These are all indications that he is telling people to do exactly what we're suggesting, we're just being a little clearer so that the restaurants and other attractions have guidance.”

Valadez says the board’s attorney says the County’s actions are legal. The Attorney General has 30 days to decide what he thinks.