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The Verde Independent | Cottonwood, Arizona

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2/17/2012 1:44:00 PM
Legislative measure protects state's succession protocol

Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services

PHOENIX -- If Judy Burges gets her way, one top state official is going to get to skip Jan Brewer's next State of the State speech.

And he'll even have an excuse.

Legislation making its way through the Senate would require that someone in the official line of succession be absent whenever a governor is inaugurated or gives a speech where other elected officials would be expected to attend.

"It's for backup, just in case,' explained Sen. Judy Burges, R-Skull Valley.

The idea behind SB 1503 has precedent.

At the federal level, after the president and vice president, the line of succession passes to the speaker of the House and president pro-tem of the Senate. That is then followed by members of the cabinet, based on when that agency was created, starting with secretary of secretary of state and ending with the homeland security secretary.

By practice, one member of the president's cabinet is purposely absent each year during the State of the Union address.

Arizona's constitution does not have such depth.

First in line is the secretary of state, followed by the attorney general, the treasurer and, finally, the state school superintendent. Burges' bill would require the governor to designate one of them to be absent.

SB 1503 does more than simply require that the designee be off campus, away from the Capitol. It actually spells out the person must be at least 35 miles away.

Burges said that distance came from someone in law enforcement.

"Think about it for a moment: All of our government is concentrated in several miles of each other,' she said. "And so, God forbid, something happens, we could take out all of government.'

Burges acknowledged that the state officials in line of succession often have designs of moving up at some point in their careers. And they might see attendance at the State of the State speech or some other highly public event as a chance to get some publicity.

She said the solution might be for the governor to rotate who is forced to be absent.

The measure already has cleared the Senate Committee on Government Operations and awaits a vote of the full Senate before going to the House.

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