PHOENIX — Gov. Doug Ducey will give his penultimate State of the State address Monday, Jan. 11, from the safety of his office.
Ducey is simply complying with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s guidance on the prudent choice to avoid further spread of COVID-19, his press aide C.J. Karamargin said in an announcement Monday, Jan. 4.
“CDC guidelines about large public gatherings are pretty clear,” he said. “Avoid them.”
There is a constitutional requirement for the governor to communicate with the Legislature every session about “the condition of the state.” The constitution also requires him to “recommend such matters as he shall deem expedient.”
But there appears to be no specific requirement for an in-person speech in what has become for many, Ducey included, a chance to detail all of the prior year’s accomplishments to an audience of mostly partisan supporters. The requirement is only that he provide a “message” to the Legislature, with no method specified.
“We are fulfilling our responsibilities with the address,” said Karamargin. It will be given to the Legislature via closed-circuit TV, with links to be provided later this week for others who want to watch it live online.
All governors have given in-person speeches, he noted, and the remote speech is thought to be unprecedented to comply with the CDC guidelines.
Ducey did not, however, show similar concerns in a series of rallies he held last fall with President Trump. Neither the governor nor the president wore masks, nor most of the thousands of Trump supporters in crowds both in front of and behind the stage.
Karamargin declined to answer any questions about what is different now and why it is less safe to have a speech from the Arizona House of Representatives chambers, where attendance can be limited, than it is at a rally.
A remote broadcast also means Ducey will not run into reporters with questions following his speech as he leaves the House floor.
One other thing that will be different is that there will be no need for Ducey to pause at spots in his address that speechwriters have designed as applause lines, usually marked on the prompter he uses with type in a different color. This time there will be no audience to react.
Ducey’s decision to avoid going to the Legislature should not affect other plans by the House and Senate to separately convene and formally choose their leaders for the next two years. The governor’s speech is expected to follow at about 2 p.m.
His final State of the State speech will be in 2022, because he can’t run for another four year in the office due to term-limit laws.