Arizona Governor Doug Ducey now has a greatly expanded ability to fire board and commission appointees thanks to an amendment added onto a noncontroversial bill that he led.

The law previously stated that state officers whose terms aren’t set by law hold office of the “appointing power,” which is the governor for dozens of boards and commissions. While the process for removing members is specific for some entities, the law is silent on the issue for many boards and commissions.

The removal provision—part of a floor amendment added onto HB2526 that was designed to add a small business owner to the Governor’s Regulatory Review Council—changed that by stating that even those with fixed terms serve at the pleasure of the governor, unless there are other terms for removal spelled out in the law. That means that Gov. Ducey and future governors now have the ability to remove appointees—including those previously appointed by other governors and whose jobs were protected through the length of their terms.

The members who serve on some of the most important government entities in the Arizona now have become at-will employees. Those include the Arizona Board of Regents (eight-year terms), the State Board of Education, and the Commission for Appellate Court Appointments, which is a gatekeeper for names of nominees for the Arizona Court of Appeals and the Arizona Supreme Court.

There is a difference of opinion on the magnitude of this change. The Governor’s office regards it simply as a clarification to statute that makes it consistent with long-standing judicial precedent and case law that gives the Governor the authority to remove appointees deemed unsatisfactory even if their terms have not been completed.

“This is a significant change in the removal process for board and commission members,” said Joe Kanefield, who served as chief counsel to former Gov. Jan Brewer. Previously, the governor did not have overall authority to remove—at least without cause—appointees with fixed terms.

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