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Katie Hobbs vetoes anti-trans, gun bills

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Katie Hobbs vetoes anti-trans, gun bills

May 17, 2023 | 10:08 am ET
By Gloria Rebecca Gomez
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Katie Hobbs vetoes anti-trans, gun bills
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Gov. Katie Hobbs vetoes a Republican-backed "skinny budget" proposal on Feb. 16, 2023. Photo courtesy Arizona Governor's Office

Gov. Katie Hobbs on Tuesday used her veto stamp to reject Republican attempts to allow guns on college campuses and to permit shelters to discriminate against trans women.  

House Bill 2312 sought to shield domestic violence shelters from gender discrimination claims, but critics pointed out it created a loophole for shelters to turn away trans applicants. The measure would have protected shelters from lawsuits if they refused to allow biologically male employees around women or their children. 

Rep. Rachel Jones, R-Tucson, said she drafted the bill after a Christian women’s shelter lost its federal funding partly for violating federal employment law, which prohibits employment discrimination based on sex. 

Hobbs, who worked as a social worker for decades, highlighted the importance of increasing access to domestic shelters and services for victims. HB2312 does neither, she said. Instead, it makes it easier to discriminate against Arizonans for their gender identity. The Democrat has repeatedly vowed to reject any anti-LGBTQ legislation sent to her desk. 

“Arizonans who choose to work in domestic violence shelters and services are among our most qualified, dedicated public servants who are hired and retained for individual skills, merits and employment histories regardless of their sex,” she wrote in a veto letter. “They deserve the freedom to live their lives without laws targeting them for their gender identity.”

Also rejected on Tuesday was House Bill 2667, which would have prevented universities and colleges from prohibiting students carrying guns on school grounds. Increasing the presence of firearms in schools, amid an unprecedented surge in gun violence and mass shootings, isn’t the right move, Hobbs said. It would only increase anxiety among students and staff and heighten the risk of accidents or even intentional shooting incidents, she said. 

“Ensuring the safety of our students is a responsibility that belongs to all of us. Our colleges and universities are places where our students should feel welcome and safe,” she wrote.

The governor also vetoed another gun bill, House Bill 2544. The measure would have exempted personal firearms, accessories and ammunition modified in Arizona from abiding by federal interstate regulations, as long as they stay in the state. Hobbs worried that enacting a state law which circumvents federal ones would only make it more difficult for federal agencies to promote public safety. 

Two other proposals were rejected for failing to include sufficient funding. House Bill 2428 would have opened up the Arizona Teachers Academy scholarship fund to private school applicants. Currently, the grant program helps cover tuition for aspiring teachers at all three of the state’s public universities and some community colleges in Phoenix and Tucson. 

Without adding an appropriation to offset new applications, Hobbs said she couldn’t support the measure, despite agreeing with the bill’s intent to help alleviate some of the state’s worsening teacher shortage. 

Similarly, House Bill 2444, which established a new commission to award grants to natural resource conservation districts, didn’t set aside any money for the State Land Department to oversee the new commission nor any funding to establish the commission itself. 

Election denialism also met with Hobbs’ veto stamp on Tuesday. House Bill 2613 purported to promote election integrity by requiring the secretary of state to certify only tabulating machines whose components are 100% sourced from and manufactured in the U.S. 

Currently, tabulators are certified after rigorous logic and accuracy testing and limited hand-count comparisons are carried out to ensure correct counts. But the machines have fielded numerous conspiracy theories about their vulnerability, especially following the 2022 midterm elections when tabulating machines were unable to read ballots produced by on-demand printers, due to printing errors. 

Hobbs rejected the bill, saying it would have devastating consequences for election administrators in an age when very few machines are entirely homegrown. 

“This bill could create a situation where Arizona’s election administrators are no longer able to procure certifiable voting and tabulating equipment,” she wrote. “It should be clear how catastrophic that would be for the successful administration of elections in Arizona.”

A trio of bills earned Hobbs’ signature, including House Bill 2431, which limits the ability of insurers to charge additional premium amounts from fire districts. Extra costs can only be collected if the federal American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 will reimburse the fire district. 

Also approved were House BIll 2507, that continues the Arizona Grain Research and Promotion Council for another eight years and House Bill 2599, which makes minor corrections in Arizona law about the active-duty status of uniformed service members.