Hobbs blocks fetal rights, health emergency, election conspiracy bills
Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs shot down more than a dozen bills on Friday, including a GOP-backed attempt to codify fetal personhood into state law.
House Bill 2502 sought to make child support payments retroactive to the date of the first positive pregnancy test. But while Republican lawmakers framed it as a way to support impending motherhood, Democrats unanimously opposed it, condemning it as nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to introduce fetal rights into Arizona law.
Hobbs agreed, slamming the bill’s sponsor, GOP Rep. Matt Gress, for his repeated efforts to “strip Arizonans of the freedom to control their own body”. The freshman lawmaker from Phoenix authored several measures this session critics warned only served to confer more rights to fetuses and hurt women, including one seeking to increase sentencing penalties for domestic violence crimes against women. That measure has also been vetoed by Hobbs, a pro-abortion Democrat who campaigned on the promise to block any attempts from the GOP majority to continue restricting reproductive access in Arizona.
“(HB2502), guised as an effort to support families, directly threatens the reproductive rights of Arizonans,” Hobbs wrote in her veto letter.
A measure intended to rebuke Hobbs for her refusal to recuse herself from the 2022 midterm election, which inspired a host of false allegations that she engaged in fraud to secure her win, was also vetoed. House Bill 2308 would have mandated that future secretaries of state step aside from their elected duty to oversee elections if they’re candidates.
Sponsors and supporters of the bill repeatedly criticized Hobbs’ involvement in the 2022 midterms and cited conspiracy theories about her work when defending it. That criticism, however, ignores the fact that past Republican secretaries also did not recuse themselves — and that the secretary of state has no direct involvement with vote counting. Instead, the office acts as a guide and support for counties during elections and certifies final tallies. Arizona’s 15 counties manage elections and tally votes.
“There is no reasonable basis to believe that Arizonans should not trust the Secretary of State to do their job impartially,” Hobbs wrote in response.
Also rejected on Friday was House Bill 2530, which expanded the role of the Department of Child Safety and the state’s Medicaid program, AHCCCS, in cases where pregnant women were found to have abused drugs or alcohol. Under the bill’s provisions, the department would be charged with forwarding any substance abuse reports to AHCCCS, which would in turn provide the woman with referrals to substance abuse treatments.
Hobbs vetoed the bill, saying it allowed the department to intervene in a decision-making process that should be kept between women and their doctors. The goal, Hobbs wrote in a veto letter, should be to make substance abuse programs more accessible but instead, the measure would only have engendered further mistrust of DCS.
“We need to make these services available, affordable, and accessible,” she wrote. “This also includes building trust in and right-sizing any potential involvement of DCS through broad community conversations.”
A move to further restrict gubernatorial power to declare public health emergencies was also blocked by Hobbs, who warned it would only tie the hands of state officials when dealing with crises.
Last year, Republican lawmakers enacted strict limits on the ability of governors to shut down the state, spurred by the closures of the COVID-19 pandemic. House Bill 2545 would have tightened those restrictions even further, allowing governors to declare a public health emergency for only seven days, and extensions would be subject to a supermajority approval from the legislature.
Hobbs criticized the Republican majority for playing “political games at the expense of human lives”, vowing to make decisions on future emergencies with the guidance of scientific and public health experts.
“This bill would severely limit the ability of the state to respond in times of crisis,” Hobbs wrote. “It unnecessarily politicizes what are often life or death situations, and adds an irresponsible burden of regulatory loopholes for the state to jump through during an emerging public health threat.”
Ten other bills met their end by Hobbs’ veto stamp on Friday, among them:
- House Bill 2469, which sought to declare a public health crisis at the border due to fentanyl trafficking and mandated that the Department of Health Services take every action available to resolve the problem. The bill doesn’t address the core issues at the heart of the state’s fentanyl crisis, Hobbs said, and she advocated instead for increased access to affordable health care and mental and behavioral health treatment.
- House Bill 2617, which would have added off-duty constables to the definition of peace officers, effectively allowing them wide berth to carry firearms whether on the job or not. Currently, constables are protected from having their right to carry guns limited only while they’re on-duty. Hobbs worried that expanding those rights would endanger the safety of Arizona families by causing constables to “view themselves as having a ‘duty to respond’ when they are off duty”.
- House Bill 2539, which would have created the “Arizona School Choice Program” in the state’s education department, tasked with identifying failing schools and notifying parents of other schools students can attend. The measure, Hobbs said, does nothing to aid struggling schools.
- House Bill 2309, which would have placed Arizona laws over federal ones if the two were in conflict over the role of state and local law enforcement agencies. Hobbs dismissed it as an unnecessary attempt to limit federal authority and warned it would have jeopardized federal funding for many Arizona programs.
- House Bill 2094, sponsored by a lawmaker who owns a food truck, would have allowed food trucks to park on residential streets or private property with permission and removed regulations for their disposal of gray water and grease. Hobbs cited public health concerns in her rejection of the measure.
- House Bill 2416 directed the state to take a more involved approach into what apps are on government employee’s phones. The measure comes as several states, including Arizona, banned TikTok from state devices under worries about cybersecurity threats. Hobbs’ executive order to that effect in April rendered HB2416 redundant, she wrote.
- House BIll 2757 would have allowed all Arizonans to decide the fate of judges on the state court of appeals, despite the fact that judges represent specific populations. Hobbs cited that concern in her veto, saying it would be “unfair” to dilute the opinions of the voters in their assigned ‘divisions’.
- House Bill 2305 would have allowed members of both political parties to observe each stage of the signature verification process for early ballots, which election officials warned would likely lead to uninformed objections that could lengthen the process and jeopardize the private voting information of Arizonans, which is protected by law.
- House Bill 2377 banned public officers from lobbying outside of their official duties, which likely would have violated first amendment rights, Hobbs warned.
- House Bill 2254 would have constrained the ability of state agencies to make rules that are projected to cost more than $500,000 in two years. Enacting such a rule would be subject to legislative approval. Agencies, Hobbs said, are already strictly regulated and transparent in the actions they take on behalf of Arizonans. Several laws outline rulemaking procedures and an oversight committee reviews and approves or rejects proposals.
So far this year, Hobbs has vetoed 86 bills, more than any other governor has vetoed in a single legislative session.
Also on Friday, Hobbs signed four measures addressing child abuse, rape kits and banking fee and licensure modifications.
- House Bill 2516 requires law enforcement officers or social workers who take a child into temporary custody before a court order of removal for their own safety to have the child forensically interviewed. It also allows for the child to be examined by a doctor trained in evaluating child abuse.
- House Bill 2169 makes it a class 4 felony to possess, transport or import a child sex doll.
- House Bill 2482, among other provisions, establishes a legislative study committee to research the possibility of giving victims of sexual assault the ability to track their rape kits.
- House Bill 2010 increases opportunities for license applicants and holders including increasing the number of times an applicant may test to acquire a mortgage broker license and allowing real estate agents to apply for licenses 30 days before their current licenses expire.