Hobbs tops Napolitano’s veto record – 63 so far

Hobbs tops Napolitano’s veto record – 63 so far

Gov. Katie Hobbs speaks about newly announced water conservation funding for the Gila River Indian Community and water users across the Colorado River Basin aimed at protecting the stability and sustainability of the Colorado River System on April 6 at the state Capitol in Phoenix. Hobbs broke a state record for the largest number of bills vetoed in one year on April 18. The Democratic governor rejected 11 bills that day, bringing her total to 63 for the year. (Photo by Matt York/Associated Press)

Gov. Katie Hobbs shattered a state record for the largest number of bills vetoed in one year on April 18 – the Democratic governor rejected 11 bills, bringing her to a total of 63 for the year.

That number surpasses former Gov. Janet Napolitano’s 2005 mark of 58 vetoes. Napolitano was the state’s most recent Democratic governor before Hobbs, and she also battled with a Republican-controlled Legislature.

“I promised to deliver sanity, not chaos in the governor’s office and I am delivering,” Hobbs said in an emailed statement accompanying the veto announcement, echoing comments she’s repeated since taking office. “I will gladly work with anybody who will be a partner in addressing the real problems Arizonans face, but I refuse to play political games with our state government.”

The latest round of vetoes included some predictable rejections: a bill to expand gun rights, two Republican-backed election law bills and a measure that would have stiffened criminal rules surrounding probation.
In a prepared statement released by Senate Republicans, Sen. T.J. Shope, R-Coolidge, criticized Hobbs for the way she has used her veto pen.

“Vetoing is a tool that weak leaders use in an effort to control legislative priorities,” he said.

While Hobbs has complained that Republican lawmakers refuse to work with her on substantive, bipartisan legislative efforts, Shope charged that it’s the governor who’s refusing to come to the table.

“Instead of demonstrating diplomacy and bipartisanship, the governor is showcasing her failure to work across the aisle,” he said.

On top of vetoing a record-breaking number of bills, Hobbs has adopted the habit of issuing a veto letter explaining each rejection. She’s put out 50 veto letters (some bill packages have been rejected with a single letter) and a few types of explanation have become routine. The word “unnecessary,” for instance, appears in nine different letters.

“This bill adds unnecessary language into statute and does not solve any of the real challenges facing election administration,” she wrote in one representative veto letter this week, deep-sixing a measure addressing interpretation of election law that was backed by Republicans.

The governor has also turned down a number of proposals by saying they target non-existent issues.

“SB1251 is a solution in search of a problem,” Hobbs wrote in rejecting a measure that would have preempted local rules regarding working animals, such as horses.

In a text message, Stacy Pearson, a Democratic strategist, said, “This is exactly what the voters elected her to do. She is successfully stopping tinfoil-hat wackos from passing increasingly extreme policy.”

Even so, in a number of cases, Hobbs said she wants to address the issues that proposed legislation is aimed at, even if she didn’t agree with their approaches. That was her response to a bill sponsored by Shope that would have effectively allowed health care professions to expand their “scope of practice” without going through the existing public review process.

“While I am vetoing this effort to do away with the sunrise process altogether, I am committed to working with the legislature and our healthcare provider communities to identify an alternative pathway toward scope of practice expansion,” Hobbs wrote in a veto letter. (She has since approved some narrower scope of practice changes for specific professions.)

While the April 19 veto list mainly consisted of partisan bills supported by Republicans, it also included a measure that passed with a bipartisan supermajority – House Bill 2509, which would have loosened restrictions on informal food vendors, passed the House 52-8 and the Senate 24-6.

Senate President Warren Petersen, R-Gilbert, and House Speaker Ben Toma, R-Peoria, indicated on April 19 that they’ll bring the bill back for a veto override vote, potentially setting up a showdown between Hobbs and members of her own party who supported the bill.

Hobbs has leveraged her vetoes as fodder for fundraising emails in the past, and her team used this week’s milestone as another opportunity to seek donations.

The fundraising email stated: “On the 100th day of the legislative session, she vetoed bills pushed by extreme Republicans that did nothing to address the issues everyday Arizonans are facing. And in doing so, Katie broke the record for most vetoes by an Arizona Governor.”

Daniel Scarpinato, a Republican consultant, took issue with that framing.

“It all seemed orchestrated to send a 100-day fundraising email. At some point, they need to stop campaigning and start governing,” he said.

Hobbs also signed more than two dozen bills on April 18, and has approved 93 bills so far this session. But many of the signed bills have been technical corrections or very narrow policy changes. One the governor touted was a bipartisan bill sponsored by Rep. Matt Gress, R-Phoenix, that increased state payouts to mobile home residents who are forced to move or abandon their home.

Though the veto record marks a significant milestone and is a sign of the dynamic between Hobbs and the Legislature, it didn’t come as any surprise to state Capitol insiders.

“Records are made to be broken!” quipped Barrett Marson, a GOP strategist, in a text message on April 19.